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Finance 101: Tips for College Freshmen

September 1, 2015 1:33 am

Did you know college graduates with a bachelor’s degree pay an average $350 a month in loans over 18 years? With stats like those, college freshmen can’t afford not to prioritize personal finance while pursuing a higher education.

“With the soaring price of college tuition, it is important for all incoming students to consider their finances prior to their fall arrival,” says Steven Trumble, President and CEO of the national nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC). “You would not believe how many students are graduating with an absurd amount of debt with no plan on how to pay it.”

To avoid graduating with excessive debt, the ACCC recommends adopting a money-saving mentality with these tips.

• Create a budget and stick to it! Budgeting is a great way to curb your expenses and avoid credit card debt. Try using a budgeting worksheet for students to compare and contrast your total income and expenses to get a realistic budgeting plan.

• Knowing that a need is something you have to have and a want is something you would like to have can help you save money in the long run. Decide which items are needs and which are wants and try to purchase wants as few times as possible.

• Fill out the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) every year. Things change in a year, so be sure to fill out the FAFSA on a yearly basis to see what types of financial aid you qualify for.

• Bear in mind some financial aid packages will require you to maintain a certain grade point average in order to keep it every year. If you are given an opportunity to get a Work-Study job, do some research on campus and take full advantage. Most importantly, make sure you understand the terms of repayment upon graduation.

• The college bookstore is notorious for being the most expensive place to purchase books. Consider renting or buying your textbooks from places like the library, Amazon or Chegg. At the end of each semester, sell back your books to recoup some of the cost.

• Join a bank that is near campus as well as your hometown to avoid surcharges while at school. Keep in mind there are many banks that will offer free savings and checking accounts to college students, which helps to avoid fees.

• Understand your financial situation. More often than not, students graduate and are shocked with the amount they have in student loans. Make sure you are aware of how much school costs each year, what your parents are willing to cover, what you are expected to cover and annual living expenses.

• Charging items when you are short on cash can be tempting, but by limiting yourself to one or two credit cards, you can keep track of your spending and minimize your debt. Make sure that you are only charging items that you can afford.

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Freddie Mac: Housing Market Further Stabilizes

September 1, 2015 1:33 am

In more encouraging news for housing, Freddie Mac recently reported two additional states and four additional metro areas have entered “stable” territory–a promising sign of a normalizing market. According to Freddie Mac’s Multi-Indicator Market Index® (MiMi®), Arkansas and Tennessee are in stable range, as well as the Omaha, Neb., Scranton, Pa., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Madison, Wis., metro areas.

Housing nationally stands at 80.3 on the MiMi, which indicates an outer stable range. Earlier this summer, 45 of the 50 states and 95 of the 100 metro areas were showing improvement. Based on the MiMi, the market has improved 5.41 percent in the last year.

“Housing markets are the strongest they’ve been in years with the National MiMi above 80 for the first time since 2008. Nationally, all MiMi indicators are heading in the right direction,” says Freddie Mac Deputy Chief Economist Len Kiefer. “Robust homebuyer demand has put total home sales on pace for the best year since 2007 and look for that trend to continue as the MiMi purchase applications indicator remains on the upswing.”

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Inspiring Ideas for a Kitchen Redo

September 1, 2015 1:33 am

(Family Features) Updating your kitchen doesn’t have to be expensive. Draw inspiration from these ideas, offered up by the experts at Lowe’s (, purveyor of the Frigidaire Professional line, among other housewares.

• Incorporate the farm-to-table trend with a farmhouse sink, which will work in kitchens with existing farmhouse or transitional styles. Go for classic white or a darker metal finish, such as an antique copper single-basin, to make a vintage statement.

• Don’t get voted off the island – install one instead. Create a warm and inviting space with a large, distressed-finish island, or, if space doesn’t permit, an industrial-style kitchen cart. Both will serve triple duty as a prep area, storage and space for guests.

• Though not traditionally considered an appealing color in kitchens, gray actually generates a bright, clean, calming effect, and gray walls beautifully compliment stainless steel appliances. Contrasting cabinetry and doors will make the color stand out even more, bringing the once muted shade front and center.

Source: Lowe’s

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Back-to-School Shoppers Feeling the Strain

August 31, 2015 1:33 am

School-aged children are not the only ones dreading heading back to the classroom. According to a recent survey, saying goodbye to summer break generally causes parents to feel stress about the financial burden of back-to-school shopping. In fact, most parents plan to spend an average of two weeks shopping and upwards of $300 per child for back-to-school necessities.

According to the survey, over a third of parents plan to shop for back-to-school season only during August sales, even though there were deep discounts available as early as July. Parents will likely be purchasing character-themed school supplies from some of Hollywood’s biggest box office hits – count on Minions, Jurassic World, Spongebob and Star Wars themes as most popular.

Back-to-school does bring good news for some – a majority of parents are happy to have class back in session, particularly because they will have more time to themselves and are eager to return to a routine budget.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Why You Need an Agent to Sell Your Home

August 31, 2015 1:33 am

Every seller wants their home to go to the best buyer for the best price–but that can seldom be accomplished without the help of a qualified real estate professional. “Selling your home through a REALTOR® can help you make sure you get the best value overall,” says Kimberly Nicole, a Texas real estate agent catering to upscale, elite homes and their clientele.

Not convinced? Here, Nicole explains why you should work with a REALTOR® instead of going at it alone:

A REALTOR® knows how to navigate the selling process.

At the start of the process, a REALTOR® will host extensive discussions with a client to head off rock blocks. A REALTOR® is aware of the client’s concerns, needs and priorities, navigating each step of the way. A REALTOR® will stay on top of the latest regulations to help clients meet their requirements.

A REALTOR® knows the area.

A REALTOR® will know what the property values are in the client’s community and have a good sense of market fluctuations, pricing the property competitively for the market

A REALTOR® knows how to prepare the listing.

A REALTOR® will advise you on what repairs need to be completed, potentially before listing the home on the market, and will recommend qualified contractors to get the job done. A REALTOR® can also set up an inspection to better assess the condition of the home.

A REALTOR® knows how to professionally list the property.

A REALTOR® will manage your listing across multiple channels to get maximum exposure, coordinating with photographers and videographers to ensure your listing is presented flawlessly. “Hitting the right emotional and responsive chords with buyers is the goal,” Nicole says. “[A REALTOR®] determines who the likely audience is, and markets directly to that audience.”

A REALTOR® helps sellers prepare for showings.

“Staging is extremely important,” Nicole says. “That first impression is vital.” If the client lives in the home while it is being shown, a REALTOR® may advise keeping the home staged, maintaining curbside appeal, removing pets during showings, de-cluttering closets or rearranging furniture.

A REALTOR® knows how to objectively negotiate.

A REALTOR® will help clients evaluate offers as they come in, including multi-bid circumstances. “Each side has different concerns, and each party needs to know where the other stands,” says Nicole. A REALTOR® will also help clients navigate the closing process, including explaining all paperwork clearly to the client.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Add Instant Fall Curb Appeal

August 31, 2015 1:33 am

(BPT) – To make the most of your home’s outward appearance, it’s important to implement seasonal curb appeal. With autumn approaching, consider sprucing up your home’s exterior with these fall touches:

Replace your front door with an ENERGY STAR® alternative, complete with decorative glass accents or sidelights to keep cool weather out and natural light in. For entry door inspiration, check out Pinterest, your resident showroom or your local home improvement store.

• If a door replacement is out the budget, swap out door hardware instead for an instant facelift. Select finishes that compliment features like outdoor light fixtures, the mailbox or house numbers.

• Before cold weather sets in, consider repainting the exterior trim framing your home. This will refresh the look without costing as much as an entire exterior paint job. Choose a color that coordinates with the home’s primary exterior color.

Fall plantings add beauty and life to your home’s exterior. Arrange pots filled with hardy plants, like mums, sedum or asters around your front door, porch or deck. Incorporate planters or containers of varied sizes, shapes and colors.

Add exterior accent lighting to the front of your home for more lighting as the days get shorter. Consider illuminating a walking path with ground-insert solar lights, using solar spotlights to bring out landscaping, or installing matching light fixtures outside your front door, garage door or patio door to provide well-lit entrances.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Melting Pot: Global Cuisines Gain Popularity

August 28, 2015 1:24 am

A variety of ethnic cuisines are increasingly becoming part of everyday American diets, according to recent research by the National Restaurant Association – more so than they were five years ago. The research points to 80 percent of individuals consuming at least one type of ethnic cuisine each month.

“Americans generally are more willing to try new food than they were only a decade or so ago – especially in restaurants – underscoring that the typical consumer today is becoming more adventurous and sophisticated when it comes to different cuisines and flavors,” explains National Restaurant Association Director of Research Communications Annika Stensson.

Which cuisines reign supreme? Italian, Mexican and Chinese cuisines are most popular in terms of familiarity and frequency of consumption. Individuals are least familiar with Ethiopian, Brazilian/Argentine and Korean cuisines.

Brazilian/Argentine, Greek, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines are most commonly consumed on-premises at restaurants. Chinese, Ethiopian, Mexican and Italian are most commonly consumed via restaurant takeout or delivery.

