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Prep Your Home for Painting Day

April 7, 2017 10:06 pm

As we usher in spring, it’s time to take a good look at our homes and evaluate what needs repair, touching up or simply a creative refresh. One of the best places to start is your home’s exterior.

"Early spring is an ideal time to plan ahead and begin some of the prep work that's key to a well-painted exterior," says Debbie Zimmer, spokesperson for the Paint Quality Institute. "Carefully inspect the outside of your home and write down what needs to be done. Your notes will serve as helpful 'marching orders' for the coming painting season."

What to look for? Obviously, any sign of trouble on the siding or trim in the form of paint that's peeling or flaking, but also spots where ugly mold or mildew has taken hold.

Pay special attention to areas where different materials meet and note if the caulk is missing or deteriorated. Gaps in the exterior not only detract from the appearance of a home, but they can also create drafts, letting costly air conditioning and heat escape, possibly leading to water damage as well.

If there's any painted metal on your home's exterior, see if the coating or coatings have been compromised. Is there rust on iron railings or efflorescence (powdery white residue) on aluminum siding, soffit or trim? If so, jot that down.

Note anything else that's amiss with your paint. Nearly any deficiency can detract from the appearance of your home, lessening its protection at the same time. And correcting these problems quickly may help prevent bigger issues in the future.  

According to Zimmer, some projects can be done in almost any weather; others are weather-dependent.

For example, you can remove mildew on any dry day without regard to the temperature. Simply scrub the surface with a bleach solution, allow it to sit for 10 minutes or so, then wash away the offensive growth.

Most caulk can be applied when the temperature hits 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but take into account the overnight lows, which could leave surface materials below the threshold, at least earlier in the day. Just clean adjoining surfaces thoroughly, apply a bead of caulk, and smooth it with a moist finger to produce a tight, protective seal.

Likewise, 50 degrees Fahrenheit is typically the cutoff for exterior painting when using a latex coating (again, take overnight temperature into account). If you're doing touch-ups, scrape away any loose or peeling paint, prime bare wood with quality acrylic latex primer, let it dry thoroughly, then apply one or two coats of 100-percent acrylic latex paint. (By using a "paint and primer" product, you can skip the prime coat.)

Your home is unlikely to suffer serious harm if you leave bare or primed wood exposed to the elements for a short time. But that's not true with many metals, especially iron.

Once you scrape or sand away rust and expose bare metal, it must be primed immediately and painted as soon as possible afterward, or the rust could reappear in just a couple days. Therefore, don't start this project unless the weather is warm enough to finish the job.

Make progress now on your spring painting by inspecting your home's exterior, planning the work, and even tackling some projects right away. That's the way to get a great jump on things!

For more tips to prepare your home for spring painting projects, contact me today.

Source: Paint Quality Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Equity Grows for 62-and-Over Homeowners

April 7, 2017 10:06 pm

Retirement-aged homeowners saw a combined 2.8 percent increase of $170.7 billion in home equity in the fourth quarter of 2016, according to a recent report from the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, boosting their total housing wealth to $6.2 trillion.
 
A 2.4 percent increase in home values for owners 62 and older in Q4 2016 drove the NRMLA/RiskSpan Reverse Mortgage Market Index (RMMI) to 221.75, an all-time high since the index was first published in 2000. On a year-over-year basis, the RMMI index rose by 9 percent in 2016, compared to an increase of 8.6 percent in 2015 and 8 percent in 2014.
 
“The strong RMMI in the fourth quarter of last year shows that home equity continues to be a valuable asset for homeowners 62 and older,” says NRMLA President and CEO Peter Bell. “It’s time for consumers to study what it means to have home equity and to learn about its strategic uses, including how it can be used to support retirement goals."
 
Recent research from the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and a new Issue in Brief from the Center for Retirement Research (CRR) at Boston College show that home equity has gone largely underutilized by older homeowners who have been unwilling to consider housing wealth as a resource for retirement funding. NCOA and CRR both show that limited awareness and knowledge of home equity tools contribute to the low take-up of financial products such as reverse mortgages.
 
To learn more about home equity, contact me today.
 
