Recognized by RIS Media as member of the Top 5 percent of real estate agents.

My Blog

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.


Tags:

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.


Tags:

How to Save Electricity When You're Away

December 20, 2016 2:39 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.


Tags:

An Easy Guide for Year-End Financial Planning

December 20, 2016 2:39 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.


Tags:

How to Save Money on That New Vehicle

December 20, 2016 2:39 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.


Tags:

Will Renters Pay More For An Energy Efficient Pad?

December 15, 2016 12:39 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.


Tags:

A Holiday Lesson in Light Safety

December 15, 2016 12:39 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.


Tags:

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.


Tags:

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.


Tags:

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.


Tags: