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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Keeping Up with the Joneses—and All Your Friends on Facebook

September 16, 2016 1:39 am


The desire to “keep up with the Joneses”—that is, match a lifestyle—has spread to social media, with the circle of “Joneses” wider than ever, according to recent survey by Harris Poll and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The results of the survey reveal a pattern: most of us feel envious of our social media friends who share lavish experiences and purchases online, but we also share lavish experiences and purchases online.

“Social media has vastly expanded the number of ‘neighbors’ people are trying to keep up with,” says Gregory Anton, chair of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Some people are purposefully curating a more glamorous image on social media and, unfortunately, it can have a negative financial impact on their friends and followers who feel compelled to keep up with them.”

Notably, a significant portion of survey respondents admitted to being likely to choose an experience or purchase based on how their social media followers will respond to it—and some even shared an experience or purchase because it seemed “expensive” or “fancy.”

The pressure to “keep up” is felt strongest by younger social media users, the survey also found. Millennial respondents were more than twice as likely as baby boomer respondents to report feeling envious of their social media friends’ and followers’ experiences or purchases.

“People, in particular those just beginning their careers, would be better served spending their money maxing out their 401(k) and paying down debt, instead of trying to one-up their friends on social media,” Anton says. “While smart financial moves may not get the most likes or retweets, building a solid financial foundation should take priority over building a social media following.”

Source: American Institute of CPAs (AICPA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Climate Change Calls for Fortified Homes

September 16, 2016 1:39 am


With the likelihood of extreme weather events ever-growing, fortifying homes to withstand the elements has become crucial. One such fortification is window film, a once-commercial innovation that is now making its way into the residential market.

“Homeowners need to be aware of the risks posed by extreme weather,” Darrell Smith, executive director of the International Window Film Association (IWFA), says. “Professionally-installed window film provides an increased level of protection that can help to reduce damage to family members or their homes in the event of broken windows, no matter the cause of the breakage.”

Window film is a thin, permanent sheet of coating that binds shards of glass together, according to the IWFA. It protects primarily against the effects of high winds, which can produce projectiles that could shatter a home’s windows and endanger its occupants. It also comes with the added benefits of barring burglars and deflecting heat from the sun.

Window film does not reduce visibility to the outside of home, preserving views and security, and does not alter the appearance of windows themselves—it is available in many shades, from virtually clear to medium to dark.

Window film is subjected to third-party testing to confirm its performance, the IWFA states. It also adheres to safety guidelines and standards for burglary intrusion, human impact, fire safety and glass fragment protection.

For determine if window film is right for your home, learn more at IWFA.com.

Source: International Window Film Association (IWFA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top Colleges with the Highest and Lowest Off-Campus Rents

September 16, 2016 1:39 am


The cost for students to live off-campus is steep—especially at the nation’s best colleges.

That’s according to a recently released analysis by Zillow, in conjunction with the unveiling of the latest U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges ranking, that reveals 80 percent of the country’s top universities are in expensive rental markets. Students at Princeton, Stanford and UC Berkeley can expect to pay the most for off-campus housing, the analysis found:

Top Colleges with Highest Off-Campus Rents

Stanford University
Stanford/Palo Alto, Calif.
U.S. News Ranking: 5 (Tied with Columbia University)
Median Monthly Rent: $6,139

Princeton University
Princeton, N.J.
U.S. News Ranking: 1
Median Monthly Rent: $4,529

University of California – Berkeley
Berkeley, Calif.
U.S. News Ranking: 20 (Tied with Emory University, Georgetown University)
Median Monthly Rent: $3,534

California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, Calif.
U.S. News Ranking: 12 (Tied with Northwestern University)
Median Monthly Rent: $2,720

University of Southern California/University of California – Los Angeles
Los Angeles, Calif.
U.S. News Rankings: 23/24 (Tied with Carnegie Mellon University and University of Virginia)
Median Monthly Rent: $2,701

Top Colleges with Lowest Off-Campus Rents

University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame/South Bend, Ind.
U.S. News Ranking: 14 (Tied with Cornell University, Rice University and Vanderbilt University)
Median Monthly Rent: $723

Washington University – St. Louis
St. Louis, Mo.
U.S. News Ranking: 19
Median Monthly Rent: $881

