RE/MAX 440
Margot Aronson Sells Homes, Realtor®, ABR, ASR, CDPE
margotaronson@live.com
Margot Aronson Sells Homes, Realtor®, ABR, ASR, CDPE
4092 Skippack Pike, P.O. Box 880
Skippack  PA 19474
PH: 610-306-7939
O: 610-584-1160
C: 610-306-7939
F: 267-354-6943 
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3 Ways to Boost Retirement Savings

March 19, 2015 2:15 am

Despite a significant share of Americans neglecting retirement savings, it is never too early or too late to start saving. According to a recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC), 32 percent of Americans are not contributing any portion of their household income toward retirement savings.

To help you prepare for a secure retirement, consider these tips:

1. Between the age of 21 and 30, the cost of education becomes a major hurdle as the long process of student loan repayment begins. Trouble with this debt can put retirement savings plans on hold. Getting help from a nonprofit student loan counselor at this stage can help avoid costly interruptions in growing retirement savings.

2. Building wealth is an essential goal for people between the age of 30 and 45. In addition to retirement savings, homeownership allows people to build equity in their property as they pay down their mortgages. To stay on track, it is wise to get advice from financial counselors through free programs, like the NFCC’s Sharpen Your Financial Focus initiative (www.sharpentoday.org).

3. After the age of 45, it is a good idea to increase contributions toward retirement savings while reducing budget expenses. Downsizing should also include credit card debt. If debt management is a problem, speaking with a nonprofit credit counselor is a good way to identify solutions.

Source: NFCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Water, not Fire, Causes Most Chimney Damage

March 19, 2015 2:15 am

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), water can create more damage to chimneys than fires, and the rainy spring season can exacerbate issues. Whether the chimney is masonry or factory-built, prolonged water exposure can result in cracks or gaps where creosote can collect, increasing the risk of fire or carbon monoxide exposure.

The experts at the CSIA advise homeowners to look for:

Rust stains
– More particular to factory-built fireplaces, rust is a critical red flag that water is accessing your chimney and threatening the integrity of the structure. Rust stains could reveal themselves around the outside of the upper chimney or along the inner lining of the fireplace.

Dripping or standing water – This may seem obvious, but water pooling anywhere in and around your masonry or factory-built chimney and fireplace structure means water has an access point to your home.

Bent or damaged flashing – The metal materials used to help seal your chimney from rooftop water runoff must be flush to the chimney structure. Flashing, crickets or other devices can warp or separate from the chimney over time, exposing your structure to water.

If you notice any of these signs, the CSIA suggests using a chimney cap, applying waterproofing agents or calling a certified chimney sweep professional. A chimney cap, also known as a rain cover, works to protect your chimney the way your roof works to protect your house. Waterproofing agents added to the interior of the chimney create a barrier while still allowing moisture to escape. Never use paint or any non-vapor-permeable water sealer because these can trap moisture inside the chimney, hastening deterioration.

Source: CSIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Things You Didn't Know about Caffeine

March 18, 2015 2:12 am

Whether it’s a strong cup of Joe, an energy drink, green tea or a chocolate bar, 85 percent of Americans consume caffeine every single day, says Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumer League (NCL). But the majority of Americans, she says, aren’t caffeine literate.

Here are 10 things you might not know about caffeine, courtesy of the NCL.

1. Sixty-four percent of Americans consume coffee daily; 17 percent consume tea; 17 percent consume soda; and 2 percent consume energy drinks.

2. Caffeine takes 15-45 minutes to take effect. The average person will eliminate half of the original amount consumed between 4-6 hours.

3. Pregnant women should avoid caffeine, and it is not recommended for children.

4. Birds, dogs and cats cannot metabolize caffeine – so don’t feed your pets chocolate (or give them coffee!).

5. The earliest rumored consumption of caffeine was by a Chinese emperor in 3,000 BC, who is said to have accidently discovered that when certain leaves fell into boiling water, a fragrant and restorative drink resulted. We now call this drink tea.

6. Caffeine is found in the seeds and leaves of more than 60 plants around the world. Coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, kola nuts, guarana plants and yerba mate are just a few that contain caffeine.

