Donna Maicher
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Retiring? Think Beyond the Beach

February 23, 2018 12:48 am

Starting to think about where your post-career phase of life might take you? Well if golf courses and beach communities are not what come to mind when you think about retirement, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

With about 4 million baby boomers retiring each year, it’s no surprise that the location options are expanding. While warm weather states such as Florida, Arizona, Texas and Georgia are still top choices, more and more of today’s retirees are opting for hardier climates - with states like Colorado, Pennsylvania and Maine making Forbes 2017 list of best places to retire.

Also growing in popularity are urban locations, with many choosing to stay in place or downsize to urban centers. Cities offer high walkability scores, boundless options for entertainment and culture, and quick access to transportation and quality healthcare.

If city life is your option for retirement, do your research and talk to local real estate professionals to rate any city you’re considering on the following factors suggested by the Milken Institute:

- Affordability
- Safety
- Convenience
- Aging-friendly housing options
- Access and safety of public transportation
- Community engagement
- Cultural offerings

Of course, pedestrian-friendly streets and a strong local economy are important as well. Remember, city life can be within your reach, no matter what your age.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Take Ladder Safety to New Heights

February 23, 2018 12:48 am

While a necessity for any homeowner, ladders can present a myriad of hazards when not used properly. In fact, according to a recent study from the American Ladder Institute (ALI), the two most cited causes of ladder accidents were missing the last step and overarching, followed closely by failure to use three points of contact and simply using the wrong type ladder for the job at hand.

The good news is these accidents and others can be easily prevented with some common-sense caution. ALI recommends doing the following to “step-up” ladder safety:

- Make sure you’re using the right type of ladder for the job. Choosing one that’s too tall or too short can set the stage for an accident.

- Make sure that the ladder is set up correctly. Make sure the ground underneath the ladder is firm and level.

- Be sure to carefully inspect the ladder you’re using for damage or wear and tear. Clean the climbing and gripping surfaces if they haven’t been used in a while.

- Likewise, make sure the soles of your shoes are clean to avoid slipping on the ladder.

- Don’t use ladders in bad weather - this just increases the odds of an accident.

- If you’re feeling under the weather or at all prone to dizziness or balance issues, leave the ladder duties to someone else, or hire a professional.

- Use towlines, a tool belt or an assistant to help pass materials so that your hands are free when climbing.

- While on the ladder, make sure you’re always maintaining three points of contact.

With these few simple, but critical, precautions, you can get a variety of DIY jobs done around the house safely.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Selling Your Home? Attack Issues Head-on

February 22, 2018 12:42 am

You’ve finally made the decision to put your home on the market - now comes the tough part: making sure it’s ready for prospective buyers.

According to Buddy Stark, director of operations for HomeTeam Inspection Service, there are several steps home sellers should take before beginning the selling process and having a home inspection. Here’s what he recommends:

Clean the house. This may seem like an obvious one, but you must keep your home at a heightened level of clean on an ongoing basis in anticipation of a showing. An ultra-clean home will convey that it's been well cared for and that the house is less susceptible to any issues caused by neglect.

Check all windows. Take a quick inventory of your windows to make sure they're in good working order. Replace windows that are cracked or broken before the inspection to save time during the selling process.

Finish the “honey-do” list. You might not think that certain areas of your home have anything to do with your home’s appeal, but they will come up as safety concerns on a home inspection report. Replace burnt-out lightbulbs, test smoke detectors, replace air filters and unclog drains. These little things are easy to forget in day-to-day life, but taking care of them is a relatively easy task that will help potential buyers focus on the important systems of the home.

Check all outlets. A sampling of electrical outlets will be tested as part of the home inspection to make sure they're in good working order. Take note of which outlets are not functioning in the home and replace them. Or consider hiring an electrician to make sure both outlets and the electrical box are updated and in proper working condition.

Clear areas for easy access. Home inspectors will be looking at the major parts of the home, including the foundation, HVAC systems, electrical systems, plumbing and even the water heater. Making sure home inspectors can easily access these areas, including the basement and attic, will save time during the inspection process.

Consider a pre-listing inspection. Having an inspection conducted before the selling process, will allow you to take care of issues that may arise later, clearing the way for a smooth - and speedy - sale.

Source: HomeTeam Inspection

Published with permission from RISMedia.


4 Bedroom Upgrades that Won't Break the Bank

February 22, 2018 12:42 am

(Family Features)--Upgrading your bedroom might sound like a daunting task. You may assume it costs an arm and a leg, takes months and requires professionals to complete. However, upgrading your bedroom doesn't have to mean breaking the bank, or your back. Investing in a few quality upgrades to some bedroom essentials can make your life less stressful and more cost- and energy-effective.

Whether you've moved to a new space, or just want a fresh look and feel, these are four unique, functional additions you can make to your bedroom.

Smart Lighting
Lighting makes the difference between a cozy, inviting escape and a cold, fluorescently lit room. You can upgrade your traditional bedroom with high-tech, smart lightbulbs, which can save you money in the long-run due to their energy efficiency. These lightbulbs are often dimmable, feature Wi-Fi capability and can be controlled from a central hub, like your phone, via manufacturer or third-party apps.

Adjustable Base
An adjustable base can help take your sleep to new heights. Today, adjustable bases come in a variety of designs and sizes, and are usually discrete and sturdy. If you suffer from neck pain or back pain, sleeping in a reclined position in an adjustable bed can help decrease the pressure on your spine by creating an angle between your thighs and trunk, according to Healthline. Bases are easily customizable, usually via remote, so you can find your favorite bed position, whether you're sleeping, reading or lounging.  

Blackout Curtains
The right curtains can help pull together the look of a room, change the perceived size, impact the lighting, reduce noise and even help with temperature control, especially if you have older windows. There are a variety of size and color options to choose from at different price points, so you can spend less time adjusting your thermostat and more time enjoying your sleep space.

Self-Adhesive Wallpaper
Self-adhesive wallpaper is one way to upgrade your entire bedroom. There are trendy, customizable options available that are easy to install. The right wall color can bring together the aesthetic of a room, and peel-and-stick wallpaper can provide it without the mess and fumes of traditional wall paint. Self-adhesive wallpaper can be applied to any flat surface, so you're not just limited to walls, and if you change your mind, it's removable and residue-free.

Remember, you don't have to rush and upgrade your entire bedroom all at one time. To ensure you're getting the best value, look for deals on specific items throughout the year and rely on retailers such as Mattress Firm that can help stretch your budget, offering you more for less.

Source: Mattress Firm

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Cookware Gets Healthy

February 20, 2018 12:36 am

Americans’ growing focus on fitness and nutrition has found its way into our kitchens - not just in terms of the food in the fridge, but the cookware on our counters and stoves as well. Consider some of these items to get your kitchen tools on point with your health goals:

Kombucha maker. At this year’s Atlanta Gift and Home Furnishings Market, Typhoon Homewares introduced a line of fermentation and kombucha-making sets under its Kilner brand. Known for its high levels of probiotics, antioxidants and vitamins, Kombucha is a fermented tea that has become increasingly popular among the health-conscious. This line now allows you to make it at home as opposed to paying the high prices often found in stores.

Rice cookers. From all varieties of pressure cookers - including the latest sensation, the InstaPot - to simple rice cookers, these handy counter-top gadgets allow you to quickly cook all varieties of rice and grains, including super nutritious quinoa and couscous.

Green and copper pans. The eco-friendly GreenPan or increasingly popular copper pans offer the benefit of non-stick surfaces, which means you can cook without fats, like oils and butters. To preserve these pans, use only wooden or plastic utensils. Metal will scratch and ruin the non-stick surface, essential to avoiding those unhealthy fats.

Herb and veggie preservers. Our best efforts at using more fresh herbs and vegetables often go to waste as these items go bad before we can finish them. There are several inexpensive gadgets that help preserve fresh herbs and veggies longer, however, such as Food Huggers that fit snuggly over those half cut fruits and vegetables.

Blenders, big and small. Whether you go all out with a Vitamix, or keep it simple with a NutriBullet, it’s easy these days to make a quick, nutrient-dense smoothie, soup or dip. There’s something to fit everyone’s kitchen and budget.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


7 Cost-Effective Ways to Reduce Heating Bills

February 20, 2018 12:36 am

(Family Features)--Many homeowners think big when trying to find effective solutions to skyrocketing heating bills, like replacing the furnace or installing new windows, but there are plenty of smaller projects that can make a difference when it comes to your energy savings this winter.

Consider these tips to keep your home cozy without your energy bill putting a damper on the season:

Take advantage of solar heat.
Installing solar panels is one sure way to capture the sun's energy, but there are other ways to harness that heat. Unobscured windows and skylights can let the rays in, and with them comes some heat. Leave curtains open during the day and trim foliage outdoors to provide a clear path for sunlight. Just be sure windows are well-sealed so you're not offsetting any heat gain with a cool draft.

Install or upgrade your heat pump.
Heat pumps work differently than traditional cooling and heating systems. They recycle heat found in the air and ground, moving thermal energy between indoors and outdoors instead of generating it from scratch by burning fossil fuels. When properly installed, an air-source heat pump can deliver one-and-one-half to three times more heat energy to a home than the electrical energy it consumes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

They can save electricity costs by 30-40 percent.
In particularly cold climates, technology is making it possible to reap energy-saving benefits. An option such as the Hyper-Heating Inverter(r) from Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating offers a significant advancement in heat pumps. This technology uses an intelligent compressor system to deliver heat even when outdoor temperatures are as low as -13 F, and a quick-start feature provides warm air instantly.

Move furniture away from vents.
Free air flow is an important component of efficient heating and obstructed vents interrupt that process. Not only can furniture be damaged from the continual air flow of a vent, it can block the circulation patterns that were intended when your home's ductwork was installed. For optimum efficiency, avoid placing furniture on top of vents, and if it's impossible to avoid, close those vents so the airflow is directed elsewhere.

Reverse your ceiling fans.
Your ceiling fans can play an important role in air circulation. Leaving them off will obviously make rooms warmer, but some circulation can be a good thing. Most fans offer a switch that lets you reverse the fan direction, which pushes air upward instead of down. This makes for less of a cooling effect while still moving air for better temperature distribution.

Install a programmable thermostat.
A degree or two may not feel like much of a difference, but it's a change you'll definitely see on your energy bill. Just a small adjustment in your standard thermostat setting can result in reductions of 5 or even 10 percent of your overall bill. Another potential big-impact strategy: adjust temperatures when you're away from home. A programmable thermostat will let you turn temps down when no one is there to benefit from the warmth, then bring them back up shortly before you're scheduled to return home. When you're away unexpectedly or need to adjust your typical schedule, an option like the kumo cloud(r) mobile app offered by Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating allows control of your home's cooling and heating system from your smartphone or other connected device.

Adjust your hot water heater.
Not only can keeping the air comfortable add up, so can heating water for basic household functions. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that water heating is the second largest energy expense in most homes. However, you may have your heater set higher than necessary. For every 10-degree drop, you can expect to reduce energy costs by 3-5 percent.

Insulate the attic.
A poorly sealed or insulated attic can be among a home's biggest energy drains. Warm air naturally rises, but rather than recirculating throughout the home, it may be wasted if it's just escaping out of the attic. Sealing cracks and adding insulation can help reduce this loss. Don't overlook the access door, which can allow warm air to escape if it fits poorly or isn't well-sealed.

Source: Mitsubishi

Published with permission from RISMedia.


3 Ways to Make Hard Conversations Easier

February 20, 2018 12:36 am

Whether it's a big talk with the boss, a deep process with your partner, or breaking some hard news to your folks, communication is hard when the stakes are raised. Below are three tips to help.

Work on body language. You know what your mouth is saying, but what about your body? It can be hard to move outside your mind and examine your body language. Are you closed or folded with arms and legs crossed? Is your body pointing away from your conversation partner? Pay mind to your body language before you begin speaking and monitor it as you go, too. This will help stop you from sending nonverbal messages that may not align with your words.

Know what you want. It may seem ridiculous, but so many of us enter important conversations without a clear outcome in mind. Whether you want something vague like to simply be heard, or a more pointed goal, such as securing a raise or dividing chores with your spouse, enter the conversation with a clear goal in mind. This will help mitigate unnecessary back and forth and keep you focused.

Create a calming ritual. If you're the type to get worked up before a big talk, create a calming ritual to have beforehand. Whether it's five minutes of meditation, a walk around the block with your pup, or a journaling session about what you hope to achieve from your talk, taking a moment to ground yourself can be helpful.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Ways to Springify Your Home

February 19, 2018 12:33 am

Winter got you down? Bring a little spring into your home long before the season arrives with these few simple tricks:

Set a flower budget. While it’s certainly not a necessary expense, adding an arrangement of fresh flowers to your home weekly might be well worth the mood-boosting value they bring. Opt for your local supermarket instead of the florist and stick with brightly colored mums, carnations and daisy to keep the investment low. Or up the springtime vide with a bouquet of pastel colored tulips

Force bulbs. If you can’t wait to see those first harbingers of spring pop up through the ground outdoors, plant some bulbs in a few pots around the house and watch them sprout and bloom long before the calendar turns to spring.

Trick your senses. There’s no law that says scented seasonal candles must be used in said season! Use the powerful sense of smell to make you feel like spring, even if the weather outside says otherwise. Try a lilac, hyacinth or rose scented candle, or take it a step further and light candles that smell like the beach or warm-weather fruits like peaches or watermelon.

Lighten your surroundings. There is also no decorating rule that says you must wait until spring to replace your heavy drapery with your airy sheers. Doing so will instantly brighten your mood by letting more natural light and sunshine in.

Start your veggies from scratch. Make a small investment in a few indoor potting supplies and start your tomato and other vegetables from seed this year. Choose a sunny window and watch them sprout. By the time the weather is ready for them outdoors, they’ll be strong enough to plant.By taking these few simple steps, you’ll be feeling like spring in no time!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Find Out the Truth About Tap Water

February 19, 2018 12:33 am

(Family Features)--While the tap water you drink may look clean, it may contain harmful contaminants like lead, pesticides and industrial pollutants. These and others may be picked up on the journey from your water treatment plant through miles of pipes to your home.

To help clear up any misconceptions about what's really in your water, the experts at PUR offer this myth-busting advice:

Myth: Living close to a fresh water source makes tap water safer to drink.

Truth: Even if you live close to a fresh water source, your water goes on a long journey through an often aging infrastructure before it reaches your tap. According to Environmental Health & Engineering, Inc., up to 10 million lead service lines are still in use in the country today, potentially allowing lead particles to enter into your water.

Myth: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates all contaminants.

Truth: There are about 100,000 potential contaminants in drinking water. According to the EPA, its Safe Drinking Water Act only regulates 103. That means water that meets the government's safe drinking standards may not meet yours.

Myth: All water filters are created equal.

Truth: While both pitcher and faucet filters remove unwanted contaminants, a faucet filter is usually a step up from a pitcher because it has a longer life and can remove even more contaminants, including lead.  As every brand is different, it's important to check the types of contaminants each filter removes and confirm it is certified by NSF and the Water Quality Association for contamination reduction. Doing so can help you get the healthiest, cleanest tasting water possible.

Myth: You can determine if tap water is safe to drink by how it looks, smells and tastes.

Truth: While your water might look, smell and taste clean, it could contain contaminants that are potentially harmful to your health, like lead, which is colorless, odorless and has no taste.

"Knowing what's in the water you drink and cook with is important, but determining the quality of your local water supply can seem daunting," says Keri Glassman, registered dietitian, nutritionist and PUR spokesperson. "Fortunately, there's a free online resource called KnowYourWater.com that allows users to type in any address to easily learn about lead and other possible contaminants in their water."

Myth: Boiling water removes lead.

Truth: Boiling water may reduce bacteria found in the water, but will not remove lead. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the lead concentration of water can actually increase slightly when water is boiled because some of the water evaporates during the boiling process.

Myth: Drinking filtered water is expensive.

Truth: Using a faucet filtration system for one year is comparable in cost to purchasing enough bottled water to last only two months. Some solutions,like the PUR Advanced Faucet Filtration System, work on-demand to filter water right from the tap and are certified to reduce over 70 contaminants, including 99 percent of lead, 96 percent of mercury and 92 percent of certain pesticides.

Get your individual water quality report and learn more at KnowYourWater.com.

Source: PUR

Published with permission from RISMedia.


5 Tips to Deal with Stock Market Volatility

February 19, 2018 12:33 am

A volatile stock market can be stressful for anyone who has invested a chunk of change.  Here, Aadil Zaman and Syed Nishat of the Wall Street Alliance Group, offer their top 5 tips for successfully navigating through market volatility:

Be mentally prepared for market declines. Market corrections are an essential part of a healthy market. At any point in time, an investor should be prepared for a 10 percent to 20 percent pullback. If the recent two-days fall made some investors feel restless and stressed, then it may be time to reassess their risk exposure to make it more conservative. On the other hand, corrections present an opportunity for those investors who are sitting on a large amount of cash to identify entry points in the market to put their money to work.

Factor in rising interest rates. Recent data has shown that the economy is improving with unemployment falling and GDP growth increasing, which will eventually lead to inflation pressures. One of the responsibilities of the Federal Reserve is to control inflation, and this is accomplished by raising interest rates. As the market adjusts to the realization of higher interest rates, it may fluctuate. Therefore, while designing an investment strategy, it is essential to take higher future interest rates into consideration.

Watch the municipal bond market. Volatility could cause a short-term fall in the municipal bond market, which may create an opportunity for investors who are in a higher tax bracket. Consider that a yield to maturity of 3.5 percent per year on a high grade insured municipal bond that is trading at par is equivalent to making a 5.83 percent per year after tax return for someone who is in the 40 percent tax bracket - and that too, with very low risk.

Stay away from leveraged ETFs. Leveraged ETFs are bad news for the individual investor. These are complexed products that are often misunderstood and could cause market volatility as well as distortions.

Identify your worst-case scenario. This is an important exercise for investors, so they can understand their pain threshold. At present, the likelihood of a market decline to the extent of what happened in 2008 is low, however, one should always ask, "What if 2008 happens again?" Understanding this worst-case scenario will help investors stay calmer and have an investment approach that is closely aligned with their individual level of risk tolerance.

With greater participation in the stock market through machine trading, ETFs and robo advisors, volatility is here to stay. For this reason, it is important for investors to take into account a high degree of market fluctuation in their portfolio design. As everyone’s situation is unique, be sure to discuss any decisions with your financial advisor.

Source: Wall Street Alliance Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.