Mary Mastroeni
GoogleLinked InYoutubePinterest
 
Mary Mastroeni

Mary's Blog

Word of the Day

November 11, 2011 3:48 pm

Principal. The amount of money borrowed; the amount of money still owed.

Tags:

Tips to Help Secure Your Future Financial Health

November 9, 2011 6:46 pm

With so much uncertainty in the current economic climate, one thing’s for sure: protecting your financial health is a top priority. For some who may have lost their jobs—or may know someone who has—there’s a lot to consider.

From health insurance to your plans for retirement, read these tips from Family Wealth Management Group, LLC to help protect your assets and financial future.

—Evaluate your financial health. Review your income, expenses, assets and liabilities. Don't wait until your savings is depleted to alter your spending habits. Even if you have an emergency fund, pinching pennies now will help ensure that money is there when you need it.

—Review your health insurance options. If you have lost your job, some workers and their families (who might otherwise lose their health benefits) have the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

—Investigate unemployment benefits. Workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and meet other state eligibility requirements, may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits under the Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program.

—Plan for retirement. Review your pension plan, 401 (k), IRAs, Social Security benefits and other savings plans to assess whether they meet your long-term retirement goals and will generate an income stream to meet your projected expenses.

—Protect your assets. Review your life, disability and long-term care insurance coverage, especially if you are the primary breadwinner. Are they portable (i.e. can you continue the coverage at your present group rate), once you are no longer employed? Ask your financial advisor whether individual coverage is appropriate in lieu of the group coverage and/or to supplement the group coverage.

—Analyze your spending habits. How much do you spend on trips to the market, afternoon lattes, video rentals or dry cleaning? Try to eliminate a portion of these expenses. Home-brewed coffee can shave four dollars a day from your food budget and save up to $120 a month.

—Call your creditors before you fall behind. Don't let the default notices pile up before calling your lenders and credit card companies. These days, many companies are willing to defer or temporarily lower payments, while you look for employment.

—Re-define your financial goals. Redefine where you see yourself in five, 10 or 15 years. You may not be able to retire when you expected to, or pay outright for a four-year college, but instead of saying, "I can't afford it" set new goals and ask, "How can I afford it?"

—Meet with a licensed financial professional. Get professional advice about investment losses, financial products, insurance coverage and other important issues. Addressing your current situation and making choices based upon your new reality will help rebuild your self-confidence and your bottom line.

Tags:

8 Tips for Helping Kids Eat Better

November 9, 2011 6:46 pm

Many kids are naturally new-food phobic,” asserts registered dietitian Julie Burns, who is also the mother of 7-year old triplets. “But getting them to eat more of the right foods may not be as difficult as you think.”

For parents hoping to expand and improve their children’s eating habits, Burns shares eight of her tried-and-true tips:

Stick to a schedule – Kids need three meals, two snacks, and lots of fluids daily. If you will be out and about during the day, take along some whole grain crackers, baby carrots, pretzels and bottled water so you don’t have to rely on fast food.
Don’t be a short-order cook – Instead of cooking separate dishes you know your kids will eat, plan meals with a variety of wholesome foods kids can choose from. As family dinners become routine, kids will begin to follow your example and drift toward a more balanced diet.
• Have some fun – Calling broccoli spears “baby trees” or deviled eggs “dinosaur food” helps make foods seem more appealing. Kids who invent names for a variety of foods are more apt to try them. Also, smiley-faced pancakes or sandwiches cut into triangles are usually better—received, as are anything “mini-sized.”
• Dip it – Veggies may be more appealing dipped into ranch dressing or hummus. Try dipping apple slices into low-fat sour cream with a bit of brown sugar added.
Bite your tongue – Try not to comment on what or how much your kids eat. The more you exhort kids to “eat your veggies,” the more they will resist. Stay neutral, keep serving healthy choices, and watch their eating habits improve.
Count on breakfast – Whole grain cereals, with or without some sugar, appeal to young children. Try pancake batter made with whole grain flour, sneak in some fortified soy milk, or cut whole grain bread into cookie-cutter shapes for toast.
Get the kids in the kitchen – When they are old enough, kids can help prepare banana muffins, fruit salads, and other simple foods containing fruits and veggies. If they help make it, they are much more likely to eat it.
• Allow occasional treats – There is nothing wrong with allowing candy or soda once in a while, especially if you are on vacation, at the movies, or at Grandma’s house. Foods that are always strictly forbidden are more likely to be coveted by your kids.


Tags:

Break It Down: Interior Designer vs. Decorator

November 9, 2011 6:46 pm

Many people hear the terms “interior designer’ and “interior decorator” thrown around, but they may not understand the difference. According to Cliff Welles, an NCIDQ-certified, practicing interior designer for over 10 years, each job has its own distinct characteristics, with a layer of overlap in between.
“Designers tend to produce more drawn information and plans, whereas Decorators are more associated with personal presentations to clients on space planning, furnishings, palette, and finishes, often (but not always) in residential settings, sometimes including drawings,” writes Welles in the blog Decorating Den.

Welles offers the following explanation on the difference between interior design and interior decoration:
Interior design entails creative and technical solutions applied within a building to enhance the environment to suit the needs of the client. The clients here are often corporate committees or boards. The interior design process includes research, analysis, and integration of knowledge into the creative process. 

Depending upon state regulations, many professionals who usually work on residential projects that a ‘decorator’ is also qualified to do refer to themselves as ‘interior designer,’ partly because there can be interior re-construction, lighting changes, or specification of surface materials and trim elements in the planning process before the ‘decoration’ is applied. Decorators do the very same things in residences. 

Interior decoration typically involves residential space planning, color palette, floor and wall surfaces, window treatments, furniture, accessories, and lighting—particularly for residential applications—and also incorporates elements of functionality and utility, as well as aesthetics. Thus, residential designers and decorators often are involved with selling style and home furnishings rather than ideas and drawn plans for commercial spaces. The career focus is largely a matter of preference or interest, as is the nomenclature (unless regulated by the state). 

Source: http://yourdesigncareerishere.wordpress.com

Tags:

Tips for Traveling with Kids

November 9, 2011 6:46 pm

Flying with children in tow can seem daunting. Reduce the hassle and stress by following these tips from the travel experts at The GO Group, LLC.

• Avoid flying during prime time and instead choose flights in the middle of the week and middle of the morning. Never take the last flight of the day to avoid being stranded at the airport due to delays.
• Let young children know what to expect at the airport to avoid meltdowns. It even helps to "practice" standing in line and going through security at home.
• Consider booking a private van or shared ride airport shuttle service. Most will pick you and your family up at home in a vehicle with plenty of room for luggage, gifts and gear.
• Purchase snap-on wheels for infant car seats if your baby will be riding in one. These can be taken onto the plane but should be disassembled prior to check in. While the FAA has no standards for flying with children, several companies offer portable safety restraints, chairs and vests for infants and toddlers, including Kids Fly Safe and Baby B'Air.
• Use the security lane designated for families. Babies need to be removed from carriers and strollers which then need to be placed on the X-ray belt. Children must walk independently through scanners, but the TSA is not allowed to separate children from parents or guardians. Children under the age of 12 no longer must remove their shoes. Visit the TSA website for complete rules.
• Toys, portable DVD players or iPads are a must to keep antsy children entertained. Bring gum and candy to help young ears adjust to changing air pressure. Keep lots of wipes handy, too.

Preparation and advanced knowledge of available options are keys to minimizing anxiety and stress when traveling with children. Other travelers will appreciate your efficiency, too!

For more information, visit www.goairportshuttle.com.

Tags:

Word of the Day

November 9, 2011 6:46 pm

Point. Fee charged by a lender to get additional revenue over the interest rate. A point is equal to one percent of the loan amount.