University of Rochester
Rochester, N.Y.
U.S. News Ranking: 32 (Tied with College of William and Mary)
Median Monthly Rent: $945

Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, N.C.
U.S. News Ranking: 27 (Tied with University of Michigan – Ann Arbor)
Median Monthly Rent: $994

Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pa.
U.S. News Ranking: 24 (Tied with University of California – Los Angeles and University of Virginia)
Median Monthly Rent: $1,141 

“As students and their parents are filling out applications this fall and are crunching the numbers on financial aid and student loans, they should also factor in the cost of housing,” says Jeremy Wacksman, chief marketing officer at Zillow. “Looking at both on- and off-campus housing prices, and thinking through whether they’ll likely live with roommates or alone will help them gauge an accurate picture of the student loans and financial aid they will need in order to obtain their degree.”

Students seeking acceptance to either list of colleges should consider how rents may rise in the years they attend, and even beyond, should they enter the workforce near their alma mater, Wacksman adds. 

Source: Zillow
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Get Pressed into Buying Protection at Checkout

September 15, 2016 1:36 am


Appliance, electronic and tool retailers are often very well-trained in the art of up-selling protection plans that extend warranties and claim to provide bonus services to help protect your purchase. Howard Schwartz of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says when you're asked to pay extra for an extended service contract, ask yourself: Is the extra cost worth it?

The answer, according to the BBB, is not so simple.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises consumers to understand exactly what they'll get for their money if they buy extended coverage. The FTC says rather than extending a manufacturer's product warranty, most product protection plans are service contracts, which are not the same as the manufacturer's warranty, and they typically contain wide-ranging restrictions and exclusions.

Some consumers feel a service contract is worth the peace of mind once a manufacturer's warranty expires, the BBB states. Others don't see the point in paying extra money to buy a five year-long protection service for a moderately-priced item, such as a $65 printer.

Alternatives to service contracts include insurance policies for merchandise that is easily lost, stolen or broken, such as a smartphone. Some credit cards extend manufacturers' original warranties as a perk, according to the BBB.

Unfortunately, most cashiers do not have the information you need about the extended protection policies they sell. The BBB encourages you to take home a copy of the paperwork and understand the terms, conditions, exclusions and limitations of the extra coverage:

• Weigh the benefits. What is the expected average lifespan of the merchandise?

• How reliable is the type of product?

• Understand the terms and conditions. If you buy extra protection, make certain you know what is covered and what is not, such as labor, parts and service calls.

• Get details about customer service. How long do you have to wait for repairs? Do you have to pay for shipping? Is the repair service contracted out to a local service?

The BBB recommends researching retailers before you buy at BBB.org.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Ways to Declutter Your Kitchen

September 15, 2016 1:36 am


If you're always short of cabinet and counter space, it’s time to de-clutter the kitchen—but that’s a chore that seems to get relegated to "someday." The job may be easier if you know where to start, say consumer editors at Country Living magazine.

If you want to give yourself more kitchen space, begin by getting rid of the following:

Anything Free with Dinner – That goes for spare chopsticks, soy sauce packets, kid's meal toys, and other stuff that’s cluttering your kitchen drawers. You’re going to get more the next time you order, so there's no point in stockpiling.

One-Use Gadgets You Thought You Would Use – Garlic presses, apple corers, hot chocolate frothers…your cabinets may be full of specialty cooking gadgets that serve only one purpose. If it's taking up space and you use it less than four times a year, it's probably worth tossing—especially if there's an everyday object that can get the job done.

Plastic Grocery Bags – If you have more than 10 balled up in a cabinet or drawer, put the rest in your recycle bin or take them to the nearest store that recycles plastic bags.

Rarely Used Cookbooks – If they’ve sat on a shelf for more than a year without being used, it’s time to sell or otherwise dispose of them. Keep only family collections and one or your favorite specialty cookbooks.

Reusable Shopping Bags – Keep only two or three of those eco-friendly bags and get them out of the pantry. Store them in the trunk of your car for use when you do your shopping.

Tupperware Collection – Most of us have far too many, including those empty deli and margarine containers we’ve saved. Limit yourself to containers in two sizes, and no more than five or six of each, with lids.

