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6 Common Money Mistakes Draining Your Funds

March 1, 2016 12:04 am

Everybody blows a little money now and then, but too many people make it a habit. To take control of your finances and keep more cash on hand, financial advisors suggest diligently avoiding these six common money mistakes:

1. Keeping up with friends – One way to get into financial trouble is trying to match someone else’s lifestyle. Sticking to a budget may mean missing out on a few indulgences, but the upside is a manageable credit card bill you can pay off in 30 days without paying interest fees.

2. Paying interest on credit cards – Speaking of interest rates, paying 20 percent on a credit card while earning 0.2 percent on your savings is costing you plenty. Leave yourself an emergency cushion, but use the bulk of your savings to pay off that credit card debt. If you don’t have savings to draw from, refer back to number one (above) and start living a cash-only lifestyle.

3. Buying new instead of used – These days, 100,000 miles is just the halfway point for a lot of cars, so buy one used that has already depreciated and comes with a lower monthly payment. Consider buying used for other goods as well, such as books, sports gear and appliances.

4. Signing up and spacing out – Be alert to automatic renewals and ongoing monthly charges for services you no longer use. Scan your monthly bills carefully. If you don’t want that extra phone service, gym membership, subscription or extra cable network you’ve been paying for, pick up the phone and cancel it.

5. Ignoring your employer’s 401(k) match – You’re throwing away money if you don’t claim every dollar your employer will contribute to your retirement plan. Find a way to pay in more of your own money, even if it means giving up that morning latte. (Wake-up call: That $5 coffee every day is costing you $150 a month, or $1,800 a year. Enough said.)

6. Letting bank fees drain your account – Switch to a bank that offers free checking. Avoid using out-of-network ATMs and stay on top of your balance to avoid overdraft fees. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Chinoiserie: 4 Ways to Try the Newest Décor Trend at Home

March 1, 2016 12:04 am

Chinoiserie—a style marked largely by Chinese motifs and techniques—is currently one of the hottest décor trends in homes in the Western Hemisphere. Originating in Europe in the 17th century, chinoiserie includes bamboo, cherry blossom or orchid accents, and shades of black, blue, gold, pink, red and white.

"Chinoiserie's elegant prints and colors can truly bring a room together," says Alissa Ahlman, chief merchandising officer for home décor superstore At Home®. "It's one of our favorite trends for 2016 as you can add it to your home in a big way via bright shades of pink or play it down with calming hues of blue."

To incorporate the trend in your home, the experts at home décor superstore At Home® recommend the following tips.

1. Punch up a seating area with chinoiserie throw pillows. Look for ones with tiger motifs or a pagoda-inspired design to drive home the aesthetic.

2. Introduce chinoiserie atop a dresser or bathroom countertop with black, rectangular boxes of varying sizes.

3. Mix in intricate chinoiserie patterns in neutral tones, such as a white side cabinet with lattice detailing in the guest bedroom.

4. Add a touch of glamour with gold accent pieces, such as a sparkling figurine on a mantel or marion votives as a tabletop centerpiece.

Despite its specific profile, chinoiserie design can be adapted to fit both traditional and modern spaces, and is ideal to complement an existing style. By implementing the trend thoughtfully, like in the tips listed above, you, too, can successfully integrate this new trend at home.

Source: At Home

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What Do Baby Boomers Want in a Home?

March 1, 2016 12:04 am

Baby boomers are making their mark on housing once again, this time as they age toward retirement—and whether moving up, downsizing or purchasing a second home, their preferences are clear-cut across the board.

According to a recently released study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), “Housing Preferences in the Boomer Generation: How They Compare to Other Home Buyers,” boomer homebuying activity hinges on everything from location to size and design:

• Sixty-three percent of boomers cited in the study would like to purchase a single-family detached home, a finding in line with the 65 percent of all buyers.

• Seventy-five percent of boomers prefer to purchase a single-story home.

• Fifty percent of boomers express interest in a full or partial basement. This preference appears to decline with age.

• Thirty-seven percent of boomers are willing to purchase a home without a living room. This preference appears to decline with age.

• Just 13 percent of boomers are willing to pay more for a home out of concern for the environment.

• Only 7 percent of boomers prefer to purchase a home in a central city location. Approximately two-thirds prefer to purchase a home in the suburbs (close-in or outlying), and just over one-quarter prefer to purchase a home in a rural area.

Source: NAHB

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Savings Success Higher with a Plan, Report Finds

February 29, 2016 2:04 am

There’s no arguing we’ve made strides financially since the economic downturn. A recently released report by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) reveals just how far we’ve come: 70 percent of Americans cited in the report have made at least some progress in meeting savings needs; 66 percent say they save at least some of their income.

