REMAX 440/Central Blog

How to Stay Safe in a Power Outage

March 24, 2017 1:51 am

Whether it’s a bad storm or a downed utility pole, power outages can strike at any time. While most only last for a couple of hours, a prolonged power outage presents a whole host of obstacles. Here’s how to make sure your home and your family stay safe next time you lose electricity:

- Stay far away from downed power lines and any debris those power lines are in contact with; they have the capability of delivering a fatal charge. Wait for your utility company to take care of the problem.

- If flood waters in your basement are covering utility outlets, do not step into the water. Call your utility company and have them turn the water off at the meter.

- If using a generator, make sure nothing is plugged into the generator when you turn it on. Operate generators in well-ventilated, dry outdoor areas.

- While power is out, be sure to turn off all electronics, otherwise your circuits could overload when power is restored. Leave one light on so that you’ll know when power is back.

- For lighting, stick to flashlights not candles to avoid fire hazards.

- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. According to the American Red Cross, an unopened refrigerator will keep foods cold for about four hours. A full freezer will keep the temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed.

- Avoid traveling, especially at night. With traffic lights and street lamps out, driving becomes hazardous.

When power returns, continue to avoid downed power lines and examine food carefully - throw anything away that you suspect may have gone bad while unrefrigerated. If you hadn’t done so already, make an emergency supply kit with dry food, water, batteries, flashlights, blankets, etc. so you’ll be well-prepared next time the lights go out.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Preparation Is Key for Buying or Selling Home

March 24, 2017 1:51 am

Whether you’re buying or selling a new home, preparing well in advance is crucial to a successful transaction. In fact, of over 13,000 U.S. residents surveyed, the number one regret for both buyers and sellers was not starting their home search or prepping their home to sell soon enough. 

The Zillow Group Report on Consumer Housing Trends reveal strategies for how to buy and sell in today's highly competitive market.

Buyers

Keep your options open. More than half (52 percent) of buyers said they also considered renting, and more than one third (37 percent) of first-time buyers seriously considered continuing to rent. Savvy shoppers will have a Plan B in place, hoping to buy if it works out, but willing to sign a lease for a home if they don't make a deal by the time they need to move.

Be realistic with your budget. Once you set it, stick to it: first-time home buyers are more likely to exceed their budget than repeat buyers (39 percent vs 26 percent). Before you meet with a lender to determine how much mortgage you'll be approved for, take a good look at your individual finances and spending preferences to determine the monthly payment range that you feel you can comfortably afford.  

Get your financing squared away early. Plan to meet a few lenders four to six months ahead of when you're planning to buy to ensure you can make a competitive offer quickly when you find your dream home. The majority (82 percent) of buyers get pre-approved, with 77 percent getting pre-approval from a lender before finding a home on which they are interested in placing an offer.

Find an agent with a winning track record. Take the time to find an agent who has expertise in fast negotiation, leveraging escalation clauses, and winning bidding wars. Only 46 percent of buyers got the first home on which they made an offer, demonstrating that competition is now part of the process.  

Communication is key. Make sure your preferred method – and frequency – of communication matches that of your agent. One third (33 percent) of all buyers preferred phones call with their agent over emailing (21 percent) or texting (15 percent). Buyers can use the agent reviews on Zillow to learn more about prospective agents and their clients' experiences. 

Sellers

Start early and be strategic. Sellers consider putting their home on the market for five months before they list it. But the top seller regret is that they wished they spent more time prepping for the sale. Many cities have a magic window in the spring when homes have a higher likelihood of selling quickly for more money.

Work with an agent from the start. The vast majority (90 percent) of sellers who sold quickly and for more than list price worked with an agent, and two out of three (58 percent) began working with an agent at the very beginning of their selling journey.

Pay attention to your online curb appeal. The majority of buyers begin their search online. Sellers who sold their home for more than list price made imagery and home information available online: 48 percent had professional photos taken of the home, 30 percent shot video footage and 21 percent even shot drone footage.

Home improvements can be a worthwhile investment. Sellers who fetched above list price tackled home improvement before listing their home, being 50 percent more likely to take on a large project like modifying an existing home plan and 20 percent more likely to renovate a kitchen than the average seller. 

Don't be afraid to try again. In many markets, nearly half of listing views occur in the first week the home is on the market. Twenty-six percent of those who sold above list price took their home off the market once to adjust the sales price, opting to start anew rather than letting the home languish on the market with minimal activity. 

Source: www.zillowgroupreport.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips for a Vintage Kitchen Remodel

March 24, 2017 1:51 am

(Family Features)--When you renovate an older home, the goal is not always to replace old with new. In fact, some renovations are all about preserving the past with a design that reflects and pays respect to the yesteryear features that make your home unique.

Whether you're planning a renovation for a 60-year-old home, or working to infuse some retro charm into a newer place, the ultimate goal is capturing the nostalgic feel of older homes: the classic lines, hardwood, moldings and woodwork, and features like fireplaces or stonework, bannisters or windows and doors.

The kitchen can be a particularly challenging room to renovate because the blend of old charm with modern convenience and functionality can seem at complete odds. These ideas from the design experts at Elmira Stove Works can help you combine practical function with timeless features for a room filled with character and purpose.

Keep cabinet facades true to the era. Updating the cabinets is practically a necessity for any vintage kitchen remodel. Although many older kitchens lacked the cabinet space modern homeowners desire, you can still achieve a retro look with ample storage by focusing more on the shape and style than on the quantity. With this approach, you can add as much storage and as many functional amenities as your space allows while still capturing the right look for the era. Opt for sleek and understated styles, or for some extra flair incorporate exaggerated angles and curves common to mid-century design. Material and color options abound, so you're free to go bold and glossy or more subdued.

Design with a focal point in mind. In a retro kitchen, standout elements such as colorful appliances can enhance the space and act as a focal point in the room. Stainless steel has become almost "default" in kitchens from coast to coast. Whether your home is on the beach, in the mountains or in a suburban neighborhood, for those who find beauty in the past, choosing a retro refrigerator or a vintage stove might be a better choice. These appliances act as a major design element in the space, and fortunately there are plenty of options when it comes to retro appliances with exciting pops of color.

Let the details bring it all together. Vibrant color is the signature of any retro kitchen, so don't forget to carry that design element through the space with accessories like dishes, cookbooks and vintage relics that celebrate bygone days. Other details like hardware, small appliances and utensils that harken the past can bring a cohesive look to the kitchen for a seamless style that feels like stepping back in time.

Bringing old character to life can be a tricky proposition when it comes to remodeling, however, with the proper focus on appliances, major features like the cabinetry and small details that make a big difference, you can confidently create a new space that takes you to another time.


Source: Elmira Stove Works
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are Environmental Hazards Lowering Your Home’s Value?

March 23, 2017 1:48 am

You may be well versed in the factors that can improve your home’s value, like adding on a bathroom, installing energy-efficient appliances or putting on a new roof. But are you aware that certain environmental hazards, such as poor air quality can actually detract from your home’s value?

Research from ATTOM Data Solutions Environmental Hazards Housing Risk Index shows that 17.3 million single-family homes and condominiums are at high risk of an environmental hazard, such as brownfields, or property potentially contaminated by a hazardous substance, polluters, poor air quality and superfunds.

"Home values are higher and long-term home price appreciation is stronger in zip codes without a high risk for any of the four environmental hazards analyzed," says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions.

ATTOM details how home values have been affected by each of these environmental hazards:

- In areas with a "very high" brownfield risk - areas previously used for commercial development which may now have environmental contamination - 17.2 percent of properties are "seriously underwater," according to the Index; in areas with a "very low" brownfield risk, 8.9 percent of properties are seriously underwater. Median home prices in very high brownfield risk areas are 2.8 percent below 10 years prior, while median home prices in very low brownfield risk areas are 2.8 percent above 10 years prior. Home sellers in very high brownfield risk areas gained 25.3 percent on average at sale, while sellers in very low brownfield risk areas gained 18.9 percent.

- In areas with a very high polluter risk, 12.7 percent of properties are seriously underwater, compared to 9.2 percent of properties seriously underwater in very low polluter risk areas. Home sellers in very high polluter risk areas gained 16.6 percent on average at sale, while sellers in very low polluter risk areas gained 27.7 percent.

- For areas with a "low" or "moderate" risk of poor air quality, home sales volume has increased 26 percent in the past five years, according to the report; for areas with a "high" risk of poor air quality, home sales volume has increased 16.5 percent in the past five years, while in areas with a very high risk of poor air quality, home sales volume has increased 3.3 percent over the past five years.

- Median home prices in very high superfund risk areas - a U.S. federal program designed to fund the cleanup of sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants - are 1.5 percent below 10 years prior. Home sellers in high superfund risk areas gained 19.6 percent on average at sale, while sellers in very low superfund risk areas gained 24.4 percent.

Source: ATTOM Data Solutions

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Five Ways You’re Worsening Your Allergies

March 23, 2017 1:48 am

Sniffle, sneeze, cough – we all know the signs of seasonal allergies. But did you know your lifestyle could actually be making your seasonal allergies worse? Read on for five ways you may be worsening your allergies.  

Drinking alcohol: An extra glass of wine at dinner could irritate existing allergies. A Danish study found every additional alcoholic drink in a week increased the risk of seasonal allergies by three percent. The researchers suspect the bacteria and yeast in the alcohol produce histamines and cause a stuffy nose or itchy eyes.

Making your bed: Dust mites love to put down roots in bedding and mattresses. AFC physicians say at night, while you sleep, moisture from body sweat helps keep the little critters alive. When you make your bed in the morning, you are tucking in those pesky bugs so they cannot escape. Airing out your sheets can make it harder for allergens and bedbugs to stay alive. 

Wearing contact lenses: AFC doctors say, in some cases, lenses can trap pollen against the surface of the eye. This can be an even bigger issue for anyone who is already suffering from red, itchy eyes triggered by seasonal allergies. 

Eating certain fruits and vegetables: We are raised to think eating our veggies is good for us. Researchers with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America found proteins in certain foods can cause ragweed sufferers to end up with an itchy mouth. The experts say bananas, melons and tomatoes can cause a cross-reaction. 

Using the dishwasher: A Swedish study published in the journal Pediatrics found children do not develop as many allergies if they eat off hand-washed dishes rather than plates or bowls cleaned in a dishwasher. Researchers found automated dishwashers kill so much bacteria children cannot build up an immunity.

Source:  www.AmericanFamilyCare.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Tips for Helping Pets in Need

March 23, 2017 1:48 am

(Family Features)--For pet owners, their dogs, cats and other pets play an important role in bringing added happiness to their lives. As not every dog and cat is as fortunate, you may be looking for ways to give back and help pets in need.

As many as 6-8 million pets enter shelters every year across North America, according to The Humane Society of the United States. There are numerous ways you can help homeless pets and give back, starting with these tips.

Volunteer at Your Local Animal Welfare Organization
Almost every community has at least one animal shelter or rescue group that needs help. A simple internet search is a good place to start, or ask your veterinarian for recommendations on local organizations that assist pets in need. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities at shelters and rescue organizations, from office duties and community outreach and education to training, feeding and socializing, so people with every skillset are often able to lend a hand.

Donate Supplies
Items such as food, cat litter, cleaning supplies and blankets are almost always in demand at animal shelters and rescues. While pets await adoption, they need access to food, making pet food a significant operating expense for animal welfare organizations. Through PetSmart's Buy a Bag, Give a Meal program, for every bag of dog or cat food purchased online and at its more than 1,500 stores across North America through the end of the year, the leading pet specialty retailer will donate a meal to a pet in need served by animal welfare organizations and food banks.

Foster or Adopt a Pet
As many animal welfare organizations have dogs or cats not suited for living in a shelter atmosphere, fostering a pet in your home is a simple way to give back without the long-term commitment of pet ownership. These pets may be older and in need of a quiet environment or need space to recover from a recent surgery. Of course, if you're ready for a new pet, your local shelter or rescue organization may have the perfect one waiting for you. Adopting from a rescue or shelter can not only save that pet, but also open a spot in the facility and potentially save another animal as well.

Take Care of Pets at Home
One of the most important things you can do for pets in need is simply not become part of the problem. Be ready for the responsibility before adopting a pet and know that having a pet requires a long-term commitment. Be sure to keep pets fed, watered, groomed and vaccinated, and have your pet spayed or neutered to help avoid pet overpopulation.

Pets give so much to their owners; pay it forward by being a responsible pet parent and giving back to animals in need in your community when possible. Find more ways to get involved at your local shelter or rescue group.

Source: Petsmart.com/giveameal.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How Not to Sell Your Home

March 22, 2017 1:45 am

While the fundamentals of home staging, like decluttering and removing family photos, are critical when it comes to getting your home sold, it’s just as important to focus on what not to do as certain factors can act as immediate deal breakers to would-be buyers. Make sure your for-sale home doesn’t include any of the following turn-offs:

Odors. Whether it’s pet odors, last night’s stir fry or that musty basement, any type of strong odor can be an immediate deterrent to a buyer, no matter how beautifully your home is decorated or staged. We usually get accustomed to our home’s unique scent, so have a professional cleaner do the necessary work to make the environment odor-free.

Artwork. While all art is certainly subjective, keep in mind that not everyone will appreciate artwork with severe subject matter or nudity. Stick to subtle landscapes and still life subject matter, or remove artwork altogether. Sparsely decorated walls will make your home appear more spacious.

Collections. Your shelves of antique dolls or Norman Rockwell plates might be your most prized possession, but for prospective homebuyers who don’t share the same affinity, collections can skew their opinion of your home - not to mention, make it appear very cluttered. Pack away your beloved collectibles in preparation for their new home.

People. Sometimes, being present during showings can be a plus - you can provide buyers with certain details about your home and what you love most about the neighborhood. But most people don’t want the owners present when they tour a home. So clear out and give them the freedom to pour over every detail of your home and make honest comments to the REALTORS.

Weeds. Curb appeal really is everything, so if your yard isn’t up to snuff, buyers may turn around before they ever step foot inside. There’s no need to break the bank - just make sure the basics are covered: mow the lawn, weed borders and beds, trim bushes and trees, and remove all sticks, leaves and debris.

For more tips and advice on getting your home in perfect condition to list, contact me.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Why So Salty? How This Hidden Ingredient Impacts Your Health

March 22, 2017 1:45 am

We’ve all heard that a diet high in sodium is not a healthy one. A diet high in sodium raises blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke -- two of the leading causes of death in the United States. But according to the Centers for Disease Control, consuming too much salt has nothing to do with that cute shaker on the dinner table.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that Americans get 77 percent of their salt from processed foods and restaurant meals, compared to 6 percent from the salt shaker at the table and 5 percent added during home cooking. Studies show that Americans ages 2 and up consume an average 3,400 milligrams of salt each day -- well above the recommended Federal Drug Administration's guideline of 2,300 milligrams per day, or 1,500 milligrams per day for people diagnosed with or at risk for high blood pressure.

So where can you nix extra salt? According to the CDC, sneaky salt sources come from the following culprits:

- Breads and rolls

- Cold cuts and cured meat (e.g., deli or packaged ham or turkey)

- Pizza

- Fresh and processed poultry

- Soups

- Sandwiches such as cheeseburgers

- Cheese

- Pasta dishes (not including macaroni and cheese)

- Meat-mixed dishes such as meat loaf and tomato sauce

- Snacks such as chips, pretzels and popcorn

Avoid these to lower your daily salt intake.

SOURCE: American Academy of Family Physicians

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Have a More Functional Home

March 21, 2017 1:45 am

(Family Features)--Turning your home into the living space of your dreams takes effort and commitment, but while the weather is warm and motivation is on your side, it's time to put your visions to the test.
Whether you choose to start your renovation poject on the inside or outside, for fun or for function, the important part is committing to getting it done and doing it right. That includes finding the right materials and products to suit your specific needs and style, whether it's for closet organization, a beautiful kitchen upgrade, adding features like skylights or anything in between.

Your dreams and desires for your home are attainable and within your reach, so long as you're devoted and willing to put in the time.  

Natural Light and Fresh Air from Above
You can brighten your space in an eco-friendly way with Energy Star-qualified, solar-powered fresh air skylights which provide natural light and ventilation to reduce energy costs. Adding solar-powered blinds can further increase energy efficiency. These products, along with installation costs, qualify for a 30 percent federal tax credit. To find certified installers, visit whyskylights.com.

Versatile Home Storage
It's time to get organized. Turn any closet or area in your home into a designer-inspired storage showcase. Find free design, inspiration and organization solutions at closetmaid.com/suitesymphony.

Functional Furniture
Ideal for enjoying a serene cup of coffee or welcoming guests for some outdoor fun, you can liven up your backyard space with a patio furniture set to help both aesthetically and functionally. The right set for your deck, patio or yard can lend a pleasing element to the eye and a comfortable spot to sit and eat, drink or rest after a friendly game of whiffle ball. Available in myriad colors and combinations, look for patio furniture that matches your style and personal preferences.

Backyard Getaway
Find a comfortable temperature and enter your most relaxed state at any time with your own backyard hot tub. The gateway to a restful opportunity, a hot tub gives you a chance to close your eyes and unwind whether it's the end of a long day or starting out your Saturday morning. With varying options like in-ground or above and a multitude of sizes, plus the ability to tune individual jets to your liking, a backyard hot tub can be the perfect personal oasis.

A Finishing Touch
Bring everything together in a kitchen or bathroom with the subtle feature that can sometimes be forgotten – the faucet. Extravagant or simple, modern or classic, the faucet can serve multiple aesthetic purposes like catching attention upon entering the room or simply complementing the design elements around it. Adding the final touch with the right faucet can be a beautiful way to wrap up a room.

Source: eLivingToday.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don’t Get Burned by an Online Purchase

March 21, 2017 1:45 am

Online shopping has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, according to recent Pew Research, eight in 10 Americans are now shopping online - that's 79 percent of U.S. consumers who shop on the web or their phones, up from just 22 percent back in 2000.

However, despite the amazing level of convenience, there are important risks involved when shopping online. According to the Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB), the risk often involves the sale of “gray market” goods. The gray market consists of popular merchandise manufactured for export, and then re-imported to the U.S. to be sold for less than current market prices. This often means products with no warranty and items not manufactured according to U.S. regulatory standards.

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize that risk and nab a great deal. The BBB offers the following five tips to protect yourself when making an online purchase through an unfamiliar website:

Research the seller. If you are not familiar with a website, check it out with the BBB. If you buy through an auction site, check the seller's rating and customer reviews.

Ask the seller about the merchandise. Sellers are obliged to tell you if they are selling gray market goods. Most states require sellers to disclose when an item is not covered by a valid U.S. warranty, as is the case with gray market merchandise.

Carefully inspect the merchandise and make sure it is in working order. Gray market goods may not be factory-fresh, having gone through the hands of several third parties. Check to see whether the manual and other printed material is in English.

Where can it be repaired? Since gray market merchandise will most likely not be eligible for repair by the manufacturer's authorized service center, ask where you can get repairs done competently.

Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card allows you to dispute the charges if the item was misrepresented online or is broken.

Taking these precautionary steps will ensure that your online shopping endeavors are not only convenient but fruitful.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Have Healthy Skin

March 21, 2017 1:45 am

We think about dietary health and physical fitness, but how often do you think about the health of your skin? Not enough, according to the American Skin Association.

"Our skin is our largest organ and protects us from harmful bacteria, pollution, and toxins in the environment," explains Dr. Jean L. Bolognia, professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. "As we age, those defenses weaken, making us more susceptible to infection, pain, and hospitalization. The need to establish skin healthy behaviors and protect our skin throughout our lives is more critical today than ever before."

The American Skin Association (ASA) recently announced the official launch of its Seven Principles for a Lifetime of Healthy Skin. Read them below.

Minimize exposure to UV light. Limit time outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., apply broad spectrum sunscreen daily, wear sun protective clothing, and avoid tanning beds and similar artificial tanning devices entirely.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes regular water intake, sleep and exercise. Do not smoke. 

Visit your dermatologist once a year or as needed. 

Examine your skin daily, and report concerning changes in skin condition and/or color to your dermatologist or Health Care Professional as soon as possible.

Hydrate your skin daily, especially after bathing or showering. 

Maintain good hygiene for skin, hair and nails by giving gentle and constant attention to avoid irritation.

Immediately attend to wounds. To avoid infection and scarring, never pick or squeeze blemishes. 

Source: www.americanskin.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Stressed? You’re Not Alone

March 20, 2017 1:45 am

No matter where your political affiliations lie, it’s been a stressful time for Americans. In fact, according to a recent research from the American Psychological Association (APA), two-thirds of Americans reported feeling stressed about our nation’s future, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans.

In the APA’s report, "Stress in America™: Coping with Change,” more than half of Americans (57 percent) reported that the current political climate is a very or somewhat significant source of stress.

"The stress we're seeing around political issues is deeply concerning, because it's hard for Americans to get away from it," says Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, APA's executive director for professional practice. "We're surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most."

At the same time, more Americans said that they experienced physical and emotional symptoms of stress in recent months.  The percentage of people reporting at least one health symptom because of stress rose from 71 percent to 80 percent over five months. A third of Americans have reported specific symptoms such as headaches (34 percent), feeling overwhelmed (33 percent), feeling nervous or anxious (33 percent) or feeling depressed or sad (32 percent).

How to deal with all this stress? The APA recommends watching your information intake. While it’s important to stay informed, it’s more important to know your limits and work to diminish exposure to distressing information.

Here are some other strategies for reducing stress:

- Limit your social media intake. Social media is supposed to be relaxing and entertaining but has become a hotbed for all sorts of harsh political opinions. Avoid those “friends” for the time being whose posts set your blood boiling.
- Get plenty of exercise. Now more than ever, it’s important to take some time and unplug. One of the best ways to do so is to get outside and walk, run or take the kids to the park. Fresh air and activity will stop stress in its tracks.
- Volunteer. Whether it’s volunteering at the soup kitchen or reading to your child’s class, getting involved with a good cause is a surefire way to generate positive feelings and focus on helping others instead of worrying about big-picture problems.

Source: American Psychological Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Why Should Homebuyers Size up Smart Homes Carefully?

March 20, 2017 1:45 am

Smart homes and their related technology are only a few years old. That means that first generation of smart homes are just beginning to hit the marketplace as owners relocate or vacate those properties.

A recent NBC news report pointed out that while smart homes are still a small part of the overall market, they are expected to grow significantly in the next few years as more homeowners install these devices and homebuyers come to expect them.

As a result, the National Association of REALTORS is now teaching its agents how to spot IoT devices and how to deal with them at closing.

Recently, Parks Associates announced new research showing that approximately one-third of smart home device owners experience problems with their smart home devices and nearly 10 percent report problems connecting a smart home device to the home network router.

Consumers encounter these issues more often when setting up smart sprinkler systems, networked security cameras, and water leak detectors compared to other smart home devices the study found.
Ed Oswald at cheatsheet.com says there are four major reasons why homebuyers might do well to consider a smart home purchase - or upgrade - very carefully:

1. It can be hacked. This started happening way back in 2014, when security researchers showed that hackers can take complete control of Belkin WeMo smart home devices.

2. The technology is moody. When you use a smart switch or press a smart button to operate a connected device, the signal first heads to your smart hub, then the hub sends it to the cloud, where it is sent back to your hub, and finally to your device. What happens when this fails? Those devices don’t work.

3. Many competing “standards.” The sheer number of smart home platforms and technologies is staggering, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WeMo, Zigbee, Z-Wave, and a host of others. Not every platform talks to one another, and many aren’t even compatible with others, making the problem worse.

4. The price is too high. Before you know it, you could be in deep — to the tune of hundreds if not thousands of dollars. And what if you want to switch smart home technologies? There’s no guarantee what you just bought will even work.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Spring Cleaning Tips

March 20, 2017 1:45 am

We all know we’re “supposed” to clean for springtime. While we should ideally be cleaning our spaces well year-round, a little seasonal push can sometimes offer the motivation we need to give our home a good scrub. Below are a handful of simple spring cleaning tips from BISSELL.

- Get an early start and dive in before the weather tempts you to spend Saturdays outdoors—this will ensure you won't skip any important tasks.

- When it comes to deep cleaning any floor surface, make sure to vacuum or sweep first, and move as much furniture as possible for a blank slate.

- Don't forget about the furniture. Items like couches, beds and cabinets are in constant use year-round and need a thorough clean.

- Clean from the top of the room down. Get the cobwebs in the corners, ceiling fans and the tops of appliances clean and work your way down to the floor. That way you don't have to clean anything twice.

- Use your vacuum crevice tool to clean dust off of baseboards, from between kitchen chair spokes and on the stairs.Source: www.bissell.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Food Trends: What’s the Hype on Coconut Oil and Gluten-Free?

March 16, 2017 1:45 am

Nutritional guidance, like ready-to-wear, tends to go in and out of fashion. Eggs, once slammed for their high cholesterol, came back into dietary good graces in 2015 when a government report dropped its warning. More recently, gluten-free foods have been proliferating in supermarkets while coconut oil appears to be the new rage for chefs.

What’s going on here, and what’s a consumer to believe?

A report published this year by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology offers some clarity on which foods are the best choices for health-conscious individuals:

Fresh fruits and fresh veggies, especially berries and leafy greens, remain the number one source of nutrients and antioxidants, and are best eaten raw or cooked, rather than juiced.

Whole grains and legumes, low- and nonfat dairy products and limited quantities of lean meat and fish are also among the mainstays of a heart-healthy diet.

Eggs, like nuts, remain a good source of protein, but moderation is key. Eggs, which do contain a fair amount of dietary cholesterol. Should be limited to one or two a day while nuts, which are high in fat, should be limited to a handful.

Coconut oil, like palm oil and all other oils, including olive oil, should be consumed in moderation because they are high in fat, although olive oil is still recommended as the heart-healthiest of the bunch.

Gluten-free foods are valuable for people with celiac disease or other gluten sensitivities, but there is no evidence for recommending them for use by the general population.

Dietary supplements, for which there no compelling findings of cardiovascular benefits or antioxidants, are recognized as a costly substitute for their fresh food counterparts.

Sugar and processed foods are best avoided whenever possible.

The report concludes that following these dietary guidelines can reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, although physical activity and family history are also factors in determining personal health.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Prep Your Home for Floods

March 16, 2017 1:45 am

Floods in your home are often unexpected. Whether from immense rain or a busted pipe, there is often little time to act. With this in mind, it’s important to have a few things prepped in case of a sudden flood.

Here are a few tips from Puzio to help homeowners prepare before a flood occurrence:

Obtain a Flood Insurance Policy and Know Your Coverages - Find out if you have a flood insurance policy. If you don't have a flood insurance policy, contact your insurance agent today. Make sure you are clear on your coverage amount before a flood occurs.

Protect Important Documents - Keep copies of all important documents in a safe place outside the home if possible, including mortgage papers, passport, bank information and insurance policies.

Itemize and Take Photos of Property - Create an itemized list and take pictures of your home, property and possessions as proof of your pre-flood assets, and store them with your important documents offsite if possible.

Establish an Emergency Contact List - Create an emergency contact list with the phone numbers of your family, employers, insurance agents and financial information. Update and exchange contact information, and store your list with your important documents offsite.

Build or Buy an Emergency Kit - Keep an emergency kit on hand with a battery-powered radio, flashlight, batteries, candles, waterproof matches, bottled water and non-perishable food for a minimum of three days.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top 25 Highest Paying Jobs of 2017

March 16, 2017 1:45 am

Are you the parent of a college student, or thinking of jumping into a new career yourself? While it’s important to follow a path you love, it doesn’t hurt to keep pay in mind. Below are Glassdoor’s 25 highest paying jobs in the country, alongside how many positions are currently available via Glassdoor.com.

1. Physician
Median Base Salary: $187,876
Number of Job Openings: 7,770

2. Pharmacy Manager
Median Base Salary: $149,064
Number of Job Openings: 2,370

3. Patent Attorney
Median Base Salary: $139,272
Number of Job Openings: 525

4. Medical Science Liaison
Median Base Salary: $132,842
Number of Job Openings: 391

5. Pharmacist
Median Base Salary: $125,847
Number of Job Openings: 5,496

6. Enterprise Architect
Median Base Salary: $112,560
Number of Job Openings: 1,320

7. Physician Assistant
Median Base Salary: $112,529
Number of Job Openings: 13,547

8. Applications Development Manager
Median Base Salary: $112,045
Number of Job Openings: 516

9. R&D Manager
Median Base Salary: $111,905
Number of Job Openings: 185

10. Corporate Controller
Median Base Salary: $110,855
Number of Job Openings: 259

11. Software Engineering Manager
Median Base Salary: $109,350
Number of Job Openings: 1,011

12. IT Architect
Median Base Salary: $105,303
Number of Job Openings: 250

13. Software Architect
Median Base Salary: $104,754
Number of Job Openings: 1,147

14. Nurse Practitioner
Median Base Salary: $104,144
Number of Job Openings: 12,566

15. Solutions Architect
Median Base Salary: $102,678
Number of Job Openings: 4,174

16. Data Architect
Median Base Salary: $102,091
Number of Job Openings: 1,438

17. Actuary
Median Base Salary: $99,507
Number of Job Openings: 463

18. IT Program Manager
Median Base Salary: $98,883
Number of Job Openings: 250

19. UX Manager
Median Base Salary: $98,353
Number of Job Openings: 263

20. Systems Architect
Median Base Salary: $97,873
Number of Job Openings: 1,167

21. Plant Manager
Median Base Salary: $97,189
Number of Job Openings: 1,286

22. Scrum Master
Median Base Salary: $95,167
Number of Job Openings: 2,072

23. Financial Planning & Analysis Manager
Median Base Salary: $94,862
Number of Job Openings: 501

24. Nuclear Engineer
Median Base Salary: $94,852
Number of Job Openings: 155

25. Attorney
Median Base Salary: $94,695
Number of Job Openings: 1,010

Source:  Glassdoor

Published with permission from RISMedia.


When it Comes to Homeownership Decisions, Pets Rule

March 15, 2017 1:42 am

A lot goes into the decision to buy, sell or remodel a home. After all, this is one of the most significant investments of your lifetime, so there are a lot of factors to be weighed and considered...including how happy your pet will be.

Yes, you read that right. In fact, 81 percent of respondents to a recent report from the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), reported that animal-related considerations play a role in determining their next living situations. In 2016, 61 percent of U.S. households either have a pet or plan to get one in the future, so it stands to reason that our animal companions will play a significant role in our housing decisions for the foreseeable future.

According to NAR’s 2017 Animal House: Remodeling Impact report, 99 percent of pet owners said they consider their animal part of the family, and 89 percent of those surveyed said they would not give up their animal because of housing restrictions or limitations. In fact, 12 percent of pet owners have actually moved in order to accommodate their furry, finned or feathered family member, and 19 percent said they would consider moving to accommodate their animal in the future.   

No one knows the relationship between homeowners and their animal friends better than REALTORS. Those surveyed for the report said that one-third of their pet-owning clients often or very often will refuse to make an offer on a home because it is not ideal for their pet.

Other interesting statistics from the report include:

- 67 percent of REALTORS say animals have a moderate to major effect on selling a home. If you’re selling your home, make sure you’ve cleaned or replaced any areas affected by pet damage or odors.
- 52 percent of respondents said they had completed a home renovation project specifically to accommodate their pet, such as fencing in their yards, adding a doggie door or installing a pet-friendly laminate flooring.
- 80 percent of REALTORS consider themselves animal lovers, so you’ll have lots of support in accommodating your pet’s housing needs when buying!

Source: National Association of REALTORS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Help Friends and Family Members with Post-War PTSD

March 15, 2017 1:42 am

Helping a family or friend reintegrate into society after leaving war can be complicated, but when your loved one has PTSD, it can be even more intricate. To date, an estimated 400,000 service members live with invisible wounds of war, including combat stress, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to a report released by Institute of Medicine in 2014, 47 percent of veterans diagnosed with PTSD in 2013 after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan did not receive treatment. Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) believes it is imperative to raise PTSD awareness and offer education in our communities.

"PTSD is a normal reaction to a very bad situation, and no one should be ashamed of suffering and seeking help," said John Roberts, WWP warrior relations director. "Combat veterans need to know that PTSD does not have to be a lifelong sentence. It can be treated and managed. Life can be better." 

Here are tips for helping warriors who are coping with PTSD:

- Let veterans determine what they are comfortable talking about, and don't push.

- Bring veterans to a quiet place or suggest some deep breathing exercises when the stress seems overwhelming.

- Encourage creative outlets like writing to help veterans clarify what is bothering them and help them think of solutions.

- Avoid unhealthy habits as ways to solve problems. Alcohol and drug use make things worse in the long run.

- Stay aware of your surroundings. Crowds, trash on the side of the road, fireworks, and certain smells can be difficult for veterans coping with PTSD.Source: Wounded Warrior Project

Published with permission from RISMedia.


8 Ways to Optimize Your Sleep

March 10, 2017 1:36 am

(Family Features)--While a healthy lifestyle requires a balanced diet and exercise, sleep is another pillar of overall wellness that is both essential to your health and success, and often overlooked.

By simply making small changes to your daily routine you can improve your quality of sleep. Follow these tips from Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm's sleep health consultant and director of Duke University's Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program, and get on your way to better rest and a healthier life.

1. Manage your sleep time. Rather than trying to accomplish everything on your to-do list at the expense of sleep, reverse your approach. As the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep each night, make sure to set aside the time needed for a full night of rest.

2. Stay on schedule. Try to keep your bedtime and wake time consistent on both weekdays and weekends. With time, your brain and body will acclimate to these set times, but until then, rely on an alarm - not only to wake in the morning, but to keep you from staying up too late at night, too.

3. Find a routine. A routine performed 20-30 minutes prior to bed every night can subconsciously ease your brain into sleep. Unwinding with a book, taking a warm bath or meditating are all ways to slow your mind and transition toward peaceful rest.

4. Brighten up the morning. Getting plenty of bright light in the morning helps keep your sleep timing on track, particularly if you wake up early. Make opening the drapes and blinds your first task each morning.

5. Ditch the clock. Fixating on the time can create stress and keep you up at night. Instead, set your alarm, turn your clock around and forget about the time.

6. Get moving. Research shows that exercise can act as a natural sleep remedy, often leading to a more sound slumber. However, if you exercise late and have difficulty falling asleep, consider moving your workout earlier in the day. The increase in body temperature from exercise tends to be prolonged, sometimes making it hard to fall asleep.

7. Kick the caffeine habit. Morning caffeine can linger in your system until it's time to sleep. Coffee, tea, dark sodas and dark chocolate are the main offenders for most people.

8. Pay back debt. If you are chronically deprived of sleep, allow your body extra sleep time to make up for the loss. In these cases, even 8-9 hours each night may not be enough. Allow your body to catch up then commit to more consistent sleep patterns in the future.

Source: DailyDoze.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Tips for a Better Spring Garden

March 10, 2017 1:36 am

It’s never a bad idea to plan for that spring garden. Whether you like to plant edibles, like veggies, or gorgeous florals, planning ahead of time for that garden can equate to a better growing period, and a heartier bounty.

OPEI encourages homeowners, gardeners and commercial facility managers to keep these smart landscaping tips in mind when planting this spring:

- Plant a living landscape that breathes. It creates the oxygen we need and sequesters carbon.

- Follow the "right plant, right place" rule. Put in living trees, shrubs, grasses and flowering plants that are right for your climate zone. Once established, Mother Nature will weather climate changes.

- Remember wildlife in your planting choices. Add flowering plants to support pollinators like birds, bees and butterflies. Our yards, parks, schoolyards and other green spaces connect and form wildlife corridors.

- Plant for your lifestyle. If you have kids and pets, remember our yards are safe spaces for families, kids and pets. 

- Put in a mix of adaptive and native plants that can handle people traffic as well as provide food and habitat for wildlife.

- Don't overwater. Plants and trees will grow stronger and work harder, creating deeper, vertical roots, if they need to seek water.

- Let plants go dormant in drought conditions. They will "green back up" when the rains come.

Source: www.OPEI.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


City vs. Suburbs: Families Spend $9,000 More for Urban Living

March 10, 2017 1:36 am

It’s no real shocker that living in a city is pricer than living in the suburbs. But a new Cost of Living analysis from Zillow and Care.com details exactly how much pricier your city life is—especially if you have kids.

According to the analysis, families spend an average of $9,073 more per year to cover basic housing and child care costs in the city than in the suburbs. This is no small chunk of change.

But where is the biggest variance? New York, Chicago and Dallas have the highest variance between urban and suburban living, with city dwellers paying as much as $71,237 more a year, or nearly $6,000 extra a month. However, city living is not always more expensive. In Philadelphia and Baltimore, families could pay up to $14,000 more a year to live in the suburbs. 

Nationally, families living in the city spend $43,652 a year on housing and child care. Yet, in the suburbs they spend just $34,579.

While high property taxes and rising home prices are usually the reasons why city living is more expensive, child care can also play a part. In Minneapolis, child care is nearly $4,119 more a year in the city, but housing costs are actually $189 cheaper.   

"Deciding whether to live in the city or suburbs is a personal choice, but when you do the math, it's easy to see why moving to the suburbs is about more than just a bigger yard – it can also save you a lot of money," says Svenja Gudell, Zillow chief economist. "More than a third of families exceed their initial budget when buying a home, according to the Zillow® Group Consumer Trends Report, so before embarking on a move, consider the cost of living beyond just the home's sticker price."

In addition to potentially cheaper living costs, the median suburban home is nearly 280 square feet larger. Meanwhile, reported commute times are roughly the same between urban and suburban residents.ii

"Figuring out where your family will live and grow is arguably one of the most exciting and daunting times in a parent's life," adds Joyce Hodel, data scientist at Care.com. "While moving to the suburbs often brings significant cost savings, city living can still be the right choice for some families and is less expensive in certain metro areas. The Care.com and Zillow Cost of Living Report aims to help families understand how their family's housing and child care costs may change before making that big family move."Source: Zillow, Care.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Do You Know About the Top New Products for Your Home?

March 9, 2017 1:36 am

Are you up with the latest new home products? A national representative survey of 40,000 consumers conducted by Kantar TNS, a global leader in consumer research, helps determine the Product of the Year winners each year so that consumers can best identify the top new products.

The 28 winners of the 2017 Product of the Year Award were announced at a recent New York City soiree hosted by "Saturday Night Live" alumnae Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer.
Mike Nolan, CEO, Product of the Year USA. says this year's winners will be "able to utilize the distinctive red Product of the Year logo on packaging and in brand advertising to show shoppers that 40,000 consumers recommend their product against the competition."

Now in its 30th year, Product of the Year takes entries from new consumer products launched within the previous year that demonstrate innovation within their industry.

Product nominations are then placed into categories such as beauty, personal care, household essentials, food and beverages, and are assessed on seven key measures. One product is then named the winner of each category, based on the results of the consumer survey.

The top winners of the 2017 Product of the Year Award for the home are:

- Home Care: Lysol Disinfecting Wipes
- Bathroom Cleaner: Lysol Power & Fresh 6 Automatic Toilet Bowl Cleaner
- Bath Tissue: Charmin Essentials Soft
- Liquid Laundry: Tide PurClean
- Laundry Pacs: Tide PODS Plus Febreze Odor Defense
- Fabric Conditioner: Snuggle PLUS SuperFresh Dryer Sheets
- Laundry Booster: Downy Fresh Protect with Febreze Odor Defense
- Air Care: Air Wick Bloom Scented Oil Warmer

For additional information about the 2017 Product of the Year winners, visit productoftheyearusa.com and follow #POYUSA2017.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Maintain Natural Stone Counters

March 9, 2017 1:36 am

(Family Features)--Durability is one reason homeowners choose natural stone for their kitchens and bathrooms, but the greatest appeal is often the sheer beauty of the material. Maintaining that luster and shine requires a bit of effort, but the ability to enjoy the unique character of natural stone makes it all worthwhile.

It's important to understand the shine on granite and other natural stone is not from applying a wax, but a natural shine that reflects a rigorous process.

After being quarried from the earth's surface using a combination of diamond wire cables, drills and even dynamite, these stone blocks are taken to a factory for processing. A giant gang saw using diamond blades slices the blocks into a calibrated thickness, similar to a giant bread slicer.

The next step is a polishing line, where blocks pass under diamond polishing heads that apply thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch. Here, progressively finer grits bring out the natural polish of the stone. It's this factory finish that enhances the inherent characteristics of natural stone – the veins, swirls and crystals. From there the slabs are bundled and shipped to local stone manufacturers and installers to be cut to a homeowner's specifications.

Once installed, you can maintain that luxurious factory finish with these tips from the experts at Granite Gold.

Clean often. Even miniscule particles could have a detrimental effect on your natural stone. However, it's important to avoid common cleaners and abrasives as they can break down the protective seal and result in expensive repairs or replacement. Also avoid using an abrasive scrubbing pad, which may leave unsightly scratches. Rely on scrubbing pads designed specifically for natural stone or look for "non-scratch" on the packaging.

"Common, everyday household cleaners aren't formulated for granite, marble, travertine or any other natural-stone surface," says Lenny Sciarrino, CEO and co-founder of Granite Gold Inc. "They will dull the natural finish – the great luster and shine everyone enjoys – and lead to costly repair or replacement."

Seal frequently. Frequently sealing natural stone surfaces maintains maximum surface protection, penetrating stone surfaces to provide superior, long-lasting resistance to staining, etching and soil buildup. It's easy to test when to reseal. Pour water (about 3 inches in diameter) on the surface and let it sit for 30 minutes. If the water beads, then the stone remains sealed. However, if a dark mark or ring is created by the water, it is time to reseal. Be sure to repair any etching or stains before the sealant is applied.

Polish regularly. Polishing not only brings out the stone's natural beauty, it reinforces the protective seal and provides ongoing protection against water spots and fingerprints.

Source: GraniteGold.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Save Your Kids’ Sleep From Daylight Savings

March 9, 2017 1:36 am

Whether you’re a friend or foe of daylight savings, it would be hard to argue that the time change has no impact on you and your family, especially if you have little ones. In fact, half of all American parents say Daylight Saving Time (DST) affects their kids and 29 percent report it's more difficult to get children to sleep after the time change, according to a new survey from the Better Sleep Council.
Of those parents who report bedtime challenges for their kids after DST, a stunning 94 percent report it takes two or more days for kids to get back into their regular sleep pattern and 31 percent say it takes six days or more.

Overall, more than one-quarter (28 percent ) of all parents do not like putting their clock ahead one hour for DST. Other findings from this group:

- Moms (32%) are more likely to feel this way than dads (22%)
- Parents who use childcare (37%) are more likely to feel this way than parents who don't use childcare (24%)
- Parents who are unemployed/stay-at-home parents are more likely to feel this way (36%) than parents who work full time (25%)
- Parents who feel their kids do not get enough sleep are also more likely to feel this way (37%) compared to parents who feel their kids do get enough sleep (25%)

When asked about children's regular bedtime patterns, many parents reported they already feel like their kids aren't getting enough sleep (24 percent). About half (48 percent) of those same parents find it at least somewhat frustrating to get their kids to sleep on a typical night. These feelings are more prevalent with parents of tweens and teens (11-18 years).

The BSC suggests the following top tips to help kids get back into their regular sleep pattern after Daylight Saving Time goes into effect:

Go slow. In the week before DST, try to put your kids to bed 15 minutes early to prep them for the time change.

Create a ritual. Your kids likely already have a bedtime routine. Stick with it and consider adding an extra step or two like reading a storybook together or having them take a warm bath or shower to help relax before bed.

Keep it light. Avoid eating heavy meals at least two to three hours before bed. Eating too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep quality.

Source: www.bettersleep.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Protect Your Pet’s Oral Health

March 7, 2017 1:33 am

You may brush your teeth twice a day, but do you ever think about your pet’s dental hygiene? Taking care of your furry friend’s teeth is just as essential as taking care of one's own, and can save them from many health issues later.  

Below are a few tips for taking care of your pet’s mouth.

1. Brush their teeth. Yep, you read this right. Get a feline or canine tooth paste. Do NOT use human toothpaste as fluoride can be poisonous to animals. Brush your pet’s teeth when they’re relaxed, perhaps after they’ve had a decent amount of exercise. There’s no need to do this every day. Talk to your vet about frequency.

2. Feed them dry food. Dry food is better for your pet’s teeth, as soft food sticks to their teeth and gums and can cause decay.

3. Find dental toys. There are lots of dental toys and chews that help clean your pets teeth painlessly. Talk to your vet about one that may be a good fit.

4. Feed them a proper diet. Just like people, your pet’s health will improve with a proper diet. Avoid feeding them table scraps, “people food”, and sugary food to improve their oral health.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Protect Your Identity While Traveling

March 7, 2017 1:33 am

If you travel a lot for work, your identity may be at risk, according to International SOS. Whether in-transit, or at their destination location, business travelers – and by extension their corporate networks – are potentially more vulnerable to malicious cyber and physical information security threats, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated and audacious in their methods of accessing travelers' confidential corporate information.

Below are a handful of helpful tips from International SOS to help protect your data while on the move:

Before you travel, it's important to research the potential threats to your company's sensitive commercial information, specific to the location you'll be visiting. This will enable you to implement effective security measures to help prevent problems during your trip.

Avoid advertising the exact location or purpose of your business trip.

Make sure that all software on your devices (including but not limited to antivirus software) is up-to-date before departure.

Avoid connecting to non-secure networks (such as public WiFi hotspots) when you travel. Where possible, disable any WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, which can provide additional entry points for attackers and can be exploited without your knowledge. Turning these off will further reduce the likelihood of sensitive information being stolen from your devices.

In locations assessed as HIGH threat (this may vary from company to company, depending on the nature of their operations), maintain physical control of your devices and sensitive information at all times. Keep your laptop with you as carry-on luggage and do not loan it to anyone while traveling. When you return from a high-threat location, or if you have witnessed any suspicious activity on your devices, ask your IT service desk to check for signs of malware, unauthorized access, corruption or intrusion. Do not connect your devices to sensitive networks until they have been verified as safe.

Source: International SOS

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Financial Tips for International Travel

March 7, 2017 1:33 am

Heading overseas? Whether it’s for business or pleasure, take care of your finances first, says GO Group, LLC.  Below are their top tips for protecting yourself as you spend time abroad.

Inform Your Bank and Credit Card Issuer of Your Trip 
Financial institutions often block transactions coming from unexpected locations, such as foreign countries to guard against fraudulent activity and identity theft. Call your banks and credit card companies in advance of your journey and tell them where you'll be going and when to let them know you'll be using your card or account from those locations. If you're still blocked, a simple call to customer service should resolve any issues that crop up.

Acquire Local Currency 
Cash is still quite useful in certain geographic regions where credit card acceptance is spotty at best. Convert your dollars into the local currency, but beware of doing so at the airport. You'll get a better exchange rate from a bank or at an ATM. Merchants may offer to accept your USD and convert it at the time of purchase, but they might use unfavorable rates of exchange, so it's best to keep a few hundred dollars worth of local money.

Bring Multiple Types of Payment 
Don't rely on only one means of payment. Rules about accepted payments options vary from place to place, so it's prudent to have at least one backup handy. Try to bring both a Visa and a MasterCard issued by separate companies. If one doesn't work, try the other.

Explore Specialized Payment Methods 
Traveler's checks and pre-paid debit cards might save the day if your credit card is declined or stolen. They're also appropriate for paying wherever credit isn't accepted. If nothing else, they provide extra methods of payment, giving you more flexibility.

Most credit cards charge fees when you make purchases abroad, but there are foreign-friendly credit cards that don't. With the right card, you may even be able to accumulate cash back or other rewards on the purchases you make in other countries.

Do Your Banking Online 
Online banking allows you to perform many banking functions which is helpful if your bank doesn't have branches in the area you're visiting. Setting up automatic bill payment ensures you don't fall behind on your obligations while you're out of the country.

Certain stressors are unavoidable when traveling, but money woes don't have to be among them. Save money, lower your expenses and protect your peace of mind with the tips.

Source: The GO Group, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Car Safety Devices That Can Save Your Life

March 6, 2017 1:33 am

Seat belts and airbags are not the only car safety devices that can save a life. Below are a handful of car safety systems, courtesy of Zanes Law, that can make a huge difference in your vehicular safety.

Forward Collision Warning – A forward collision warning system is the safety system that should be on the top of your list because it is designed to keep you from crashing into the back of a vehicle that suddenly stops in front of you.

Blind Spot Warning – Blind spot warning and rear-cross traffic alert will warn you when you are attempting to change lanes and a car is in your blind spot.

Backup Cameras –Backup cameras are such a great feature that they should be standard on all cars by 2018. 

Inflatable Seat Belts – Developed by Ford, in a crash they deploy and spread the force of a crash over an area of the body that's five times greater than a traditional belt, further reducing the likelihood of injury. Source: Zanes Law

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Promote Better Eye Safety at Work

March 6, 2017 1:33 am

We all know too much time in front of a screen can be detrimental to our eyesight. But what happens when our job requires it?  To combat this, the Academy provides the following tips to help avoid workplace eye injury or strain:

Wear protective eyewear: Ensure that your eye protection is appropriate for the type of hazard that may be present in your workplace, such flying debris, falling objects, chemicals, intense light, and heat. Your eyewear must be American National Standards Institute ANSI-approved and OSHA compliant. You must use special-purpose safety glasses, goggles, face shield or helmet if you are near hazardous radiation welding, chemicals, lasers or fiber optics.

Position your computer 25 inches away: If you are working on a desktop computer, try placing the monitor at an arm's length away from your face. You may need to adjust the font size to appear larger at that distance.

Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Eye strain and dry eye occur after long, continuous periods of viewing digital screens up close. To help alleviate this, take a break every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Looking at a distance allows your eyes to relax and return to a regular rate of blinking again. Normally, people blink about 14 times a minute[6] and with every blink, your eyes are lubricated with fluid that contains moisturizing elements, including oil.

Reduce glare on your smartphone and digital screen: While many new phones and digital devices have glass screens with excellent picture quality, they also produce a strong glare that can aggravate the eyes. If you use a glass screen device, adjust the low light filter setting to lower screen brightness or use a matte filter to reduce eye strain.

Adjust environmental lighting at your work: If your computer screen is brighter than your office surroundings, your eyes need to work harder to see. You can reduce eye strain by adjusting the lighting in your surroundings.

"It takes only a few seconds to protect yourself from eye related issues that can cause vision problems," says Brenda Pagán-Durán, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "I can't stress enough the importance of incorporating eye wellness into your daily routine; whether it's simply adjusting the setting on your computer monitor, or wearing appropriate protection to avoid serious eye injury. This is truly an ounce of prevention that can safeguard your vision."

Source: www.eyesmart.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Smart Ways to Pass Wealth to Your Kids

March 3, 2017 1:33 am

Leaving money to your kids can cause unwelcome tax burdens unless you plan ahead and do so wisely. Financial experts at The Motley Fool, recommend three smart ways to pass your hard-earned wealth to your children:

Pass the cash – The IRS lets you give up to $14,000 tax-free per year to each child. You may be able to give them additional sums if they have tuition or medical bills. If you pay those bills -- by sending the money directly to the school or healthcare provider(s), not to your child -- then those sums can be tax-free gifts as well.

Spend it on education - You can help your child avoid student loan debt. One way to do this is with a Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA.) As opposed to a 529 plan, a Coverdell allows you to make investment decisions. While that may not matter to a novice investor, it means that a seasoned market participant can maximize stock opportunities as they arise. Distributions from a Coverdell ESA are not taxed if they are spent on qualified education expenses. Caution: you are only allowed to contribute $2,000 per year per child. Furthermore, if the money isn't used for qualifying education expenses, it can be taxed -- which defeats the purpose of the Coverdell. But given that the contribution limits are low, while college costs are historically high, it’s unlikely to be an issue.

Use a Roth IRA - From an estate-planning standpoint, a Roth IRA has useful features. You can contribute to it as long as you have earned income, and you're not obligated to withdraw any money for as long as you live, so you can leave your investments to grow for the rest of your life. Your heirs won't have to pay tax on withdrawals so long as the account has been open for at least five years. After your death, your kids can take the proceeds as a tax-free lump sum, or allow the money to grow and compound for years. (They will, however, have to take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from the account beginning in the year you die.)

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Protect Your Eyes from Your Mobile Device

March 3, 2017 1:33 am

We’re all guilty of spending too much time staring at our screens. But a recent survey from the American Optometric Association's (AOA) revealed that 88 percent of Americans know that digital devices can negatively affect their vision, but the average American still spends seven or more hours per day looking at their screens. According to the AOA, this overexposure to blue light – high-energy visible light emitted from digital devices – can lead to digital eye strain, sleep problems, blurred vision, headaches and neck and shoulder pain, among other things. The AOA survey also indicates that the average millennial spends nine hours per day on devices such as smartphones, tablets, LED monitors and flat-screen TVs which also emit blue light.

Read on for tips from the AOA on protecting your eyes.

Power down before you turn in: Turn your digital devices off at least one hour before bed.
Unplug with the AOA 20-20-20 rule: When you are using any device or computer, make a conscious effort every day to take a 20-second break and look away from the screen, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.

Step back: Maintain a comfortable working distance from your digital device by using the zoom feature to see small print and details, rather than bringing the device closer to your eyes.

Adjust your device to fit your needs: The AOA recommends reducing the glare by adjusting device settings or using a glare filter to decrease the amount of blue light reflected from the screen.

Schedule an appointment: Visit a doctor of optometry by visiting AOA.org to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam to detect and address vision problems.

Source: American Optometric Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Five Tips for Easy Spring Cleaning

March 3, 2017 1:33 am

Is spring cleaning on your mind? It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task. Below are five tips for easy cleaning, from MaxSold.com.

Decide what you are keeping
Heard of the KonMari decluttering method?  Keep an item if it brings you joy and if you have room for it - if not, set it aside.  Start with a post-its to speed up the process as you go along - bite the bullet and blaze through it in a day, or tackle one room at a time.

Don't take it to the dump
One person's trash is another person's treasure - it's amazing how much money you can recover for your unwanted things. Instead of filling up landfill, fill up your wallet.  Barry Gordon, the founder of MaxSold, an online selling platform, says "A chair that the owner was going to leave out in the side of the curb sold for over $2000, and a box of extension cords that would have gone to the dump sold for $40."

Don't prematurely sell off high value items
Ever post an ad online and get a response in an instant? This will leave you wondering if you grossly underpriced the item.  The opposite is also true - if no one responds to your ad for weeks, maybe you overpriced it, and lowering the price over days for 100s of items is inefficient.  Use an auction platform like MaxSold to sell everything where multiple people compete for the goods. Things that are better will engage more people and foster competition for not only items in demand, but for everything you are clearing out.

Don't put stuff in storage
So many people are focused on "What's my dining room going to bring?"  The hard truth is that no one is going to give you a lot of money for your dining room.  It's going to be heartbreaking.  It's going to be awful.  If you've got someone to give it to in the family, then that's a good idea. But most people do not.  And since they have nowhere else to go with it, they decide to put it into storage.  Unfortunately, they end up paying thousands of dollars in storage cost each year, only to have the items further depreciate in value.Source: MaxSold.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Travel Time: How to Organize a Group Cruise

March 3, 2017 1:33 am

Are you dreaming of travel time? Are you trying to corral one large group into the same destination? Whether you’re planning a spring break, a wedding party, or a trip with your extended family, a cruise is a great way to travel together. But organizing a large group of people can be a huge hassle.

Here are six tips courtesy of Carnival Corporation for putting together the perfect group cruise:

Appoint a group leader. This point person can help get everyone on the same page, coordinating when and where and on what ship your group wants to cruise and serving as the liaison with the experts in the cruise line's group department.

Make reservations well in advance. You will want to lay claim to a block of cabins as soon as possible. Booking a year in advance is preferable, which means now is the time for your group to look at winter 2018.

Work with a travel agent. Experienced travel agents can help take pressure off the group leader, handling logistics and working with the cruise line to make your experience special.

Book a shore experience. As you seek to create memories consider splurging on a group outing, designed by cruise line experts and led by local guides at a port of call.

Plan a special meal. For a memorable celebration, book the steakhouse or one of the ship's other specialty restaurants. The ship's experienced food and beverage team can assist with menus and wine selections.

Source: Carnival Corporation

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Become The Winter King Of Your Block With A Backyard Ice Rink

March 2, 2017 1:33 am

While warmer months beckon families, friends and neighbors to come sit around your pool or firepit, freezing temperatures and blankets of snow can put an immediate chill on any prospect of entertaining outside until springtime.

Unless you are one of the growing number of homeowners using the arctic weather patterns to create a temporary outdoor activity destination in your own backyard like a modest outdoor skating rink.

Jim Stoller, President of NiceRink (nicerink.com) in Southeastern Wisconsin advises using a white liner stretched over a light wooden frame to prevent heat absorption from the sun, and ensuring the liner is not more than 10" deep.

After filling with water, as long as nights remain colder than 23F/-5C to 18F/-8C and days aren't too much warmer, Stoller says you should be able to skate in 3-5 days. Usually, he says, 3"to 4" of ice depth will hold most kids and average size adults.

Joe Proulx at backyard-hockey.com says there is nothing in this world that compares to having your own backyard rink. Proulx says you really need four things: a liner, a frame to drop the liner into, supports to keep the frame up, and water.

All-in-all, your DIY ice rink can cost as little as $250, Proulx says.

Kelly Burke, a Lawn Care & Lawn Alternatives Expert at About Home (lawncare.about.com) says a no frills rink can start with a 1" base of lightly packed snow. Then, use packed snow, wood boards, or PVC pipe to create a minimum 3" lip to contain the water.

Burke says apply several light sprinklings of water to freeze a base before flooding the rink. This ice layer prevents water from soaking through the snow and reaching the grass.

So can a backyard rink wreck your grass?

Stoller says depending on how you build your rink and what type of liner you use will determine the health of your grass come spring. With a white liner and the flood method, he has seen a 99.9 percent effective rate in turf health.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Protecting Those Pearly Whites

March 2, 2017 1:33 am

A nice smile has more importance than mere aesthetics; in addition to general mouth health, an ailing mouth can also be a sign of how healthy your heart is. Recent research has linked periodontal disease (the most severe form of gum disease) with a heightened risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.

Much of the population of the U.S. will experience gingivitis (the mildest form of gum disease) during their lives; while 30 percent -40 percent will experience periodontitis. Signs may be:

- Loose teeth
- Red, inflamed or tender gums
- Gums pulling away from teeth
- Gums that bleed when brushed
- Persistent bad breath

DentalPlans.com has the following tips for taking care of your mouth.

Limit sugar: Aside from their obvious detrimental health effects, sugary foods activate the oral bacteria that leads to tooth decay and gum disease.

Quit tobacco: Tobacco products can cause gum disease, tooth decay, oral cancer, and cardiovascular problems. For help quitting smoking, visit the American Lung Organization's web site. For those who chew tobacco, consider participating in the Great American Spit Out on Feb 23.

Stay hydrated: One's heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles when hydrated. Hydrating also helps avoid dry mouth, which can cause tooth decay.

Maintain good oral hygiene: Brush teeth properly at least twice a day, floss and get regular checkups and professional cleanings.

Source: DentalPlans.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Save Big on Energy Costs

March 2, 2017 1:33 am

Those of us juggling mortgage payments, monthly phone and cable bills, and electric bills know the financial strain of homeownership. And while you may not be able to reduce that mortgage payment right now, you can certainly curtail your energy costs with a few tweaks.

"Swapping out light bulbs, turning on ceiling fans, and replacing air filters are a few easy ways to save energy," says Eric Corbett, president and owner of Larry & Sons. "Even the smallest problems with your furnace or inconsistencies in heating effectiveness throughout your home can cause your energy bill to skyrocket during winter."

Corbett offers the following tips on how to save energy and lower utility bills during winter:

- Seal the doors and windows. Homes are built to protect you from the elements. However, over time the seals around doors and windows can become weak. You may find that the seals between your doors and window frames are not as tight as they once were when the home was brand new. Weakened seals allow cold air to enter and warm air to exit. Therefore, heating your home isn't working if your seals are weak.

- Run your fans. Turning on the indoor fans will help to move air around the room. This evens out the temperature in a room instead of the hot air accumulating near the ceiling. It also helps to eliminate any cold spots in corners of the home.

- Swap old bulbs for LED lights. Swapping out old incandescent lights for LED lighting can save you extra money over time. In addition to being more energy efficient, LED lights last up to 50 times longer than incandescent lights and up to five times longer than fluorescent ones. This saves you time and money replacing burnt out bulbs.

- Turn down your thermostat and water heater if you're leaving home. If you are traveling, turn down the thermostat and water heater before leaving your home. Don't completely shut them off, just turn them down to save energy. If you shut your thermostat and water heater off, pipes can freeze without sufficient warmth.

- Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat allows you to set the temperature for various times of the day so that your furnace turns on to warm your house before you wake up, or it shuts off to save energy when everyone is asleep.

- Call a professional. Your HVAC is a complex system. If it's malfunctioning and runs without repair, it could potentially lead to greater damage and a more expensive repair. Invest in routine low-cost maintenance and tune-ups to save money in the long run.

- Clean your furnace filter. The simplest thing to do is to replace your air filter often. An HVAC unit drives air through a filter into the ductwork to the rest of the house. This keeps your air clean and filtered for impurities. As the filter removes impurities and dust from the air, it blocks airflow causing the furnace to work harder, which draws more energy.

Source: www.larryandsons.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Contact Lens Safety Tips

March 1, 2017 1:33 am

(Family Feature)--With nearly 41 million adults in the U.S. wearing contact lenses as a safe and popular form of vision correction, there is a growing trend among Americans to alter the appearance or color of the eyes by using decorative contact lenses. However, if these lenses are bought illegally and without a prescription from your eye doctor, they could lead to serious health issues and potentially damage your eyesight permanently.

“Many consumers consider these lenses a fashion or costume accessory when, in reality, decorative lenses are also classified as medical devices and still pose the same potential safety and health issues as corrective contact lenses and require a prescription,” says Andrea P. Thau, O.D., president of the American Optometric Association (AOA).

The AOA recommends contact lens wearers take proper steps to protect their eyes and maintain a consistent hygiene routine, including:

- See a doctor of optometry for a comprehensive eye examination and proper fitting and prescription for decorative contacts lenses, even if you don’t require lenses to correct your vision.

- Never buy lenses from retail outlets or online sites that don’t require a prescription.

- Always follow the recommended contact lens replacement schedule prescribed by your eye doctor.

- Wash and dry hands before handling contact lenses.

- Carefully and regularly use cleaning solution to rub the lenses with fingers and rinse thoroughly before soaking overnight in multi-purpose disinfectant solution.

- Use fresh solution to clean and store contact lenses – never reuse old solution.

- Only use products recommended by your eye doctor to clean and disinfect lenses. Saline solution and rewetting drops do not disinfect lenses.

- Store lenses in the proper storage case and replace your case every three months. In addition, cases should be rubbed with clean fingers, rinsed with solution, dried with a tissue and stored upside-down when not in use.

- Remove contact lenses before exposing them to water.

- See your optometrist immediately if you experience redness, pain, irritation or blurred vision while wearing your lenses.

Source: aoa.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Money Matters: Finances and Your Relationship

March 1, 2017 1:33 am

Communication is important in every aspect of your romantic relationship, but when it comes to finances, being open and honest—even when uncomfortable—is a necessity.

"Money discussions are tough to have, often bringing up core issues about our own relationship to money, as well as anxieties about the future," says Senior CFP Board Ambassador Jill Schlesinger, CFP®. "While it can be a hot button issue for many, not being open with your partner about money can often lead to more issues down the line."

In her latest contribution to LetsMakeAPlan.org, Schlesinger offers tips for how to start a conversation with your partner about your finances.

Set up time to talk: Trying to have a meaningful conversation about money amid a heated argument is fruitless. Instead, set aside a specific time and place to talk about the dreaded topic. You can reduce emotions by setting specific objectives and basic ground rules: No judgments – just open dialogue. 

Share information: During your conversation, you should share information including any outstanding debt, investments, bank and retirement accounts, and any bonds you may have. If you've never created a balance sheet or estate plan, now is the perfect time to do so!  Create a master list of assets and note who owns each, or whether it's jointly owned. Also include any account usernames and passwords, broker names and contact information, and other account info to share with your partner.

Get on the same page: Make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to financial priorities – retirement, college planning and cash flow management. Do you want to keep separate bank accounts and both contribute to a joint account? There is no "right" answer, but agreeing on a path forward will help avoid confusion in the future.

Divide and conquer: After you have the conversation, divide financial responsibilities that work for each partner's strength. If one likes to use apps to track spending, they should monitor the day-to-day bills. If the other is more inclined to manage the long-term investments, they should manage those accounts. Make sure you understand the game plan together and allocate tasks appropriately.

Source: Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Check Your Roof for Damage

March 1, 2017 1:33 am

Whether your roof is aged or just weathered a severe storm, staying on top of possible damage is key to extending the life of your home’s top half.

Highland Commercial Roofing offers these tips to help detect and prevent water damage:

Inspect your roof for damage after a severe storm.

Remove any loose objects and debris. A clean roof eliminates leaves and other items. from accumulations on the roof and clogging drains and gutters.

Check gutters and downspouts for debris that will inhibit proper drainage.

Bubbles on the roof may be a sign of trapped moisture under the cover.

Worn, cracking seams can allow water to enter below the cover.

Standing water or prolonged ponding of water can lead to premature aging and deterioration.

Check skylights for securement and cracking around the edges.

Source: www.highlandroof.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Developing Children’s Character at Home

February 28, 2017 1:33 am

(Family Features)--We all want our kids to become good, honest, well rounded adults. Take an active approach to helping children develop a solid foundation in good character with these tips:

Help children recognize their feelings. Help little ones recognize and understand their feelings by giving them vocabulary words to express themselves.

Lead by example. Children learn a lot by watching the interactions of adults. Model social-emotional skills by listening to others, apologizing when you hurt someone’s feelings, being respectful of others, etc. 

Help children identify other perspectives. Point out differences in other people’s thoughts and feelings. When reading with children, ask what they think the characters are feeling or narrate the emotions and exaggerate facial expressions for young children. 

Talk about your own decisions in terms of right and wrong. As children’s abilities and understanding grows, discuss your values and take advantage of everyday situations to describe and demonstrate good citizenship and desirable behavior.Let kindness and respect rule the day. Set household guidelines grounded in showing kindness and respect, and help children learn to follow them. When they break the rules, calmly explain how or why their behavior was unkind and how they could have better handled the situation.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Can Pesky Household Chores Be Healthy?

February 28, 2017 1:33 am

Can household chores be more than a series of to-dos? What if they could be both fun and healthy? I went looking for some data recently to learn exactly which chores burn the most calories, which ones people prefer to do, and what tasks we avoid (hello, cleaning the bathroom!).

Calorielab.com provides a deep breakdown of dozens of calorie-burning household chores. It turns out that as you transition from winter to spring, carrying of boxes up and down stairs as you're swapping seasonal stuff from the attic or basement can burn between 300 and 500 calories or more per hour, depending on how vigorous your pace.

- Make good use of a mop, vacuum or carpet sweeper for 15 minutes, and boom - you're down around 40 calories. Keep it up for an hour and burn off around 170.

Calorielab.com says even 15 minutes of light cleaning - dusting, straightening up, changing linen, or carrying out trash - is good for a 26 calorie burn. Step outside to scrub your car, wash windows, or clean the garage; an hour's work can burn 136 calories.

There are also a ton of simple but necessary chores that really stack up over time. Housekeeping.org sourced this zippy to-do list from all over the web:

- Use a nut to take scratches out of a wooden table in five minutes by rubbing the meat of a walnut over them.

- Use Alka Seltzer to clean a toilet - plop plop two tablets in, wait a few minutes and then brush the bowl clean.

- Dump a cut up a lemon, some salt and a few ice cubes and running them through your garbage disposal to freshen and disinfect.

- Disinfect light switch covers and door knobs - this task is especially important during cold and flu season and only takes a few minutes.

- Put a handful of wet paper towels or sponge into the microwave, turn it on for a couple minutes, then wipe out the microwave with the wet paper towels and you’re done

- Implement a 5-minute pick-up game with a timer - grab a laundry basket and walk around adding anything that doesn’t belong in each room. Once you’re done, put everything back in its rightful place before the timer dings.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Use That Fire Extinguisher

February 28, 2017 1:33 am

Hopefully, most of us will never have to deal with a fire in our home. But for safety’s sake, it’s important to understand how to use that fire extinguisher collecting dust. A new poll from PEMCO Insurance shows about a quarter of residents in Washington and Oregon do not have a fire extinguisher in their home, and only about half of all residents feel very confident using one.

"Fire extinguishers are an important part of overall fire safety and prevention plans – just as critical as having a home fire-escape plan and working smoke alarms," says PEMCO Spokesperson Derek Wing. "If a small fire breaks out in your home, using a fire extinguisher within six seconds can prevent it from quickly growing out of control."

To use a fire extinguisher, PEMCO urges all residents to remember the acronym PASS, which stands for "pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep." First, make sure the fire extinguisher is upright, then:

Pull the pin from the handle.

Aim the nozzle low, while keeping the extinguisher upright.

Squeeze the handle to release the fire-fighting chemicals. When you can see the fire is being put out, move in toward the fire, keeping your aim at the base of the flame.

Sweep the extinguisher from side to side until the fire is out.

Experts also recommend you follow these tips to maximize your fire extinguisher's effectiveness:

Choose the right fire extinguisher. A dry chemical ABC, size 2-A: 10-B: C is often considered the best all-around home fire extinguisher, and can fight most common household fires.

Hang fire extinguishers in the kitchen and garage, but never near the stove. If a fire breaks out there, you'll need to grab the extinguisher from elsewhere in your home.

Replace or refill your fire extinguisher once it's been discharged, even if you used only a little.

Be extremely cautious. If the flames are bigger than you are, it's too big to put out with a fire extinguisher. Get out and call the fire department if the fire doesn't diminish immediately when you hit it with the spray.

"Even the most basic understanding of fire extinguishers and how to use them can make a big difference in keeping your home and your family safe," Wing adds. "If you don't feel comfortable operating your fire extinguisher, or are looking for more detailed information, don't hesitate to contact your local fire department."

Source: PEMCO Insurance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Northern Style: Winter Lawn Care Tips From The Pros

February 27, 2017 1:33 am

Recently, I started examining a few winter lawn best practices for many homeowners throughout the south.

Now I will shift focus to let those in the more northerly climates can help their lawns flourish with a few winter maintenance tips.

Central Sod Farms, Inc. (plantsod.com) authorities identify Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, along with Annual and Perennial Ryegrass among the most popular of northern region cool season turf grasses - a term applied to grass that grows well in the middle to northern half of the United States.

Cool season grasses usually have two growing seasons; spring and fall. Some species go through a winter dormancy lasting between one and four months depending on location and severity of the winter. This turf tolerates cold weather very well.

But Borst Landscape & Design professionals in New Jersey (Borstlandscape.com) say harsh winter weather can damage even the heartiest northern lawns by pushing a lot of debris from storms and wind onto your property. They recommend clearing away fallen branches, twigs and other debris that blows onto your lawn asap.

The Borst website says debris left on a lawn during cold weather, especially in snowfall, can create large dead spots. So when spring comes, those areas will show thinner grass and less growth than the rest of your lawn.
Loveyourlandscape.org advises homeowners who are using salt and melting agents for snow and ice, that those spreads can damage plants and trees by drawing water away from their roots.

They say get rid of extra salt that may have swept onto grassy edging by flushing out the soil with plenty of water.

The experts at plantsod.com also watch out for the occasional ice storms that coats blades of grass with ice. Walking on lawns covered in ice will damage encased blades of grass and you will see brown "footprints" for several months until warmer weather returns.

Northwesterners can take a tip or two from Seattle's swansonsnursery.com - where they suggest taking time during mid-winter to sharpen mower blades and tune-up your mower, and check lawn for standing puddles of water.

February and March are the perfect months to correct drainage where necessary or replant  areas with more suitable ground covers. Do not mow at this time, however, because birds pecking at the turf help remove soil grubs such as crane fly.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Security Systems: What to Know before Buying

February 27, 2017 1:33 am

Everyone wants to protect their home, their property, and most of all, their families. In fact, market research suggests the home security business is growing at a rate of about 9 percent a year. But home security systems are not all alike.

Some systems can not only warn you of intruders, but can also notify authorities, monitor smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and/or include video surveillance. Mot security alarm installers can provide services that include equipment plus installation and monitoring service.

If you are thinking about buying a home security system, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests that you:

- Get references from friends, neighbors or relatives.

- Check out companies online and check the Better Business Bureau for complaints.

- Verify that the contractor’s license is in good standing via the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies.

- Get written estimates from several companies.

- Read the fine print regarding costs, installation timeline, warranty, and an explanation of your right to cancel within three days of signing a contract.

- Ask lots of questions:
  • Who will perform the installation and monitor the system? Some companies subcontract this work to a third party.
  • What is the contract period for monitoring? One year? More? Are there penalties for early termination? What happens if you move before the contract term is up?
  • How much does the monitoring cost? How often will you be billed?
  • Does the company call you before notifying the police?
  • How soon after the alarm sounds will you be notified?
  • What happens if the alarm company can't reach you when the alarm is sounding? Is the alarm reset? Are the police called? Are alternate numbers called?
  • What happens if the power goes out? Is there a back-up battery system?
  • What does the warranty cover, and for how long? Is it from the manufacturer or their installer?
  • Who is responsible for repairs or upgrades to the system?
- Does the company offer interactive services like smoke and fire detection, remote control, video surveillance, email notifications and special apps for smart phones?

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Health and Safety Go Hand-in-Hand

February 27, 2017 1:33 am

(Family Features)--Most people recognize the importance of a healthy lifestyle when it comes to physical and emotional well-being, but you may not realize that some health-related activities can pose a safety risk if you don’t take proper precautions. Making safe habits part of your healthy lifestyle can help ensure you’re able to enjoy the results of your efforts.

Warm up your workout. Exercise and physical activity are essential to a healthy lifestyle, but failing to approach your workouts with the proper warmup and know-how can really backfire. According to the experts at WebMD, a warmup is important because it gets blood circulating and eases muscles into more vigorous activity, getting them loose, warm and ready for the challenge.

Know that technique matters. Another potential safety pitfall when it comes to working out is improperly using weight machines or employing improper technique for activities like yoga or core training. Failing to execute your exercises correctly can not only produce sub-par results, you may actually end up hurting yourself by causing a sprain or other injury. Even if you tend to be a loner when it comes to working out, enlist the expertise of a trainer or coach who can show you the ropes before you set out solo.

Exercise caution outdoors. A few hours spent in the great outdoors can leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated; fresh air is good for your body and your spirit. However, spending too much time soaking up the sun can have a detrimental impact on your health – overexposure to UV rays is a major risk factor for developing skin cancer. Exposure to the elements, such as strong winds or harsh cold, can also take a toll on your body. The American Melanoma Foundation recommends lathering up with a sunscreen that has a Skin Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 any time you’ll be outdoors for more than 20 minutes. Even winter conditions pose a threat to bare skin, as snow can actually reflect UV radiation.

Be wary of expiration dates. Most people at least periodically use prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines as part of their commitment to staying healthy. However, for people who rarely use medicines, their cabinets may be filled with potentially dangerous, expired medications. According to the FDA, both prescriptions and over-the-counter meds can lose their effectiveness over time and even become unsafe. Especially concerning are the medicines that can change chemical composition or become a breeding ground for bacteria over an extended period of time. That’s why it’s important to properly discard medicines after their expiration dates have passed.

Make reasonable eating choices. With countless diet options available, it may seem impossible to know which is most likely to help you achieve your desired results. When evaluating eating plans, be careful to avoid diets that are excessively restrictive, as these can have a serious impact on bodily organs that rely on nutrients to function. Also be wary of diets that recommend cutting entire food groups; a balanced diet with moderate portion sizes is the best approach for delivering your body the nutrition it needs for top performance.

Source: elivingtoday.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Household Cleaning Tips That Save Time and Money

February 24, 2017 1:30 am

Spring – a time for new beginnings – is just around the corner. It’s time to air out the winter blahs and let the sun shine in. But there’s no need to knock ourselves out or over-spend on cleaning supplies. The home editors at Good Housekeeping magazine offer tips on cleaning every corner of your home without exhausting yourself or your wallet:

One simple solution – No need to spend money on specialized cleaning products. Fill an empty spray bottle with a quart of warm water mixed with four tablespoons of baking soda, and use it for most surfaces, including windows, counters, tile, and appliances.

Toothpaste trick – If your kids are a little too creative, a dab of toothpaste will remove colored marker stains from wooden tables.

Wipe out wall doodles – A good sprinkling of baking soda on a damp sponge should wipe your walls clean of ‘artwork.’

Funky cutting board? – Rub the cut side of a lemon over it to remove old stains and odors.

Wake up patio furniture – add a squirt of dish soap to a bowl of warm water. Wipe down surfaces and hose them off with plain water.

Soften scratchy towels – Get rid of mineral build-up by washing scratchy towels in the hottest water possible with nothing but a cup of ammonia added.

Easy copper cleanup – A little ketchup – yes, ketchup – will get those copper-bottomed pots and pans shining.

Dishwasher duty – Once every few weeks, especially while flu season hangs around, get rid of bacteria by adding a quarter cup of bleach to the regular dish cycle .

Disinfect the disposal – Run a few lemon peels, a little salt, and a few ice cubes through it to sanitize and banish odors.

Don’t forget the sponge – Keep that wet sponge clean and bacteria-free by zapping it in the microwave for one minute.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Nurturing Selflessness in a Selfie Culture

February 24, 2017 1:30 am

(Family Features)--In a typical day, it’s possible for children to spend more time engaging with technology than interacting with their peers face-to-face. As a result, the “selfie culture” is on the minds of today’s parents, who worry about how they can make sure their children grow into kind and selfless adults.

However, a national survey revealed that parents don’t fully realize the power they have when it comes to developing good character in their children. The online survey, commissioned by preschool provider Primrose Schools®, profiled hundreds of U.S. parents whose children attend, will attend or have previously attended an early education program between the ages of 3-5.

In today’s social media-focused world, 92 percent of parents agree that nurturing positive character traits in children is more important than it used to be. Yet nearly 50 percent of parents are unaware of just how early they can and should start helping their children develop these traits.

When Character-Building Should Begin

The foundational skills for good character start emerging in the first year of life. Children as young as 6 months old can demonstrate outward signs of budding empathy skills. Character and emotional intelligence continue to develop throughout the early years and are significantly influenced by young children’s interactions with their parents and caregivers. Yet almost 50 percent of parents believe preschool is too early for children to start learning social-emotional skills, and could be missing critical opportunities to support their child’s development.

Why Nurturing Good Character Early is Important

Intentionally nurturing social-emotional skills starting at birth is an important and often overlooked opportunity as these skills have been shown to be key predictors of future health, academic and life success. Early brain and child development research now shows more clearly that the first five years of life are critical for building the foundation for traits such as honesty, generosity, compassion and kindness, which will impact children for a lifetime.

“We now know that IQ no longer represents an accurate predictor of school readiness, much less future life success,” said Dr. Laura Jana, a pediatrician and nationally acclaimed parenting and children’s book author. “It’s not just about learning the ‘3 Rs’ of reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic anymore. It’s the addition of a fourth ‘R’ that represents relationships and the importance of reading other people, which sets children up for success in today’s world.”

Finding Child Care that Nurtures Good Character

In addition to parents, child care providers play a key role in helping children develop a strong foundation. However, more than half of parents surveyed feel their child did not or will not acquire honesty, generosity and compassion (54, 54 and 62 percent, respectively) during their early education experience.

Parents seeking early education and care for their children should look for providers that emphasize character development. In these nurturing environments, children have opportunities to learn and practice social-emotional skills every day through games, puppet play, books, music, art projects and more. At Primrose Schools, their Balanced Learning® approach also includes hands-on experiences to help children apply concepts like generosity in real-life situations.

For example, each year thousands of children at more than 325 Primrose schools across the country take part in the annual Caring and Giving Food Drive. The preschoolers earn money to purchase canned goods through chores at home. They practice perspective taking, learning about the importance of giving through stories, songs, art projects and more. They even take field trips to grocery stores to shop for food items, which are then donated to local charities. At the end of the experience, the children feel a sense of accomplishment and have practiced skills like empathy, generosity and compassion.

“We believe who children become is as important as what they know,” said Gloria Julius, Ed.D., vice president of education and professional development for Primrose Schools. “That’s why nurturing children’s social-emotional development and building character has been an integral part of our approach for more than 30 years.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Surviving With Five - Experts Pick Their Top Countertop Accessories

February 24, 2017 1:30 am

Do you cast your eyes around your kitchen and think clutter. When weighing the most critical countertop accoutrements, there is no shortage of authorities ready to tell you how to most strategically equip your kitchen surfaces.

Janet Hall at remodelista.com says one of the new-generation countertop ovens is among her kitchen must-haves. She likes one of the new line of smart convection ovens that offers nine operating modes to meet almost any culinary demand.

Chris, a kitchen equipment expert at consolidatedfoodservice.com thinks a panini maker or panini press deserves a spot on your counter. Besides pressing crunchy, hand-crafted sandwiches - in a pinch, a panini maker can be a handy grill for meat, sliced potatoes, chicken, and even fried eggs.

Kitchen.com showcases several new products on the market that pack a punch and save tons of kitchen space, including a combination stand mixer, blender and food processor that also works as your juicer, meat grinder, shredding, slicing and whisking appliance, all in one machine - that occupies a relatively small countertop footprint.

Speaking of multi-function, at thekitchn.com, Cambria Bold says she loves her Instant Pot - a seven-in-one multi-cooker that works as an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, warmer, and sauté pan all in one ($135).

Bold describes her electric kettle as: one of those deceptively essential small appliances you don't think is necessary until you have one. She says it's more energy-efficient than boiling water on the stove, and 10 times as fast.
Claire Murdough at lifehacker.com thinks small appliance hunters on a budget should avoid overspending on kitchen appliances by asking themselves five questions before buying something that may go without much use, wasting space and money:

What's the return on value? Murdough says his most cost effective tool is a slow cooker.

How frequently will you use it? His pick for most frequently used appliance is a microwave.

Could you make do without? Murdough says the most useful specialized appliance is a blender.

Will having to clean it deter you? His easiest to clean most useful appliance winner is a hand mixer.

Do you want it just for the novelty? If so, Murdough's best bet for a novelty appliance is a George Foreman brand or similar type of double heated electric grill.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is This Your Year? The Time Is Now For Prepping To Sell!

February 23, 2017 1:27 am

If 2017 is the year you put your home on the market, there are a few important things you can start doing right now to be ready when spring and summer home buying season hits.

One Upper Michigan REALTOR(r)'s blog suggests restless pending home listers host a pre-market open house. Invite friends, family and three full time real estate agents to a weekend “get to know” your home gathering.

The blog says it will help get the word out that you’ll be selling come spring. Don't forget to ask for feedback from guests and be ready for what you’ll hear - good and bad.

Now is the time to start a to-do list of repairs, updates and streamlining with a timeline to complete before your home goes on market, the blog states. Also gather references for contractors if you need to hire work done - mid-winter months are typically slow for building trades and a good time to schedule repairs.

Don’t forget the basement - dark, dirty and musty basements are a turnoff to buyers:

· Add extra lighting, paint the floor and vacuum out all the cobwebs.

· Organize storage areas and take the time to clean the washing machine and dryer.

· To spruce up the hot water heater and furnace, wipe down with a strong cleaner.

· Scrub the laundry tub and sweep left-over leaves out of exterior stairs and window wells.

· Run a dehumidifier to reduce basement moisture.

Dawn Jamison at QuickenLoans.com says another REALTOR(r) in Exton, Pa. says winter house hunters should keep their search going regardless of the weather because a home that meets their ideal criteria and at the right price can pop up on the market at any time.

Another Detroit REALTOR(r) told Jamison that said if a buyer can locate a home that meets their needs, then being a winter buyer is not a hindrance. And because of typical mid-winter lack of inventory, he advises buyers to be certain their financing is figured out ahead of time so that they can submit competitive offers quickly when an appropriate home hits the listings.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The 5 Best Money Tips to Teach Your Kids

February 23, 2017 1:27 am

The money habits children develop while they’re young can help form habits that guide their financial future, and the younger they are when learn good money habits, the more likely they are to value them.

Financial editors at the money and investment site, The Motley Fool suggest the five most important money tips you can teach kids at an early age:

1.  Money grows – It has the potential to earn you more if you stow it properly. Show your kids that if you put $500 into a savings account at just one percent interest annually, you will have $552 in ten years with no more effort on your part. As your kids get older, you can explore more lucrative earnings efforts including investment opportunities.

2.  Look for value – There’s nothing wrong with buying what you want, but you can make the effort to spend less for it if you wait for them to go on sale or consider a store brand instead of a name brand. You can show kids how this works with a trip to the supermarket, and teach them to research the differences between products.

3.  Saving is less expensive than borrowing – Kids, like many adults, want what they want when they want it. They may not have access to credit cards, as adults do, but next time they want something they don’t have enough money for, offer to lend it to them. But charge interest. Once kids see that borrowing entails extra cost, they may see the value of saving up.

4.  Your friend’s money is none of your business – When your kids are trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses,’ explain that they have no idea how much their friends have or where there money goes or is coming from. It’s wise to focus on your own situation, rather than on someone else’s.

5.  Know that your time has value – Kids should be willing to work to earn money, but understand that their time has value. Selling lemonade on a quiet col-de-sac with little foot traffic, for example, may not be a good investment of their time. Having a strong work ethic will be valuable all their lives, but they should understand that time and effort have worth.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Maximizing Your Assets in Retirement

February 23, 2017 1:27 am

(Family Features)--No matter how diligent you may have been about saving for retirement, unexpected life changes and economic realities can negatively impact your retirement budget. Sustained low interest rates have suppressed yields on income from bonds and rising health care expenses have affected retirees of all ages. Many retirees are surprised to learn that one of the most valuable assets in their portfolios may be a life insurance policy that they no longer need.
 
It’s not uncommon for people to outlive their need for life insurance, and if you no longer need the policy or can no longer afford the premiums, you could consider selling the policy through a life settlement. This is a financial transaction in which a policy owner works with a company, such as Coventry Direct, to determine if they qualify to sell their life insurance policy. The policy seller receives an immediate cash payment while the buyer assumes all future premium payments. Most life insurance policy types qualify, even convertible term life policies.
 
Consider this story about a financial advisor who recently retired from a long, successful career. He decided the money he was spending on the rising premiums for his $799,975 life insurance policy could be used to help fund his retirement. After some research, he called Coventry Direct and was happy to learn he had an option other than just letting the policy lapse. He sold his policy through a life settlement for $25,000, which was more than four times the value he would have received if he surrendered the policy back to the insurance company.
 
If you don’t own a life insurance policy or still need your coverage, you may want to evaluate the real estate you own. Think about downsizing to a smaller home or selling other property you no longer need. Many retirees discover that they have significant equity tied up in real estate – equity that could be used to help fund expenses.
 
Another useful exercise is reviewing your investments. If your retirement income is failing to produce the amount needed to maintain your lifestyle, you may need to rebalance your portfolio in order to meet your changing needs.
 
If you find your retirement income is insufficient, there are options available to maximize your assets. For many retirees, an existing life insurance policy may be a hidden asset that can be utilized to generate cash.
 
Source: coventrydirect.com 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Find Money around the House

February 20, 2017 1:27 am

Need to start adding some more money to your monthly credit column and reduce the amount in the debit column? If you take a good look around your house - and no, not under the sofa cushions - you can upturn money in several different areas.

Evaluate your cable needs. Take a good look at your cable bill. Are you paying for a landline you don’t use anymore? Channels you never watch? Cable boxes you don’t need? Chances are you can slash your bill dramatically. In fact, if you’re mostly watching Netflix, using an Apple TV or Roku, you might not need cable at all.

Be more energy efficient. Talk to your energy company about the options available to you. Thanks to deregulation, you now have a choice of providers. Also consider solar panels. After the initial installation cost, your monthly energy spend will drop significantly.

Be proactive with your mobile provider. Take a good look at your mobile bill for unnecessary expenses and to make sure you’re getting the best plan. Carriers are always introducing new package deals and specials, so be proactive and ask them how you can reduce your bill. You also might want to consider going without a contract and paying month to month.

Bundle insurance. Insurance providers want your business and will offer discounts when you bundle your various insurance needs with them--auto, home, life, etc. But discounts for bundling vary widely - from 3 - 22 percent, according to insure.com. So make sure you shop around before you choose a provider.

Drive less. Economic indicators point to gas most likely reaching $3 per gallon this year. No matter what happens with prices, though, gas expenses add up. Look for ways where you can reduce your time behind the wheel. Try car-pooling, biking and walking when you can. And if you’re in the market for a new car, it’s worth considering a hybrid, diesel, or other fuel-efficient model.

Manage your meals. If you’re not tracking your grocery expenses, start immediately. You’ll be surprised (maybe even shocked!) at how much you’re spending on groceries. Once you get a clear picture of what you’re spending, find ways to reduce that amount. Shop in bulk for items you use frequently, shop weekly specials and clip coupons, and make sure you join the rewards programs of the stores you frequent most. You will also save money if you plan your meals for the week. This will enable you to buy only those items that you really need, reducing impulse purchases.

Evaluate gym memberships. Good health is priority one, so if you use your gym regularly, stick with it. However, if you’re not taking full advantage of your membership, nix it. Or at least freeze it until you can commit to going more often. In the meantime, try any number of great exercise apps at home, or get out in the fresh air and walk. As long as you keep moving, you’re moving toward better health.

Sell stuff. Why the idea of organizing a yard sale may be overwhelming, there are much simpler ways to make some money from clothing and household items you no longer need. In addition to eBay and Craigslist, Techlicious recommends the following apps: OfferUp, Gone, Vinted and Tradesy. The best site to use depends on what you’re selling, so do your research. You’ll want a different site for selling a computer as opposed to that designer purse.

The most important rule to remember when finding ways to cut expenses around the home? No savings is too small. You will be amazed how quickly they add up to real dollars!

I hope you found these ideas useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Make Your Life Insurance Work for You

February 20, 2017 1:27 am

(Family Features)--Life insurance is a valuable asset, but over time you may find that your life insurance no longer fits your situation. You might be surprised to learn that in addition to your home, stocks, bonds and antiques, your life insurance is another asset you can sell.

Life insurance policies can be converted to immediate cash through a life settlement, but as many as 85 percent of seniors don't realize this option is available, according to a survey conducted by Coventry Direct.

A life settlement is a financial transaction in which a policy owner sells an unneeded life insurance policy for more than they would have received from the insurance company if they were to lapse or surrender the policy. Most life insurance policy types qualify, including universal life, whole life, variable life, survivorship and even term life policies.

Among the reasons you might consider a life settlement:

- Your life insurance policy is too expensive to maintain. If your premium payments have continued to increase, your policy may no longer be affordable. However, simply allowing the policy to lapse results in a total loss of the premiums you have paid.

- You have more life insurance than you currently need. As your circumstances and need for financial protection change, you may want to reduce the overall insurance you own. For example, if your policy was intended to pay off your mortgage in the event of your death, but you've since sold the home or paid off your mortgage, you may not need the same amount of coverage.

- You need help with increasing medical or long-term care expenses. Selling your policy can help cover your immediate needs for health care or other unforeseen medical expenses.

- Increasing your retirement funds will increase your peace of mind. The proceeds from the sale of your policy can help boost your savings and supplement your retirement income.

- Your debt load exceeds your comfort level. Whether a single emergency incident or a combination of variables compounded your debt, working your way out can be emotionally and mentally draining, but applying untapped assets to reduce the burden may help.

For example, one policy owner no longer had a need for several life insurance policies totaling $500,000. The life insurance company would only pay him the cash surrender value of $28,500. Instead, he contacted Coventry Direct and was able to sell the policies for $110,000, which he used to supplement his retirement and plan a family vacation.

Source: Coventry Direct

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Work More, Live Longer

February 17, 2017 1:27 am

Whether motivated by the desire to stay active and vital, or by the need for continued financial support, people are putting off retirement and working longer. In fact, according to research from Merrill Lynch and Age Wave, about 75 percent of people over 50 say they see themselves continuing to work well past the traditional retirement age range. The good news? Not only is it good for your wallet, it’s good for your health.

According to a recent TODAY show segment with financial expert Jean Chatzky, creator of the HerMoney podcast, researchers from the University of Miami found that those over age 65 who were still part of the workforce were more likely to report that they were in good, very good or even excellent health, as compared to their peers who were unemployed or retired.

What’s more, a similar study from Oregon State University revealed that those who continued to work past age 65 had an 11 percent lower chance of death from all causes. Beyond keeping you generally healthy, working past age 65 has several specific benefits, such as:

- Keeping your mind sharp - staying engaged helps mental acuity

- Keeping you connected to others - many retirees find themselves somewhat isolated after leaving the workforce

- Maintaining your sense of worth - our identities are often tied up in what we do for a living

- Increasing your financial health - the longer you work, the more you can add to that retirement savings account

- Social security boon – According to Kiplinger's, the full retirement ag for social security is now 66 for people born between 1943 – 1954, and it will gradually rise to 67 for those born after 1960. However, for every year you delay taking social security past the retirement age, you get a bump of 8 percent until age 70.
So before you trade in your briefcase for a tennis racket, take the above into consideration.
I hope you found this research interesting. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Source: Jean Chatzky, This Week in Your Wallet

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Surprising Bridal Trends for 2017

February 17, 2017 1:27 am

With spring wedding planning in seriously high gear, some brides-to-be are stunned to view the bold, trending bridal fashions unveiled at recent shows.

“Somehow,” noted one busy New York wedding planner, “dress designers are devising ways for brides to wear all of the traditional wedding accoutrements – like long sleeves, a train, and the veil – while baring as much skin as possible.”

Here’s a recap of the most surprising trends embraced by forward-looking bridal fashionistas:

Plunging necklines – Demure brides are out this season as figure-flattering, if deeply plunging, necklines are incorporated into traditional motifs.

Off-the-shoulder styles – It figures that skin-baring, off-the-shoulder styles are available in vintage as well as contemporary bridal gowns.

Hot colors – Shades of pink, followed closely by warm yellows, are increasingly popular as white or off-white alternatives.

Short dresses and bridal boots – This year’s unique crop of bridal designs gives a wide berth to traditional dresses in favor of over-the-knee white wedding boots paired with chic and lacy short wedding dresses.

3-D detailing – To complement some of the most daring dresses, designers have come up with three dimensional stick-ons, like lace flower cutouts, that adhere to the bride’s bare skin above the neckline.

Modern Renaissance – Featuring sculpted shoulders, a deep square neckline and sheer, leg-exposing veiling below the waist, one Dror design is an updated take on an old Renaissance motif.

Jumpsuit train – One Mark Zunino design features a modern, off-white silk jumpsuit with a skirt and full train attached.

Crop tops – Several featured designs pair a chic, short, lacy crop top with a high-waisted, full-length skirt. 

Modern lace-up – Given the popularity of lace-up shoes, it’s perhaps no surprise these lace-up dress designs take the trend to the wedding dress, with cut-out designs baring the waistline between quiet satin bodice and skirt.

Boudoir lace – This slipdress-as-daywear design is carried into a wedding gown, among the most relatively demure in popular lingerie shades.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Combatting Concussions in Youth Sports

February 17, 2017 1:27 am

(Family Features)--With athletes of all ages taking to fields and courts, there are important steps to take in keeping young athletes safe during practice and games.

Data from U.S. Youth Soccer shows that the number of kids playing increased nearly 90 percent - with nearly 3 million children ages 7-17 playing each year - from 1990 to 2014. As soccer has risen in popularity, so has the rate on injuries - especially concussions - according to a Nationwide Children's Hospital study published recently in "Pediatrics."

The number of youth treated in emergency rooms in the United States due to soccer-related injuries increased by 78 percent over the 25 years covered by the study. While concussions and other "closed-head" injuries accounted for just 7 percent of those injuries, the annual rate of those injuries per 10,000 children playing soccer increased drastically.

While the study's authors from the hospital's Center for Injury Research and Policy said some of the increase reflects the growing awareness about concussions, there are steps that can be taken to reduce exposure and increase overall player safety.

Know Concussion Signs

Be aware of concussion symptoms and encourage players to report potential injuries. The first signs of a player potentially suffering from a serious head injury can include:

- Headache
- Blurry vision
- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Noise or light sensitivity

Practice Proper Technique

The U.S Soccer Federation recently ruled that there should be no heading in games or practice for any players age 10 and under and a limited amount of heading for those ages 11-13. It is important that coaches know the correct techniques and have the right educational tools to properly train their players. The fundamental steps include:

1. Keeping feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent in an athletic position.

2. Tucking the chin and maintaining a stiff neck.

3. Using arms for balance (and to shield opponents).

4. Concentrating with eyes open and mouth closed.

5. Focusing on striking the ball with the middle of the forehead.

Understand Return-to-Play Protocol

Coaches and parents should encourage players to always report blows to the head and be vigilant in looking for athletes who may have sustained injuries. If a player does sustain a concussion, they should seek medical attention and work together with an athletic trainer on proper return-to-play protocol before returning to competition.

By instituting proper athletic safety measures at the youth level, coaches, parents and athletes can continue to enjoy the positive benefits of sports.

Source: National Soccer Coaches Association of America

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Trees Need Help? Hire a Pro

February 16, 2017 1:27 am

Aside from the obvious risk to your personal safety, tackling tree work on your own can also be harmful to your tree. Whether it’s pruning, having branches removed or taking down the tree entirely, hiring a professional is the way to go.

Professional tree-care companies are aware of what can harm the tree - such as using spikes for climbing - and come equipped with proper equipment, like ropes and climbing harnesses or aerial lift devices or cranes, if accessible. This, coupled with their training and experience, contributes to the future health of the tree. Here are some tips from the Tree Care Industry Association for finding the right professional:

Good References: Ask for references and check on the quality of the tree company’s work. Don't be rushed by a bargain and don't pay in advance.

Proof of Insurance: Ask for current certificates of liability and workers' compensation insurance, if applicable. Be aware that if the tree-care company you hire doesn't have insurance or is not a legal company, you could be held responsible as a contractor.

Solid Reputation: Verify professional affiliations the company might have, such as memberships in business and/or professional organizations such as the Tree Care Industry Association.

Up-to-Date Knowledge: Ask if they follow American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. A professional arborist will be aware of the current safety, pruning, fertilizing and cabling standards.

Contract: Insist on a signed contract as to cost, dates when work is to be performed, and exactly what is to be done. Insist that climbing spikes are used only if the tree is to be cut down.

Taking care of your tree needs professionally will ensure safety for all involved…most of all, your tree!

I hope you found these tips useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Source: Tree Care Industry Association

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top Tips for Healthy Eyes

February 16, 2017 1:27 am

From healthy eating to maintaining healthy finances, “health” is something on many of our minds. But how about your eye health? As we age, it’s important to keep our eyesight front and center. Below are tips from the Lighthouse Guild on keeping your eyes healthy.

Speak up if your vision changes. If you notice blurry spots, blurred vision, halos surrounding lights, eyes that itch or burn, black spots or "floaters," double vision, tearing or watering eyes, or if you find yourself squinting or having trouble reading or watching television, it's time to make an appointment. An eye doctor should be made aware of any gradual changes in your vision so the necessary actions can be taken to maintain eye health.

Get regular exams. Your eye doctor will tell you how frequently you should have a dilated eye exam if you have risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension or a family history of eye disease. Otherwise, the American Optometric Association recommends an exam every two years, if you're younger than 60 and are not experiencing symptoms of eye or vision problems, and once a year if you're over 60 and not experiencing symptoms of eye or vision problems.

Seek urgent care. Seek urgent care if you experience sudden and/or severe eye pain, sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes, light flashes, or if your eyes turn bright red. Any of these could indicate a severe problem and should be addressed immediately.

Get UV-protected sunglasses. Tinted glasses will not protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.

Give your eyes a rest from the effects of digital eye strain. This type of eye strain—also known as computer vision syndrome—doesn't permanently damage eyesight, but symptoms could include burning or tired eyes, headaches, neck pain, fatigue, blurred or double vision. To rest your eyes, it's good to look up from your work every 20 minutes, focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds (the 20-20-20 rule).

Source: Lighthouse Guild

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Ride Well: Better Bus Safety

February 16, 2017 1:27 am

(Family Features)--For millions of school-age children, each day begins and ends with a bus ride. While parents entrust their children's safety to the capable hands of bus drivers, these tips from the National Association for Pupil Transportation provide some measures parents can take and lessons they can teach to increase safety going to and from the bus, and even during the ride.

Before the Bus Arrives

- Ensure backpacks are packed securely so papers and other items don't scatter as the bus approaches.

- Create a morning routine that puts kids at the bus stop five minutes before the scheduled pickup time. This helps avoid a last-minute rush, when safety lessons are easily forgotten, and ensures kids are safely in place for boarding.

- Encourage children to wear bright, contrasting colors so they can be seen easier by drivers.

- Instruct children to walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, advise them to stay out of the street, walk single-file, face traffic and stay as close to the edge of the road as possible.

- If kids must cross a street, driveway or alley, remind them to stop and look both ways before crossing.

- Verify that the bus stop location offers good visibility for the bus driver; if changes are needed, talk with nearby homeowners or school district officials to implement changes. Never let kids wait in a house or car, where the driver may miss seeing them approach the bus.

- Remind children that the bus stop is not a playground. Balls or other toys could roll into the street and horseplay can result in someone falling into the path of oncoming traffic.

On the Bus Ride

- Instruct children to allow the bus to come to a complete stop before approaching it.

- When boarding the bus, items can get bumped and dropped. Caution children that before picking anything up, they should talk to the driver and follow instructions to safely retrieve their possessions.

- Teach safe riding habits: stay seated with head, hands and feet inside at all times; use a seatbelt (if available); keep bags and books out of the aisle and remain seated until the bus stops moving.

- Remind kids that just like when riding in your car, loud noises are off limits so they don't distract the driver.

Leaving the Bus

- Remind children to look before stepping off the bus. If they must cross the street, teach them to do so in front of the bus by taking five big steps away from the front of the bus, looking up and waiting for the driver to signal that it is safe to start into the street.

- For parents who meet their kids at the bus, remember that in their excitement kids may dart across the street. Eliminate the risk by waiting on the side of the street where kids exit the bus.

- Make the bus ride part of your daily "how was school?" discussion. Encourage kids to talk about the things they see and hear on the bus, so you can discuss appropriate behaviors and, if necessary, report any concerns to school administrators.

- Bullying is more prevalent than ever and buses are no exception. Ask your child to tell you about any bullying they observe, whether against another child or themselves, and talk about how to shut down bully behavior.

Source: Propane Education & Research Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Moving? Make Sure the Kids are Alright

February 15, 2017 1:24 am

Moving to a new city or state is filled with many different exciting possibilities - new home, new job, new restaurants to try. But for kids, relocating is fraught with fear - new school, new faces, new neighborhood.

Former Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive back Johnnie Johnson has started an organization to help children in this exact situation. As the CEO of World Class Coaches, an organization that facilitates the Moving Families Initiative, Johnson helps connect relocating families with the right resources - teachers, counselors, service providers, real estate professionals, etc. - to ensure a smooth transition.

If there’s a relocation in your future, here are a few ways to help your kids adjust and embrace their new home:

Do your research. If you can’t visit your new community together in advance, do some research and find out what attractions may be particularly interesting to your child. Perhaps a great zoo or aquarium if he or she is an animal lover, a beach for swimmers, or an amusement park for fun seekers. Get your child excited about all the new places to explore.

Get to know families with same-age children. Invite them over or arrange for a play date at the park. This will help your child bridge the often difficult gap of making new friends.
    
Get them involved. The sooner your child gets involved in the local activity of their choosing the better. Scouts, dance, sports, music - joining in with children who share the same interests is the quickest way for your child to get acclimated and feel like they belong.
    
Enlist a support group. New teachers, coaches, guidance counselors and clergy can all play a critical role in helping your child adjust, so get them on board right away.
    
Acknowledge their feelings. Most important of all, allow your child to mourn the loss of their former home, community and friends. Let him or her know these feelings are normal and that you, too, miss your old home sometimes. This will help your child process these feelings more quickly and move on to the new possibilities at hand.

Remember to keep the sense of adventure going and continue to highlight the positives about your new home and location. Spend extra time with your child too, as you explore your new surroundings together. In no time, they’ll settle in nicely… and so will you!

I hope you found these tips useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Financial Stability Top Wanted Trait in a Partner

February 15, 2017 1:24 am

When looking for a romantic connection, there are many things to consider. However, according to a new survey by SunTrust Banks, nothing is more important when choosing a new partner than their level of financial sustainability.

The SunTrust Banks survey found that 41 percent of Americans consider financial stability to be among the traits they find most important in a partner, ranking only behind personal values (78 percent) and personality (73 percent). Further, more people value financial stability than looks (21 percent) or physical fitness (21 percent), according to an online survey conducted in January 2017 by Harris Poll on behalf of SunTrust among over 2,000 U.S. Adults. The SunTrust survey also found that a third of Americans in a relationship believe they are the saver and their spouse/partner is the spender. In contrast, only 21 percent claimed they are the spender and their spouse/partner is the saver.

SunTrust suggests asking your partner the following questions to better understand his or her views when it comes to managing money.

What are your most important goals? Talk to your significant other about aspirations and make a list of what you have in common. If aligning your goals is difficult, create a blend that represents your collective core values.

How does your past influence your spending and savings habits? Make an effort to understand your partner's personal history. Financial habits are often handed down by parents, so it's important to empathize with your partner and understand how he or she was raised.

Would you share your plans before making a big-ticket purchase? It's important to know whether your partner wants to maintain a level of financial independence. Decide whether you need to talk with each other before making purchases above a certain price point, or whether you agree to keep finances separate.

What is your debt philosophy? Financial disagreements often arise from different views of debt, from how much to use a credit card to the term and amount of a new car loan. Ask your partner what he or she considers an acceptable level of debt and see how much it diverges from your answer.

Source: SunTrust Banks, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Protect Your Landscape: 5 Tips for Transplanting

February 14, 2017 1:24 am

Whether it’s due to overcrowding, a need to make room for more sun, or the addition of a new deck, patio or swimming pool, transplanting a beloved tree, bush or perennial eventually becomes a must in every yard. Yet many garden lovers approach transplanting with trepidation, and for good reason - no one wants to accidentally kill off a prized planting. Here are some tips to make sure your transplanting is a success.

Pick the right time. According to Northscaping.com, the best time to transplant a plant is when it’s dormant - either before it’s budded or after it’s done blooming for the season.

Dig the right hole. Proper planting is critical for roots to take hold and develop. According to the Soils Matter blog, for large garden plants, dig a hole about twice the diameter of the plant's existing size and 1.5 to 2 times as deep. Make sure there is plenty of loose soil at the bottom of the hole for roots to thrive.   

Nourish the roots. While you may be anxious to see your transplanted tree or plant bloom again, for the first year, it’s more important to focus on the roots, so choose only root-boosting fertilizers to help the plant’s development underground.

Practice “even watering.” Too much or too little water are both detrimental to your new transplant. Test to see if the water level is even by putting your finger about 1 inch underground. If the soil isn’t moist, it’s time to water.

Keep a close eye on your transplant. Every tree or plant will undergo some degree of shock from the transplant, so inspect frequently. If there seems to be pests or fungus, watch to see if it goes away on its own. If not, snip off an infected leaf and bring it to your local garden center to find out what you're dealing with.

Above all, be patient. It will take your plant a year or more to really start thriving in its new location but the rewards will be worth the wait!

I hope you found these tips useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


6 Things to Know About Your Tots’ Teeth

February 14, 2017 1:24 am

Having a kid is full of surprises, whether it’s your first child or your fifth. For those new parents, every twist and turn is an adventure, including your kids first set of teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) has created an essential list of “tooth-truths” to help parents and caregivers stay in the know about the health of their children’s teeth.

When Teeth First Appear. Your baby is born with 20 teeth below the gums, and they usually start coming through between six months and a year. Most children have their full set of teeth by three years old.

When to Start Brushing with Toothpaste. Decay can happen as soon as teeth first appear. If you see some pearly whites peeking out when your little one smiles, it's time to pick up a tube of fluoride toothpaste. Find one with the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

How Much Toothpaste to Use. It doesn't take much to clean your child's teeth. Until you’re comfortable that your child can brush on his or her own, continue to brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a child-size toothbrush. If your child is three or younger, use a smear of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). For children three or older, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste will do.

When to Schedule Your Baby's First Dental Visit. It's another milestone in a year of exciting firsts. Your child’s first dental visit should take place after their first tooth appears, but no later than the first birthday. Why so early? As soon as your baby has teeth, they can get cavities.

When to Start Flossing. It doesn't matter if you floss your child's teeth before or after they brush as long as you clean between any teeth that touch. You can use child-friendly plastic flossing tools to more easily floss your child’s teeth until your child learns to do it.

Water Works. When your child has worked up a thirst, water is the best beverage to offer – especially if it has fluoride! Drinking water with fluoride (also known as “nature’s cavity fighter”) has been shown to reduce cavities by 25 percent.

Source: The American Dental Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Convertible Furniture: A Boon for Growing Kids

February 13, 2017 1:21 am

Active kids require bedroom and playroom furniture that is tough enough, and adaptable enough, to offer years of fun and flexibility throughout a child’s toddler and early school years – and manufacturers are meeting those needs with a growing number of choices.

Children’s room furniture designs previewed at a recent show included pieces new or improved for 2017:

DaVinci-Kalani 4-way bed – This flexible bed with a $199 price tag converts from full-sized crib to toddler bed and then to a daybed or, with the aid of an optional conversion kit, to a full-sized bed your child can sleep in till he goes off to college. It’s made of solid wood that wipes clean with soap and water.

Million Dollar Baby 4-way bed – With its carved posts and classic arches, this $399 model made of New Zealand pine adds plenty of style and flair as it converts from crib to toddler and/or full-sized bed. It’s available in Espresso or Grey and is carried at Target stores. Conversion kits are sold separately.

Chicco Urban 6-in-1 modular stroller – While the $399 price tag may seem daunting, this versatile product is a stylish and complete solution for baby’s changing needs.  Comes with a click-in car seat adapter for Chicco’s top rated Keyfit infant carseat, and converts to an infant carriage, toddler stroller, and more.

Crayola wooden table and chair set – Budding young artists deserve a workspace as bright and colorful as their artwork. At a cost of about $90, the set feature chair backs shaped like Crayola crayons, and each table corner has a fabric pocket to hold art supplies. Flip over the erasable whiteboard top and a black chalkboard surface awaits.

Little Tykes picnic style set with umbrella – This indoor-outdoor, polystyrene set features bench seating and is equipped with an umbrella to shield your kiddos from the sun. Bonus: It’s inexpensive at under $50, is lightweight enough to move easily, and folds flat for storage when not in use.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Make Pets More Affordable

February 13, 2017 1:21 am

While nothing completes the feeling of home more than a furry, four-legged family member, becoming a pet parent can come with a steep price tag. According to the ASPCA, in fact, the first year of pet ownership often exceeds $1,000, which is a lot to fit into your household budget, especially if you just moved into a new home.

If your family just isn’t complete without a pooch or a feline, however, there are some ways to curb the costs of pet ownership:

Consider adoption - While you may have your eye on a purebred, take a trip to a local animal shelter or rescue organization instead. Many cats and dogs are in desperate need of adoption. Not only will you be doing a good deed, you’ll be saving hundreds of dollars.

Look into pet insurance. Whether or not pet insurances pays off is dependent upon a lot of factors, such as the age and breed of your pet, and what the particular coverage covers, i.e, accidents, cancer, preventative care or all three. While less than 1 percent of pets in the U.S. and Canada are covered by a plan, the numbers are quickly growing, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance organization. Consumer Reports recommends talking to your vet about your pet’s breed and associated medical conditions, and his or her experience with pet insurance providers. This will give you a better idea of whether pet insurance is worth it and which providers to look at.

Cut costs on pet food. According to The Balance, there are several ways to save on pet food, which can otherwise be very pricey: look for coupons online; join rewards programs; buy in bulk; look for discounts offered by your vet; or even try making your own!

Swap pet care. If you’re heading out of town and can’t take your best friend with you, start a cooperative arrangement with a neighbor, friend or family member. Boarding and paying for care can be very expensive, so trade-off coverage with other pet owners you know and trust. Your pet will come to view these folks and their pets as extended family, which helps reduce separation anxiety.

By taking a little extra time and doing your research, you can trim the costs of pet care and make room in your budget for a cuddly new family member.

I hope you found these ideas useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tis the Season: Stop the Stomach Bug in its Tracks

February 13, 2017 1:21 am

While you may have gotten your flu shot and stepped up your vitamin C intake to beat the common cold, another culprit to defend against is the norovirus - otherwise known as the stomach flu.

According to GOJO Industries, the makers of Purell, norovirus typically peaks between December and April, and is extremely contagious, even up to two weeks after an infected person feels better.

Symptoms usually appear 12 - 48 hours after first exposure to the virus, and last approximately one to three days. Here are some common ways norovirus is spread:
  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus, most likely prepared by an individual who is infected
  • Touching surfaces or objects with the virus on them and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth
  • Having direct contact with a person who is infected with norovirus, for example, by sharing food, utensils, etc.
The good news is there are ways you can reduce the spread of the stomach flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends following these steps:

Keep your hands clean. It may sound basic, but frequent hand washing with soap and water is one of the best ways to avoid catching the virus. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol can be used in addition to handwashing.

Disinfect frequently touched surfaces. Immediately disinfect and clean contaminated surfaces with a disinfectant and cleaner formulated to kill norovirus.

Wash laundry thoroughly. Don’t forget sheets, pillowcases and throw blankets.

Wash fruits and vegetables when preparing food.

Stay out of the kitchen when you’re sick. Leave the meal-prep to another family member or order take-out.

Of course, don’t forget to call your doctor for additional advice and to make sure you’re not dealing with something more serious. In the meantime, make the above steps part of your everyday routine.

I hope you found these insights useful. Contact me for more helpful home advice and real estate information.

Source: GOJO Industries

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-To Impress Your Valentine

February 10, 2017 1:21 am

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, thoughts turn to making the best possible impression on that special person in your life. It’s not about how much you spend or which hard to get reservation you manage to get. Too often we measure our feelings against a sum of money spent. But it’s really not about that. It’s about putting some thought into what you do, to let that person know that you see them: you really see them!

Do you have a skill?

Can you sing? Paint? Draw? Write a poem? Take a beautiful photograph? Do you have a skill that you can leverage to create something that will show your love that you spent actual time to give them something from your heart?  

Serenade them with their favorite song. Create a painting for them that they will love. Write a poem to express everything you’re feeling. These are all special ways to show your intended that you care.

Think activity versus gift

One of the best gifts you can give is your time. Spending time together doing something meaningful is far more romantic than a box of chocolates and a bouquet of flowers. Is your valentine a book-lover? Take them to their favorite store and hand them a gift card to spend there and then, while you wait patiently. No tapping your foot! Does your love have an interest in marine biology? A trip to the aquarium followed by a picnic might be the ticket. The key is to be tuned in to their interests and to come up with something you can do together that speaks to those passions. There’s nothing like noticing the details to create that magical spark.

Take care of the details

Be ready for all eventualities by ensuring that you’ve thought of them. Planned a picnic? What if it rains? What’s Plan B? It turns out your date is allergic to shellfish and you’ve booked a table at a seafood restaurant? Don’t let that happen. Make sure you know what you need to know, going in, and leave nothing to chance. That attention to detail will be noted and appreciated, even if the words aren’t spoken. 

Be confident

Confidence is about feeling good in your skin. So if you’re afraid of flying, a helicopter ride over the city is likely to leave you a sweating, hot mess. In other words, not exuding confidence! Don’t get dressed up and booked in at the most expensive restaurant in the city if you don’t have the funds for an appetizer there! You will be off your game all night.

In order to make your date feel good, you need to feel good. Pick an activity that allows you to be you too. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort: you can’t just show up after your soccer game, sweaty and gross and hope that your date will be thrilled to see you that way. But you don’t need to be something you’re not. If they don’t like you for you, it probably isn’t a good match anyway.

Be on time!

This one cannot be stressed enough. Being ten minutes ‘fashionably’ late may be cute in the world of cocktail gatherings, but when your date is sitting on tenterhooks waiting for your arrival, being late is just off-putting and not likely to lead to romance.

Bring a little something

If you’re not doing ‘gifts’, it’s still a good idea to bring a little something to your date. It doesn’t have to be big or even very expensive: a single rose can have more impact than a dozen long stems. Her favorite book. Extra points for a signed or first edition! A jigsaw puzzle that is made from a picture of the two of you. A monthly subscription box to his preferred coffee company. That’s the gift that really keeps on giving! Whatever they are into, think about it and offer a token. Even a handmade card with an inside joke written in it will be something to make them laugh and remember the evening fondly.

On the ‘don’t’ list
- Don’t drink too much. That’s just off putting.
- Don’t brag too much. About what? Anything. Work, money, friends...
-- Don’t complain about your ex. At all.

If it’s a new relationship, these are all true but even a more long standing attachment needs to be preserved and worked at.

The best first impressions are made when everything seems effortless and fluid, where conversation flows and time flies by in the blink of an eye. If you both are enjoying your time together, that will leave the best impression of all.

Source: PeopleLooker.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


These Foods Can Boost Your Immune System

February 10, 2017 1:21 am

Being healthy doesn’t have to be a hassle. You can add these five foods into your diet to help you feel your best all winter long no matter if you’re trapped indoors, traveling, or just in your day-to-day activities.

Eat colorful fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals.  Reach for red and pink grapefruits, oranges, kiwis, and berries. Choose cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. These fruits and veggies are not only loaded with essential vitamins and phytonutrients, but they are also rich in antioxidants which give your immune system a boot and help build up your digestive track.

Add in pistachios as a heart healthy, protein rich snack. Pistachios are also rich in antioxidants and the heart healthy fats to help your body absorb vitamin E.  Vitamin E is needed by the immune system to fight off invading bacteria. Pistachios are also rich in vitamin B6 which also helps prevent infection and create healthy red blood cells your body needs.

Look for omega 3 fatty acids and selenium which are found in shellfish, salmon, mackerel, and herring.  These foods help white blood cells produce a protein which helps clear flu viruses out of the body. Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body by clearing the lungs pathways. This can help protect from colds and respiratory infections.

Make yogurt your go-to breakfast or snack. Yogurt contains probiotics; “healthy bacteria” that your body needs to keep your immune system strong and keeps your digestive free of disease causing germs.  Yogurt is also filled with protein that keeps your body energized and strong.

Spice up your food with turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon.  These spices are especially known to contain antioxidants that help to protect your cells and keep inflammation in the body down.  I add turmeric to soups, eggs, rice, and poultry. Fresh grated ginger brings warmth to any beverage. Cinnamon can be sprinkled on oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, and easily added to anything you bake. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What’s With All the White Lies?

February 10, 2017 1:21 am

Many of us have told a white lie from time to time. Research shows that 80 people of people are willing to tell a white lie now and again. Whether it's out of the goodness of your heart (you just can’t tell your friend how her new haircut looks), or to get out of an awkward social event, white lies are often told.  But what are the most common ones?

These were the top 10 most popular white lies that respondents to a OnePoll survey would admit to:

- "I'm on my way!" - More than 62% of people admitted to saying they were somewhere they weren’t.

- "I got stuck in traffic!" - 53% of respondents used busy roads and transport as their excuse for being late.

- “I like your outfit!” – Protecting feelings, or protecting themselves? Either was, 53% of people copped to telling this white lie.

- "It was on sale!" - Although more popular amongst women, almost 45% of people told the occasional fib about how much they were spending.

- “I’m ill!” - 44% of people said they’ll occasionally pull a sickie to get off work.

- “My phone ran out of battery!” - 41% of respondents dodged a conversation by blaming their technology.

- "I only had one drink!" – 36% of respondents said they’d understated how much they’d put away.

“I didn’t have any signal!” - 44% of people just didn’t want to pick up the phone.

- 35% of people said they had lied about spending time with loved ones.

- 32% of our respondents admitted to "boosting" their CV a little bit.

Source: OnePoll

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Protect Your Customer’s Privacy

February 9, 2017 1:21 am

If you run a business, then you know the customer is king. But what about the customer’s privacy? Help your business be more thoughtful about what information is collected and how you can protect that data and foster trust, with these tips from the NCSA.

If you collect it, protect it: Follow reasonable security measures to protect individuals' personal information from inappropriate and unauthorized access.

Be open and honest about how you collect, use and share personal information: Clearly communicate your data use practices and any features or settings you offer to consumers to manage their privacy.

Don't count on your privacy policy as your only tool to educate consumers about your privacy practices: Communicate clearly and often what privacy means to your organization and the steps you take to achieve and maintain consumer privacy and security.

Create a culture of privacy in your organization: Educate employees about their role in privacy, security and respecting and protecting the personal information of colleagues and customers.

In addition to your privacy practices, do your due diligence and monitor partners and vendors: You are also responsible for how they use and collect personal information.

Source: SOURCE National Cyber Security Alliance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tax Time: Five Tips to Ensure an Accurate Form W-2

February 9, 2017 1:21 am

Tax season is a troubling time for many of us as we wade through forms and paperwork from the preceding year.  The American Payroll Association, has five W-2 tips to ensure your W-2 is accurate this tax season.

1. Get your hands on all of your W-2s. If you received compensation from more than one company during 2016, you will need to obtain a W-2 from each business. If you haven't received your W-2 by February 3, contact the company's payroll department to request a 'reissued statement.'

Did you earn $600 or more from a single company for freelance or contract work? You need the Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, instead of a W-2. You may be responsible for all taxes on those earnings.

2. Ensure your Social Security Number (SSN) matches your social security card. Your name and SSN on the W-2 must match your social security card to receive the social security benefits to which you are entitled. If they do not match, ask your payroll department for a corrected W-2.

3. Compare your W-2 to your final paystub. 

Items to review on the W-2:

A.  Box 1 will differ from your final 2016 paystub year-to-date gross pay if you participated in a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored savings plan.

B.  The Box 3 total should not exceed $118,500 – the 2016 social security wage base.

C.  Boxes 1, 3, and 5 will be different from your final 2016 paystub year-to-date gross pay if you use pre-tax dollars to pay insurance premiums or for transit benefits, or to contribute to flexible spending accounts.

4. Check for tax credits. Depending on your eligibility, you may qualify for thousands of dollars from the Earned Income Tax Credit. Read the back of the W-2 copy B, C, and 2 to determine your eligibility.

5. Put some money in your pocket! If you receive more than $1,000 in refunds adjust your Form W-4 to more closely match your tax liability. By updating this information, you could give yourself an instant raise.

SOURCE: American Payroll Association
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Move During the Winter

February 9, 2017 1:21 am

Moving is rarely fun, but in the winter, it can be downright miserable. From frigid temps to icy roads, there are many challenges with moving in the colder months. Below are a handful of helpful tips from Ross Sapir, CEO and Founder of Roadway Moving.

Make sure your electric is turned on early. Before you move in, be sure that all utilities have been turned on so you can comfortably enjoy heat and light for your first couple nights.

Avoid any falls. Clear the driveways and walkways of snow and make sure you salt the icy areas so you and your movers are safe walking to and from the trucks

Have a back-up plan. If a winter storm is threatening your move, make sure you've already spoken to your moving company to see if they have a policy in place for any unexpected date changes.

Protect your home. Going in and out of your home during the move will drag salt and dirt all over your floors. Avoid this by laying down plastic or cardboard boxes for protection

Dress in layers. Moving boxes in and out will work up a sweat so make sure you have the proper clothing on that you can either add layers when you go outside or take off layers once you get inside.

Source: Roadway Moving.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Smarter Ways to Keep Your Home Warm

February 8, 2017 1:21 am

(Family Features)--When cool winds are blowing and the temperatures outside take a dive, even a well-insulated house may feel the chill. Simply kicking up the thermostat can be expensive and depending on your home’s circulation, you may still have areas that need an extra blast of warmth. Cozy up with these tips for heating up your living space.

Check for gaps and cracks. Poorly sealed windows and doors are among the biggest sources of heat loss in a home. Not only do those imperfections let heat escape, they also let in the cold. If you can see daylight, there’s definitely a problem, but even less visible gaps and cracks can be problematic. Clear plastic sheeting is one temporary DIY solution for windows. It’s also easy to replace the weather stripping around doors.

Rely on supplemental heat. When it’s impractical to completely eliminate drafts, or other measures aren’t fully correcting the problem, you might consider a home upgrade to your cooling and heating system. One of the most efficient products on the market is a floor-mounted indoor heating system, designed to ensure the whole room warms up evenly and quickly.

Layer up. Especially when cooler weather first appears or makes a comeback, many homeowners forget to dress for the weather, even indoors. Trading in your t-shirt and shorts for long sleeves and pants can help push your comfort several degrees warmer, and even a couple of degrees can result in big savings on your heating bill. If extra clothes aren’t enough, invest in a few plush throw blankets and a cozy robe and slippers for more comfortable lounging.

Enjoy a crackling fire. If your home has a fireplace, use it. These features are often treated as ornamental, but they serve a true function. When paired with blowers, the heat from a fireplace can warm a significant portion of the house, well beyond the room where the fireplace is located. Before your first fire, take proper safety precautions, including checking that the flue is clean and open. Also be sure you have protective features such as glass or mesh covering to prevent popping embers, and be sure to create a barrier that keeps small children safely out of reach.

Decorate your way to warmth. Subtle changes to your decor can make a big impact on a room’s climate and comfort level. Two areas that can make a big impact: the floor and windows. An area rug is an addition that not only takes the physical chill out of a wood or tile floor, but adds visual warmth, as well. Although windows can be a major source of energy loss and drafts, they can also let in a natural heat source: sunlight. Use heavy draperies at night to block the chill and provide privacy, but during daylight hours, throw those curtains open and let the warm light shine.

Source: mitsubishicomfort.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Choose the Right Online University

February 8, 2017 1:21 am

For those with busy schedules, a family to take care of, or an already-demanding career, the option of earning a degree online is a game changer. However, not all online universities are the same, and it’s important to choose an accredited program that fits your needs.

WGU Texas offers these tips to help busy adults choose the right online university to stay on track with their goals.

Know your learning style. Learning in an online environment is similar to what you would expect in a more traditional brick and mortar environment. You will study, write papers, complete projects and take tests. Online, when and where you study and interactions with faculty and other students can be quite different. Earning your degree takes self-discipline with a strong commitment to earn a degree. You'll need to set aside sufficient time and effort to realize your goals. When choosing a school, one that offers a competency-based program allows you to study and learn at your own pace, apply what you already know and advance when you demonstrate mastery of the subject matter.

Understand the total cost of your education. Tuition at online universities varies widely. Before you make your decision, be sure to understand all of the costs. Compare tuition rates, books, fees and financial aid options of various schools. Speak to a financial advisor about financial aid, and only borrow what you need to graduate, as this will help keep costs under control without incurring unnecessary additional student debt. Another factor in your cost consideration should be the length of time you expect to take to complete your degree—the longer it takes, the more it is likely to cost.

Make sure the university is accredited and the degree is meaningful. Regional accreditation is the highest form of accreditation and ensures that employers and other academic institutions will respect and recognize your degree. The U.S. Department of Education publishes a list of regional accrediting agencies that are recognized as reliable authorities on educational quality and effectiveness of the institution. The degree program you choose should offer relevant and up-to-date curriculum to ensure that you'll earn the credentials you need for the job market. Ask for information about alumni placements, employer surveys and graduate rankings on national test scores.

Source: texas.wgu.edu 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What Americans Would Give Up to See Their Team Win the Super Bowl

February 8, 2017 1:21 am

It’s no shocker that Americans love their football—especially when it comes time for the Super Bowl. But what would you give up to see your team win? That’s the question GoBankingRates asked their audience, and you may be surprised to read the results.

GoBankingRates asked their respondents to choose from one of the following, in exchange for their team winning the big game.

Would you rather:
- Give up your vacation days for one year
- Give up your annual bonus
- Give up your 401k
- Give up the total amount in your savings account

The result? Fifty two percent of respondents said they would give up an entire year's worth of vacation days in order to secure a win for their favorite team in this year's Super Bowl.

Additional Findings:

- 1 in 3 respondents said they would give up their annual bonuses to see their team win, the second most popular choice among all age groups.

- Perhaps surprisingly to some, more female respondents (57%) were willing to sacrifice a year's worth of vacation days over men (48%).

- Zero percent of those aged 35 years and above said they would scrap their 401k savings, compared to 12% of those ages 18-24.

- While women might be more comfortable giving up vacation days, they were 9% less likely than men to give up an annual bonus for a Super Bowl win.

Source: GOBankingRates.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tax Time: Five Simple Form 1099 Tips to Avoid Penalties

February 7, 2017 1:18 am

Many business owners hire independent contractors at some point. Whether you have several contractors working for you regularly, or just bring one on from time-to-time, properly tracking payments to service providers can be a challenge. The following Form 1099-MISC preparation tips, offered by The American Payroll Association, can ensure your tax reporting is correct for 2016.

Form 1099-MISC must be given to all non-corporate service providers. If you paid a service provider at least $600 for services during 2016, you must provide a 1099-MISC to them no later than January 31, 2017. If the provider is a corporation you generally do not have to provide Form 1099-MISC.

Cover all of your bases. If you are unsure whether a Form 1099-MISC is required, go-ahead and send one. If you don't send all qualified service providers their Form 1099-MISC, you set yourself up for penalties.

Deadlines Matter. If you're sending Forms 1099-MISC to service providers by mail, make sure to send them out no later than January 31, 2017. New for 2017!! If your Forms 1099-MISC include an amount in Box 7, Nonemployee Compensation, you have until January 31, 2017 to send paper copies to the IRS (less than 250 forms) or file electronically. If there is nothing in Box 7, February 28 is the last day to submit paper copies to the IRS (March 31 if you file the forms electronically).

TIN truncation. Payees' Tax Identification Numbers (Social Security number or employer identification number) may be truncated on their paper or electronic copies, but forms filed with the IRS must contain their full TINs. Under the truncation procedure, the first five digits are replaced with either asterisks or Xs: ***-**-1234 or XXX-XX-1234.

Let your credit card handle the paperwork. If you paid for contractor services with a credit card, debit card, or gift card, do not file the Form 1099-MISC. The bank or credit card company that made the actual payment will take care of it for you by sending the contractor Form 1099-K.Source: www.americanpayroll.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Diet Tips for Fighting Heart Disease

February 7, 2017 1:18 am

Diet impacts a variety of general health and wellness issues, but for those at risk of heart disease, diet is integral. With this in mind, USA Medical offers the following diet tips from the American Diabetes Association, whose community has a higher risk of heart disease:

Limit sodium intake. Excessive sodium in a diet increases the risk for heart disease. The federal daily recommendation allows up to 2,300 milligrams of sodium intake, but those with high blood pressure should drop their consumption to under 1,500 milligrams. Beware of restaurant meals and packaged foods that are often dangerously high in salt.

Eliminate trans fats and limit saturated fat. Avoid red meats high in saturated fat such as lamb, beef and venison, and meats high in sodium such as bacon and ham. New York City registered dietitian Willow Jarosh explains that trans fats are "especially bad because too much can lower your HDL ['good'] cholesterol and raise your LDL—a double whammy to your heart health."

Maintain the correct balance and portions of a heart-healthy diet. Make fresh fruits and vegetables staples of your meals. Focus on eating mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Include tofu, beans, fish and lean meats for protein, and whole grains for nutritious carbohydrates. Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli; don't make meat the main course of any meal.
Source: USA Medical

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Maintain Marble Floors

February 7, 2017 1:18 am

(Family Features)--Veins of color and unique patterns give marble tile a truly stunning appearance. However, maintaining that elegance may seem anything but effortless.

Common advice cautions against using vinegar, bleach, ammonia or other general-purpose cleaners, while taking care to prevent scratches from the wheels of an old vacuum or basic sand and dirt is paramount. With all these rules, it may seem impractical to care for a marble floor, but once you understand the basics, it’s actually quite simple.

Know the difference between etches and stains. “Marble is porous and can stain when it absorbs liquids,” says Jacqueline Tabbah, vice president of the family-owned stone restoration company International Stoneworks in Houston.

Stains can discolor marble and have a dark appearance; they are oftentimes caused by kitchen grease or makeup and lotions.

An etch mark is a chemical corrosion of the surface layer of the stone caused by the acids found in most household cleaners and in substances like tomato sauce, lemon juice and alcohol. Etch marks are often most visible at an angle, when they appear duller and less shiny than the surrounding surface.

If a spot is lighter than the surrounding stone, it’s most likely an etch mark. If a spot is darker than the surrounding stone, it’s probably a stain.

To remove stains, use a poultice, which you can buy at a hardware store. Spread it on the stain then cover the area with plastic wrap, holding it down with painter’s tape. The next day, remove the plastic, allow the poultice to dry completely and gently wipe it up. If the stain is still there but noticeably lighter, repeat the procedure. If it’s just as bad as it was, it will only come out with the help of a professional restorer. Etch marks can usually be prevented by wiping up spills immediately and using the right cleaners.

Be careful what you use to clean. Acids are the main enemy of calcitic marbles. Avoid cleaners containing vinegar or citrus, as well as abrasive powders and creams, which can scratch softer stones. Strong household cleaners like toilet bowl cleaner, metal cleaner or oven cleaners can cause irreparable etching or permanent color changes in stone.

Tabbah recommends a cleaner with a pH level of at least 7 or 8, or buying one that specifically mentions marble.

Mop carefully. “A microfiber mop is the main line of defense for your marble floor,” says Tom Workman, owner of Floor Cleaning Experts, a Florida company that cleans and restores commercial and residential floors.

A dry microfiber mop draws in dry hair and dirt. For deeper cleaning, saturate the mop with water. The thin microfibers have tiny triangular wedges that lift grease and oil as the mop glides across the floor. The small amount of water won’t stain your marble.

Soften water in showers. “If you have hard water, a water softener is a must,” Workman says.

Mineral deposits build up slowly but surely, requiring professional honing and polishing to remove. If you don’t use a water softener, leave the vent fan on after showering and squeegee the walls after use.

Use a doormat. Place a mat outside your front door and another mat or rug inside. They’ll absorb dirt and sand before it gets to your marble floors.

Source: naturalstoneinstitute.org/consumers/care.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Save Energy This Winter

February 6, 2017 1:18 am

Regardless of how cool or warm you like your home to feel, you probably like to save on heating bills.  Below are a handful of simple tips you can use to save energy and money this winter, courtesy of the Florida Power & Light Company.

Start at 68 – If you need to heat your home, set your thermostat to 68 degrees with the fan set to "auto" and be sure to turn off your heat when you leave. Every degree below 68 saves you five percent on heating costs.

Check your filters – Clean or replace your air conditioner filter regularly (approximately each month) to help your unit operate more efficiently.

Keep warm air in – Seal doors and windows with weatherstripping or caulk, which helps prevent warm air from leaking out.

Harness the sun – Make sure your south-facing windows are clean and open those curtains during the day to heat your home with the sun.

Lower your water heater temperature – Set your water heater temperature at 115 to 120 degrees to conserve energy. Shortening your showers helps, too!

Source: FPL.com/wintertips.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How is Your Financial Fitness?

February 6, 2017 1:18 am

The gym isn’t the only area you can work on your fitness. How about your finances? The following financial wellness tips, courtesy of CFP, can help you save more, all year long.

Create a budget: Creating a budget is a simple way to determine how best to spend your money. Start by reconciling last year's expenditures and creating a list of necessary payments. Giving yourself a "cheap month," such as spending $100 a week, can help define your needs. In addition, working with your spouse or partner can help identify a realistic budget and prevent overspending.

Put yourself first: Spending too much on adult children, parents and other family members can jeopardize your long-term financial situation. Having children live within a budget will force more careful spending while teaching a valuable lesson. For adult dependents, spend carefully; you can't take care of others if you haven't taken care of yourself.

Maximize benefits: Take full advantage of your existing benefits package, such as your 401(k) or retirement plan. For a 401(k), make sure to maximize your investment by matching your employer's contribution. If you operate within individual funds, rebalance your 401(k) account periodically. Establishing a dollar cost averaging arrangement – investing set amounts at regular intervals regardless of the financial climate – for a new account, such as a Roth IRA or 529 plans, can also increase your savings.

Know yourself: Many people have chronic issues of overspending or mismanaging debt. Developing smart habits can improve your finances. If you fail to prudently spend with credit cards, cut them up. If you struggle to meet basic payments, round up to the nearest whole number on larger expenses. For example, if your car payment is $375, plan on spending $400 per month.

Big or small, everyone can take steps to improve their financial well-being.  

Source: www.CFP.net  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Make Your Valentine’s Flowers Last Longer

February 3, 2017 1:09 am

Fresh flowers can brighten anyone’s day – and that goes for men as well as women! Of the 110 million roses purchased each Valentine’s Day, 75 per cent are bought by men, according to Teleflora, one of the largest purveyors of fresh flowers delivered nationwide. But the number of women buying flowers for their loved ones is rising every year.

With proper care, most fresh flowers should last for seven to 10 days. So man or woman, if you receive a bouquet this February 14, revel in the fact that someone loves you – and keep those flowers looking fresh as long as possible by following these five Teleflora tips:

Feed them – That little packet of ‘life extender’ material that comes with so many delivered flowers is mostly composed of sugar. Use it if you have it. If not, add a nourishing teaspoon of sugar or an aspirin (not ibuprofen) to the vase after you fill it with water.

Water them – Fresh flowers drink a lot of water, and some are thirstier than others, so check the water level daily and keep the vase filled.

Nip the stems – Every two or three days, remove each flower and cut off an inch or so of the stem. Cut it an angle to ensure it absorbs the most water and toss out any discolored petals or buds that have fallen below the water line.

Display them in a cool spot – Cut flowers don’t like direct sunlight, so choose your display spot with that in mind.

Refresh them – After three or four days, remove the flowers, rinse the vase and refill it with room temperature water. Add sugar or an aspirin to keep bacteria from growing, and rearrange the flowers in it, discarding any blooms that have wilted.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


A Total Body Approach to a New You

February 3, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--New Year’s resolutions typically focus on reactive goals like losing weight or getting back into that workout routine. However, thinking about resolutions in a more proactive, long-term way can give you more motivation and the willpower to stick with it.

A commitment to proactive total body care, including these tips from Massage Envy, can keep your body and mind tuned up, allowing you to do more of what you love in 2017 and beyond.

Feel confident by upping your skincare
Skin is an organ – the body’s largest organ, in fact. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to it. Regular skincare can help you feel good on the outside by reversing signs of aging, improving skin tone and texture, moisturizing skin and reducing blemishes and breakouts, and better on the inside, as feeling good about how your skin looks can boost your confidence.

A daily hydrating moisturizer with SPF does double duty to protect and hydrate. Regular facials that cater to your skin’s unique needs can also help minimize wrinkles, cleanse pores, encourage skin cell renewal and improve overall tone and texture.

Live happier and stress free
The Statistic Brain Research Institute reports that 77 percent of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress. Spending time with friends, meditating and practicing mindfulness can help, but there are also physical ways to soothe stress. A quick walk can do wonders for clearing your head, and a single massage session can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, relax your muscles and increase the production of endorphins, your body's natural "feel good" chemical. Stress relief is one of the benefits of regular massage therapy, and a key component for anyone trying to achieve a lifestyle that gives them the freedom to do more of what they love.

Veg out on the good stuff
A healthy diet can help you maintain a healthy weight, feel good and boost your body’s immunity so you can stay well. Occasionally, indulging your sweet tooth or salty cravings is OK, but to really take care of your body, leading health-focused agencies recommend piling your plate high with colorful fruits and veggies, lean meats like chicken and fish, and whole grains.

If you started off with a commitment to eating better in the New Year, push hard to stick to it. Before long, you’ll find yourself automatically making smarter choices when it comes to mealtime, and when you put good fuel in your body, you get better results.

Source: MassageEnvy.com  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Things to Say “Yes” to This Year

February 3, 2017 1:09 am

As we struggle through our day-to-day routines, it can feel like we’re stuck in a wheel of negativity. Get out of this slump by saying yes more often. Read on for three things to say “yes!” to this year.

Social time. Your coworker asks you to go to an impromptu happy hour, your childhood friend invites you to a last-minute weekend girl’s getaway, or a mother of your child’s friend invites you in for tea when you had just planned to drop your kid and run. Many of us say no to social invites that our out of our normal routine and comfort zone. But by doing so, we’re closing ourselves off to new experiences and the brain boost that comes from face-to-face time. Say yes to more social invites and you may find your life feels fuller, and more fun.

Giving time. Does your friend need help moving or organizing a charity walk? Say yes when they ask if you can pitch in. Giving back is a great way to boost your spirits, and donating your time is just as valuable as making monetary contributions. The next time you hear of an opportunity to give back, answer with a big fat yes.

Travel time. Leaving the comfort of our own home expands our view of the world and makes us feel more fulfilled. The next time you’re invited on an outing, say yes, and then figure out how you can afford it. Can you sell some of the used items sitting in your basement? Rent out an extra bedroom in your home? Do some pet sitting? Cut back a few luxuries, like that weekly manicure or daily latte? If you commit, you will find a way to make it happen. Of course, it’s important to only commit to things in reason. A long weekend at the beach that may cost $500 is doable. A cruise to Europe that will set you back $3,000? Maybe not so much.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Experts Tap Top Anticipated Home Design Trends For 2017

February 3, 2017 1:09 am

I recently reported on a number of cool innovations being presented at the 2017 CES. But the new year also heralds predictions and previews from hundreds of sources about the top home design trends for 2017.
At housebeautiful.com, Brie Dyas is digging mixing antique with modern elements. And she is expecting to see more furnishings scaled or custom made for the space they are intended to occupy to avoid the overstuffed feeling that larger furniture pieces can bring to even large airy spaces.

Heidi Caillier who is based in Seattle tells decorist.com that designers will be promoting much more "maximalism" in 2017. Gone are the super clean, plain, unadorned rooms of the past few years, she says. Lines remain clean but prints are layered in and colors pop. More is more and it's super fun.

Caillier says designers will be seeing green in all tones popping up in small doses such as in accessories and objets and also in larger upholstered pieces.

Kelsey Kloss, writing for elledecor.com, also says cheery shades of green will be everywhere around the home in 2017 as Pantone's Color Of The Year, "Greenery" takes center stage on the design palette representing refreshment and revitalization. She also predicts butterfly motifs - symbolizing grace and optimism - showing up all around the home this year.

Vogue's Monique Valeris syas weaving texture into interior designs will make spaces more inviting as the idea of mixing fabrics and materials will be on the rise. And her sources say that the new year will include an emphasis on uniquely crafted furniture, quirky lighting fixtures, and the natural clean combination of marble and brass will be popping up in both kitchens and baths in 2017.

And finally, Mitchell Parker of the Houzz editorial staff says laundry rooms in particular are seeing more love. Design tricks to bring in more light, smarter storage and better function resonate with homeowners who realize that since they spend a lot of time doing laundry.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Enhance Your Outdoor Living Space

February 3, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--No matter the season or the region, outdoor living is more popular than ever, as homeowners look to "bring the indoors out" and create spaces that are true extensions of the home. The newest designs in outdoor living spaces do not simply feature the look of the indoors, but the functionality as well.

"Advances in all-weather materials have made it possible for homeowners to enjoy more and more of their favorite activities outside," says Adam Zambanini, vice president of marketing for Trex Company. "The movement toward 'outdoor rooms' has evolved into fully functional outdoor kitchens and entertainment centers that make it even more difficult to determine where the indoors end and the outdoors begin."

Regardless of the size of your deck – or budget – these simple tips from the experts at Trex can add interior function to your outdoor oasis:

Absolute Al Fresco
While grilling and al fresco dining are longtime hallmarks of backyard entertaining, outdoor kitchens are now finally living up to their name. From storing seat cushions to keeping drinks cold, today's outdoor kitchen accessories can make outdoor spaces look as put-together as the rest of the home.

Railing Redefined
Even railings have taken on a more functional role in today's backyards. One of the most popular trends is "cocktail railing," which provides a flat surface for drinks and plates. By using a matching deck board to create a shelf for the top rail, you can achieve a look that complements your home's deck, while making great use of space.

Lights, Please
Lighting is another "bright" idea for adding versatility to the outdoors. Lighting systems that incorporate deck lighting and other exterior lighting work together to create ambiance that can be adjusted for any setting. By choosing which outdoor elements to highlight, it's easy to change the look of an outdoor living space without moving any furniture.

Connection Protection
The idea of enjoying a favorite show or movie outdoors has always been enticing, but not exactly practical. However, with advancements in both equipment and equipment storage, enjoying the big screen experience in the great outdoors has never been easier. Electronics manufacturers now offer televisions and entertainment equipment specifically designed for the outdoors, taking into consideration differences in lighting and outdoor acoustics. Meanwhile, storage options now include durable, wall-mounted television and entertainment centers that beautifully conceal and protect pricey electronics from the elements.

Material Matters
Just because people are spending more time on their decks doesn't mean they're willing to put in extra hours for maintenance. Wood alternatives, particularly wood-plastic composites, are especially popular due to their low-maintenance features. Unlike wood, composite decking resists fading, staining, scratching and mold – and won't rot, warp, crack or splinter. No sanding, staining or painting is required, and food and drink spills wash off easily with soap and water. The latest generation of composite decking also features wood-grain patterns and rich, saturated colors that look and feel more natural than ever before.

Source: trex.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Steps For Easy Entertaining

February 3, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--Hosting a large group of family and friends can be overwhelming, especially if entertaining isn’t something you do often. No matter the occasion, these tips can help you avoid common party pitfalls so you can keep the focus on having fun.

Offer an assortment. Rather than attempting to plan the menu around a wide range of likes, dislikes, allergies and other considerations, simply create a menu that satisfies everyone’s cravings. If you’re serving a buffet, provide a mix of hot and cold dishes in a variety of tastes and textures. For a plated meal, offer several robust sides so if the main dish misses the mark for one or two guests, there’s no chance of anyone going hungry.

Create a beverage cart. The kitchen is likely to be a hotbed of activity, but setting up a remote beverage cart can help redirect some of that traffic. A cart or table with multiple shelves is ideal. Stock the cart with an ice bucket and tongs; garnish such as lemons, limes, olives and cherries; and an assortment of glasses. Offer a couple of bottled beers on ice (one light and one with a bolder flavor), at least one white and one red wine, and a couple of liquors that work with a wide array of mixers, such as vodka and rum. Round out the cart with a few mixers, including fruit juice so non-drinkers can enjoy mocktails as well.

Never compromise on wine. Lots of times, guests have wildly different tastes in wine and it can seem impossible to select a couple bottles that everyone will like. If you want to please everyone but worry you’ll end up with a stash of partially poured bottles, there is an alternative to pulling all those corks. The Coravin Wine System lets you serve wine without removing the cork, allowing your guests to pour as much or as little wine as they like (you can save the rest or what’s left for another day).

Plan ahead for refills. Clear as much space as possible in the refrigerator for extras so you can easily replenish anything that runs out. Make extra pitchers of punch, and have bowls of popular items ready to replace as needed. For warm items, use the warming feature on your oven to hold dishes at serving temperatures, or simply leave the oven off and contain the precooked dishes’ warmth.

Remember to enjoy yourself. Your guests can easily sense when you’re frazzled or stressed, so plan ahead and get all your preparations completed well before anyone arrives. Then you’ll be ready to mingle, visit and set a warm and inviting tone for an event that everyone can enjoy.

Source: coravin.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Want a Better Brain? Get Some Zzzz’s

February 2, 2017 1:09 am

We’ve heard it over and over again, but a new scientific report by the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) stresses the relation between getting 7 – 8 hours sleep a day and maintaining your brain’s health as you age.  

While the AARP Sleep and Brain Health Survey found that 99 percent of adults age 50-plus believe that sleep is important for their brain health, more than four in 10 (43 percent) say they don't get enough sleep. Additionally, more than half (54 percent) of adults report they wake up too early in the morning and can't get back to sleep.  

"We know how many questions adults have about how much sleep is enough, and the role that sleep plays in brain health and cognitive function," says Marilyn Albert, Ph.D., GCBH Chair, professor of Neurology and director of the Division of Cognitive Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. "This report answers a lot of these questions."

The new recommendations cover a wide range of sleep-related issues, including common factors that can disrupt sleep, symptoms of potential sleep disorders, and prescription medications and over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids. Based on the scientific evidence, the GCBH report offers the following tips for better sleep:

- Get up at the same time every day, seven days a week.

- Restrict fluids and food three hours before going to bed to help avoid disrupting your sleep to use the bathroom.

- Avoid using OTC medications for sleep because they can have negative side effects, including disrupted sleep quality and impaired cognitive functioning.

- Dietary supplements such as melatonin may have benefits for some people, but scientific evidence on their effectiveness is inconclusive. Be particularly cautious of melatonin use with dementia patients.

- Avoid long naps; if you must nap, limit it to 30 minutes in the early afternoon.

I hope you found this information helpful. For more helpful tips, contact me today!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Protect Your Family in 2017

February 2, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--Protecting your family and loved ones is one of your most important responsibilities. Many people think It is dif cult to protect loved ones if you are not healthy about protection in terms of physical acts, such as yourself. Make sure you receive proper preventive care, practicing safe driving, but there are many more such as regular health screenings and check-ups that are aspects of your lifestyle and home that affect your loved recommended for your gender and age. Find a checklist of ones’ safety.

Protect your family’s financial health

Although it can be painful to consider, your untimely death may leave your family reeling. Life insurance can help cover funeral costs, child care or act as income replacement. It can also help pay off any loans you’ve accrued, such as a home mortgage, car payment, credit card debt or student loans.

Ensure your family is breathing safe air

One threat you may not be aware of is radon, a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment but can create significant health consequences in anyone exposed to unsafe levels.

Radon is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that can go undetected in homes until it is too late. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among non-smokers in America, and claims the lives of nearly 21,000 Americans each year.

Protect the home of your loved ones

There are over 2 million burglaries annually in the United States, according to FBI statistics. Home security systems can help put your mind at ease, and having a security system can also decrease the premiums you pay for monthly homeowner’s insurance. Studies have shown that homes with a security system see a 39 percent decrease in financial loss compared to homes with no security system.

Safeguard your family from hazards

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that two-thirds of home related deaths result from homes with either no smoke alarms or non-working smoke alarms. Batteries wear out and may be taken out to cease persistent beeping then never replaced. Smoke alarms should be in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on each level of your home.

Source: MyExamOne.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Communication Tips to Help You Listen Better

February 2, 2017 1:09 am

Are you having trouble communicating with your partner, friends, or colleagues? Do you forget what your friend just told you only minutes after the conversation ended. In a world geared toward multitasking, it can be hard to drop fully into a conversation and just listen. Below are three tips to help you be more present in your conversations.

Ask questions. Don’t just smile and nod. Make your conversation partner feel more heard by asking questions that are relative to what they’re saying. Ask for more details to dig deeper and listen fully.

Repeat what you heard. Every few minutes, repeat what you heard so you know you’re retaining prevalent information. This will also help you avoid accidental miscommunications.

Wait to offer a solution. When we’re listening to a friend with a problem, our go-to response is often to fill silence with a solution. But sometimes, people just need to feel heard and understand. You can even ask your friend if they’re looking for a solution or just space to vent.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


On the Job: How to Get More Done Each Day

February 1, 2017 1:09 am

It happens to the best of us. You look at the rising list of emails in your inbox, the blinking light on your phone, the increasing number of unread texts, and panic sets in. You’ll never catch up, let alone get ahead.

Believe it or not, some simple adjustments in your daily habits can yield a more productive day and let you get a handle on your workload again. Try these:

Close your email. If you need to focus on getting a project done, close your email. The constant distraction of emails popping in diverts you from a task that might otherwise take no time at all.

Put your landline and your mobile on do not disturb. You can take an hour off from constant connection and get some real work done in the process.

Pop in your headphones. Today’s open work space environment often comes with frequent chatter and background noise, so plugging in to some relaxing music can help you stay focused on your work. Alternatively, hunker down in an available conference room or quiet lounge area. The change of scenery will remotivate you as well.

Pause and focus. Sometimes our worst enemy is our own mental distraction—issues at home, errands we need to run at lunch, what to make for dinner... Take a pause, take three deep breaths and focus in on the task at hand. Repeat this practice every time your inner chatter takes over.

Work from home. If you’re under a really big deadline, take a day and work from home, provided that’s not an even more distracting environment.

Tack on an hour before or after work. If you’re a morning person, getting in an hour early before your coworkers arrive and while your mind is at its sharpest can result in super productivity. Conversely, maybe you’re really foggy in the morning, but sharper once the sun goes down. If that’s the case, get in later and stay later.

While these strategies may seem simplistic, they actually can yield unbelievable results, turning overwhelming tasks into happy checkmarks on your to-do list.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Protect Your Kids at Home

February 1, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--Every year, more than 2,200 children die from injuries that occur at home, according to estimates from Safe Kids Worldwide. While every parent knows that accidents can and do happen, there are many areas of the home where some preventive steps can help reduce the risk. Go throughout your home to check for these common risk factors and implement corrective actions based on advice from the experts at Safe Kids.

Kitchen

Although it may be tempting to hold a fussy child while working in the kitchen, a safer alternative is a high chair where they can see all the action but be safely out of harm’s way. Place the chair or seat on the floor to avoid possible toppling from atop a counter or furniture, and use the provided straps as instructed to prevent falls and strangulation hazards.

Keep pan handles turned inward, out of reach of little hands, and before opening the oven door, ensure little ones are a safe distance away, putting your own body between the child and the oven so you can prevent any sudden lunges.

Use the rear burners when possible and keep dishes filled with hot food out of reach on counters or table tops.

Bathroom

Always check the water temperature before placing a child in the bathtub. Remember that small children cannot tolerate the same level of heat that many adults enjoy.

Use a minimal amount of water in the tub, as drowning can occur in as little as a couple of inches. Drain the tub as soon as you are finished.

Reduce access to other water sources by closing toilet lids and keeping bathroom and laundry room doors closed.

Immediately unplug and store items such as hair dryers, curling irons and straight irons, which can retain heat long after being turned off and pose an added strangulation danger with dangling cords.

Keep medication out of reach and always use the intended dosing devices. Common kitchen spoons vary greatly, so using these to measure a medication may be imprecise and result in over or under medicating.

Living Areas

Prevent window falls and injuries by installing window guards and stops.  

Eliminate dangling cords from blinds, either by hooking cords out of reach or using an alternative window covering.

When possible, place heavy items on low, sturdy furniture and use safety brackets, braces and wall straps to attach furniture and large items like TVs to the wall to prevent tipping.

Stairs

Use safety gates at the top and bottom of staircases to prevent falls. Ensure gates are securely attached on both sides and review manufacturer instructions to verify gates are constructed for their intended use. For example, not all gates are intended for use at the top of stairs and may give way under pressure.

Pantry/Garage

Products containing harmful chemicals, such as cleaners, should be stored out of reach, but also out of sight to avoid temptation.

Keep products in their original containers, which include instructions for proper use and guidance on what do to if ingested, rubbed in eyes, etc. This also helps ensure items are not mistaken for something else and used dangerously.

Source: eLivingToday.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Ways to Clear Clutter Daily

February 1, 2017 1:09 am

Do you look around your living space at the end of the busy work week and think “what happened?” Piles of mail, dirty laundry and dishes are lurking around every corner. Between work and family, it can be hard to carve out the time to clear clutter. Below are 3 tips to manage clutter daily.

Make a clutter clearing playlist. At the end of the day, choose one or two songs, put them on, and do a surface clean. Put the laundry away, empty the dishwasher, clear the kitchen table. By the time your chosen tracks are up—roughly 6 to 8 minutes—your place will look a lot better, and so will your mental state.

Set yourself up for success. By having designated areas for the items that end up laying around, you will be more likely to put things away properly. Have a basket for mail that needs opening, a bin for shoes by the front door, and a station for things like keys, headphones and change that gets dumped for your pockets when you walk in.

Enlist help. Do you have a roommate, spouse, or kids? Get them to pitch in every night after dinner and clear the day’s clutter before relaxing in front of the TV or with a book.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Building a Home? Do This, Not That

January 31, 2017 1:09 am

Which home designs will yield the best results in terms of lifestyle and value? According to D.C.-area homebuilder, Miller & Smith, the following trends will change the way we occupy our living space. From technology innovations to creative ways to bring the outdoors in, the following do’s and don’ts serve as a great guideline for your living environment.

Do – Bring the outdoors in
Don’t – Keep it out
Whether it’s entertaining fireside on your patio or enjoying a rooftop sunset, today’s new homes are equipped with unique features that make it easier to become one with nature.  

Do – Go hybrid
Don’t – Stick with one style

Gone are the days of picking one design for your home’s interior. Today’s homeowners are creating their own unique aesthetic by mixing and matching modern and traditional design choices, rather than implementing one style across the board.

Do – Create multi-purpose space
Don’t – Stick to one room, one use

Instead of rooms that are relegated to one function or setting, today’s floorplans feature rooms meant for multiple purposes, multiple guests and multiple generations.

Do – Go open air
Don’t – Define spaces

Tear down those walls! Instead of limiting a room to a confined space, opt for a free-flowing floor plan that connects organically, and makes moving and living much easier.

Do – Hide features in the walls
Don’t – Take up space

Many new homes feature speakers, televisions and other items built right into walls and ceilings.  

Do – Connect your home with one device
Don’t – Get lost in a sea of remotes and gadgets

Instead of using multiple devices, the market’s most high-tech homes involve one central operating system and mobile platform.

Do – Make life easier and smarter
Don’t – Do it manually

New homes’ smart locks, keyless entry and other wireless features mean you never need to dig in your purse for your keys or remember which rock you hid your spare key under again.

Source: Miller & Smith

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Ways to Stretch Your Health Benefits

January 31, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--Often, employees enroll in medical insurance plans for protection against unpredictable events, sudden illness or serious health concerns that may result in expensive medical bills. Getting the most from your benefits requires understanding coverages and deductibles, as well as taking advantage of voluntary benefits, like dental, vision and hearing, to stay healthy and save money.

Avoid surprises. About 91 percent of adults in the United States are confused about what their benefits cover, according to a recent Harris poll. The best starting point is to review your plan so you understand the care and services covered. If you have a high-deductible plan, you will need to pay for most or a percentage of the health costs until reaching the individual or family deductible. Be prepared to pay any copayments or deductibles the plan requires before receiving care. Also, before scheduling appointments, ask for a cost estimate for the appointment, tests or service.

Preventive dental and vision. Many voluntary plans, such as dental and vision, offer preventive exams, such as routine cleanings and vision exams, that are fully covered. That’s because these preventive exams help to maintain and improve overall health and help reduce health costs. Voluntary coverage is affordable and many plans offer added incentives. For example, coverage for LASIK, dental, vision and hearing benefits can increase from one year to the next for those who continue to enroll and use their benefits. Members could earn monetary rewards to use for dental, vision, LASIK, orthodontia and hearing benefits, care materials and services simply by using their benefits and keeping the benefits paid out under a specified amount.

Medical screenings. Routine health screenings, such as mammograms, immunizations, colonoscopy procedures and prostate cancer screenings, which may be covered fully or in part by your medical coverage, can help you stay healthy and lower health care costs.

Get paid to save. Many employers encourage employees to save money by matching a percentage of the amount the employee contributes to the plan. If available, enroll in a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account to set aside money to pay for health care costs.

Remember that these accounts are not a substitute for the coverage provided by voluntary benefits.

Source: ameritasinsight.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Stick to Your Fitness Goals

January 31, 2017 1:09 am

Do you keep making fitness goals only to give up after a few months, weeks, or even days? You may be setting yourself up for failure. Read on for five ways to set yourself up for success with your fitness goals, whether they’re big or small.

Go to bed earlier. If you want an early morning wakeup or the energy for a post-work  workout, go to bed earlier to feel more rested in the morning.

Sleep in your workout clothes. This may seem a bit extreme, but for many, this tip is oddly helpful. Sleep in your gym shorts so you have one less step to take in the morning (after you hit the coffee pot, of course).

Enlist a buddy. Whether it’s a trainer, colleague or your best friend, having someone waiting for you at the gym or track will ensure you show up.

Pay yourself. Give yourself $1 or $2 for every workout you make, and subtract $1 or $2 for every one you miss. Save up for a dream vacation or a special splurge. Can’t seem to get this rolling? There are apps for that! Check your app store for fitness accountability apps.

Find a fun workout. If running seems worse to you than doing 10 straight hours of dishes, choose a different fitness activity. Do you enjoy yoga or swimming? Do that instead. By focusing on tasks you enjoy, you will be more likely to stick with it.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Do You Live in One of America's Kindest Communities?

January 30, 2017 1:06 am

If you are looking to live in one of the nation's kindest communities, a recent WalletHub survey can help. WalletHub calculated the Most Caring Cities in America - comparing 100 of the largest U.S. markets across 32 key metrics, including “homelessness rate," “percentage of income donated to charity” and “special-education teachers per capita.” Some key points of the survey include:

- Memphis, Tenn., has the highest share of income donated to charity, 5.4 percent, which is 2.8 times higher than in Laredo, Texas, the city with the lowest at 1.9 percent.

- Virginia Beach, Va., has the most volunteering hours per capita, 45.9, which is 2.9 times more than in New Orleans, the city with the fewest at 16.0.

Milwaukee has the highest share of residents who do favors for neighbors, 20 percent, which is four times higher than in Phoenix, the city with the lowest at 5 percent.

Lexington, Ky., has the highest share of sheltered homeless persons, 98 percent, which is 4.1 times higher than in Fresno, Calif., the city with the lowest at 24 percent.

Fremont, Calif., has the lowest child-poverty rate, 6.2 percent, which is 9.2 times lower than in Detroit, the city with the highest at 57.1 percent.

Lincoln, Neb., has the most residents who work in community and social services per 100,000 residents, 1,164.79, which is 3.3 times more than in Las Vegas, the city with the fewest at 351.25.

The listing is not without its peculiar metric, however. For example, Pittsburgh, which ranked 9th best among the top 10 cities on the survey also came in as 6th worst in percentage of income donated to charity per capita. And every one of the bottom five cities with the lowest percentage of workers who carpool also made the top 20 of best overall cities for kindness and giving - perhaps a reflection on urban density or the quality of public transportation.

Check out where your city ranks on kindness and charitable giving at wallethub.com/edu/most-caring-cities/.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Mantras You Can Use to Be Happier Today

January 30, 2017 1:06 am

Some days, keeping a smile on your face may be a struggle. Whether you’re dealing with a stressful career, medical issues, or just feeling weighed down by your daily routine, repeating positive mantras can help shift your mood—if you’re open to it.

Below are four helpful happy mantras to lift your mood.

You can do it. Whether you’re under a huge deadline for work or trying to finish that last mile on the treadmill, telling yourself that you can do it will make your success more likely. Be your own cheerleader!

Just breathe. Feeling overwhelmed? Remind yourself to breathe. Pair this mantra with big, deep inhalations to feel calmer and happier.

Thank you. Gratitude goes a long way, and can shift your perception of things (and the way people perceive you) if integrated into daily life. Be thankful of getting to work safely, even if you had a longer-than-usual commute. Be thankful you have the funds to buy groceries, even when your list of errands seems endless. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

No judgements. This is easier said than done, especially in a world where other people’s lives are constantly popping into our news feeds. Annoyed at your co-worker’s cheesy engagement photos? Irritated that your college roommate seems to be traveling constantly, when you can’t even afford a staycation? Remind yourself to pay attention to your own life, and don’t judge or envy others for their choices.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Welcoming a Puppy Home

January 30, 2017 1:06 am

(Family Features)--Nothing is more heartwarming than the first warm nuzzle from a new puppy. With new pets, however, come new responsibilities and opportunities, which can often lead to New Year’s resolutions involving new furry friends.

“No matter the season, it’s always a moving and emotional experience when a puppy finds a new home,” says Eran Cohen, chief customer experience officer at PetSmart. “Our passionate associates are available to help bring pet parents closer to their pets so they can live more fulfilled lives.”

To help puppy parents welcome their pets home – and keep New Year’s commitments – PetSmart, the largest specialty pet retailer across North America, offers this expert advice on nutrition, socialization, essentials and health care to help keep pets happy and healthy.

Find a Veterinarian
A veterinarian should be your first call if your puppy gets into something that could potentially harm him or her. Vets are also great resources to keep you up-to-date on puppy care, like vaccination timing. Use a tool like the free askPETMD app, available in the Apple App and Google Play stores, to find a veterinarian near you.

ID Your Pet
While pets are getting acclimated to their home, and with people going in and out, it can be easy for them to slip out a door. Be prepared in case they embark on an unplanned journey around the neighborhood. To ensure you are reunited, outfit your pup with proper ID, including a personalized ID tag.  

Pup-Proof Your Home
Dogs love to chew, whether it’s on shoes or something more dangerous like wiring or extension cords. To protect them and promote positive chewing experiences, use toys or treats to occupy their time and allow them to chew safely. It’s also important to place household products like trash, laundry detergent and cleaning supplies out your pup’s reach.

Give Puppies Their Own Space
According to a survey commissioned by PetSmart and conducted by Wakefield Research, 47 percent of U.S. dog owners let their puppy sleep in bed with them seven nights per week. However, when it’s time for puppies to rest on their own, a puppy crate can perform double duty, providing puppies their own area away from stressors to nap and serving as a structure that promotes potty training.

Give Your Dog Time to Acclimate
Socialization is critical during a pup’s early years. While everyone may be ready to meet the new member of your family, consider introducing them to one or two people at a time, so the puppy can get to know them and warm up to their scent.

Research Nutrition
It may be tempting to feed a puppy human food, but they require specially formulated food and often have different eating schedules than an adult dog. Do your research, read labels and ask questions. Consider leading natural pet lifestyle brands, like Only Natural Pet, which offer formulas such as Puppy Power Feast food, as well as a variety of treats.

Invest in Training
Consistent training is an important responsibility of a puppy parent. Dogs crave love and praise, and a properly trained pooch will better understand what’s expected of him or her. If necessary, get help from puppy training experts to help ensure all family members are able to live happily in one harmonious pack.

Source: PetSmart

Published with permission from RISMedia.


New Takes on Baby’s Room

January 27, 2017 1:06 am

If there’s a new baby coming to your house this year, you may be thinking about nursery room themes. If so, take heart from professional decorators, who say individual tastes are at the top of the list this year.

“While grey walls are popular, parents are choosing a variety of color schemes and themes these days, and gender is not a deciding factor,” according to California designer Allyson Becker.

From bright and playful to vintage cool, you may find inspiration from seven new moms who shared their design decisions with Parenting Magazine:

Nature’s bounty – Celebrate the great outdoors with grey walls and splashes of yellow, apricot and sage. Perfect for boys or girls, the scheme is easily carried out in baskets, area rugs, linens and window blinds.

Pink the modern way – If you want the room to look girly, but not too girly, stay with neutral walls, dark-colored furniture and soft pinks in the window coverings and rugs, livened up with a few hot pink accents.

Mellowed yellow – Perfect for either gender, a focus on yellow can be ‘tweaked’ with accents of aqua, grey or pale peach in the wall décor and window treatments.

Easy as ABC – Choose white or any neutral color for the walls and hang a set of colorful alphabet cards, classroom style, around the walls. Finish the décor in primary colors taken directly from the cards.

Off the wall – Start by choosing a children’s wallpaper pattern that delights you. Cover one wall with it, and use it as a springboard for selecting the wall color, rugs, lamps, and other accents appropriate to the wallpaper’s theme.

Chalk it up – Paint one wall with chalkboard paint, which actually becomes a canvas for baby when he or she is old enough to "paint" with chalk. Because the slate color is dark, accent the room with light, bright pastel hues.

Go on safari – The easy availability of giant-sized stuffed giraffes, elephant-shaped clothes hampers, and other safari animal accents makes this a solid design choice. Go ‘wild’ with color choices or stick with neutral. The theme is fun either way.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Lower Your Chance of Heart Disease

January 27, 2017 1:06 am

As Americans age, their risk of heart disease grows. However, your rick heart disease can be thwarted with proper dietary care.  USA Medical offers the following three diet tips from the American Diabetes Association, whose community has a higher risk of heart disease:

Limit sodium intake. Excessive sodium in a diet increases the risk for heart disease. The federal daily recommendation allows up to 2,300 milligrams of sodium intake, but those with high blood pressure should drop their consumption to under 1,500 milligrams. Beware of restaurant meals and packaged foods that are often dangerously high in salt

Eliminate trans fats and limit saturated fat. Avoid red meats high in saturated fat such as lamb, beef and venison, and meats high in sodium such as bacon and ham. New York City registered dietitian Willow Jarosh explains that trans fats are "especially bad because too much can lower your HDL ['good'] cholesterol and raise your LDL—a double whammy to your heart health."   

Maintain the correct balance and portions of a heart-healthy diet. Make fresh fruits and vegetables staples of your meals.  Focus on eating mono- and polyunsaturated fats.  Include tofu, beans, fish and lean meats for protein, and whole grains for nutritious carbohydrates.  Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli; don't make meat the main course of any meal.
SOURCE: USA Medical

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Yes, You Should Protect Your Child From Identity Theft

January 27, 2017 1:06 am

Many grown Americans take necessary precautions to protect themselves from identity theft. However, not everyone thinks about protecting their child from the same situation.

While child identity theft is not as common as identity theft among adults, it is still a risk. One in 40 families with children under 18 had at least one child whose personal information was compromised, according to the most recent survey by the Identity Theft Assistance Center and the Javelin Strategy & Research group (2012).

All it takes is a Social Security number – often applied for at birth – which can be paired with a different name, birth date and address to apply for credit. This is called a synthetic identity. And, for nearly 18 years, there is typically little risk of detection.

According to PNC, other warning signs your child may be a victim include:

- Notification by the IRS of unpaid taxes in your child's name.

- Notification that a child's Social Security number was used on another tax return.

- Receiving collection calls for a minor child

- Receiving bills in a child's name for products or services not ordered or delivered.

- Declined for government benefits because benefits already are being paid to another account using the child's Social Security number.

Parents can be proactive in protecting their child from identity theft:

- Never carry your child's (or your) Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Keep it in a safe place, where it is not at risk of being stolen.

- Pay attention to forms from schools, doctor offices and others asking for personally identifiable information about your child. Opt out if you can or use the last four digits only.

- Shred all documents that show your child's personally identifiable information before throwing them away, just as you do for your own documents.

Most importantly: Request a credit report for your child annually, using the child's Social Security number for reference. Every individual is entitled to one free copy of their credit report once every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com. If there is no credit history on record, then typically the child has not fallen prey to identity thieves.  If there is a credit history for a minor child, he/she has mostly likely become a victim.

Source: http://www.pnc.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Do Generations Work Differently?

January 26, 2017 1:06 am

As more millennials enter the workforce and boomers choose later retirements, multi-generational work teams are the norm. But do workers of different ages work differently, and if so, how?CFOs in a Robert Half Management Resources survey said they see the greatest generational differences in employees' communication skills, ability to adapt to change and technical abilities. Only 7 percent of executives noted there are no differences.

Communication style: Baby boomers tend to be more reserved, while Gen Xers favor a control-and-command style, the research indicates. Conversely, Gen Yers prefer a more collaborative approach to communication, and Gen Zers prize in-person interactions.

Change management: According to the research, Gens X and Y tend to see change as a vehicle for new opportunities, while Gen Z is accustomed to change and expects it in the workplace.

Technical skills: When it comes to building their abilities, employer-backed training is expected by all workers. Baby boomers and Gen Xers most value traditional instructor-led courses or self-learning tools; millennials, which include Generations Y and Z, prefer collaborative and technology-centric options.

Robert Half Management Resources offers five tips for managing a multigenerational workforce:

- Don't overthink it. Start with the understanding that everyone wants to do a good job and help the company. This commonality lays a strong foundation for relationship-building.

- Customize your style. Staff possess common attributes, but they also have individual needs. Tailor your management for each person's strengths, personality and aspirations.

- Go off-site. Host team-building events outside the office to give employees a chance to get to know each other in a different setting.

- Let newer professionals take the lead. Institute reverse mentorships, where less-seasoned staff advise and share their insights with veteran colleagues. Also invite team members from all generations to share their unique areas of expertise.

- Mix and match project teams. Put together groups with complementary skills and diverse perspectives. This can prompt innovation and new problem-solving techniques.

Source: Robert Half Management Resources

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Black Ice, Snow and More: How-to Stay Safe on Winter Roads

January 26, 2017 1:06 am

Winter is often the worst time to be on the road. From freezing temperatures to hidden patches of ice and flurries of snow, driving in a winter wonderland can be dangerous. In order to help drivers appropriately weather the winter storms, Meemic Insurance has compiled a list of five safety tips to help avoid accidents and keep the roads safe:

Keep your gas tank at a safe level – preferably half-full or higher. Because the roads are so unpredictable, you never know what you might come across. The last thing you'd want is to run out of gas with below freezing temperatures.

Maintain slow speed when accelerating and decelerating. This is the best method to use in order to avoid unpredictable sliding and regaining traction with your tires in slippery conditions.

Make sure your vehicle servicing is up-to-date. Regularly checking your vehicle for any potential problems will keep everything in tune and running properly amidst wintery conditions. Focus on parts of your vehicle that are typically affected by cold weather such as tire pressure, battery life, break lines and more.

Bundle up and prepare your vehicle for the elements. In case your vehicle would break down in the winter, it's crucial to keep useful materials on hand. Stow away blankets, hats, gloves and warm clothing to ensure safety from biting temperatures. Snow brushes, flashlights, jumper cables and shovels are also important tools that can keep you out of danger in the event of a slide off or accident.

If you don't need to be somewhere, stay home. This is ultimately the best decision to make in the middle of a winter weather advisory. It's always better to be safe than take unnecessary risks on dangerous road conditions.

Source: Meemic Insurance Company

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Do You Know Your Generator Safety?

January 26, 2017 1:06 am

Many homeowners have a backup generator in case of power outages. If you’re the proud owner of a genny, or are considering making a new purchase, Gilmore offers tips on how to practice safe generator use during power outages.

Buy the right generator. Make sure to get a generator rated for the amount of power you need. Pay attention to the electrical loads shown on labels of lighting, appliances, and your equipment that you plan on hooking up to the generator.

Hire an electrician to set up a generator safely. Hooking up a generator to the home can be challenging. Consider calling a professional that can set-up the appropriate equipment in the appropriate place at your home.

Beware of generator hazards. The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic exhaust, electrocution, and fire. Never use a generator inside a house.

Install battery-operated CO alarms or plugins. If CO gas enters your home and poses a serious health risk, the alarms will sound to alert you.

Never use portable generators indoors. This includes an indoor garage, carport, basement, crawlspace, or any other partially enclosed areas of the home. Opening doors and windows will not prevent CO buildup inside of a home. The CO from generators can lead to death.

Keep generators away from openings. If you want to keep your windows open during a power outage, be sure to place portable generators at least ten feet away from windows, vents, and doors to prevent CO entering the home.

Let the generator cool down before refueling. If gas spills on a hot generator it could potentially ignite and cause a fire.

Plug appliances directly into the generator. Never try to power all appliances from a small extension cord that runs from the generator. If you use an extension cord, make use of a heavy duty, outdoor-related cord that is (in watts or amps) equal to the connected appliances.

Do not plug the generator into a wall outlet. A hazard known as "backfeeding" can occur. It presents extremely dangerous electrocution risks to any nearby utility workers and neighbors on the same transformer.

Source: www.gilmoreair.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Sleep Tips for the Boss

January 25, 2017 1:03 am

Running a company or managing a fleet of employees is no easy task. Whether you’re up late working, or up late thinking about work, compromising your sleep is no way to be an effective leader.

To help combat work-related stress, Robert Half Finance & Accounting offers five tips for CFOs to mitigate work challenges and rest easier:  

Address issues as they arise. Workplace conflicts only get worse when ignored and avoided.

Set goals and timelines. Make the results you need to see from your staff clear, with deadlines and expected outcomes.

Recognize your team. Different people respond to varied motivational techniques, but everyone likes to hear when they're doing a good job. Don't hold back on genuine praise.

Evaluate your hiring strategy. In addition to having the necessary skill sets and fitting in with the corporate culture, great employees share a few qualities, including a can-do attitude, right-sized ego and sense of humor. Periodically refresh your recruiting plan to ensure you're attracting the right people.

Drive employee acquisition and retention. Finding skilled professionals when you need them can be stressful. But if you nurture a talent pipeline year-round, you'll be better equipped for the future.

Source: roberthalf.com/finance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are You Being Threatened by Collection Callers?

January 25, 2017 1:03 am

There's few things more embarrassing and troubling than a collection call. I recently learned an increasing number of those receiving collection calls are being bullied and intimidated by agents on the other end of the line.

In mid-January, a first of its kind Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) survey revealed  more than one-in-four consumers contacted by debt collection agencies felt threatened, and one in seven were sued in state court.

Shockingly - the CFPB found the about 75 percent of those sued do not go to their hearing, - generally making them responsible for the debt.

Melissa Stegman, Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) Senior Policy Counsel recognized that an overwhelming majority of those in debt and being pursued by collectors are not in debt by choice, but due to unexpected job loss or serious illness.

Debt collectors generate more complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), CFPB, and many state Attorneys General than any other industry. And sadly, Stegman says, communities of color, lower-wealth families, service members, and older Americans are more likely to be harmed by these unscrupulous collection practices.  

CRL recently found that debt collectors frequently use state court to pursue Colorado residents, even when debt wasn't owed or where they lacked information to support a lawsuit. And 71 percent of these cases brought by four large debt buyers ended in a default judgment, meaning the consumer did not respond to the lawsuits and were legally stuck with the bill.

Lisa Stifler, CRL Deputy Director of State Policy said in a release that she has seen debt collectors lawsuits in state courts filed against the wrong person or for a debt not owed.

The CFPB also released a study of potential risks in the online debt marketplace, where consumer debts and personal information are for sale. This study found that most debts sold are at least five years old and 75 percent of those debts had previously been collected TWO or MORE times.

Review the entire CFPB study at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_Debt-Collection-Survey-Report.pdf

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Can You Master the Art of Multitasking?

January 25, 2017 1:03 am

We’ve all done it: Finished an email while watching TV, doing chores while catching up with family on the phone. Multitasking can be an effective way to plow through your to-do list. Nearly 2 in 5 Americans (38 percent) feel they don't have enough time to complete household tasks, according to a recent Moen survey, conducted online by Harris Poll among more than 2,000 U.S. Adults. Below, Moen tells us how to multitask effectively.

Practice Prioritizing
More than half of Americans (59 percent) wish they could manage their time better throughout the day. Step one – learn how to prioritize. Determine the most important items on your list, then create a schedule that pairs complementary elements together. For example, while laundry is in the washer, use that time to vacuum, dust and mop. By the time you switch your clothes to the dryer, all your chores will be complete.

Use Your Mind and Body
While at home, nearly three quarters of Americans (71 percent) stated they usually multitask while watching TV and two thirds (67 percent) say they do so while cleaning.  By combining a physical task, like cleaning, with a mental one, such as making phone calls, you easily can check items off your list. Loading the dishwasher can be a tedious job, so why not make it an efficient chore by turning on your speaker phone and letting the conversation flow as you pre-rinse and load? Or, maximize time in the shower to make mental checklists or contemplate a challenge you're facing at the office.

Tap Into Technology
We live in the digital age, so it's no surprise that nearly three in five Americans (58 percent) use technology to multitask at home. Whether we're answering emails on our smartphones while stirring spaghetti sauce, or tapping away on our laptops during family movie night, tech tools make tackling several tasks at once super simple.

Don't let a busy schedule get the best of you. With a little effort, you can multitask your way to a completely crossed off to-do list.

Source: MOEN
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tax Tips For Personal Injury Settlements

January 24, 2017 1:03 am

Like it or not, tax season is just around the bend. If you received a personal injury settlement or award this past year, it is important that you understand all the tax ramifications before filing your tax returns. Read the following helpful tips from Zanes Law.

Money for Pain and Suffering

The best way to look at the money that you are being paid for "pain and suffering" is that this is the actual money being paid to you for your physical injury.  Currently, according to the IRS compensation that a person is paid for physical injury is federal-income-tax-free. Compensation for emotional distress is also tax-free because it is considered to be part of your physical/personal injury.

Money for Medical Expenses

Money paid to you in order to cover your medical expenses is tax-free too. However, if you claim a tax deduction for accident related medical expenses and you are later reimbursed for those same medical expenses as part of your case, you must "recapture" that amount and will have to pay tax on it because you previously benefited from the deduction that you took.  If your settlement or award does not specifically allocate an amount for medical expenses and you previously took a tax deduction for your accident related medical expenses, the award or settlement is automatically considered to be a reimbursement for such expenses up to the amount of those expenses.  So the key here is the tax deduction.

Reimbursement for Lost Wages

Oddly enough, amounts paid for lost wages are federal-income-tax-free, even though the wages would have been taxable if you had received them.

What About Attorney's Fees?

You cannot deduct attorney fees incurred to collect a tax-free award or settlement for physical injury or sickness. In other words, no deductions are allowed for fees in order to collect tax-free compensation.

Source: http://zaneslaw.com/  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Brush up on Your Winter HVAC Performance Tips

January 24, 2017 1:03 am

The winter is the worst time to have your HVAC system fail. To keep everything running smoothly, follow the following five tips courtesy of Winstar Home Services.

Clean your home
Your home is a reflection of your ductwork, as dirt and debris in your air filter comes from dirt and debris in your home. Removing all dust, dirt and debris will help your air filters work more efficiently.

Change your air filter
A dirty filter can slow down airflow, causing your system to work harder to keep your home warm (which also means wasted energy and a higher utility bill). A clean filter will prevent dirt and debris from building up in the system, which helps limit expensive maintenance and avoid early system failure

Clean your outdoor HVAC unit
Take a few minutes to inspect the area around your outdoor unit. Leaves, shrubs and grass cuttings can build up on the outside of your HVAC unit, decreasing the system capacity and reducing airflow.

As a general rule, keep trees, shrubs and other outdoor elements at least two feet away from the unit so it is free to pull in air.

Seal any gaps in your home and ductwork
Inspect both the interior and exterior of your home's windows, air ducts, and exterior doors for any cracks or gaps and seal any exposures. Even a small gap can lead to warm air escaping your home, which translates into more wasted energy.

Examine your thermostat
Check to make sure your thermostat is working properly and keeping your home at the right temperature. If you still have an older mechanical thermostat, it is recommended to upgrade to digital, programmable model, as switching to a programmable thermostat can save you upwards of $200 a year.

Some new models even allow for remote operation via a cell phone, which are perfect for extremely low temperature days, since you can save energy by setting the temperature lower during the day (when your family is out of the home) and then changing it to a higher temperature before heading home.

Source: Winstar Home Services

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Creating your Get-out-of-Debt Plan

January 19, 2017 12:48 am

Consumer confidence is on the rise, which is great for our economy, but may mean more debt for many over-enthusiastic buyers. A recent poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) revealed that 80 percent of respondents have placed debt repayment at the top of their goal list this year. That’s encouraging news, but the question is where to start?

The NFCC offers these strategies for taking on the daunting task of paying down debt:

- Knowledge is power when it comes to managing debt, so start by examining every detail related to each debt: balances, transactions, interest, fees, terms and conditions. Don’t leave any stone unturned, and be sure to ask questions along the way. This will empower you to put the right plan in place.

- Pick up the pace. High interest rates and lengthy repayment schedules are a costly combination, so make plans to accelerate the payoff of balances so they cost less over time. The key is to pay more than the minimum whenever possible.

- There is always a way.  If there is no extra money to be found for paying down debt faster, reach out to trusted sources who can help you uncover some solutions. Start with the lender to see what programs they may offer, but also work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency to help you brainstorm possibilities for affordably managing your debt. These experts will have ideas that you never thought of, so take advantage of their services.

Remember, repaying debt can be a very long process, especially when it involves a mortgage or auto loan, so devising a plan and quickly putting that plan into action is essential. Before long, you’ll begin to make progress and take back control of your finances.

Source: NFCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Steps to Protect Yourself from Medicare Fraud

January 19, 2017 12:48 am

(Family Features)--Every day, Medicare fraud affects people with Medicare and their families across the U.S. – regardless of background – robbing them of hard-earned money and peace of mind.

Scammers know the ins and outs of the Medicare system and their attempts can be well thought-out enough that it's not always easy to know when and where fraud is occurring. By remembering some simple but effective tips, you can protect yourself against scams, including identity theft and prescription drug fraud. Remembering to protect, detect and report fraud helps everyone, including you.

Protect
Protecting your personal information is your best line of defense against health care fraud. Treat Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security numbers like credit card numbers. Never give them to a stranger and don't carry your cards unless you need them for appointments. Medicare doesn't call or visit to sell you anything. Outside of a trusted health care setting, never give this information to anyone who asks for it.

Detect
No matter how careful you are, you may be targeted for fraud. Always review your Medicare statements closely. Things to look for include charges for something you didn't purchase or receive, duplicate charges and charges for services not ordered by your doctor. Compare these documents to your personal records and receipts. Recording medical visits and procedures in a journal or on a calendar can help you keep track of what happened at each appointment and make it easier to spot inaccuracies.

Report
If you suspect you've been a target of fraud, report it. This can help you and others at risk for fraud. If you have questions about your Medicare statements, call your health care provider.

Source: SMPresource.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Ways to Add Functional Style to Your Closet

January 19, 2017 12:48 am

(Family Features)--If you're one of the 57 percent of those who believe having an organized closet would make finding what you want easier and faster, there's no time like the present to stop dreaming about having a beautiful and organized closet. Take charge and start the project now.

Shine the light. A trendy light fixture can add fun and bling while providing adequate lighting to illuminate all the treasures your closet has to offer. Diffused lighting is a good way to chase away shadows and ensure none of your favorite garments and accessories get left in the dark.

Organize by color. When you're ready to hang clothes in your newly designed space, sort garments by style; group dressy tops, casual pants and so on. Then take your organization another step further by hanging like colors together. The streamlined color palette is pleasing to the eye, but it also makes it easier to select the right combinations and avoid overlooking any options.

Hang clothes with care. Give your clothes some TLC and make the switch to high-quality hangers. Not only do uniform hangers make your closet appear more organized, they help keep your wardrobe in tip-top shape by preventing stretching. Slim velvet hangers are optimal for saving space, but if you have the room, a heavier wooden version is even better.

Add some special flair. It's not just the structure that affects the overall mood of your closet. One easy way to add some personal charm is with colorful and patterned fabric drawers. They provide a home to hide and consolidate more personal belongings and add pops of color and style to your shelves.

Make creative use of wall space. If you have some unused wall space, this is the perfect place for a dream board. A simple cork surface is all you need. Add pictures of your favorite outfits so you can remember pairings that made you feel great. You can also use the space for inspiration and add wish list items from magazines or photos of looks you'd like to try.

Dedicate a container for capturing rejects. Avoid hanging on to unwanted items by designating a container to capture clothing destined for donation. When the bin is full, transfer to a cardboard box and drop off at a local charitable organization. A similar approach can be used for items that need repair; when a few items have accumulated, either haul out the sewing machine or head to the nearest seamstress for professional assistance.

Don't forget the floor. While much is made about the wall space, the floor is an important element of your closet, too. For carpeted rooms a rug may be more ornamental, but if you have hardwood floors, an area rug can be a safety feature that keeps you from slipping in your hurry to get dressed and out the door.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Your IRA Can Help You Invest in Real Estate

January 18, 2017 12:48 am

While we think of IRAs as strictly for retirement, they can actually play a role in building wealth before reaching our golden years.

According to Jason Craig at the Entrust Group, you can use your retirement dollars to invest in real estate—even if you don’t have the full cash amount. Craig offers these three strategies for funding a real estate purchase even with a small IRA:

Partner the IRA
You can partner a self-directed IRA or Real Estate IRA with other IRAs, investors’ money, or personal funds. If partnering with just one other source still doesn’t provide the amount needed, try partnering with a group. The IRA would own a fraction of the investment and share the profits and expenses with other investors in that same proportion, says Craig.

Leverage the IRA
Your IRA can actually take a non-recourse loan to complete a real estate transaction in a self-directed IRA.  A non-recourse loan is a loan in which you, as the IRA holder, are not personally liable for repayment nor guaranteeing the loan. Instead, the lender you work with will lend to your IRA, and will have no recourse against you or other assets in your IRA in the event of a default. According to Craig, the lender will only be able to recover the property and your equity in the property that has the loan.

Lend your IRA
You can also passively invest in real estate by providing capital from your IRA for a real estate transaction, says Craig. As the IRA owner, you determine the rate and terms of the loan to the investor, which is secured by the property.

Source: The Entrust Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Where Are People Living Paycheck to Paycheck?

January 18, 2017 12:48 am

Are you still living paycheck to paycheck? Many people across the country are – but where? According to the latest GOBankingRates study, Hawaii houses the most Americans living paycheck to paycheck, whereas residents of Mississippi are least likely to be living this way. Below are the studies findings.

The 10 states where Americans are most likely to live paycheck to paycheck:

1. Hawaii
2. California
3. New York
4. Massachusetts
5. Alaska
6. Maryland
7. Connecticut
9. Vermont
9. New Jersey
10. Oregon

The 10 states where Americans are least likely to live paycheck to paycheck:

1. Mississippi
2. Arkansas
3. Oklahoma
4. Tennessee
5. Indiana
6. Alabama
7. Kansas
8. Missouri
9. Kentucky
10. Michigan

Source: GOBankingRates

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are You Giving Your Space Heater Enough Space?

January 18, 2017 12:48 am

Those of us living in colder states know the comfort of a space heater keeping our toes warm all winter long. But CPSC estimates that portable electric heaters are involved in about 1,100 fires per year, resulting in about 50 deaths, dozens of injuries and millions of dollars in property loss. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 32 percent of home heating fires involve space heaters, resulting in about 80 percent of home heating fire deaths in the United States.

Below are several tips for buying and using your space heater safely.

Before you buy:
- Make sure your space heater has a seal of a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as UL. This ensures that it won't ignite tissue if tipped over.

- Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside all sleeping areas and inside each bedroom and test them once a month.

In the home:
- Remember, your space heater needs space! It's flaming hot! Keep material such as curtains, sofas, beds, clothes and papers at least three feet away from the front, sides and rear of the heater.

- Make sure the heater is placed on a stable, flat surface, and located where it cannot be knocked over.

- Never leave the heater on while unattended, or while sleeping. Consequences could be disastrous.

- Do not use extension cords or power strips with space heaters, to reduce the risk of fires.

- During use, check frequently to determine if the heater plug, cord, wall outlet or faceplate is hot. If so, turn it off and have a qualified electrician inspect.       

Kerosene Heater Safety:

- A quick note about kerosene heater safety. Use only water-clear 1-K grade kerosene. Never use a substitute like gasoline or any other fuel.

- Never refuel heater while it is operating or hot.

- Operate only at recommended flame height.

And please remember, always operate heater with doors of rooms open to reduce exposure to indoor pollutants, such as carbon monoxide.

Source: www.CPSC.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tried and True Secrets to Losing Weight

January 17, 2017 12:45 am

Nearly everyone ‘goes on a diet’ occasionally – maybe to lose a substantial amount of weight, or maybe just to squeeze into that dress by Saturday night. But, say diet and nutrition experts, the real secret to shedding pounds is NOT necessarily which diet plan you choose, but your mindset going in.

Big changes can result from small lifestyle changes, according to nutrition experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), who recently shared tips for achieving healthy weight loss based on attitude and small but healthy lifestyle changes:

Set small goals – Don’t go into any diet determined to lose 40 pounds – or 50 or 150. Resolve, rather, to meet manageable goals, such as losing three or four pounds this month, adding two minutes to your daily walk or exercise routine, or consciously switching to healthier meal choices at least five times per week.

Eat more veggies – Try some veggies you have not tried before and nibble on them often. You may find them to be really delicious, but even if you don’t, filling up on veggies throughout the day will make it easier to eat less at dinner time.

Move more –It’s no secret that exercise burns calories. But you don’t have to start with a rigorous daily routine. Walk more than you are accustomed to walking. Move your arms and legs while seated. Try out various types of exercise and find one or two you can handle daily.

Practice portion control – dialing down the amount you eat will result in weight loss. Don’t let your eyes rule your stomach. Be aware of how much you put on your plate. Put down your fork between mouthfuls.

Don’t drink sugar – For every sugary soda or alcoholic drink you replace with water or a zero-calorie beverage, you will save yourself from ingesting 100 to 300 calories.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Buying a Home in Winter? What to Look for

January 17, 2017 12:45 am

While spring and early summer rein as peek home-shopping seasons, there’s no good reason why you can’t find that perfect house in the middle of winter, too. In fact, you might even get a good deal from homeowners who are anxious to sell as soon as possible and don’t want to wait for the spring thaw.

Looking at homes in winter, however, requires a different strategy, so consider the following before you start your search:

- Winter weather may prevent you from getting a good sense of a home’s yard, particularly, if it’s covered in snow. Make sure you’re informed as to the exact size of the plot, patios and decks, and ask your agent to show you pictures of the yard and home’s exterior in the spring and summer, if there aren’t any posted online.

- Ditto for the landscaping. If gardens are a high priority for you, find out which perennials, bulbs, shrubs and flowering trees are planted on the property, and whether or not the owner maintained a vegetable garden. This will give you a sense of what will emerge come spring and what your options are for further gardening endeavors.

- While you can experience the quality of the home’s insulation and heating system first-hand in the winter, you won’t be able to get a feel for the central air. Find out how old the system is, when it was last maintained and make sure the inspector takes an especially close look.

- The natural lighting in a home can be drastically different in winter compared to summer. Take time to notice the number of leafy trees on the property to get an idea of how much shade cover there will be when summer arrives. This will also give you a sense of the leaf clean-up job on deck for fall.

- In cold or inclement winter months, when people tend to hibernate indoors, you may not get a full sense of the neighborhood. Ask the agent about the number of and age range of children in the neighborhood, how active the community is, common traffic patterns and noise level.

The good thing about buying a home in winter is that you’ll be all moved in and ready to enjoy the warm weather when it rolls around. So throw on an extra layer and start your search!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don't Be Duped By Bogus Reviews

January 17, 2017 12:45 am

I can hardly resist the temptation to whip out my phone or rush to the keyboard when someone asks where to find everything from the best kitchen stove or garden tractor, roofer, or REALTOR® - and decisions are often weighed against those cyber-commentaries.

But Howard Schwartz at Connecticut Better Business Bureau cautions consumers to be careful about potentially fraudulent online reviews before making purchasing decisions.

So, can online reviews be trusted?

The answer depends on who writes the review according Schwartz. Unfortunately, he says technology has helped unethical businesses obtain stellar ratings while trashing competitors with excessively negative, even falsified reviews.

In other cases, consumers could be relying on paid reviewers who may have never used the merchandise they are praising. Schwartz has even seen the same review and identical wording for different products on various sellers' websites.

It may not be illegal, Schwartz says, but the very least the practice is misleading and unethical. So, he and the BBB offer these tips to spot phony product reviews:

Check for "marketing speak" - Does the review sound like something you or your friends would write, or by someone selling a product.

Too many details - If the merchandise is a "Model XG52 Widget," and the product's full name and model are repeated several times in the review, it is a sign that it was likely planted by a paid writer.

Silly, overblown claims about the product - If you are considering purchasing a vacuum cleaner and reviews that say things like "This product changed my life," does it make sense to you?

Unreasonably long reviews - Would you write a 5-paragraph review that not only tells you about a product but also describes how to use it? This is a clear red flag.

Negative reviews that are short on details - You may see only a couple of words that say things like "This product stinks," without telling you why. Be wary of these.

Check the username - If a reviewer's screen name has 3 or more numerals typically at the end of their screen name, it is usually a sign of an automated review-writing program.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is Your Smart-Home Device a Security Threat?

January 16, 2017 12:42 am

Did you recently welcome a Google Home or Amazon Echo into your home? How about a smart TV or a fancy new Apple Watch? While all of these devices can work wonders in terms of making our lives easier, they can also pose a security threat to your privacy. Internet-connected devices provide endless possibilities, but they rely on technology and collected data to deliver on their promises.

"I don't necessarily think about someone hacking into my new smart thermostat and accessing temperature preferences,” says Steve Platt, global executive vice president of Fraud and Identity for Experian. “But if they can access my thermostat, they can get into my Wi-Fi network. From there they can access my computer or other connected devices where I have a lot more private and valuable information. The Internet of Things is only as strong as its weakest link. That's why it's so important to understand and treat each connected device as part of a broader network."

According to Platt, you can have both convenience and privacy, as long as you know how to secure your devices along the way. Here are eight tips from Experian for protecting your identity while enjoying your new gadget:
  1. Make sure the products and services you are connecting were purchased from reputable companies.
  2. Take a few minutes to review the privacy and data usage policies for each product or service. These privacy policies and data-use statements should be clear, easy to read and easy to understand. It's important to know how your personal data is used, stored or shared and to be comfortable with the terms before using the device.
  3. Look for devices that use end-to-end encryption, meaning third parties can't read or listen to your communications. More and more products are including this terminology right in the product description. If it's not there, ask.
  4. Be careful when turning on features for less secure devices. Remember that a less secure device can open a door into your network, which can lead to access to other connected devices.
  5. Change the default password before connecting the device to your network and enable two-factor authentication options, when available, for additional security. For example, you might use a username and password plus something else that only you know.
  6. Pay extra attention to your Wi-Fi network and leverage all available security options, including things like router and network passwords, encryption, firewalls and firmware.
  7. Be aware of the applications installed on devices, and download applications only from reputable providers. Also, only download apps created by trusted entities.
  8. Make sure children are supervised when using Internet-enabled devices, especially when downloading apps and connecting to other devices.

Following these tips will allow you to make your home smarter and safer.

Source: Experian

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Money-Saving Tips to Combat the Cold

January 16, 2017 12:42 am

Brrr. Winter weather not only sends us scurrying indoors; it also bumps up our monthly bills. Below are a few helpful hints for saving money all season.  

- The thermostat can be the biggest contributor of high winter bills. Select the lowest comfortable setting on your thermostat when you're home, then lower the temperature a degree or two when you leave.

- Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes a heating system work harder, which uses more energy.

- Inefficient heating can also add to monthly power bills during colder temperatures. Regular service calls from a licensed technician will help to properly maintain your heating and cooling system.

- The ceiling fan is a great way to enhance your home's warmth in the winter. Simply set the fans to operate in a clockwise direction, which pushes warm air back down into the room.

- On sunny days, leave your drapes or blinds open to allow the sun's rays to warm the house. Close your drapes at night to provide additional insulation for the windows.

- Wear warm clothing for additional energy savings at home. That way, you can bump down the thermostat a degree or two and still stay warm.

Source:  Duke Energy

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Book a Better Vacation For Less

January 16, 2017 12:42 am

Looking forward to your next big trip? Read on for five ways to book a better, cheaper vacation, courtesy of Expedia.

Book your trip at the right time  

Purchasing airplane tickets 21 days or more in advance offers the best prices-especially for trips within Europe and the United States. Some trips can give discounts of as much as 30 percent for booking three weeks before the departure date.  

To get the best deals on trips within Europe, you need to book flights almost two months ahead (at least 56 days) so for short haul Easter breaks its best to start booking now. For travel to Asia and the US it's best to book flights around 6 months ahead (+ 171 days for Asia and + 180 for the US) so now is also a great time to plan your big summer break.

Book flights and hotel at the same time 

One critical, but often overlooked, method to drive savings is for travelers to simultaneously book their flight, hotel and/or rental car on an online travel agency. Flight and hotel bookings can be offered at a steep discount.

Those savings can be lost if travelers book these elements independently, which is common, so flight and hotel bookings remain the single easiest way for travelers to save hundreds on travel, both domestically and internationally.

Include a Saturday night stay 

After evaluating terabytes of data regarding the impact of including a Saturday night stay on average ticket prices, Expedia has concluded that the urban myth is true and most tickets including a Saturday stay offer the lowest prices and best deals. In Central Europe, average ticket prices for itineraries that include Saturdays can be as much as 74 percent less and 47 percent less for flights within the UK and Ireland. The impact of Saturday night stays exists independent of what day of the week a ticket was booked and how many days in advance it was purchased.

Head to an alternative neighborhood on your city break 

By checking out the alternative areas of a city you can save even more on your hotel. Expedia's local experts have provided advice - such as booking in a business district for a weekend stay - to help travelers to find money-saving alternate destinations that aren't too far from the downtowns or most popular areas of the cities in question. For example, staying in the Financial District or Battery Park City when traveling to New York can offer savings but still offers the chance to stay in two spots that are fast becoming the city's new must-visit areas.

Source: Expedia.co.uk

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mastering Mindfulness

January 13, 2017 4:39 am

The concept of mindfulness may conjure up images of incense and Tibetan monks, but it’s actually a practice that we everyday people can—and should!—easily incorporate into our daily lives.

The benefits of mindfulness—the practice of clearing your mind, breathing deeply and focusing on the present moment—are many. According to Dr. Nina Smiley who leads meditation practices at New Paltz, N.Y.’s Mohonk Mountain House, mindfulness boosts the immune system, heightens focus, and can reduce anger, insomnia, and depression. Being mindful can help you perform better at work and enrich personal relationships because it helps you live in the moment, which goes a long way toward performing better on the job and creating a more meaningful family life.

While many confuse it with meditation, which is focused on clearing all thoughts, mindfulness is about focusing our thoughts on the task at hand. So how does the average person achieve this state of mastering the present moment? Here are four easy steps to follow from the Mrs. Mindfulness blog:

Step 1. Stop and take three, deep, slow breaths, focusing the mind on the breathing and nothing else for that time. If random thoughts enter your mind, don’t throw in the towel—just acknowledge the thoughts and steer yourself back toward the breathing.

Step 2. Put aside all thoughts about the past and worries about the future. Think only about the present moment—use your senses to really become aware of the environment around you in that moment.

Step 3. Now you’re ready to go about your activity or task, slowly and deliberately, focusing only on what needs to be done right now.

Step 4. Keep your mind alert and in the moment. Try to keep your unconscious “mind chatter” at bay and stay completely absorbed in your activity. If your mind does wander, gently guide it back to what you’re doing.

Practicing mindfulness in this way will add meaning and enjoyment to simple everyday tasks, help you accomplish more, and lead to better peace of mind.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Stay Safe in a Power Outage

January 13, 2017 4:39 am

There's often no time to prep for a power outage. Whether from winter storms, electric heat during summer, or a simple issue with your power provider, power outages can hit when your least expecting it, and drag on for days. Below are several tips for staying safe in an unexpected outage.

Don't drive. If your outage happens in the winter, it's important to stay off the road. With no traffic lights and treacherous weather, driving can be extremely dangerous.

Pay attention to proper generation. If you're without electricity and want to use a portable generator, make sure you use it in a well-ventilated area. Do not connect a generator to your home's electrical panel or fuse boxes. It may cause electricity to feed back into the power lines, which can endanger linemen and damage electric service facilities.

Cook with caution. If using Sterno or charcoal to cook food, always to do so outside in a well-ventilated area. Cooking indoors with Sterno or charcoal will produce deadly carbon-monoxide fumes.

Be weary of debris. Remember, following a storm, debris can cover power lines that have fallen and even standing near lines that are down can be dangerous.

Back up your batteries. If you know a storm is coming, take time to make sure cell phones and back-up batteries are charged  so that you can stay connected.

Stock away supplies. Make sure you have a supply of flashlights, batteries, bottled water, non-perishable foods, medicines, etc. Also, ensure a portable, battery-operated radio, TV or NOAA radio is on hand.

Know your needs. Families who have special medical needs or elderly members should closely monitor weather forecasts and make plans for potential alternate arrangements should an extended outage occur.

Look for down lines. Stay away from power lines that have fallen or are sagging. Consider all lines energized as well as trees or limbs in contact with lines. Please report downed power lines to Duke Energy and your local police department. If a power line falls across a car that you're in, stay in the car. If you MUST get out of the car due to a fire or other immediate life-threatening situation, do your best to jump clear of the car and land on both feet. Be sure that no part of your body is touching the car when your feet touch the ground.

Source: North Carolina's Electric Cooperatives; Duke Energy

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are You Brushing Your Teeth Wrong?

January 13, 2017 4:39 am

Brushing our teeth is something we hopefully all do twice a day. However, it is highly possible you've been brushing your pearly white the wrong way. The American Dental Association (ADA) offers the following tips provide easy ways to fix common brushing blunders.

Keeping your toothbrush for too long: The average life of a toothbrush is three to four months. Make a resolution to change your toothbrush with every season this year. Frayed and broken bristles are signs it's time to let go.  

Not brushing long enough: Teeth should be brushed for a full two minutes, twice per day. The average time most people spend brushing is 45 seconds. If you're racing through cleaning, try setting a timer. Or distract yourself by humming your favorite tune.

Brushing too hard: Be gentle with your teeth. You may think brushing harder will remove more leftover food and the bacteria that loves to eat it, but a gentle brushing is all that's needed. Too much pressure may wear down the hard outer shell on your teeth and damage gums.

Brushing right after eating: Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing – especially if you have had something acidic like lemons, grapefruit or soda.  

Storing your brush improperly: Keep your toothbrush upright and let it air dry in the open. Don't keep your toothbrush in a closed container, where germs have more opportunity to grow, and if your toothbrush is in a holder next to another, keep them as separate as possible.

Using a brush with hard bristles: Soft bristles are the way to go. You don't want to use medium or hard bristles because these may wear down the outer shell of your teeth and may cause sensitivity when eating or drinking cold food and beverages.

Improper brushing technique: Get your best brush with these steps:

- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. 
- Gently move the brush back and forth in short (tooth-wide) strokes. 
- Brush the outer surfaces, the inner surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- To clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several up-and-down strokes.

Source: ADA, MouthHealthy.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are Your Passwords Protecting You?

January 12, 2017 4:39 am

As more and more of life takes place online, we’re sharing an increasing amount of private information on the Internet... and getting a lot more comfortable about doing so. Therein lies the problem; as we become more lax, criminals become more adept at hacking information, such as credit card and bank accounts, and social security numbers.

Your first line of defense for protecting yourself on the Internet? A stalwart password. Here are some guidelines for creating and maintaining super-strong passwords.

- Never share your password with anyone. You may think it innocent enough to give your password to a close friend or family member, but once it’s out of your hands its safety is out of your control. You never know when it can accidentally land in the hands of the wrong person.

- Create complicated passwords, but one’s you can remember.  Combine facts only you know, such as your childhood phone number, the name of your first crush or your confirmation name. Then take the first letter and/or digit of such facts and create a password that’s a mystery to others but one you’ll never forget.

- Use a mix of lower and upper case numbers, letters and symbols, choosing numbers and symbols that double for a letter, such as the @ sign for A, $ for S, and the number 1 for I. Mix these numbers and symbols to abbreviate a familiar phrase.

- Consider double authentication, like fingerprints or images.

- If it’s in the dictionary, don’t use it. There’s actually software that criminals can use to guess words used in dictionaries for passwords.

- Mix it up. While it’s tempting to only have to remember one password, don’t. Use different passwords for different sites—that way if one gets hacked, it won’t take down your entire online world.

Source: connectsafely.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Issues That May Secretly Cost You Hundreds

January 12, 2017 4:39 am

It's no secret that being a homeowner is a financial commitment. However, there may be places in your home that are secretly upping your expenses. Read on for a rundown of those secret money leaks, courtesy of Gentec Services.

Air leaks. One of the biggest energy drains on a home is air leakage, which means the conditioned air in your home exits through cracks and leaks and is replaced by unconditioned air from the outside. While windows are the top culprit, air can come in anywhere your heating and cooling system runs or any place that the exterior structure of the home has been joined together. Leaks can be sealed with caulk, weather stripping or spray foam insulation.

Insulation. Pay special attention to the attic, basement or crawlspace, and all exterior walls. Since heating and cooling are responsible for upwards of 40 percent of all energy expenditures in the average home, keeping your house well insulated can significantly lower energy costs.

Power strips. Electronics can drain electricity even when they're turned off. Putting them on a power strip is an excellent way to stop the draw when electronics are in a standby mode, while at the same time protecting them from power surges. You probably have 30 or more electronic devices in your home, so the drain can be substantial. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that some homes carry phantom loads that raise the monthly electric bill by as much as 10 percent.

Water fixtures. If your toilet was installed in 1992 or earlier, it probably uses between four and five gallons of water per flush. Older ones could use up to nine gallons. Buying low flow toilets can cut this water use in half. Updating shower heads and faucets means even more savings.

Your heating and cooling system. Things like soot build-up on gas furnace burners or dust and debris on air conditioner condenser coils can hurt the efficiency of your system. Getting the system cleaned and professionally maintained could mean a 10 percent efficiency improvement.

Light fixtures. The major trend has been toward compact fluorescent bulbs, but these aren't the best choice because they contain mercury, and they also lose lifespan when they are constantly turned off and on. LEDs, although more expensive up front, last much longer and use half the energy of compact fluorescents.

Source: www.gentecservices.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Sleep Better, Tonight

January 12, 2017 4:39 am

A great night's sleep is a sacred thing for most adults. Sleep helps regulate your hormones, keeps you energized, primes your brain for proper functioning, and more. A recent AARP consumer survey found that 99 percent of adults age 50-plus believe that sleep is important for their brain health, but over four in 10 (43 percent) say they don't get enough sleep. More than half (54 percent) of adults report they wake up too early in the morning and can't get back to sleep.

Below are several tips for sleeping better:

- Get up at the same time every day, seven days a week.

- Restrict fluids and food three hours before going to bed to help avoid disrupting your sleep to use the bathroom.

- Avoid using OTC medications for sleep because they can have negative side-effects, including disrupted sleep quality and impaired cognitive functioning.

- Dietary supplements such as melatonin may have benefits for some people, but scientific evidence on their effectiveness is inconclusive. Be particularly cautious of melatonin use with dementia patients.

- Avoid long naps; if you must nap, limit to 30 minutes in the early afternoon.

Source: AARP

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Brighten Your Winter Skin

January 11, 2017 4:36 am

Dry, cold air does more than just drive us indoors. It also dries out our skin. Adjust your winter skincare routine to keep yourself soft all season long.

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. When you find yourself turning the heat on at home, it's probably time to switch to a more hydrating moisturizer. Cold temps mean dry skin and it's no fun feeling like your skin is flaking.

Reach for the SPF. Most of us use SPF in the summer, but the harsh winter sun can actually do double damage on your skin by reflecting off snow. Use a daily hydrating moisturizer with SPF.

Eat water-rich foods. Good skincare isn't just about hydrating from the outside; you must also hydrate internally by eating water-rich foods that stay in your body longer and can give do more for your skin than simply drinking water. Try vegetables like green pepper, cauliflower and spinach, which are hydrating choices.

Your mouth matters. Your lips are skin, too. In fact, they're most susceptible to drying out in the winter months. Take care of them with a gentle lip exfoliation to get rid of excess dry skin using a small amount of sugar scrub, followed by a hydrating lip treatment.

Stay positive. If you minimize your stress level and keep a positive attitude it will make all the difference for your skin. Neuropeptides, which are released when you're angry or upset, can accelerate the aging process. Find reasons to feel good and hold onto the hope that spring will be on its way before you know it.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Plan Ahead For Power Outages

January 11, 2017 4:36 am

(Family Features)--Ahead of the frigid winter weather blowing into cities and neighborhoods, families can take steps to prevent frozen pipes, spoiled food and the uncomfortable situations that arise when temperatures drop and a home’s power goes out.

Families that may endure a power outage this winter should remember these helpful tips to stay safe and comfortable.

Before the storm:
- Stock-up on batteries and flashlights.
- Evaluate the family’s non-perishable food supply and restock if necessary.
- Review how to manually open the electric garage door.
- Conduct a practice run to help ensure your family knows how to properly locate and operate any equipment required during the power outage.

During/after the storm:
- Never use a gas stove, oven or grill to heat a home.
- During the first few hours of the outage, keep the refrigerator and freezer closed. Snow can be used as ice to keep items cold in a cooler.
- Choose mittens over gloves and wear layered loose clothing to stay warm.
- Always operate a portable generator outside of a home.

Alternate energy source
- A loss of electricity poses one of the greatest potential dangers and inconveniences when a winter storm strikes.

“Having a backup power solution ready ahead of a utility power outage prevents most of the headaches that go with living without power. With backup power, families won’t necessarily need to worry about perishable foods going bad, for example,” said Dan Roche, director of marketing for portable power and cleaning systems at Briggs & Stratton. “This gives families the security they desire to comfortably ride out long winter months.”

The most popular backup power solutions are portable generators and permanently-installed standby generator systems. Both types of backup power can keep a home’s lights, furnace and necessary appliances working in the event of a weather-related power outage or other emergency. Understanding the differences and capabilities between the two options can make selecting the best generator for a family’s needs much easier.

Portable generators are generally low maintenance, compact and easily maneuverable on the property. These units are typically powered by gasoline and can work well as a quick solution during a power outage to provide reliable electricity to a few essential items and appliances such as a refrigerator, basic light circuits and portable electric heaters at the same time.

While portable generators can provide users with flexibility and comfort, they need to be used appropriately at all times in order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Never run a portable generator inside a home or in a garage. Visit TakeYourGeneratorOutside.com to learn more about portable generator safety.

Families who want a backup power source that offers uninterrupted power should opt for a home standby generator system. Home standby generators are permanently installed, so they need to be done by a professional. These generators are connected to a house’s existing propane or natural gas line. When utility power to a house is interrupted, the home generator automatically turns on within seconds. Home standby generators can power more of a home’s high-wattage appliances, like the furnace, electric water heater, stove and clothes dryer simultaneously, so your family doesn’t experience any interruptions during unexpected power outages.

Source: briggsandstratton.com. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Protect Your Family in 2017

January 11, 2017 4:36 am

(Family Features)--Protecting your family and loved ones is one of your most important responsibilities. Many people think about protection in terms of physical acts, such as practicing safe driving, but there are many more aspects of your lifestyle and home that affect your loved ones’ safety.

Protect your family’s financial health

Although it can be painful to consider, your untimely death may leave your family reeling – not only emotionally, but financially, too. Life insurance can help cover funeral costs, child care or act as income replacement. It can also help pay off any loans you’ve accrued, such as a home mortgage, car payment, credit card debt or student loans.

If you don’t have life insurance, it’s never too soon to explore your coverage options. You may be able to save on premiums and get more coverage for your dollar by completing a health exam as part of your application, which helps build a more accurate assessment of your health.

If you do have coverage, it’s a good idea to regularly review your coverage to ensure it still meets your needs. Also check your beneficiaries to ensure your policies are updated with your current information, especially if your family has grown.

Ensure your family is breathing safe air

One threat you may not be aware of is radon, a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment but can create significant health consequences in anyone exposed to unsafe levels.

Radon is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that can go undetected in homes until it is too late. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among non-smokers in America, and claims the lives of nearly 21,000 Americans each year. 

Know your own health status

It is difficult to protect loved ones if you are not healthy yourself. Make sure you receive proper preventive care, such as regular health screenings and check-ups that are recommended for your gender and age.

Many employers and health plans offer health screenings. If you have applied for life insurance, many policies provide the laboratory results from your application that you can share with your physician. Find a checklist of important preventive screenings at CDC.gov/Prevention.

Protect the home of your loved ones

There are over 2 million burglaries annually in the United States, according to FBI statistics. Home security systems can help put your mind at ease, and having a security system can also decrease the premiums you pay for monthly homeowner’s insurance. Studies have shown that homes with a security system see a 39 percent decrease in financial loss compared to homes with no security system.

Safeguard your family from fire hazards

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that two-thirds of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with either no smoke alarms or non-working smoke alarms. Batteries wear out and may be taken out to cease persistent beeping then never replaced. Smoke alarms should be in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area and on each level of your home.

In addition to regularly checking alarms and batteries, it’s a good idea to make a family escape plan in the event of a fire.

Source: MyExamOne.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


10 Ways to Be More Energy Efficient at Home

January 6, 2017 12:30 am

We all want to save money while helping the environment, and one simple way to do that is to scrutinize your energy usage at home. Here are 10 easy, low-cost tips for making your house operate more efficiently.

1. Insulate the water heater. Older natural gas storage water heaters can lose a lot of heat through their walls. Wrapping a heater in an insulating jacket can prevent excess heat loss and energy waste, but should be left to a professional installer so as not to accidentally cover the top, bottom, thermostat or burner compartment.

2. Seal leaks with weatherstripping. Air sealing, specifically weatherstripping, eliminates drafts to save energy while improving air quality and comfort. Weatherstripping reduces air leakage by creating a tight seal between movable components such as doors and windows. Before application, detect air leaks and assess the ventilation. Find air leaks through a blower door test from a qualified technician, or by inspecting inside and outside the home.

3. Insulate water pipes. Insulate hot water pipes to reduce heat loss and keep the water from cooling off before it reaches the tap. Adding insulation also will prevent cold water pipes from freezing.

4. Replace or clean the furnace filter. Change the heating system's furnace air filter on a regular basis to keep air flowing without overworking equipment. This also keeps out dust and dirt that can lead to expensive repairs or early system failure. A clean furnace filter can lower natural gas consumption by up to 2 percent.

5. Use less hot water. Reducing hot water use is an easy, affordable way to see significant savings on energy and water bills. Run the automatic dishwasher only when full, and wash and rinse full loads of laundry in cold water. Install low-flow showerheads, and don't forget to check for and repair plumbing leaks.

6. Use ceiling fans. Save on heating costs by using an ENERGY STAR® certified ceiling fan, which helps warm air circulate better and allows for setting the furnace temperature lower.

7. Install a programmable or smart thermostat. Programmable and smart thermostats can lower heating expenses and fit any lifestyle. Set the thermostat at 68 F, and then program it to decrease the temperature 8 degrees when no one is home and overnight. Smart thermostats are similar to programmable thermostats, but they also perform more advanced functions. A smart thermostat allows you to monitor and control the temperature in your home remotely from your smartphone or other web-enabled device.

8. Look for ENERGY STAR. If purchasing a new appliance, make it an ENERGY STAR rated appliance. For instance, an ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator uses less energy than a regular 75-watt light bulb.

9. Lower the water heater thermostat. Set your water heater thermostat to 120 F to save energy and money. For most homeowners, storage water heaters set above 120 F are simply using more energy without providing any additional benefits. One set to even 140 F can waste $36 to $61 annually in standby heat loss, and more than $400 in demand loss. Be sure to turn down the water heater when going on vacation to avoid energy waste.

10. Be smart with the fireplace. Open-hearth fireplaces draw heated air from inside the home, sending it up the chimney. When using the fireplace, install a snug-fitting set of glass doors and crack open a nearby window. Doing so reduces the amount of heated interior air drawn into the fireplace and improves efficiency by up to 20 percent.Source: Peoples Gas

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-to Avoid Overdraft Fees

January 6, 2017 12:30 am

The only thing worse than a low bank balance is landing an overdraft fee as a result of you're low balance. These tips, courtesy of the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, can help assure you never get another overdraft fee again.

Sign up for automatic funds transfer: Instruct your bank or credit union to automatically transfer money from your savings or other accounts to your checking account to cover any shortages. Note: you may have to pay a fee for this service.

Sign up for low-balance notices: Sign up for text or email notices from your bank or credit union if your checking account balance drops below a certain amount.

Make sure funds are available: Make sure deposits into your checking account are actually available for your use before you spend that money. Note: review your bank or credit union's "funds availability" policy.

Take advantage of technology: Frequently check your account balances online, by phone, or nearby ATM machine.

Check all transactions on your statements: Carefully review your monthly account statements, looking for fraudulent transactions as well as taking into account any checks written and deposits made that may not appear until next month's statement.

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Simple Ways to Enjoy More Family Time

January 6, 2017 12:30 am

(Family Features)--Skillfully balancing an entire family's demands from school, sports, activities and careers leaves little down time, but keeping family values front and center may be easier than you think when you make a commitment to carving out meaningful moments to share.

Unplug from the digital world. Today's technology-ridden world makes it easy for families to be present but not engaged. When you create a technology-free zone, you eliminate distractions so you can keep the focus on each other. Dedicate time every week to spend as a family without the use of TV, tablets, computers and phones.

Bond and bake together. There's a little baker in everyone. After all, who can help but "woo-hoo" when you pull fresh cupcakes out of the oven? Take a little time to embrace your inner Doughboy, turn your kitchen into a fun zone and savor all the moments with your family.

Share family stories. Reminiscing about special family moments is an essential part of keeping those memories alive. Showcasing old photo albums is a great way to share fun and nostalgic memories, which can help bring your family closer together. Whether it was a trip to the mountains or visiting a nearby museum, discussing and reliving these memorable moments can evoke fond memories and a willingness to create new ones.

Set a day each week for family night. It's easy to get caught up in a busy schedule, which is why consciously setting aside family time is essential. Once it's set, you may be tempted to turn the open night at home into an invitation to catch up on housework or even just relax. Avoid the temptation and instead look for fun ways to spend that time as a family. The dishes and laundry will still be waiting after you spend a few hours together. Start a puzzle or play a board game. Initiate a DIY project for the house, spend time baking or cooking a meal or simply sit together and talk about what's happening in the lives of those who matter most.

Create traditions. Rituals are a way of life. Find the little things that make your family unique and celebrate them together by creating special occasions that give everyone in the family something to look forward to and reflect on with joy. If you're passionate about cooking, volunteer at a local soup kitchen together once a month. If sports are more your game, arrange for regular family outings to support the local team with everyone decked out in their favorite lucky attire. Silly or sentimental, traditions are the stuff memories are made of.

Source: Pillsbury

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Ways to Kick Start Your Career

January 5, 2017 4:30 am

If you're looking for a new job, you're not alone. Below are three tips from Career Builder to improve your chances while hunting down a new gig.  

Grow your network: Tired of collecting business cards at cocktail mixers and lunch-and-learns? It might be time to mix up your networking routine with some fresh new tactics. Try stepping outside your usual roster of groups and events to grow your professional circle even wider.

Polish your personal brand: By having a clear message of who you are, what experience you have and what direction you're going in, you're conveying your identity to the hiring manager instead of being a faceless part of the crowd.

Make social a priority: Follow companies you like on social media and engage with them. Consider starting a blog that is related to your career interests. While on social channels, make sure you clean up your own digital dirt. Nothing is truly private on the Web, and it would be a shame to miss out on a job opportunity because of some embarrassing photos from years ago. Also make sure your profile is relevant. Think through the eyes of a recruiter and keep your employment history and education updated.

Source: CareerBuilder®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips for Managing Diabetes

January 5, 2017 4:30 am

(Family Features)--Living with diabetes is no laughing matter, but as many would say, laughter is often the best medicine.

This is certainly true for comedic actress Yvette Nicole Brown, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2013.  In partnership with the American Diabetes Association and Colgate Total through the "Laugh Out Loud" campaign, Brown offers the following tips for a healthy smile and managing diabetes with a touch of humor.

Get Moving

When it comes to diabetes, small lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Taking the first step toward exercising can be difficult for many, but a little bit goes a long way. Try parking further away from the door, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or taking the longer route when you walk the dog. Whatever it may be, choose an activity that you enjoy doing and keep it consistent.

Give Your Smile Some Extra TLC

You're twice as likely to develop gum disease if you have diabetes. When Brown learned that, she immediately started taking better care of her teeth. She recommends brushing morning and night with a specially formulated toothpaste, which reduces 83 percent more germs that cause gingivitis, the most common form of gum disease, as compared to an ordinary non-antibacterial toothpaste.

Befriend Your Dentist

Don't be afraid to become friends with your dentist. Brown has her dentist on speed-dial, even calling or texting him in the middle of the night sometimes. You don't have to be best friends with your dentist, but it's crucial to establish a good relationship. They're the expert who you can turn to for all your oral health care needs, and oral health care is important for those living with diabetes.

Find Your Tribe

When you're living with diabetes, you need a strong support system. Be it friends, family or an online community, things are easier when you've got your tribe. A good place to get your questions answered and find people who are going through the same journey as you is OralHealthandDiabetes.com.

Live Confidently

"Every time I think about my type 2 diabetes, I say to myself 'So what? You are a strong, confident woman. Don't let your diabetes run your life,'" Brown said. Diabetes isn't a hindrance, it's just a slight hiccup in life that you learn to live with. Get your mindset right, don't let it dictate what you can or cannot do.

When Brown was a kid her mom would say, "Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying." That's sometimes what people do when they get any kind of health diagnosis. The first response is, "Oh no," and then you find a way around it.

Source: Colgate

Published with permission from RISMedia.


10 Steps to Quit Smoking

January 5, 2017 4:30 am

The majority of smokers often think about quitting. In fact, nearly 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit but only 6 percent are able to each year. However, quitting is extremely difficult, and it's important to put your best foot forward. Below are 10 steps from BecomeAnEX.org to make and execute a plan to quit.

1. Set a quit date, and be strategic

Some smokers prefer to dive right in and just start quitting. It's best to intentionally setting a date to quit smoking. Big changes in life benefit from good planning. Take a look at your calendar and be strategic about when it would be a good time to quit. Consider quitting on a day without too many temptations (like a holiday party) or stressors (like a looming work deadline).

2. Identify triggers and track cigarettes

Much like using a step counter to track your activity if you're trying to get in shape or lose weight, figuring out what makes you want to smoke is part of your quit plan. "Triggers" are the things that cue you to smoke. Some common triggers are having a cup of coffee, driving, going out drinking or stress. Use the tools on BecomeAnEX.org to identify your triggers by logging the situation surrounding each cigarette you smoke leading up to your quit date. You'll need this data to beat those triggers come quit day!

3. Beat your triggers

Now that you've identified your triggers, you can plan for how you'll avoid or overcome them. Do you always smoke on your drive to work? Try keeping sunflower seeds in your car to munch on instead. Or make a playlist to belt out at the top of your lungs. Really think about what you can do instead of smoking for each of your triggers. Or, make a plan for what you'll do instead of your triggers (like drink tea instead of coffee for a few days).

4. Get smart about your smoking addiction

Smoking is more than just a "bad habit." It's a physical addiction. Learn the effects of nicotine on your brain and make an educated decision about using quit smoking aids to boost your chances of quitting successfully. Learn more by watching videos on BecomeAnEX.org.

5. Choose a quit smoking aid

Once you've learned more about how addiction works and different quit smoking aids, talk with your doctor, health care provider or pharmacist about which one feels right for you. Quit smoking medications (such as gum, the patch, inhaler or prescription meds like Chantix or Zyban) can make quitting cravings and withdrawal easier. Even if you've tried medication before, consider trying a different one this time around.

6. Tell someone, anyone

Quitting can be lonely, but it doesn't have to be! Consider telling at least one friend, family member or coworker you trust that you're quitting–maybe even ask them not to smoke around you, if they're smokers, too. Or, connect with others who know exactly what you're going through in the BecomeAnEX Community. They get what it's like to feel anxious, irritable or frustrated while quitting. Around the clock and all year long, the EX Community is full of other smokers and former smokers who genuinely want to answer your questions, be a supportive listener and cheer on your success!

7. Out with the old and in with the new

The first step in forgetting an old flame is throwing out all the stuff that reminds you of "the way we were." Go through your house, your car and your workplace and toss out everything that has to do with smoking. Lighters, ashtrays, even the dashboard lighter in your car. Get rid of all of them! Consider getting your car detailed, washing your clothes and bedspread or doing a deep clean on your house to make everything around you smell fresh instead of smoky.

8. Get ready, get set

If you're using medication, make sure you have plenty of it on hand. Get ready to quit by having other good ways to cope with cravings. Find a refillable water bottle; stock up on things to chew on like carrot sticks, toothpicks, sugarless candy and gum; and snag something fun for your hands like a squeeze toy or drumsticks. Keep yourself motivated. Make a list of "reasons I want to quit smoking" and tuck it into your wallet, purse, car, bathroom mirror, office … or everywhere!

9. Go

You know when your triggers will be popping up. And you know how to beat them when they do. Get up and attack the day. Get dressed, eat, grab your bottle of water and your quit smoking aid and go! Just focus on getting through this one day without smoking. You can survive your first day of quitting smoking. And then take it one day at a time.

10. If you need to, pick yourself back up

Quitting is hard, and often takes more than one try. If you smoked after your quit day, pick yourself back up. It helps to understand why you slipped up in the first place. Were you stressed out? Having a drink? Did someone offer you a cigarette? Think back to what happened and make a plan for getting past it next time.  Source: BecomeAnEX.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Choosing An Online University? What You Should Ask

January 3, 2017 4:30 am

With college tuitions rising, more and more people are choosing to study online. With lower tuitions and flexible schedules, it can be a great choice for many. However, not all online universities are created equal, and it's important to do your due diligence before choosing one.

To help, Western Governors University (WGU), has a list of five questions to ask to ensure that you choose the right university for your needs.

Is the university regionally accredited? Regional accreditation is the highest form of accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education publishes a list of regional accrediting agencies that are recognized as reliable authorities on the quality of education or training offered by institutions of higher learning. Accreditation ensures that employers and other academic institutions will respect and recognize your degree.

How much will it cost? Tuition at online universities varies widely, from approximately the same cost as a public university to more than twice as much. Be sure to understand all of the costs—tuition, books, and fees—before you make your decision, along with the possibility of receiving financial aid. If you are approved and decide to receive financial aid, make sure you only borrow what you need to graduate, this will help steer you away from incurring unnecessary additional student debt. Another factor in your cost consideration should be the length of time you expect to take to complete your degree—the longer it takes, the more it is likely to cost.

How will you learn? Some aspects of your student experience at an online university will be similar to what you would expect in a more traditional environment. You will study, write papers, complete projects, and take tests. Other aspects, such as when and where you study and how you interact with faculty and other students, are quite different. You may want to consider a competency-based program, which will allow you to study and learn on your own schedule and advance as soon as you demonstrate mastery of the subject matter.

What kind of help and support will you get? Online should not mean alone. Support from faculty and administration is key to your success as a student. Be sure that the university you choose provides a high level of faculty support and opportunities to interact with other students.

Will your degree prepare you for career advancement or graduate work? Make sure that the degree program you choose offers relevant and up-to-date curriculum to ensure that when you graduate, you will have the real-world skills employers need. Ask for information about alumni placements, employer surveys, and graduate rankings on national test scores.

Source: www.wgu.edu

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Avoid Getting Sick During Flu Season

January 3, 2017 4:30 am

When winter rolls around, it can seem like everyone around you is down with some sickness. In fact, a recent Harris Poll survey found that 42 percent of Americans believe getting sick during cold and flu season is inevitable. The same survey found 36 percent believe the workplace to be the most likely place to catch a cold or the flu, while nearly a quarter blame their sniffled on public transportation.

Below are a handful of tips from osteopathic family physician Rob Danoff, DO, on staying well all winter.

Make sure your family is vaccinated.

The flu shot may not save your life, but it very well could save someone else's, according to Dr. Danoff, who adds that children who receive the flu vaccine are far less likely to be hospitalized by the flu. The shot also helps protect those who cannot be vaccinated, as well as the elderly and those with preexisting conditions that make flu a greater threat.

Upgrade your hand washing technique.

Scrub like a doctor and you'll avoid myriad germs that the typical "wringing and rubbing" technique misses. Researchers who looked at people's freshly washed hands found that the insides of the fingers often aren't clean, Danoff noted, giving the hundreds of viruses that cause colds a safe hiding place. Also remember to scrub the backs of your hands and under the finger nails.

Eat your veggies and go to bed.

Get your vitamins from food, not a pill, and you'll reap countless protective health benefits. Better nutrition directly translates to better resilience and fewer illnesses, according to Dr. Danoff. Add 7-9 hours of daily sleep and your body is primed to battle the pathogens that proliferate when people spend more time indoors.

Get outside when the sun shines.

Decreased levels of vitamin D can weaken your immune system. Take a morning or afternoon walk to soak up the sparse rays during the winter months and you'll boost both your mood and your immunity.

Keep moving.

Adding exercise on top of a daily sunshine walk makes your immune system function more effectively. A bit of indoor cardio or strength training conditions your body to fight off illness—including the winter doldrums. Drink enough water to meet your hydration needs, which don't drop along with the temperature.

Stay social.

People have a tendency to "socially hibernate" during winter. Humans are social beings and positive interactions with friends improves mood and wards off depression, which can compromise the immune system.

Source: www.DoctorsThatDO.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Dodge Winter Lawn Damage

January 3, 2017 4:30 am

(Family Features)--Winter conditions can present a wide range of challenges to your lawn and landscape, but there are precautions you can take to protect your lawn, as well as your trees and shrubs, from seasonal harm.

Preventive steps from the lawncare experts at TruGreen can help your lawn survive the winter season’s harsh elements.

Snow Plow Damage

Install brightly-colored boundary markers along the edges of paved areas to help protect lawn and shrubs from snow plow and snow thrower blades. Lightweight wooden stakes, at least four feet tall with bright reflective tape and brightly covered fiberglass rods, serve as good markers. Avoid heavy metal, fence posts and other large objects, as they can pose a hazard to snow plow operators.

Cold Temperature Stress

More so than any other season, trees and shrubs are vulnerable to changing weather conditions during the winter. Wide temperature fluctuation and extremely low temperatures are the biggest factors of tree stress, meaning your trees are more susceptible to things like frost cracks, sunscald and winter burn.

Keep twigs and limbs from breaking under the weight of ice by carefully brushing away, whenever possible, any snow load from plants, which will reduce the weight on the limbs and decrease the damage. Placing a burlap cover around shrubs such as boxwood and yews will help reduce winter desiccation.

Proper fertilization can help keep your trees and shrubs healthy well into spring, and allow them to better tolerate winter. A service can help with tree and shrub services customized to meet your landscape’s every need, including applications to control overwintering insects, pests and mites.

Freezing Temperatures

Damage to plants, shrubs and trees as a result of sustained low temperatures can typically go undetected until spring or early summer, when plants fail to produce new growth. To help prevent damage, maintain a two- to three-inch layer of mulch to help protect the crown and roots from weather extremes.

Winter Dehydration

During the colder months of winter, plants cannot replace moisture lost from leaves and needles. This leads to “dehydration” – technically known as desiccation. To help avoid this problem, maintain proper watering late into the fall, or water during periods of winter thaw.

Ice Melt

Ice-melting agents, such as rock salt and products containing calcium and magnesium chloride, may accumulate in the soil and cause damage to plants. Use extreme care when applying ice-melting agents to prevent damage to your plants or concrete surfaces.

Source: TruGreen.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Things to Remove From Your Home When You List It

January 2, 2017 4:30 am

When listing your home, there are a lot of things to think about. How you stage your space should definitely be at the top of that list. While you may not have the means to bring in a pro stager, you can put your best foot forward by removing the following from your space.

Family photos. While these treasures may mean the world to you, personal items like this make it difficult for a potential buyer to imagine themselves in your space. Pack up these photos for the move—you'll need to do this eventually anyway, so consider it a head start.

Odors. From a musky basement to the closet where the kitty litter box is kept, odors in your home are a huge turn off. Rip up mildewed carpet, open windows, light candles--whatever you need to do to keep a buyers nose from wrinkling.

Clutter. While you may love your corners stacked high with books and your shelves piled with mementos and knick-knacks, clutter can be distracting for buyers. Pick a few key items to leave out on shelves and pack the rest away.

Non-neutral design elements. Black lights in the basement or lacy, frilly curtains in the sunroom may seem fun to you, but these bold design elements can throw a buyer. Create a neutral atmosphere wherever possible.

Junk. Clear any old, unused items from your closets, storage spaces, basement and attic. You're going to have to get rid of these items when you move anyway, so you may as well do this now so your buyer can envision their own items filling up these spaces. 

Pets. While it may not be possible to banish your furry friends while your home is for sale, you can make sure they're out of the way when a buyer is visiting. You never know what allergies or fears buyers may have, so put the animals outside or bring them over to grandmas for an hour, if possible.

Worn-out furniture. That sagging, stained couch in the basement may not be a big deal to you, but it can be an eyesore to an outsider. An empty space is better than a poorly furnished space, so adjust where needed.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Financial Resolutions for the New Year

January 2, 2017 4:30 am

When it comes to making resolutions, many Americans hope to stash away more cash. Below are several easy financial resolutions you can make to bolster your bank account.

Open a separate savings account to force yourself to build an emergency savings fund. Make it separate from your main financial institution, with no ATM card, so you will be forced to go into a branch to withdraw money.

Educate yourself. Check out some books on personal finance or subscribe to a magazine or personal finance blog.  

Pull your credit score and report. A good way to start the year is to find out exactly where you stand financially. Download your credit report (one free each year from each of the three main reporting bureaus) at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Plan ahead. Get in the habit each night of preparing for the next day: Packing lunches, prepping breakfast and dinner.  That way you will not be tempted to buy convenience food on the run, because you are rushed.

Unsubscribe. Remove the temptation of impulse buying online by unsubscribing from retail email.  This can take some time, but, ultimately, you will save time and money by not being bombarded with emails "deals", tempting you to buy.

Source: www.greenpath.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Shopping for a New Car? Game on!

December 29, 2016 4:24 am

Dreaming of a shiny new car in your driveway? Then come back down to earth and create a solid game plan. While the prospect of a new set of wheels is very exciting, it’s critical to slow down and make wise decisions—after all, a car is a big investment. Here are some tips for becoming a savvy car consumer:

1. Get your loan first, advises Consumer Reports. Even before you know what type of car you’re going to buy, do some loan comparison shopping online and find out what sort of interest rates you’re looking at—a difference of only two percentage points can add up to more than $1,000 over the life of the loan. Focus on the annual percentage rate (APR) and go for the shortest timeframe possible—you will end up paying much less for your car over four years as opposed to five.

2. Do upfront research online. According to financial expert Clark Howard, start with the annual April auto issue of Consumer Reports, which features their list of recommended cars to buy. Once you’ve decided on the cars you’re considering, search online for the dealer cost of the vehicle with the options you want. Then, says Howard, get some online price quotes and contact dealers to see if they’ll match the quote.

3. Know your “shopping style” and stick to it, says Kelley Blue Book. Many car buyers get swept away in the moment—or by an effective salesperson—and end up buying a car they didn’t have in mind. So have a clear understanding of what matters most to you in new car - such as value, image or safety - and don’t be talked out of it.

3. Time to choose: new, used or lease? There are several options available when it comes to buying a car, and thanks to the popularity of leasing, you can add certified pre-owned (CPO) to the list. According to BankRate, a CPO may offer the best of all worlds—they’re cheaper than brand-new cars, usually have some warranty left and must meet certain criteria to ensure their condition. Know the pros and cons of each option and decide what will work best for you in advance.

4. Don’t skimp on the test drive. Forget the quick spin around the block—ask the dealership if you can take the car for a few hours or maybe even for the weekend. You want to make sure you’re experiencing the car in a variety of ways (i.e., highway and street) and  in several conditions (i.e, rain, snow, nighttime). BankRate also suggest that you spend some time in the car while it’s in park—play with the seat adjustments and other controls, and survey the backseat and trunk space.

Following the above steps will help stave off buyer’s remorse and keep you happily rolling along in your new ride for years to come.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Firework Safety for the New Year

December 29, 2016 4:24 am

New Year's Eve is a wonderful time to celebrate. However, if libations flow freely on New Year's night, make sure you're not manning any fire works. Just like you wouldn't drink and drive, drinking and shooting fireworks is a huge safety hazard, resulting in many deaths and injuries every year.

Nancy Blogin, President of the National Council on Fireworks Safety notes: "Each New Year's Eve, consumers are injured because their judgment has been impaired by beer, wine, or other alcoholic drink. In the past several years, there have been reports of accidents where the person that was injured had been under the influence of alcohol and did not handle the fireworks in a responsible way.  The lesson is simple: alcohol and fireworks don't mix."

In addition, the National Council reminds shooters of consumer fireworks of these other important safety tips:

- Only use fireworks outdoors.
- Use fireworks as directed on the product label.
- Obey all local laws regarding the use of fireworks.
- Never give fireworks to young children.
- Wear safety glasses when shooting fireworks.
- Always have a bucket of water, or water hose, nearby.

Source: www.FireworksSafety.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Use a Gift Card Exchange

December 29, 2016 4:24 am

We've all received a gift card we know we'll never use. Instead of letting the card gather dust or purchasing something you don't truly want, consider using a gift card exchange network to trade that card for one you value more, or swap it for cash value.

According to Cardpool, gift card buyers and sellers interested in using exchange services can follow these tips when considering their gift card exchange options:

Look for trusted exchange providers with a gift card purchase guarantee. For example, Cardpool guarantees that gift cards purchased from its website will be valid at the merchant for the dollar amount specified on your order for up to 180 days from the date of your purchase and up to a maximum of $1,000 per customer.  Do your research before selecting your gift card exchange company. Search news coverage and online reviews including the exchange company's status with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Choose an exchange that verifies the gift card balance. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting with a site that is clear and visible.  

Understand how the buying and selling process works. Read the fine print. Check out reviews and see if former users are satisfied. Be an informed consumer and you will have a positive experience.  

Source: www.cardpool.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Walking: For Your Health and for Your Home’s Value

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

Requiring little athletic ability and virtually no cost, walking has become a popular fitness option for people of all ages. But for a growing number of Americans, walking is about much more than exercise—it’s a lifestyle choice.

Developers and agents across the country can attest to the popularity of this real estate trend and the increase in walkable neighborhoods. A rise in urban living space nationwide is in direct response to consumer demand for the ability to walk to public transportation, restaurants, stores and more.  

While according to the 2015 National Community and Transportation Preference Survey, conducted by the National Association of REALTORS® and the Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State University, millennials prefer walking over driving by 12 percentage points, walkable neighborhoods are not just for the young—retiring baby boomers are also looking for a lifestyle that puts culture and entertainment within walking distance.

According to the report ‘Foot Traffic Ahead,’ conducted by the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at George Washington University School of Business in conjunction with LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, walkable urban places are growing in all of the 20 largest metro areas in the U.S., gaining marketshare against suburban competitors for the first time in decades and garnering higher rent premiums, reports Curbed.

What makes a neighborhood walkable? According to Walk Score®, which helps people evaluate an area’s walkability when deciding where to live, walkable neighborhoods feature the following characteristics:

- A center of town, such as a main street our public space
- Enough people to allow local businesses to thrive and public transit to run frequently
- Mixed-income and mixed-use housing, including affordable housing near businesses
- Plenty of parks and public space
- A pedestrian-friendly design, i.e, buildings are close to the street while parking lots are located further back
- Schools and workplaces that are close enough for most residents to walk to from their homes
- Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians and transportation

And here they are—2016’s 10 most walkable cities, according to Walk Score:

1. New York City
2. San Francisco
3. Boston
4. Philadelphia
5. Miami
6. Chicago
7. Washington, D.C.
8. Seattle
9. Oakland
10. Long Beach

Lace up your sneakers and take a stroll in your neighborhood to get a sense of its walkability. There might be more within reach than you realized—and at the very least, your health will thank you.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-to Protect Your Mental Health

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

You protect your home, your passwords, and your finances—but how about your mental health? The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers simple tips everyone can implement to take care of their mental health.

- "Put your own oxygen mask on" before helping others: it's impossible to pour from an empty cup. 

- Recognize the difference between a false alarm and a real emergency -- anxiety is usually a false alarm. 

- Take time to develop your inner peace through meditation, mindfulness, or journaling your thoughts and feelings.

- When having a negative thought, try pairing it with a positive thought and a neutral thought. 

- Allow yourself to feel however you feel; don't try to change it or deny it.

- Schedule regular physical activities to protect against stress, reduce inflammation, improve self-image, and release feel good endorphins.

- Get outdoors when possible to help reduce stress and boost overall well-being.

- Volunteer to help others. It will give you a quick boost and an invaluable perspective of your community.

- Embrace perspectives different than your own. This will help promote positive change in the world around you and in yourself.

- Evaluate who you want to see, be with, share with and just do that. You don't have to interact with everyone.

Source: The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Have You Heard? Vinyl Is Making A Comeback

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

For many, it's a great feeling to pull out the old vinyl records and settle down in the den to enjoy those vintage sounds. But vinyl is also enjoying a popular comeback in other rooms of the house as well.

The folks at Contractor Quotes (contractorquotes.us) are handling a lot more vinyl floor installations in recent years, and are helping homeowners with advice on how to protect it from everyday wear and tear.

A recent blog on the company website points out that vinyl flooring is a great choice of material for bathrooms and kitchens because it's waterproof and extremely easy to clean. Moreover, vinyl is inexpensive, yet very attractive - providing a cushioned core which tends to be more comfortable to work on.

In addition, the blog says that vinyl plank flooring is warmer as compared to wood or tiles - and with proper cleaning and maintenance, the flooring can look great longer and its original shine and luster could last for years.

If you plan to install vinyl flooring contractorquotes.com has a few tips to consider:

- Make use of doormats. Dirt, dust and debris on shoes can cause damage to vinyl flooring. Even tiny pits of chemicals, gravel and asphalt are abrasive to vinyl and eventually will make the flooring yellow and scratched.

- Sweep the floor. Sweeping every day is one of the most effective ways to protect vinyl plank flooring.

- Clean spills immediately. Regardless of the liquid, clean it up immediately and dry the floor. Sugary drinks become more difficult to clean up as they dry, and even plain water could cause damage when left to sit for too long.

- Use vinegar for daily washing. A mild solution of apple cider vinegar is a harmless cleaning agent that can help keep vinyl flooring looking brand new. Avoid more harsh vinegars that might be tough on the floor.

- Get to know jojoba. Remove scuffs off vinyl flooring using jojoba oil and a soft cloth. As long as they are shallow surface scuffs, the jojoba oil should rub them off easily.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Why Dogs Make Us Better People

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

There’s much more to owning a dog than gaining a cuddly companion. According to one study, dogs enhance our overall well-being, providing a range of emotional, behavioral and physical benefits for their humans.

But can dogs really make us better people? Yes, say 93 percent of dog owners who responded to a survey from BarkBox. Survey findings reveal that:

- Seven in ten (71 percent) dog owners report that their pup has made them happier, with nearly four in five claiming that their dog’s greeting actually makes it easier to get out of bed!
- About half of dog owners say their pooch has made them more patient (54 percent), responsible (52 percent) or affectionate (47 percent).
- More than four in five (83 percent) say their dog has made them more active, with 72 percent reporting that their dog plays a role in their exercise decisions.
- Eighty-five percent of dog owners say that their dog has helped them through a difficult time in their life.

Given the remarkable impact dogs have on their humans, it’s no surprise that the bond between people and their pups is iron clad. According to the survey, close to nine in ten (87 percent) dog parents say they love their dog “more than they ever thought possible” and more than half (56 percent) wish their dog could understand how much they meant to them. For many, the bond even rivals the selfless love between two humans.

So give your dog an extra treat and big hug tonight – you may owe them more than you think.
Follow me for more insights into family, lifestyle and real estate trends.

Source: Bark & Company

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top Tips for Whiter, Brighter Teeth

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

When the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry asked people what they would like to improve most regarding their smile, the response was overwhelmingly similar: white teeth. Similarly, the American Association of Orthodontists found that nearly 90 percent of its patients request tooth whitening.

Dr. John Luther, Chief Dental Officer with Western Dental, offers helpful teeth whitening information and tips below:

Why do teeth change colors? Coffee, tea and red wine are three primary staining culprits. So are tobacco (tar and nicotine), aging, and certain medications (some antihistamines, antipsychotics and high blood pressure).

How does teeth whitening work? Whitening products contain either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, two tooth bleaches. They break stains into smaller pieces, making the color less concentrated and the teeth brighter and whiter.

Does whitening work on all teeth? No. Bleach works well on yellow teeth, but not as much on brown teeth. And gray tones may not bleach at all. Whitening doesn't work on caps, veneers, crowns and fillings.

Below are the top three ways to put a shine back in your smile:

Whitening Toothpastes: Western Dental recommends Opalesence as a safe toothpaste that has polishing agents to provide additional stain removal effectiveness.

In-Office Bleaching: Chairside appointments usually require only one office visit at Western Dental. A dentist will apply either a protective gel to the gums or a rubber shield to protect the gums. Bleach is then applied to the teeth. A special light or laser might be used to enhance the action of the whitening agent.

At-Home Whitening Kits: Western Dental suggests using kits that include 10 upper and lower whitening trays with a 10-percent hydrogen peroxide gel solution that are applied to each arch for an hour a day, whitening teeth up to six shades lighter. Over-the-counter whitening strips are available, but the results are not as dramatic.

Source: www.westerndental.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Millennials More Fiscally Responsible Than You Think

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

While millennials often get a bad rap when it comes to responsibility, a new report shows that this generation of 18 – 34 year olds is more on board with financial values than you may have thought.

According to the Credit Karma Millennial Report, millennials are not the irresponsible job hoppers they are often perceived as, but rather loyal employees when treated and paid fairly.  The survey of more than 1,000 millennials also revealed the following surprising facts:
Millennials are financially driven when it comes to career. Almost two-thirds of Millennials said a wage increase or promotion motivated them to change jobs, as opposed to a desire to simply try something new.

Millennials are loyal employees. Seventy percent of older, currently employed Millennials (ages 29-34) said that on average, they had stayed four years or longer at each job they've held. Among younger Millennials (ages 18 – 28), 63 percent said they anticipated working for their current employer for four or more years.

The majority of Millennials are opening credit cards and building positive credit histories early. Millennials are taking the step of opening credit cards just as generations before. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said they had at least one open credit card. Among the minority who do not have a credit card, 48 percent cited an aversion to debt as their number one reason.

The majority of young people are saving for retirement and have an emergency fund already. Of the 52 percent of Millennials saving for retirement, 89 percent started at age 28 or younger. Sadly, the survey found the majority (62 percent) aren't confident Social Security will be waiting for them and they are still reeling from the impact of the 2008 recession. In fact, 75 percent of Millennials cite the 2008 financial crisis as moderately, very or extremely influential in shaping their beliefs about personal finance management.

Student loans aren't holding them back. While it's true that this generation is drowning in student loan debt, it isn't holding them back. Less than 20 percent of Millennials surveyed who do not have any open credit cards cited their student debt load as impacting their decision to take out credit. Just 4 percent said that student loans were holding them back from owning a home, making them prime candidates to soon enter the real estate market.

Source: Credit Karma

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What Americans Hope to Do With Their Money in 2017

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

Money is often on the mind of many of us, from daily uses (to latte, or not to latte?) to big ticket spending items and the management of debt. To find out what people hope to do to improve their finances come 2017, GOBankingRates.com asked 3,000 adults to name their top financial resolution for the upcoming year. Below were the options:

- Create a budget and stick to it
- Build an emergency fund
- Improve my credit score
- Save more, spend less
- Increase my income
- Pay down debt
- Save more for retirement
- Have more spending freedom
- Make a large purchase (home, car, etc.)

The most popular choice, hands down, was “save more, spend less.” While what people are saving up for may vary, the fact that they wish they were saving more does not waver. Here's to hoping for big savings in the new year!

Source: GoBankingRates.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Procrastination: It’s a Good Thing

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

Were you the kid in school who waited until the last minute to cram for a test or bang out an essay? Are you still pushing off the inevitable as an adult, whether it’s a work deadline, your taxes or a necessary home repair? If so, you’ve probably been shamed with the label of procrastinator. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

According to Psychology Today magazine, highly productive people tend to procrastinate in ways that actually increase their productivity. For example, one thing procrastinators tend to do is take care of small tasks in order to avoid attacking the larger task at hand. While this may seem counterproductive on the surface, you’re actually getting things done and thereby clearing the mental space needed to tackle your big job.

Another classic procrastination tactic is diverting your attention by chatting with a friend or colleague, or surfing the net. But this may be exactly the type of activity your brain needs to get jump-started or inspired to move on to your project. A good laugh, an interesting blog or video, or a few words of inspiration will help you relax and potentially spark a creative idea that sets you in motion.

Procrastination may also be the smartest choice when we’re confronted with making a big decision. According to “Wait: The Art and Science of Delay,” author Frank Partnoy advocates that we wait as long as possible when faced with making a decision—up until the last possible minute, in fact.  In an article in Smithsonian Magazine, Partnoy says, “People are more successful and happier when they manage delay. Procrastination is just a universal state of being for humans. We will always have more things to do than we can possibly do, so we will always be imposing some sort of unwarranted delay on some tasks. The question is not whether we are procrastinating, it is whether we are procrastinating well.”

How does one “procrastinate well?” Here are some tips for effectively pushing things off:

Get outside. Take a quick walk, have lunch at the beach or read a magazine in the park. Fresh air will reset and relax the mind.
Phone a friend. You probably owe your best friend or your mother a call. Take a few minutes to invest in a relationship.
Get inspired. Scroll through some favorite quotes or watch a YouTube video of someone you admire.
Keep busy. A body in motion stays in motion, so do small tasks while you’re procrastinating. Vegging out on the sofa can be a dead-end street.
Take a nap. Sometimes, however, we’re just plain tired. So take a 20-minute power nap and wake up with a fresh set of eyes.

Stay tuned for more tips on productivity, life at home and real estate trends.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Keep Those Healthy New Year's Resolutions

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

Whether it's going to the gym, eating more veggies or quitting smoking, many of us make health resolutions at the beginning of the year. But as the year rolls forward, those well-intended resolutions can fall by the wayside. Below are a few tips from USA Medical for keeping up with your health goals, in the new year and beyond. 

Define clear goals. Author and behavioral psychologist, Dr. Paul Marciano specializes in behavior modification and motivation.  In an interview for Forbes, he suggests setting "SMART" goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.  If you're trying to lose weight, for instance, specify the number of pounds you would like to lose, and by when.

Be realistic. How many changes can you actually make?  On WebMD, psychologist at the University of Guelph in Canada, Dr. Ian Newby-Clark explains that multiple resolutions often fail because we have limited amounts of willpower.  Most resolutions require more than one simple behavior change.

Use calendars and reminders. Set alarms to remind yourself to work towards your goals.  Keep progress reports and set check points to see if you're on pace.  Think in increments.  Instead of trying to cut all sugar intake immediately, consider drinking one less can of soda a week.  Smaller tasks seem more manageable.  

SOURCE: USA Medical

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What to Do With Your Holiday Tree

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

After Christmas has passed and the presents have been opened, many wonder what to do with their holiday tree. Luckily, many counties have services to dispose of or recycle your old tree. Below is a breakdown.

Curbside pick-up. Many cities and counties schedule a curb-side tree pickup around two weeks after christmas. Typically these trees are then turned into mulch, but feel free to call your city planning office and inquire. Before you drag your tree to the curb, be sure to remove any and all decorations.  

Non-profits. There may be non-profits in your area that will pick up your old tree for a small fee. Call around to find the best option.  

Drop off. Many stores and centers take old trees at no charge. Many Home Depot locations take drop offs. Call around to find the best fit.    

Whether you're dropping off or having your tree scooped up, there are some thing you must do to prep.

1. Remove all decorations. This means ornaments, tinsel, lights, and tree stands.

2. Trim it down. Many pick-up services require trees cut into four feet lengths. Call your service in advance to find out.

3. Make sure it's out of the way. If you're having a curb-side pickup, make sure your tree is out of the way of the road and sidewalk.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Save Electricity When You're Away

December 20, 2016 4:39 am

When planning to leave your home for vacation, there's a lot to think about: finding someone to feed the cats, holding your mail at the post office, packing your bags, and more. But how about lowering your electric bills when you're out of town?  The following 5 tips courtesy of Duke Energy can help shave dollars off your bill. Keep in mind that savings will vary depending on the length of your trip, your home size, your home's insulation and your  heating system.

1. If you have a programmable thermostat, use the "vacation" mode. If you have a manual unit, adjusting your thermostat just a few degrees cooler will have a significant impact. A change of just three degrees for 24 hours a day can save 30 percent on your heating costs. Also, set the fan to "auto," not "on." Leaving the fan on all the time costs up to $25 a month. If the forecast is for mild weather, consider turning the system off completely.

2. Turn off your electric water heater at your breaker if you plan to leave home for a few days. Most models will reheat the water to the set temperature in about an hour. A large amount of the cost of running a water heater is due to the "standby" losses. Water heaters are among the top three energy using appliances in your home.

3. Most of us empty our refrigerators before heading out of town, but did you know a fully stocked refrigerator keeps cold better than an empty one? Keep the fridge and freezer full and tightly packed, and the cold items will keep one another cold. It doesn't even have to be food; you can use water containers or ice trays. Conserve even more energy by adjusting the thermostats on your refrigerator and freezer to higher settings; 38°F for the refrigerator and 5°F for the freezer. For trips lasting four weeks or more, consider emptying your refrigerator completely and unplugging it.

4. Unplug small electrical equipment such as radios, DVD players or TVs when not in use. Electronic appliances can act like energy vampires, sucking power even when they are not in use. This is called phantom loads. Your coffee maker, cable box, game console, laptop computer and even your rechargeable toothbrushes are a few examples of these phantom power users.  

5. Make sure fans and lights are turned off. For security lights, consider using a timer. And, switch bulbs to LEDs or CFLs to save even more.Source: duke-energy.com/save

Published with permission from RISMedia.


An Easy Guide for Year-End Financial Planning

December 20, 2016 4:39 am

With your eyes on the new year, it can be easy to make fresh resolutions and forget to pay mind to your spending habits from the year past. Considering that an estimated one in three Americans will make a New Year’s resolution related to their finances, it's important to do a little end-of-year financial planning. Below are 5 tips offered by Fifth Third Bancorp.

1. Reduce taxable income 

In order to offset taxable income, the most important strategy for investors to consider is tax-loss selling and taking advantage of underwater securities.

“Selling stocks, bonds or mutual funds that have lost value should be a priority this time of year,” says Jeff Korzenik, chief investment strategist for Fifth Third. “When done in conjunction with rebalancing a portfolio, investors can minimize the tax consequences and impact.”

Additionally, Korzenik suggests taking interest rates into account throughout the planning process. Gradual interest rate increases are being monitored for next year, which are typically associated with the latter half of an economic expansion. With this in mind, investors should expect lower returns from the bonds portion of a portfolio and be more selective in their equity investments as they plan for next year.

2. Maximize investment opportunities

To wrap up 2016, Melissa Register, senior wealth planner for Fifth Third Private Bank, recommends being selective in investment decisions. By working with a wealth management advisor, you can ensure that your allocation aligns with your goals and time horizon for both your taxable and tax-deferred accounts. From this checkpoint, you can identify necessary adjustments.

“Investors can plan ahead by rebalancing portfolios and diversifying their investments before the close of the year,” said Register. “There are significant growth opportunities for 2017 in alternative investments and selective international exposure.”

3. Plan for charitable giving during the holidays 

When it comes to charitable giving, Glen Johnson, managing director of Mirador Family Wealth Advisors, suggests engaging family members in the decision-making process.

“More than half of charitable giving is done in one month of the entire year: December,” said Johnson. “Holiday gatherings are an opportune time for families to set joint year-end goals and develop a strategy for allocating philanthropic donations in 2017.”

Johnson also suggests using assets that have appreciated in value as gifts for charitable donations to avoid capital gains. “People often don’t think about real estate, collectibles or art as potential gifts, which could ultimately fund a new program or service for a charity,” said Johnson.

Source: www.53.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Save Money on That New Vehicle

December 20, 2016 4:39 am

On the wishlist for many of us is a shiny new car. However, three out of four U.S. consumers believe that new vehicles are unaffordable. This is not necessarily true. Below are four money-saving tips that can help you snag that new vehicle, courtesy of Requisite Press.

Obtain preapproved financing. Financing costs can add thousands of dollars to a vehicle purchase. Car buyers can ensure a competitive financing environment and avoid unnecessary costs by obtaining a preapproved loan from their bank or credit union.

Sell a trade-in separately. When a purchase is combined with a trade-in, a seemingly great price quote may be offset by a mediocre trade-in offer. Separating the transactions ensures that the price quote can be easily compared to quotes from competing dealers.

Avoid add-ons. Add-ons, such as a vehicle service contract, are costly and rarely make financial sense. Consumers are better served by using savings to pay for both planned and unplanned maintenance.

Obtain a market price. There are internet prices, "fair" prices, and better than the neighbor's price prices—all higher than the market price. The best price—a market price—is obtained through robust competition. This can be efficiently achieved with negotiation-free car buying.

Source: http://www.requisitepress.com/ABAI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Will Renters Pay More For An Energy Efficient Pad?

December 15, 2016 12:36 am

You might think that renters across the U.S. would be most concerned about making their monthly rent payments. But we were surprised to learn that more of today's renters are worried about their utility bills than their rent.

The latest Freddie Mac research shows more renters are worried about rising utility bills than rising rents, and nearly half of the renters surveyed say they are willing to pay more for rentals with cost-saving water and energy features.

A large majority (88 percent) agreed multifamily properties with green energy, and water-saving features would help reduce their utility bills, with 84 percent saying green properties are generally better places to live.
Nearly half (47 percent) say they are willing to pay more for an environmentally-friendly rental. Renters in the South (52 percent) and West (49 percent) were more likely to say they would pay more than those in the Midwest (39 percent) or Northeast (44 percent).

David Brickman, executive vice president and head of Freddie Mac's Multifamily business says it is striking that so many are apparently willing to pay more for properties with features they believe will reduce their utility bills.

Other significant findings from Freddie Mac's new research show:
  • Most renters say the rental experience is satisfying and affordable.
  • More than half expect to rent their new home.
  • Down Payments are ranked below other savings goals.
  • Concern about household finances is rising.
By generation, Gen-Xers' showed the biggest increase in concern about household financial situations over the past year (53 percent to 70 percent), followed by Millennials (64 percent to 68 percent) and Baby Boomers (61 percent to 62 percent).

Overall, the percentage of renters who say they have enough money to go beyond each payday fell from 41 percent to 34 percent over the past year. The percentage of renters who say they either live payday to payday, or don't have enough for basics between paychecks, rose from 59 percent to 66 percent.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


A Holiday Lesson in Light Safety

December 15, 2016 12:36 am

Nothing is more festive than a home ablaze with holiday lights. However,  it's important to remember that your favorite holiday décor could pose serious hazards, like fire or electrical injury. To avoid this, make sure you take the proper precautions.

- Use good quality light sets. A good quality light set should be sturdy with a minimum of 22 gauge (awg) wiring, no loose connectors, and have fuses at the plug to protect against overheating.

- Test your lights and check cords for damage. It's always a good idea to plug in your lights before you hang them to look for bad bulbs and frayed cords.

- Use lights, extension cords and surge protectors that are specifically rated for outdoor use when hanging lights outdoors. You'll know they are outdoor-approved by clearly marked labels and tags.

- Limit the length of your light strings. Many holiday light manufacturers advise connecting no more than three strings of incandescent lights together. LED light sets can be longer, but it's important to avoid running extension cords, wires or strings of lights across driveways, sidewalks, stairs, or anywhere they could present a tripping hazard.

- Take proper safety precautions when using a ladder to string lights. Safe ladder usage means setting the ladder on stable ground and about one foot away from the wall for every four feet the ladder reaches up.

- Use a timer to ensure that your lights and other decorations are only lit between sundown and bedtime. This will help illuminated décor from overheating.

Source: www.mistersparky.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Financial Well-Being May Be Best Gift This Season

December 14, 2016 12:36 am

While gifting loved ones with holiday cash or gift cards has been a long-standing option, retailers are offering new ways this season give your favorite people some financial well-being instead of the latest toys, fads or fashions.

Among them, according to Sarah Skidmore Sell at the Associated Press, is Stockpile, a company whose gift cards can be redeemed for stock, which is rolling out its products to more than 14,000 stores this holiday season.

Sold at popular retail chains like Target, Kroger, and Safeway, the gift cards may be purchased for a dollar amount of stock rather than the price for a share – and purchases can be in any amount.

Gift of College, which gives people another way to contribute to college savings plans or pay down student loans, began selling its gift cards at Toys R Us and Babies R Us nationally this month.

All 529 college savings plans grow tax-free, and withdrawals for educational expenses are also untaxed. The giver may get also a tax break, as 34 states and the District of Columbia offer either a state income tax deduction or tax credits for such contributions.

Since the average debt at graduation with a bachelor’s degree was more than $35,000 last year, Gift of College gift cards are becoming so popular that some employers are offering them as holiday bonus gifts for their workers, Sell said.

Financial gifts, whether in the form of cash or gift cards, may have tax implications, so it may be advisable to check with a financial advisor if your gift will be substantial. But in most cases, gifts of cash or any of these new gift card options offer a unique opportunity to send love and best wishes in a way that may help recipients develop an interest in thrift and/or in future investing.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Protecting Your Home against Wicked Weather

December 14, 2016 12:36 am

While the east coast recently suffered through Hurricane Matthew, severe weather can strike anywhere, anytime. The Massachusetts-based Hanover Insurance Group recently shared these tips to help homeowners protect both their families and their properties during a storm.

Know what's in your home. A home inventory is often overlooked. An industry poll indicated homeowners' insurance claims are processed nearly twice as fast if home inventories are completed in advance.

Gather supplies. It is always a good idea to create an emergency supplies kit. Consider including items such as flashlights, batteries, medicines, a first aid kit, cash, a battery-powered radio, and a week's worth of water and nonperishable food for the household.

Prepare your house. Make any necessary repairs to loose boards, shingles, downspouts or other items that can pose problems in high winds and torrential rain. Move any unsecured items indoors, including grills, toys, planters and lawn furniture. Trim or remove any decaying and damaged tree branches.

Have a plan. Learn the local evacuation routes and make note of where local shelters are located. Have key telephone numbers on hand, such as family, friends, fire and police departments, and your insurance agent.

Stay informed. Sign up for alerts if possible. Many towns offer weather alerts to help inform residents of ways to stay safe.

Check your insurance protection. An independent insurance agent can help ensure comprehensive coverages are in place. Some good questions to consider include:
  • Are current rebuilding costs covered?
  • Should separate flood insurance be considered?
  • Are there any gaps in coverage?
​Source: The Hanover Insurance Group, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Holiday Tips for Alzheimer's Families

December 14, 2016 12:36 am

While the holidays are often a joyous time for celebrating with friends and families, for families living with Alzheimer's, celebrations can be a bit of a challenge. Read on for tips on helping your family have the best holiday season possible.

Talk to friends and family before they arrive
Explain that your loved one with dementia may have trouble following conversation or tend to repeat him or herself.  Everyone can help by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving the person time to finish his or her thoughts. Help visitors understand that in the middle or late stages of Alzheimer's, there may be significant changes in cognitive abilities since the last time an out-of-town friend or relative has visited. 

Adjust expectations
The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. Make sure everyone understands your caregiving situation and has realistic expectations about what you can do. Be honest about any limitations or needs, such as keeping a daily routine.

Involve the person with dementia
Focus on activities that are meaningful to the person with dementia. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs or looking through old photo albums. As the person's abilities allow, invite him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table.

When the person lives in a care facility
Consider joining your loved one in any facility-planned holiday activities. Bring a favorite holiday food to share, sing holiday songs and ask if other residents can join in or read a favorite holiday story or poem out loud.

Source: www.alz.org/nyc

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Make Your Home Just a Little Smarter

December 12, 2016 4:30 am

According to a 2016 HomeAdvisor research report, Americans spent on average $564 - $2,260 to install a home automation system, with prices ranging as high as $15,000 to install a hard-wired system. While outfitting your home with a full suite of smart home technology can be pricey and intimidating, there are some smaller ways you can start to incorporate this all-the-rage trend into your abode.

Smart home automation deals with syncing household devices and systems with schedules or responsive sensors, says HomeAdvisor, which means that smart home technology is dependent upon  smartphone apps and wireless internet routers. The goal is to save on costs, and add convenience and security throughout your home.

A good place to start is with your thermostat. A variety of smart thermostats are available, allowing you to automate and control your home’s temperature from your smartphone. Some, like Nest, learn your habits throughout the day and set the temperature accordingly.

You might also want to consider a smart television. An evolution of the Roku and Apple TV external devices, smart televisions have integrated everything you could ever want right into your set - Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO Go, Pandora, network TV, gaming and much more.

Another great feature to consider is smart shades or blinds. These programmable, remote-controlled window coverings allow you to schedule open-and-close times in conjunction with the room’s exposure, putting you in control of energy saving and setting the mood.

Speaking of setting the mood, a whole host of smart light dimmers give you the option to control the lights in your home from your smartphone. This is an especially useful security feature while you’re away from your home for extended periods of time.

Another great security option is smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors—this technology alerts you to not only what the problem is but within which part of your home it’s happening.

While the smart home technology options are endless and fascinating, keep in mind that they are internet dependent, so if your home goes offline, so will your devices.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Personal Finance 101: What is a Fiduciary?

December 12, 2016 4:30 am

Those looking into hiring a finance advisor may have heard the term “fiduciary” thrown around. But what is a fiduciary, and do you need one?

"Consumers are hearing the term 'fiduciary' more often, but increased awareness doesn't necessarily equal increased understanding," explains  National Association of Personal Financial Advisors CEO Geoffrey Brown.

What is a fiduciary? A fiduciary is a professional entrusted to manage assets or wealth while putting the client's best interests first at all times. Financial advisors who follow a fiduciary standard must disclose any conflict, or potential conflict, to their clients prior to and throughout the advisory engagement. Fiduciaries will also adopt a code of ethics and will fully disclose how they are compensated.

Non-fiduciary financial professionals can recommend investments with higher fees, riskier features and lower returns because they earn more money for the advisor, even if those investments are not the best choice for their clients.

Who is a fiduciary? Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) are held to a fiduciary standard of care. By law, they must act solely in the best interest of their clients. To ensure your advisor or a potential advisor is following a fiduciary standard, request to see the advisor's ADV (a form filed with the SEC) or ask if they will sign a Fiduciary Oath.

How can you find a fiduciary? Accountability is important in financial planning. While there are many people in the financial industry who profess to have the client's best interests at heart, they still may have conflicts that impact their recommendations. It's important for consumers to ask the right questions of any potential advisors.  

Source: http://www.napfa.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Keep Your Pipes From Freezing

December 12, 2016 4:30 am

Winter means toasty fires, steaming cups of hot cocoa and—for many—frozen pipes. Frozen pipes can lead to major damage, so it's important to keep them protected when cold air hits.  

Gary Eisenhauer, a manager at The Sunny Plumber in Las Vegas, recommends a few tips for protecting your pipes as the weather turns cold.  

- When an overnight freeze is expected, slowly run one or two faucets to keep water moving through the lines.

- Outdoor hoses and their connection to water sources are particularly vulnerable to freezing weather. Eisenhauer advises consumers to unscrew hoses from the outdoor facet to allow for drainage and keep outside hose bibs open to allow water to drain.

- All outside pipes and hose spigots should be insulated, this is easy to do with the purchase of an installation kit from your local hardware store.

- Pipes running against exterior walls, like those in kitchens, are often subject to freezing and typically have little to no insulation. Keep cabinets under kitchen and bathrooms sinks open to allow for warm air flow to prevent freezing.

- Pipes in unheated areas like basements, attics and near garages are also susceptible to damage from cold. Take special care to insulate these areas.

- Heat tape is a great product to insulate water pipe. These "pipe sleeves" could be as simple as newspaper wrapped around pipes to keep them warm and insulated.

- During cold spells, Eisenhauer recommends keeping your thermostat set at the same temperature during the night and day – this helps regulate temperatures and prevent unwanted expansion.Source: thesunnyplumber.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Pay Less at the Gas Pump

December 9, 2016 4:24 am

While gas prices dropped to a 12-year low this past July and are expected to remain favorable, it’s always a smart idea to be prudent when it comes to fuel usage – both for your wallet and the environment. Here’s some great advice from the U.S. Department of Energy, on saving money at the pump.

Turn your engine off when you’re parked for more than 10 seconds. Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size, adding up to $.03 cents* of wasted fuel a minute.

Calm down behind wheel. Aggressive driving – i.e., speeding, hard braking, rapid acceleration -  can lower your highway gas mileage by up to 33 percent and your city mileage by 5 percent.

Watch your speed. Every five miles per hour above 50 miles per hour, equates to an additional $.19 cents per gallon of gasoline. 

Stow items inside the car as opposed to the roof rack. This reduces “drag,” which can decrease your fuel economy by up to 8 percent in city driving and up to 25 percent at Interstate speeds. 

That said, avoid keeping heavy items in your car; an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could increase your gas costs by up to $.03 cents per gallon.

Run all your errands at once since stopping and starting cold can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.

Drive less. Of course telecommuting, carpooling, and public transportation are the ultimate ways to save on fuel costs. Try walking or biking and you can tick off the exercise box, too.

*All cost estimates assume an average price of $2.69 per gallon.

Source: fueleconomy.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips for Easy Holiday Shipping

December 9, 2016 4:24 am

(Family Features)--It's the most wonderful time of the year, and holiday gift-giving and receiving is at the top of everyone's to-do list. There are several simple steps you can take to make those deliveries a little easier.

1. Pack like a pro (or rely on one). Be sure your packages arrive intact by using the proper materials. Use sturdy, corrugated boxes as well as foam packaging peanuts and bubble cushioning to protect your gifts. Allow at least 2 inches on all sides of the items being packed, including the top and bottom.  

2. Secure delivery locations. If you're expecting deliveries of online purchases or gifts, you may hesitate to leave the house and enjoy holiday outings and family activities. Some companies allow you to redirect packages to a neighbor or a nearby business so you can rest assured your packages are in good hands.

3. Ask for a guarantee. After spending precious time selecting each gift, you need assurance and peace of mind that your efforts won't be for naught. For example, The UPS Store offers the Pack and Ship Guarantee, a service that covers lost or damaged items. Some providers even offer coverage for the cost of packing materials, service and shipping.

4. Use tracking tools. The holiday season is no time to wonder when or if your package will arrive. Using a trackable delivery service helps ensure you can monitor your package's progress and receive an alert when it is successfully delivered.

5. Ensure gifts arrive before Santa. Timing is key when it comes to holiday shipping. Mark the calendar with these shipping deadlines so all gifts arrive just in time.

Source:  theupsstore.com 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

December 9, 2016 4:24 am

As winter weather blows in, many of us are thinking about the holidays. But with temperature drops and inclement conditions involving snow and ice, it's important to pay attention to your car to ensure your safety all season long. Routine maintenance, changing tires and fluids, and traveling with an emergency kit can help drivers avoid weather-related issues.

Below are six tips to prepare for the winter season, courtesy of YourMechanic.

Store an emergency kit in your car that includes a first-aid kit, flashlight, batteries, jumper cables, food, water, flares, warm clothing, blankets, tools, and any other items that may help if your vehicle breaks down or you are at risk of being stranded.

Check your engine coolant to ensure it is able to withstand the coldest sustained temperature in your region. Consider scheduling a cooling system flush to keep the vehicle in top condition.

Inspect the windshield washer system. Make sure wiper blades are working and regular washer fluid has been replaced with winter washer fluid, which has antifreeze properties. Replace old wiper blades before winter and keep an ice scraper in your vehicle.

Perform routine maintenance including regular oil and filter changes. Extreme cold weather, below -25°F, may require a different blend of motor oil for your vehicle.

Consider winter tires if your vehicle will be driven in a region with three or more months of snow annually. The tread on winter tires provides enhanced traction. All-season or summer tires lose effectiveness below 45°F.

Test your battery. A weak battery may have difficulty starting because reserve energy levels drop when temperatures plummet.  At 0°F, a car battery can lose about 60 percent of its strength, and at 32°F the battery can lose 35 percent of its strength.

Source: http://www.yourmechanic.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Med-free Ways to Conquer Insomnia

December 7, 2016 4:24 am

Whether it’s due to stress, health issues or simply age-related, insomnia is sheer misery. Poor sleep can wreak havoc on our productivity and relationships, both at work and at home. Chronic fatigue is also dangerous, contributing to a host of illnesses and making it unsafe to drive or perform certain tasks.

But are over-the-counter or prescribed sleeping medications the only answer? For some, there may be no choice, but for many, there are several great, drug-free ways to induce better sleep. Give the following a try before turning to pharmaceuticals.

Read. Find a book that really grabs your interest, and make reading your nightly before-bed ritual. Reading relaxes the mind, whereas screens of any kind – TV, phone, tablet – stimulate your brain and make falling asleep even more difficult. If you wake in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep, instead of endlessly turning and tossing, start reading again. A good story will divert your mind from anxious, middle-of-the-night thoughts, and before you know it, you’ll be slipping back into sound slumber.

Meditate. For anxiety-induced insomnia, meditation can be life-saving. The goal of meditation is to relieve your mind of all thoughts and simply focus on the power of deep breathing. Don’t be discouraged if you find this almost impossible to do—meditation is an acquired skill and the mere act of just trying, starts relieving your mind of stress. Try a popular meditation app, such as Deepak Chopra’s Ananda, which allows you to choose you meditation, music and the duration. A simple 10-minutes worth can provide tremendous benefits.

Do Some Yoga. While certain yoga poses get the blood flowing and leave you invigorated, other poses are geared toward relaxation and will help you wind down, such as Locust pose and Legs up the Wall. According to mindbodygreen.com, these restorative poses activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to counteract stress and promote relaxation. Such poses are for beginners and pros alike and can even be done right in bed!

Try Some Tea. Often underrated, natural night-time teas can work wonders. You can also brew a cup if you wake up in the middle of the night, since they are always caffeine-free. There are many on the market, but look for ingredients such as chamomile, valerian, lavender and lemon balm. You can also grow your own lemon balm and add a little to your dinner.

If all else fails, please do see your doctor. A good night’s sleep should be priority-one for all.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Make Safety a Priority This Holiday Season

December 7, 2016 4:24 am

Your ideal holiday likely does not involve a trip to the emergency. Unfortunately, approximately 15,000 people are seriously injured and visit the emergency room during the holiday season. Between stringing lights on tall trees, enjoying fires inside and shoveling snowy drives, there are numerous ways to forget your own safety.

Below are a few holiday safety tips, courtesy of the National Safety Council.

- Never use lighted candles near trees or boughs

- Use a ladder or step stool to decorate high places

- Keep poisonous plants such as poinsettias out of reach of animals and children

- Check holiday lights for fraying, bare spots, gaps in insulation or excessive kinking in the wire

- Turn off all tree lights and decorations when not in use

- When cooking, wash hands, sink, utensils and anything else that touches raw meat

- Immediately refrigerate leftovers, and reheat food to at least 165 degrees

- If you are hosting a party and serving alcohol, make sure everyone has a safe ride home. Impairment begins with the first drink.

- Avoid giving children gifts with small parts or button batteries, which are easily swallowed and can be fatal.

Source: nsc.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Parents: Five Tips to Avoid Toy-Related Eye Injuries

December 7, 2016 4:24 am

While it can be tempting to give your kid that gift they've been begging for, be sure to do your due diligence to make sure that product is safe. A number of recent studies have shown that some popular toy types are commonly associated with childhood eye injuries. These include air guns and other toys that shoot projectiles, high-powered lasers, and sports equipment.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers the following toy safety tips.

- Beware of airsoft, BB guns, and other projectile toys. Every year ophthalmologists treat thousands of patients with devastating eye injuries caused by seemingly safe toys. Avoid items with sharp, protruding or projectile parts such as airsoft guns, BB guns and other nonpowder gun–related toys. Foreign objects can easily propel into the sensitive tissue of the eye.

- Never allow children to play with high-powered laser pointers.  A number of recent reports in the United States and internationally show that children have sustained serious eye injuries by playing with high-powered lasers (between 1500 and 6000 milliwatts). Over the years, these lasers have become increasingly more powerful, with enough potential to cause severe retinal damage, with just seconds of laser exposure to the eye. The FDA advises the public to never aim or shine a laser pointer at anyone and to not buy laser pointers for children.

- Read labels for age recommendations before you buy. To select appropriate gifts suited for a child's age, look for and follow the age recommendations and instructions about proper assembly, use, and supervision.

- Don't just give presents. Make sure to be present. Always make sure an adult is supervising when children are playing with potentially hazardous toys or games that could cause an eye injury.

- Know what to do (and what not to). If someone you know experiences an eye injury, seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist. As you wait for medical help, make sure to never to touch, rub, apply pressure, or try to remove any object stuck in the eye. If an eye injury occurs follow these important care and treatment guidelines.

Source: www.aao.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Reasons Why You Should Open a Health Savings Account

December 6, 2016 4:18 am

Many reports in recent years place medical expenses as the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy in America – even for those who have health insurance. No matter what your insurance status may be, there’s no denying that medical costs are expensive.

One way to ease the burden is by opening a pre-tax Health Savings Account (HSA). While you should check with your employer or financial advisor, here are some reasons why an HSA may be a good idea, according to Optum Bank.

1. HSA contributions are tax deductible. This means you are actually receiving discounts on health care expenses. For example, if you receive a dentist bill for $400, when you pay with your HSA, you are saving between $100 and $140 dollars based on your tax rate.

2. Your HSA money is yours to keep. Any money deposited into your HSA, either by you or your employer, is yours to keep, with no deadline for spending the money. According to Optum, this makes an HSA a great way to save for retirement – any money you keep in your account will earn interest.

3. An HSA gives you a cushion for the unexpected. You never know when a big medical expense will hit, so having a cushion in your HSA account is extremely helpful. You can also reimburse yourself from your HSA account when you pay for medical expenses out of pocket.

4. You can use your HSA for anyone in your family. You can use your HSA to pay for the qualified medical expenses of anyone you claim on your taxes, even if you're only enrolled with single coverage.

5. Your HSA can be used for many drugstore items. You can use your HSA card to pay for many common items that tend to really add up, such as over-the-counter cold medicines, pain relievers, allergy medicines, first-aid items, etc.

A small, pre-tax contribution to your HSA every month can help you meet deductibles and provide some often needed peace of mind in today’s economic climate.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Make the Holidays Safe and Bright

December 6, 2016 4:18 am

The holidays are a time of friends and family. Unfortunately, they can also be a time of fire. Between 2009 and 2013 fire departments responded to over 1,000 home structure fires in the United States due to holiday decorations and/or Christmas trees, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The following eight tips can help ensure safety during the holiday season:

- Install smoke detectors on every level of the home, making sure at least one is located outside the sleeping area.

- Use holiday lights that are approved by a nationally recognized testing organization, such as Underwriter's Laboratory (UL). Only use indoor lights indoors and outdoor lights outside.

- Before hanging any lights, inspect them for frayed wires, broken sockets or other signs of wear. Test each light string and discard damaged sets.

- Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord. Place extension cords against the wall to avoid tripping hazards. Do not run cords under rugs, around furniture legs or across doorways.

- Keep electrical connections off the ground and make sure they are clear of downspouts, railings, aluminum siding, standing water and snow.

- Never leave lights on trees and decorations unattended. Turn them off before you go to bed or leave the home. Consider using a timer.

- If you use an artificial tree choose one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant.

- If using a real tree, lessen the fire hazard by making sure it stays fresh. Cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood and insert the base into a stand that holds water. Keep the stand filled with water. Keep the tree away from heat sources such a furnaces and heat registers, fireplaces, and space heaters.

Source: www.ConsumersEnergy.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Ways to Get Resourceful with Gift Wrapping

December 6, 2016 4:18 am

(Family Features)--After spending hours searching for the perfect gift, it's only fitting that the wrapping is just as special as the gift itself. Luckily, elaborate wrapping doesn't have to be pricey – you can easily find ways to perfect and personalize your gift with what you have left over from last year and everyday items around the house.

1. Use what's around you. You don't have to buy fancy, expensive wrapping paper to make a gift special. Use household items like newspapers, paper bags and even magazines for unconventionally wrapped gifts that still give off a wow-factor. If you have extra bakers twine, use it to create a shabby-chic bow and adorn the present with a small sprig from your Christmas tree. These household items can give gifts a handmade and homey touch that friends and family will love.

2. Don't let anything go to waste. Get the most out of gift wrapping by using every last bit of your supplies. If you're at the end of two rolls of different wrapping paper, use the scraps to create a perfectly mismatched present by covering 2/3 of the gift with one paper and the remainder with the other. Use Scotch GiftWrap Tape where both papers meet to create a seam that blends flawlessly into the wrapping paper and top with a bow. If you have leftover birthday paper, using it for a holiday gift is no problem. Flip the paper inside out to use the white side, then simply adorn the gift with decorative tapes to add pizazz, texture and dimension.

3. Accessorize and personalize. Embellish your present with personal touches and accessories to make it stand out. There's no need to go out and buy fancy bows and ribbons when you can turn everyday items into personalized decorations directly related to the gift itself – like decorating with crayons if you're giving a coloring book. For quick, DIY monogramming you can do at home, simply use stencils to cut out the letters of your recipient's name and tape them directly onto the box. If you're worried about choosing the perfect card, save your money and easily create your own out of cardstock or construction paper for a special touch and personalized message. Whichever way you choose, the time and care you put into personalizing your gift will not go unnoticed.

Source: ScotchBrand.com. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Be Wary of Winter Scam Artists

December 2, 2016 4:15 am

While the holidays are a time of joy and togetherness, they are also a time when scam artists prey on unsuspecting consumers. ScamAwareness.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about financial fraud, is warning consumers to watch out for three scams that typically increase during the holidays. 

Internet Purchase Scam 
The internet purchase scam is consistently the top fraud complaint reported by U.S. consumers each year. According to the National Retail Federation, this holiday season customers are expected to spend an estimated $117 billion online. These shoppers are prime targets for scam artists offering merchandise, gift cards and even pets at a steep discount. Many of these offers look too good to be true, and they usually are. Consumers should never wire money for an online purchase. A money transfer is the same as cash and once it is received it cannot be recovered.

Fake Charity 
American charities receive one-third of their annual donations during the holiday season. Scammers take advantage of this outpouring of goodwill by creating new charities or misusing the name and brand of a well-known charity to get donations sent directly to them. Before donating, consumers should verify that the charity and its web address are legitimate. When sending the money, use a check or credit card instead of a wire transfer or cash for donations.

Holiday Employment 
Holiday employment scams have many different twists. Some scammers target people looking to earn extra money by offering a person a job that involves spending money up front for "training" or a "start-up kit" that the victim never receives. Other fraudsters may send a fake check to a "new hire" and ask them to cash it, keep some of the money as payment, and then wire what's left back to them. The victims in both of these situations end up losing their money and a job they thought they had. Consumers should be aware that no legitimate company will ask them to pay money in order to earn money.

"Consumers should never send money to someone they really don't know. While they are enjoying their holidays, fraudsters are hard at work plotting to take their money," says Juan Agualimpia, executive vice president of ScamAwareness.org. "Our organization works year-round to help spread the word about common scams and we hope that all consumers will use ScamAwareness.org as a resource this holiday season to learn how to spot scams and protect themselves and their family members."  

Consumers who think they've been scammed should contact their local police immediately.

Source: scamawareness.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips for Handling the Holidays after a Divorce

December 2, 2016 4:15 am

There is no easy time to go through a divorce, but handling your first holiday alone can be extra hard. Here are three other things to remember when dealing with the holidays following divorce.

1. Think about the Children First. First and foremost, remember the children. No matter how you and your ex-spouse feel about each other, you both love your children, and they need to understand and experience this. This means that you need to keep any negative feelings towards your ex to yourself.

2. Don't Overcompensate. There is a temptation to overcompensate for a divorce by "buying your children's love" at holiday time. Trying to outdo the other parent by purchasing more or higher priced presents won't make your children love you any more; it will only confuse them and inflate your credit card bill.

3. Plan Schedules That Work. The holiday season can be demanding enough as it is; as a recently divorced single parent, it can be even more difficult. As you are planning schedules keep the children in mind. Be thoughtful about timing of transitions for the children keeping in mind traditions, sleep and meal schedules. These things are more important than making sure you and your ex have equal holiday time. Also take care of yourself. Make time to unwind and relax every day. This will help you be a better parenting during this challenging time.

Source: www.Boystown.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Ways Soapstone Enhances Home Design

December 2, 2016 4:15 am

(Family Features)--Move over, marble and granite. There’s a new, old stone that’s coming back into vogue. After first coming into use 5,000 years ago, soapstone is once again becoming a “go-to” material for kitchen and bath designs, indoor and outdoor living spaces and more.

There are three primary reasons for the revived interest in soapstone, according to Steven Schrenk, digital media director and design consultant at Polycor, who has been working with natural stone for 22 years.

Aesthetics: One major factor driving soapstone’s appeal is shifting aesthetic trends. While designers and homeowners have been fascinated by the bright, wide range of colors and bold patterns that could be discovered in natural stone, people are coming back to a tonal, more muted palette, according to Schrenk.

Schrenk sees more designers working with textures within a similar palette of color and playing up the tactile qualities of materials and patterns within that limited palette.


“This is where soapstone plays well in pairing with these different finishes,” he said. “It tends to blend into its space and become more integrated in the whole design instead of being a separate, individual entity.”

Another aesthetic benefit of soapstone is that multiple tonalities can be achieved depending on the finishing techniques.

“It may be a cool, blue-gray color when left in its natural honed state or a deep, sultry black when waxed or enhanced,” Schrenk said. “You can go from a highly figured, dramatic statement piece to a minimal and moody silky surface in the slabs that are neutral without veining.”

Function: When it comes to home design, there’s no doubt that appearance is key, but so is a material’s ability to stand up to its task. Soapstone is nonporous, so it doesn’t stain. It’s softer than granite and marble, dense and heavy, but not brittle. It doesn’t chip easily, but if it does chip, it can be repaired with sandpaper. Those high-performance features make soapstone well-suited to serve numerous functions.

Versatility: “No matter how you slice it, there are 101 ways to style soapstone; whereas with some other materials, there are more limitations,” Schrenk said.

Because of the stone’s ability to absorb and radiate heat, it can be used for unique items, such as pizza ovens and foot warmers, says Glenn Bowman, owner of Vermont Soapstone. He has also seen soapstone used in a variety of everyday applications, both indoors and outdoors, including tiles, flooring, backsplashes, sinks and a variety of custom stonework.

Source: usenaturalstone.com. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Know the Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

December 1, 2016 4:15 am

Carbon monoxide poison is a silent danger that claims over 400 lives in the U.S. Annually, as well as over 20,000 visits to the emergency room, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To keep your family safe, know the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning:

- Headaches
- Nausea
- Vomiting
- Dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue

"Safety is our top priority at DTE Energy, and we urge residents to be particularly alert to carbon monoxide danger during the fall and winter heating season. It's when CO exposure most frequently occurs," says Brad Burcz, senior safety and health engineer, DTE Energy.  "One of the best defenses against CO poisoning is to install a carbon monoxide alarm near all sleeping areas in your home. If dangerous levels of CO are detected, an audible alarm will alert you."

DTE offers the following tips to prevent CO poisoning in homes and businesses:

- For businesses, install carbon monoxide alarms in main areas away from vents and appliances or equipment that produce smoke or steam.

- Replace batteries in CO alarms annually.

- If a CO alarm is activated, or the presence of carbon monoxide is suspected, immediately get out of the house or building into fresh air, and if necessary, seek medical attention.

- Ensure all fuel-burning appliances are operating and venting properly. 

- Get an annual furnace inspection by a licensed professional.

- Check yearly to verify flues, vents and chimneys are connected, in good condition and clear of debris.

Source: dteenergy.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Easy Steps for a Cleaner Home

December 1, 2016 4:15 am

(Family Features)--Whether it is a family dinner after a long day at work, sitting down with a book on a rainy day or entertaining friends during the weekend, there is nothing like spending quality time in the comfort of your own home. With a few simple steps, you can have a fresher, cleaner and healthier home, taking comfort to a whole new level.

Leave your shoes at the door. The bottoms of shoes can track bacteria and chemicals into the home from the outdoors that you may not notice. Create a designated station near the front door to drop shoes off – this can serve as a reminder for your family as they walk in, and guests will hopefully follow suit when they arrive.

Disinfect the handles on doors and appliances. Viruses and bacteria can live on indoor surfaces for several hours, and sometimes even days. Get into the habit of wiping down doorknobs and handles, especially in the bathroom, with disinfectant each night or after use to limit the spread of germs around the house.

Use natural cleaning products. Common household cleaning products leave chemicals lingering in the air long after the cleaning is over. Opt for greener methods that get the job done without compromising the air you breathe. There are dozens of DIY recipes to create natural cleaners on your own, such as an all-purpose cleaner made of one part baking soda, two parts vinegar and two parts water, not only making for a healthier home, but also saving you money.

Check your air filter every 30 days. Every breath is a reason to care about your air, and more time spent at home can stir up indoor allergens like pet dander and dust.

Expose textiles to heat. Just because your sheets are odor-free and the curtains are stain-free doesn’t mean that the fabrics are free of dust mites or other bacteria. Tackle hidden germs by washing your bedding in hot water each week and throwing your pillows and curtains in the dryer for at least 30 minutes.

For more ways to make your home happy and healthy, visit Filtrete.com.  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Cold, Bronchitis or Pneumonia? How to Tell the Difference

December 1, 2016 4:15 am

When illness hits hard, it can be hard to differentiate symptoms—especially when you're curled up in bed. However, it is important people are aware of the differences between a cold, bronchitis and pneumonia so that you know when to seek professional help.

- Colds may be characterized by a clear runny nose, cough, and a low-grade or lack of fever. While it is one of the most common infectious diseases, it is usually mild and resolves without treatment.

- Bronchitis happens when air passages are inflamed. Possible symptoms may include: a frequent cough with mucus, wheezing, fever, and a lack of energy. Brought on by a viral infection, acute bronchitis is more prevalent of the two basic types. Chronic bronchitis is a cough that lasts 2 to 3 months annually, for at least two years—typically caused by smoking.

- Pneumonia produces fluid in the lungs due to an infection. Symptoms may include a cough, fever and difficulty breathing. Older adults, babies and people with other illnesses may need to be hospitalized for treatment.

Source: USA Medical, ABC 4 Utah

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Lesser-Known Jobs That Pay $100,000 or More

November 28, 2016 4:12 am

You don’t need to work on Wall Street, or be a doctor or lawyer, to earn a hundred grand a year or more, says the research team at Glassdoor.com, a site focused on careers.

Lesser-known jobs that pay over $100,000 annually include:

Special agent – Whether you work for law enforcement or a private corporation, people who examine criminal trends and propose crime deterrent strategies can earn a median of $125,000. Qualified candidates should have law enforcement or military backgrounds plus a degree in criminal justice.   

Airline pilot – In addition to ably handling a plane, pilots need to oversee crews and be savvy communicators. Candidates must be certified with an Airline Transport Pilot License and hold a bachelor’s degree in aviation or have served in the military. Median salary is $134,000.

Regional sales executive - Successful sales executives need to be well-versed in their company’s products and acutely aware of customer needs. Stellar communicators – with or without a college degree – earn a median income of $103,500.

Nurse practitioners – Those with a master’s degree in nursing can earn a median of $106,300. They will perform physical exams, treat common injuries and illnesses, and prescribe some medications.

Reservoir engineer – These professionals identify and pursue oil and gas reserves underground.  The goal is to extract the maximum amount of energy without over-tapping the reservoir. Those with a degree in chemical engineering – and some experience in the field – can earn a median of $143,000.

Equity research associate – Qualified candidates with a bachelor’s degree in finance, economics or similar use financial models to analyze and report on financial trends. The job incorporates the excitement of investment banking but is less demanding, and commands a median salary of $100,000.

Geophysicist – Geophysicists study the earth using gravity, seismic, electrical and magnetic methods. Some study how the earth is changing while others locate valuable minerals beneath its surface. Requires a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in geology and pays a median $119,380.

Software architect – They take the lead in communicating about system developments with the company’s leadership. Most candidates have at least a bachelor’s degree in math, software engineering, or similar, although some acquire the right skills through an online coding boot camp or another accelerated online program. Long hours pay off with a median salary of $116,500.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Creating Healthy Food Habits for Your Kids

November 28, 2016 4:12 am

(Family Features)--More than nine in 10 millennial moms think it's important for their kids to learn about where their food comes from, and more than three-quarters of those moms actively do things with their kids to help learn just that, according to recent findings.

Building healthy habits is the top reason moms cite for encouraging more learning when it comes to food, according to research conducted by IPSOS on behalf of Cuties – the sweet little clementines. Even when the weather is colder outside, these tips make it fun for families to learn about where their food comes from and help encourage kids to eat healthy for a lifetime.

Grocery shop together or go to a farmers market. Many cities now have year-round indoor markets, where together you can select fruits and veggies to try. Often the farmers are there, so you can learn about produce and get ideas for how to prepare unfamiliar items at home.

Cook with your kids. Find fun recipes that let them explore fresh foods where they can be creative. Find age-appropriate ways to involve them, like stirring or measuring, and encourage them to get hands-on with recipes, such as this fun Flower Salad recipe from registered dietitian Ellie Krieger.

Explore the story of where some of their favorite foods come from. Kids learn and remember information when it comes in the form of a story. Cuties is giving families the chance to uncover those stories by encouraging them to submit questions using #AskAGrower on Facebook. Actual growers will answer with stories about how this sweet, seedless and easy-to-peel fruit is grown with care by their family of growers. A video series at cutiescitrus.com/our-story also helps bring the stories to life.

Source: cutiescitrus.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Protect Your Feet and Ankles This Winter

November 28, 2016 4:12 am

It is never a good time for a foot or ankle injury, but some might consider the colder months to be the most inconvenient time to have their feet or ankles out of commission. Ironically, it is during the winter when many injuries in the lower extremities occur due to weather-related incidents.

To help, ACFAS provides three critical and easy-to-follow tips that can mean all the difference between comfort and pain in your feet during the winter.

Wear the Right Shoes 
"Whether caused by wearing high-heels on icy surfaces or just sheer accident, falls are one of the most common causes of weather-related injuries. Often time, wintertime falls result in an ankle sprain, or worse, a broken bone in the foot, ankle, heel or toe. I encourage patients to wear low-heeled shoes or boots with a traction sole to help prevent slipping," says Massachusetts—based foot and ankle surgeon and ACFAS Fellow Member Greg Catalano, DPM, FACFAS.

Equally important, wearing warm shoes or boots can protect a person's feet in frigid temps. "Wearing water-resistant, insulated footwear serves as a barrier between the feet and outside elements; this is particularly important for patients with neuropathy or Raynaud's phenomenon. While different, both conditions block normal blood flow in the feet and places a person at a greater risk of developing additional problems. In some cases, people can incur chilblains, which are itchy, tender, red patches that emerge in response to cold air, or in extreme cases, frostbite," adds Dr. Catalano.  

Remember, the thicker the insulation, the greater the protection is between a person's feet and the adverse effects caused by cold weather.

Keep Your Feet Dry
Damp feet can cause cold feet and can be just as harmful. Wearing moisture-wicking socks will help keep feet dry from internal wetness caused by sweat, while water-resistant footwear will ward off external weather elements that can cause dampness.   

"I encourage my patients to wear appropriate socks as a standard practice during the winter months to guard their feet in both foreseen and unexpected inclement weather conditions," says Dr. Catalano. 

For some, inserting foot warmers in their shoes serves as an extra layer of protection. Before doing so, it is best to consult with a foot and ankle surgeon. If worn incorrectly, foot warmers can burn the skin and cause severe harm for those with nerve damage.

Get the Right Help
With all that can happen to the feet and ankles during the winter months, it is best to know what to do when faced with a condition or injury brought on by cold weather. 

"In the case of a suspected fracture or sprain caused by a fall, see a foot and ankle surgeon or visit the emergency room as soon as possible for prompt diagnosis and treatment. If medical care is unavailable, for temporary relief of symptoms, try the RICE principle—Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. But, remember, delaying treatment can result in long-term complications," adds Dr. Catalano.  

For feet that are exposed to cold and dampness for a prolonged period, soak them in warm water – avoiding hot water or direct heat. Soaking them in warm water will allow the feet to regain their normal temperature gradually.  

Source: foothealthfacts.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Snorkeling Hot Spots to Add to Your Bucket List

November 25, 2016 4:09 am

If you love snorkeling, you’ve probably discovered some favorite spots in the Caribbean islands. But contributors to Travel and Leisure Magazine recommend five dream spots for ocean aficionados that can’t be beat for snorkeling and other ocean sports:

Komodo Islands, Indonesia – While the giant lizards here get most of the attention, Komodo’s Pink Beach will put you in a colorful undersea garden with rays, schools of groupers, and hawksbill turtles. Alternatively, visit the sea surrounding Komodo National Park, which offers unmatched underwater exploration with over 1,000 species of fish, 260 types of coral, and 14 types of endangered whales, dolphins, and giant turtles – not to mention rays, sharks, and a flourishing coral reef.

Buck Island, St. Croix, Virgin Islands – In this paradise for beginning snorkelers, you can make your way through the Elkhorn coral barrier reefs in brilliant blue waters and see colorful parrot fish, three species of sea turtles, terns, and endangered brown pelicans.

Palau – Only one of the marine lakes that dot Palau is open to snorkeling, but it’s worth the trip. Jellyfish Lake on the uninhabited island of Eil Malk lives up to its name, filled with millions of golden jellyfish that have thrived in the isolated lake for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. For a truly other-worldly experience, you can snorkel among these amorphous floating creatures, which have a non-poisonous sting that can hardly be felt by humans.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia – It’s impossible to talk about the world’s best snorkeling spots without mentioning the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. Made up of 2,900 individual reefs that stretch over 1,400 miles off the Australian shoreline, the area boasts eye-popping coral, brilliant marine life, barracuda, manta rays, and the bones of ships that have crashed on the reef over the years. For an easy place to start, head to the Whitsunday Islands right off the shore of Queensland.

Hawaii’s Big Island – The underwater state park at Kealakekua Bay offers spectacular coral and colorful fish. Hit the water near the Captain Cook Monument to see dolphins, turtles and a variety of undersea creatures. For more underwater adventure, head to the crystal waters of Honaunau Bay to explore coral gardens, dolphins and tropical fish.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Keep Your Home Safe Without Compromising Style

November 25, 2016 4:09 am

(Family Features)--Home accidents cause nearly 13 million injuries a year. Some simple updates to your home can help you avoid these accidents, as well as give your rooms a facelift.

“People often think that home improvement projects mean a complete overhaul of a room,” says Matt Muenster, a licensed contractor, designer and HGTV and DIY Network TV host, “but there are dozens of smaller updates that people can DIY that can have a big impact on the room. It’s the subtle details that make a difference in how you use and enjoy the space.”

To get your home makeover underway, try these tips from Muenster, who has teamed up with 3M, to keep your home both safe and stylish:

The Less Clutter, the Better: Sometimes the bulky knife block can be an eyesore or take up too much space on small countertops. If you are looking for new and interesting ways to store sharp knives, try installing magnet strips on the backsplash in the kitchen. This will not only keep your counter clutter free, but give your kitchen some flair.

So Fresh and So Clean: Enjoy fresh, filtered water at home without having a bulky filter attached to the faucet or the hassle of constantly refilling a pitcher. The new 3M Maximum Under Sink Water Filtration System stays out of sight while allowing high water flow from your existing faucet. The system, which is available at Lowe’s stores or Lowes.com, is easy to install using just a screwdriver, wrench and drill, and the quick-change filter lasts up to six months. Best of all, it reduces contaminants that may be in your water, including 99.3 percent of lead, as well as microbial cysts, chlorine taste and odor, sand, sediment, rust and soil.  

Step It Up: Have kids at home? Put a stepstool that slides into the toe kick beneath the sink so that your kids are able to roll it out like a drawer and step up to wash their hands. This is also great for parents who have young chefs in the house who like to help out in the kitchen.

A Soft Landing: If you find yourself having “butterfingers” more often than not, try putting down flooring that is made from a soft material like cork in the working areas of the kitchen. This way, you can help prevent breakage next time something slips through your fingers.

Get a Grip: If you are planning a bathroom remodel or simply want to make a change, choose tile with textured surfaces. This will make them less slippery under wet, bare feet. Smaller tile with more grout also helps prevent slippery surfaces.

Let There Be Light: Whether it’s a trip to the kitchen for a midnight snack or to the bathroom in the middle of the night, toe kick LED lighting that is connected to a motion sensor can be a great nightlight that doesn’t always have to be left on.

A kitchen or bathroom remodel can be big or small, but with some planning and the right tools, the projects can be accomplished using your own hands. By tackling these projects yourself, not only will you have the assurance that your home is safer without sacrificing style, but your new space will also feel extra special.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Americans Overspend During Holidays

November 25, 2016 4:09 am

We all know what it's like to spend more than we meant to. The SunTrust Banks, Inc. annual Holiday Financial Confidence survey reveals that 43 percent of Americans feel pressure to spend more than they can afford during the holiday season. Pressure to overspend is up four percent since the survey was first conducted in 2014 by Harris Poll, but down slightly from a high of 46 percent last year.

In the 2016 SunTrust Holiday Financial Confidence survey, two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) admitted they typically experience stress during this time of year.

To create a more memorable holiday season, SunTrust offers the following tips:

Align spending with your values. The most meaningful gift you can give isn't a present you buy, but your presence in the moment. Take the financial pressure off by giving gifts that promote personal connection, like offering to help an elderly grandparent with grocery shopping for a month.

Embrace creative and unique gifts. If you're an artist, gift a sketch. If your friend collects vinyl, scour secondhand stores for unique records. Reject the notion that a special gift has to break your bank account.   

Trim costs, not your social life. Togetherness around food is a hallmark of the holidays and a great way to connect with loved ones, but it can be expensive if you're the host. To avoid the high cost of a lavish party, host a wine and cheese gathering or try an old-fashioned potluck.

Choose the virtual shopping cart. Start your holiday shopping early and price compare online first. This can help relieve the pressure of last-minute purchases that often end up costing more.

Take preemptive steps to avoid a holiday hangover. If reconciling your checking account balance isn't a habit, the holidays are a good time to start. Tracking purchases every few days can help you keep spending under control and avoid financial regret in January.Source:  SunTrust

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top Tips to Become a Proactive Homeowner

November 24, 2016 4:09 am

We've all heard homeownership sometimes referred to as “a money pit.” Sure, homes are expensive, but there is no substitute for the sense of pride and comfort you achieve from living in a space that is truly your own.

That said, it's true that from the day you move in to the day you sell your home, there will always be something that will need to be repaired or even  remodeled as you—and your family—grows, shifts and changes. But to be a proactive homeowner, you will want to keep an eye out for the small issues that could cost big bucks down the line—like a crack in the foundation or a drafty window.

Below are a few top tips for forward-thinking. This information will protect your real estate investment far into the future:

Take Inventory
Get in the habit of taking an inventory at least once every year of every nook and cranny of your home to check for potential problems. Examine the roof, foundation, plumbing, electrical wiring—basically everything. Try to fix trouble spots as soon as you uncover them. This proactive approach will help you avoid larger expenses later on, so leave no stone unturned when taking inventory.

Budget Accordingly
Some say you should expect to spend one percent of the purchase price of your home every year to handle a myriad of tasks, including painting, tree trimming, repairing gutters, caulking windows and routine system repairs and maintenance. An older home will usually require more maintenance, although a lot will depend on how well it has been maintained over the years.

Tell yourself that the upkeep of your home is mandatory, and budget accordingly. Otherwise, your home’s value will suffer if you allow it to fall into a state of disrepair. Remember, there is usually a direct link between a property’s condition and its real estate market value: The better its condition, the more a buyer will likely pay for it down the road.

Play it Safe
Don't assume that a problem will stay the same if left unattended. If your gutters are clogged, play it safe and unclog them to avoid leaks. Adopt the attitude that the cost of good home maintenance is usually minor compared to what it will cost to remedy a situation that you allowed to get out of hand. For example, unclogging and sealing gutters may cost a few hundred dollars. But repairing damage to a corner of your home where gutters have leaked can potentially cost several thousand dollars.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Beat Stress This Holiday Season

November 24, 2016 4:09 am

While the holidays offer a great opportunity to see family and friends, it can also be one of the busiest, most stressful time of the year. When you throw cold weather into the mix, many of us end up sick, stressed and sniffling. Below are some tips for beating stress and making this holiday season the happiest yet.  

Make your freezer your friend
To avoid stressing out over cooking for your visiting family or all the friends your college kid is bringing home, spend the weeks leading up to the holidays making health, hearty soups and casseroles, and then pop them in the freezer. Come holiday time, you can relax and enjoy your house guests knowing that most of the cooking is just waiting for a little defrost.

Sweat it out
We all know a good sweat session raises endorphins and lowers your levels of stress. Just because the season is busy and chilly doesn't mean you need to nix your workouts. Schedule time to exercise – make it a family event by going skiing or hiking, or simply grab a pal and walk those three miles to the coffee shop.  

Say no
Saying “no” is a muscle many of us have trouble exercising. When your inbox is overflowing with invites, allow yourself to pick and choose where you want to spend your time. You can't do it all, so feel free to gracefully opt out of events that are stacked too close to one another or require a lot of travel.  air, so leave yourself some extra breathing room in your travel time, to avoid the stress of feeling like you’re always late.

Eat mindfully
From company parties to dinners with the in-laws, food is in abundance during the holidays, and we're not talking light bites. To avoid stress eating, stand last in line at the buffet, pile your plate with veggies and take smaller serving of richer items, and remind yourself to eat slow. Strike up a conversation at the dinner table to pull the focus from the food and avoid mindless eating.  

Make time for you
Do you savor your morning coffee or Tuesday afternoon yoga class? Don't forgo these moments just because your schedule is demanding. Making more time to create space for yourself will lower your levels of stress and help you feel calm and grounded.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How Do Energy Savers Decorate for the Holidays?

November 24, 2016 4:09 am

It's that time of year for bright, glowing, blinking and shimmering holiday decorations start going up. But most homeowners would rather not see those cheery decorations doubling or tripling their energy bills. In light of this, we turned to a host of holiday helpers for some practical tips on energy efficient home holiday decorations.
The U.S. Dept. of Energy says think reflective so you can maximize the power of whatever lighting you choose. Reflective ornaments and tinsel are just as bright at night, so getting creative with your lighting display can multiply your resources for shine.

Their advice at energy.gov even suggests mirroring your neighbors' frighteningly costly display with a string of silver bells on your railing. Don't forget the ribbons, wreaths, garland, and reflective menorahs, for electricity- free age-old traditions that still 'reflect' your holiday cheer.

If you are looking for lighting, energy.gov says this year offers a variety of savings opportunities. You can find local rebates and coupons on ENERGY STAR® qualified Decorative Light Strings at many hardware and department stores.  These lights have a three-year warranty, come in a variety of colors, and have indoor and outdoor models.

The folks at directenergy.com say that replacing incandescent holiday lights with energy-efficient LED lights can help. ENERGY STAR® qualified LED lights use 70 percent less energy while providing a brighter light.  They also remain cool to the touch and are not made of glass or filament, making them safer for children. In addition, these bulbs also last 10 times longer, ensuring homeowners will have an energy-efficient solution for many years to come.

Shifting to other energy saving opportunities, improvementscatalog.com says if you plan on doing some holiday cooking or baking, consider using the microwave or toaster oven for smaller tasks such as melting chocolate for dipping, and keep the oven reserved for larger items, such as cooking a turkey. While cooking on the stove, keep the lids on your pots so your food will cook in less time.

The site also suggests if you are having family or friends over for a party, you can really take advantage of the body heat that will generate in your home. Have a warm and sparkling holiday season!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Living Large - Why It's Time To Buy That Big House

November 23, 2016 4:09 am

A few years ago, I wondered if the trend in subdivision building of larger than average sized homes - 5,000 square feet or more - had seen its day. Apparently not.

According to a recent National Association of Home Builders report, and citing the Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction, new homes with 5,000 square feet or more of living space increased both as a share of all new construction and in absolute number in 2015.

And that same year, the share of new homes this size reached a post-recession peak of 3.9 percent of new homes started. The total number of 5,000+ square-foot homes started that year was 28,000 units.
NAHB analyst Ashok Chaluvadi observed that in 2012, the number of new homes started with 5,000+ square feet rose to 15,000 units, yet their share remained at only 2.8 percent.

In 2015, while the number of 5,000+ square feet homes started (28,000) was the highest since 2008, their share of the new market (3.9%) was the highest since 2004.

When analyzed by the different characteristics, Chaluvadi says that 79 percent of 5,000+ square feet home started have a finished basement, 68 percent have a 3 or more car garage, and at least 60 percent have a patio or porch.

More than half of these homes have 5 bedrooms or more, and 70 percent have 4 bathrooms or more.
But before you run out and start shopping for a large home, consider the advice of K.C. Hernandez at budgeting.thenest.com, who advises that before you make a large financial commitment on a bigger house, consider several financial and life factors to determine the right time to buy.

Hernandez says buying a bigger house makes the most sense when your income is stable and you expect it to remain the same or increase for the foreseeable future.

He also says that upgrading to a larger home is a good idea when market conditions favor buyers, who have more opportunity to negotiate better prices with sellers. Just keep in mind that if you plan to sell your current home before moving into a bigger one, you will likely face the same challenges finding buyers at the right price.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What Millennial Homebuyers Want in a Garage

November 23, 2016 4:09 am

Millennials are the largest generation shaking the housing market, according to research by the National Association of REALTORS. Despite this great news, when compared with the generations that came before them, millennials remain delayed in purchasing their first home. One aspect of homes millennials are particularly interested in is technology. From smart appliances to easy access garages, millennials love the latest gadgets.

For those interested in the latest and greatest in garages, read on for a handful of tips.

Access: Millennials use their phones for more than just communicating. They use them to buy coffee, book exercise classes and directly pay friends and family. Access to the garage should be no different, and with the availability of garage door apps,  homeowners can control entry to the home through their smartphones.

Security and Safety: More than 70 percent of homeowners use the garage as the main access point to the home, making safety and security a top priority when selecting the right home. Through LiftMaster's partnership with Nest Cam, homeowners can have an added security element. With Nest Cam, users can also access a video feed of what's happening in the garage the moment the garage door is activated, allowing for enhanced security and peace-of-mind. Garage safety is also vital – when viewing a potential home or during home inspection, millennials should ensure the garage functions securely and safely.  

Home Control: A connected garage is an easy way to make any home a "smart home." When looking to purchase a home, millennials should examine the capabilities of the garage door opener. Is it Wi-Fi® capable? Is it compatible with technology that controls the lights or thermostat? If not, consider asking the seller to replace the garage door opener with one that is,

Source:  LiftMaster.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


UV Rays Inside: Tips for Protecting Your Eyes At Home

November 23, 2016 4:09 am

When it comes to protecting our eyes against harsh, damaging UV rays, most of us think about popping on sunglasses for long days at the beach. However, it's possible to incur UV damage right at home, especially if you have an abundance of wide, bright windows.  According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), nearly half of all eye injuries occur at home.  

Untreated windows protect the eyes from only about 25 percent of damaging UV rays. As the AAO states, continued exposure to UV light raises the risks of many issues for the eyes, from cataracts to cancer.
To battle this, the International Window Film Association (IWFA) suggests consumers have professionally installed window film applied to all of the windows in their homes to protect their family's eyes from the damage caused by UV rays.

Having window film professionally installed on a home's windows can block up to 99 percent of UV rays from entering the home, protecting eyes from damage over time, while at the same time reducing glare and eliminating the need to squint when enjoying the view outside.


While extremely thin and virtually invisible to the eye, window film provides powerful protection without altering the look of a home.  Though it can be tinted in several shades, homeowners can also opt for clear film, which does not alter the view in any way. 

Source: www.iwfa.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


City Living Without Sprawl - Downsized Communities Offer Options

November 22, 2016 4:06 am

So you like the idea of popping down the block to a nice jazz club, or grabbing a quick bus or train to a minor league ballpark? I recently discovered why small cities are a big destination for home buyers thanks to WalletHub's in-depth look at 2016’s Best Small Cities in America.

With small cities growing 10 percent faster than the nation as a whole since 2000, WalletHub analysts compared 1,268 U.S. cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 using a data set of 30 key metrics ranges from “housing costs” to “school-system quality” to “number of restaurants per capita.”

So what did the Wallethub researchers determine? Here are a few high points:
- The Villages, Fla., has the highest homeownership rate, 96.50 percent, which is 148 times higher than in Fort Hood, Texas, the city with the lowest, 0.65 percent.

- Westfield, N.J., and Holly Springs, N.C., have the lowest percentage of residents below poverty level, 2.20 percent each, which is 24.3 times lower than in Statesboro, Ga., the city with the highest, 53.40 percent.

- Leawood, Kan., has the highest percentage of residents with at least a high school diploma, 99.2 percent, which is 2.6 times higher than in Maywood, Calif., the city with the lowest, 38.2 percent.

- Fort Hood, Texas, has the shortest average commute time, 10.4 minutes, which is 4.1 times shorter than in Waldorf, Md., the city with the longest, 42.9 minutes.

- East Lansing, Mich., has the lowest mean weekly work hours, 27.8, which is 1.8 times lower than in Fort Hood, Texas, the city with the highest, 50.

-Duluth, Ga., has the most coffee shops per 100,000 residents, 194.10, which is 142 times more than in Pharr, Texas, the city with the fewest, 1.37.

-Castle Rock and Parker, Colo., have the lowest percentage of adults reporting fair or poor health, 7.2 percent each, which is 5.3 times lower than in Eagle Pass, Texas, the city with the highest, 38.3 percent.

Source: Wallethub  

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top Safety Tips for Riding Your Bike at Night

November 22, 2016 4:06 am

Are you a bike enthusiast? Long work days may mean you're hitting the pedals at night. Below are a handful of safety tips for all of you night riders.

Plan your routes. For night riding, pick spots with features that enhance night rides: slow traffic, bike lanes and street lights are a must. And although you don't want to ride on a busy street, try to find spots that are somewhat well traversed; you don't end up all alone on a deserted trail with a flat tire or worse.

Get the right lights. Lights are key for safe night riding. Make sure you have a bright red light on the back of your bike (this will help ward off rear-ends) and front lights to warn oncoming drivers.

Slow down. Sure, you may love the wind in your hair as you whip down a dark city street. But speedy riding is more likely to end in an accident, especially when you're riding in the dark, so navigate slow and steady and you'll reach your destination safely.

Reflect. Sure, you may feel dorky wearing one of those reflector vests, but a safe dork is far better off than a squashed cool kid. In addition to wearing reflectors on your person, install them on your spokes, and the back and front of your bike.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Make A Big Impression By Cooking Small For Thanksgiving?

November 21, 2016 4:03 am

If cooking small on what is arguably the biggest food holiday of the year seems like an exercise in culinary futility, I have tapped several noted sources who will tell singles and small intimate Thanksgiving hosts otherwise.

At finecooking.com, Tom Douglas writes that smaller turkeys are easier to cook than 25-pound behemoths, and their meat is more likely to stay moist while the skin crisps up nicely. In fact, Douglas says even if you’re cooking for a large group, you’re better off roasting two medium turkeys than the biggest turkey you can find.
He prefers about a 12-pound turkey rubbed with smoked paprika and toasted fennel seeds, then roasted over a bed of onions, which become the base of a flavorful gravy.

And finally, Douglas prefers not to truss his turkeys or chickens so the heat circulates better - and don’t forget to let your roasted bird rest 10 to 20 minutes before carving to give the juices time to settle.

Emma Christensen at thekitchn.com reassures those hankering for a scaled-down feast, that it is doable. Her favorite alternative recipes for two to four people include:

Rolled Turkey Breast with Sausage Pecan Stuffing - The turkey breast by itself cooks much more quickly than the whole turkey, plus it stays moist and tender in a dish like this.

• Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash - One half for you, the other half for your guest.

• Kale and Ricotta Salata - this recipe offers fresh flavors to create a nice balance to heavier holiday dishes.

• Fingerling Potatoes with Chives and Parsley - Teeny fingerlings are perfect for a small-sized meal.

At seriouseats.com, Maggie Hoffman is pitching openers like shucked oysters, and is also a fan of the turkey breast versus the whole bird. She dresses it with an earthy, mushroomy gravy that starts with good homemade turkey stock, and is flavored with dried porcini mushrooms and a little sherry for added savory flavor.

Hoffman also suggests a side of uncooked cranberry relish with orange zest and apple, that can be whipped up in the food processor a few days in advance. And she says it's also fantastic on a leftover-turkey sandwich.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Refinishing Your Kitchen Cabinets: Paint vs. Stains

November 21, 2016 4:03 am

So you've got new kitchen cabinets. Congratulations! But now what? For those wondering how to finish their brand spanking new cabinets, we run down the pros and cons of painting vs. staining—the two most popular finishing avenues.

Pros for paint
- It's flawless. Regardless of the color you choose, painting your cabinets covers up any quirks or blemishes in the natural wood, which can often be magnified by staining.

- Your color choices are endless. When it comes to picking a paint, the world is your multi-colored oyster. Get crazy and really customize the look and feel of your cabinets.

- Paint sticks to lower quality materials. If your cabinets are not made of wood (think particle board), paint is your BFF. It sticks to these materials just as well as higher grade wood options, and no one but you will know the difference.

Cons for paint
- It looks more uniform. Remember those natural quirks we mentioned? Well you may not want to cover these up. If you're looking for a more natural, country vibe that highlights those stunning features like grain and knots, opt for a stain over a paint.

- It's pricey. While not too expensive in the grand scheme, paint is more expensive than a stain, so if budget is a concern, take heed.

- Harder to touch up. Even if you can't find an exact match for your cabinet color, when you're working with stain, odds are you'll have better luck blending touch-ups in stain than with picky paint.

Source: Houzz

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Must-Read Financial Tips for First-Time Parents

November 21, 2016 4:03 am

So a babe is on the way? Congrats! Along with the chaos of, well, everything that is to come, your finances are soon to get an upheaval as well. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will cost upwards of $245,000 to raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18 – and this does not include college. Feeling that bank account burn already? Below are 5 tips for rocking your budget as a new mom or dad.

1. Tweak the budget. Your new little one is going to cost a pretty penny. From hospital costs to diapers and child care, budgetary stress is an added strain on you as a new mom or dad. Look for any un-necessaries you can slash to make room for more baby dollars. The more prepared you are, the better.

2. Track your spending. Don't just make that budget and set it aside. Set a monthly meeting with your spouse to look over your spending, make sure you're on track, and identify any problem areas or potential saving pockets.

3. Learn your tax credits. I bet you didn't see this one coming. Being a parent has some advantages at tax time, so talk to your tax professional about the child tax credit, the earned-income tax credit (EITC), and the child and dependent-care credit, all of which can save you mad money come tax tie.

4. Automate, automate, automate. Not only can automation help you avoid bouncing bills, but by having money withdrawn from your account, you can pad up your savings, too. Figure out how much you can part with every month and automatically squirrel it away into an emergency savings account, a college savings account, or both.

5. Set financial goals. While creating a budget and savings plan is great, setting goals for your family can help you stay on track. Looking to have a set amount in a college account by the time your kid hits 18? Do the math and decide how much you need to save monthly to hit it. Is an annual family vacation a must for connecting? Figure out how to stash some cash for that, and then make it happen. Don't forget to be realistic (a tour of Europe with a two-year-old wouldn't be that fun, anyway), and forgive yourself if it takes some time to get on track.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Keeping Kids Active in Cooler Temperatures

November 18, 2016 3:57 am

(Family Features)--As the weather gets colder, it can be harder to motivate kids to step away from their computers and devices and get off the couch. However, it’s essential for kids to participate in active play all year round. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular physical activity helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles, promotes psychological well-being and reduces feelings of depression and anxiety.

Sadly, physical activity is becoming less of a priority in kids’ daily routines. A recent survey conducted by Let’s Play, an initiative from Dr Pepper Snapple Group to make active play a daily priority, found that 64 percent of parents said busy schedules stand in the way of more active play for their children, up from 56 percent in 2015.

Each season brings its own opportunities for play, and fall is no exception. Families can beat the cold weather blues and stay active together by trying some of the following activities:

Plan a nature walk to find inspiration and materials for art. Even though it’s chilly outside, your family can still get out and enjoy the outdoors. Bundle up and take a nature hike with your kids around the neighborhood or at a local, national or state park. Encourage your kids to collect items like pinecones, acorns and leaves as you go and to be on the lookout for wildlife to observe. After the hike, take out art and craft supplies and help them create projects with the items they found.

Plan an indoor scavenger hunt. When a really cold day comes along, send your kids on a fun and active scavenger hunt around the house, searching for items that you can hide in advance. Work together as a family to locate the items or create some friendly family competition to see who can find all the items first. Having the family move around the house with a mission prevents the temptation of staying on the couch in front of the television all day.

Join a class or indoor sports team. Whether you are playing a favorite sport or learning a new one, it is always more fun with other people. Longer stretches of active play are often more likely to occur with friends or siblings. Sign your children up for an indoor sport or class they have never tried before, such as gymnastics, rock climbing, swimming or dance. This allows your children to learn something new, meet kids their age and be active for an extended period of time.

Volunteer. While giving back is always in season, this time of year is a perfect opportunity to teach kids about giving back to those in need and being grateful for what they have. Sign the whole family up to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, participate in a toy drive for a children’s hospital or help out at an animal rescue shelter. Your children will not only be active, but will also grow emotionally, socially and intellectually as a result.

Source: LetsPlay.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Pull Your Holiday Table Together with a Tablescape

November 17, 2016 3:57 am

With the holidays looming, many are busy planning their holiday home décor. One decoration often overlooked is the tablescape – the decoration of your holiday table.

These top tips can help you pull together a festive tablescape this holiday season.

Think about the centerpiece: The centerpiece can tie the full look together. Fill a lantern with pumpkins, go for fall florals, or add a table runner to add various sizes of pumpkins lining the table.  

Create the look based on atmosphere: Think through all the details including where you will eat, who will attend, and how big of a crowd you'll host. You can still have a dinner al fresco with Edison bulbs or have a formal dinner for a larger group with stylish, party dinnerware that looks like the real deal. 

Expand décor beyond the table: Spreading leaves on a side table, adding candles and other thematic décor throughout the house can make decorations cohesive.

Themes don't need to be traditional: If you're going for different look this holiday season, At Home offers its Grateful Shores line – complete with driftwood and pumpkin decor that have a nautical twist.

Source: http://www.athome.com/.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Four Steps for Downsizing Your Home

November 17, 2016 3:57 am

(Family Features)--For one reason or another, you’ve determined the house you’re living in has become too much to handle. Seniors, empty nesters or those moving from a suburban home into a loft or apartment in the city all face similar challenges when it comes to downsizing.

For example, after Judy Raphael’s husband was diagnosed with dementia and moved to a nursing home, it became difficult for her to take care of her large house the couple had lived in for 23 years. At first, Raphael tried to maintain the house by herself, but things started to pile up and soon the house was in need of serious repairs.

“There were a lot of unknowns on what was wrong in the house – from mildew and mold to the driveway that needed to be replaced, the list goes on,” Raphael said.

When it comes to downsizing your living space, you can start preparing with these steps.

Determine what’s next. Think about what type of lifestyle you want to live moving forward, but take into account how much space you’ll actually need to accommodate that life. Whether it’s a smaller house or alternate option like an apartment or townhome, the first step is to decide what you’re looking for in your next living space. This can also help you figure out what items will move with you and what will need to be sold, donated, thrown away or left behind.

Assess what you actually need. Now that you’ve determined that downsizing is your best option, you’ll need to figure out what size, space and things you need. Maybe there’s a pile of stuff collecting dust in your attic or basement that can be sold or donated, or maybe you believe you can move all of your belongings into a more compact area. Either way, a downsize means going through storage spaces, closets and room in your home to determine what stays behind and what goes with you.

Sell your home. Raphael knew she needed to fix the house before it would be considered sellable, but knew she could not manage it alone. Working with a reputable real estate brokerage will help you sell your home faster, and with ease.

Stay organized during the move. You’ve now spent a ton of time and energy going through old things and boxing up possessions for the big move – don’t let that time go to waste by allowing your organization to fall apart on move-in day. Make sure you store items in places that make sense, going room-by-room in an organized fashion.

Source: homevestors.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Plan Your Outdoor Living Space

November 16, 2016 3:57 am

(Family Features)-- Nothing makes your home feel more expansive than functional outdoor spaces. Whether you're planning a deck, an outdoor kitchen or a poolside patio, read on for quick tips to make creating your outdoor oasis exciting and easy:

Get digitally inspired
The Internet is a great place to get your creative juices flowing. There are countless online resources to help homeowners create and plan their ideal outdoor living space. A great starting point is perusing the outdoor living projects posted on social media channels, such as Houzz and Pinterest. For more inspirational images and valuable information, check out the websites of home and garden magazines, contractors and decking manufacturers.

Dive into design
Designing a deck starts with the same questions as planning interior rooms, such as whether it will be used for relaxing, grilling or socializing. Determine how to incorporate those activities into your space by exploring the possibilities with online apps. Trex offers several ready-to-build Deck Design Plans representing today’s most popular and versatile designs. Once a user selects a design, the tool provides the details of the deck’s dimensions and materials needed, as well as an overview of the design’s benefits so that homeowners can be assured they are selecting the ideal layout for their planned outdoor living activities.

Decide on details
When planning, have fun exploring the many design elements that are available for customizing your deck. You’ll need to decide early on if you want to incorporate features like built-in seating, planters and storage, as well as add-ons such as a pergola or outdoor lighting, which can add comfort, character and convenience to your outdoor living space.

Incorporate railing
As one of the most visible parts of the deck, railing can provide design inspiration and should be considered from the outset. Available in a wide array of styles, shapes and materials, you can tailor your railing to personalize and frame your outdoor space.  

Understand costs and value
To ensure your dream deck remains within reach, keep costs in mind. Several factors will affect the price, including the size and shape, along with any extras you incorporate. When evaluating expenses, think beyond the initial material and labor costs and peer into the future. With wood decks, the costs of sanding, staining and painting add up over time. Over the life of a composite deck, the reduced maintenance costs of simple soap and water cleanings add up to a greater return on investment – not to mention the value of all the time spent enjoying the deck rather than maintaining it.

Source: trex.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips for Buying a New Furnace

November 16, 2016 3:57 am

Whether you're snagging a new furnace for your just-purchased home, or replacing your old clunker with an updated option, below are top tips for those looking into a new furnace for their home

Size matters – One of the most important factors when buying a furnace is to have a professional installer examine the size of the house and then determine the size of the furnace necessary for the space. A furnace that is too large leaves gaps in temperature as it turns on until it overwhelms the thermostat. The house ends up cooling down until the next cycle and creates an inconsistent temperature. A furnace that is the right size for the space, however, will be able to better regulate a constant temperature.

Fewer emissions – Being energy and environmentally conscious does not have to stop at the furnace. With Napoleon’s HYBRID 150, the fuel comes from three different sources – wood, oil or electric. This furnace is one of the cleanest and most efficient combination solid fuel-burning furnaces on the market today. The furnace switches from wood to oil or electric automatically and if the furnace runs out of wood a second thermostat will keep the house nice and toasty even if you are not at home.

Don’t buy on price alone – Always be sure to ask a professional installer, contractor or reputable salesperson about annual operating costs for whatever furnaces you may be looking at. While there are a variety of factors to consider, price should not necessarily be number one. Efficiencies, however, can vary drastically depending on price, which means that if you pay more up front now, you’ll still enjoy lower heating bills 10 or 15 years later.

Get the right documentation – Any reputable installer or manufacturer will be sure to not only include the purchase agreement and warranty information but also explain exactly what you are getting. If you feel confused or unsure about anything don’t be afraid to ask.

Correct installation and maintenance – Furnace installation should be done by a trained professional as not only can it be a safety hazard but if anything is off it can severely impact your efficiency and therefore your heating bill. Regular maintenance, generally in the fall, will keep the furnace performing like it should, keeping your family warm and your wallet a little fuller.

 Source: Napoleon

Published with permission from RISMedia.


8 Tips to Protect Your Identity

November 14, 2016 3:57 am


Identity theft is more than just someone tapping into your bank account. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 17.6 million U.S. residents experienced the misuse of their personal information in 2014, up from 16.6 million victims in 2012. 
 
“Fraudsters can use your personal information to conduct a variety of illegitimate transactions, such as opening bogus accounts, filing tax returns and getting access to medical care,” says Doug Johnson, American Bankers Association’s (ABA) senior vice president of Payments and Cybersecurity Policy. “As a result, consumers are urged to safeguard their personal information before it gets into the wrong hands.”

ABA offers the following tips to help consumers protect themselves from becoming a victim of identity theft:

Don’t share your secrets. Don’t provide your Social Security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. Protect your PINs and passwords and do not share them with anyone. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically. Do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites.

Shred sensitive papers. Shred receipts, banks statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.

Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen. Also, don’t mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.

Use online banking to protect yourself. Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.

Monitor your credit report. Order a free copy of your credit report every four months from one of the three credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.

Protect your computer. Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.

Protect your mobile device. Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen. Use caution when downloading apps, as they may contain malware and avoid opening links and attachments – especially for senders you don’t know.

Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. 

Source: American Bankers Association (ABA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Rules to Simplify Your Holiday Entertaining

November 14, 2016 3:57 am


(Family Features)—The hustle and bustle of the holiday season may feel overwhelming at times, and for hosts throwing holiday parties, sticking to formal cooking and dining traditions can be time-consuming and stressful. In the season dedicated to spending time with family and friends, experimenting with simple entertaining ideas and informal settings can allow for more time to enjoy the party with your guests.

To simplify your festive soiree, try these insider tips from Macy's Culinary Council, the national culinary authority featuring some of the nation's leading chefs from across the country.

Simple Satisfaction
Sometimes less can be more, even when trying to impress guests. Chef Nancy Silverton suggests using quality ingredients like flavorful lettuces or vegetables. There is no need to mask them with fancy sauces; the ingredients can speak for themselves. A simple drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, squeeze of lemon and some sea salt is enough to dress up a dish that guests will deem delicious.

Less of a Mess 
Complicated cooking methods that require too much cookware and gadgets can keep hosts in the kitchen instead of socializing with guests. Chef Rick Bayless says his focus is on simplicity and ease in the kitchen, such as using the least amount of pots and pans possible to accomplish the same goal. Try a one-pot dish in a slow cooker to reduce kitchen clutter and ensure easier clean-up.

Comfort Is Key
A less formal seating arrangement encourages relaxation and comfortable dining for all. When entertaining, Chef Johnny Iuzzini places chairs and stools throughout his home for guests to enjoy as they please rather than structuring how and where they sit and eat. Place appetizers on the coffee table or create a buffet-style spread on your dinner table. This informal layout allows for a laid-back atmosphere where hosts can easily mingle with guests.
 
Source: Macys
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Would You Sell Part of Your Home to Investors?

November 14, 2016 3:57 am


We bring you important points in housing each week—and this week (literally!) is no exception.

A new startup, Point (Point.com), aims to make homeowners free of debt and able to unlock the wealth in their home—but to do that, a homeowner must sell a portion of the equity in his or her home to Point’s investors.

How does it work? A homeowner provides some basic information about their home and household finances. Point instantly assigns homeowners pre-approval or denial based on the information they provide.

If pre-approved, Point provides a provisional offer based on the data provided—that offer is typically for between 5 percent and 10 percent of the home’s current value. To be eligible for Point, the owner(s) need to retain at least 20 percent of the equity in their home after Point's investment. The homeowner then completes a full application and provides documentation for the Point underwriting team. 

Within approximately a week, Point will schedule a home valuation visit, which the homeowner covers— generally between $500 and $700. Once the valuation is complete, Point will share the appraiser's report with the homeowner.

If the valuation is deemed acceptable by the homeowner, Point will finalize the offer following the appraisal and receipt of all supporting application documents, and call the homeowner to meet with a notary to sign the Point Homeowner Agreement.

Point then files a Deed of Trust and Memorandum of Option on the property in the county recorder's office. Once filings have been confirmed, Point transfers the offer funds (with less than 3 percent escrow and processing fees) electronically to the homeowner’s bank account.

If the homeowner sells his or her home within the agreed-upon terms, then Point will be automatically paid from escrow. If the homeowner does not sell his or her home, he or she can buy back Point’s stake at any time during the term, at the then-current appraised property value. 

Would you sell part of your home to investors?
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Protect Your Mobile Device from Hackers

November 11, 2016 3:57 am


By now, the smartphone acts as an extension of a limb—everyone from teens to geriatrics walks around with that familiar head tilt eyes on the screen. And while technology has made everything from banking to shopping much easier, it has also made things much easier for hackers.

To battle this, the American Bankers Association (ABA) is recommending 12 tips to help consumers safeguard their data and protect their mobile devices from fraudsters.

“Mobile usage has grown tremendously in recent years and consumers are using their phones to access and transmit very sensitive information,” says Doug Johnson, ABA’s senior vice president of payments and cybersecurity policy. “It’s extremely important that consumers avoid doing their banking and shopping on unsecure networks to limit their exposure to online threats."

ABA recommends that consumers take extra precaution to protect the data on their mobile device by doing the following:

• Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen.

• Log out completely when you finish a mobile banking session.

• Protect your phone from viruses and malicious software, or malware, just like you do for your computer by installing mobile security software.

• Download the updates for your phone and mobile apps.

• Use caution when downloading apps. Apps can contain malicious software, worms, and viruses. Beware of apps that ask for unnecessary “permissions.”

• Avoid storing sensitive information like passwords or a social security number on your mobile device.

• Tell your financial institution immediately if you change your phone number or lose your mobile device.

• Be aware of shoulder surfers. The most basic form of information theft is observation. Be aware of your surroundings especially when you’re punching in sensitive information.

• Wipe your mobile device before you donate, sell or trade it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.

• Beware of mobile phishing. Avoid opening links and attachments in emails and texts, especially from senders you don’t know. And be wary of ads (not from your security provider) claiming that your device is infected.

• Watch out for public Wi-Fi. Public connections aren't very secure, so don’t perform banking transactions on a public network. If you need to access your account, try disabling the Wi-Fi and switching to your mobile network. 

• Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.

Source: American Bankers Association (ABA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Heat Your Home More Efficiently

November 11, 2016 3:57 am


Cold weather months come with the added expense of heating your home. Whether you heat your space to the point you can parade around in a bathing suit or pile on sweaters and socks as your thermostat stays low, you can glean some tips for using natural gas more efficiently.

1. Seal off unused rooms by closing the registers and keeping the doors shut tightly.

2. Keep furniture away from heating registers.

3. Install a timer that kicks the heat on an hour or so before you will arrive home from work, and shuts if off when you leave.

4. Make sure a clean furnace filter is installed.

5. Wash only full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine.

6. Clean out the dryer lint trap before each load.

Source: www.MissouriGasEnergy.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding Bankruptcy: What You Should Know

November 10, 2016 3:57 am


While most Americans hope they never need to file for bankruptcy, many don't know exactly what bankruptcy is. Bankruptcy is a proceeding in a federal court in which an insolvent debtor's assets are liquidated and the debtor is relieved of further liability.

Medical expenses continue to be the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. According to the United States Courts, bankruptcy filings fell 6.9 percent (819,159) in June 2016 compared to the number of filings in June 2015 (879,736). This number of bankruptcy filings has not been this low since December 2007.

Read on to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of filing for bankruptcy, courtesy of American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC).

Advantages
One of the most important advantages of filing for bankruptcy is that consumers can obtain a fresh financial start. If you are eligible for Chapter 7 most of your unsecured debts may be forgiven or discharged. A secured debt is one which the creditor is entitled to collect by seizing and selling certain assets if payments are missed, such as a home mortgage or car loan. You may be able to keep (that is, exempt) many of your assets, although state laws vary widely in defining which assets you may keep. Collection efforts must stop as soon as you file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

Disadvantages
A bankruptcy can remain on your credit record for 7-10 years and can affect your future finances and ability to borrow funds. A bankruptcy may impede your chances of getting a mortgage or car loan for some time. Not all debt will be discharged. Examples of debt that cannot be discharged include child support, alimony, some student loans, divorce settlements and some income taxes. You should check with an attorney on the specific categories of debt that will be allowed for discharge.

Source: American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Knowing Your Role as a Financial Caregiver

November 10, 2016 3:57 am


Over 90 million Americans care for a loved one living with a disability, disease or experiencing reduced financial capability as a result of aging, according to the Caregiver Action Network. In addition to doling out love and services, these caregivers play an important role in ensuring that all finances—from routine to complex—are managed wisely, helping their loved ones maintain the best quality of life possible.

ABA Foundation, through its Safe Banking for Seniors program, offers the following tips to help individuals understand their role as financial caregivers:

Learn the rights and restrictions that apply to your role. Financial caregivers, such as those with a power of attorney, trustees, and federal benefits fiduciaries, are fiduciaries with a duty to act and make decisions on their loved one’s behalf. Learn the legal responsibilities of your assigned authority in order to better execute your role.

Manage money and other assets wisely. Financial caregivers may be in charge of daily, unexpected and future expenses their loved one may incur. Especially if the beneficiary has a fixed income or limited finances, it is extremely important that caregivers minimize unnecessary costs and budget accordingly to ensure that all money is properly allocated.

Recognize danger signs. Seniors have become major targets for financial abuse and fraud. Make sure to stay alert to signs of scams or identity theft that may put your loved one’s assets in peril.

Keep careful records. When acting as a financial agent, proper documentation is not only encouraged but required. Make sure you keep well-organized financial records, including up-to date lists of assets and debts and a streamline of all financial transactions.

Stay informed. Monitor changes in financial status of the beneficiary and take appropriate action, as needed. Also, be sure to stay up to date on changes in the laws affecting seniors. 

Seek professional advice. Consult a banker or other professional advisors when you’re not sure what to do. 

Source: American Bankers Association (ABA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Where to Live If You Want to Build Wealth

November 10, 2016 3:57 am


If you're looking to live in a wealth-building area, then results from a new Bankrate survey may be a bit of a surprise: pack your bags and move to the San Francisco Bay area.

Yep. Despite having some of the highest rents in the country, the Bay Area is the best U.S. metropolitan area for building wealth. The Bankrate survey ranked 21 large metro areas in five categories: savable income, human capital, debt burden, homeownership and access to financial services. 

The nation’s highest savable income is a big part of San Francisco’s No. 1 overall ranking. The average Bay Area resident can sock away $16,657 per year, almost twice the national average, after subtracting local expenses from incomes. While it’s a very expensive place to live, there are plenty of high-paying jobs, so residents are able to keep their non-mortgage debts low (fifth lowest among the 21 markets) and their credit scores high (second highest).

Minneapolis/St. Paul is second-best overall (aided by the lowest average unemployment rate over the past five years), Washington, D.C. is third (only San Franciscans are able to save more), St. Louis is fourth (it offers the best access to financial services) and Detroit is fifth (it has the highest homeownership rate and the lowest non-mortgage debt burden).

“Different metro areas affect households’ abilities to amass wealth in different ways,” says Bankrate.com analyst Claes Bell, CFA. “In some metro areas, like San Francisco, homeownership can be prohibitively expensive, but higher-than-average salaries can help residents stash more money away in tax-advantaged retirement accounts. On the other hand, Minneapolis-area residents don’t earn as much, but the area’s affordable housing and recovering real estate market provide opportunities to build wealth over the long term through home equity.”

Source: Bankrate
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Best Paying Jobs for College Grads

November 8, 2016 3:57 am

The good news for recent college graduates is that with unemployment at a four-year low, there are plenty of jobs to be had. The bad news is that competition is stiff for the highest-paying positions.

Where are these coveted jobs, and how much do they pay? Employment counselors recommend several directions savvy degree-holders might take:

Purchasing Manager – Most companies hire purchasing professionals to acquire the goods and services they need to run their business. Candidates need to be personable as well as analytical, and a degree in business or economics is a plus. Annual starting salaries average $58,000.

Computer Hardware Engineer – Computer science majors can use their skills to design and modify computer parts that increase speed and efficiency. Starting salaries average $58,000 per year.

Biomedical Engineer – One of the fastest-growing fields today is biomedical engineering, which mixes medicine with biology, math, physics and chemistry to create equipment that solves medical problems. Median starting salary is $54,800.

Mathematicians – Mathematicians provide solutions for the problems businesses face, with numbers to back up their work. Starting salaries for people good at math average $56,400.

Sales Manager – These are the professionals who oversee a sales force, setting quotas, policies, and best practices, dividing the work into territories and monitoring goal achievement. Candidates with some sales background and a business management degree can expect starting salaries of $51,760.

Nuclear Engineer – While some nuclear engineers work in power plants, others explore uses for radiation and nuclear energy in medical and industrial applications. Qualified candidates will start at about $63,900.

Aerospace Engineer – Starting salaries for aerospace engineers, who design new developments for airplanes, spacecraft, and defense systems, are an average $59,400.

Petroleum Engineer – Hold onto your hats. Salaries for these math and science whizzes, who develop methods for extracting oil out of different areas, begin at an average of $93,000.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Decorators Share: Transitioning from Fall to Winter

November 8, 2016 3:57 am

Decorating for seasonal transitions—spring to summer, summer to fall—is a trick many decorators use to stretch the longevity of their designs. Decorating for the transition from fall to winter is no exception.

There are many transitional trends this fall and winter. Real or faux marble accents, such as coasters or cutting boards, and statement pieces, such as side tables and wallpaper, are on the incline, Decorilla.com reports.

Coziness is necessary in fall and winter, and accessories that evoke this feeling are in. According to PopSugar.com’s Kate McKenna, decorating for coziness this year involves a mix of bold patterns, glossy metallics, soft neutrals and matte blacks.

Those matte blacks could translate into a full-on monochromatic design, especially as the holiday season sets in, predict the experts at Harding Botanicals, a Massachusetts-based company.

Rose quartz, which was named this year’s color of the year by Pantone, is another trend that eases effortlessly from fall to winter. The experts at Harding suggest pairing it with champagne, pearl or silver shades.
Come the holidays, red and green continue to be popular, this year with accents of blue and white, DecoratorsWisdom.com reports.

Experiment with motifs like silver tree shapes, blue, silver or white snowflakes and snowmen, the website recommends—or, combine accents like silver candlesticks and vases with natural arrangements of greens and berries.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Plan Ahead for Winter Power Outages

November 8, 2016 3:57 am

With the snowy weather of winter comes a less beautiful seasonal sensation: power outages. To keep your family safe and cozy sans power, follow these tips:

Before the storm:
• Stock-up on batteries and flashlights.

• Evaluate the family's non-perishable food supply and restock if necessary.

• Review how to manually open the electric garage door.

• A practice run will help ensure a family knows how to properly locate and operate any equipment required during the power outage.

During/after:
• Never use a gas stove, oven or grill to heat a home.

• During the first few hours of the outage, keep the refrigerator and freezer closed. Snow can be used as ice to keep items cold in a cooler. 

• Choose mittens over gloves and wear layered loose clothing to stay warm.

• Always operate your portable generator outside of your home.

“Having a backup power solution ready ahead of a utility power outage prevents most of the headaches that go with living without power. With backup power, families won't necessarily need to worry about potentially dangerous temperatures, for example,” says Melissa Thomas, marketing assistant manager, Briggs & Stratton Standby power. “This gives families the security they desire to comfortably ride out long winter months.”

The most popular backup power solutions are portable generators and permanently-installed standby generator systems. Both types of backup power can keep a home's lights, the furnace and necessary appliances working in the event of a weather-related power outage or other emergency. Understanding the differences and capabilities between the two options makes selecting the best generator for a family's needs much easier.

Portable Generators: Immediate Backup Power Supply
Portable generators are generally low maintenance, compact and easily maneuverable on the property. These units are typically powered by gasoline and work well as an immediate solution during a power outage.

Additionally, they are designed to provide reliable electricity to a few essential items and appliances such as a refrigerator, basic light circuits and portable electric heaters at the same time.

While portable generators can provide users with flexibility and comfort, they need to be used appropriately at all times in order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Never run a portable generator inside a home or in a garage.

Standby Generators: High-Wattage Backup Power Supply
Families who want a backup power source that offers uninterrupted power should opt for a home standby generator system. Home standby generators need to be professionally installed, so homeowners should allow time for the installation process and associated costs.

These home generators are connected to the existing propane or natural gas line of a house. When utility power to a house is interrupted, the home generator automatically turns on within seconds. Home standby generators can power more of a home's high-wattage appliances, like the furnace, electric water heater, stove and clothes dryer.

Source: www.briggsandstratton.com

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


One Home System Not to Overlook

November 7, 2016 3:57 am

Over 25 million houses in the U.S. have a septic system, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Proper maintenance of the septic system is essential, but often overlooked—out of sight, out of mind.

An un-maintained septic system can contaminate groundwater, harming the environment by releasing bacteria, household hazardous waste and viruses to local waterways, according to the EPA. Maintaining the system not only protects the environment and public health, it also saves homeowners from having to make costly repairs due to neglect.

The EPA’s tips for homeowners include:
Protect It and Inspect It – Homeowners should have their system inspected every three years by a qualified professional, or according to their state or local health department's recommendations. Tanks should be pumped when necessary—typically every three to five years.

Think at the Sink – Avoid pouring fats, grease and solids down the kitchen sink. These substances can clog the septic system’s pipes and drain field.

Don’t Overload the Commode – Do not flush foreign items, such as cat litter, coffee grounds, dental floss, disposable diapers/wipes and feminine hygiene products down the toilet. These can all clog, and potentially damage, the septic system.

Don’t Strain Your Drain – Be water-efficient by spreading out water use, including laundry and dishwasher loads throughout the day. Too much water at once can overload a system that hasn’t been pumped recently.
Shield Your Field – Remind guests not to park or drive on a system’s drain field, where the vehicle’s weight could damage buried pipes or disrupt underground flow.

Source: www.epa.gov/septicsmart.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Millennials Move Past Gender Stereotypes When Shopping for Cars

November 7, 2016 3:57 am

Millennials continue to make waves as a generation like no other. New research from Edmunds.com shows that today's millennial car shoppers don't stick to the outdated (and oft illogical) stereotype that men should make important car-buying decisions while women stand by.

According to the study of 3,000 U.S. adults ages 18 - 65, more than 70 percent of both men and women feel self-assured during the car buying and negotiating process. However, when broken out by generation, Edmunds found that millennial men and women are more alike in their feelings toward car shopping than Gen Xers and baby boomers. For example, when asked if they believe if women are equal or better than men at car shopping, 64 percent of millennial women and 54 percent of millennial men agreed. When baby boomers were asked the same question, 67 percent of women agreed, while only 48 percent of men did, resulting in an opinion gap nearly twice as large.

Other noteworthy differences between millennials and older generations include:

Millennial men are more likely than older men to believe that women are equally or more logical than men during the car shopping process. There was a 15 percentage point gap in gender opinion for millennials (59 percent of men vs. 74 percent of women), compared to a 27-point gap among Generation Xers (52 percent of men vs. 79 percent of women).

Millennial men and women feel nearly equal levels of self-assurance and empowerment during the car shopping process, with a gap of only one percent and two percent respectively between the genders. This gap widens within the older generations, to eight percent for Gen Xers and 14 percent for boomers.

When it comes time to close the deal and purchase the vehicle, millennial men are more confident in women than men in older generations. Sixty percent of millennial men say that women are stronger negotiators versus 50 percent of Gen X men and 49 percent of boomer men.

"Gender inequality has been in our society for a very long time," says Lacey Plache, chief economist at Edmunds. "Shifting gender roles have been a main catalyst for lowering gender inequality, but this change is still in motion, and the differences aren't fully dissolved yet. As this continues to decrease on a societal level, we'll see its impact manifested in major industries like automotive, but until gender inequality is completely gone, the old-fashion notion that men control the garage will still linger." 

Source: Edmunds.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Traveling Baby Boomers Head to New Destinations, Study Shows

November 7, 2016 3:57 am

A new study by AARP focuses on the travel plans of baby boomers. While travel has always been an objective for older Americans, the AARP study shows that 99 percent of Americans age 50 and up are traveling for fun, with the majority planning at least one leisure trip in 2017, and the average boomer planning a whopping five or more leisure trips throughout the upcoming year.

So where are they heading?

Within the U.S., boomers still favor the predictable choices: Florida, California and Las Vegas. But things are shifting among international-bound boomers, with Latin America taking center stage as Europe moves to the back burner.

According to AARP's study, the top five destinations for international boomer travel include:
  • Mexico
  • The Caribbean
  • England/UK/Ireland
  • Central/South America
  • Italy  
Source: AARP

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Make Mornings More Tolerable

November 4, 2016 3:54 am

Waking up on the right side of the bed comes naturally to some people. For the rest of us, mornings can be painful. Morning person or not, however, your habits upon rising have a lot to do with how the rest of your day will go. Here are some painless ways to turn your mornings into good beginnings:

1. Wake up gradually. Bolting out of bed to a loud, jarring alarm is not the way you want to begin your day. Set the option on your smartphone alarm for ascending sound, so that your alarm starts off quietly and gradually builds, gently rousing you from sleep.

2. Make coffee time sacred. Instead of hitting the snooze button for an extra 10 minutes of poor sleep, take that time to sit quietly with your coffee, tea, cocoa or whatever your morning poison happens to be. The few moments of peace will ease you into the day.

3. Gather your thoughts. Meditate, pray, journal, etc. This will help calm and focus your mind. The frenetic pace of the day is lurking around the corner, so here’s your one chance to get grounded.

4. Exercise. Even if you’ve had a bad night’s sleep and still feel exhausted, getting a workout or a walk in will wake you right up. Exercise boosts your serotonin and energy levels and will always put you in a better mood to face the day.

5. Eliminate decisions. Even the smallest decisions can seem overwhelming in the morning when you’re rushing to get out the door. Save yourself some angst by figuring out what you’re going to wear and bring for lunch the night before. Do the same for the kiddos, too.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Money Management

November 4, 2016 3:54 am

If you’ve been hit recently with a late fee or two, or thought you’d paid that overdue gas bill when you hadn’t, your money management skills may need a boost.

Consumer finance pros at Business Insider suggest five easy ways to make managing your money easier:

Automate your finances to simplify control – Sign up for auto-pay, and monthly payments are automatically charged to your credit card or paid from your checking account. Even if you prefer to pay off the full amounts due each month, signing up to have the minimums automatically paid will ensure you won’t be faced with late fees if you fail to make a payment on time.

Put due dates in your calendar – For bills you can’t automate – such as rent or utilities – enter reminders in your daily calendar a week before payments are due.

Sign up for text or email reminders – As an alternative to writing reminders in your calendar, check with your credit card company, mortgage servicer, auto loan servicer and/or student loan servicer about getting alerts for your due dates. Getting digital reminders can help you stay on top of payments.

Enroll in credit monitoring – Your credit score and credit report are important parts of your financial life, but keeping tabs on them may seem inconvenient or time-consuming. When you sign up for credit monitoring, the service will notify you if things on your credit report look suspicious, which could be a sign of identity theft. If you don’t enroll in a monitoring service, it’s a good idea to review your credit regularly – and if you see mistakes, dispute them.

Download a savings app – If you find it tough to save, download an app like Digit or Smarty Pig, which keep tabs on your accounts and analyze what you can put in a savings account. They can then automatically transfer money from your checking account into a savings account. Another app, called Acorns, will round your purchases to the nearest dollar and invest your spare change.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don’t Let the Holidays Sabotage Your Fitness

November 3, 2016 3:54 am

It all started with Halloween. We bought way more candy than there were trick-or-treaters, and tore a little hole in the bag and started sneaking some treats days before the holiday even rolled around. From there, we roll right into Thanksgiving and Christmas, and end up ringing in the new year with the dreaded extra 5 - 10 pounds.

Sure, we can simply accept this as part and parcel of enjoying the fall and winter holidays – after all, we’ve worked hard all year and deserve some fourth-quarter indulgence. But, it is actually possible to splurge a little while maintaining your physique, not to mention your overall health. Here are a few simple strategies to avoid a holiday health meltdown:

1. Make it convenient: Ever wonder how celebrities are able to stay in such great shape? Because it’s so easy for them! From personalized nutrition plans to live-in chefs and trainers, the keys to fitness are at their fingertips because their paychecks depend on it. Try to make diet and exercise convenient in your world, too—make healthy meals on Sunday that you can eat all week, develop a quick home-exercise routine for when you can’t get to the gym, and pick a work-out buddy to help keep you accountable.

2. Keep the leftovers on the move: Bring leftover candy and cookies to work, or donate them to a school. Stock up on take-out containers, and as you’re cleaning up holiday dinners, make a doggie bag for guests. Satisfy your holiday baked-goods craving by hosting a cookie swap, which provides built-in portion control.

3. Strategize party days: Who wants to avoid partaking in the festive foods and beverages of the season? No one! On days when there’s a party or family gathering on the calendar, get a workout in early before having a low-calorie, nutrient-packed breakfast and lunch. That way you can let loose a little later without blowing your calorie goal for the day.

4. Commit to your pillow: To add insult to injury, most of us tend to shortchange our sleep thanks to the hectic holiday pace. However, getting enough sleep is actually essential to avoiding weight gain. The more sleep deprived you are, the higher your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which leads to weight gain. See what holiday-related activities can be cut from your to-do list in favor of getting more sleep, and don’t feel guilty about sneaking in a nap when you can. Your body—and your loved ones!—will thank you for it.

The biggest plus of staying healthy and fit during the holidays? No need to add “lose weight” to your new year’s resolution list!
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


America's Greatest Small Cities Offer an Affordable Urban Lifestyle

November 3, 2016 3:54 am

Are you looking to move to a city, but worried about the high cost? A new study broke down the best (read: most affordable) small cities across the country. Look past the Big Apple and the Windy City and find a space in one of America's great urban underdogs.

Why a small city? Well, urbanites in smaller spots still enjoy the perks of a thriving city scene, but with a cheaper cost of living—generally speaking, that is. According to the Economic Policy Institute, a two-parent, two-child family would need to earn $49,114 a year “to secure an adequate but modest living standard” in Morristown, Tenn., compared with $106,493 in Washington.

To hunt down these small cities, WalletHub’s analysts compared 1,268 U.S. cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000. The study's data set of 30 key metrics ranges from “housing costs” to “school-system quality” to “number of restaurants per capita.”    

Behold, the top 10 small cities in America:

1. Westfield, Ind.
2. Princeton, N.J.
3. Leawood, Kan.
4. Littleton, Colo.
5. Brookfield, Wisc.
6. Kirkland, Wash.
7. Holly Springs, N.C.
8. Milton, Mass.
9. Brentwood, Tenn.
10. Southlake, Texas

Source: WalletHub

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Choosing the Right Health Insurance

November 3, 2016 3:54 am

When it comes to choosing health insurance, there is no “one size fits all.” Factors to consider include your age, lifestyle, marital status, and more. Whether you’re a newlywed, a new parent, recent college graduate or recently retired, there are several things you should consider when selecting your plan.  

Newlywed
Marriage is an exciting new adventure, and it impacts everything—including your health insurance. When researching plans, make sure the one you choose fits in with your family budget. Look at what you’ve spent on health care in the past and evaluate what you’re comfortable spending on monthly premiums now that you’re no longer single. Evaluate whether or not it makes the most sense to assume coverage under one of your employer-sponsored plans or an individual family plan.    

New Parent
Preparation is key when you're expecting, and this extends far beyond reading parenting books and decorating the nursery. Remember to make sure you choose the right insurance plan before you bring home baby. For new moms (and moms-to-be), plan choice will affect everything from prenatal and maternity care to pediatrician visits and immunizations. Consider the rules for in-network and out-of-network healthcare providers: how long of a hospital stay is covered? What prenatal tests are covered?    

Recent Grad
See ya later college! For new grads, there are many options to choose from when it comes to your health insurance. Whether it’s opting for a plan through your new job, remaining on your parent’s plan, or opting for an individual plan through the healthcare marketplace, it’s important to do your research and pick the plan that best fits your needs. 

Retiree
For those looking to retire, consider whether the Medicare plan you’re thinking about covers the health services you need. Look into the prescription drug benefits offered, how much your premiums and deductibles will cost and what you can manage to pay out-of-pocket based on your lifestyle.

Source:  Anthem.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Prepare Your Home for Holiday Entertaining

November 2, 2016 3:54 am

(Family Features)--As the holiday season approaches and you're tasked with hosting family and friends, it can be a little overwhelming to imagine all the work that has to take place for a successful celebration.

However, there's no reason the host can't join in the fun. To help keep calm and have your home ready for the party, follow these tips.

Cleaning
More often than not, the first step to readying your home for a house full of guests is to clean. Start by going room to room seeking out trash, recyclables and things that can be stored away – anything to clear up much-needed space. Once the clutter is cleared, work from the top down to clean surfaces, so any dust or debris that hits the floor can be vacuumed or swept neatly away. Remember to steer clear of harsh or highly fragrant chemicals, which may be an irritant to some guests.

Upgrading
Don't try to sneak by with old appliances this time around. Instead, upgrade your most important resources throughout the house in order to find success when it comes to playing host. For example, swapping out your old, cluttered refrigerator for a Whirlpool French Door Refrigerator with industry-first infinity slide shelves is a useful way to create more space in the kitchen. Its pantry-inspired layout lets families fit and find all their edible favorites. Every section, shelf and bin in the refrigerator was redesigned to deliver smart organization with panoramic shelves and unique features to store 30 percent more than other leading French door bottom mount refrigerators.

Planning
Staying organized and having a precise plan are vital to putting together the perfect night with family and friends. Make sure to nail down the specifics, such as the number of guests, what food will be brought, what needs prepared in advance and what can wait until the big day. Making lists and involving others in the family to help can make a seemingly insurmountable volume of work feel instantly manageable. As you think through your plans, remember to anticipate the unexpected and have an emergency party kit on hand to quickly respond to pitfalls, like spills or broken glass, before they derail the festivities.

Decorating
With all the energy you put into planning and upgrading, don't overlook the importance of taking time to make your home shine with a creative touch. Go festive with holiday-specific decor or keep it classic with timeless decorations placed throughout the home to make it really sparkle. For close family and friends, consider adding personal touches like mementos of holidays past. Or go with a themed approach with similar colors and textures that you carry throughout the house.

Source: www.whirlpool.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Daylight Savings Time: Chores to 'Fall Back' On

November 2, 2016 3:54 am

We all lament the loss of an hour as Daylight Savings Time ends—but that loss can also serve as a reminder that it's never too soon to see to a number of chores around the house.

For example, Bel Red Energy Solutions of Seattle reminds its customers to change the batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, and make sure they are all in working condition.

Bel Red explains that since sensors in CO detectors don’t typically last as long as smoke detectors (2-3 years, on average), it may be time to replace one or more of them.

What if you don't have a CO detector? If you’re looking to purchase one for the first time, or replace an aging one, Bel Red suggests a new, low-level CO detector with a 5-year sensor.

Boise Basin Insurance Services, on the other hand, recommends using Daylight Savings Time as a prompt to clean your medicine cabinets. Remember: some medications should not be thrown away in a trash can or flushed down the toilet. Find a drug disposal facility in your area, or contact your local law enforcement agency, for more information.

Boise Basin also suggests taking the twice yearly opportunity to drain your water heater—flushing it out is the best way to remove any built-up sediment, which can lead to reduced efficiency.

And—as long as you're setting clocks ahead by an hour—replace the batteries in those, too!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Here's How to Avoid Scary Paint Failures

November 2, 2016 3:54 am

Looking to tackle an outdoor painting project? Good for you. However, nothing is worse than dedicating hours and energy to your paint job, only to find out you've hit a big fat fail: peeling and flaking paint, wrinkling, blistering, and hideous "alligatoring," where paint cracks open in a pattern that resembles a reptile's scales.

Below are a handful of tips to avoid these epics fails, courtesy of Debbie Zimmer, spokesperson for the Paint Quality Institute.

Properly prepare the surface.  It was Ben Franklin who said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail" -- apt advice for almost everything, including painting.  Good surface preparation is essential if you want to avoid the nightmare of early paint failure.  So, before ever picking up a brush or roller, be certain that the surface is sound and clean, with no sign of loose or peeling paint.  Prime any bare or unpainted wood or metal.  Only then should you begin to apply your paint.

Invest in top quality paint.  If the surface has been properly prepared, the best way to protect against frightening failures is to use a top quality 100% acrylic latex paint.  "This type of paint will tightly adhere to the surface below, but remain flexible enough to expand and contract when temperatures rise or fall," says Zimmer.  By investing in top quality paint, you'll get an extremely tough and durable finish that will keep the demons of paint failure at bay.

Work with high quality brushes and rollers.  The best quality tools permit you to apply a thicker, more uniform coat of paint, one that offers maximum protection against forbidding failures.  Choose brushes with split bristles of multiple lengths that are packed tightly together.  And, when working with latex paint, use brushes and rollers made of synthetic material, which are better at holding their shape to give a better result.  

Apply paint only in moderate weather.  When applying any exterior coating, avoid working in spine-chilling temperatures.  They're uncomfortable for you...and, they can have dire consequences for your paint.  Paint forms the best protective film when it isn't too cold or too hot outside, and when the wind isn't excessive.  Still days with temps above 50 degrees F. are ideal.

Source: blog.paintquality.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


9 Ways to Get a Jump on the Holidays

November 1, 2016 3:54 am

From the time the first Halloween masks appear in the stores, we seem to rush headlong into the holidays, caught up in what seems like a veritable whirlwind of baking, decorating, and shopping. The home editors at Southern Living and Vibrant Life magazines offer tips on slowing down the rush by getting a head start on the basics.

Update Your Mailing List – Now is a good time to bring your address book up to date, so you won’t be searching around at the last minute for Aunt Minnie’s new address.

Start Saving – Open a new account or start stuffing a piggy bank with loose change, refund checks, and any unexpected little windfalls—perhaps even the cash you ‘saved’ by using coupons. Anything you can stow away in the next three months can help out at holiday time.

Stock the Pantry – As fall begins, many supermarkets put baking supplies on sale. Begin stocking up now on all the ingredients you know you will need later.

Add Gift Cards to Your Shopping List – Purchase one gift card every week as you do your weekly shopping. You’ll be glad to have them to use as gifts anyone on your list will enjoy.

Get Cooking – If you bake cookies, can fruits or veggies, or make jams and preserves, get a head start now. Stored properly in freezers or on shelves, they’ll make great gifts later.

Get Crafting – If you knit, sew, or do other handicrafts, start now to create personal creations to brighten the faces of those you give them to.

Start Making a List – Make a note of it as the people around you mention items they have seen or heard about or think they might like to have. Working from such a list can shortcut the time you spend shopping.

Think About Scaling Back – Gifting is expensive, and all the more so as kids get older. Instead of exchanging gifts with every member of your cousin’s family, send an e-mail now suggesting one gift for the family—movie passes? A restaurant gift card? A basket of heavenly edibles?

Hit Garage Sales – You may find gift items still in the box, new or gently used holiday décor, needed kitchen ware and more.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Are There Rats in Your Attic?

November 1, 2016 3:54 am

If you've heard things go bump in the night, chances are it's not a spooky spirit. More likely, it's a roof rat. Pest control provider Terminix announced the top 10 cities with the most reported roof rat infestations, giving Memphis, Tenn. the "honor" of the top spot.

The cities in the United States with the most reported roof rat infestations are:

1. Memphis, Tenn.
2. Gilbert, Ariz.
3. Pleasanton, Calif.
4. Scottsdale, Ariz.
5. Tempe, Ariz.
6. Sacramento, Calif.
7. Salinas, Calif.
8. San Bernardino, Calif.
9. San Antonio, Texas
10. Plano, Texas

Roof rats are a creepy-crawly variety of rodent with a long, scaled, Halloween costume-ready tail that distinguishes them from their better-known relatives. They tend to seek entry into buildings through holes around soffit vents, cables entering buildings, and turbine and box vents on roofs, where they take up residence and multiply.

These pests often gain access to structures by climbing on wires and trees to seek shelter inside, where they can grow up to a full foot long and pose seriously scary health and safety risks. They can chew through building materials like drywall and insulation, and may even pose a fire risk by damaging wiring.

Warning Signs
"Roof rats often stay out of sight, but there may still be warning signs of an infestation," says Paul Curtis, board-certified entomologist and manager of technical services with Terminix. "They're most active at night, and homeowners with roof rats often report hearing them moving overhead after dark, as well as finding droppings and smudge marks from oil or dirt in their attic."

What to Do
A key strategy in preventing roof rats from making their way into your home or business is eliminating things that might attract them. Homeowners should keep firewood, debris and piles of stone or brick as far from the foundation of the home as possible, protect their homes with steel wool- or wire mesh-reinforced sealant along any holes or cracks larger than a quarter inch, and install a thick weather stripping along the bottom of doors to keep rodents from entering.

Because roof rats can bite and are safety hazards, a trained professional should inspect any homes suspected of harboring roof rats or another pest.  

Source: Terminix.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Keep Pets Healthy During the Holidays

November 1, 2016 3:54 am

People aren't the only ones putting on a bit of winter weight. With holidays comes family gatherings heaped with rich eats, many of which end of passed down to your favorite four legged friend. And with cooler weather, dogs may not be getting as much outdoor exercise, meaning they too can pack on a few pounds. Unfortunately, weight gain in pets can lead to long-lasting health problems.  

“If people get a bit too relaxed and overeat during the holidays, they often do the same with their dogs,” explains Will Post, founder and CEO, Hound & Gatos Pet Foods Corporation. “The problem with that is that it can be quite detrimental for dogs if we relax too much and let our guard down about taking care of them in a healthy manner.”

Here are 5 ways to help keep pets healthy through the holiday season:

Scratch the scraps. Many people like to get their dog in on the holiday food craze, but there are things they shouldn’t be eating. It’s important that dogs don’t consume things like chocolate, nuts, or onions. These things can be toxic to their nervous system, or even lead to anemia.

No bones about it. That big turkey leg may look appetizing to your furry friend, but handing them the bones can prove dangerous. Dogs can choke on bones or they can also lacerate their intestines. Skip giving them the bones, as it’s not a risk worth taking.

Investigate treats. Most people purchase their pooch a gift at some point during the holidays. Those who will purchase special treats will want to give due diligence to their quality. Opt for ones that have ingredients only from the U.S. to help minimize the exposure to potentially harmful ingredients.

Keep exercising. Although people tend to get a little lazy during the holiday season, and especially as it gets colder outside, it’s important that pets still get plenty of exercise. Make a goal to ensure they keep moving and get daily exercise so they stay healthy and don’t pack on the pounds over the winter.

Commit to high quality. After the holiday comes the new resolutions that everyone makes. Start early, but resolve to feed your pets only high quality food that has been made with ingredients sourced in the U.S. This will help keep them healthier and reduce exposure to potentially harmful ingredients that may be imported from places such as China.

“We take keeping pets healthy serious, which is why we have won so many awards for our natural pet foods,” adds Post. “We know how important pets are to their human families, so we do our best to ensure that people have the best quality ingredients in order to feed them well, feel proud, and keep them vibrant.”

Source: www.HoundGatos.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Making Halloween Safer for Kids

October 31, 2016 3:51 am

Despite a growing trend to keep kids in at Halloween, showing off their costumes at the local mall or partying with friends at home, trick-or-treating on the street is a rite of passage in many neighborhoods.

If you are at home, turn on porch lights early to help prevent slips and falls. Children will typically be trick-or-treating between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. If you hand out treats, consider choosing mini-bags of pretzels or other non-sugary snacks, or small boxes of crayons, or mini-flashlights.

Additionally, to make the celebration safer for all children— and adults—Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization committed to preventing child injuries, provides nine tips for making Halloween safe as well as happy:

Keep costumes creative, but safe. Choose light colored fabrics and/or decorate costumes and treat bags will reflective tape or stickers.

Choose face paint or makeup instead of masks. Masks can obstruct a child’s vision.

Have children carry glow sticks or flashlights. It will help to make them clearly visible to drivers.

Have an adult close to trick-or-treaters. Children under 12 should never be alone on the streets, even in neighborhoods they know. Children over 12 should stick to the streets they know.

Cross the street at corners. Use crosswalks and traffic lights when available, and look left and right before crossing.

Stow away electronic devices. Keep phones in pockets and keep your head up as you walk.

Watch out for cars. Even on a quiet street, cars may be backing up or turning. Be sure children know to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.

If you are driving, be alert. Be prepared for heavy pedestrian traffic and turn on headlights early.

Drive more slowly in residential neighborhoods. Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully—and be alert to kids on curbs and at intersections.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips for Fireplace Safety

October 31, 2016 3:51 am

For much of the country, winter means cold nights, and what better way to warm up than to curl up next to the fireplace. As fireplace use rises, so does the need for fireplace safety. Below are five tips to keep your family and home safe all season long.

Abide by the three feet rule. Clear a three foot radius around your fireplace, making sure  the area is clear of furniture, books, newspapers, and other potentially flammable materials.

Inspect annually. Have the chimney inspected annually, and cleaned as necessary, by a professional to ensure it’s clear of obstructions and creosote to prevent a fire.

Install a safety screen. Make family members and guests aware that the glass panel of a gas fireplace, stove, or insert can be very hot. Installing a safety screen or safety barrier is recommended to reduce the risk of serious burns by preventing direct contact with hot glass.

Check the gas. Have a technician check the gas lines, clean the burner and control compartment as well as check for condensation annually.

Crack a window. If burning vent-free logs for more than an hour, crack a window open. If using vented logs, clamp your fireplace damper into the open position so it never closes while burning.

Source: The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA)

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Get Organized for Entertaining

October 31, 2016 3:51 am

(Family Features)--Hosting a holiday gathering is no small feat, but you can get organized ahead of the big day with these entertaining tips.

Set the guest list early: Send out invites in advance. Longer notice allows for you to better gauge who will be attending and how much food you'll need to make. Rather than waiting to see who shows up and who doesn't, send out RSVPs via mail or email so that you have a precise idea of how many people to plan for.

Plan the menu ahead of time: From drinks to side dishes to dessert, with special storage spots and industry-first infinity slide shelves, Whirlpool's French Door Refrigerator allows you to store 30 percent more so you can buy all your groceries in advance. This way you won't have to worry about running to the store just moments before guests arrive.

Set the table the day before: Organizing where you can, such as setting out plates and silverware in advance, allows you to focus on preparing food and drinks on the day of the party. Unless you'll be using fresh cut flowers, go ahead and complete the centerpieces and any other decorative touches the night before, as well.

Make a party-night cheat sheet: Keep a checklist nearby so you don't forget about any of your delicious courses or what tasks need completed throughout the evening. Remember to include items like refreshing the ice bucket and swapping out buffet dishes or appetizer platters periodically.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Nashville Voted Most Expensive Urban Destination to Visit

October 28, 2016 3:48 am

Ever wondered where the priciest city spot in the U.S. is? Surprisingly, the answer isn't New York or Los Angeles, but Nashville. A recent CheapHotels.org survey found the southern city to be the most expensive in the country, based on the cost of its lodging.  

The survey compared hotel rates of the 30 most populous U.S. destinations during the month of October. That month reflects the timeframe during which most U.S. cities reach their highest average hotel rates.

At an average price tag of $261 for its most affordable room, the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee leads the rankings. It has to be noted that only hotels rated at least 3 stars and centrally located have been considered by the survey.

Only slightly less expensive is Boston, Massachusetts. At an average rate of $257 per night, it ranks second most expensive on the survey. Washington, D.C. completes the Top 3 podium at an average overnight cost of $192. 

At the opposite end of the spectrum, another Tennessee city, Memphis, ranks among the rather affordable destinations at an average rate of $142 per night for its least expensive double room. By far the cheapest destination is Las Vegas, Nevada, where an overnight visitor can find a room for around $60 per night.

Below are the 10 most expensive urban destinations in the United States. The prices shown reflect the average rate for each city's cheapest available double room (minimum 3-star hotel) for the period spanning October 1 through October 31, 2016.

1. Nashville - $261 
2. Boston - $257
3. Washington, D.C. - $192
4. San Francisco - $187
5. Portland - $185
6. New York City - $184
7. Phoenix - $182
7. Austin - $182
9. Chicago - $178
10. Houston - $176

Source: http://www.cheaphotels.org/press/cities16.html

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Plan for Disaster with Backup Power

October 28, 2016 3:48 am

As winter moves in, it's time to prep your home for a safe and secure snowy season. With weather changes upon us, arranging backup power should be an essential component of winter preparations, as it keeps critical home systems up and running in the event of power loss.

"Many people overlook the importance of backup power in emergency situations and fail to plan or prepare for a power outage," says Ed Del Grande, a home improvement TV host, author and syndicated columnist. "For those with small children, elderly relatives or family members with disabilities, backup power is especially crucial. Without power, you lose access to clean water, communication, fuel and often medical equipment, making the living environment not only uncomfortable but potentially dangerous."

The best thing homeowners can do to protect their families during a power outage is install a standby generator, which turns on automatically when the power shuts off. Similar to a central air conditioning unit, a standby generator is permanently installed outside the home, and runs on natural gas or propane through existing fuel lines in the house, which means there's no refueling.

Depending on the size of the unit, an automatic standby generator, like those from Kohler, can power all the major systems and appliances in a home, such as lights, furnace, refrigerator, computers, home security systems and medical equipment. And since it delivers high-quality power, there's no worry about it ever harming electronics.

Severe weather is the single leading cause of power outages in the United States. Don't wait until it's too late to protect your own home and family. Leading generator manufacturers offer a variety of automatic standby generator models, as well as portable and industrial options depending on your needs.

Source:  www.kohlergenerators.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Keep Rodents Out Of Your Home

October 28, 2016 3:48 am

Your family is not the only group spending more time indoors as the temperature drops. Fall is also prime time for rodents to make moves into your home as they seek food and shelter. It only takes a hole the size of a quarter for a rat to squeeze inside, and a hole the size of a dime for mice. Rodents are also known to chew around holes to make them larger, after which they can slip into homes.   

"Commensal rodents depend on humans and their resources to survive, so unless residents and city officials take proactive steps to prevent rodents, infestations can easily get out of hand,” says entomologist and Orkin Technical Services Director Ron Harrison, Ph.D.

According to a 2013 Orkin survey, one-third of Americans saw a rodent in their home in the last year. Rodents eat between 15 and 20 times a day, so nearly 40 percent of homeowners saw rodents for the first time in kitchens. While rodents are commonly found eating human or pet food, they are also found chewing and gnawing other materials, causing damage to furniture, clothing, wiring, insulation and piping.

Orkin recommends the following tips to help prevent rodents around the home:

Regularly inspect the home – inside and outside – for rodent droppings, rub marks or burrows.

Seal all cracks and gaps around utility penetrations larger than 1/4 of an inch, as well as install weather stripping at the bottom of exterior doors.

Trim overgrown branches, plants and bushes near the home, and consider keeping a 2-foot barrier between any landscaping and the home.

Store all food (including pet food) and garbage properly in sealed containers both indoors and outdoors.

Remove all pet bowls after animals are finished eating, and remove pet waste from the lawn promptly.

Contact a pest professional for assistance managing rodents, as these pests can be dangerous and difficult to control.

Source: Orkin.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-to Reduce Your Home's Fire Risk

October 27, 2016 3:48 am

Regardless of where in the country you live, fire is always a potential danger to your home, property and loved ones. According to the American Red Cross, 60 percent of house fire deaths occur in homes with no working smoke alarms. On average, 39 people die each year in fires in this country.

"Fire is one of the most devastating things that can happen to a family and a home," says Eric Corbett, president and owner of Larry & Sons. "If a fire starts in your home, you may have just two minutes to escape. The most effective way to protect yourself and your home from fire is to identify and remove potential fire hazards."

Corbett offers tips to help keep your family and your home safe:

Develop a fire escape plan with your family. Make sure everyone knows how to get out and where to meet. Practice the plan at least twice a year. If a fire occurs in your home, get out and stay out. Teach everyone to stop, drop and roll if their clothes catch fire.

Install smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test them once a month, and if they're not working, change the batteries. Replace them every 10 years.

Keep flammable items at least three feet clear of anything that produces heat, such as a space heater or a fireplace.

Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home. If it sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or near an open window or door.

Cook safely, and teach your kids to do the same. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling. If you leave the kitchen, even for a moment, turn off the stove. Stay home while simmering, baking, roasting or boiling. Check on it regularly and use a timer to remind you. And keep anything that can catch fire, such as pot holders or towels, away from the stove.

Use caution with portable fire extinguishers. Keep one in the kitchen, but use it only if you have been trained by the fire department and if the fire is confined to a small area, the room is not filled with smoke, everyone has exited the building, and the fire department has been called.

Source: www.larryandsons.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Save Money on Travel Insurance

October 27, 2016 3:48 am

While traveling is exciting, it can also be stressful, especially if you are forced to make changes last minute, which can cost you time, energy, and your hard earned cash. This is where travel insurance can come in handy. But insurance itself can be pricey. Below are four tips on how to avoid overspending the next time you buy a travel insurance policy, courtesy of Squaremouth.

DON'T: Insure More Than Necessary
Travel insurance is intended to cover the money you will lose if you cancel your trip. Generally, you only need to insure your prepaid and non-refundable expenses. If that amount increases after you buy a policy, you can call your provider and increase your insured trip cost.

"If you can cancel all your hotels for just a small penalty, insure the cost of the penalty rather than the full amount of the hotels," says Squaremouth Product Manager Adam Rusin. "A lower trip cost generally means a lower premium, and you're still covered for the amount you would lose if you canceled."

DO: Compare Your Options
Travel insurance policies are not "one size fits all." Take a few minutes to research your choices using a travel insurance comparison site and determine what coverage you need. Call and speak to an agent if you aren't sure.

"We get a lot of calls from travelers looking for advice, or trying to understand and compare the coverage they're being offered by their cruise or tour operator," says Squaremouth Customer Service Director Jessica Harvey. "Customers are often surprised to see so many other options that offer the same or better benefits at a lower price."

DON'T: Upgrade to Cancel For Any Reason
While the Cancel For Any Reason upgrade offers greater flexibility to cancel your trip, it can increase the cost of a policy by as much as 40 percent, and it only reimburses a portion of your trip cost. There's no reason to pay more if your concerns are covered by standard travel insurance.

"The most common concerns we see are generally covered by standard cancellation policies, such as canceling due to an illness or a family member passing away," says Squaremouth Quality Assurance Manager Emily Phinney. "We don't recommend Cancel For Any Reason unless someone has a unique concern that isn't otherwise covered."

DO: Buy the Least Expensive Policy
A higher price tag doesn't necessarily mean better service or better benefits. Once you decide what coverage you need, choose the most affordable policy with that coverage.

Source: www.squaremouth.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Best Haunted Houses in the Nation

October 26, 2016 3:48 am

Each halloween, hundreds of haunted houses pop up across the country to the delight and terror of scream fans. In search of the spookiest spaces, Screams.com visited haunted attractions across the country to find the biggest, scariest and most unique attractions. Their findings are now available,  based on fear factor, technology, costume designs, overall uniqueness, size and quality. Go ahead and pick one to visit – we double dog dare you.  

1. 13th Gate, Baton Rouge, La.

2. Bennett's Curse, Baltimore, M.d.

3. Fear Farm, Phoenix, Ariz.

4. Nightmare on 13th, Salt Lake City, Utah

5. Erebus Haunted House, Pontiac, Mich.

6. 13th Floor, San Antonio, Texas

7. Spooky World, New England

8. The Dent Schoolhouse, Cincinnati, OH

9. Spookywoods, Archdale, N.C.

10. Nightmare on the Bayou, Houston, Texas

11. Headless Horseman, Ulster Park, N.Y.

12. The Bates Motel, Glen Mills, Pa.

12. Netherworld, Norcross (Atlanta), Ga.

Source: Screams.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Get the Most from Your Cookware

October 26, 2016 3:48 am

(Family Features)--For leading chefs and casual home cooks alike, a little skill and talent goes a long way toward creating each mouthwatering culinary masterpiece. But as many chefs will tell you, the end result is only as good as the tools you use in the kitchen. Pots and pans that have been treated with care are essential for quality cooking.

Not only are scratched and dinged pots and pans unsightly, these blemishes can actually adversely affect your food preparation. Learn how to keep your cookware in top performing condition with these three tips.

1. Cook with care. Keeping your pans in good condition starts with how you use them on the stove. While most high-quality pots and pans can withstand a range of temperatures, the threshold may vary for mid-range versions. If you're not sure, consult the manufacturer's instructions for specific guidance, but it's always a good idea to begin heating a pan at a medium heat for better cooking control and to avoid burning. Also give special care to the utensils you use for handling food within the pans. Opt for wooden or silicone kitchen tools rather than scratch-inducing metal and always avoid using knives.

2. Clean with care. Proper cleaning for your pots and pans depends upon the material. For example, cast iron and stainless steel should never be soaked, while soaking is perfectly acceptable, even preferable, for ceramic or other coated surfaces. Avoid harsh scrubbing on coated vessels and forgo soap with cast iron, which is porous enough to absorb it. You should always check if your cookware is dishwasher safe before loading it in for a wash, as sometimes detergents can ruin pots' finishes. Even if pots are dishwasher safe, best results will often be seen by handwashing first.

3. Store with care. Stacking pots and pans haphazardly in a drawer or cabinet is a surefire path to scratches and other damage. Look for storage solutions that let you neatly organize your vessels and their matching lids. A couple of handy options include Revere Copper Confidence Core Stainless Steel Cookware and Revere Clean Pan Hard Anodized Aluminum Non-Stick Cookware. Both of these recently released lines include an exclusive patent-pending Nest&Protect feature. By updating the functionality of the traditional hanging rings, these interlocking handles elevate your pots and pans above one another to protect the interior and exterior finishes, while storing conveniently and efficiently without scratching.

Source: RevereWare.com .

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Smart Thermostats Lower Bills, Improve Efficiency

October 26, 2016 3:48 am

More and more homeowners are slashing their bills and making their life a little easier by using smart thermostats. Ease of installation and usage are key contributors to overall satisfaction with these remotely controlled thermostats, a rapidly growing market, according to the inaugural J.D. Power 2016 Smart Thermostat Satisfaction Report.

The primary benefit of smart thermostats is convenience—63 percent of customers indicate they adjust their thermostat remotely—followed by 53 percent indicating automated temperatures when not home, and saving money on monthly heating/air conditioning costs, with 51 percent citing this as a benefit.


While nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of customers installed the unit themselves vs. 36 percent who used a contractor/professional installer, the levels of overall satisfaction vary slightly between installation methods (873 among do-it-yourselfers vs. 883 among those using a contractor, on a 1,000-point scale). More than half (51 percent) of those who installed the smart thermostat themselves say it was easier than expected, while only 4 percent say it was more difficult than expected.

“Smart thermostat customers are taking a hands-on approach to researching, buying and installing a product that allows them to have, in effect, a hands-off experience,” says Jeff Conklin, vice president of utilities & infrastructure practice at J.D. Power. “The resulting satisfaction levels are promising, but manufacturers would be wise to focus on their customers’ ease of connectivity and the benefits of smart thermostats.”

Connectivity issues, while minimal, affect overall satisfaction. Among the 15 percent of customers having difficulty connecting their system to the internet and the 9 percent of those having difficulty connecting from their mobile app, overall satisfaction is 843. Among customers who indicate not experiencing any connectivity problems, overall satisfaction is 899.

The report also finds a high level of customer engagement before making a purchase. Nearly half (45 percent) of customers looked at consumer review websites, and 46 percent indicate those positive reviews were a reason they selected their smart thermostat.

Source: www.jdpower.com/about-us/press-release-info

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Simple Steps to Maintain Natural Stone

October 25, 2016 3:45 am

(Family Features)--Natural stone adds elegance and style to any home. With a nearly endless array of colors, textures and designs, it's easy to create a one-of-a-kind look for your kitchen or bath. However, without proper care, that carefully selected natural stone may quickly start to show wear and tear.

Not only does natural stone lend a beautifully sophisticated aesthetic, it's generally regarded as a practical choice because it's more durable than many other materials. Its resistance to scratches also makes it a more sanitary choice.

However, granite, marble, travertine and other natural-stone and quartz surfaces do require proper care and attention to maintain that luxurious finish. Keep your natural stone in top condition with these tips from the experts at Granite Gold.

Clean often. Even if your surface appears clean, the safest bet is to clean it after every meal preparation. The most miniscule particle could have a detrimental effect on your natural stone. Avoid common cleaners and abrasives. They can break down the protective seal and you could be faced with costly repair or replacement. Also, give special attention to the scrubbing pad you use; many are too abrasive for expensive stone counters and leave unsightly scratches. Leave the sponges and pads you use for pots and pans in the sink and instead rely on scrubbing pads designed specifically for natural stone or look for "non-scratch" on the packaging.

Seal frequently. You cannot over-seal natural stone surfaces. Frequently sealing granite countertops and all other natural stone surfaces maintains maximum surface protection, penetrating stone surfaces to provide superior, long-lasting resistance to staining, etching and soil buildup. The protective seal is a critical component of natural stone because it prevents harmful substances such as acidic coffee, juice or wine from staining and etching the surface.

If you're not sure whether it's time to reseal, it's easy to test. Pour water (about 3 inches in diameter) on the surface and let it sit for 30 minutes. Be sure to do this in several locations, since the integrity of the seal could vary from one area to another. If the water beads, then the stone remains sealed. However, if the stone is penetrated – signified by a dark mark or ring created by the water – it is time to reseal. Be sure to check closely for etching and stains, as you'll want to fix these issues before the sealant is applied.

Polish regularly. Polishing stone provides two great benefits. First, polishing after cleaning will bring out the stone's natural beauty. Second, it will reinforce the protective seal and provide ongoing protection against water spots and fingerprints.

Source: GraniteGold.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Raising Caring Kids

October 25, 2016 3:45 am

Most parents start by encouraging children to share—and that’s a good start, agrees Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd. Weissbourd’s recent study, however, found that 80 percent of children believe their parents care more about their grades than whether they care about others.

If we want children to grow up caring and respectful, says Weissbourd, we need to raise them that way. He and his staff provide five strategies for raising kinder, more ethical children:

1. Make Kindness a Priority – Children need to balance their needs with the needs of others. Parents should encourage them to honor their commitments, try to work out disagreements, and address others respectively even when they are angry or tired.

2. Provide Opportunities to Practice – Pitching in around the house, helping a friend with homework, or sharing a favorite toy with a sibling are good ways to make caring second nature. You don’t need to reward them for doing routine chores, but do express pride and thanks when you see them doing something kind.

3. Expand Their Circle of Concern – Most children care about their own circle of family and friends. Encourage them to develop concern for people in the wider world. Encourage them to care for those who are needy or vulnerable. Use a TV or newspaper story to talk about the hardships faced by others.

4. Be a Role Model – Children learn by watching the actions of adults. Model caring by doing some community service. Involve your kids in donating gently used toys and clothing. Talk about an ethical dilemma, such as what would they do if they saw a classmate bullied or crying.

5. Help Them Learn to Manage Anger – The ability to care for others can be overwhelmed by anger, shame or envy. Children should learn that feelings are okay, but they must cope with them in productive ways. When your child is upset, ask him or her to stop, take a deep breath, exhale, and count to five. If you practice when they are calm, they will eventually learn how to better control their emotions.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Customer Service Crucial to Keeping Clients Happy

October 25, 2016 3:45 am

Nothing spooks your customers faster than poor customer service, according to the inaugural J.D. Power 2016 Home Security Satisfaction Report. While the recent study shows that 31 percent of customers have considered switching providers, those who indicate they will change providers in the next 12 months are doing so predominantly because of poor customer service.

“It’s such a basic principle—provide good customer service—but it requires a commitment throughout an organization,” says Greg Truex, senior director at J.D. Power. “Spending time and money on designing, building and selling a product is great, but if the execution of the customer experience is lacking, it can all be for naught.”

The customer service experience is significant because 40 percent of all customers contact their provider at some point with a question, problem or request. Satisfaction is significantly higher among customers who say the response was helpful (869 on a 1,000-point scale) than among those who didn’t find the response helpful (655). Satisfaction also is higher among customers who don’t contact their provider (867) than among those who do (850).

Following are additional findings of the report:

- Satisfaction is 62 points higher among customers who do not consider switching providers than among those who do consider switching (880 vs. 818, respectively).

- The three leading reasons customers select a system are brand reputation (54%), price (46%) and positive reviews/online rating (45%).

- Nearly 9 in 10 (87%) customers indicate they’re able to control their system outside of their home, while only 59% indicate they control it from their mobile device.

- Following are loyalty findings related to delighted customers:

- More than 9 in 10 (92%) delighted home security customers (overall satisfaction scores above 900) say they “definitely will” recommend the brand to others, compared with the report average of 72%.

- Nearly 9 in 10 (85%) delighted customers say they “definitely will” remain a customer of the brand, compared with the report average of 68%.

- Delighted customers make an average of 6.6 recommendations to family and friends, compared with the report average of 4.9.

Source: www.jdpower.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Americans Remain Concerned About Credit Card Debt

October 24, 2016 3:45 am

Americans are growing more concerned about their credit card balances, according to a recent National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) poll, which revealed that 69 percent of the respondents are most unsure or worried about paying down credit card debt.

“Credit cards are a useful and effective financial tool for those who keep their balances under control,” says Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the NFCC. “Balances sometimes grow beyond the point where they can easily be repaid, which is a sign that it’s time to reach out to a financial professional for guidance.”

Those polled are also worried about insufficient savings for emergencies and retirement, student loan debt and lack of affordable housing.

So what's the best way to work down your payment? Bump your monthly contributions. Paying only the minimum monthly payment is like treading water. It would take someone almost 26 years to pay off $7,800 at 15 percent interest. During that time, the amount of interest paid in addition to the principle balance would be $9,229. Paying extra each month will slash the interest you're shelling out.

If you are struggling to afford extra payments, consider consolidating balances if you have multiple accounts – but make sure to choose an account with a lower interest rate.

Source: www.NFCC.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Millennials See a Drop in Mortgage Rates

October 24, 2016 3:45 am

As the Fed considers bumping interest rates, the average rates on home loans offered to millennials dropped to 3.763 percent in August, according to the latest Ellie Mae Millennial Tracker™. While this is a nice dip, the average loan amount to millennial borrowers actually increased to $181,326, compared to July’s average of $180,413.

The Tracker also noted that, after increasing the past few months, the average FICO score for millennial borrowers remained stable at 725 in August. The percentage of millennial conventional loans in August continued to climb, resulting in 63 percent of total closed loans, up from 62 percent in July. Meanwhile, FHA loans continued to represent 35 percent of all closed loans in August, down from both June and May’s 37 percent share. The average debt-to-income ratio (DTI) rose to 24/36. Loan-to-value (LTV) increased to 88 in August.

“In August, millennial borrowers enjoyed the lowest average interest rates we have seen all year,” said Joe Tyrrell, executive vice president of corporate strategy at Ellie Mae. “And we are seeing average loan amounts creep up for conventional and FHA loans as millennials take advantage of these low rates.”

Women were listed as the primary borrower on 32 percent of closed loans. Consistent with July data, among women who were listed as the primary borrower, 39 percent were married and 61 percent were single. Comparatively, among male primary borrowers, 59 percent were listed as married and 41 percent were single, a significant difference from women. The average age for borrowers remained consistent in 29.0 for female primary borrowers and 29.3 for male primary borrowers.

In August, female primary borrowers had an average FICO score of 725 and male primary borrowers had a slightly higher average score of 727. FHA loans represented 40 percent of total loans to female primary borrowers, compared to just 33 percent of male primary borrowers.

Owensboro, Ky. remained the top Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) for millennial borrowers, with 60 percent of its mortgage loans closed in August going to members of this generation. Dickinson, N.D. Dakota, Terre Haute, Ind., and Hutchinson, Minn. each had 47 percent of mortgage loans closed by millennial borrowers. When sorted by population, top MSAs included St. Louis, Mo.-Ill. (34 percent) followed by Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md. (32 percent).

Source: http://elliemae.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Superheroes Reign This Halloween

October 24, 2016 3:45 am

This Halloween, expect to see a bevvy of pint-sized superheroes littering your 'hood. The beloved princess costume has been de-crowned after an 11-year reign, according to NRF’s 2016 Halloween Consumer Top Costumes Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. But perhaps the spookiest finding of all from this survey is that spending on Halloween costumes is expected to reach $3.1 billion.

Findings show that over three million children will dress as their favorite action or superhero, 2.9 million will dress as their favorite princess and 2.5 million plan to dress as a cat, dog, bunny or other animal. 

Top Kid's Costumes
  1. Action/Superhero
  2. Princess
  3. Animal (Cat, Dog, Lion, Monkey, etc.)
  4. Batman Character
  5. Star Wars Character
  6. Tie: Witch AND DC Superhero (excl. Batman)
  7. Frozen Character (Anna, Elsa, Olaf)
  8. Marvel Superhero (excl. Spiderman)
  9. Zombie
  10. Spiderman
So what will millennials rock on All Hallow's Eve? Nine percent will reach for a Batman costume, followed by 6.1 percent opting for witch hats and brooms and five percent planning to dress as an animal. 

Adults, 18 -34-Years-Old
1. Batman Character (Batman, Harley Quinn, The Joker, etc.)
2. Witch
3. Animal (Cat, Dog, Bunny, etc.)
4. Tie: Marvel Superhero (Deadpool, Spiderman, etc.) AND DC Superhero (Wonder Woman, Superman, excl. Batman)
5. Vampire
6. Video Game Character
7. Slasher Movie Villain (Freddy, Jason, Michael Myers, etc.)
8. Pirate
9. Star Wars Character
10. Zombie

For the mid-range adults, more will turn to witches, pirates and political figures for their costume inspiration.

Adults 35+

1. Witch
2. Pirate
3. Political (Trump, Clinton, etc.)
4. Vampire
5. Batman Character (Batman, Catwoman, etc.)
6. Animal (Cat, Dog, Bunny, etc.)
7. Tie: DC Superhero (Superman, Wonder Woman, excl. Batman) and Star Wars Character
8. Tie: Ghost and Zombie
9. Scary Costume/Mask
10. Marvel Superhero (Iron Man, Hulk, Spiderman, etc.) 

And what would a holiday be without dressed up pets? Sixteen percent of consumers plan to dress their pets in costume this year and 86.7 percent of those consumers already have a plan for their pet’s costumes. Pumpkin, hot dog and bumble bee are at the top of the list again this year.

Furry friends

1. Pumpkin
2. Hot Dog
3. Bumble Bee
4. Tie: Lion and Star Wars Character
5. Devil
6. Batman Character
7. Witch
8. Superman
9. Action/Superhero
10. Cat

Sources: www.ProsperDiscovery.com, www.nrf.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How Not to Help Your Child Succeed in School

October 21, 2016 3:42 am


Children are under a lot of pressure to get good grades at an early age in order to pave the way for a successful academic future. Parents are often at a loss as to the best way to help their children do well in school, and their best intentions, unfortunately, can backfire.

While every child is different, the tactics that usually don’t work:

Nagging - Constantly reminding your children to do their homework and study will have little to no effect on their motivation. Most of the time, they know exactly what they need to do and are simply procrastinating. Have a conversation with your child to review what’s due the next day or within the coming week, jot it down, and then leave them to it.

Getting Angry - Worse than nagging, yelling at your children about homework and grades is a recipe for disaster. Not only is it ineffective, it disrupts the peace at home, which is counterproductive for everyone in the family.

Doing It for Them - It can be oh-so tempting to simply intervene and do that math sheet or English paper yourself, especially if your child is feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Instead, show them how to organize their time, break a project into chunks, or encourage them to see their teacher for extra help. 

Blaming the Teacher - Keeping the lines of communication open with your child’s teacher is very important, so long as you remain as impartial as possible, and are open to constructive criticism about your son or daughter. Getting adversarial with the teacher just making things worse for your child.

Punishing - While threats may seem like a logical way to get your child to do well, negative reinforcement rarely works long-term. Instead, try positive reinforcement, such as a small reward (e.g., a trip to the ice cream parlor, an extra hour tacked onto Saturday night curfew) for handing in work on time or getting a good grade on a paper. This will encourage good work habits that will serve them well far into the future.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Not My House! A Before-the-Storm Checklist

October 21, 2016 3:42 am


Storms can cause all types of damage to a property, from loss of belongings to mold growth and beyond.

“Preparing before a storm is critical in managing the aftermath damage,” said Peter Duncanson, director of System Development with ServiceMaster Restore, in a recent statement. “We know how devastating storm damage can be for people, and we want to help them mitigate it as much as possible and be prepared to respond quickly.”

Duncanson and his team at Service Master Restore suggest following this checklist:

• Obtain emergency supplies (or refresh reserves, if needed) of items such medication, non-perishable food and water.

• Organize important documentation, such as birth certificates, insurance policies and receipts, into accessible, waterproof storage.

• Take stock of possessions, preferably with photos, including the items’ make, model and/or serial number.

• Unplug all electronics.

• Raise furniture, as well as below-window treatments. Board up windows, if necessary.

• Determine points of contact for emergency communications, and share that information with all members of the household.

• Clear gutters.

• Store outdoor furniture or any other outdoor items, including toys and tools, that could become airborne.

Source: ServiceMaster Restore
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The 10 Paint Colors Designers Use Most

October 21, 2016 3:42 am


With hundreds of paint colors to choose from, selecting the shades just right for your home can be daunting. Good Housekeeping magazine recently rounded up the top 10 paint colors most often used by professional home designers. Get inspired by them:

1. Palladian Blue – By Benjamin Moore, this blue-green-grey shade can be used in any room, and is especially ideal for cooling down a sun-filled room or adding tranquility to a bedroom.

2. Garden Stone – By Clark+Kensington, this classic warm grey shade is a designer favorite projected to stand the test of time.

3. Manchester Tan – By Benjamin Moore, this shade is a go-to warm neutral favored because it changes with the light, going from rich to fresh.

4. Compatible Cream – By Sherwin Williams, this creamy yellow shade is warm and inviting, but not too sunny.

5. Intense White – By Benjamin Moore, this shade gives off a light grey-ish tone. Designers use it as a backdrop for rooms with brightly colored furniture.

6. Sprout 0.6 – By Colorhouse, this shade has a slightly pinkish hue, and is often chosen for ceilings because it reflects flatteringly on people in the room.

7. Revere Pewter – By Benjamin Moore, this fail-safe neutral shade is the perfect alternative to white, ideal for open floor plans with just a hint of color.

8. Decorator’s White – By Benjamin Moore, this shade has pure white undertones that provide a crisp, clean look on ceilings or trim, or in bathrooms. 

9. Essential Grey – By Sherwin Williams, this shade is best paired with white trim for a clean, sophisticated aesthetic.

10. Wool Skein – By Sherwin Williams, this neutral shade coordinates well with any color.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Study: The Value of a Consistent Retirement Saving Strategy

October 20, 2016 3:39 am


Reports about the retirement outlook for Americans have been less than encouraging since the recession. Recent data, however, show that the tide may be turning, this time favorably.

The average 401(k) balance, according to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and the Investment Company Institute (ICI), has grown in the last four years, through both workers’ and employers’ contributions, as well as gains. The average 401(k) balance among consistent contributors is now $130,493. “Consistent” contributors are defined as “those who remained active in the same 401(k) plan for the four-year period covering year-end 2010 through year-end 2014.” The median 401(k) balance among consistent contributors, comparatively, grew to $56,653. Approximately one in five consistent contributors have more than $200,000 in their current employer’s 401(k) plan.

These data are evidence that consistency is essential to wealth-building for retirement, says Sarah Holden, ICI’s senior director of Retirement and Investor Research.

“By studying the experience of workers who participate consistently across several years, this study shows more accurately the extent to which steady, paycheck-by-paycheck saving and compounding investment returns can help workers accumulate a sizable retirement nest egg,” Holden said in a statement.

Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Did You Know Where You Live Can Affect How You Look?

October 20, 2016 3:39 am


You’d rarely think to move somewhere based on how it can change your appearance. A recent study, however, shows that where we choose to set down roots could actually impact how well we age.

The “2016 RoC Wrinkle Ranking,” compiled by Sperling’s Best Places, a research firm, and RoC® Skincare, offers a city-by-city look at premature aging and skin damage, revealing what you can expect to see when looking in the mirror decades down the road based on what city you call home. The analysis assessed factors commonly known to affect skin health: environmental, lifestyle and occupational influences.

The study predicts that in the year 2040, San Jose, Calif., will claim the least wrinkle-prone title as the city with residents who age the best. This is due to its shorter commute times, smaller population size and an anticipated shift toward a wetter climate. 

Philadelphia, on the other hand, will reign as the most wrinkle-prone city, thanks to airborne pollution, lengthy commute times and higher-than-average smoking rates.

The study highlights a number of key factors:

Large metropolitan areas, like Philly, Washington, D.C. and New York City, will likely remain the most wrinkle-prone due to extreme urban environments, more congested commuting and lower air quality.

Smoking rates will likely approach zero in 35 of the 50 cities ranked, which will decrease overall rates of premature wrinkles. However, Nashville, St. Louis and Kansas City are expected to retain smoking rates significantly higher than the rest of the country – leaving residents of these cities more at risk.

Higher temperatures, along with less precipitation, will increase the occurrence of wrinkles in certain areas, such as the Great Lakes and the Northeast. Texans in communities like Dallas, Houston and San Antonio will see the greatest decrease in average annual precipitation.

How about it? Will the possibility of premature aging give you pause about your city?
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


At Home: 8 Energy-Saving Tips

October 20, 2016 3:39 am


Energy costs account for a considerable amount of every homeowner’s budget. According to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), the average annual utility costs are $2,200. Trimming that expense, even by a few dollars, can save hundreds each year—and save the environment from the effects of excess consumption.

Start saving energy at home with these tips, shared recently by the CFA.

1. Air-dry dishes, instead of drying them in the dishwasher. Avoid turning on the dishwasher until it is absolutely full, as ell—cycling through a wash every night is a high energy-consuming task.

2. Buy ENERGY STAR® products. If it is time to replace an appliance, purchase a model with the ENERGY STAR label, which indicates the appliance meets energy efficiency standards. 

3. Install a programmable thermostat to control the temperature in the home at different times of day automatically—this can save $100 a year, making the expense well worth the cost.

4. Replace incandescent light bulbs with LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, which, according to the CFA, use up to 25 percent less energy. Replace them only when the incandescents burn out, however—the goal is to avoid unnecessary consumption overall.

5. Seal drafts with caulk or weatherstripping to prevent air leakage—this is proven to save hundreds in cooling and heating costs. Spray foam insulation can be used on the exterior of the home to seal gaps around the chimney, foundation, pipes and windows.

6. Set up motion detectors, or set timers, to control lighting when not in use. Use power strips where appropriate to keep energy use to a minimum at night.

7. Turn down the water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Water heaters, the CFA reports, are the second-highest energy consumers in homes. Turning down the thermostat on them by a few degrees can significantly reduce their energy use.

8. Conduct an energy audit. Many utilities companies offer free energy audits, which is a type of inspection that reveals the most energy-consuming (and costly) aspects in the home.

Source: Consumer Federation of America (CFA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


A Dietician's Secrets for Healthier Eating

October 19, 2016 3:39 am


Whether you’re on your own or feeding a family, it can be tempting to skip healthy meal preparation in favor of quick carry-outs. Don’t give in!

Registered dietician Jae Berman recently shared her healthy eating secret with the Washington Post: batch cooking.

Batch cooking is preparing enough foods at one time to provide proteins, veggies and carbs for a week or more. Her example:

• Roast two or three pans of vegetables and store them in a container in the fridge. Cook off 10 chicken breasts, brown two pounds of ground beef, and hard-boil a dozen eggs. You can even steam a big helping of rice, quinoa or other grains, and store them in the fridge, as well.

• Use condiments and sauces for flavor—add salsa, cilantro and canned chilies to the ground beef to make tacos with prepared tortilla shells, warm up chicken with lemon juice and herbs, and add them to pasta sauce with a bit of parmesan, or, chop them with celery, egg and a little mayo for a salad.

Berman has a host of other tricks on hand, too:

Prep Fruits/Veggies – Cut up a variety and keep them in the fridge for snacking, packed lunches or dinner sides.

Use That Crockpot – Almost any combination of protein, veggies, herbs and a little broth or other liquid popped into the Crockpot in the morning will wind up as a savory soup or stew at the end of the day.

Make a Frittata – Combine eggs, veggies and spices and cook in a large skillet. Then, slice like pizza and freeze for later use—warm up a slice, add a salad and crusty bread, and you’re good to go.

Use Canned Fish – Prepare enough canned tuna or salmon for two meals: the first as a salad with fresh veggies, and the second for tuna melts or salmon patties.

Remember Smoothies – You can make them ahead of time with yogurt and fresh fruit, then freeze in separate containers and use for breakfast on the go.

Will you try batch cooking this weekend?
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How-To: Take the Shiver out of a Drafty House

October 19, 2016 3:39 am


(BPT)—A drafty house is not just cold—it’s downright expensive. The kicker? The sources of those drafts can be eliminated inexpensively.

Take the attic, for instance. There was a large hole cut into the ceiling to make way for stairs to it. All of that insulation is now gone, replaced with a thin, unsealed sheet of plywood.

Attics are vented directly outdoors, so they get cold in winter—really cold. What separates your heated home from your cold, un-heated attic? A thin, unsealed sheet of plywood!

Need more proof? Turn the light on in your attic tonight, keeping the stairway closed. See that light streaming through? It’s shining on the gap that is costing you buckets in utilities each winter. Imagine that!

Whole-house fans (which are also installed by way of large hole) can be just as problematic. In this case, a flimsy ceiling shutter is all that stands between you and the elements. Nice.

Fireplaces, ironically, are also drafty—an open damper, even in a well-insulated home, can raise energy consumption by up to 30 percent!

A shut damper isn’t airtight, either. The chimney is an opening to the outdoors—think of it as a window, swallowing up (and out!) all of that costly heated air.

Let’s not forget dryer vents, or exhaust ducts, which can be a source of drafts, too. Most dryer vents employ a sheet metal flapper to reduce drafts—primitive protection, by today’s technology.

The good news is, all of these problems have economical solutions.

• Insulated Attic Stair Cover
• Whole-House Fan Shutter Seal (with Flexible, Textured Insulation, plus Velcro)
• Fireplace Plug
• Dryer Vent Seal (Floating Shuttle)

Winter’s still a few weeks away—get these fixes in now to warm up with all those savings!

Source: Battic Door
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Why Fall Is Time to Buy—or Sell—a Home

October 19, 2016 3:39 am


The data have it: October is one of the better months to buy, or sell.

Homebuyers, according to RealtyTrac®, tend to get the best deals in October, based on an analysis of more than 30 million single-family home and condominium sales that happened over the last 15 years—of the 2.7 million sales closed in October over that period, the average sale price was 2.6 percent below average estimated full market value.

Why the downtrend? One of the main causes is lesser demand, which results in lower prices. Another cause could be the presence of “spring leftovers”—the homes that didn’t sell in the spring or summer placed back on the market, at a reduced price, in fall.

Historically, fall has been an ideal season for homebuyers—it lacks the pace of peak real estate season, which can be intimidating (especially to newcomers), and it offers time to buy between the frenetic start of the school year and the holidays. The beginning of school, as well, means that fewer homebuyers will be out searching for homes, lessening the competition for other buyers, and bidding wars, as a result.

Still, fall can be ideal for those on the other side of the closing table—sellers. Sellers in the fall generally attract more serious buyers than at other times of year, upping the chance they’ll get a well-intentioned offer. They also could be on a faster path to closing, as well, because fall is outside of peak season—some buyers, then, may have a pressing reason to buy.

October, specifically, is also ideal for both parties in that appliances go on sale—manufacturers deeply discount previous years’ models to make way for the next years’ hitting the shelves. How about that for incentive?

Whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter, I’m prepared to help you with your real estate needs. Contact me today!
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


America's Spending: Booze, Coffee, and a Whole Lot of Extras

October 18, 2016 3:39 am


“What did I spend all that money on?!"

Most of us have had that reaction at one time or another—it usually comes when we see that sky-high credit card bill come in.

What do we really spend our money on? Online coupon collector RetailMeNot recently discovered the answer as part of its “WTF Did I Spend My Money On?” campaign.

Food – Each week, 85 percent of us stock up on groceries, averaging $115, and 74 percent of us treat ourselves to a meal out each week, averaging $58. All that eating out can add up— $3,016 a year!

Beer – Forty-eight percent of us aged 21 and over buy beer each month, racking up $50 in the process. That’s pouring out $600 a year!

Coffee – Forty-eight percent of us spring for a cup o’ Joe each week, averaging $18, or $936 a year. That’s almost a grand!

Wine – Forty-three percent of us aged 21 and over purchase wine each month, averaging $51—about the same as beer buyers.

Other common contributors to spending, according to RetailMeNot, are manicures and pedicures—averaging $1,471.08 a year!—and pet supplies, averaging $221 per month for dog owners and $192 per month for cat owners.

More of us are also spending on newer types of recurring expenses—rides from Lyft or Uber average $45 per week ($2,340 per year), and meal delivery services average $42.44 per week, or $2,206.88 per year, RetailMeNot found.

What are you spending your money on?

Source: RetailMeNot
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


When's the Last Time You Really Cleaned Your Kitchen?

October 18, 2016 3:39 am


Your appliances and counters are sparkling, and your cabinets and floors are polished to a shine—but how clean are some lesser-seen areas of your kitchen?

Joe Sevier of Epicurious.com consulted with kitchen experts to get the low-down on areas of the kitchen we may be overlooking when it comes to cleaning. Here’s a list of what needs to be cleaned—and how frequently, too—from Sevier’s blog. You may be surprised!

Cleaning Brush – Daily (Rinse in hot water after each use.)

Dish Drying Rack – Weekly

Garbage Bin – Monthly

Kitchen Cabinets – Monthly (Wipe down fronts and knobs, and vacuum the inside.)

In-Drawer Flatware Caddy – Monthly (If you have a wire or mesh caddy, remove and vacuum debris that filtered down to the drawer.)

Refrigerator Shelves – Monthly (Tip: Wiping the bottom of jars and cartons will keep shelves cleaner, longer.)

Stovetop Exhaust Fan – Monthly

Utensil Caddy – Monthly, to remove food splatters, dust and grease

Water Filterer – Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but generally, it should be cleaned every two months when you change the filter.

Ice Cube Trays – Once or twice a year if you use them regularly, but more often if you only use them once in a while

Source: Epicurious.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Staging for Millennial Appeal

October 18, 2016 3:39 am


Millennials—the generation born between 1980 and 1995 that now comprise the largest home-buying group—want made-up, modern, and move-in ready.

Real estate professionals are seeing it firsthand: most millennials don’t want their parents’ house, but older homes tend to look just like mom and dad’s—a harsh truth for homeowners needing to appeal to these types of buyers when they list their home for sale.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), millennials accounted for 35 percent of all home sales last year. Sellers unreceptive to staging could miss that opportunity entirely. Comparable homes staged for millennials, too, tend to fetch more than ones that aren’t—that means even if an older buyer places an offer, that offer will likely be on par with market value or higher.

The fact is, millennials don’t have the desire, money or time to fix up a home themselves. These days, bold colors, clean-lined furniture and light walls are not enough to pique their interest—one blogger called the aesthetic they’re after the “this-could-be-a-movie-set” look. Millennials want to project a lifestyle in the places they call home. Sellers should aim to meet them on those terms.

Stagers generally recommend starting by removing outdated décor—this can make a positive difference in the impression millennial buyers receive. Contemporary light fixtures, hardwood flooring and updated window treatments can dramatically change the appearance of the home, as well. Few, strategic fixes like these can sell a home for top dollar, and that much sooner.

Every house, however, is unique. A real estate professional well-versed in staging is worth consulting—most will walk the home and offer suggestions as to the improvements needed to make the home attractive to not only millennials, but all types of buyers. Contact one today!
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tax Filers: Educational Credits to Consider

October 17, 2016 3:36 am


For most taxpayers, this time of year marks the beginning of the return planning process—and with the school year in swing, there is no better time to explore eligibility for educational tax credits.

There are two educational credits available, according to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS): the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. Taxpayers can only claim one of these credits per student, per year, even if they are eligible for both.

The American Opportunity Tax Credit is available for “qualified education expenses,” such as tuition, up to $2,500 per student. Only taxpayers with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $80,000 or less (or $160,000 for married couples filing jointly) can claim the full credit.

The Lifetime Learning Credit is available for similar expenses, including tuition, up to $2,000 per return. Only taxpayers with a MAGI of $55,000 or less (or $111,000 for married couples filing jointly) can claim the full credit.

Both credits, which must be claimed through Form 8863, can be claimed by the taxpayer who pays qualifying expenses for an “eligible student,” which includes the taxpayer, spouse and dependents who are enrolled in an “eligible college, university or vocational school, according to the IRS.

Visit the Education Credits page on the IRS website, www.irs.gov/individuals/education-credits-aotc-llc, for more information, or to determine eligibility.

Source: U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Protecting Pets: 6 Disaster Safety Tips

October 17, 2016 3:36 am


Pets are family, and in times of distress, it’s important to treat them as such. Bookmark these safety tips for reference the next time a natural disaster occurs, courtesy of national humane organization American Humane.

1. Update Your Pet’s Information – Ensure your pet’s license information and microchip registration are up-to-date. Register your pet with mobiPET, a free AMBER-type alert system for missing pets.

2. Prepare a Kit for Your Pet – Assemble a kit with pet essentials: bowls, carrying cases, food, medication, water, etc. Keep it in an accessible area, preferably with your own emergency kit.

3. Note Your Pet’s Preferences – Be aware of the places your pet likes to hide—they may seek shelter there if they are separated from you during a disaster.

4. Secure Pet Exits – Make certain your pet cannot leave your home during a storm—bar access to cat doors, especially.

5. Keep Your Pet in Tow – If ordered to evacuate, take your pet with you—do not leave your pet behind. House your pet at a safe boarding facility, or stay at a pet-friendly hotel.

6. Understand Changes in Your Pet – Your pet’s outdoor (and indoor) environment may change after a storm. Your pet may exhibit notice by acting out or being self-protective—be sensitive to these changes, and comfort your pet in a quiet area, if possible.

Source: American Humane
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What Is a Home Service Contract, or "Warranty?"

October 17, 2016 3:36 am


The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA) defines home service contracts, or “warranties,” as contracts offering repair, replacement or service for major appliances and systems that break down as a result of “normal” use. Home service contracts, according to the Association, are a significant means of savings for homeowners, with coverage ranging from disposals and ovens to HVAC systems.

“The wholesale value of these contracts easily exceeds $1 billion in savings to consumers annually,” said Mike Bartosch, president of the NHSCA, in a recent statement.

Home service contracts are not the same as homeowners insurance. Said Bartosch, “Home service contracts and homeowners insurance policies are mutually exclusive products in all 50 states. NHSCA members are not insurers and do not sell an insurance product. Further, insurance products don’t cover service, repairs or replacement to home systems and appliances required as a result of normal wear and use.

“If a system or appliance stops working, contact your home service contract provider,” Bartosch added in the statement. “If a home system or appliance is damaged by a falling tree, catches fire, or is subject to vandalism, contact your insurance agent.”

Real estate professionals often offer home service contracts—in this case, “warranties”—to homebuyers and/or sellers. The term “warranty,” according to the NHSCA, refers to the seller’s action of purchasing a service contract for the buyer should issues arise during the first year of ownership. If you’re a buyer or seller, consult with your real estate agent or broker to learn more about the options available to you.

For more information, visit HomeServiceContract.org.
 
Source: National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Car Care: 5 Things Drivers Should Stop Doing

October 14, 2016 3:33 am


A car only lasts as long as you care for it.

“Because auto care isn’t always a top priority for car owners, they might not realize they are doing things that adversely affect the performance, safety and value of their car,” says Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Routine maintenance can go a long way toward saving money, avoiding headaches and protecting your vehicle investment.”

The Car Care Council recently outlined five things drivers should stop doing if they want their car to last:

STOP: Driving Carelessly
Driving carelessly is not only dangerous to yourself and those around you—it can cause damage to your car, too. Always observe the speed limit, and avoid aggressive starting and stopping, especially in stop-and-go traffic.

STOP: Ignoring the Check Engine Light
We know, we know—you’ll schedule that vehicle service appointment eventually. Putting off service when the check engine light comes on could lead to costly repairs down the road. (Literally!)

STOP: Neglecting the Tires
Your car’s tires get you from Point A to Point B—don’t neglect them! Bald or underinflated tires can be detrimental to the gas mileage and performance of your car, as well as your overall safety.

STOP: Running on Empty
We don’t mean the gas tank (though that can be harmful, too!). Check the fluid levels of your car regularly, and refill, if needed, to keep your car functioning at optimal capacity.

STOP: Skipping Out on Service
Periodic inspections by a professional service technician, which include assessment of the car’s components and parts, can help you keep unexpected repair costs to a minimum, and extend the lifespan of your car.

Source: Car Care Council
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Big DIY Results on a Little Budget

October 14, 2016 3:33 am


(Family Features)—With an abundance of home improvement shows now on television, DIY has evolved from an intimidating trade for the pros to an easy-to-manage project for even the least handy.

Transforming a home from disaster to delightful through DIY projects is much easier than you think, and can save you a bundle in the process. If the thought of doing your own handiwork has you wiping your brow, think again with these easy improvements:

Stained Tubs – Grime and grit build-up in the tub is difficult to remove, making an already annoying mess even more of a headache. Depending on the type of material your tub is made of, you can opt for an abrasive powder, baking soda, or even a pumice stone to rub out those nasty spots.

Wall Dents and Holes – Wrestling matches among the kids, rambunctious pets and moving furniture all take a toll on your walls. Dings and scratches are easy to fix with a little spackle and paint, but with the right resources, so are bigger blemishes—even outright holes.

When you use a repair kit, there's no need to hire a pro or buy a bunch of tools. Such kits, for holes up to five inches in diameter, include everything you need to fix anything from a can-light hole in the ceiling to a door knob hole in the wall—no experience required.

Dripping Faucets – Plumbing can be especially intimidating, but one of the most common plumbing annoyances—a dripping faucet—can be fixed in a few minutes with just a few dollars.

Usually, the cause of a drippy faucet is a washer or O-ring that has gone bad—you can simply replace those parts. Turn off the water, then use a screwdriver or hex wrench to loosen and remove the faucet fitting. You should be able to easily see the washer and ring fittings. Just replace the old with the new and reassemble. (Note: If the drip is coming from a faucet with separate handles for hot and cold, you'll want to isolate which handle is the culprit before you get started.)

Source: Family Features Editorial Syndicate
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How Mortgages Factor In to Debt Profiles

October 14, 2016 3:33 am


Most Americans identify a mortgage as the largest source of debt they carry—an unsurprising statistic, given that the majority of monthly budgets are spent on housing. A mortgage, however, is commonly referred to as a “good kind” of debt, one that leads to long-term wealth and security.

GOBankingRates (GOBankingRates.com) recently took a pulse on the debt profile of some 3,000 Americans, finding 39 percent of those surveyed carry mortgage loan debt—“good” debt. On par with that percentage are the 38 percent surveyed who carry credit card debt—not-so “good” debt. Thirty-one percent surveyed carry auto loan debt; 27 percent carry student loan debt; and 21 percent carry medical debt.

The results of the survey reveal the median mortgage debt is $59,500, though that median trends much higher among those with high incomes. To compare, the median credit card debt among those surveyed is $2,000; the median auto loan debt is $8,000; the median student loan debt is $9,100; and the median medical debt is $600.
Importantly, over half of those surveyed (51 percent) say they are “debt-free”—GOBankingRates attributes this belief to the fact that most of us overlook what we perceive to be minor debts, placing more importance on larger amounts, like mortgages.

Good, bad, major or minor, making payments consistently is key, says GOBankingRates Life + Money Columnist Cameron Huddleston.

“Our survey found that Americans are saddled with various types of debt, from mortgages and student loans to credit card and medical debt,” said Huddleston in a statement on the survey, “but it is a burden that can be overcome. The best way to dig yourself out of debt is to make paying off what you owe a priority.”

Source: GOBankingRates.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Scam Watch: Fake Election Pollsters on the Prowl

October 13, 2016 3:33 am


Scammers are out in full force under the guise of Presidential election pollsters, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently warned.

The ruse? According to the BBB, a fraudster calls an unsuspecting consumer offering a reward in exchange for opinions about the election. The fraudster may ask seemingly valid questions in an attempt to gain the consumer’s trust. Once the consumer answers the questions, the fraudster asks for the consumer’s credit card number—this information, the fraudster says, is needed to pay for the shipping and taxes on the reward. The fraudster makes off with the credit card number, making the consumer vulnerable to unauthorized charges or—worse—identity theft.

Watchfulness is key to avoiding this and other campaign cons, according to the BBB. Polling organizations never offer rewards in exchange for opinions, nor ask for credit card information.

Those wishing to make a donation to a campaign should do so directly through the campaign office, not through an email or social media link, the BBB advises.

Source: Better Business Bureau (BBB)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


A Hurricane Damaged My Home—Now What?

October 13, 2016 3:33 am


Anyone whose home’s been damaged by a hurricane knows the days following the storm can be hazy.

The first and most important step to take after the storm is contacting your insurance provider to begin the claim filing process. It’s important to do this as soon as you’re able, according to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), but to tread carefully when doing so.

“Families will have to dig deeper into their pockets, because insurers have been steadily increasing hurricane wind coverage deductibles and imposing other policy limitations,” said J. Robert Hunter, director of Insurance for CFA, in a statement on Hurricane Matthew, the most recent storm. “This liability shift to consumers may take some by surprise, since disclosures are often buried in renewal paperwork that consumers may not understand or even read.”

It’s important, according to CFA, to keep records of each event in the claims process, especially when making a claim due to a major catastrophe. Keep your claim number handy, and hold on to receipts for repair work or temporary housing. Record brief notes, including dates and times, of all communications with your insurer. Take stock of your belongings as best you can—having a list will help expedite the claims process.

In the meantime, take steps to prepare for the insurance adjustment, CFA recommends. Be sure to get estimates from a few local, reputable contractors for reference before the adjuster arrives to assess the damage—and, remember, you’re not obligated to use a contractor recommended by your insurer. Clarify whether the adjuster is an independent professional or an employee of the insurer—if the former, confirm they’re authorized by the insurer to make decisions related to your claim.

Remain vigilant through the process, as well. Though flooding is not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies, some insurers employ an “anti-concurrent-causation” clause—this means that the insurer will not cover wind damage if flooding occurred concurrently, or at the same time, according to CFA. (Your claim may be denied because of this clause—if that’s the case, consult with an attorney, CFA advises.) Some insurers may also unfairly categorize losses as the result of flooding, rather than high winds.

“Because so many consumers experienced claims problems in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, we urge homeowners dealing with losses caused by Hurricane Matthew to be vigilant with their insurance companies to ensure that they receive a full and fair settlement,” Hunter said.

However, “not all insurance companies handle claims badly, so go into the claims process with an open mind,” Hunter added.

Source: Consumer Federation of America (CFA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Do You Know How Often Smoke Alarms Should Be Replaced?

October 13, 2016 3:33 am


Most of us don’t.

You may already be aware you should test the smoke alarms in your house each month. Did you know you should also replace those alarms every 10 years?

Most homeowners, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), are unaware of this guideline—in fact, nine out of 10 in a recent survey by the organization did not know alarms expire. What’s more: one in five has an alarm in their home that is more than 10 years old, and an identical proportion does not know how old their alarms are at all.

“While the public generally knows that smoke alarms play an important role in home fire safety, some smoke alarm messages are not as well understood,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for NFPA, in a statement. “Not knowing how often smoke alarms need to be replaced—or that they even have an expiration date—are among them.”

Homeowners should inspect their smoke alarms for the “date of manufacture,” which is generally on the back or side of the device—this date indicates age, according to NFPA. The date of manufacture is not the same as the date of purchase or date of installation.

“Working smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in a home fire in half,” Carli added. “That’s why it’s so important to make sure they’re working properly."

Aside from testing alarms on a monthly basis, Carli and NFPA recommend replacing the batteries as soon as the warning chirp sounds.

Source: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top 10 Leaf-Peeping Locales This Fall

October 12, 2016 3:33 am


On the road in search of color-changing foliage this fall? Take in awe-inspiring autumn vistas at these leaf-peeping locales, recently ranked by Booking.com.

1. Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee)
Come for: 100-plus species of native trees
Stay for: Blue Mountain Mist Country Inn & Spa, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

2. Aspen (Colorado)
Come for: Aspen trees
Stay for: Limelight Hotel, Aspen, Colo.

3. Lake Superior (Minnesota)
Come for: North Woods, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
Stay for: Grand Superior Lodge, Two Harbors, Minn.

4. Geneva Lake (Wisconsin)
Come for: 19th century shoreline properties
Stay for: Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, Lake Geneva, Wis.

5. The Berkshires (Massachusetts)
Come for: Antique shops, art galleries
Stay for: Orchards Hotel, Williamstown, Mass.

6. June Lake (California)
Come for: Outdoor recreation, Sierra Nevada
Stay for: Double Eagle Resort & Spa, June Lake, Calif.

7. The Green Mountains (Vermont)
Come for: Long Trail
Stay for: Edson Hill, Stowe, Vt.

8. The Poconos (Pennsylvania)
Come for: Outdoor recreation, seasonal events
Stay for: Skytop Lodge, Skytop, Pa.

9. The Ozarks (Missouri)
Come for: Orange sassafras, purple sweetgum and red maple trees
Stay for: The Lodge at Old Kinderhook, Camdentown, Mo.

10. Hudson River Valley (New York)
Come for: Adirondack Mountains
Stay for: Blue Pearl Woodstock, Woodstock, N.Y.

Source: Booking.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


I'm Buying New Construction—How Much Space Can I Expect in the Kitchen?

October 12, 2016 3:33 am


New homes are built with kitchens averaging 161 square feet, or just below 13 feet by 13 feet, according to “Size of Kitchens in New U.S. Single-Family Homes,” a report by the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). The size of a kitchen, the report shows, generally varies based on the size of the home, and on the number of stories the home has and its location.

New homes under 1,500 square feet, for example, have kitchens averaging 103 square feet; new homes above 4,000 square feet have kitchens averaging 238 square feet—a 135-square-foot difference.

In single-story homes, the average size of the kitchen is 151 square feet, or 10 square feet less than the overall average, according to the report. Single-story homes in the Mountain region, which includes Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, average 158 square feet—the largest in the country. Single-story homes in New England, conversely (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont), average 130 square feet—the smallest in the country.

Kitchens in multistory homes are larger than those in single-story homes, as well, at an average 174 square feet, or 13 square feet more than the overall average. The West South Central region, which is comprised of Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, has multistory homes with the largest kitchens, averaging 184 square feet; the West North Central region, or Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, has multistory homes with the smallest, at 156 square feet.

The layout of the home can also be a determining factor, according to the report—kitchens in homes with a great room average 164 square feet, compared to those without at 159 square feet.

Source: National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mortgage Assistance Available in Wake of Hurricane Matthew

October 12, 2016 3:33 am


Homeowners with mortgage loans owned or guaranteed through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac who have been impacted by Hurricane Matthew may be granted a forbearance period for their mortgage payments, the two enterprises recently announced.

“We understand that many families and communities are hurting as they deal with the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew,” said Malloy Evans, vice president of Servicing at Fannie Mae, in a statement. “Fannie Mae and our servicers stand with homeowners who have been impacted by these extremely challenging conditions. We are working with our servicers to ensure assistance is offered to borrowers and communities in need. Our thoughts are with all of those who have been impacted.”

“We strongly encourage the many American families whose homes or businesses are being impacted by Hurricane Matthew to call their mortgage servicer once the Federal Emergency Management Agency's [FEMA] declaration is announced,” said Yvette Gilmore, vice president of Single-Family Servicer Performance Management at Freddie Mac, in a statement. “Relief—including forbearance on mortgage payments for up to one year—may be available if their mortgage is owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac."

Fannie Mae’s guidelines permit mortgage servicers to grant forbearance “to any borrower they believe has been affected by this natural disaster,” according to the statement, or “to delay foreclosures sales and other legal proceedings in these areas.” The forbearance period is up to 90 days initially (if the homeowner is out of reach due to the disaster), and up to six months after contact has been made.

Similarly, Freddie Mac’s guidelines allow “suspending foreclosures by providing forbearance for up to 12 months, waiving assessments of penalties or late fees against borrowers with disaster-damaged homes, and not reporting forbearance or delinquencies caused by the disaster to the nation’s credit bureaus.”

Homeowners should contact their mortgage servicer as soon as possible to assess options.

Sources: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 No-Fail Tips to Save Money

October 11, 2016 3:33 am


If you want to build the emergency fund you know you need to have—but find yourself living from paycheck to paycheck without saving a dime—it’s time to put a no-fail savings plan in place. Here are three tips to get started, courtesy of The Motley Fool:

1. Strictly Track Spending – You may think you know where your money goes each month, but chances are you have no real idea about how much is slipping through the cracks. For at least one month, list every penny you spend, from rent and utilities to your morning coffee, those hard-to-get concert tickets and the pair of shoes you found at half-price. Take a hard look at your spending and figure out exactly where you can cut out or cut back—and do it!

2. Pay Yourself First – You can’t spend what you don’t have, so sign up for an automatic savings plan so that a set portion of every paycheck goes automatically into savings before you can spend it. Once you’ve saved enough to cover three to six months of living expenses, focus on starting to contribute—or contributing more to—your employer’s 401(k) plan, if offered.

3. Help Resist Temptation – Impulse purchases can derail anyone’s saving efforts. Avoid sales unless there is something you really need, or stay focused only on what you came to shop for. Take only enough cash for what you need to buy—leave your credit card at home. It’s discipline that counts!
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Study: Homeowners Save Most When Combining Insurance

October 11, 2016 3:33 am


Insurance providers often offer discounts to incentivize policyholders to bundle insurance. The savings depend on the type of insurance being combined, as well as the state the policyholder lives in, according to a recently released study by insuranceQuotes.

“Discounts for bundling auto and home, condo or renters insurance vary by state, and can help many consumers save more than $500 per year,” said Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst for insuranceQuotes, in a statement on the study. “Combining policies with the same insurer is a simple and easy way to reduce premiums.”

Policyholders who bundle auto and homeowners insurance reap the most savings at an average $314 per year, according to the study. Homeowners policies are more expensive than those for condo owners or renters, so the savings are more substantial.

The states with the highest average savings are:

1. Louisiana ($584/year)
2. Oklahoma ($541)
3. Texas ($473)
4. Kansas ($444)
5. Mississippi ($430)
6. Arkansas ($421)
7. Minnesota ($418)
8. Alabama and Missouri ($414)
9. Nebraska ($395)
10. Illinois ($392)

In some cases, however, bundling does not maximize savings, Adams cautioned. It is important to shop around for policies, even if they are from different insurance providers.

“Combining policies usually saves money; however, there are scenarios when using separate providers could be a better option,” said Adams. “Always compare quotes both bundled and unbundled.”

Source: insuranceQuotes
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Rents to Keep Rising in 2017

October 11, 2016 3:33 am


Rents are expected to increase 1.7 percent in 2017, according to the latest Zillow® Rent Forecast, with the highest increases anticipated in markets in the West—Seattle, Portland and Denver. The projected increase, though slowing, could give reason for renters to make the transition to homeownership.

“We have more renters today than in the past, and most newly formed households are renter households,” says Dr. Svenja Gudell, chief economist at Zillow. “This taken together with a lack of new rental construction at less expensive price points has been a recipe for rising rents."

Zillow’s forecast predicts rents will rise most rapidly in:

1. Seattle, Wash. – 7.2 percent
Median Rent: $2,067

2. Portland, Ore. – 6.0 percent
Median Rent: $1,777

3. Denver, Colo. – 5.9 percent
Median Rent: $2,013

4. Cincinnati, Ohio – 5.2 percent
Median Rent: $1, 239

5. San Francisco, Calif. – 4.9 percent
Median Rent: $3,406

6. Los Angeles, Calif. – 4.8 percent
Median Rent: $2,593

7. Sacramento and San Diego, Calif. – 4.7 percent
Median Rent (Sacramento): $1,681
Median Rent (San Diego): $2,427

8. Phoenix, Ariz. – 4.6 percent
Median Rent: $1,297

9. San Jose, Calif. – 4.5 percent
Median Rent: $3,517

10. Boston, Mass. – 3.9 percent
Median Rent: $2,310

“There is good news for renters on the horizon, though,” Gudell adds. “Current renters in these markets can expect rents to slow down a bit over the next year. Instead of the 10 percent rental appreciation we’ve been seeing in some places, expect growth more along the lines of 4 to 7 percent. This is still high, but will hopefully give renters some relief.”

Source: Zillow®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Retirement Playbook: Lessons from Investors of Every Age

October 10, 2016 3:33 am


A startling proportion of Generation X workers are worried about investing for retirement, according to a recently released survey—but most of their anxiety can be curtailed by examining lessons learned by others.

One such lesson, based on responses to the survey, conducted by Capital Group, is gleaned from both baby boomer and millennial investors: limit losses during downswings.

“Every generation is interested in achieving better investment outcomes over time and limiting losses in market downturns, combined with low fees,” says Heather Lord, senior vice president and head of Strategy and Innovation at Capital Group.

Lesson two? Don’t settle for average gains. The baby boomer and millennial investors surveyed understood that a diversified portfolio can reap above-average results; however, not all grasped how to develop one.

“Each generation has blind spots around index funds, which experience the full downside of market drops,” Lord says. “Baby boomers, especially, are unaware of those risks—and they're the ones with less time to rebuild their nest eggs from a market downturn.”

Only half of the investors surveyed were aware that passive index funds expose them to the full impact of market volatility, and even fewer recognized the heightened risk of index funds as an older investor. Two out of three of the investors surveyed were unaware that low fees are a factor in determining the viability of a fund, as well as “high manager ownership,” or the amount fund managers invest in the funds they manage.

Lesson three: take saving seriously. According to the results of the survey, more than half of millennials began saving for retirement before age 25. (Markedly, one-quarter of them also believed children born today should start saving for retirement before their eighteenth birthday.)

The takeaway overall? A long-term investment strategy—a “buy-and-hold mindset”—is best.

“After experiencing the dot-com bust, the global financial crisis and the housing collapse, as well as stagnant wage growth during their formative adult years, Gen Xers—or ‘Generation AnXious’—are wary about their financial future,” says Lord. “Perhaps because of these concerns, Gen Xers long to do better than the average market, and say actively managed funds can help them reach these goals.”

Source: Capital Group Companies
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How Fit Is Your City?

October 10, 2016 3:33 am


There are many factors to take into consideration when sizing up the overall fitness level in your area, such as gyms, healthy dining establishments and parks. A recent study from Fitbit, makers of the wildly popular fitness tracker, has determined an area’s level of fitness based on stats from its more than 10 million users.

According to a recent blog by the company, researchers analyzed user data to determine which cities ranked the highest overall based on average number of steps, active minutes, resting heart rate and sleep duration—all tracked by the device. The top 10 fittest cities in America, according to the results:

1. Madison, Wis.
2. Minneapolis, Minn.
3. Spokane, Wash.
4. Boston, Mass.
5. Portland, Ore.
6. Grand Rapids, Mich.
7. Lincoln, Neb.
8. San Francisco, Calif.
9. Seattle, Wash.
10. Washington D.C.

Honorable mentions include: New York, N.Y., the city with the most steps and highest number of active minutes; Boston, Mass., the city with the lowest resting heart rate; and Spokane, Wash., the city that gets the most sleep.

Source: Fitbit
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Millennial Homebuyers: 10 Zip Codes to Consider

October 10, 2016 3:33 am


Like moths to a flame.

The hottest zip codes in the nation are drawing scores of millennials in search of employment opportunities, according to a recently released report by realtor.com®, making them magnets for other types of buyers, as well.

The report ranked the top 10 hottest zip codes based on viewings and days-on-market—the latter averaging 25 days.

1. Watauga, Texas (76148)
2. Pleasant Hill, Calif. (94523)
3. Northglenn, Colo. (80233)
4. Colorado Springs, Colo. (80916)
5. San Antonio, Texas (78247)
6. Petaluma, Calif. (94954)
7. Melrose, Mass. (02176)
8. Crestwood, Mo. (63126)
9. Milwaukie, Ore. (97222)
10. North Park, Calif. (92104)

“Homes for sale in this year's hottest zip codes are selling almost as quickly as they hit the market,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for realtor.com®. “While millennials are usually a significant presence in most markets, their sheer size and buying power have made them a force to be reckoned with in these hot zip codes and given them the power to shift supply and demand dynamics.”

Collectively, these zip codes are experiencing an average employment growth rate of 2.3 percent, which is 35 percent higher than the current national rate. The ranking underscores the role millennials play in the “hotness” factor, according to realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Stop, Think, Connect: Cyber Security Tips

October 7, 2016 3:27 am


Every internet user agrees: cyber security is a must.

“As every one of us, our families and our communities become increasingly connected, it becomes even more critical to practice good cyber security habits,” says Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA). “A recent NCSA/Microsoft survey of 13- to 17-year-old teens, and parents of 13- to 17 year olds, revealed a strong interest in securing personal information.”

Kaiser and the NCSA have answered that call through the STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™ initiative, which has educated internet users on cyber security for over a decade. The campaign’s tips include:

Lock down your login. Enable the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, one-time codes or security keys—usernames and passwords are not enough to protect banking, email and social media accounts.

Keep a clean machine. Keep all software on internet-connected devices, including computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets, up to date.

Own your online presence. Set the privacy and security settings on websites and apps to a level you’re comfortable with. Remember: it's okay to limit how and with whom you share information.

Protect personal information. Information about you, such as purchase history or location, has value, just like money. Be thoughtful about who gets that information and how it's collected by apps and websites.

Share with care. Think before posting about yourself or others online. Consider what a post reveals, who might see it and how it could be perceived now and in the future.

When it doubt, throw it out. Cybercriminals often use links in email, social posts and texts to try to obtain personal information. If something appears suspicious—even if you know the source—delete it.

Source: National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Deter Deer—and Disease—from Your Property

October 7, 2016 3:27 am


Deer are just about everywhere, and, unfortunately, they carry disease-causing insects. They’ll soon be encroaching on properties in search of food, so as a homeowner, it’s important to deter them.

Deer ticks, which can thrive even in a garden, can travel into a home simply by a passing person or pet—in fact, experts say most cases of tick-borne disease begin by exposure in a backyard. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ticks transmit a number of diseases, including Lyme.

Erecting a tall fence around your property can prevent entry, but only somewhat—most deer can jump as high as 10 feet, and many communities enforce height restrictions that could make yours unlawful. You may have even planted species deer don’t like, only to find some are entering and eating, anyway.

One of the more effective methods, according to the experts at Bobbex, is deer repellant, specifically an all-natural, topical foliar spray with scent- and taste-aversion ingredients. Be sure to purchase a spray that is child- and pet-safe, and able to withstand elements like rain and snow, Bobbex’s experts recommend.

For more preventative measures, visit CDC.gov/ticks.

Source: Bobbex
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Looking to Invest in Real Estate? 10 Best Cities

October 7, 2016 3:27 am


Real estate is one of the best investments you can make, time and again named the most profitable avenue to accumulate wealth. Certain factors in your real estate venture, however—as with any investing strategy—can impact your bottom line.

The best locations currently to invest in real estate, based on indicators such as upward employment and home values, according to a recent survey by GOBankingRates.com, are:

1. Orlando, Fla.
Investors can expect to pay off a single-family home in Orlando in approximately 12 years and 4 months, as home values have increased 11 percent.

2. Tampa, Fla.
Investors can expect to pay off a single-family home in Tampa in approximately 9 years and 6 months, as home values have increased 11.6 percent.

3. Denver, Colo.
Investors can expect to pay off a single-family home in Denver in approximately 15 years and 1 month, as home values have increased 10.5 percent.

4. Seattle, Wash.
Investors can expect to pay off a single-family home in Seattle in approximately 19 years and 8 months, as home values have increased 16.7 percent.

5. Austin, Texas
Investors can expect to pay off a single-family home in Austin in approximately 18 years and 8 months, as home values have increased 9.3 percent.

6. Reno, Nev.
Investors can expect to pay off a single-family home in Reno in approximately 17 years and 1 month, as home values have increased 13.9 percent.

7. Dallas, Texas
Investors can expect to pay off a single-family home in Dallas in approximately 7 years and 9 months, as home values have increased 17.6 percent.

8. Portland, Ore.
Investors can expect to pay off a single-family home in Portland in approximately 18 years and 1 month, as home values have increased 20 percent.

9. Raleigh, N.C.
Investors can expect to pay off a single-family home in Raleigh in approximately 13 years and 3 months, as home values have increased 5.6 percent.

10. Miami, Fla.
Investors can expect to pay off a single-family home in Miami in approximately 9 years, as home values have increased 6.1 percent.

“Growing populations in the top 10 cities on our list are fueling the need for more housing,” said Cameron Huddleston, Life + Money columnist for GOBankingRates.com, in a statement on the survey. “That’s why these cities are such great places to own investment property now.”

Notably, three of the 10 best cities on GOBankingRates’ list are in Florida, and two are in Texas.

Source: GOBankingRates.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Bamboo: From Yard to Dinner Table

October 6, 2016 3:24 am


Bamboo is everywhere! From accents and flooring to landscapes and even meals, bamboo as a trend is growing—fast.

A recent casual search for bamboo housewares resulted in a trove of cool, unusual applications. One website, TotallyBamboo.com, offers a bamboo-crafted sink, durable and sealed with waterproof polyurethane, for $499.

Another online retailer, Bamboo-Innovations.com, offers a customizable arbor made of bamboo that can be used indoors or out. The DIY kit includes bamboo poles, dowels and rope.

There’s also the recent report at Inspiyr.com that touts the benefits of bamboo at the dinnertime. According to the report’s author, M.A. Caromano, the tender core inside bamboo can be boiled, offering 13 calories, two grams of protein and just a half a gram of fat per cup.

Bamboo shoots, Caromano states, provide 10 percent of the daily requirement of dietary fiber, which has been shown to aid digestion, enhance satiety and lower cholesterol. Bamboo also delivers 640 milligrams of potassium per serving, which studies suggest may help to lower blood pressure, according to Caromano.

Bamboo shoots contain lignans, as well, which could stave off bacteria, fungi and viruses, and phenolic acids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

From the yard to the dinner table…will you hop on the bamboo bandwagon?
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Weather Higher Hurricane Risk: 3 Steps

October 6, 2016 3:24 am


Hurricane season this year has developed more than expected, so much so that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently revised its projections, forecasting the potential for more storms. This higher risk for hurricanes affects those in and out of areas typically impacted by them, according to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“Whether residents live on the coast or hundreds of miles inland, hurricanes and tropical storms pose significant risk,” says David Maurstad, assistant administrator for Federal Insurance at FEMA. “Recent flooding in Louisiana proves that it doesn’t take a hurricane to cause catastrophic damage. All it takes is heavy rain.”

FEMA, along with the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), remind residents in all areas of three steps:

1. Know Your Risk
Everyone—everyone—lives in a flood zone. Over 20 percent of flood insurance claims are from residents outside of high-risk zones, and, in just the last five years, every state in the U.S. has experienced flooding.

2. Have a Plan
Establish an emergency plan, including for pets, that ensures the safety of everyone in the household.

3. Get Insured
Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover floods, so obtaining separate flood insurance is essential. Bear in mind there is a 30-day waiting period before a policy becomes effective.

“Residents should protect what matters by contacting their insurance agent to make sure they have the right amount and type of insurance, including flood insurance,” says Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president and chief communications officer for the I.I.I.

Salvatore recommends residents visit KnowYourStuff.org, or download the I.I.I.’s free app, to compile a home inventory—this will make the claims process much smoother. More information on flood insurance can be found at FloodSmart.gov.

Sources: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Money Doesn't Grow on Trees…but Home Value Does

October 6, 2016 3:24 am


(BPT)—Money doesn’t grow on trees…but home value does.

Planting a tree boosts property value, as well as the overall value of the neighborhood around it. In fact, research sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation’s Alliance for Community Trees reveals homebuyers pay an average 18 percent more for a house with trees in its yard, believing trees “define” their “neighborhood’s character.”

“The presence of trees in a neighborhood is as important to homebuyers as proximity to good schools, accessibility to shopping and entertainment, and commutability to work,” says Dana Karcher, Alliance for Community Trees program manager.

According to Karcher and the Alliance, mid-August through mid-October is the best time for those in northern, cooler areas to plant trees; those in southern areas can plant into November. The cool air, warm soil and wet weather at these times of year promote root growth, which is necessary before the ground freezes.

The best species to plant, according to the Alliance, are varieties that can withstand colder temperatures—ash, crabapple, elm, hawthorn, linden, maple, pine, spruce and sycamore are all ideal.

These species may be purveyed as “bare root,” or with exposed roots, “containerized and balled,” typically from nurseries, or “burlap,” or wrapped in burlap. The latter two—the container and the burlap—must be removed before planting; bare roots need only be soaked, according to the Alliance.

It may be beneficial to discuss planting trees with a local arborist or nursery. Tree care experts familiar with the growing conditions in your area will be best equipped to advise you on the types of trees to plant, as well as the window in which to plant them.

Source: Arbor Day Foundation (ArborDay.org)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Stress Relievers That Really Work

October 5, 2016 3:21 am


Juggling family, work and obligations can be enough to stress anyone out in today’s hectic world. If you need a breather now and then, the Mayo Clinic suggests seven ways to slow down, regroup and refocus:

1. Exercise – A quick jog in the midst of a chaotic day—or even a brisk walk around the block—can get feel-good endorphins going.

2. Connect – Your stress instinct may be to wrap yourself in a cocoon. Instead, reach out to family and friends—doing so can offer distraction and provide support.

3. Meditate – Close your eyes for a few minutes—visualizing places you enjoy can help quiet the competing thoughts crowding your mind and causing stress.

4. Journal – Writing down your thoughts can help release pent-up emotion. Don't think about what to write — just let it happen. Don't worry about grammar or spelling, either!

5. Flex – Try yoga—just 10 minutes of controlled poses can help you slow down and relax. Take a class, or research online for some guidance to get started.

6. Listen – Listening to (or playing) music is a stress reliever because it decreases stress hormones and reduces muscle tension. Set aside 15 minutes or so and let your mind absorb it.

7. Laugh – Laughter fires up and then cools down your stress response. Get the giggles in by hanging out with friends in the break room, reading a few jokes (or telling some!), or watching a half-hour comedy.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Fall Lawn Care: 5 Tips from 5 Experts

October 5, 2016 3:21 am


Weekend-in and weekend-out, we’ve spent our summer keeping up with lawn care. No wonder most of us let it fall by the wayside come the change of season!

The fact is, neglecting your lawn in fall can undo all of that hard work from summer. Fall, according to Bryan Ostlund, executive director of Grass Seed USA, is when grass fortifies its reserves for winter, making maintenance during this time essential.

“Lawn care begins to change in the fall as your lawn tries to take in as much nutrients and moisture as it can in preparation for the dormant winter months ahead,” explains Ostlund. “Simple lawn care chores such as reseeding, weeding, aerating and fertilizing help a lawn immensely and show nearly immediate results come spring.”

These to-dos, Ostlund says, come from seven subject matter experts:

1. “Fall is a great time to seed! Lawns with poor density or bare areas will become infested with weeds if you do not add more turf grass. I would suggest a mixture containing perennial ryegrass for quick germination.” – Oregon State University Assistant Professor and Turf Specialist Alec Kowalewski

2. “It is important to purchase quality grass seed. Make sure the seed was tested in the last six months and check that the germination rate is 85 percent or better.” – University of Arkansas Associate Professor of Turfgrass Science Douglas Karcher

3. “Soil temperatures need to be greater than 60 degrees for good germination, so it is generally better to seed a bit early than later.” – North Carolina State University Professor of Turfgrass Sceience Grady Miller

4. “Have your soil tested. A soil analysis is inexpensive and provides important information about nutrient levels and soil type. Liming, fertilizing and seed selection may all depend on the results of a soil analysis.” – University of Tennessee Assistant Dean for College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources John C. Stier

5. “Start fertilizing grass to promote recovery and growth. Approximately 75 percent of the annual fertilization of the grass should be applied throughout the fall to extend the green color period and reduce dormancy of the grass.” – Texas Tech University Assistant Professor Joseph Young

For more from these experts and others, visit www.WeSeedAmerica.com/Lawn-Winterization-Tips.

Source: Grass Seed USA (WeSeedAmerica.com)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mom, Me and Junior: Insuring a Multigenerational Household

October 5, 2016 3:21 am


American households today are poles apart from those in recent years, as living arrangements continue shifting to accommodate adult children, aging parents, and the generation between them. This change, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), can impact your insurance needs.

“Longer life spans, decisions to marry later and the tight job market have forced many middle-aged adults to share their homes with family members across generations,” explains John M. Huff, president of the NAIC. “When there is an increased headcount under your roof, there are likely new insurance implications.”

Huff and the NAIC point to an “empty nest reversal” trend, in which baby boomers (and some in Generation X) have become responsible for housing an adult child and an aging parent—an arrangement that may require changes to insurance coverage.

In the case of adult children (“boomerang kids”), communicating expectations is essential, especially because housing an adult child can be costly. Some questions to consider, according to the NAIC:

• Will the adult child be solely responsible for health insurance?

• Will the adult child’s driving record result in a higher automotive insurance premium? Will the adult child be responsible for the additional cost?

• Will the adult child’s big-ticket items (e.g., electronics) result in a higher homeowners insurance premium? Will the adult child be responsible for the additional cost?

Moving in aging parents also requires consideration. According to the NAIC, questions to ask include:

• Is the aging parent covered by Medicare?

• Is the aging parent current on insurance premium payments (including those for life insurance, if applicable)?

• Is the aging parent in need of long-term care insurance?

These questions, though at times unsettling, can help you as a homeowner in a multigenerational arrangement obtain insurance coverage that aligns with the needs of your household. If you anticipate moving in an adult child or aging parent in the future, keep these questions in mind as you prepare for the change.

Source: National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Weddings Get Social

October 4, 2016 3:21 am


Brides are using social media more than ever to announce their engagement, discover new ideas, connect with vendors, share moments throughout their wedding planning journey, and post their honeymoon experiences, according to a survey by The Knot.

First Comes the Ring…Then Comes the Post
Three out of five brides surveyed reported announcing their engagement on social media within the first 24 hours of saying "yes," and 86 percent shared their news within the first week. Sixty-two percent reported increasing their social media usage after their engagement, with seven out of 10 admitting to using social media for wedding planning more than anything else. The top three social media channels used during wedding planning are Pinterest (89 percent), Instagram (38 percent) and Facebook (38 percent).

Hashtagging the Big Day
Once the word is out, couples focus on creating a personalized wedding hashtag to share photos leading up to and throughout the wedding day. Sixty-six percent of couples (up 11 percent from 2014) plan on using or have used a personalized hashtag in conjunction with their wedding.

Snapping the Ceremony
Only 30 percent of brides surveyed reported being aware they could create and purchase a custom Snapchat geofilter for their wedding day and wedding-related events, but of those, 44 percent actually created one and used it. An additional 30 percent are considering it for their upcoming nuptials.

Leave It to the Guests…to Share Photos
Couples are leaving the posting to guests on the wedding day—three out of four couples (74 percent) reported wanting to be disconnected from social media on the big day.

Social Media Love on the Honeymoon
Seventy percent of brides surveyed admitted to sharing about their nuptials on social media within 24 hours of the wedding, and 70 percent reported posting throughout their honeymoon.

Source: The Knot
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Incentives Help Homeowners Go Solar

October 4, 2016 3:21 am


Solar energy is economical, effective and efficient—and solar incentives today, according to a recently released report, make it even easier to adopt.

The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA)’s “Incentivizing Solar Energy: An In-Depth Analysis of U.S. Solar Incentives” is a comprehensive quantification of solar incentives that analyzes the cost for a typical solar facility in 15 states. The publication also details the federal, state, and local incentives available for rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

In many states, the incentives collectively exceed the total cost of installing a solar PV facility, particularly for third party-owned (TPO) facilities, according to the report. When a homeowner leases a solar PV facility (or purchases its energy output through a long-term contract), the TPO receives the federal ITC and 5-year accelerated depreciation, based on the fair market value of the facility, rather than its installed cost.

Balancing cost versus return continues to be a challenge, the report cautions—the non-incentivized cost of producing a kilowatt hour (kWh) of energy with residential solar PV is much higher than the non-incentivized cost of producing a kWh of energy with a large-scale solar PV; consequently, incentivizing residential solar PV may not be as economical as it should be.

For example, net metering programs, which pay homeowners with solar PV systems high rates for their excess electricity production, shift fixed utility infrastructure costs onto non-solar homeowners, who are typically less affluent than those with a solar PV system.

Still, on a dollar-per-kWh basis, even the least-incentivizing package exceeds the incentives provided for large-scale solar PV projects, the report shows.

More information on the incentives can be found at SolarEnergyFuture.org.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mud Rooms, Offices Rank High for Homeowners

October 4, 2016 3:21 am


A mud room and an office come in at the top of homeowners’ wish lists—and a gym and a movie theater have dropped off it, according to the recently released American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Home Design Trends Survey.

“Heavy investment in outdoor living spaces, mud rooms and home offices indicate that consumers are placing a premium on practicality and functionality,” said Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist, in a statement on the survey. “Things have changed a lot from a decade ago, when home theaters and exercise rooms were some of the most popular ‘special function’ rooms in homes.”

In addition to a mud room, an office and outdoor living space, homeowners are remodeling for a designated guest room (e.g., an Au Pair or in-law suite) and a sun room or three-season porch, according to the survey.

Remodeling for accessibility is also common, though somewhat less so as more new homes are being designed to accommodate “aging in place.” Popular accessibility projects, the survey found, include adding a first-floor master bedroom, an elevator and handles.

“Although accessibility features remain an important issue to homeowners, demand for some of these features has leveled off in the custom residential arena,” Baker said. “As more homes become equipped to handle an aging population of homeowners, less custom work needs to be done to address specific accessibility issues.”

Automated features are in-demand, as well, some with the dual benefit of convenience and energy efficiency. Up-and-coming features that homeowners have begun to request, the survey found, include an air purification system, a backup power generator, an electrical car docking station, solar panels and “super” insulation.

Source: American Institute of Architects (AIA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Want to Get to Know Your Neighbors? Take Fido for a Stroll

October 3, 2016 3:21 am


Every one of us believes we’re a good neighbor—99 percent of the homeowners recently surveyed by the Community Associations Institute (CAI), that is. According to the CAI survey, most of us believe we possess neighborly characteristics, including being “friendly,” “helpful,” “quiet” and “respectful” of privacy.

Being neighborly goes beyond a passing wave, however. The survey found neighborly behaviors foster a sense of community, with 86 percent of respondents having pride in their neighborhood, and recommending it to those in their circle. Seventy-four percent of respondents routinely participate in social gatherings in their community, as well, while 54 percent volunteer for neighborhood activities and 30 percent take part in neighborhood recreation.

“Across the nation, Americans are demonstrating how to make home more enjoyable—they're volunteering, taking part in their local government, and participating in neighborhood social activities,” says Thomas Skiba, CEO of CAI. “As champions of building better communities, we know there is usually a strong correlation between the level of homeowner involvement and the long-term success of a community.”

Interestingly, 83 percent of respondents become acquainted with their neighbors not at neighborhood events, but while walking their dog. Remember that the next time you move to a new neighborhood!

Considering a move to a new community? Contact me for assistance today!

Source: Community Associations Institute (CAI)

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Just In: Credit Report Change Could Benefit Buyers

October 3, 2016 3:21 am


An upcoming change on credit reports could be beneficial for homebuyers.

Equifax, one of the nation’s three leading credit reporting bureaus, recently announced the addition of up to two years of debt balance and repayment history on its credit reports. The change became effective Sept. 24, 2016.

The change, Equifax stated in a release, will impart heightened understanding of creditworthiness as it relates to approval of a loan. Recent research out of Fannie Mae shows that borrowers who pay off their credit card debt every month are 60 percent less likely to become delinquent on their mortgage, compared to borrowers who only make the minimum payment. Including debt balance and repayment information in the report will give mortgage lenders deeper insight when evaluating an application, beyond assessing the applicant’s credit score.

“For nearly three decades, mortgage lenders have used the same static formula to determine whether or not someone receives a home loan,” stated Craig Crabtree, general manager of Equifax Mortgage Services, in the release. “Leveraging trended credit data to evaluate how borrowers actually manage and pay off their credit debt could have enormous potential in terms of opening up credit and providing many Americans with access to mortgage loans that they previously may not have qualified for.”

Planning to buy a home soon? Contact me today to discuss your credit and lending options.

Source: Equifax

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What's Good for Homebuyers Is Good for the Housing Market

October 3, 2016 3:21 am


What’s good for homebuyers is good for the housing market.

That’s the takeaway from two recently released reports from Freddie Mac—one that confirmed mortgage rates at a 10-week low, and one that revealed two more metropolitan areas have transitioned to normal levels of housing activity. Both indicators bode well for homebuyers.

“Investors flocked to the safety of government bonds, causing the 10-year Treasury yield to continue its descent following the FOMC's decision to leave rates unchanged,” says Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage responded by dropping six basis points before landing at 3.42 percent—a 10-week low.”

The average rate of the 15-year fixed mortgage also declined, down to 2.72 percent, according to Freddie Mac’s mortgage survey.

Freddie Mac’s Multi-Indicator Market Index® (MiMi®), on the other hand, showed that housing activity in Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis, Ind. has picked up—overall, housing in 38 states (plus the District of Columbia) is at normal levels.

The metropolitan areas with the most marked improvement in housing over the last month, according to the Index, are Lakeland, Fla., Youngstown, Ohio, Chicago, Ill., Orlando, Fla. and Las Vegas, Nev.

Source: Freddie Mac
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Wise Ways to Use $100

September 30, 2016 3:18 am


Maybe you got a tax refund. Maybe a friend paid back an old debt. Maybe you got from one paycheck to the next and—amazingly—had $100 left over. You may be tempted to blow your windfall, but $100 doesn’t buy all that much these days. Far better, according to The Motley Fool, is to use that $100 in one of these 5 wise ways:

1. Start/Add to an Emergency Fund – Surveys reveal a shocking number of Americans do not have enough money set aside to cover a $1,000 emergency. Ideally, an emergency fund should hold three to six months of living expenses.

2. Start/Add to a Retirement Fund – It may not seem like much, but if you were to put that $100 in a 401(k) or IRA and choose investments that generate an average annual 8-percent return, after 40 years, it would amount to almost $2,200!

3. Pay Down a Credit Card – Carrying a credit card balance, no matter how small, means losing money every month to interest. Granted, that $100 on its own probably won't save you a lot in interest, but it will get you one step closer to becoming debt-free.

4. Buy Stock – A single Ben Franklin won't make you a fortune in the stock market, but you can use it to open a low-cost, no- or low-minimum brokerage account and start investing for your future.

5. Invest in Yourself – If a certification or skill is standing in the way of a higher salary, use that $100 to pay for a course or license that helps you command more money—if a $100 online web design course results in a $1,000 bump in salary, that’s a 900-percent return on investment!
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to Rid Your Home of Pests Before Winter Hits

September 30, 2016 3:18 am


No matter where you live, there’s always the potential for neighborhood residents—pests—to make your home their home.

Ridding your home of pests is best done before winter sets in, says Steve Evans of Underwriters Laboratories (SafeBee.com). Evans warns that mice and other rodents are known to chew the protective sheathing off electrical wires, leaving the underlying metal exposed. Unprotected wiring can short-circuit and spark, possibly leading to a house fire.

Fortunately, most homeowners can prevent pests from ever becoming a problem by sealing up every crevice in their home—but only if the situation is under control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pest problems that call for professional evaluation should be dealt with as soon as possible, and preferably by a licensed exterminator.

If sealing is outside of your skill set, a drywall or masonry contractor may be needed, adds John Drengenberg of the CDC. Ensure the contractor fills holes inside the home first—outside holes should remain open temporarily so that rodents can exit.

Be cautious when cleaning, Evans says. Avoid sweeping or vacuuming in areas that have been infested—doing so can stir up dust and waste. Instead:

• Open windows to air out the infested area for at least half an hour before cleanup. Stay out of the area while it airs out.

• Wear protective gloves, goggles and a mask to avoid coming into contact with contaminated air or dust.

• Spray the infested area with bleach solution (one-part bleach to 10-parts water) and let it sit for 10 minutes. Use disposable rags to remove any waste. Mop the floor with the same bleach solution.

• Dispose of trash in a sealed plastic bag.

• Remove your gloves and scrub your hands with hot, soapy water.

Do not attempt to clean the area if it is heavily infested, Drengenberg says. Consult with a pest control professional—he or she will not only perform the cleanup, but also educate you on health and safety.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Spruce Up for Fall with Color

September 30, 2016 3:18 am


From cool blues and smoky greens inspired by scenic mountaintop views to warm neutrals reminiscent of transitioning leaves, this season’s paint trends, according to Ace Hardware design experts Nathan Fischer, Katie Reynolds and Julie Richard, create classic, elegant palettes that bring the outdoors in. Below, the designers’ top paint picks and ideas for fall:

• Changing the color of the front door to a natural green, with accents like Adirondack chairs or planters in the same color family.

• Make your home feel warmer with colors like chocolate brown or creamy beige in a variety of accessories, such as lampshades or a rug.

• Neutrals don't have to be boring. Try incorporating rich beige with lavender undertones to add a whimsical twist to a room.

• White walls are anything but simple. Go for soft, off-whites to achieve a clean, polished and timeless look.

• Use darker neutrals—think cool charcoal or deep brown—sparingly on accent pieces, such as a side table or a headboard, to add sophisticated dimension.

• Implement forest greens, which create a masculine aesthetic, in intimate spaces, like a bedroom or library.

• Mix in darker teal hues as an accent color, with more muted greens on walls or larger visual areas.

• Paint interior window frames in a cool-toned black to create the steel-frame, “modern-farmhouse” look popular this season.

• Go for the bold with a wowing red on kitchen stools, side tables or even picture frames—statement-making colors complement a neutral space.

Source: Ace Hardware
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Gym-Free Fitness Ideas

September 29, 2016 3:15 am


(BPT)—There’s no question visiting the gym is beneficial to your health—but a busy schedule, a tight budget (or, we’ll admit, laziness) can keep you from committing to a gym routine.

Being fit, fortunately, doesn’t require a gym membership, says Tavis Piattoly, an expert nutritionist and sports dietician who is the co-founder of My Sports Dietician. Piattoly’s gym-free, no-fuss regimen includes these anywhere, anytime ideas:

At Home – Don’t feel like trekking to the gym? No problem, says Piattoly. Do jumping jacks, lunges, planks, push-ups, shoulder presses with dumbbells, sit-ups or squats at home.

At Work – Overcoming the sedentary office lifestyle is as simple as parking farther from the door or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a five-minute break every hour to complete chair squats or seated leg raises, Piattoly advises.

On Errands – Avoid making the “I don’t have time” excuse—take a walk (or run) in the parking lot while you wait for your children to attend their extracurricular activities.

Outside – Outside, the fitness possibilities are endless, Piattoly says. Fishing, hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, paddle boarding and skiing are all excellent forms of outdoor exercise.

With Friends – It’s a fact: fitness is fun with friends. Piattoly suggests organizing a group for Frisbee, a pick-up game, a recurring relay race or swimming.

Fitness, gym-free or otherwise, is not complete without a balanced diet. The best meals, according to Piattoly, are ones with complex fiber carbohydrates, healthy fats and lean protein, eaten every three to four hours. And, if your nutrients are lacking, Piattoly recommends a daily omega-3 supplement, which benefits several areas of the body.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Painting Tips When Selling Your Home

September 29, 2016 3:15 am


Getting ready to sell your home? One of the easiest home improvements to get buyers’ attention is a fresh coat of paint—plus, it's a cost-effective fix that will make your home look updated, which can translate to increased value.

Sara McLean, color expert and blogger for Dunn-Edwards Paints, offers the following tips on choosing interior colors that appeal to buyers:

• First, McLean cautions painting everything white or beige, because your home might end up looking more utilitarian than stylish. Stick to earth tones and nature-based colors—warm browns and milky tans (think latte). Light greens and blues are classy, and even some reds and oranges. Warm grays are popular now, rather than cool grays.

• Take the flooring into consideration, McLean recommends. Lay color chips on the floor to see how they pair—warm tones tend to look better with most hardwood, whereas tile, terrazzo or carpet may warrant other colors.

• While neutrals are safe, don’t make the entire home so neutral that it’s boring, McLean adds. An occasional accent wall in a darker or complementary shade will add a designer look.

• Give a room life without getting too personal, says McLean. Many people have a visceral reaction to bold colors—and buyers’ first thoughts may be that they will need to repaint.

• The best rooms to paint, according to McLean, are the kitchen and baths. In the kitchen, soft buttery yellows with slight brown undertones are popular, and olive and sage greens can make it feel garden-y and fresh. If you don't have a tile backsplash, create one with an eggshell or semi-gloss paint, either in a solid color or with a decorative stencil. Bathrooms (and the laundry room) can tolerate brighter colors because they’re smaller, so play around a bit, McLean suggests—oranges and reds are trending now and through next year, as well as teal and turquoise.

• “Once you have chosen a color, pick up a few samples and paint a section of the wall, near permanent structures like fireplaces, flooring and cabinetry,” McLean says. “Live with the samples at least a full day to see them in all light sources. What looks light and bright in the morning may look dungeon-y at night.”

• Remember to consider the gloss level, McLean adds. Flat, velvet or eggshell finishes are­ good for interior walls, while a higher sheen looks pretty on trim and in kitchens and bathrooms. (The higher gloss levels are easier to clean, so they are ideal for high-traffic areas.) Look for trim paint that is water-based, but with the upscale look of oil-based, suggests McLean.

Source: Dunn-Edwards Paints
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Outdoor Renos Valuable Now and Later

September 29, 2016 3:15 am


Remodeling your house? Add an outdoor redo to the project.

According to a report from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), an outdoor renovation can add significant value to a home come resale. The most valuable updates, per the report, are:

• Seeding the Lawn (Reaps 417 percent of its cost)
• Implementing a Standard Lawn Care Program (303 percent)
• Sodding (143 percent)

An outdoor renovation can also up the enjoyment factor—the “Joy Score,” according to the report. The highest project on the Joy Score scale? A pool, though it is one of the least profitable at a 50 percent return-on-investment.

The most appealing projects following a pool, the report found, are an overall landscape upgrade and a new wood deck.

“Realtors® understand the importance of curb appeal because when it is time to sell, a home's exterior is its first impression to potential buyers,” says 2016 NAR President Tom Salomone. “Realtors® also know that these projects—from flowerbeds to fire pits—can bring homeowners who have no plans to sell even more enjoyment and satisfaction in their home.

"Homeowners looking to take on large, expensive outdoor projects should do so for themselves, for the enjoyment they and their family will gain from the finished results, and not only to improve the value of their home for when they sell,” Salomone continues. “Smaller projects will bring potential sellers the most value back upon resale—and have the benefit of costing less up front.”

“Homeowners working with a landscape professional to embark on renovations—whether that means enhancing their turf and growing a lush lawn, rehauling their entire landscape, or incorporating new features like patios and exterior fireplaces—can rest assured that they are making a smart, worthwhile investment,” adds Missy Henriksen, vice president, Public Affairs, NALP. “Further, that investment is coupled with the immediate happiness received by beautiful landscaping and the long-term enjoyment of outdoor living spaces, which are priceless.”

Source: National Association of REALTORS®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


8 Ways to Host a Rooftop Party

September 28, 2016 3:15 am


Next time you’re in the city, look up—rooftops have become the hot new entertaining space for not only restaurants and bars, but also urban dwellings. Offering great views and fresh air, the roof transforms an otherwise cramped gathering into a unique outdoor festivity.

Next time you take the party to the top, be a good neighbor by following these etiquette tips from Instrata Lifestyle Residences Concierge Caitlin Porpora:

1. Know your building’s rules. Before having a rooftop gathering, be sure to contact the building manager to make sure you’re up to speed on rules and regulations.

2. If you’re entertaining a large group, be considerate of your neighbors. Take turns using common amenities like grills and lounge chairs, clean up after yourselves, and keep the noise levels reasonable.

3. Invite neighbors to join the party. If you’re worried your event might irk other residents, invite them to join in the festivities. Even if they decline, the invitation invokes good will and increased tolerance.

4. No breakables, please. Even the trendiest hotels in New York City use only plastic glasses at their rooftop bars. Follow suit and avoid any accidents that could arise from broken glass or ceramics.

5. Consider the smell factor. Avoid cooking anything that will cause strong, unpleasant odors, or that might create a lot of smoke while on the grill.

6. Don’t make a scene. Rooftops are usually shared spaces so keep your party under control—you don’t want to become the talk of the building.

7. Limit cell phone use. If you have to make a call, keep it brief and quiet.

8. Don’t be a party crasher. Some buildings require residents to rent out the space for a nominal fee. If you haven’t been invited, but would like to use the roof deck, as well, politely approach the host to see if you can join in.

Source: Instrata Lifestyle Residences

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Ready Your Home Heating System for Winter

September 28, 2016 3:15 am


There are three words no homeowner wants to hear in winter: “The heat’s out.”

That’s exactly what can happen if you don’t maintain your heating system, say the experts at the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). To ensure that doesn’t happen, AHRI’s experts recommend the following prep list.

1. Call the Pros – Have your heating system serviced ahead of winter to keep it operating efficiently all season long. Consult the database of certified professionals at NATEX.org (North American Technician Excellence [NATE]) for a technician in your area.

2. Clear the Pump – Remove debris that may have accumulated around the heat pump throughout the year—leaves and the like can block air flow through the outdoor unit, reducing its efficiency.

3. Install a Smart Thermostat – Set up a programmable thermostat to not only maximize energy savings, but also to keep your house’s structure and systems protected while you’re not home.

4. Remove Obstructions – Move furniture away from baseboards, radiators or vents to keep heat flowing freely throughout the home—obstructed airways can result in higher energy consumption.

5. Replace the Filter – Swap out the filter in your heating system according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A clogged filter can muck up the heat exchanger with dust; a fresh filter can reduce energy consumption by as much as 15 percent.

Source: Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI)

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Homeowners Ask: Will a Rise in the Key Interest Rate Impact My Mortgage Payment?

September 28, 2016 3:15 am


Approximately 90 million people could see an increase in their monthly debt payments, including their mortgages, should the Federal Reserve Board raise the key interest rate 0.25 percent, according to recently released research by TransUnion. Most of those people, however, would be able to afford the increase—in fact, 90 percent would see their debt payments go up by less than $10 per month, at an average $6.45.

“Most consumers have the financial capacity to absorb a $7 increase in their monthly payments, especially if they can plan ahead for the increased obligation,” said Nidhi Verma, senior director of Research and Consulting for TransUnion, in a statement.

Ten percent, however, do not. TransUnion researchers report that segment is susceptible to “payment shock,” a “change in monthly payment obligations.”

“Fortunately, we believe it is highly unlikely the Fed will raise rates more than 25 basis points at any one time over the near term,” said Verma. “This pace gives potentially impacted consumers an opportunity to adjust. In many cases, making minor changes to household spend would allow consumers to accommodate the payment shock.”

The key interest rate, or “benchmark,” informs the movement of mortgage rates, which, to date, remain attractively low.

Source: TransUnion

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Researchers: Retirement a 'Wobbly Three-Legged Stool'

September 27, 2016 3:15 am


Americans expect to encounter instability in retirement, as a “wobbly three-legged stool”—employer-sponsored benefits, personal savings and Social Security—teeters in the balance, according to recent research out of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS).

“Today's workers are grappling with retirement security and challenged by the wobbly three-legged stool comprising Social Security, employer-sponsored retirement benefits and personal savings,” explains Catherine Collinson, president of TCRS. “Although the Great Recession ended years ago, millions of Americans are still regaining their financial footing. As each year passes, people’s fears about our current retirement system come more sharply into focus.”

Seventy-one percent of Americans surveyed by TCRS expressed concern that Social Security will not be available when they are ready to retire, and just 16 percent “strongly” agreed that they are building a sustainable nest egg. Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed reported expecting to continue to work in retirement, while 15 percent reported that work will be their primary source of income.

“Amid retirement savings shortfalls, American workers are attempting to prop up our system’s three-legged stool by adding a fourth leg: working during retirement," Collinson says.

“Baby boomers’ vision can only be achieved if they are proactive about staying employable and if employment opportunities are available to them. As part of their retirement planning, baby boomers should create a ‘Plan B’ if retirement happens unexpectedly due to job loss, health issues, or other intervening circumstances,” adds Collinson.

Of the baby boomers surveyed by TCRS, 78 percent reported expecting retirement accounts (e.g., 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs) to be their primary source of income in retirement; 34 percent are expecting Social Security to be the primary source; and 33 percent are expecting a pension plan to be the primary source.

Source: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


FHFA Tosses Refinancing Lifeline to High-LTV Borrowers

September 27, 2016 3:15 am


Mortgage borrowers with high loan-to-value (LTV) ratios now have more options when it comes to refinancing.

The offering, recently announced by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and to be implemented by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (“the Enterprises”), will provide much-needed liquidity to borrowers current on their mortgage but unable to refinance through conventional programs because their LTV ratio exceeds the Enterprises’ maximum limits.

FHFA Director Mel Watt says providing a sustainable refinance opportunity for high-LTV borrowers who have demonstrated responsibility by remaining current on their mortgage makes financial sense, both for borrowers and for the Enterprises.

In order to qualify for the new offering, borrowers:

• Must not have missed any mortgage payments in the previous six months;
• Must not have missed more than one payment in the previous 12 months;
• Must have a source of income; and
• Must receive a benefit from the refinance, such as a reduction in their monthly mortgage payment.

Full details will be available in the coming months through the Enterprises, but the offering will make use of the lessons learned from the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and its streamlined approach to refinancing. The new offering is more targeted than HARP, but as with HARP, eligible borrowers are not subject to a minimum credit score, there is no maximum debt-to-income ratio or maximum LTV, and an appraisal often will not be required. Unlike HARP, however, there is no eligibility cut-off date. Borrowers with existing HARP loans are not eligible for the new offering unless they have refinanced out of HARP using one of the Enterprises traditional refinance products.

The new high-LTV refinance offering will be available to borrowers until October 2017.  For more information, visit HARP.gov, follow @FHFA on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube, or consult with a real estate professional.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Teaching the Value of a Dollar: Average Allowances for Household Chores

September 27, 2016 3:15 am


One of the more effective methods of teaching financial responsibility to children is offering an allowance in exchange for household chores. Providing a reasonable amount, however, is key to ensure the child has a realistic understanding of “the value of a dollar.”

The going rates for the most common chores, according to the COUNTRY Financial Security Index, are:

Making the Bed - $1.18
Setting the Table - $1.31
Taking Out the Trash - $1.90
Doing the Dishes - $2.03
Cleaning the Bedroom - $2.07
Cleaning Surfaces - $2.20
Cleaning Floors/Vacuuming - $2.55
Taking Care of a Pet - $2.66
Cleaning a Common Area - $2.72
Doing Laundry - $2.82
Cleaning the Garage - $5.20
Mowing the Lawn - $6.28

When is the best time to start offering these allowances? Survey respondents say as early as age 5, and ideally when the child reaches age 8.

Source: COUNTRY Financial
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Flying Is Not Fun—but These Fail-Safe Tips Can Help

September 26, 2016 3:15 am


Flying is not fun.

That’s the consensus from a recent Consumer Reports survey assessing air travelers’ attitudes toward flying—in fact, zero of the airlines evaluated in the survey came close to receiving affirmative feedback across the board.

“It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when flying was fun, even glamorous, but today’s flyers face a labyrinth of fees and lackluster services,” said Mandy Walker, Consumer Reports’ Money Content Development senior editor, in a statement on the survey.

Survey feedback on coach/economy for American, Delta and United—the largest airlines in the U.S.—came in poor for factors such as cabin cleanliness, in-flight entertainment and refreshments.

Booking sites were not well-received among survey respondents, either. CheapOair.com, which touts inexpensive airfares, had the highest average fares and not one lowest fare when compared to the five other sites investigated by Consumer Reports.

“We recommend doing multiple searches over multiple days to increase your chances of finding the lowest fare—you will notice that persistence pays off in the quest for the best price on travel booking sites,” Walker said.

There’s a silver lining in the clouds: survey respondents gave Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest and Virgin America decent marks for coach/economy, citing ease of check-in and staff service.

Fliers should take these findings into account on their next excursion, according to Consumer Reports. Make the cabin a bit more comfortable with a blanket or sweater and noise-cancelling headphones, and keep a disinfectant on hand to reduce exposure to germs. Consider travel insurance, too, to protect your expense and possessions.

For more from the survey, visit ConsumerReports.org.

Source: Consumer Reports
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Study: Is Relocation the Solution for Houses Impacted by Climate Change?

September 26, 2016 3:15 am


Climate change threatens to reshape the residential development landscape—so much so that policymakers are exploring the possibility of relocating residences out of vulnerable areas.

Recent research out of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and the Regional Plan Association presents an option for residents in flood-prone areas, who will experience more impactful weather events as climate change progresses. That option, a managed retreat buyout program, detailed in “Buy-In for Buyouts: The Case for Managed Retreat from Flood Zones,” could “allow residents to forge new beginnings on safer ground and helps create public amenities by acquiring homes in the flood-prone areas and restoring the land to natural floodplain functions.”

Buyout programs are not novel. They are often overseen by the local municipality, though usually funded by federal grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In most buyout scenarios, the municipality acquires properties from homeowners and converts them to “a less risky use, usually open space or parkland.”

The buyout solution proposed by the researchers aims to keep homeowners with federally subsidized flood insurance out of flood-prone areas—these subsidies will be phased out in the near-term, leading to spikes in premiums for some, the researchers point out. The benefits, they state, are manifold.

“Restricted land use coupled with new amenities can increase property values and, in turn, increase local revenue,” the researchers state. “If local governments plan properly, homeowners can relocate within the municipality and thereby maintain, and even enhance, the tax rolls.”

Asking homeowners or even entire neighborhoods to uproot is “is laden with social and political difficulties,” the researchers add, which is why many municipalities have dismissed managed retreat. The unavoidable impacts of climate change, however, beg otherwise. The researchers conclude a buyout program is one of the most prudent solutions.

Source: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Kitchens in 2016: What's Hot and What's Not

September 26, 2016 3:15 am


The kitchen can be the highest selling point of a home, considerably contributing to its value. The hottest trends in kitchen design now, according to a recent Zillow Digs® forecast, are on-target for homebuyers in the marketplace today—and are worth considering if you’re planning to sell soon.

“Homeowners today want an open and thoughtfully designed kitchen that blends seamlessly with the rest of the home's design aesthetic,” says Kerrie Kelly, Zillow Digs home design expert. “From hidden appliances to beautifully painted cabinets in complementing colors, homeowners want their kitchen to be stylish enough for entertaining, yet welcoming and functional for everyday use.”

The Zillow Digs forecast pegs the hottest trends:

Hidden Appliances – More and more homeowners are tucking away appliances, integrating them seamlessly visually with surrounding cabinetry—think covered refrigerators or behind-closed-door microwaves.

Tuxedo Cabinetry – Tuxedo cabinets are two-toned—the top and bottom rows are painted in complementary colors, often white and black (like a tuxedo!) or white and soft gray, creating an open, yet grounded space.

Wood Paneling – The farmhouse aesthetic is as popular as ever, wood elements included. Wood paneling, especially shiplap painted white, has become more commonplace on backsplashes or ceilings.

What’s not hot? The Zillow Digs forecast reports:

Dark Colors – Dark wall paint and rich woods (like cherry cabinets) can make a kitchen feel cramped, even if the square footage says otherwise. Count on dark colors fading out in the next year or two.

Short Cabinetry– Cabinets that stop just short of the ceiling are on their way out, and cabinets flush with the ceiling are on their way in—the latter adding height and openness.

Speckled Granite – Granite countertops were once the mainstay, but with more, low-maintenance options now available (like butcher block, marble and quartz), granite (specifically speckled) will be retired soon.

Source: Zillow Digs®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Saving $1,000 in Just 6 Steps

September 22, 2016 3:09 am


Whether you’re new to the working world or have been employed without a budget, the first $1,000 you save may be the most important money you ever sock away. It’s the cushion you need against unexpected expenses, and the cornerstone for building a savings habit. From The Motley Fool come six simple steps to get there:

“Snowball” Your Debt – Attack your debt with gusto, paying as much as you can on your highest interest credit cards, moving on to the next-highest as you go. As your debt decreases, you will naturally have more cash to stow away.

Renegotiate Rates – Most credit card providers will lower your rate if you ask (and have a good payment record). If one provider won’t lower your rate, move the balance to a lower-cost provider.

Cut Spending on Stuff You Won’t Miss – Whether it’s a gym membership you aren’t using, a magazine or cable TV subscription or more cell phone data than you need, rein in what you’re spending each month and redirect that cash to savings.

Find Lower-Cost Alternatives – Fast food coffee can taste as good as high-priced options, and you may decide to brown-bag your lunch four days a week and eat out only on Fridays. Look for savings pathways you can live with.

Sell Stuff You Don’t Use – Try Craigslist, eBay, or an old-fashioned garage sale to sell the stuff you no longer want. Use the cash to speed up your debt snowball, or stash it away in the bank.

Work a Little More – Put in overtime. Take on an extra shift. Find a part-time second job, or use your talent to create and sell your goods or services online or at local craft fairs. Working more leaves less time to spend, and the extra income will help you build that first nest egg of $1,000.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Foundation to Roof: Energy-Efficiency from the Ground Up

September 22, 2016 3:09 am


“I start construction with precast concrete wall panels and then add an insulated basement slab to give my homes a head start on their high performance energy efficiency package. I'm building homes that are more than twice as efficient as a standard home built to ‘code.’”

So says Shawn Jessup, owner of S.D. Jessup Construction, Inc. in North Carolina. Jessup and builders like him are making strides in the energy efficiency arena, constructing new homes with energy-saving features from the foundation to the roof.

The foundation, Jessup notes, sets the “energy tone” for the entire home, calling for add-ons like extra insulation, foam-backed siding or structural insulated panels.

Entry points outfitted with ENERGY STAR®-qualified products also contribute to a home’s overall energy efficiency, adds Jeffery Nofziger, president of Haas Door.

“Advances in steel and aluminum bring both strong insulation factors and beauty to the garage door offerings for the home,” says Nofziger. “Mother Nature can throw some pretty nasty weather at a home, and a garage door takes the brunt of that weather.”

The roof, too, can be an energy-saver. According to the Cool Roof Rating Council (CRRC), roofs are exposed to direct sunlight more than any other feature, which can damage certain roofing materials over time. Jessup recommends using a synthetic tile roof to not only help deflect sunlight (and heat) from the home, but also to stave off roof repair or replacement.

For more on building an energy-efficient home from the ground up, visit Energy.gov or EnergyStar.gov.
 
Source: Superior Walls
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Buying a New Home? 3 Things Not to Overlook

September 22, 2016 3:09 am


(BPT)—Buying a new home is exciting, but the experience is not without challenges. Finding your dream home requires an eye for detail, expert guidance, and, above all, patience.

Buying a newly built home, specifically, comes with a set of considerations, such as amenities, location and security. Three of the most important are:

The Home Inspection

Never disregard the importance of an impartial home inspection. An inspection can not only help you uncover structural issues within a home, but also help you determine if its electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems are functional and up to code. Be present during the inspection. Discuss your options with your REALTOR®, if negotiations are necessary.

Value-Add Features

Value-add features are another important consideration to make when searching for a newly built home. Make note of these features as you view homes. Ask yourself: What existing features will make me (and my family) feel comfortable, happy and secure, now and in the future?

Safety

No new home’s top-of-the-line amenities can replace a sense of safety. Look for features, such as arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) outlets, an alarm system, carbon monoxide/smoke detectors and secure doors and windows, that will enhance the safety of your new home.

Planning to move to a newly constructed home? Contact a real estate professional today!

Source: Leviton (www.Leviton.com/HomeSafety)

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What Taxpayers Can Expect in 2017

September 21, 2016 3:09 am


We’re nearing the close of the year, when most of us will begin year-end tax planning. What, as taxpayers, can we expect in 2017?

Bloomberg BNA recently projected inflation-adjusted tax items for 2017, a handy guide for those of us hoping to get a head start on taxes—and save tax dollars. Though the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has not published information on these items yet, the Bloomberg BNA projection drew from Labor Department data.

The projected income tax rates for 2017, according to Bloomberg BNA:

Married Filing Jointly/Surviving Spouses Earning Taxable Income of:
 
$18,650 or Less - 10 percent of taxable income
Over $18,650 - $75,900 - $1,865, plus 15 percent of excess over $18,650
Over $75,900 - $153,100 - $10,452.50, plus 25 percent of excess over $75,900
Over $153,100 - $233,350 - $29,752.50, plus 28 percent of excess over $153,100
Over $233,250 - $416,700 - $52,222.50, plus 33 percent of excess over $233,250
Over $416,700 - $470,700 - $112,728, plus 35 percent of excess over $416,700
Over $470,700 - $131,628, plus 39.6 percent of excess over $470,700
 
Unmarried Individuals (Other Than Heads of Households) Earning Taxable Income of:
 
$9,325 or Less - 10 percent of taxable income
Over $9,325 - $37,950 - $932.50, plus 15 percent of excess over $9,325
Over $37,950 - $91,900 - $5,226.25, plus 25 percent of excess over $37,950
Over $91,900 - $191,650 - $18,713.75, plus 28 percent of excess over $91,900
Over $191,650 - $416,700 - $46,643.75, plus 33 percent of excess over $191,650
Over $416,700 - $418,400 - $120,910.25, plus 35 percent of excess over $416,700
Over $418,400 - $121,505.25, plus 39.6 percent of excess over $418,400

It’s important to note that taxes due on the same income decrease year to year. Say you and your spouse file jointly and have a taxable income of $233,000. In 2016, you were in the 33 percent bracket and paid $52,303 in taxes; in 2017, you will be in the 28 percent bracket (due to inflation), and pay $52,124.50 in taxes, saving $178.50, according to Bloomberg BNA’s projections.

We have the option to take whichever is higher when calculating deductions: our itemized deductions, or the standard deduction. Bloomberg BNA’s projections for standard deductions in 2017 are:

Married Filing Jointly/Surviving Spouses - $12,700
Heads of Household - $9,350
All Other Taxpayers - $6,350

Keep in mind that the IRS imposes penalties on those of us who do not furnish information on our returns, do not file a return, or do not pay taxes. Congress recently increased some of these penalties, according to Bloomberg BNA, which projects:

• Failure to File Correct Information Returns - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Furnish Identifying Number - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Furnish Copy to Taxpayer - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Retain Copy or List - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Sign Return - $50 (Per Violation) / $25,000 (Maximum)
• Failure to Be Diligent in Determining Eligibility (for American Opportunity Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit or Earned Income Credit) - $510 (Per Violation) / No Limit

“The trend toward tougher penalties continues as Congress passed legislation that may revoke the passports of taxpayers with seriously delinquent tax debt,” says George Farrah, Bloomberg BNA Tax & Accounting editorial director. “For business taxpayers, Congress has provided some degree of certainty by returning to predictable annual increases for the business property expensing limits.”

Source: Bloomberg BNA
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Property Maintenance Tips for Fall

September 21, 2016 3:09 am


Fall is an often overlooked season when it comes to property maintenance, but it is one the most crucial times of year to care for your landscape—ahead of winter, when the elements make it challenging to take measures for a healthy yard come spring.

“While many homeowners consider spring and summer to be the time for tackling landscaping projects, fall is actually a prime season for lawn care and landscaping,” said Missy Henriksen, vice president of Public Affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), in a recent release. “Being diligent in fall landscaping will allow your lawn and garden to withstand their long winter’s nap, and will certainly pay dividends next spring. In addition, thoughtful planning can allow your outdoor living spaces to be enjoyed throughout the cold weather months.”

The best place to start, according to Henriksen, is to consult with a lawn care professional. A professional can not only advise you as to what steps to take now, but also help you plan next year’s landscape.

Following that consult, the NALP’s tips include:

Mulch – Adding two to three inches of mulch around your trees and on garden beds will protect them from the elements come winter.

Rake – Removing dead leaves, either by composting or mulching with a mower, will give your lawn access to sunlight through winter, as well as stave off diseases.

Seed – Overseeding your lawn will fill in patchy areas at a time when grass grows sans weeds—ideal for healthy root growth. Fertilizing and aerating your lawn is also key.

Inspect – Assessing your trees for signs of damage, disease or stress before winter will help avoid breakage and safety issues in the months ahead. Having a professional on hand to trim or remove damaged trees is vital.

Plant – Planting fall varieties will bring life to your landscape now and next year—asters, black-eyed Susans, Chinese lanterns, goldenrod and snapdragons are all ideal.

Source: National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


A Multitude of Tips for Multiple Offer Situations – Pt. 2

September 21, 2016 3:09 am


Multiple offer situations, or cases in which more than one competing offer is placed on a home, can be challenging for a home seller.

Knowledge is half the battle when navigating the multiple bid minefield. Below are insights and tips from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) all sellers should be mindful of:

• In a multiple offer situation, your listing agent will share various negotiating strategies for you to consider—you might accept the “best” offer, for example, or you might inform all potential buyers that other offers are “on the table” and invite them to make their “best” offer. You might instead “counter” one offer while putting the other offers to the side, or “counter” one offer and reject the others.

• Each of the approaches above has advantages and disadvantages, and though your agent will explain them to you, it is ultimately your decision as to which strategy to take. Inviting buyers to make their “best” offer may produce an offer (or offers) better than those “on the table,” or it may discourage buyers who feel they’ve already made a fair offer and cause them to break off negotiations. Bear outcomes like this in mind as you weigh your options.

• A multiple offer situation will inevitably become a one offer situation, leaving other buyers disappointed. Fair and honest treatment throughout the process, as well as prompt, ongoing and open communication, will help buyers—successful or not—walk away without ill will.

Keep in mind, most importantly, that your agent’s guidance is based on experience, and is no guarantee as to how any particular buyer will react. Above all, your best line of defense is an agent seasoned in multiple offer situations.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What to Buy (and Not to Buy) in September

September 20, 2016 3:09 am


The perfect storm of Labor Day, back-to-school and end-of-summer clearance sales make September ideal for bargain-hunters. From consumer watchdog DealNews.com, here’s the scoop on what’s best to buy in September—and what purchases to put on the back burner:

Summer Apparel – No surprise here—retailers ranging from big-box outlets to designers blow out summer styles in September. Pro tip: Buy for your family now and stow it for next year.
 
Grills/Patio Furniture – Like summer apparel, leftover grill and patio furniture inventory goes on sale in September. Look for items stacked at the front of hardware and home stores for the best bargains.
 
Big-Screen TVs – The best big-screen buys in September are on mid-size models (the perfect size for apartments or dorm rooms), but larger sizes are often marked down, as well.
 
Mattresses – Historically, the best times to purchase a new mattress were in April or May—but Labor Day sales are becoming another contender. Pro tip: Double-down on a deal by using coupons on top of sale prices.
 
Laptops – Seventy-five percent of laptops are discounted considerably for back-to-school season. Big-box electronics providers are your best bet for the best deals.
 
Previous-Generation iPhones
– There are appreciable savings to be had on older iPhones in September, when the new model typically rolls out. Rock-bottom bargains on these devices can be found on online auction sites, like eBay.
 
Textbooks – Both buyers and sellers of textbooks can expect deals in September, when need is highest.
 
DealNews.com advises shoppers to hold off on buying washers, dryers and other large appliances, as well as some electronics, in September. While the month brings decent sales on these items, Black Friday sales in November have historically yielded better savings.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


National Preparedness Month: Tips for Homeowners

September 20, 2016 3:09 am


Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere, often with no warning. September, National Preparedness Month, is the ideal time to prepare your household for these types of events.

“Your family's safety is top priority when a disaster happens,” says Pete Duncanson of ServiceMaster Restore. “It starts with having plan: Have a ‘go bag’ ready to quickly grab and go during an evacuation, have a meeting place for your family in the event you're displaced, and have an outside contact for your entire family. Plan for emergency food and medications for the entire family, including pets.”

The ‘go bag’ Duncanson refers to should contain three days’ worth of emergency essentials, such as water, non-perishable food, medications and clothing. Other supplies may include flashlights, a radio, your home insurance or utility providers’ contact information, or rain gear.

Make it a habit, Duncanson adds, to review your homeowners insurance policy documents (and any other important papers) a few times each year. Consider making electronic copies of them so that they can be easily accessed if they’re damaged in a disaster—a secured thumb drive is the best method to store them.

Most important when disaster strikes, Duncanson says, is to put safety first—not your possessions. Evacuate immediately if instructed to do so, even if you must leave behind your belongings.

If your home is habitable after a disaster but requires cleanup, avoid approaching the task by yourself, says Duncanson—a DIY effort can make damage worse, causing unnecessary expenses, and be detrimental to your health. Have a restoration professional assess the damage within 48 hours of the disaster to prevent bacteria or mold growth.

“When a disaster occurs in a home or business, response time is critical,” says Duncanson.

Source: ServiceMaster Restore
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Safety Tips for Your Household This Fall

September 20, 2016 3:09 am


As a household, transitioning from a summer of spontaneity to a fall full of activities can move safety by the wayside. Still, it’s vital to carve out time in your schedule to prioritize it, says Rebecca Smith, vice president of Marketing for Master Lock.

“During the fall, many families’ schedules are busier than ever, but it’s still important for parents to make safety and security a priority,” says Smith. “Now that school year routines are established, it’s a perfect time to address safety topics with your children, such as guidelines for staying safe at home and on the go.”

Smith and Master Lock recommend the following tips for parents:

Teach your children to note their surroundings. As dusk and darkness creep up earlier each day, remind your children to follow safety precautions, whether walking home or just to a parked car. Instruct them to stick with a friend or in a group, if possible, and to stay in well-lit areas, avoid short cuts and observe traffic rules.

Review bike safety. If your children will be riding their bikes to school or extracurricular activities, review the rules of the road with them—following traffic signals, riding with traffic, stopping at stop signs, etc. Make certain, also, that they’re outfitted with bright-colored clothing and a helmet.

Establish a "home alone" routine. Set guidelines for older children who may be home without supervision, either after school or during activities on weekends. These may include calling to check in, locking the door immediately after entering the house (and not answering the door for strangers) and reviewing emergency phone numbers.

Observe fire safety. Establish a household fire evacuation plan, which involves visiting each room in the home to designate two exits (in each) and ensure they open. Determine a safe meeting place outside of the home, as well, and practice the evacuation periodically.

Putting these tips into practice will set safe habits for your children, now and beyond the season. For safety and security products for your home, visit MasterLock.com.

Source: Master Lock
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Habits of Productive People

September 19, 2016 3:06 am


(Family Features)—Appointments, meetings, tasks…life can get hectic both professionally and personally. Staying productive on a packed schedule can be difficult, but it’s not impossible—especially if you practice the following habits:

1. Rest – It seems counterproductive (pun intended), but without enough rest, it's all the more challenging to stay on top of your schedule. It may be difficult initially to carve out time to rest, but it will pay off in the long run—even if you do something as simple as putting away your computer or phone an hour before bedtime.

2. Schedule Everything – Schedule all obligations on a calendar—mundane included. Having this information readily accessible frees up brain space for the more important tasks in your day.

3. Embrace Technology – Many tools today make keeping track easier than ever. One such tool is the “smartpad,” an alternative to paper notebooks with the benefit of digitizing every idea or reminder so that they’re available from any device.

4. Keep Clean – Messy areas can make you feel disorganized and overwhelmed, hindering your ability to be productive. Sprucing up at the end of each day helps you “wind down,” preparing you to be just as productive tomorrow.

What habits do you practice to stay productive?
 
Source: Wacom
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Climate Control, Lighting, Security Most Popular Smart Home Upgrades

September 19, 2016 3:06 am


More homeowners are springing for a smart home makeover, so much so that renovated homes today are more than twice as likely to include a smart system or device, according to the recently released U.S. Houzz Smart Home Trends Survey. The results of the survey, which, in conjunction with CEDIA, assessed nearly 1,000 renovators either planning, in the midst of, or who have recently completed a home renovation, indicate 45 percent of homeowners are incorporating (or have incorporated) smart home technology as part of a renovation.

“Our data sheds light on how renovating homeowners are embracing smart technology,” says Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz. “These homeowners aim to improve the comfort, convenience, safety and energy usage of their home during their renovations, and smart technology appears to address many of their needs.”

Why the smart move? Homeowners are installing smart home technology for:

Safety/Security
Twenty-five percent of homeowners surveyed upgrade to features with smart technology to protect their homes against intruders (67 percent) or control and monitor the safety of their homes while they’re away (52 percent). The majority of those upgrading for safety/security reasons spend $1,500 or less.

Climate Control
Fourteen percent of homeowners surveyed upgrade to features with smart technology to improve the comfort of their homes (71 percent), reduce energy consumption (68 percent) or control and monitor the device while they’re away (41 percent). The majority of those upgrading for climate control spend between $1,501 and $2,500.

Lighting
Twelve percent of homeowners surveyed upgrade to features with smart technology to reduce energy consumption (59 percent), improve the comfort their homes (54 percent) or change the “mood” or “vibe” of their homes (34 percent). The majority of those upgrading for lighting spend $1,500 or less.

The most common smart home devices, according to the survey’s results, are:

• Fire/Gas Alarms
• Cameras
• Door/Glass/Motion Sensors
• Door Locks/Video Doorbells
• Thermostat
• Television
• Speakers
• Video/Music Streaming
• Indoor/Outdoor Lighting

“While many homeowners report difficulty learning about and finding the right smart products to fit their needs, high levels of adoption and satisfaction among renovators are sound predictors of a wider reliance on these technologies among the general public in the near future,” Sitchinava concludes.

Source: CEDIA
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


A Multitude of Tips for Multiple Offer Situations – Pt. 1

September 19, 2016 3:06 am


Multiple offer situations, or cases in which more than one competing offer is placed on a home, can be challenging for a homebuyer, especially one new to the process.

Knowledge is half the battle when navigating the multiple bid minefield. Below are insights and tips from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) all buyers should be mindful of.

• While a listing agent can offer advice and suggestions, all decisions about how offers will be presented—and dealt with—are made by the seller. Your agent likely has other buyer clients, some of whom may be interested in the same properties as you are, so ask how offers and counter-offers will be presented and negotiated.

• Sellers can handle multiple offers in the following ways: accept the “best” offer; inform all potential purchasers that other offers are “on the table;” “counter” one offer while holding others awaiting a decision on the counter offer; or counter one offer while rejecting the others.

• Generally, purchase offers are not confidential—in some cases, sellers may make other buyers aware that your offer is in hand, or even disclose details about your offer to another buyer in the hope of convincing that buyer to make a “better” offer. You may want to discuss the possibility of making an offer confidential, or establishing a confidentiality agreement between you and the seller, with your agent prior to negotiations.

• There are advantages and disadvantages to various strategies. A low initial offer may result in obtaining the property for less than the listed price, or it may result in another buyer’s higher offer being accepted. On the other hand, a full price offer may result in paying more than the seller might have required. In some instances, there can be several full price offers competing for the seller’s attention—and acceptance.

Keep in mind, most importantly, that your agent’s guidance is based on experience, and is no guarantee as to how any particular seller will act (or react). Above all, your best line of defense is an agent seasoned in multiple offer situations.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Keeping Up with the Joneses—and All Your Friends on Facebook

September 16, 2016 3:06 am


The desire to “keep up with the Joneses”—that is, match a lifestyle—has spread to social media, with the circle of “Joneses” wider than ever, according to recent survey by Harris Poll and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The results of the survey reveal a pattern: most of us feel envious of our social media friends who share lavish experiences and purchases online, but we also share lavish experiences and purchases online.

“Social media has vastly expanded the number of ‘neighbors’ people are trying to keep up with,” says Gregory Anton, chair of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Some people are purposefully curating a more glamorous image on social media and, unfortunately, it can have a negative financial impact on their friends and followers who feel compelled to keep up with them.”

Notably, a significant portion of survey respondents admitted to being likely to choose an experience or purchase based on how their social media followers will respond to it—and some even shared an experience or purchase because it seemed “expensive” or “fancy.”

The pressure to “keep up” is felt strongest by younger social media users, the survey also found. Millennial respondents were more than twice as likely as baby boomer respondents to report feeling envious of their social media friends’ and followers’ experiences or purchases.

“People, in particular those just beginning their careers, would be better served spending their money maxing out their 401(k) and paying down debt, instead of trying to one-up their friends on social media,” Anton says. “While smart financial moves may not get the most likes or retweets, building a solid financial foundation should take priority over building a social media following.”

Source: American Institute of CPAs (AICPA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Climate Change Calls for Fortified Homes

September 16, 2016 3:06 am


With the likelihood of extreme weather events ever-growing, fortifying homes to withstand the elements has become crucial. One such fortification is window film, a once-commercial innovation that is now making its way into the residential market.

“Homeowners need to be aware of the risks posed by extreme weather,” Darrell Smith, executive director of the International Window Film Association (IWFA), says. “Professionally-installed window film provides an increased level of protection that can help to reduce damage to family members or their homes in the event of broken windows, no matter the cause of the breakage.”

Window film is a thin, permanent sheet of coating that binds shards of glass together, according to the IWFA. It protects primarily against the effects of high winds, which can produce projectiles that could shatter a home’s windows and endanger its occupants. It also comes with the added benefits of barring burglars and deflecting heat from the sun.

Window film does not reduce visibility to the outside of home, preserving views and security, and does not alter the appearance of windows themselves—it is available in many shades, from virtually clear to medium to dark.

Window film is subjected to third-party testing to confirm its performance, the IWFA states. It also adheres to safety guidelines and standards for burglary intrusion, human impact, fire safety and glass fragment protection.

For determine if window film is right for your home, learn more at IWFA.com.

Source: International Window Film Association (IWFA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top Colleges with the Highest and Lowest Off-Campus Rents

September 16, 2016 3:06 am


The cost for students to live off-campus is steep—especially at the nation’s best colleges.

That’s according to a recently released analysis by Zillow, in conjunction with the unveiling of the latest U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges ranking, that reveals 80 percent of the country’s top universities are in expensive rental markets. Students at Princeton, Stanford and UC Berkeley can expect to pay the most for off-campus housing, the analysis found:

Top Colleges with Highest Off-Campus Rents

Stanford University
Stanford/Palo Alto, Calif.
U.S. News Ranking: 5 (Tied with Columbia University)
Median Monthly Rent: $6,139

Princeton University
Princeton, N.J.
U.S. News Ranking: 1
Median Monthly Rent: $4,529

University of California – Berkeley
Berkeley, Calif.
U.S. News Ranking: 20 (Tied with Emory University, Georgetown University)
Median Monthly Rent: $3,534

California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, Calif.
U.S. News Ranking: 12 (Tied with Northwestern University)
Median Monthly Rent: $2,720

University of Southern California/University of California – Los Angeles
Los Angeles, Calif.
U.S. News Rankings: 23/24 (Tied with Carnegie Mellon University and University of Virginia)
Median Monthly Rent: $2,701

Top Colleges with Lowest Off-Campus Rents

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame/South Bend, Ind.
U.S. News Ranking: 14 (Tied with Cornell University, Rice University and Vanderbilt University)
Median Monthly Rent: $723

Washington University – St. Louis
St. Louis, Mo.
U.S. News Ranking: 19
Median Monthly Rent: $881

University of Rochester
Rochester, N.Y.
U.S. News Ranking: 32 (Tied with College of William and Mary)
Median Monthly Rent: $945

Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, N.C.
U.S. News Ranking: 27 (Tied with University of Michigan – Ann Arbor)
Median Monthly Rent: $994

Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pa.
U.S. News Ranking: 24 (Tied with University of California – Los Angeles and University of Virginia)
Median Monthly Rent: $1,141 

“As students and their parents are filling out applications this fall and are crunching the numbers on financial aid and student loans, they should also factor in the cost of housing,” says Jeremy Wacksman, chief marketing officer at Zillow. “Looking at both on- and off-campus housing prices, and thinking through whether they’ll likely live with roommates or alone will help them gauge an accurate picture of the student loans and financial aid they will need in order to obtain their degree.”

Students seeking acceptance to either list of colleges should consider how rents may rise in the years they attend, and even beyond, should they enter the workforce near their alma mater, Wacksman adds. 

Source: Zillow
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Don't Get Pressed into Buying Protection at Checkout

September 15, 2016 3:03 am


Appliance, electronic and tool retailers are often very well-trained in the art of up-selling protection plans that extend warranties and claim to provide bonus services to help protect your purchase. Howard Schwartz of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says when you're asked to pay extra for an extended service contract, ask yourself: Is the extra cost worth it?

The answer, according to the BBB, is not so simple.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises consumers to understand exactly what they'll get for their money if they buy extended coverage. The FTC says rather than extending a manufacturer's product warranty, most product protection plans are service contracts, which are not the same as the manufacturer's warranty, and they typically contain wide-ranging restrictions and exclusions.

Some consumers feel a service contract is worth the peace of mind once a manufacturer's warranty expires, the BBB states. Others don't see the point in paying extra money to buy a five year-long protection service for a moderately-priced item, such as a $65 printer.

Alternatives to service contracts include insurance policies for merchandise that is easily lost, stolen or broken, such as a smartphone. Some credit cards extend manufacturers' original warranties as a perk, according to the BBB.

Unfortunately, most cashiers do not have the information you need about the extended protection policies they sell. The BBB encourages you to take home a copy of the paperwork and understand the terms, conditions, exclusions and limitations of the extra coverage:

• Weigh the benefits. What is the expected average lifespan of the merchandise?

• How reliable is the type of product?

• Understand the terms and conditions. If you buy extra protection, make certain you know what is covered and what is not, such as labor, parts and service calls.

• Get details about customer service. How long do you have to wait for repairs? Do you have to pay for shipping? Is the repair service contracted out to a local service?

The BBB recommends researching retailers before you buy at BBB.org.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Ways to Declutter Your Kitchen

September 15, 2016 3:03 am


If you're always short of cabinet and counter space, it’s time to de-clutter the kitchen—but that’s a chore that seems to get relegated to "someday." The job may be easier if you know where to start, say consumer editors at Country Living magazine.

If you want to give yourself more kitchen space, begin by getting rid of the following:

Anything Free with Dinner – That goes for spare chopsticks, soy sauce packets, kid's meal toys, and other stuff that’s cluttering your kitchen drawers. You’re going to get more the next time you order, so there's no point in stockpiling.

One-Use Gadgets You Thought You Would Use – Garlic presses, apple corers, hot chocolate frothers…your cabinets may be full of specialty cooking gadgets that serve only one purpose. If it's taking up space and you use it less than four times a year, it's probably worth tossing—especially if there's an everyday object that can get the job done.

Plastic Grocery Bags – If you have more than 10 balled up in a cabinet or drawer, put the rest in your recycle bin or take them to the nearest store that recycles plastic bags.

Rarely Used Cookbooks – If they’ve sat on a shelf for more than a year without being used, it’s time to sell or otherwise dispose of them. Keep only family collections and one or your favorite specialty cookbooks.

Reusable Shopping Bags – Keep only two or three of those eco-friendly bags and get them out of the pantry. Store them in the trunk of your car for use when you do your shopping.

Tupperware Collection – Most of us have far too many, including those empty deli and margarine containers we’ve saved. Limit yourself to containers in two sizes, and no more than five or six of each, with lids.

Weirdly Sentimental Mugs – Too much shelf space is often given up to mugs we will never use—from vacation souvenirs to those with cutesy sayings. Harden your heart and get rid of most of them. You will never, ever miss them.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Making Your Home's 'Most Dangerous Room' a Little Safer

September 15, 2016 3:03 am


A handy interactive checklist and guide from the Home Instead Senior Care® network takes a comprehensive look at the most unsafe areas of the home for seniors. According to Home Instead, an overwhelming majority of ER doctors (100 percent in the U.S. and 99 percent in Canada), adult children (85 percent in the U.S. and 84 percent in Canada) and seniors (94 percent in the U.S. and 97 percent in Canada) agree that falls are the most common home accidents for older adults.

What can older adults who want to stay at home do? ER doctors in the U.S. and Canada are unanimous: an annual home check is key. Those physicians say injuries are most likely to happen in the:

Bathroom – 69 percent (56 percent in Canada)
Bedroom – 13 percent (14 percent in Canada)
Kitchen – 9 percent (12 percent in Canada)
Stairs – 5 percent

This means a room-by-room check can make all the difference in keeping seniors safe and independent at home. When it comes to the bathroom, the Home Instead checklist prompts these questions:

• Are grab bars available near the tub, shower and toilet?
• Is the floor slippery?
• Is there a lack of bath mats?
• Is the bathtub too high?
• Is the toilet the correct height?
• Is there the potential for bath water to be too hot?
• Are medications stored properly—not too high or too low for the senior to reach?
• Do mobility and joint problems make it difficult to reach into cabinets, comb hair or get into a bathtub?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, fixes may be in order to help make the most dangerous room in the house a lot safer.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Things Not to Buy at Warehouse Club Stores

September 14, 2016 3:03 am


Shopping at a warehouse club store is one way to save money on items such as food, wine and paper goods—but, say the consumer editors at Kiplinger’s, they're not the low price leader on many commonly purchased items. Avoid buying these items in particular, because they can generally be purchased at lower prices elsewhere:

Books and DVDs – Check before you buy. Deals on these items can often be purchased for 15 percent less online than at warehouse stores.

Canned Goods – Prices on these are hard to beat when they're on sale at the supermarket, where you'll pay on average 20 to 40 percent less than you would at warehouse stores.

Clothing and Shoes – Cheaply made clothing can be a costly mistake. Even when items at the warehouse stores have a designer label, they're often of lower quality, using cheaper fabrics and embellishments. Are they worth what you'll pay? It’s up to you.

Condiments and Cooking Oil – A huge jar of mayo or a three-pack of ketchup may be good buy if you use lots of it quickly, but the shelf life of condiments, once they're open (including oil), is relatively short, so you may be better off buying smaller quantities at grocery store sale prices.

Milk – Studies have shown you can usually buy a gallon of milk at the grocery store for 50 or 60 cents less a gallon than you'll pay at the warehouse club store. Surprisingly, some high-end stores have the best prices on organic or soy milks.

Name-Brand Cereals – Prices are generally pretty much the same at warehouse clubs and at grocery stores, but warehouse stores don’t have sales, so you'll find better prices when they go on sale at the supermarket.

Soda – According to Jeff Yeager, a frugal living expert and author of “The Cheapskate Next Store,” you'll always find better prices on soda when it’s on sale at the supermarket than you will at a warehouse club store. Check it for yourself!
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is Raking Wrecking Your Back? We've Got Tips to Prevent That!

September 14, 2016 3:03 am


The next few weekends will involve cleaning up around your property, including raking leaves—but that timeless fall activity can cause tremendous strain on the back.