Weirdly Sentimental Mugs – Too much shelf space is often given up to mugs we will never use—from vacation souvenirs to those with cutesy sayings. Harden your heart and get rid of most of them. You will never, ever miss them.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Making Your Home's 'Most Dangerous Room' a Little Safer

September 15, 2016 1:36 am


A handy interactive checklist and guide from the Home Instead Senior Care® network takes a comprehensive look at the most unsafe areas of the home for seniors. According to Home Instead, an overwhelming majority of ER doctors (100 percent in the U.S. and 99 percent in Canada), adult children (85 percent in the U.S. and 84 percent in Canada) and seniors (94 percent in the U.S. and 97 percent in Canada) agree that falls are the most common home accidents for older adults.

What can older adults who want to stay at home do? ER doctors in the U.S. and Canada are unanimous: an annual home check is key. Those physicians say injuries are most likely to happen in the:

Bathroom – 69 percent (56 percent in Canada)
Bedroom – 13 percent (14 percent in Canada)
Kitchen – 9 percent (12 percent in Canada)
Stairs – 5 percent

This means a room-by-room check can make all the difference in keeping seniors safe and independent at home. When it comes to the bathroom, the Home Instead checklist prompts these questions:

• Are grab bars available near the tub, shower and toilet?
• Is the floor slippery?
• Is there a lack of bath mats?
• Is the bathtub too high?
• Is the toilet the correct height?
• Is there the potential for bath water to be too hot?
• Are medications stored properly—not too high or too low for the senior to reach?
• Do mobility and joint problems make it difficult to reach into cabinets, comb hair or get into a bathtub?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, fixes may be in order to help make the most dangerous room in the house a lot safer.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Things Not to Buy at Warehouse Club Stores

September 14, 2016 1:33 am


Shopping at a warehouse club store is one way to save money on items such as food, wine and paper goods—but, say the consumer editors at Kiplinger’s, they're not the low price leader on many commonly purchased items. Avoid buying these items in particular, because they can generally be purchased at lower prices elsewhere:

Books and DVDs – Check before you buy. Deals on these items can often be purchased for 15 percent less online than at warehouse stores.

Canned Goods – Prices on these are hard to beat when they're on sale at the supermarket, where you'll pay on average 20 to 40 percent less than you would at warehouse stores.

Clothing and Shoes – Cheaply made clothing can be a costly mistake. Even when items at the warehouse stores have a designer label, they're often of lower quality, using cheaper fabrics and embellishments. Are they worth what you'll pay? It’s up to you.

Condiments and Cooking Oil – A huge jar of mayo or a three-pack of ketchup may be good buy if you use lots of it quickly, but the shelf life of condiments, once they're open (including oil), is relatively short, so you may be better off buying smaller quantities at grocery store sale prices.

Milk – Studies have shown you can usually buy a gallon of milk at the grocery store for 50 or 60 cents less a gallon than you'll pay at the warehouse club store. Surprisingly, some high-end stores have the best prices on organic or soy milks.

Name-Brand Cereals – Prices are generally pretty much the same at warehouse clubs and at grocery stores, but warehouse stores don’t have sales, so you'll find better prices when they go on sale at the supermarket.

Soda – According to Jeff Yeager, a frugal living expert and author of “The Cheapskate Next Store,” you'll always find better prices on soda when it’s on sale at the supermarket than you will at a warehouse club store. Check it for yourself!
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is Raking Wrecking Your Back? We've Got Tips to Prevent That!

September 14, 2016 1:33 am


The next few weekends will involve cleaning up around your property, including raking leaves—but that timeless fall activity can cause tremendous strain on the back.

That's where advice from spine specialist Dr. Kaixuan Liu, with Atlantic Spine Center of New Jersey, comes in. His tips to prevent raking-related back injuries:

Stretch – Just like you'd stretch your back, leg and shoulder muscles before a family football game—another popular fall activity—take time to do so before a leaf-raking session. Concentrate on your upper and lower back areas, arms, neck and legs. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds.

Avoid Twisting – Instead of planting your feet on the ground while raking and twisting in all directions with your back, move your feet into different surrounding areas. "Let your hips and feet do some of the work," Dr. Liu says.