7. Regardless of whether caffeine is naturally occurring (coffee or tea), or in its synthetic form (cola or energy drinks), the chemical structure is identical, and its effect on the human body is the same.

8. The darker the coffee roast, the less caffeine in the coffee bean. Unroasted, green coffee beans have a higher concentration of caffeine. For teas, it’s the opposite: the darker the tea, the higher the caffeine.

9. Safe caffeine intake falls around 400mg per day for healthy adults, which is about 6-7 cups of black tea, 4-5 cups of home brew coffee, 2-3 Starbucks Grande Lattes, 8 cans of Diet Coke, or 5 cans of Red Bull. A typical serving or portion of caffeine is usually an 8 fl oz cup of home-brewed coffee, a 20 fl oz diet cola, a 1.5 fl oz espresso shot and an 8.4 fl oz energy drink – all of which amount to approximately 70-90mg of caffeine.

10. Aside from the ‘pick-me-up’ that is a well-known effect of caffeine, there is evidence that caffeine has some positive effects against diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Too much caffeine, however, can result in side effects like jitteriness and sleeplessness.

Source: NCL

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is Your Home Flood Ready?

March 18, 2015 2:12 am

Are you prepared for potential flooding this season?

“With the change of seasons comes the risk of snow melt, heavy rains, and rising waters—we’re all at some level of flood risk,” said Andrew Velasquez III, FEMA Region V administrator. “It is important we prepare now for the impact floods could have on our homes, our businesses and in our communities.”

Take action with these simple steps to protect what matters most before a flood threatens your area.

1. Ensure you’re insured. Consider purchasing flood insurance to protect your home against the damage floodwaters can cause. Homeowners’ insurance policies do not typically cover flood losses, and most policies take 30-days to become effective. Visit FloodSmart.gov for more information.

2. Keep important papers in a safe place. Make copies of critical documents (mortgage papers, deed, passport, bank information, etc.). Keep copies in your home and store originals in a secure place outside the home, such as a bank safe deposit box.

3. Elevate mechanicals off the floor of your basement—such as the water heater, washer, dryer and furnace—to avoid potential water damage.

4. Caulk exterior openings where electrical wires and cables enter your home to keep water from getting inside.

5. Shovel!
As temperatures warm, snow melt is a real concern. Shovel snow away from your home and clean your gutters to keep your home free from potential water damage.

Source: FEMA.gov

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Safety Tips for Lawn Mowers and More

March 18, 2015 2:12 am

Warmer weather is encouraging homeowners to break out lawn mowers, trimmers and other lawn and garden equipment for spring maintenance. To operate machines safely, it’s important that users understand safety procedures and set expectations with others who operate or are nearby these machines, says the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI).

OPEI recommends the following safety tips when operating mowers, chain saws, trimmers, edgers, generators and other outdoor equipment used for landscape management.

• Use the right equipment for the task. Mowers and hedge trimmers are designed to help you manage a landscape as efficiently and productively as possible. Select a "right-sized" product for the job. Ask your retailer/dealer for assistance in size, capabilities, power sources and features that fit your needs.

• Assign the right person to use the equipment. Only allow responsible adults who are familiar with the instructions to operate the machine. Do not let children use outdoor power equipment. These machines should not be operated by young people who are not physically or developmentally ready to assume the responsibility of operating a powerful machine.

• Alert nearby people of work to be done. Confirm the locations of pets and children, and ask that they be kept out of the area and supervised.

• Read the operator's manual to understand the controls of your equipment. Know how to stop the machine quickly. Do not remove or disable guards or safety devices.

• Regularly inspect your equipment. Check for loose belts and missing or damaged parts. Drain and responsibly dispose of old oil and put in fresh oil before starting equipment that has been in long-time storage. Install clean air filters so your engine and equipment will run optimally.

• Have your mower’s cutting blades sharpened so it will operate more efficiently, cutting your lawn cleaner and making it healthier.

• Know your terrain. When operating on slopes, select the appropriate machine. Keep away from drop-offs and other hazards such as water. Uneven terrain could overturn the machine.

• Clear the area being managed. Remove debris, wires, branches, nails, rocks or metal that may become projectiles if thrown by lawn mower blades and other equipment.

• Dress properly. Wear substantial shoes, long pants and close-fitting clothes. You may want eye or hearing protection.

• Observe safe fueling procedures. Fill your gasoline tank only when the engine is cool. If you need to refuel before completing a job, turn off the machine and allow the engine to cool. Never light a match or smoke around gasoline.

• Do not use gas with more than 10 percent ethanol (E10) in your mower. Some gasoline filling stations may offer 15 percent ethanol (E15) gas or other fuel blends, but this higher ethanol fuel is dangerous—and is in fact illegal—to use in your mower or in any small engine equipment.

• When putting away last season's equipment, clean it and be sure to drain and responsibly dispose of fuel.
Don't leave fuel sitting in the tank for more than thirty days. Untreated gasoline (without a fuel stabilizer) left in the system will deteriorate, which may cause starting or running problems and, in some cases, damage to the fuel system.

Source: OPEI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Fun Facts for Saint Patrick's Day

March 17, 2015 2:12 am

With everything from floats and marching bands to shamrocks and jigs, Saint Patrick’s Day celebrates all things Irish. In honor of the holiday, Cheapflights.com put together these fun facts on parades in America.

The world’s smallest St. Patrick’s Day parade has only one person.
Enterprise, Ala. has hosted the world’s smallest St. Patrick’s Day parade since 1993. It consists of just one person of Irish descent who walks a single block and back.

The shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade is a mere 293 feet.
Hot Springs, Ark. is home to a 293-foot-long parade, the shortest in the world. Other places that compete for the title include Maryville, Mo., Boulder, Colo., and Pendleton, Ore.

Some St. Patrick’s Day parades are older than the country itself.
Two of the U.S.’s most popular parades are older than the country. New York’s first official parade was held in 1766; Boston’s first recorded parade took place even earlier in 1737.

Source: Cheapflights.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Factors Really Affect Your Credit Score?

March 17, 2015 2:12 am

A recently released TransUnion survey shed light on consumer confusion when it comes to credit scores. In fact, nearly half of all consumers falsely identified rental (45 percent) and cell phone (47 percent) payments as those that directly affect their score; however, these are not regularly reported to credit bureaus.

While consumers who frequently review their credit report incorrectly identify some aspects of it, consumers who rarely or never review their credit report have an even higher level of confusion. Among survey respondents who reported checking their report in the last 30 days, half mistakenly believe their full employment history (55 percent) and income level (41 percent) are included in their reports.

Surprisingly, even consumers who characterize their credit as “excellent” or “good” had trouble identifying credit report factors. Among those who characterized their credit as “excellent,” 49 percent mistakenly thought rental payments are included in their report, yet currently they are not regularly reported to credit bureaus in the same way that auto and mortgage payments are reported.

According to the survey findings, there are several noteworthy points of confusion about what affects a credit score and what information is included in credit reports, as follows:
  • Pay raises: Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents who’ve checked their credit report in the last year incorrectly believed an increase in income improves their score.
  • Credit inquiries: Forty percent of respondents who’ve never checked their report are unsure how it affects their score, and 20 percent who checked their report in the last year mistakenly believed checking their report would decrease their score.
  • Paying down debts: Sixty-one percent of those who checked their report in the last 30 days erroneously believed paying off debts from late payments automatically increases their score.
  • Trended information: Seventy percent of those who’ve checked their report in the last year incorrectly assumed that it reflected recent changes or trends in their finances over time.
To help consumers better understand their credit scores and reports, TransUnion debunked these common myths:

Myth #1: Your score drops if you check your own credit.

Fact:
Viewing your credit report counts only as a "soft inquiry" and doesn’t change the score. “Hard inquiries" by a lender or creditor, though, can slightly lower your credit score.

Myth #2: I should close old or inactive accounts to help my credit score.

Fact: This might actually have the reverse effect of lowering your credit score because it can shorten the measured duration of your credit history.

Myth #3: Paying off a negative record means it’s taken off your credit report.

Fact: Generally, negative records like collections or late payments will remain on your credit reports for up to seven years.

Myth #4: Co-signing doesn’t mean you’re responsible for the account.

Fact:
If you open a joint account or co-sign a loan, you will be held legally responsible for the account, meaning activity on the joint account as well is displayed on the credit reports of both account holders’ reports.

Myth #5: Making on-time rental, utility and cell phone payments helps my credit score.

Fact:
While outstanding rental, utility and cell phone debt that has gone to collections can negatively affect your score, generally, on-time payments are not regularly reported to credit bureaus.

Myth #6: My credit score reflects recent changes or trends in my payment behavior.

Fact: Historically, credit scores have not incorporated trended credit information, meaning they are a moment-in-time glimpse at consumer risk.

Source: TransUnion

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips for Staging Curb Appeal

March 17, 2015 2:12 am

When buyers visit a potential home, they often make a mental list of the upgrades or repairs they’ll need to pay for if they decide to make an offer. These days, buyers create similar lists when viewing homes online, and if the images don’t showcase your home in the best light, it could delay the sale.

The exterior of the home is typically the first image they’ll see, so it’s important to stage the outside. Stage curb appeal for web appeal with these tips.

1. Declutter the lawn.
The most basic staging principle is to remove any signs of personality, and that includes the outdoors. Store wacky lawn chairs, children’s toys, lawn ornaments or any other items that can distract the buyer.

2. Stage the garage. This especially applies if your home has a front-facing garage. If your doors have seen better days, consider replacing them with a modern model. Set aside time to the clear out any clutter – buyers want space for their vehicles.

3. Power wash the deck. Rent a power washer and clear off the deck and any other outdoor structures that have accumulated debris. Be sure to remove leaves if you’re selling in the fall.

4. Maintain the landscape. Mow the lawn on a regular basis, trim back overgrown bushes and prune dead limbs from trees. Sweep away any dirt or leaves from your front steps. Flowers will add a pop of color and invite buyers in – just be sure to water them frequently.

5. Update fixtures.
Inspect your property for any signs of disrepair, such as broken storm doors or porch lights. Update your house numbers with a fresh set easily visible from the street.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Retirement Fears Boil Down to Debt

March 16, 2015 2:12 am

A recent poll from Bankrate.com focuses on Americans' retirement fears. Interestingly enough, “too much debt” was not in the top three fears cited in the survey, says Gary Herman, president of Consolidated Credit. It may seem like debt isn't a big concern compared to medical bills, lack of savings or not being able to pay daily expenses, but those fears stem from debt, he says.

Herman notes that mortgage debt may be another worry. "Too many Americans don't consider mortgages when they think of the word debt. While mortgages are often considered a 'good' form of debt, you still need to factor it into your retirement plans," he says.

In May 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported that consumers age 65 and older owed larger balances on their mortgages than their 65 and older age cohorts did a decade ago. The median amount owed on mortgages increased 82 percent, from approximately $43,400 to $79,000. Older consumers also owe more on their mortgages in relation to the value of their home than a decade ago.

Source: Consolidated Credit

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Making Your Master Closet Work for You

March 16, 2015 2:12 am

(Family Features) Whether you plan on building a home from the ground up, purchasing new construction or adding value to your current residence, there are many opportunities for upgrades at home.

In a recent ClosetMaid® study, 45 percent of existing homebuyers noted that they have made changes to their master bedroom closet since moving in. In addition, 61 percent of new-home buyers said they are considering renovating or upgrading their master closet within 18 months. When considering where to make investments in your home, don't close the door on the closet! You can create the closet of your dreams with a few simple tips.

1. Add paint and update the lighting – Bring bedroom paint into the closet. This makes the space feel like a true extension of your bedroom, not a forgotten area behind closed doors. Great lighting is also important in a closet – it helps you to see everything clearly.

2. Utilize more space – Most master bedroom closets come standard with only a single shelf and rod. Since most closets have little need for so much long hanging space, professional organizer Lorie Marrero, author of "The Clutter Diet," suggests improving your closet with the addition of double hang space. A good rule of thumb is 84 inches for the top shelf and 42 inches for the lower shelf.

3. Consider accessories – If you plan to update your closet with a wire system, there are a multitude of accessories you may want to include, such as a tie and belt rack or shoe shelves. You may also consider installing a laminate or wood system with drawers, doors, decorative molding and more to transform your closet into a personal haven.

Investing in a functional closet organizing system can help you save time now by reducing the stress of finding items when you need them, and benefit you in the future by adding extra value to your home.

Source: ClosetMaid

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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