Source: National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Avoid These Financial Faux Pas

April 7, 2017 10:06 pm

Managing your finances can feel like a full-time job. And, even the most fastidious types can unwittingly make a mistake that harms their current and/or future financial well-being. According to Forbes, these are some of the biggest money mistakes people make:
  • Not saving for retirement. Even if retirement is a long way off, it takes a long time to save enough money to live comfortably once you leave the workforce. Starting today, make sure to save part of every dollar you earn.
  • Not understanding the true cost of student loans. Many students and parents of students see student loans as a standard operating procedure for getting through. Make sure you and your child know exactly what your monthly payments will be—and for how long—before taking out the loan.
  • Not having a budget. You may feel that you have a good awareness of your income vs. expenses and, therefore, don’t need a budget. However, you’ll never have a true picture of how much you’re spending until you commit it to paper and track it religiously. Once you’ve taken this step, map out a budget and stick to it.
  • Not having savings. Make sure your budget includes putting at least a little money away for unexpected expenses in order to build up an emergency savings. According to Forbes, your emergency savings should be enough to cover six months' worth of income. Therefore, when your income goes up, so should your savings.
  • Not taking care of your credit score. You may think you’re doing all the right things credit-wise, but that may not be how credit-scoring firms evaluate your profile. Your balances may be too high, you may have too many credit cards, or you may have been late on a payment or two. All of these things affect your credit score, so be sure to check your credit report three times a year and dispute any mistakes you find. 
Avoiding these mistakes will help put you on the road to financial peace of mind, hopefully leaving you a little money to spare.
 
Contact me today for more financial tips you can't afford to ignore.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Things You Should Know About Your Real Estate Agent

April 7, 2017 10:06 pm

Choosing a home to buy is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in your life. That’s why choosing the right real estate professional to work with should be your second biggest decision.
 
On the surface, it may seem that all real estate agents basically do the same job…but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just like in all professionals, experience, skills, integrity, professionalism and personality vary greatly from person to person.
 
Here are five things you should know about any prospective real estate professional you're considering working with:
  1. Their background. Real estate agents come from all walks of life. While some have been born and bred in real estate, others come from a wide variety of previous careers. Knowing an agent’s background will shed some light on what they may or may not be able to bring to the table.
  2. How many transactions they closed last year. Whether they work with buyers, sellers or both, find out how many deals your agent closed last year. This will give you a good sense as to their productivity.
  3. If they’re part of a team. Some agents work solo, some work with a partner, and others work as part of a team made up of several members. If you’re dealing with an agent team, find out what the various team members are responsible for and who you’ll be dealing with for each stage of the process.
  4. If they have any reviews. These days, reviews rule. Ask your prospective agent if they can direct you toward any online ratings and reviews. If they don’t participate in review sites, ask for past clients you can reach out to.
  5. Their tech competency. Technology is playing an increasingly important role in the home-buying and -selling process. Check out your agent’s social media sites, what mobile technology they'll incorporate to facilitate the process, and how they use digital documents and web-based programs to keep the process running smoothly. 
You should also select an agent with whom you have great chemistry. You will be close allies in the process of finding and securing your home, so a great relationship matters a lot.
 
Contact me today for more tips on choosing a real estate agent to guide you through the process.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keep Your Home Smart and Safe

April 7, 2017 10:06 pm

Technology has paved the way for convenience in every area of our lives, from our cars to our offices to our homes. But while we take advantage of all the possibilities technology offers, there are risks involved.
 
Often referred to as “the internet of things” or “the connected world,” the integration of wireless technology that runs our homes, alarm systems, thermostats, refrigerators, lights, vehicles and more can be easily hacked, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). While we’ve embraced this new technology, it has come with unintended consequences, such as the theft of personal and financial information in data breaches.
 
The BBB outlines various ways our technology can cause risk.
  • Modern smart TVs have features that allow them to harvest information about our watching habits that can then be sold to third parties. One preventive tip involves disconnecting your television from the internet when it isn't being used.
  • Computers have built-in cameras and microphones that hackers have managed to turn on in order to spy on unwitting victims. Security-conscious users routinely keep the camera covered when they're not using it.
  • If you use a baby monitor, perhaps you’ve heard conversations and arguments coming from your neighbor's house. If so, that means they can probably hear you. High-tech baby monitors use your wireless routers and the internet to allow you to keep track of your residence when you're not at home. Unfortunately, the information sent over the internet is not encrypted. In other words, it can be intercepted.
  • We can be tracked almost anywhere we go. Billboards, stores, malls and other locations can pick up your wifi signal, collect your information and share or sell it to other parties without revealing who will use it and how.
  • Smart car entertainment centers can be hacked, allowing access to remotely steer, accelerate or hit your car's brakes. Headlights and other systems can also be infiltrated as well.
  • Wireless and internet connections can operate security cameras, lights, alarm systems, thermostats and door locks. In the wrong hands, these capabilities would be extremely dangerous. 
The best way to secure your newly-connected world, says the BBB, is to research as much as you can, contact a manufacturer if you have any security questions or concerns, and ensure that you change the passwords on your wireless routers and all of your smart devices, rather than leaving the default password. Not only can default passwords for devices easily be found online, but they can be used to compromise your personal and financial information.
 