Align Your Spine – Staying hunched over while raking strains lower back muscles, Dr. Liu notes. Instead, keep legs shoulder-width apart and bend knees slightly. Stand straight up often to rest the lower back.

Right-Size Your Rake – Tools are sold in varying sizes, and your rake should be properly sized for your height and strength.

Pick the Best Shoes for the Job – Don't just kick on the closest pair of shoes before heading out to rake, Dr. Liu advises. Wear shoes with skid-resistant soles to minimize the risk of slipping (especially if leaves are damp) or falling.

Bend at the Knees – Picking up leaf piles (or dragging a tarp full of them) requires a lot of strength. Be sure to bend your knees while disposing of leaves, rather than letting your back bear the brunt of the movement and weight, Dr. Liu says.

Take a Break – Treat raking like any other form of vigorous exercise and take a break every 15 to 30 minutes, Dr. Liu recommends. "This tip is especially important for those 'weekend warriors' who don't exercise regularly."

One last tip, Dr. Liu adds: when you're done raking and hauling leaves for the day, take a few moments to gently stretch muscles one more time.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is It Really Possible to Save Money When You're Moving?

September 14, 2016 1:33 am


After making the costly investment in a new home, the last thing you want to do is spend a penny more than necessary getting all your stuff into it. So, we sought out some expert advice on the subject to help ensure your move goes as economically as possible.

Ross Sapir, founder and CEO of Roadway Moving of New York City, says proper research and planning can ensure you're not breaking the bank on your next move. He offers the following five cost-saving tips.

Start by getting rid of a few things. Sapir says bringing fewer items to your new home could make the move a little less expensive.

You might think it's easier and more cost-efficient to have your family and friends help with your next move—wrong, Sapir says. Professional movers are fast, show up on time, bring a truck and tools, and are less likely to break any of your belongings.

When picking your movers, Sapir says make sure you do your research. Companies that offer white-glove service to their customers will not only guarantee the job will be done correctly, but they will help you with setting up your cable and utilities.

Sapir says some utility companies won't prorate your bill based off your departure date, so if your billing cycle doesn't line up with your moving date, think about cutting off one of your services so you're not paying for an extra month. It's probably not smart to cut off the electricity, but you could definitely do without cable for a couple of weeks.

Choose your date wisely, as well. Sapir says the majority of moves occur between May and September, making those five months the highest demand for moving services. Since most moving companies are fully booked during the summer, they won't be as inclined to offer you a good bargain. If you can plan your move during the off-season and book your date as early as possible, you'll have more potential cost saving options available.

You can also consult the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and its 'Protect Your Move' website (fmcsa.dot.gov) for more information.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Car-Buying: 5 Smart Tips

September 13, 2016 1:30 am


Considering buying a new car? Now may ideal—with new vehicles hitting the showroom floor, dealers are eager to unload outdated models. The smartest way to buy, according to the experts at non-profit GreenPath Financial Wellness, is to have a plan. Their tips:

1. Research – Many people buy cars based on what they look like or what they’re familiar with. Instead of buying the same type of car you've always driven, it may be wiser to list the features you’re looking for, and then do some research.  Know your credit history ahead of time, as well. Pull your credit report(s) from www.annualcreditreport.com to see if there are any red flags that might prevent you from getting an ideal interest rate.

2. Consider Financing – Once you know what you’re looking for, considering your buying options: leased, new or used. What financing options are realistic for you based on your income and credit? Don't borrow more money than you are comfortably able to repay.

3. Take Your Time – Start shopping around for dealer and selection incentives for your particular car choices. Do not rush—it's better to exercise patience when making your decision. Shop online as well as in person to compare prices for similar models.

4. Determine Payments – A lower monthly payment isn't always best—sometimes a dealer will simply increase the number of months on your loan in order to lower your monthly payment, but that often means you'll pay much more in interest over the life of the loan. Be careful about ending up in car loans that last six, seven or eight years—that's a long time to have a car payment (and a lot of interest to pay)!

5. Consider Other Costs – Your total transportation expense will include the vehicle payment, as well as everything else: insurance, gasoline, oil changes, ongoing maintenance, license plate fees, etc. Make sure you’ve added all potential costs into your budget.

Source: GreenPath Financial Wellness
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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