Source: National Restaurant Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


FHA to Issue Borrower Guidelines for Energy-Efficient Improvements

August 28, 2015 1:24 am

As part of the White House’s National Clean Energy Summit, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) plans to issue a set of guidelines supporting borrowers seeking to make energy-efficient home improvements, allowing them to use Single Family FHA financing for properties with existing Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans that meet certain conditions.

PACE can vary from state-to-state, but generally allows homeowners to finance energy efficiency improvements for up to 20 years through assessments attached to the property. PACE allows homeowners to benefit from the improvements immediately and spread the cost over time. When the property is sold, the PACE loan remains with the property and the next owner is responsible for repaying the loan.

The Single Family FHA guidance will allow lenders to evaluate the conditions under which borrowers purchasing, refinancing properties, or modifying their loans with existing PACE assessments will be eligible to use FHA-insured financing. Through this guidance FHA is committing to develop more specific guidance in the near future that will include these requirements: PACE liens that preserve payment priority for first lien mortgages through subordination are eligible; PACE assessments must be fixed-rate and fixed repayment schedule; PACE assessments must be recorded and identifiable to the lender; and PACE assessments must be attached to single-family properties, as defined by FHA, which are 1- to 4-unit dwellings.

The FHA will also be partnering with the Department of Energy (DOE) to incorporate its use of the DOE’s Home Energy Score into Single Family existing FHA’s Energy Efficient Home (EEH) program. The FHA will provide flexible underwriting to recognize the reduced costs of utilities.

Homebuyers or homeowners who want to obtain an FHA-insured purchase or refinance mortgage for a single-family home that receives a Home Energy Score of 6 or higher will be eligible to increase their income qualifying ratio by 2 percent above the standard Single Family FHA limit.

The DOE developed the Home Energy Score as a low-cost, reliable method to estimate a home’s energy use. It is the equivalent of a vehicle miles-per-gallon rating for homes. The calculation methodology relies on a 10-point scale in which a “1” corresponds to the least energy-efficient homes and a “10” corresponds to the most energy-efficient homes. According to the DOE, the average U.S. home will score a “5.” The official DOE-recognized Home Energy Score can only be assessed by a qualified energy assessor.

Source: HUD

Published with permission from RISMedia.


More Homeowners DIY Exterior Improvements

August 28, 2015 1:24 am

More homeowners are taking a “design-it-yourself” approach when it comes to improving the exteriors of their homes – in fact, according to a recent survey commissioned by Royal® Building Products, homeowners aren’t afraid to step in and make their own design decisions to better their home’s outward appearance.

“Today's homeowners are more empowered than ever to be a part of the decision-making process when it comes to the exterior design of their homes,” explains Marilyn Chase of Royal Building Products. Over half of respondents to the survey desire a say in the material used for the exterior of their home, as well as a say in the specific products being used to build it.

Nearly 65 percent of homeowners believe making upgrades to a home’s exterior is a wise investment, and an identical percentage believes a renovation to the exterior adds value.

When making exterior improvements, the majority of survey respondents say they would take aesthetics, curb appeal and the overall neighborhood into consideration. Interestingly, nearly three-quarters of respondents believe coordinating the exterior color of a home with the interior color scheme is unimportant.

Structural pains when making exterior improvements present concerns. Approximately half of survey respondents expressed fear over rotting, cracking, and moisture and wind damage.

Source: Royal® Building Products

Published with permission from RISMedia.


School's In Session: Is Your Backpack Safe?

August 27, 2015 1:24 am

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), backpacks can be a source of injury if not worn correctly. “The effects of carrying an overloaded backpack should not be taken lightly,” says AAOS spokesperson Afshin Razi, MD. “Injuries to the muscles and joints can lead to sevee back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as posture problems that can take weeks or months to heal.”

With the start of a new school year upon us, the AAOS recommends lightening the load with these tips:

• Use both shoulder straps to keep the weight of the backpack better distributed and adjust the shoulder straps to keep the load close to the back. Depending on the student’s commute and accessibility of school, roller or crossbody bags can be good alternatives.

• Remove or organize items if too heavy and pack the heavier things low and towards the center. When lifting backpacks, bend at the knees.

• Carry only those items that are required for the day. If possible, leave books at home or school.

• At home and at school, keep walkways clear of backpacks to avoid tripping over them.

• Don’t ignore numbness or tingling in the arms or legs, which may indicate poor fit or too much weight being carried.

• Purchase a backpack appropriate for the size of the student.

• If you’re a parent, purchase a backpack appropriate for the size of the student. Observe your child put on or take off the backpack to see if it is a struggle.

• Encourage your child to stop at their locker throughout the day, as time permits, to drop off heavier books.

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Published with permission from RISMedia.