The best defense is to understand how these new devices work and what we can do to make them as safe as possible from the prying eyes of hackers.
 
For more tips to keep your technology devices from being infiltrated by hackers, contact me today.
 
Source: The Connecticut Better Business Bureau

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Seasonal Sport Safety

April 7, 2017 12:39 am

For those interested in seasonal sports like skiing or snowboarding, it’s important to keep safety top-of-mind in order to avoid an injury.

Knee injuries, particularly the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), are the most common injury for skiers due to the twisting motion of the sport. Snowboarders typically experience more impact-related injuries to their wrists and shoulders from falls.

Meredith Bean, MD, specializes in treating injuries from sports, including skiing and snowboarding injuries. Here are Dr. Bean's top five tips to avoid skiing and snowboarding injuries:

Be prepared: The best way to prevent snow sport injuries from occurring is to be physically fit before hitting the slopes. Prior to your trip up the mountain, incorporate strengthening, agility, balance, and endurance exercises to your workout routine.

Use proper equipment: All skiers and snowboarders should use a helmet, but be aware that helmets do not provide full protection at higher speeds. She encourages snowboarders, especially beginners who may fall often, to wear wrist guards to help prevent wrist fractures, as those are the most common injury she sees for that sport. Skiers should use pole straps appropriately to avoid thumb injuries.

Keep hydrated: When it's cold, you may not feel as thirsty but your body is still losing water through sweating and breathing. If you can see your breath, that's water leaving the body. So when heading out to the slopes, drinking lots of water is important to reduce muscle fatigue and injury.

Stay in control: Know your fitness and ability limits and stay within them.

Stop if you're tired: Many snow sports injuries occur on the final run of the day. This often is due to fatigue or a change in conditions on the mountain, which can lead to a lack of focus or control and result in injuries. If you are tired, but considering one last run, it is best to play it safe and call it a day.

Source: Saint Francis Memorial Hospital 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Spring Cleaning Tips to Save on Energy Expenditure

April 7, 2017 12:39 am

Spring cleaning can do more than clear out your closets; it can also lower your energy expenditure, keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in the bank.  

Gentec Services recommends five things homeowners can do during spring cleaning to save money:

Clean or change heating and air conditioning filters regularly. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm. Residential heating and cooling systems account for over 50 percent of the energy costs in the average Bay Area home. A properly maintained system can be 30 to 40 percent more efficient than one that is not properly taken care of.

Use low-flow faucets and shower heads to save on water bills. Replacing older water fixtures with low-flowing ones is a relatively low-cost and quick way for your home to conserve water and save money. For maximum water efficiency, select a shower head with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute.

Reduce water heater temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit to save energy and money on heating water. It's also a good practice to wrap the water storage tank in a specially-designed, insulated thermal blanket to retain the heat.

Install a programmable thermostat to save up to 10 percent on cooling and heating costs. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates. Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal before you wake or return home.

Install a security alarm system. By setting an alarm system to "arm" upon leaving the home, this event can command lights to turn off. Additionally, when you cross a predetermined "Geo Fence" (set by the homeowner) the physical location of the homeowner's phone can easily turn off lights, lamps, plugs and appliances as well. It's always good practice to turn off electronics whenever possible. A power strip can help turn off multiple items at once. In addition to turning off lights manually, you may want to consider using sensors, timers and other automatic lighting controls.

Source: Gentec Services

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Take a Holistic Approach to Retirement Planning

April 7, 2017 12:39 am

(Family Features)--Although retirement is a milestone for all working adults, decades of hard work may not pay off if you haven't planned for your financial needs once a regular paycheck stops coming.

According to research by the Insured Retirement Institute (IRI), millions of Baby Boomers stepping into their retirement years have unrealistic expectations and lack a full understanding of the danger of running out of money during retirement. However, the challenges do not stop with Baby Boomers. A recent study indicated 47 percent of Gen-Xers and more than half of Millennials believe a secure retirement is beyond their reach.

"Most people recognize the need to grow their wealth before retirement, but getting there isn't always a clear path," says Cathy Weatherford, IRI president and CEO. "Starting early and taking a holistic approach to financial planning is truly essential for a safe and dignified retirement."

Experts generally concur that it's never too early to begin planning for retirement, but depending on your stage of life, your approach may vary. Consider this advice from the experts at IRI to get on a path toward financially secure retirement.

Student

Forming good money habits can set you up for a lifetime of success. An act as simple as putting spare change in a jar can help you start saving. Talk to adults you trust about how to create a budget and work toward a financial goal. Auto insurance and cell phone bills are important expenses to factor into your budget.

Building a career

Once you have a solid budget, stick to it and set aside some money to save. Compound interest adds up over time and the earlier you start compounding, the better. Credit will also start to play more of a factor in your life, as major expenses like buying a house or car, or starting a business rely greatly on your credit.

Mid-career

At this stage, your employer may offer a retirement savings plan. Whether you have various investments to manage or not, you should start to look at your building your portfolio and retirement plan. This mid-career life stage is a good time to set a retirement savings goal, and now is also the time to consider hiring a financial advisor.

A professional can help you explore less understood but worthwhile approaches to holistic retirement planning such as annuities. Annuities are essentially insurance contracts that come in different types and offer several options to meet a variety of financial objectives. They are a guarantee of income as you age.

Late career

At this stage, you probably have a better idea as to when you will be able to retire, but it's important to review your savings on an annual basis and make adjustments, if needed, to stay on track. As you approach retirement, you'll want to research Social Security, Medicare and long-term care options to ensure you have a comprehensive view of your future finances.

Ready for retirement

If you haven't already done so, the time has come to better research your Social Security benefits (and when it's best to start accessing them), Medicare coverage and long-term care options. This is the time to start making some choices, such as whether you will downsize your home and how to eliminate as much debt as possible. One of the more complex aspects surrounding retirement can be determining which of your accounts to tap and in what order, and a professional can help guide you.

Explore more resources and tools to aid your retirement planning at retireonyourterms.org.


Source: Insured Retirement Institute
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What’s the Deal with Ceiling Paper?

April 6, 2017 6:39 am

You may have heard that wallpaper is making a comeback. But have you heard about wallpapered ceilings? Technically, this trend is called ceiling paper, and it can transform a room in the same way papered walls can.

Highlight a space. Do you have a home office tucked to one side of your family room? How about a cozy reading nook? Add colorful ceiling paper to one portion of a room to divide the space naturally.

Make a statement. Just like a colorful throw cushion on a neutral couch, jazzy ceiling paper can make a “boring” room bold. Choose a fun print or color that shows off your personality and style.

Accent, accent, accent. Tie your ceiling paper into the rest of your decorating scheme by choosing the right accent color. Whether you go with a solid, stripes or a soft pattern, a papered ceiling done up right can complete the look of a room.

When wallpapering a ceiling, it may be best to bring in a pro, as the application can be tricky. If you’re a diligent weekend warrior and feel like going DIY, make sure to properly prep your ceiling for application by removing any paint and electrical fixtures. Experts also suggest creating a ceiling blueprint for precise application.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How Your Business Can Prep for an Online PR Crisis

April 6, 2017 6:39 am

As a business owner, you’re likely in constant preparation mode. Having an online crisis plan in place is a necessity, according to MarxLayne.com. When dealing with a disrupting event that spreads online, organizations should consider the following fundamental guidelines:

1. Actively listen for "brand" mentions
If you want to mitigate trouble online, you must be alert to what is being said about your organization. Are online conversations taking place about your "brand?" If so, are they positive or negative?

2. Monitor your social spaces constantly 
It's critical to constantly monitor what people are commenting and sharing. To help expedite, numerous social medial listening tools — like Google Analytics, Social Mention, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Topsy — can identify trends.

3. Have a consisten presence
Nothing looks worse than an organization that never communicates except when absolutely forced to do so. An active and steady presence on the social pages you own will help you be better prepared for a potential crisis.

4. Respond swiftly
This is perhaps one of the most important ways to avoid a crisis. Just like with the news media, even if you don't have an immediate answer, just letting people know you are listening and care about what's going on will help soften stressful situations.

5. Include your communications and legal teams 
Being prepared for an online crisis means establishing a protocol in advance that includes not only your social/online specialists, but also your PR and legal teams. Concise messaging that is consistent with the organization's policies and positions is essential to any crisis strategy.

6. Have a plan of action 
Make certain you have a detailed plan on how you will execute if an online crisis occurs, including:

- Establishing the crisis team. In addition to your online, PR and legal teams, think about who else needs to be included. Consider every area of your organization.

- Knowing the chain of command in a crisis. What should the approval process look like? Who should be responsible for what? And what does the timeline look like?

- Brainstorming potential scenarios. In any organization, there are dozens — if not more — of potential situations that could develop into a crisis. Work with your team to identify these scenarios and develop a "response template.

Source: MarxLayne.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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