Those with a savings plan, the report shows, have a much higher saving success rate than those without. In comparison:

• Sixty-one percent of those with a savings plan know their net worth; 33 percent of those without a savings plan know their net worth.

• Eighty-five percent of those with a savings plan are reducing their debt or have no debt at all; 64 percent of those without a savings plan are reducing their debt or have no debt at all.

• Eighty-four percent of those with a savings plan are spending less than their income, and saving the difference; 46 percent of those without a savings plan are spending less than their income and saving the difference.

• Seventy-nine percent of those with a savings plan have sufficient emergency savings; just 46 percent of those without a savings plan have sufficient emergency savings.

“The research clearly demonstrates that those with a plan are nearly two times as likely to spend less than they earn and save the difference,” says Nancy Register, director of America Saves.

Savings plans, however, are not foolproof, according to the report. Only about half (52 percent) of non-retired Americans included in the report are saving enough to support a desirable standard of living in retirement.

“It’s a common theme to see expenses and debt get in the way of retirement savings,” says Kathy Stokes, director of the American Savings Education Council, “but even saving just a small amount can add up over time.”

Source: Consumer Federation of America

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Mortgage Rates Retreat toward Year Low

February 29, 2016 2:04 am

Mortgage rates reversed course last week, falling back to the second-lowest point of the year. According to Bankrate.com’s weekly report, the benchmark 30-year fixed mortgage rate declined to 3.80 percent, making the monthly payment on a $200,000 loan $931.91.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage rate slipped as well, to 3.09 percent. The larger, jumbo 30-year fixed mortgage rate fell to 3.70 percent. The 5-year adjustable mortgage rate decreased to 3.24 percent, and the 10-year adjustable mortgage rate lowered to 3.61 percent.

The rate retreat can be attributed to lowering oil prices, stock indices and bond yields, which unwound much of the previous week’s rate increase.

Source: Bankrate.com

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Flood Season: 3 Tips to Prevent Water Damage

February 29, 2016 2:04 am

Homeowners spend thousands on flood damage repair each year, often hoping for minimal damage after it has already occurred. But wishful thinking can end up costing more money in the long run, says Michael Petri, owner of Brooklyn-based Petri Plumbing and Heating, Inc.

"Homeowners know that there is a chance for flood damage during this season, but often think that this chance of damage will miss them or won't affect their home,” says Petri.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and with a few small-scale actions, homeowners can prevent large-scale water damage.

"Taking the time to prepare a home for potential flooding helps reduce additional expenses caused by water damage, so it's important to take preventative action," adds Chris Petri, assistant operations manager at Petri.

The Petris recommend the following preventative measures:

1. Remove debris from your home promptly.
Regularly inspect gutters and drains for leaves, sticks, or other debris that may have piled up. Remove debris from gutters to allow rain to properly flow through.

2. Reduce runoff from your home that can cause flooding.
Collecting water in rain barrels and cisterns can keep rain from accumulating in certain areas of your home.

3. Seal openings or cracks in your home.
Hire a professional plumber to inspect your home thoroughly for potential sources of water damage. If cracks or other openings are found, seal them as soon as possible to lessen the chance of damage.

Source: Petri Plumbing and Heating, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Communities with a High Level of Well-Being

February 26, 2016 2:04 am

Communities in California, Colorado, Florida and Texas boast the highest levels of well-being, with Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Fla., recently named the top community by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

The Index ranks communities based on numerous indicators, including individual sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security, access to basic healthcare and relationship to the community.

“U.S. communities are in many ways on the front lines of American well-being,” says Dan Witters, research director of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. “From the influence of local leadership, to the vibrancy of good jobs and job creation, to an ability to influence infrastructure changes, cities are able to engender a culture of well-being among residents in ways that can effect meaningful and positive change.”

Rounding out the top 10 communities are:

2. Salinas, Calif.
3. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Fla.
4. Fort Collins, Colo.
5. Barnstable Town, Mass.
6. Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.
7. Boulder, Colo.
8. Charlottesville, Va.
9. Anchorage, Alaska
10. San Luis-Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, Calif.

Source: Gallup/Healthways

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Selling or Staying, These Home Improvements Are Worth It

February 26, 2016 2:04 am

Generally, homeowners undertake home improvement projects for one of two reasons: to enhance their quality of living, or to increase the value of their home. The best improvements, however, pay off whether staying or selling.

The projects worth the most of their investment are:

1. Boost Natural Light – Buyers love balanced, natural light— and you probably do, too! To make the most of the light entering your home, install ENERGY STAR®-qualified, no-leak skylights in the kitchen or bathrooms. Skylight blinds can help control the amount of light at any given time of day, giving you (and buyers) the ability to enhance the ambiance of the home.

2. Install a Deck – Whether seeking to spend more time outdoors or to attract potential buyers, adding a deck (or upgrading an existing one) can be well worth the cost. A composite deck can recoup up to 75 percent of its expense at resale, and a wooden deck can recoup up to 64 percent, according to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report.

3. Repaint the Exterior – Repainting the exterior of your home is a big job, but a valuable investment whether seeking to update its appearance or entice buyers. Your color choice can also affect your utility bills—lighter colors deflect heat from the home, for example. If you're selling in the near future, a fresh coat of paint can help increase perceived value.

4. Update the Kitchen – Kitchens sell homes, and are also the center of most households. Even a minor kitchen remodel can recoup more than 83 percent of its cost at the time of resale, according to Remodeling magazine’s report. The most cost-effective projects are to replace old cabinet hardware, upgrade faucets and lighting, and invest in quality countertops.

Whether you plan to place your home on the market or intend to stay put for years to come, it pays to invest in improvements that boost both resale value and your enjoyment of your home.

Source: Brandpoint

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Pesky Mistakes New Homeowners Make

February 26, 2016 2:04 am

(Family Features) From seasonal temperature fluctuations to excess rainfall, pests find any excuse to enter homes. The homes of new homeowners are especially prone to attracting pests, says Ron Harrison, entomologist with Orkin, partly because they are unaware of the best preventative measures.

If you’re a new homeowner, avoid these 5 “pesky” mistakes.

1. Overlooking Tiny Cracks – Even miniscule cracks and crevices in the foundation, doorways and walls can invite pests inside, including rodents, which are able to squeeze through openings as small as a coin. To keep pests from entering your home, promptly clean up all water and food spills, seal any openings around doors, windows and pipes, and install weather stripping around and under all doors, including garage doors.

2. Furnishing with Second-Hand Items – It may be tempting to save money by purchasing furniture from a thrift shop or garage sale, but pests have been known to hide in second-hand upholstered furniture—and once inside, they can spread from room to room. To keep this from happening, inspect and quarantine (for several months, if possible) all second-hand furniture before bringing it into your home.

3. Ignoring Insulation – The attic can be a gateway inside the home for pests that nest in insulation. Inspect insulation for pest activity and damage on a regular basis. Consider installing new insulation that incorporates materials specifically designed to deter pests.

4. Neglecting Flooring/Siding Damage – The foundation, wood framing, furniture and shelves are all possible feeding sites for termites. Signs of termite activity include buckling wood, swollen floors and ceilings that appear to have slight water damage. Have your home regularly inspected by a licensed professional to avoid potentially extensive (and expensive!) termite damage.

5. Forgoing Repairs – Leaks may appear minor, but when combined with condensation, they create ideal conditions for pests that are attracted to damp areas. These areas are most likely located in an attic, crawlspace, basement, kitchen or bathroom. To keep pests out, fix leaking faucets, water pipes or HVAC units as soon as possible, and eliminate standing water on the roof or in gutters as soon as the weather dries up.

Source: Orkin

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Kids in the Kitchen: 5 Reasons to Resurrect the Family Dinner

February 25, 2016 2:04 am

A familiar event is making a comeback at home: the family dinner.

Data from a recently released study show that “togetherness” grows when families prepare meals together, harkening back to the “heart of the home” adage most often associated with the kitchen. Nearly all parents cited in the study (93 percent) report their child helps them with cooking, and over three-in-four (76 percent) report their child helps them cook at least a few times a week.

In what ways do children reap the benefits of shared mealtime? According to the study, children who assist with food preparation and sit down at the dinner table with their families are apt to:

Actively participate – Four in 10 parents in the study report that children are more engaged in conversations at the dinner table, and 39 percent report their children are likely to stay longer at the table.

Feel accomplished – Sixty-eight percent of parents in the study report their children are proud about the meal they’ve helped prepare; 64 percent report their children are excited about the meal they’ve helped prepare.

Feel more confident – More than half of parents in the study report a boost of confidence in their children when the child assists with cooking. Additionally, 63 percent of parents say their child learns responsibility, 47 percent say their child’s focus improves, and 42 percent say their children become better communicators.

Share responsibilities – Children also develop a sense of shared duty when assisting in the kitchen. According to the study, some of the most common tasks children are responsible for include stirring, rising, measuring and cleaning up.

Try new foods – Half of parents cited in the study agree that when their children help cook, they are likely to try new food, as well as finish the meal.

Source: LG Electronics USA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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