That's where advice from spine specialist Dr. Kaixuan Liu, with Atlantic Spine Center of New Jersey, comes in. His tips to prevent raking-related back injuries:

Stretch – Just like you'd stretch your back, leg and shoulder muscles before a family football game—another popular fall activity—take time to do so before a leaf-raking session. Concentrate on your upper and lower back areas, arms, neck and legs. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.

Avoid Twisting – Instead of planting your feet on the ground while raking and twisting in all directions with your back, move your feet into different surrounding areas. "Let your hips and feet do some of the work," Dr. Liu says.

Align Your Spine – Staying hunched over while raking strains lower back muscles, Dr. Liu notes. Instead, keep legs shoulder-width apart and bend knees slightly. Stand straight up often to rest the lower back.

Right-Size Your Rake – Tools are sold in varying sizes, and your rake should be properly sized for your height and strength.

Pick the Best Shoes for the Job – Don't just kick on the closest pair of shoes before heading out to rake, Dr. Liu advises. Wear shoes with skid-resistant soles to minimize the risk of slipping (especially if leaves are damp) or falling.

Bend at the Knees – Picking up leaf piles (or dragging a tarp full of them) requires a lot of strength. Be sure to bend your knees while disposing of leaves, rather than letting your back bear the brunt of the movement and weight, Dr. Liu says.

Take a Break – Treat raking like any other form of vigorous exercise and take a break every 15 to 30 minutes, Dr. Liu recommends. "This tip is especially important for those 'weekend warriors' who don't exercise regularly."

One last tip, Dr. Liu adds: when you're done raking and hauling leaves for the day, take a few moments to gently stretch muscles one more time.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is It Really Possible to Save Money When You're Moving?

September 14, 2016 3:03 am


After making the costly investment in a new home, the last thing you want to do is spend a penny more than necessary getting all your stuff into it. So, we sought out some expert advice on the subject to help ensure your move goes as economically as possible.

Ross Sapir, founder and CEO of Roadway Moving of New York City, says proper research and planning can ensure you're not breaking the bank on your next move. He offers the following five cost-saving tips.

Start by getting rid of a few things. Sapir says bringing fewer items to your new home could make the move a little less expensive.

You might think it's easier and more cost-efficient to have your family and friends help with your next move—wrong, Sapir says. Professional movers are fast, show up on time, bring a truck and tools, and are less likely to break any of your belongings.

When picking your movers, Sapir says make sure you do your research. Companies that offer white-glove service to their customers will not only guarantee the job will be done correctly, but they will help you with setting up your cable and utilities.

Sapir says some utility companies won't prorate your bill based off your departure date, so if your billing cycle doesn't line up with your moving date, think about cutting off one of your services so you're not paying for an extra month. It's probably not smart to cut off the electricity, but you could definitely do without cable for a couple of weeks.

Choose your date wisely, as well. Sapir says the majority of moves occur between May and September, making those five months the highest demand for moving services. Since most moving companies are fully booked during the summer, they won't be as inclined to offer you a good bargain. If you can plan your move during the off-season and book your date as early as possible, you'll have more potential cost saving options available.

You can also consult the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and its 'Protect Your Move' website (fmcsa.dot.gov) for more information.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Car-Buying: 5 Smart Tips

September 13, 2016 3:00 am


Considering buying a new car? Now may ideal—with new vehicles hitting the showroom floor, dealers are eager to unload outdated models. The smartest way to buy, according to the experts at non-profit GreenPath Financial Wellness, is to have a plan. Their tips:

1. Research – Many people buy cars based on what they look like or what they’re familiar with. Instead of buying the same type of car you've always driven, it may be wiser to list the features you’re looking for, and then do some research.  Know your credit history ahead of time, as well. Pull your credit report(s) from www.annualcreditreport.com to see if there are any red flags that might prevent you from getting an ideal interest rate.

2. Consider Financing – Once you know what you’re looking for, considering your buying options: leased, new or used. What financing options are realistic for you based on your income and credit? Don't borrow more money than you are comfortably able to repay.

3. Take Your Time – Start shopping around for dealer and selection incentives for your particular car choices. Do not rush—it's better to exercise patience when making your decision. Shop online as well as in person to compare prices for similar models.

4. Determine Payments – A lower monthly payment isn't always best—sometimes a dealer will simply increase the number of months on your loan in order to lower your monthly payment, but that often means you'll pay much more in interest over the life of the loan. Be careful about ending up in car loans that last six, seven or eight years—that's a long time to have a car payment (and a lot of interest to pay)!

5. Consider Other Costs – Your total transportation expense will include the vehicle payment, as well as everything else: insurance, gasoline, oil changes, ongoing maintenance, license plate fees, etc. Make sure you’ve added all potential costs into your budget.

Source: GreenPath Financial Wellness
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Take a Turn on a Zero-Turn Mower

September 13, 2016 3:00 am


When is being referred to as a “zero” a good thing? If you were among thousands of attendees at the 2015 Green Industry and Equipment Expo (GIE+EXPO), you know it’s when it's zero-turn!

GIE+EXPO, the largest trade show for garden, lawn and outdoor power equipment, is held annually in Louisville, Ky—and the belles of last year's ball were zero-turn mowers.

Altoz, manufacturer of high-performance zero-turn radius (ZTR) mowers, unveiled the XR series of products at the event. Steve Noe, a blogger at OutdoorPowerEquipment.com, notes Altoz equipment is now available with Briggs & Stratton, Honda, Kawasaki and Kohler engines.

Manufacturer Wright introduced a 72-inch model to its growing line of Stander ZK mowers at the event, as well. The machine’s left/right hydro systems, mowing speed and push-button deck lift all contribute to improved efficiency and productivity, Noe says.

The Poulan Pro p54zx was another top contender at the event, with ToolsAroundTheHouse.com ranking it the sole five-star performer on its list of best zero-turn mowers on the market. The machine features an electric clutch, a high-back seat and a hydro-gear EZT transmission, among other features.

Whichever zero-turn mower you opt for, safety is paramount—like other large mowers, they pose rollover and tip-over dangers, especially on uneven surfaces. Because only the rear wheels are powered (the front wheels are for pivoting), zero-turn mowers are much more difficult to stop, especially when riding down a steep slope. Ride safe!
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


New Homes: Manufactured, Modular or Site-Built?

September 13, 2016 3:00 am


(BPT)—Building or purchasing a new home has several advantages: for one, control over design and location, as well as the ability to own sooner (and often for less money) in markets with short supply.

New homes can be built or purchased in one of three types of construction: manufactured, modular and site-built. Each has its pros and cons.

“A newly constructed home may be any of the following three types: manufactured, modular or traditional site-built,” says Kevin Clayton, CEO of Clayton Home Building Group. “Whichever type selected will be built to strict state and federal code and can vary by style, custom features available, energy-efficiency, speed of construction and affordability.”

Manufactured

Manufactured homes are built in a controlled factory environment using many of the same building materials used in site-built homes. The entire house is assembled in the factory in sections, and then transported by truck to the home site for final installation.

Manufactured homes are subject to internal inspections and must meet building standards defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to receive final certification. Because the house is built indoors, the construction schedule is not subject to weather delays, so a manufactured home can be completed and set up on-site in a matter of weeks, rather than months.

Manufactured homebuilders purchase construction materials and appliances in volume, which helps keep the cost of manufactured homes lower than what you would pay for a site-built home. (In 2015, the average cost of a manufactured home was just $47.55 per square foot, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction [SOC] data.)

Modular

Modular homebuilding combines elements of site-built and manufactured home construction. In modular home construction, the home may be either 100-percent factory-built or a mix of both factory-built and on-site built. Modular homes can ship to the home site fully complete or with work left to be done—this allows for full customization.

Modular homes are often shipped in sections that are assembled at the site by use of a crane. The home is typically placed onto a permanent foundation, and can be multiple stories high. Modular homes can also have basements, garages and unique roof profiles that make them indistinguishable from traditional site-built homes.

All the building codes that apply to site-built homes also govern modular homes. Because much of the construction takes place inside a factory setting with materials in stock, modular homes can also be completed faster than site-built homes. They also benefit from similar bulk cost-savings as manufactured homes.

Site-Built

As the name implies, site-built construction assembles the house on the site where it will permanently stand when finished. All the materials that go into the house—from wood for the frame to pipes for the plumbing and shingles for the roof—are transported to the site for assembly of the house, which could take several months. Transporting and buying exact measurements of building materials that will be used (versus buying bulk) contributes to the final cost of the house.

During construction, materials may be stored onsite and exposed to weather until construction crews are ready to use them. Similarly, the interior of the home is exposed until the roof, walls and windows are all in place.  They are subject to various state and local building codes to ensure safety before the home is ready to be sold.

Site-building is a time-tested, traditional way of building homes, and is the most common method of construction. Construction times vary, but can range from less than three months to a year, according to data from the SOC. The average price per square foot of a single-family site-built home was just over $100 in 2015.

The type of construction you choose will depend on your budget, needs and preferences. Advances in manufactured and modular homebuilding mean it's now possible to build one of these homes with the same high-end features you would find in a quality site-built home.

Source: Clayton Home Building Group
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Estate Planning in a Globalized World

September 12, 2016 3:00 am


Estate planning is complex, now more so for families faced with navigating the process on a multinational stage. Issues beyond U.S. borders may be especially impactful, says John O. McManus, an attorney and founding principal of New York- and New Jersey-based McManus & Associates (www.McManusLegal.com).

“We live in an increasingly globalized world—today, many people travel regularly for work and pleasure, and have loved ones and investments abroad,” McManus says. “Whether you are a U.S. citizen with assets abroad, a U.S. resident living overseas with ties back home, or have loved ones overseas from whom you could receive gifts or inheritances, it is important to keep up-to-date on multinational estate and tax planning issues.”

According to McManus, one of the primary issues is Brexit. European Union (EU) membership permits free movement to live and work throughout the EU, so those moving into and out of Britain should prepare for potential residency and passport complications.

Another consideration is assets, McManus says. Those with assets abroad are subject to U.S. estate and income tax on those assets. This applies to U.S. citizens and resident aliens—a non-resident alien is taxed only on U.S. source income, including capital gains from the sale of a U.S. real property. Non-resident aliens planning to immigrate to the U.S. should consider purchasing U.S. real estate through a foreign corporation and making unlimited non-U.S. gifts to U.S. persons (directly, or in a foreign) trust prior to immigrating, so as to avoid estate and gift taxes, McManus advises.

There is “financial fine print” that can present challenges, as well. U.S. citizens working overseas have FBAR reporting obligations if the value of their foreign financial accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the year, McManus explains. For unmarried citizens living abroad, Specified Foreign Financial Assets (Form 8938) must be filed with their U.S. income tax return for foreign financial assets worth more than $200,000 on the last day of the taxable year, or $300,000 at any time during the year; for unmarried citizens living in the U.S., they must be filed with their income tax return if worth more than $50,000 on the last day of the taxable year, or $75,000 at any time during the year.

Likewise, U.S. citizens receiving $100,000 or more in bequests/gifts from a foreign individual are required to file Form 3520 by April 15 of the year following the gift, lest a 25 percent penalty.

One other consideration is portability, McManus adds. Portability permits a surviving spouse to use the Deceased Spouse’s Unused federal estate tax Exemption (DSUE) of their most recent deceased spouse, in order to increase the estate tax exemption amount. Portability is generally only available to U.S. citizens and residents—non-U.S. citizens or residents should establish a Qualified Domestic Trust (QDoT) to have the DSUE amount of the decedent included in the surviving spouse’s applicable exclusion amount, McManus advises.

In addition, having more than one will can be beneficial—the advantage, McManus explains, is that they can be tailored to different jurisdictions; the disadvantage, however, is the expense needed to prepare them, as well as the additional complexity in the overall estate plan. Multiple wills may be prudent if there is substantial real property or investments in privately-owned companies abroad, McManus says.

Source: McManus & Associates
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Mortgage Rates Sink, Prompting Refis

September 12, 2016 3:00 am


Mortgage rates on average have moved lower, with the 30-year fixed-rate recently sinking to 3.44 percent, Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®) reports.

“The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell two basis points to 3.44 percent [last] week,” Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti says. “As mortgage rates continue to range between 3.41 and 3.48 percent, many are taking advantage of the historically low rates by refinancing. Since the Brexit vote, the refinance share of mortgage activity has remained above 60 percent.”

The 15-year fixed-rate (FRM), conversely, averages 2.76 percent with an average 0.5 point, according to the survey. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate averages 2.81 percent with an average 0.4 point. The 30-year FRM has an average 0.6 point.

Source: Freddie Mac
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Improvements for Fall: A Checklist

September 12, 2016 3:00 am


Fall is one of the best times of year to knock out some home improvement projects, especially ones you may have been putting off. Vicki Payne, host of the television program “For Your Home with Vicki Payne,” says fall is also ideal for maintenance before colder temperatures set in.

“With cooler fall weather comes the realization that your home will soon experience [colder] weather,” Payne says. “To get your house ready, start by giving your exterior a thorough review. Everything should be checked, cleaned up and made ready to handle Mother Nature when she comes blowing in within the next few months.”

Payne’s checklist:

Assess the roof. Look for loose or missing shingles, as well as algae, deterioration, mold or splitting. If the roof is in poor shape, consider upgrading to a synthetic roof—the composite product resists elements like fire, high winds and impact. (Hot Product: DaVinci Roofscapes)

Check the doors. The weather stripping should be intact—this helps keep drafty cold air out.

Check the siding and trim. Make sure there are no insect infestations or rotting boards (if wood). Should these items need replacement, consider a low-maintenance alternative like fiber cement siding or PVC trim. (Hot Products: James Hardie, Ply Gem)

Clean the gutters. Remove leaves and debris to avoid back-ups or clogs come winter. Ensure, too, that gutters are securely attached to the home and sloped for proper drainage.

Evaluate the deck. If the deck looks worse for wear, consider replacing it with Western Red Cedar or composite decking—both stand up to the elements. (Hot Product: TAMKO)

Inspect the garage door(s). Make sure it is operating properly and has strong air filtration seals. A replacement may be in order if the door is not functioning or aesthetically outdated. (Hot Product: Haas Door)

Seal the windows. At the very least, ensure the windows have strong weather stripping. Consider installing energy-efficient panes (with the ENERGY STAR® label) to keep heating costs down.

Secure railings. Loose or unstable railings can be dangerous. Check all balusters and handrails for signs of damage. If it is time for a replacement, consider adding cable rails or glass balustrades for a contemporary finish. (Hot Product: Fortress Railing)

Spend time on landscaping. Rake leaves as they fall—remove them and any other underbrush from the property before frost or snow arrive. Re-mulch in areas that need it, and trim back bushes and trees.

“Homeownership means continually maintaining the exterior elements of a house,” says Payne. “With its cooler weather, autumn is the ideal time to evaluate, upgrade and improve those key exterior elements to ensure your home is ready for the winter months ahead.”

Source: For Your Home with Vicki Payne
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is Your Workout Class Working?

September 9, 2016 2:45 am


More of us than ever are signing up for workout classes—and that’s a good thing. But, as the editors at Women’s Health point out, there’s a tendency for beginners to do too much, too soon, instead of gradually building strength. They caution signs of a too-strenuous workout:
 
Your Breathing Is Choppy
In any workout class (especially yoga, where rhythmic cadence is important), you must pay attention to your breath. If it’s getting shorter and shorter, or you start to gasp, slow down until you feel you’re breathing normally.
 
Your Heart Rate Is off the Charts
Monitoring your heart rate throughout your workout is a good way to ensure you’re training without overdoing it. If you’re not monitoring your heart rate, listen to your body—if you’re unable to string words together, or if you feel faint, rein it in.
 
Your Muscles Are Quaking
A little shaking is fine—it can be an indicator of the muscle fatigue your instructor is aiming for—but if you can’t control the quaking, you’ve likely gone too far and could be putting your joints at risk. Reduce your intensity, or rest, before attempting to join in again.
 
Your Technique Is Off
If you’re not performing exercises properly, the class may be too challenging for you—but a good instructor will provide modifications as needed so long as you are continuing to gain strength and endurance.

Fitness classes can support a healthier lifestyle, but don’t hesitate to dial back if these signs crop up in the first few sessions. Exercise to your capacity, and only push your limits when you—and your body—are ready.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Hurricane Mid-Season Reminder: Check In on Insurance

September 9, 2016 2:45 am


Hurricane season presents insurance considerations for homeowners in many areas of the country. Midway through the season is an ideal time to check in with your insurance provider regarding coverage, advises the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

“This is the midpoint of the season, and it's vital to remain vigilant,” says Lynne McChristian, a representative for the I.I.I. “If it's been a year since you last talked to your insurance professional about your coverage and options, then have the conversation now while you still have time to make changes.”

According to the I.I.I., many insurers, especially in Florida, will not permit changes to policies once a hurricane warning or watch is in effect. As such, it’s essential to consult with your provider before a storm strikes, if only to confirm you’re covered.

The I.I.I. recommends updating your policy if you’ve made improvements to or remodeled your home, or if you’ve obtained new belongings. Ensure your policy provides coverage not only to rebuild your home in the event of disaster, but also to replace your possessions.

“Ask about additional coverage you should consider,” McChristian says. “For example, does your policy cover sewer backup? If your home is more than five years old, you may also need building ordinance and law coverage, which covers the added costs to rebuild a damaged home up to the improved, latest building codes.”

Updating your home inventory, which is a list of your possessions and their value, can also be beneficial should you need to file a claim. According to the I.I.I., doing this not only hastens the claim process, but also makes filing for federal disaster aid simpler. A free home inventory app is available at KnowYourStuff.org.

Consider flood insurance, as well, the I.I.I. suggests. (More than 20 percent of flood insurance claims are paid to those living in low- to moderate-risk flood zones.) Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or through a private insurer.

Source: Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Macro Trends in Home Design

September 9, 2016 2:45 am


From health-centric workplaces to socially-connected shops, macro trends inform design in industries across the board. Macro trends in the home, however, have higher staying power.

The macro trends currently shaping the design in our homes are the “country chic/farmhouse,” “glamour/Hollywood regency,” “gold,” “industrial” and “mid-century modern” aesthetics, says Ted Roberts, manager of Industrial Design for Schlage®. Roberts, who ascertains trends through industry events and tradeshows, believes these movements are going nowhere soon.

“While home trends tend to stay relevant longer, with homeowners updating decor about every five years, our team is continually monitoring art and fashion trends to inform home decor,” Roberts says.

The country chic/farmhouse aesthetic, according to Roberts, has evolved from being rooted in dark-toned woods to supporting lighter wood finishes. Often, it overlaps with industrial-style products, such as exposed plumbing and light fixtures. The industrial trend, conversely, has transitioned from an all-encompassing theme to well-appointed accessories, like Edison bulbs and pulleys.

The hallmark of the glamour/Hollywood regency aesthetic, on the other hand, is geometric designs, seen in accent pieces, lighting and small furniture, Roberts explains. The trend has moved from clean, drastic contrast to black-and-gold and softer grays, with Art Deco elements.

The gold component in the glamour/Hollywood regency trend is echoed in the gold and satin brass finishes now standard in new home design, Roberts adds. The patina is now being paired with whites and tans, rather than dark shades.

The mid-century modern take, too, is as popular as ever. The aesthetic’s color palette, which conventionally popped with oranges and yellows, is now brimming with blacks, blues and grays. The trend, Roberts says, is one of the most of-the-moment designs, and will continue to be more so than any other macro trend.

Do these macro trends make an appearance in your home?

Source: Schlage®

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


With Age Comes…Nevermind: Millennial Outlook 'Positive,' but 'Realistic'

September 8, 2016 2:45 am


Millennials expect healthy financial prospects, but hold no illusions for the long-term—a “positive,” “realistic” outlook atypical of their age, according to the recently released Northwestern Mutual Planning & Progress Study. The majority of millennials in the study were confident they will achieve their financial goals, though some expressed concern about retirement.

“It’s encouraging to see that millennials are striking a balance between being realistic about the implications of extended longevity and remaining positive about building a solid financial future,” says Rebekah Barsch, vice president of Planning for Northwestern Mutual.

Notably, the millennials in the study were more likely than any other generation to recognize a lack of planning as a hindrance to security in retirement, and many believed the availability of Social Security is “not at all likely.”

Most considered themselves “highly disciplined” financial planners, even though slim wages and student loan debt were causes for concern. The former, the study found, has a negative impact on their career goals.

“The early stages of a career can be rewarding in many ways, but not necessarily financially,” says Barsch. “With the right financial plan in place, millennials can alleviate some of the pressure and feel confident about pursuing their career aspirations, rather than just a paycheck.”

Just one in five of the millennials included in the study had a financial advisor.

The takeaway? Millennials maintain a financial disposition that belies their years: a rosy outlook tempered by faith in the economy, and foresight.

Source: Northwestern Mutual
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Best Time for Deals on Patio Gear Is…Now!

September 8, 2016 2:45 am


We’re all familiar with annual end-of-season sales on patio equipment and furniture—but when, really, is the best window for savings?

For the answer, I turned to coupon clearinghouse LOZO.com, which finds reliable grocery coupons from hundreds of trustworthy brands and websites. (You may have seen reporting on them on Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show or TLC's Extreme Couponing.)

LOZO.com points out that with fall and the holiday season approaching, the closer retailers get to their seasonal inventory change-over, the greater the discounts—that's why you can count on end-of-season sales for just about every seasonal item.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are particularly eager to move patio furniture, because it’s big, bulky, and takes up valuable store space. Unlike some seasonal items that gradually progress through sales (25 percent off, 40 percent off, 50 percent off, and so on), patio furniture quickly discounts.

According to LOZO.com, the best course of action is to carefully track the store(s) you might buy from and check stock and discounts. Don’t hesitate to ask a salesperson for details on how much inventory is still available, when it will be discounted, and for how much. Check back regularly to see if the sales have gotten any sweeter—LOZO.com recommends springing for the patio purchase when it reaches 75 percent off or more.

For more guidance on savings for your household, visit LOZO.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is a Fixer-Upper Worth It?

September 8, 2016 2:45 am


Fixer-upper homes tend to be less expensive than top-to-bottom remodels, but the markdown may not equal the cost of a basic renovation, according to a recently released report by Zillow Digs®. The report’s findings show median fixer-uppers list for 8 percent less than market value, which allows for a reno budget of just $11,000.

“Fixer-uppers can be a great deal, and they allow buyers to incorporate their personal style into a home while renovating, but it’s still a good idea to do the math before making the leap,” explains Svenja Gudell, Zillow’s chief economist. “While an 8-percent discount or $11,000 in upfront savings on a fixer-upper is certainly a good chunk of change, it likely won’t be enough to cover a kitchen remodel, let alone structural updates like a new roof or plumbing, which many of these properties require.”

The margins vary by market, with fixers in more expensive areas yielding the highest upfront savings—prices for median fixers in San Francisco, according to the report, are marked down 10 percent, which, due to high property values, affords buyers $54,000 for renovations.

Fixer-upper market snapshots included in the report:

New York/Northern New Jersey
Markdown: 4.4 percent
Reno Breakeven: $12,000

Los Angeles/Long Beach/Anaheim, Calif.
Markdown: 2.7 percent
Reno Breakeven: $12,000

Chicago, Ill.
Markdown: 13.8 percent
Reno Breakeven: $19,000

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Markdown: 5.4 percent
Reno Breakeven: $6,000

Philadelphia, Pa.
Markdown: 13.7 percent
Reno Breakeven: $17,000

Is a fixer-upper worth it? As Gudell notes, it’s best to do the math—and discuss your options with your real estate professional.

Source: Zillow Digs®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Eyewear Safety: 'In Sight' from Regulators

September 7, 2016 2:45 am


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report cautioning against improper use of eyewear, specifically contact lenses. Improper care, however, can also be detrimental, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Cleaning your contact lenses properly is crucial to maintaining optimal eye health—but lens wearers who use over-the-counter cleaning solutions containing hydrogen peroxide may be at risk for vision damage, the FDA warns. Safe handling of these types of solutions is essential.

“Over-the-counter products are not all the same,” says Bernard P. Lepri, an FDA optometrist. Before using a product, it is best to consult with your eye care provider, he advises—he or she may recommend a hydrogen peroxide-containing cleaning solution if you have an allergy or sensitivity to preservatives found in other types of solutions.

If you have been instructed to use a hydrogen peroxide-containing product, read and understand all instructions and warnings (typically in red boxes on the label) before use. The FDA mandates you follow the disinfecting process with a neutralizer, which is included with the product at purchase. A neutralizer will convert the hydrogen peroxide into oxygen and water.

Neutralization can be one-step or two-step: the one-step process involves neutralizing your lenses while disinfecting; the two-step process involves neutralizing your lenses after disinfecting with a tablet. Lenses should be left in the solution for at least six hours to allow time for neutralization to complete.

“You should never put hydrogen peroxide directly into your eyes or on your contact lenses,” Lepri cautions. “That's because this kind of solution can cause stinging, burning and damage—specifically to your cornea.”

It is paramount not to share a product that contains hydrogen peroxide with other contact lens wearers, either, the FDA states.

To learn more about lens safety, visit www.FDA.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm487420.htm.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Moving? 5 Tips to Relocate the Garden

September 7, 2016 2:45 am


Moving itself is strenuous—moving fragile belongings, like plants, can be even more challenging.

Relocate the garden with these tips, courtesy of Ferguson Moving & Storage:

• Prepare plants for the move with a liberal dose of water. Damp roots and moist soil will help keep them thriving while being transported, and watered stems will hold up better during the move.

• Plant smaller flowers and shrubs in lightweight, temporary pots—this will make them easier to re-plant at the new home.

• Reduce the weight of heavy planters during the move by partially filling them with packing peanuts.

• Pack plants in the primary vehicle, if possible—not a moving truck or van.  If they must be packed in the truck, load them last so that they can be removed and tended to upon arrival.

• Make the moving company aware of the plants (to mitigate erratic driving) and request that they be unloaded as soon as possible at the new home.

Source: Ferguson Moving & Storage
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


New School Year, New Paint Job

September 7, 2016 2:45 am


Painting inside your home can be a challenge in summer, especially if you’re a parent with children home from school. Back-to-school season is a better time for do-it-yourself paint projects, says Debbie Zimmer, paint and color expert with the Paint Quality Institute.

“With kids out of the house, interior painting is several grades easier, and with proper planning, you can ace the job in record time,” Zimmer says.

Her tips for parent painters:

Plan a palette. Start by picking up color cards at your local paint store. Bring them home and gauge them against your decor to plan a cohesive palette.

Buy smart. Purchase 100-percent acrylic latex paint in a glossy finish, which is easy to maintain—ideal when cleaning up child messes.

Prep the room. Slide furniture away from the walls and cover it with protective tarps. Fill any holes or patch any nicks on the walls, and wipe them down once finished. Remove any switch plates or outlet covers. Apply painter’s tape to protect the ceiling, the floor and any woodwork.

Cut in. Use an angled trim brush to “cut in” the edges of the wall—applying a three-inch strip of paint where the walls meet the ceiling, doors, molding and/or windows.

Work the “W.” Use a roller to cover the wall in three-foot by three-foot sections, working from one side of the wall to the other. Roll out the paint in a “W” pattern, then fill in the pattern and move on to the next section. Be sure to finish an entire wall before taking a break—a line may be visible otherwise.

Trim last. Wait until the next day to paint any trim—this will allow ample time for the walls to dry. Using a two-inch angled brush, work from top to bottom (e.g., crown molding to window trim to baseboards) when painting.

For more painting tips and tricks, visit blog.paintquality.com.

Source: Paint Quality Institute
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Best Plants for Fall

September 6, 2016 2:42 am


Spring may be known as a prime time for planting, but fall is equally optimal.

“Autumn is the perfect time to assess landscaping needs and fill any gaps that exist in your landscape,” says Natalia Hamill, a horticulturist at Bailey Nurseries. “While you're at it, you can add plants that provide a pop of color—like a throw pillow for your garden.”

Hamill says a variety of plants, including shrubs and trees, can be planted during fall, and many will bloom come springtime.

It is important to determine where and what your landscape is lacking, Hamill says. Consider, too, the climate in your area—different plants react in varied ways to temperature swings. Hamill recommends consulting the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map and adjusting your plan of action, if necessary.

The best plants for fall, according to Hamill, are:

Birchleaf Spirea – The Pink Sparkler variety shows exquisite pink blooms in early summer and fall—though fall flowers re-emerge further down the stem for a full appearance.

Dogwood – The Cayenne variety produces blue berries in late summer, along with lush green leaves, followed by rave red stems through fall and winter.

Hydrangea – The BloomStruck variety turns deep red in fall, complementing the seasonal change of the trees.

Maple – The Scarlet Jewell variety shows crimson red leaves in early fall, before those of other red maples, and rave red flowers in spring.

Ninebark – The Amber Jubilee variety shows golden orange and yellow hues, ideal for fall, followed by delicate white blooms come spring.

Source: Bailey Nurseries
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Design Leans Toward Balance, Color

September 6, 2016 2:42 am


As borders continue to blur between home and work, there is a strong desire to bring nature—and, therefore, balance—into our homes.

Milou Ket, a Dutch designer and international trend analyst, expects interior design to shift with that in mind, forecasting more homes filled with natural elements including greenery, hanging plants and herbs.

To incorporate nature-inspired decor and lend balance to your home, Ket recommends introducing aged or worn furnishings, along with personal treasures. Warm textures are also ideal—fur, cork, hides, paper, shearling or wood. Top color choices include beige, gray, off-white and yellow, with accents of copper, gold and walnut.

Another trend to watch, Ket says, is “handicraft” accents, influenced by designs common to North Africa, the Middle East and other regions. Mix in handcrafted pieces, such as baskets and vegetable-dyed products, in shades like amber, brick, mustard and indigo.

Feelings of softness and warmth are also coveted at home, and current design trends are evocative of both, Ket adds. Place fine linens in a bedroom, for instance, or tactile materials, such as handmade crochet or knits, in the living room. Top color choices include blue, lavender, mint, rose and turquoise.

Color is as important as ever, as well, Ket says. Vibrant colors were everywhere a few seasons ago, but now, brightness in doses is best. Add a splash of color, such as cobalt blue, with pillows or on a single chair or sofa.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Sellers Score in Sought-After School Districts

September 6, 2016 2:42 am


Homeowners in sought-after school districts move to the head of the class when they list their homes for sale, garnering higher offers than sellers in less desirable districts, according to a recently released study by realtor.com®.

“It’s common knowledge that buyers are often willing to pay a premium for a home in a strong school district,” says Javier Vivas, manager of Economic Research for realtor.com®. “Our analysis quantifies just how good it is to be a seller in these areas.”

The study reveals that homes within the boundaries of a strong district are 77 percent more expensive than those within a lesser district and 49 percent more expensive than the national median—$400,000 compared to $225,000 and $269,000, respectively. Homes within the boundaries of a strong district also sell eight days faster than those within a lesser district.

“On average, homes in top-rated districts attract a price premium of almost 50 percent and sell more than a week faster than those located in neighboring lower-ranked school districts,” Vivas says.

The top 10 districts commanding the highest premiums, according to the study, are:

1. Beverly Hills Unified (Los Angeles, Calif.)
2. Highland Park Independent (Dallas, Texas)
3. Kenilworth No. 38 (Kenilworth, Ill.)
4. Indian Hill Exempted Village (Hamilton, Ohio)
5. Winnetka 36 (Winnetka, Ill.)
6. Manhattan Beach Unified (Los Angeles, Calif.)
7. Scarsdale Union Free (Westchester, N.Y.)
8. Saddle River (Bergen, N.J.)
9. San Marino Unified (Los Angeles, Calif.)
10. Mariemont City (Hamilton, Ohio)

The top 10 in-demand districts, or those earning the most listing views on realtor.com®, are:

1. Rocky River City (Cuyahoga, Ohio)
2. Clear Creek Independent (Harris, Texas)
3. School Town of Munster (Lake, Ind.)
4. Orange (New Haven, Conn.)
5. Etiwanda Elementary (San Bernardino, Calif.)
6. Longmeadow (Hampden, Mass.)
7. Strongsville City (Cuyahoga, Ohio)
8. Plymouth-Canton Community (Wayne, Mich.)
9. Regional School District 05 (New Haven, Conn.)
10. Trumbull (Fairfield, Conn.)

“While highly-ranked school districts in these markets have pushed home prices higher than their surrounding areas, the majority of these high-demand markets are relatively affordable when compared to the national median, which is a big factor contributing to their popularity,” Vivas adds.

Source: realtor.com®
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


9 Ways to Keep House Guests Happy

September 5, 2016 2:42 am


Hosting family or friends for a few days? Make them feel welcome and comfortable with these nine tips:

Add fresh flowers and other thoughtful touches. A small bunch of flowers in a vase on the nightstand goes a long way to make guests feel welcome. Add a magazine or two and a carafe of water with a glass for an extra touch.

Ask ahead about allergies or diet restrictions. An email or phone call a few days before the visit will help prepare you to meet guests’ food preferences and other needs.

Consider a luggage rack. Having a rack handy in the guest room will help your guests stay neat and organized. (Some are available online for as little as $15!)

Include guests in chores. Most guests will ask how they can help—and they mean it! Enlisting them to chop veggies and set the table (or help clear it) will make them feel more at home.

Keep snacks out in the kitchen. Guests may feel awkward snooping about your kitchen for a snack. Keep a basket of power bars, fresh fruit, small packets of nuts, dried fruit or cookies on the kitchen counter.

Prepare a basket of toiletries. Outfit the bathroom with travel-size tubes of body lotion, shampoo, toothpaste, etc., and even an extra comb or toothbrush. Guests may not need them, but your effort will not go unnoticed.

Take a tip from hotel managers. Give your guests a key and a cheat sheet—a key enables them to come and go as they please, and a cheat sheet will clue them in to information such as alarm codes, emergency contact numbers, information about your pets and your home's Wi-Fi password.

Think like a hotel housekeeper. Leave an extra pillow or two and an extra blanket in the guest room—and be sure a supply of towels is within easy reach, as well.

Work out a bathroom routine. If bathroom space is limited, work out a morning or evening routine to make everyone feel comfortable.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top 10 Cleaning Tips from Hotel Housekeepers

September 5, 2016 2:42 am


Nobody knows how to clean faster and more thoroughly than a hotel housekeeper. To cut down on the time you spend cleaning, use these tips, courtesy of Radisson Housekeeping Manager Maria Stickney:

Clear the Clutter – Removing the clutter eliminates the temptation to dust or mop around things. Clear away towels, cups, glasses, reading materials—and even the bath mat—from the counters and floors before you begin to clean.

Corral the Tools – Fill a plastic bin or bucket with all your cleaning supplies Keeping everything together cuts the time it takes to get the job done.

Do the Bathroom(s) Last – Starting in other rooms means there’s less chance of transporting bathroom bacteria to the rest of the house.

Give Drapes a Whack Between Dry Cleanings – Doing so knocks dust to the floor, where it cam easily be swept up or vaccuumed.

Give Products Time to Work - Spray the shower walls and toilet with your cleaning agent, and then leave it to do its job for several minutes. Use that time to clean the counters, mirrors, medicine cabinet and windows.

Have a Toothbrush on Hand – They are great for cleaning between tiny cracks in tile and elsewhere, such as around the bottom screws of the toilet.

Use Microfiber Cloths – They are the most efficient. Second-best are 100-percent cotton cloths, such as old t-shirts, slightly dampened. Avoid terrycloth and polyesters, which only create more dust.

Vacuum Before You Mop - Always vacuum (or sweep) before you mop. When it's time to mop, start from the far corner and make your way to the exit.

Vacuum into the Room, Then Out – Start from the entrance and move toward the walls, then vacuum your way out again to cover the main traffic areas twice.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Preparedness Month Reminders Can Protect You Year-Round

September 5, 2016 2:42 am


September is National Preparedness Month—but as a homeowner, it's important to be prepared year-round. This year, we're passing on some tips to weather a power outage with minimal damage to the appliances and electrical systems in your home, courtesy of Eversource Energy:

Build an emergency kit with essential items to meet the needs of your family, including a first-aid kit. (Visit Ready.gov/Build-a-Kit to get started.)

Fill several large containers with water for drinking; if necessary, fill your bathtub so you have water to flush the toilet.

Fill up the tank. You may need to travel at a moment's notice—and your car can also keep you warm, so long as you keep it well-ventilated and don’t sleep while it's running. Purchase extra if you own a gas-powered generator.

Have adequate medical supplies and prescriptions for yourself and your pets.

List emergency numbers near a phone (landline, since cordless phones don’t work during outages) and in your mobile phone, including numbers for the Red Cross, your local fire and police departments, and your doctor.

Keep batteries, candles, flashlights and matches on hand throughout the house.

Prepare to cook outside. Use a charcoal or propane grill, or even a camping cook stove, if the power goes out. Never bring a grill inside!

Stock up on non-perishables, such as canned goods and pet food.

Turn the temperature controls on your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting to keep food cold as long as possible in the event of a power outage.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Stress Less…on a Spur-of-the-Moment Trip?

September 2, 2016 2:39 am


Preparing to vacation can be stressful—determining what to bring, delegating tasks while you’re away…it can make you forget why you were getting away in the first place!

A recently released report reveals the least stressful trips are the ones we don’t plan for—those last-minute excursions that leave us little time to prepare. The report, by Booking.com, states spontaneous trips “boost happiness” and “reduce stress,” and can even make us “more productive at work.”

Most spontaneous trips, according to the report, occur at the end of summer, while some occur when severe weather threatens or over school holidays.

One of the most fun parts of a spontaneous trip? The “hotel room ritual,” the report found. Last-minute travelers say the first thing they do when they enter a hotel room is:

• Check Out the Bathroom/Shower (48 percent)
• Admire the View (47 percent)
• Jump on the Bed (22 percent)
• Scope Out the Mini-Bar (8 percent)
• Take a Selfie (5 percent)

When was your last spontaneous trip? Do you have a hotel room ritual?

Source: Booking.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Forget Your Cereal—Is Your Home 'Fortified?'

September 2, 2016 2:39 am


Few things are more concerning than learning of weather-related disasters that take a toll on homes, neighborhoods and entire communities, so the prospect of promoting consumer access to cutting-edge, home-building and -retrofitting was worth stopping the presses.

Recently, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and Munich Re launched an app, FORTIFIED Home On the Go, to help homeowners build safer, stronger structures in the face of increasing severe weather events. FORTIFIED™ Home is “a set of engineering and building standards designed to help strengthen new and existing homes through system-specific building upgrades to minimum building code requirements that will reduce damage from specific natural disasters.”

The app walks homeowners (and architects and contractors) through the home-strengthening process. It provides animations, technical specifications and videos for building and retrofitting single-family homes.

Julie Rochman, president and CEO of the IBHS, says the FORTIFIED Home program provides a uniform set of construction and retrofitting standards to help improve a home’s resilience.

Rochman notes people often ask why the FORTIFIED Home programs are necessary, especially in jurisdictions where building codes have been established. She says codes provide minimum life safety protection to ensure occupants can exit a home safely; however, the codes are not intended to ensure homes are habitable after a catastrophic weather event, or to protect the contents inside of them.

Carl Hedde, head of Risk Accumulation for Munich Re, says the $60 billion in insured losses from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the almost $30 billion in insured losses from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 are just two examples of why the app was needed.

Hedde says the FORTIFIED Home On the Go app is primarily an educational tool. It is available free from the iTunes Store.

For more details on the FORTIFIED Home program, visit DisasterSafety.org/FORTIFIED.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Closing Time: 5 Tips to Prep Your Vacation Home for Vacancy

September 2, 2016 2:39 am


Summer is coming to a close, and, with it, the task of closing up a vacation home for the season.

Preparing your vacation property for vacancy involves several steps, says Charles Crews, spokesperson for Michigan-based Consumers Energy. The most important measures, listed below, can help minimize damage brought on by the harsh elements of winter and early spring.

1. Shut off the water supply. Shutting off the water supply to your vacation home will reduce the chance the pipes freeze and burst, which can be costly to repair. Once the supply is off, drain the hot water tank, pipes and sewer traps, or, place antifreeze (the product designed for RVs, Crews recommends) into empty toilet bowls.

2. Clean the fireplace. Cleaning the fireplace will prepare it for use next season—be sure to close the damper flue once it is swept, Crews advises. Remove any debris from the chimney opening, and place a cover over it to keep hibernating animals out.

3. Store outdoor equipment. Storing outdoor equipment will prevent it from damage should severe weather occur while you’re not present. Stow away chairs, grills and tables in a secure area. (Remember to disconnect the grill’s propane tank and store it, too!)

4. Remove edibles. Removing edibles from your vacation home will keep rodents and pests at bay—they can cause extensive damage if they access the home. Do not store food, even if it is non-perishable.

5. Arrange for maintenance. Arranging for winter maintenance on your vacation home can lessen the potential for damage come spring. If you expect your home will weather a winter storm or two, consider having a local snow removal company stop by periodically throughout the season to remove ice or snow from the driveway, roof and walkways.

In the market for a vacation home? Contact a real estate professional today!
 
Source: Consumers Energy

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Off to College? Money-Saving Tips for First-Years

September 1, 2016 2:36 am


Starting college is exciting, but move-in can overshadow important financial considerations for freshmen.

“A college career comes with newfound independence, and for many students, this change comes with a new level of personal responsibility,” says Joe Mason, chief marketing officer of Allianz Global Assistance USA.

One of the first steps incoming students should take, Mason says, is to locate an area bank. Proximity to charge-free ATMs is key, especially if the student is studying far from home.

Allow for parking expenses, as well—many institutions impose fees on students who park on campus, Mason explains. Keep an allowance handy to avoid more costly tickets.

Password-protecting all electronic devices is also important, because it will prevent cyber criminals (on campus and off) from accessing identifying financial information, Mason says.

Look into tuition insurance, Mason adds. Tuition insurance will cover losses should the student have to take an unexpected leave of absence.

“While day-to-day money management strategies are important, it is just as critical to prevent larger financial losses,” Mason says. “Increasingly, parents and students are choosing to protect their college savings with tuition insurance, just as they protect other large investments, such as their homes and cars.”

Eight in 10 financial advisors recently surveyed by Allianz recommend tuition insurance for students taking out loans to finance their college education.

“Safeguarding your tuition investment is a smart financial decision. Even the best students can struggle with adjusting to the demands of a university, fall ill or need to leave school for another unforeseen reason,” Mason says.

Source: Allianz Global Assistance USA
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Starting Your Smart Home Transformation

September 1, 2016 2:36 am


(Family Features)—The smart home movement is here to stay—but converting yours may seem intimidating. Transform your home to the times in just a few simple steps, courtesy of the experts at Chamberlain (Chamberlain.com):

Budget
Smart home technology once reserved for the well-off is now mainstream, so your budget will go further than it used to—in fact, you can get smart for less than $100. Two of the most important considerations when establishing your budget is your desired level of integration and the size of your home.

Brainstorm
Consider products that will make your household more convenient—a smartphone-controlled sound system if you entertain often, for instance, or a wireless washing machine starter for those days you forget to turn it on. Brainstorm room-by-room to determine areas that could benefit from smart home efficiency.

Pair
There are several smart home products available on the market today, so it is important to purchase ones that integrate with one another, as well as function with products you may add in the future. Pairing products will not only improve your smart home experience, but also spare you the expense on extraneous support products.

Prioritize
Going smart at home can be overwhelming. Install the products you plan to use daily first—an automatic garage door opener or a programmable thermostat, for example. Reserve seasonal products, like a smart sprinkler system, and install them at a later date.

Make your smart home transformation seamless with these steps—they’ll get you across the threshold into your new smart home!

Source: Chamberlain
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Design Book: The 2017 Color of the Year

September 1, 2016 2:36 am


The Sherwin-Williams Color of the Year informs interior décor decisions for designers and homeowners, echoed in seasonal trends throughout the year. In 2017, that color will be Poised Taupe, an understated, “modern take on a timeless classic” blending the best of browns and grays.

“Poised Taupe celebrates everything people love about cool gray as a neutral, and also brings in the warmth of brown, taking a color to an entirely new level,” explains Sue Wadden, director of Color Marketing for Sherwin-Williams, of the choice. “Not cool or warm, nor gray or brown, Poised Taupe is a weathered, woodsy neutral bringing a sense of coziness and harmony that people are seeking.”

According to Wadden, Poised Taupe signals a new direction in neutrals, which have historically been either cool or warm. Two in five surveyed by Sherwin-Williams identified taupe as a “timeless neutral,” neither too cool nor too warm.

Poised Taupe is drawn from Sherwin’s “Noir” palette, and pairs with a range of colors, including aureolin yellow, lava red, pomp-and-power purple, and teal.

“Consumers yearn for spaces that feel welcoming and hug them as they enter,” Wadden says. “Earthen brown combined with conservative gray, creating Poised Taupe, embodies all of these emotions.”

Source: Sherwin-Williams
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Last Holiday: What's in Store for Travelers This Labor Day

August 31, 2016 2:36 am


The unofficial end of summer is almost here, when scores of travelers will take to the roads for one last holiday in the sun.

So, what’s in store this Labor Day Weekend?

A recent poll of Labor Day travelers, conducted by Hankook Tire, reveals:

• Most travelers (73 percent) will drive to their Labor Day Weekend destination.

• Most travelers will have a wet Labor Day Weekend, with 55 percent heading to a beach, 29 heading to a lake and 13 percent heading to a water park.

• Most travelers agree: traffic is the worst part of Labor Day Weekend (71 percent), followed by long airport lines (24 percent) and no train seating (5 percent).

• Most travelers agree: an SUV or truck (48 percent) is the best vehicle to take on a Labor Day Weekend trip, followed by a luxury car (26 percent), a convertible (10 percent) and a sports car or an off-road vehicle (8 percent each).

• Most travelers (90 percent) will check their gas before trekking to their Labor Day Weekend destination, but many (45 percent) will not check if they have a spare tire on hand before departing.

That last finding is important—no matter where you’re off to this Labor Day weekend, conduct a thorough check of your vehicle before traveling. Hankook Tire’s experts say this includes checking the oil and tire pressure, as well as the spare tire.

Source: Hankook Tire America Corp.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Homeowners Ask: Should I Replace or Repair Flood-Damaged Systems?

August 31, 2016 2:36 am


It is no secret flooding can severely damage the HVACR systems in your home, but it can be difficult to determine whether to repair or replace them once water has receded.

Replacement, it turns out, is generally the best course of action, says Stephen Yurek, president and CEO of the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).

“Standing water in a yard, house or basement can damage a home's heating, cooling, and water-heating equipment in ways that are not always readily apparent, putting families at risk,” said Yurek in statement. “We advise homeowners to play it safe and replace, rather than repair, flood-damaged heating, cooling, and water-heating equipment.”

Yurek and the AHRI recommend:

Replacing the air conditioning system (and heat pump, if contained in a split unit) only if floodwaters have displaced its indoor or outdoor components, which could result in leaking refrigerant; if the system survived flooding, have it cleaned and inspected by a qualified service professional

Replacing the ductwork for a central air conditioning system only if it has been exposed to floodwaters; a qualified service professional should replace the ducts

Replacing the water-heating system, no matter if it is powered by electricity, gas or oil, only if in contact with floodwaters; many components in the system can corrode if not replaced

Yurek suggests consulting the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) organization to locate a qualified HVACR contractor in your area—it is imperative you have a professional perform any replacement work. This list can be found at www.hvacradvice.com/site/1/Home.

Source: Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Home-Buying Equation

August 31, 2016 2:36 am


Buying a home for the first time can seem daunting. One way to alleviate the process is to organize your finances before embarking on the house hunt. Unsure how to get yours in order? Remember A + B + C + D + E:

Ask + Budget + Check + Differentiate + Estimate

Before you start searching for a home, ask a real estate professional for guidance. He or she will have expertise related not only to financing, but also to negotiating a deal in your favor.

Next, set a budget that takes into account your down payment, your anticipated monthly mortgage payment (with interest), and your closing costs. These figures are all important considerations in the home-buying process.

Prior to house-hunting, check your credit report and score. Your credit is a determining factor in a lender’s approval or denial of your mortgage loan application, as well as your mortgage interest rate. Take steps to correct any errors on your report, or improve your score, if necessary.

Shop around for mortgage lenders to differentiate between loan offerings—even a slight variation in rates or terms can lead to significant savings over the life of your loan. Your real estate professional may recommend a lender, but it is ultimately your choice with whom to obtain a mortgage.

Estimate oft-forgotten homeownership-related expenses, such as your monthly homeowners insurance premium, your maintenance costs, your moving expenditures, your property taxes and your utility rates. These will all play a role in your overall affordability.

Completing A, B, C, D and E will not only prepare you for the home-buying process, but also lay a strong financial foundation for you as a new homeowner. The result of the equation speaks for itself!
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Home Away from Home: Packing and Protecting Your College Student

August 30, 2016 2:33 am


Millions of students are in the throes of college move-in, preparing to venture to their homes away home for another school year.

For freshmen, knowing what to bring—and what to leave behind—can be a challenge. New students should familiarize themselves with their school’s policies on acceptable belongings before packing. Students can then use a checklist (such as the one from DormSmart.com, below) to inventory what's packed upon arrival on campus.

A checklist can also be used if obtaining a College Property Insurance Policy—though students may never need to make a claim if they take secure measures, such as installing dorm locks or using a laptop safe.

One retailer, DormCo.com, offers security products for students:

Fire Gone – A dorm-sized fire extinguisher that delivers a strong, targeted stream of eco-friendly foam ($14.95)

Chipolo's Tracking Tag – A bluetooth system that connects matching tags with a smartphone to track down lost items within a 200 foot-range

TabletSafe – A three-dial padlock safe for tablets, wallets, cash, passports, and other valuables ($59.99)

To print the DormSmart checklist, visit DormSmart.com/assets/images/Dorm_Room_Checklist.pdf.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Preventing Water Damage at Home

August 30, 2016 2:33 am


Any homeowner who’s experienced flooding knows how damaging water can be. Millions of dollars are spent on water-related repairs and restorations each year, says Eric Corbett, owner of Larry & Sons, Inc., a Maryland-based air conditioning, heating and plumbing company.

“Water damage can be caused by any size leak,” Corbett says. “Even if it starts out relatively small, it has the potential to create a major problem inside your home. This leads to costly repairs if proper precautions are ignored."

Water leaks account for up to 14 percent of water usage in the average household, Corbett notes. Waterproofing potential leak sources is one way to not only reduce that percentage, but also lessen damage should a leak occur.

One of the most common leak sources is a running toilet, Corbett says. To determine whether a leak is present, drop a few drips of food dye into the toilet tank—evidence of a leak will be obvious after about 20 minutes. Replace the valve inside the tank to prevent further leaking.

Many leaks occur in basements, Corbett adds. A damp basement should be remedied by a professional as soon as possible to mitigate appliance damage and mildew and mold growth.

Weathered pipes can also cause leaks, especially if they are rusted. Signs of a pipe leak include visual indicators of accumulation, such as wet drywall, and dripping sounds, Corbett says.

Leaks can happen outside of the home, as well. Vibrant green vegetation or moss growth around a sprinkler head could be a sign of a broken head or damaged valve—a leak that must be addressed by a professional, says Corbett.

“These are common water hazards that every homeowner faces at one time or another,” Corbett concludes. “It's a lot simpler than many people think to waterproof their homes and avoid those issues.”

Source: Larry & Sons, Inc.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Cost of Housing: 25 Metros and the Salaries Needed to Live in Them

August 30, 2016 2:33 am


Homeownership comes with costs—in some markets more than others. How much will you need to earn to purchase a home in your area?

HSH.com recently calculated the salaries needed to afford housing payments on a median-priced home in 25 metropolitan areas, including mortgage principal and interest, taxes and insurance. HSH assumed a 20 percent down payment and weighed the standard 28 percent “front-end” debt ratio with the most recent median home prices reported by the National Association of REALTORS®.

The salary minimums, according to HSH’s calculations, are:

1. Cincinnati, Ohio – $37,179
2. St. Louis, Mo. – $38,131
3. Detroit, Mich. – $38,542
4. Atlanta, Ga. – $40,092
5. Phoenix, Ariz. – $44,716
6. Tampa, Fla. – $44,875
7. San Antonio – $48,753
8. Orlando, Fla. – $49,382
9. Minneapolis, Minn. – $51,794
10. Houston, Texas – $52,275
11. Philadelphia, Pa. – $53,422
12. Dallas, Texas – $54,764
13. Baltimore, Md. – $56,837
14. Chicago, Ill. – $62,456
15. Miami, Fla. – $65,120
16. Sacramento, Calif. – $65,363
17. Portland, Ore. – $70,613
18. Denver, Colo. – $72,847
19. Washington, D.C. – $81,940
20. Seattle, Ore. – $82,671
21. New York, N.Y. – $86,215
22. Boston, Mass. – $87,557
23. Los Angeles, Calif. – $92,092
24. San Diego, Calif. – $109,441
25. San Francisco, Calif. – $161,948

Don’t see your area listed? Consult a local real estate professional for the most accurate affordability estimates for your area, or visit HSH.com/finance/mortgage/salary-home-buying-25-cities.html.

Source: HSH.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


What to Buy—and Not Buy—over Labor Day Weekend

August 29, 2016 2:33 am


Amazon Prime’s “Black Friday in July” sale was a major win for both the retailer and shoppers—and prompted a number of big-box and department stores to ante up sales of their own. More savings opportunities are in store this Labor Day Weekend.

According to NerdWallet, the best bargains will be on:

Cars – Not surprisingly, car dealers will blow out this year’s models to make room for 2017 stock.

Kitchen Appliances – New models of refrigerators and other kitchen appliances come out just after Labor Day, as well, making the holiday weekend prime time to score deals.

Wines – Wine lovers know early September is the best time to stock the wine cellar. Major retailers offer their best deals now to make room for the newest vintage bottles.

The worst items to purchase over the weekend, on the other hand, are:

Cookware – Save the most on cookware in November and December, which are historically the months with the best prices.

Outdoor Grills/Patio Furniture – The further away from summer we get, the more desperate retailers are to make room for winter goods. You’ll have fewer grills and furniture to select from, but prices will be at rock-bottom.

Electronics – Labor Day sale ads often tout deals on electronics for back-to-school, but the best time to get a deep discount on them is later in the year, during the regular Black Friday sales frenzy. If you're shopping for a television, computer, laptop, video game system, camcorder, GPS navigator or digital camera, the end-of-year discounts are worth the wait.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Top Markets for Pet Owners

August 29, 2016 2:33 am


Eighty million households in America own at least one pet—that’s a lot of animals! Some housing markets are more pet-friendly than others, with more pet care businesses and providers available than in other areas.

Based on those criteria, WalletHub.com compiled the top 10 “Most Pet-Friendly Cities” in the country:

1. Orlando, Fla.
2. Birmingham, Ala.
3. Tampa, Fla.
4. Lexington, Ky.
5. Scottsdale, Ariz.
6. Reno, Nev.
7. Colorado Springs, Colo.
8. Cincinnati, Ohio
9. Las Vegas, Nev.
10. St. Louis, Mo.

Orlando comes in at No. 1 for its high density of veterinarians—65.6 per every 100,000 residents. Orlando also boasts the highest density of pet-related businesses, at 172.25 per 100,000 residents.

Scottsdale, Ariz., No. 5 on the list, has the highest number animal shelters per 100,000 residents: 6.26.

Many markets not in the top 10 are pet-friendly, as well—the least expensive pet care costs can be found in Stockton, Calif., where a veterinary visit averages just $32.92, and the least expensive dog insurance premiums ($21.63 per month) can be found in St. Paul, Minn., also not in the top 10.

To find out how pet-friendly your city is, visit WalletHub.com/edu/most-pet-friendly-cities/5562/.

Source: WalletHub
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Selling Your Home? Understanding Pricing Strategy

August 29, 2016 2:33 am


There’s no substitute for the pricing skills of a real estate professional, but home sellers often disagree as to the price their agent advises. Recent findings from the Journal of Housing Research, a publication by the American Real Estate Society (ARES), may impart some understanding.

According to the research, the most effective sale price is one that is just below a round number—$199,000, say, as opposed to $200,000. The difference, though negligible to the seller, is generally positively perceived by the buyer.

“We tested the age-old debate concerning the best technique to price a home when listing it for sale,” says Michael J. Seiler of The College of William and Mary, who conducted the research. “We find that using a price just below a round number works best, particularly in connection to the left-most digit in the price—so, $199,000 works better than $200,000.”

“On average, buyers are more attracted to a house priced at $199,000 than to a house priced at $200,000, and it appears that ‘just below’ pricing works out favorably for sellers in terms of their bottom line,” adds Eli Beracha of Florida International University, who also conducted the research. “Based on our research, the ‘just below’ pricing strategy yields a selling price that is, on average, roughly 2.5 to 3 percent higher—$5,000 to $6,000 on a $200,000 house—compared with a rounded pricing listing strategy.

“Our study suggests that by using the ‘just below’ pricing strategy, sellers can price their home slightly higher without driving away potential buyers,” Beracha notes. “As a result, they end up selling their house for more.”

In light of these findings, it’s important to remember that real estate professionals set prices after careful consideration of market data and trends—their recommendation, ultimately, is what will sell the home fastest and for the best price.

Need assistance pricing your home? Contact a real estate professional today!

Source: Florida Atlantic University

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Reason You May Be Overpaying for Car Insurance

August 26, 2016 2:33 am


Every insurance provider collects information from policyholders. Car insurance companies, for instance, require insureds to provide their annual mileages—a factor that may be causing you to overpay, according to recent report from insuranceQuotes.com.

“Most consumers aren’t aware of the relationship between mileage and auto premiums,” said Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst for insuranceQuotes, in a release about the report, which reveals policyholders who drive 15,000 miles per year pay nearly 9 percent more for insurance than policyholders who drive 5,000 miles over the same period.

Premium increases due to mileage vary by state, according to the report. The highest increases between 5,000 and 15,000 miles are seen in:

• California (26.2 percent)
• Alaska (10.5 percent)
• Washington, D.C. (10.2 percent)
• Alabama (9.8 percent)
• Massachusetts (9.8 percent)

The lowest increases between 5,000 and 15,000 miles are seen in:

• North Carolina (0 percent)
• Utah (1.0 percent)
• Rhode Island (1.3 percent)
• Texas (2.8 percent)
• Connecticut (2.8 percent)

“If your daily commute decreases, be sure to notify your insurer quickly so you don’t overpay for coverage,” Adams added. “Drivers in the most expensive mileage states have the most to gain from reducing mileage—but if you can’t, be proactive and seek potential discounts at least once a year.”

Source: insuranceQuotes.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Is It Time for a New A/C?

August 26, 2016 2:33 am


Summer’s nearing its end—did your air conditioning system deliver?

If not, it may be time to replace the unit. According to Howard Schwartz of the Connecticut Better Business Bureau (BBB), the average lifespan of a central air conditioning system is between 15 and 20 years. One sure sign it’s time to pull the plug? If repair bills have been adding up, Schwartz says.

New air conditioning systems reduce carbon emissions, require 30 to 50 percent less energy to operate, and run quieter than older units. Schwartz and the BBB advise the following tips when shopping for a replacement system:

Don't go for the lowest price. A low price doesn’t always equal the best value. A higher efficiency system might cost an extra $800 up-front, but could save you $300 per year in energy costs. Seek out manufacturer rebates, if available.

Consider a maintenance contract. A maintenance contract can come in handy when a system needs repairs, especially at inconvenient times, like during a heat wave.

Install a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat can help you save even more money by controlling the temperature even when you aren’t home.

To find a qualified HVAC contractor near you, visit BBB.org and consult your region’s Accredited Business Directory, Schwartz concludes.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Natural Disaster Risk and Its Impact on Housing

August 26, 2016 2:33 am


No area is safe from a natural disaster—but some lesser-prone areas are safe from a market downswing, according to a recently released report by ATTOM Data Solutions.

An area’s propensity for natural disaster can impact its home prices and sales, reported the ATTOM Natural Hazard Housing Index, which ranks over 3,000 counties according to level of risk for earthquakes, floods, hail, hurricane storm surge, tornadoes and wildfires. The counties with the lowest level of natural hazard risk, based on the Index, are concentrated in Wisconsin:

1. Milwaukee County, Wis.
2. Kewaunee County, Wis.
3. Racine County, Wis.
4. Knox County, Maine
5. Kenosha County, Wis.

The counties with the highest level of natural hazard risk, based on the Index, are:

1. Oklahoma County, Okla.
2. Monroe County, Fla.
3. Cleveland County, Okla.
4. Nevada County, Calif.
5. Lake County, Calif.

Home sales in counties with the lowest level of natural hazard risk have risen over 4 percent this year, whereas sales in counties with the highest level of natural risk have risen just shy of 2 percent; concurrently, home prices in counties with the lowest level of natural risk have increased approximately 3 percent, while home prices in counties with the highest level of natural risk have increased over 6 percent.

In the lowest-risk counties, the median sales price of a single-family home or condo sold this year was $156,245—in the highest-risk counties, that number jumps to $255,160.

Areas prone to earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes and wildfires have seen less home sales activity overall in the last five years—areas prone to hail and tornadoes, on the other hand, have seen the opposite.

Source: ATTOM Data Solutions
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Family Time: 8 Ideas for Memorable Traditions

August 25, 2016 2:33 am


As adults, many of our happiest memories revolve around the activities we did with our families—beachside barbecues, Fourth of July picnics, a special cake for birthdays. As parents, our goal is to create the same lasting memories that will stay with our children for their lifetime.

From Real Simple and Parents magazines come nine ideas to break out of your family’s routine and make for great memories:

Family Game Night – Each week, allow one child to decide which game will be played by the family. Have everyone share a snack of that child’s choosing, too.

Happy Half-Birthday – Celebrate half-birthdays with burgers or hot dogs sliced in half, half-filled beverages and a half-vanilla, half-chocolate cake. Sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ but stop singing halfway through the song.

Mommy/Daddy Dates – Every child craves special time with a parent. Once a month, Mom or Dad takes one child out for a special experience or treat.

Topsy-Turvy Day – The children wake up to find their toothbrushes in the fridge, their shoes in the hall, or whatever else you choose to misplace—and come to breakfast to find dinner, or dessert!

Santa’s Toy Swap – Along with cookies and milk, have each child leave a few gently used toys that Santa’s elves can give to other children.

‘Special You’ Plate – Comb the thrift store for one special plate—something colorful and whimsical. Each time a child does something special—an award at school, a good deed—he or she gets the special plate at dinner.

Service Project Day – Once a month, have the whole family pitch in at your local food pantry or soup kitchen, or volunteer for another community service activity.

‘Yes’ Day – Every time you say no to your children, have them put the request in writing and drop it in a jar. Each month, let each child pick one activity from the jar that you must agree to go along with.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Average Credit Scores of First-Time Homebuyers

August 25, 2016 2:33 am


Your credit score is one of the most important considerations in the home-buying process, determining not only the approval of a mortgage, but also the rate attached to it.

As a first-time homebuyer, you may be wondering what the ideal score is. A recent update from the Ellie Mae Millennial Tracker™ may shed some light on the answer.

According to the Tracker, the average FICO score of a millennial borrower who closed on a home loan this summer was 723; the average FICO score of a millennial borrower who closed on a conventional loan, however, was 748. The average FICO score of a millennial borrower who closed on an FHA loan this summer was lower, at 691. The majority of millennials in Ellie Mae’s Tracker obtained a conventional loan.

“Economic uncertainty may be contributing to a general tightening of credit, which could explain why we are seeing a slight uptick in the average FICO scores for closed loans to millennials,” said Joe Tyrrell, executive vice president of Corporate Strategy at Ellie Mae, in a statement. “We also continue to see FHA loans play a significant role in helping millennials make their homeownership dreams a reality. These types of loans make up 37 percent of all closed loans to this generation, compared to just 23 percent of closed loans across all generations of homebuyers.”

FHA loans averaged 45 days to close this summer, according to the Tracker; conventional loans averaged one day less, at 44.

Source: Ellie Mae
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Favorable Lending Standards, Low Rates to Lift Housing Through 2016

August 25, 2016 2:33 am


A recently released forecast expects the economy to regain ground through the remainder of the year, boding well for the housing market in the months to come.

According to Fannie Mae’s Economic & Strategic Research Group’s recent 2016 Economic and Housing Outlook, the economy is on track to grow 1.8 percent this year, boosted by an improving employment landscape and higher levels of consumer spending—both of which will give lift to housing.

“Housing market fundamentals remain a mixed bag,” Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist, explained in a statement about the Outlook. “During the second quarter of 2016, both new- and existing-home sales rose to expansion highs, while single-family starts pulled back, remaining historically low for an expansion.

“Tight housing inventory from a lack of new construction continues to create affordability challenges, particularly at the lower end of the market,” Duncan continued. “Robust rental demand during the second quarter of the year has created the lowest rental vacancy rate in decades. In addition, the homeownership rate dropped to below 63 percent in the second quarter, but we are seeing some tentative signs of older millennials moving toward homeownership.

“We expect homebuyers will benefit from improving job and wage growth, more favorable lending standards, and continued low mortgage rates through the rest of the year, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate projected to average 3.4 percent during the fourth quarter.”

Source: Fannie Mae
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Planning for Retirement: A Checklist

August 24, 2016 2:33 am


Planning for retirement is a manifold and ongoing process, with many variables to consider. Dive into it with this checklist, courtesy of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC):

• Map out a yearly budget for each year you plan to be retired, up to age 100. Expect to need 80 percent of your current annual income each year, minus anticipated pension or Social Security payments.

• Take stock of your finances by valuing assets (e.g., your house, savings bonds) and consolidating retirement accounts, if beneficial. (Consult with a professional before rolling over any funds.)

• Consider your health, life and long-term insurance needs in retirement. If you are the primary earner in your family, for instance, it may be prudent to obtain long-term disability insurance; if your spouse has life insurance, on the other hand, it is wise to confirm you as the beneficiary. Bear in mind, too, that out-of-pocket medical costs are one of the largest expenditures in retirement.

• Start saving through your employer’s 401(k), 403(b), ESPO, IRA or profit-sharing plan, if available. If your employer matches contributions, save at least the amount necessary to receive the full match.

• Explore the possibility of securing an annuity, which can provide additional income in retirement. The four types of annuities are deferred income; fixed and fixed-indexed; single premium immediate; and variable, with guaranteed lifetime withdrawal benefits. (For more information on annuities, visit NAIC.org/documents/consumer_alert_annuities.htm.)

• Revisit your savings strategy every five years. If change is needed, consider consulting with a certified financial planner to determine the next best course of action.

For more resources related to retirement, visit NAIC.org.
 
Source: National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Roof in Need of Post-Storm Repair? 3 Tips

August 24, 2016 2:33 am


(Family Features)—Roof damage brought on by a severe weather can render your home uninhabitable if it is left in disrepair. Act fast with these tips from the experts at CertainTeed Roofing.

1. Exercise caution. Do not attempt to make roof repairs unless you are qualified to do so.

2. Prepare for the insurance adjuster. Make detailed notes and take photographs of the damage, if possible, and give them to the insurance adjuster upon arrival. Look for blown-off shingles or damaged gutters during your assessment, as well as leaks inside the attic. Determine, in addition, any requirements the insurance company may have regarding the materials used for repairs.

3. Hire smart. Disreputable roof contractors are a dime a dozen. Consult with at least three professionals before hiring one to perform repairs, and ask them:

Are you licensed? Not all states have licensing requirements, so a “no” is not necessarily a red flag. Confirm the contractor’s response with your local licensing authority.

Where are you located? Local contractors are not only within reach, but can also provide in-town, reliable references.

Do you have insurance? A reputable contractor will be fully insured, with liability and workers compensation coverage.

What are your specialties? Hiring a contractor with storm restoration experience can be beneficial in the insurance claims process.
 
Seeking a recommendation for a roofing contractor? Contact a real estate professional for references.

Source: CertainTeed

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


DIYers: Check These Late Summer Projects

August 24, 2016 2:33 am


Late summer is the perfect time for some DIY house projects, with temperatures comfortable enough for both indoor and outdoor endeavors.

One days when it is too hot outside, clean the vent fans in the bathrooms—according to Danny Lipford of TodaysHomeowner.com, performing this chore at least annually will keep them operating efficiently and quietly.

To clean a fan, Lipford instructs:

• Turn the power off to the fan.
• Remove the cover (on most fans, this involves pulling down the cover to extend it, then compressing the spring wires on each side to take it off).
• Use a brush or vacuum to remove dust from the cover. Scrub it in soapy water.
• Vacuum out the dust from inside the fan box and wipe off the blades.
• Spray the moving parts with silicone lubricant.
• Replace the vent fan cover.
• Turn the power back on.

While you are on the step ladder, remove any cobwebs from the ceiling and scrub mildew from the walls, Lipford adds. Consider, as well, replacing inefficient light bulbs with LED or CFL equivalents.

Another project to take on, this time on warmer days, is installing a birdbath. According to OdalesOrangicLife.com’s Megan Othersen Gorman, birds are often lacking water in late summer—a birdbath can help attract them to your yard, which will keep pests at bay.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


How Safe are Diet Supplements? Experts Weigh In

August 23, 2016 2:33 am


Dietary supplements are more popular than ever, with products such as botanicals, minerals and vitamins regarded as highly as other, proven, health-preserving activities. How safe are supplements, really?

A recent investigation by Consumer Reports revealed some supplements may contain ingredients that have the potential to harm health. The organization sent secret shoppers to retailers, including Costco, GNC, Whole Foods and the Vitamin Shoppe, to gauge how knowledgeable employees are when it comes to supplements. The information employees provided, according to Consumer Reports, was lacking—when asked about yohimbe, for instance, employees did not disclose that the plant extract has been linked to serious side effects.

All told, 15 ingredients were deemed “potentially harmful” by Consumer Reports—and, because supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these ingredients may be blended and packaged in a way that is even more detrimental to health.

“The dietary supplement marketplace lacks the oversight it needs to keep consumers safe,” said Ellen Kunes, Health Content team leader at Consumer Reports, in a statement. “Supplement manufacturers should register their products to enable them to be identified and tracked for safety recalls and to show they are safe before being sold in retail stores, doctors’ offices and hospitals.”

Another expert, however, says the majority of supplements pose little risk.

“There is a small minority of products that do contain ingredients that shouldn’t be in there,” said Steve Mister, president and CEO of The Council for Responsible Nutrition, “but the larger companies, the big brands that you and I see, the ones producing the majority of the products out there, are doing quite well and are very safe for consumers.”

“We are concerned that many supplements are either unsafe or unproven,” Kunes added. “Rather than looking to supplements, consumers should consider other lifestyle changes such as being more active, and eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.”

Source: Consumer Reports
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Picnicking This Weekend? 7 Safety Tips

August 23, 2016 2:33 am


Summertime and picnics go hand-in-hand. Planning to bring a meal along on your next outdoor excursion? Keep in mind these safety tips from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

Keep Hot Foods Warm – Pack hot foods in insulated containers to protect against the formation of bacteria. Discard any leftovers that remain outside for longer than two hours.

Keep Salads Cold – Keep salads cold as long as possible. Discard salad leftovers that remain outside for longer than two hours, especially those that contain mayonnaise. (Consider, too, preparing salads that do not call for mayo at all.)

Pack a Food Thermometer – Grilling? Tote a thermometer to ensure safe cooking temperatures—burgers, at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and chicken breasts, 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Never partially grill meat or poultry beforehand.

Pre-Wash Produce – Wash raw fruits and veggies in cool tap water before packing them. (This includes melon, which may harbor contaminants on the rind.)

Take Care with Take-Out – Buy take-out meals ahead of time and refrigerate them before packing them.

Transport Food Safely – Pack perishables at the bottom of a cooler containing ice or frozen gel packs—and pack cold drinks in a separate cooler to lessen the amount of times the perishables cooler is opened.

Wash Hands Often – Pack a supply of moist towelettes.  Clean hands before and after handling food.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Boomers Sound Off on House Preferences

August 23, 2016 2:33 am


Baby boomers are one of the most significant home-buying segments in the market today, shifting households to accommodate needs more so than any other generation—and according to recently released research, they have specific preferences when it comes to purchasing a new home.

Their wish list, per a report revealing focus group insights by Hanley Wood and builder Taylor Morrison, includes:

• Common Space
• Clubhouse
• Energy Efficiency
• High Ceilings
• Natural Light
• Native Plants
• Open Floor Plan
• Pool
• Proximity to Dining/Entertainment/Shopping/Medical Services
• Quality Construction
• Safety
• Sheltered Areas
• Smart Home Technology
• Storage Space
• Walking Trails

“Information gleaned from the focus group helps set the stage on what the 55-plus homebuyer desires in a new home and how the industry should be building its homes,” said John McManus, Hanley Wood Residential Group editorial director, in a statement. “These influential buyers want a fresh start in a vital, connected, accessible new-home environment. And, as millions of baby boomers across the country begin the next phase of their lives, buying the right home is top-of-mind for them.”

The results of the focus group will inform the development of the NEXTAdventure Home, a model home slated to be introduced at the International Builders Show next year.

Are you a baby boomer considering a housing change? Contact a real estate professional for more information.

Source: Hanley Wood
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Report: 'Work Martyrs' Are Mostly Millennials

August 22, 2016 2:30 am


Forfeiting time off from work is not uncommon—it is most common, however, among millennials.

“The ‘entitled millennial’ narrative is dead wrong when it comes to vacation,” says Katie Denis, author of the recently released Project: Time Off report “The Work Martyr’s Cautionary Tale: How the Millennial Experience Will Define America’s Vacation Culture.”

“As the largest generation in the workforce—one that is now stepping into management—millennials are developing vacation attitudes that will define and negatively affect America's work culture,” Denis says.

According to the report, millennials are the generation most likely to have a “work martyr” mindset: forgoing time off from work o