Tags:

Question of the Day

November 9, 2011 6:46 pm

Q: Why do I need an agent if I can find a home by myself on the Internet?

A: While more buyers now use the Internet to gain access to listings, or available properties for sale, it is still a good idea to use an agent. The agent brings value to the entire process: he or she is available to analyze data, answer questions, share their professional expertise, and handle all the paperwork and legwork that is involved in the real estate transaction.

Tags:

How to Work Successfully with a Home Decorator

November 9, 2011 3:46 pm

Once considered a luxury, decorating services are more of a necessity for today's busy homeowners who simply can't afford to make costly mistakes, or run all around town trying to 'pull it together' from retail stores, or worse—the Internet. The experts at Decorating Den Interiors offer this pertinent advice to homeowners seeking professional guidance in their home decor. 

The best professional to decorate your home will most likely come from a combination of compatible personalities and tastes. Remember that you will be working together for several weeks, if not months. During your initial consultation, ask to review the (online?) portfolio of the designer or decorator to assure yourself that (s)he is capable of working in diverse styles, and that your personalities are fairly compatible. 

Working with a professional should be an enjoyable experience. Since interior decorating projects are highly personal and collaborative, the final results are always much more successful when the lines of communication are open and ideas are freely discussed. Be candid with your designer regarding such important elements as priorities, timing, budgets and tastes. If a style, color or home furnishings suggestion is one that you do not care for, feel free to say so early on, and provide a new direction for your team. 

To ensure that you get off to the right start and to also get the results you are looking for, keep in mind the following tips: 

Be a keen observer. Consciously make note of what catches your interest as you peruse decorating magazines and the internet for interesting rooms and makeovers. Start a file of colors, patterns and designs that appeal to you. You may notice a chandelier, mirror, color combination or window treatment that you like. Once you clip and track these for a brief period, you will be better able to draw a conclusion as to your personal style and convey that to your new decorating professional. It’s really all about communication, once you’ve decided with whom to work. 

Take an honest inventory of your existing décor to determine which pieces you want to keep. Assess your furnishings the way you periodically review your wardrobe. Plan to keep the pieces you truly love and put all others on the ‘to-be-replaced-eventually’ list. 

Based upon your initial consultation, your designer should present you with fabric samples, sketches and pictures for your evaluation. Since professionals have access to a world of options unavailable in retail stores, be reasonable about asking to see more and more of everything available. Remember that the first two or three designs you are shown will be, in the decorator's opinion, the best looks for your home and your taste. One of the most important services a professional provides is sparing you the confusion of the unlimited choices available. Trust your designer's advice and stay focused on the overall design goal. 

Give your decorator some latitude to decide for you the small details such as trims, pillows, accessories. Your project will move forward more smoothly if (s)he doesn't have to get your approval on every button and candle. 

Just remember that all change—even for the better—requires a period of adjustment. Most homeowners who have redecorated their home will be quick to tell you "I should have done it long ago!" 

For more information, visit http://www.HowToBecomeAnInteriorDesigner.com.


Tags:

Winter Woes: Burst Pipe the Most-Feared Home Emergency

November 9, 2011 3:46 pm

At this time of year, many take their car in for a pre-winter check to help it withstand the months of cold, damp weather. But how many people ever think to do the same for their most valuable asset—their home?
According to the AA Home Emergency Response experts, a burst pipe is the most common call-out during winter. 

The damage and distress it would cause makes a burst pipe the most feared emergency—either in the home or on the road—with more than three-quarters (76%) of 18,251 AA members in a recent AA/Populus poll rating it one of the worst imaginable scenarios. 

Internal checks on your home
As well as checking pipes for missing insulation to help prevent a burst pipe, there are a number of other quick and easy steps to prepare the home for winter. If you have a gas-fired boiler, get it serviced regularly to make sure it's up to the demands of a long winter; bleed radiators to improve their efficiency; check windows for any draughts and seal as necessary; and make sure you know where your water stop valve is—it's normally under the sink or stairs. 

External checks on your home
Just as you would walk round and check your tires, lights and wiper blades on your car, it will pay for homeowners to do a visual check from ground level of their roof for any missing or broken tiles and guttering for signs of overflowing; clear drain gratings and check walls for any cracks that could let water seep in.
If in any doubt, seek professional advice and assistance. 

Interior of the home
• Get your boiler serviced regularly by a qualified Gas Safe-registered engineer—if it's due its annual service soon, get it booked in before the weather gets really cold;
• If you regularly use an open fire or log-burning stove, get the chimney swept;
• Familiarize yourself with the location of your mains water stop valve (it's usually under the sink or stairs), in case you need to shut it off in the event of a burst pipe;
• If you know how to, bleed your radiators, as air pockets reduce their efficiency;
• Check pipes and water tank for missing insulation and arrange replacement if necessary;
• Check windows and doors for draughts—fit draught excluders or repair seals as necessary;
• When required, wipe condensation off windows to help prevent build-up of mould and damp—consider buying a de-humidifier if the problem is persistently bad;
• If your home is going to be empty for a while (for more than a few days) or if you have a second property, keep the thermostat set to low, to stop temperature dropping too low;
• Make sure you have adequate home insurance cover on your home;
• Keep a torch and spare batteries in a convenient place and have emergency contact numbers to hand, including home emergency response supplier or numbers for a local plumber, electrician and gas engineer.
 
Exterior of the home
• Walk round and do a visual check of the roof for any missing tiles or damage;
• Check guttering from ground level by looking for signs of water overflowing during heavy rain. Get someone in to rectify if you're not confident on a ladder;
• Check exterior walls for any damage that could let water in and inspect windows for cracked panes – arrange repair work as necessary;
• Make sure that brick air vents are clear from obstruction;
• Clear as necessary any drain gratings and pathways;
• Consider purchasing sand/salt and shovel to clear driveways and paths;
• Turn off and drain external water taps and store garden hoses in a frost-free place;
• Lubricate external locks and padlocks with WD-40; 

For more information, visit www.theaa.com.

Tags:

Get the Most out of Travel this Holiday

November 9, 2011 3:46 pm

Robert B. Diener, President and Co-Founder of Getaroom.com, shares extensive industry experience for travelers who want to get the best deal on hotel stays, flights, and car rentals:
• Consider all of the related fees to see the real cost of flights or hotel stays. Airlines fees for baggage or changing flights can vary substantially between carriers. Consider parking fees, resort fees, internet usage fees and other fees when comparing hotels. Be sure to evaluate all of the extra costs and fees when making your travel decisions.
• Some airlines such as Southwest don't charge baggage fees or fees for changing your travel plans. Many OTAs don't include Southwest, so be sure to visit their site at Southwest.com to compare fares if you don't see their fares on your favorite OTA site. Look for hotels that have freebies. Free breakfast, free internet usage, free gym use and more can add up to a lot of savings.
• Earn miles and avoid fees through an airline-branded credit card. Many airlines will waive baggage fees and offer perks for cardholders which can more than cover the cost of the card's annual fee.
• Procrastination does not pay when booking travel. The very best rates at Getaroom.com are for bookings done at least 21 days in advance of your travel date.
• Skip car rental insurance as it is very likely you are covered by your current auto policy or credit card. There is no need to pay an extra $15 to $25 per day on unneeded insurance. You can always do a five-minute call to your insurance agent or credit card firm to confirm.
• Top destinations such as Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. are substantially cheaper during the holidays.
• If shopping in New York, consider the third week in December when hotel rates are much lower than the first two weeks.
• Consider a trip to Las Vegas where first class hotel rooms on the Strip can be snagged from $39 a night. The best deals are for stays Sunday- Thursday.
• Love the points Be sure to rack them up by joining the airline, hotel and car rental company frequent user programs. They are free and often get you additional benefits.

For more information, visit www.Getaroom.com.

Tags: