RE/MAX 440
Mary Mastroeni
mmastroeni@remax.net
Mary Mastroeni
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
PH: 610-277-2900
O: 215-643-3200
C: 610-213-4878
F: 267-354-6212 
Welcome Home from RE/MAX 440!

Mary's Blog

Students Manage Debt with Financial Planning

January 6, 2012 5:48 pm

In an increasingly competitive global market, education is becoming more important. But many families find the cost of education to be outside their grasp. According to a study commissioned by the US Department of Education, from the 2001-02 to the 2010-11 academic year, the cost of attending a 4-year undergraduate in-state school rose by 47.3 percent.

With ever-increasing education expenses, many families are accumulating significant debt, putting students further behind. However, with planning and financial management, students can control their finances. Here are some tips for parents of soon-to-be college students.

Start the conversation. Talk with other parents, teachers and guidance counselors about the cost of education. Make contact with the student financial aid offices of the colleges on your child's list and get an accurate estimate of the cost of each institute. Most importantly, talk with your child. It is imperative your child learns the budgeting process as they will soon be managing their finances away from home.

Set the budget and stick to it.
Once you have a set budget, add wiggle room for other unforeseeable expenses. Make sure you set this budget realistically. Calculating the cost of pens and pencils may seem ludicrous, but if you're on a tight budget, every expense counts.

Get connected.
Tracking your financial spending is easier than ever. From smart phone apps to free financial planning software, you can get an accurate financial report at any time. Research banks to determine which ones offer services to help you can stay on top of your budget. Also, consider linking your banking account with your child's, to easily transfer funds online.

Make a plan.
When taking on debt, it is important to have a plan for paying it off. Calculate the monthly payments and time it will take your child to pay off the debt. Research salary ranges for the field in which your child plans to pursue a career to understand the debt they can realistically carry. Find more information and calculators to help determine payment schedules and interest rates at www.direct.ed.gov.

Do your research. Before taking out a student loan, look to other options, such as financial aid and scholarships. While some scholarships are awarded on academic merit, others are given based upon both academic performance and community service. Foresters™, a life insurance provider committed to the well-being of families and their communities, is one organization that provides a competitive scholarship program1 open to eligible members or their dependent children, including grandchildren, worth up to $8,000.

Recipients can use the scholarship to attend accredited universities, colleges and vocational schools, as long as they are pursuing their first post-secondary degree or diploma. There are up to 350 Foresters Competitive Scholarships available, in the US and Canada including five Ken Peterson Awards for Community Service. These awards are worth up to $11,000.

Source: www.foresters.com.

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This Year, Drink to Your Health

January 6, 2012 5:48 pm

Fitness goals are a common trend in New Year’s resolutions. Between gym memberships, the latest diet fads and miracle-promising supplements, billions of dollars get spent each year on achieving fitness goals.

Many people don’t realize that one of the best things you can do for your body is not found at the gym, or in a pill. Believe it or not, being properly hydrated is one of the healthiest things you can do. That means being in balance—the water your body loses from perspiration, breathing and other body processes is replaced by the water you consume.

Based on clinical trials on adults, published in the journal Nutrition Reviews in 2005, scientists have identified that dehydration has an impact on physical and mental performance. Even mild dehydration—a loss of 1 to 2 percent of body weight—can impact your mental and physical performance. In addition to being thirsty, mild dehydration can cause headaches, decrease your alertness, concentration and memory, and reduce your endurance.

So making sure you stay healthfully hydrated is an important part of taking good care of your body. And water is the key.

Easy Ways to Stay Hydrated
Good hydration is at the heart of a healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips for getting water into your daily routine:

1. Choose water instead of caloric, sweetened beverages, especially during mealtime.
2. For an easy and inexpensive thirst-quencher, carry bottled water throughout the day.
3. Give your water variety by adding slices of lemon, lime, cucumber or watermelon.
4. Choose flavored sparkling water as another zero- calorie option.
5. Drink a cup of water before and after workouts, and more if it's hot or your workout is long and strenuous. Sip water throughout the workout for steady rehydration.

Drink in the Facts
• 38 out of 50 states have obesity rates higher than 25 percent. According to "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2011," a report funded by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, twenty years ago no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent.
• The average person gets more than 20 percent of their total caloric intake each day from beverages. Research suggests this number should be closer to 10 percent. To achieve that goal, pay attention to the calories per serving in all your beverages.
• We drink about 450 calories a day. In 1965 we consumed only 225 calories from beverages.
• A 2010 study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that soda, energy and sports drinks—including sweetened water products—are the number 4 source of calories for Americans, providing an average of 114 calories/day.
• Unlike soft drinks and sweetened juices, water has no calories. In fact, making a simple switch such as replacing one 140-calorie sugared beverage a day with water can reduce 50,000 calories from your diet each year, as reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Source: www.nestle-waters.com.

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2012: The Year of Home Rehab

January 5, 2012 5:48 pm

As 2011 turns a new leaf and a new year, I am looking back on some of the best, or most tried and true consumer advice dispensed during the past year; while looking forward to some of the top trends and issues expected to top consumers' agendas in 2012.

Whether trading down into a fixer-upper, or venturing into one's first adventure in home ownership, 2012 may very well be 'the year of the rehab.' As property owners—whether commercial, residential or multi-family—seek to conserve and improve their property values, they will be contracting, hammering, decorating and upgrading like there's no tomorrow.

In a recent piece, Taylor Johnson (taylorjohnson.com) talked to several Chicagoland experts on the subject.

Johnson says Rick Croce of Smykal Renovations told him whether buying or renting, people will have little interest in homes that are not renovated. That means if you’re a seller, you need to make the investment in not only replacing things like a roof and windows, but also giving the home a facelift to make it more modern.

He said people are looking for open floor plans, well-designed kitchens and attractive baths, so it is worth considering making such renovations to your home before putting it on the market—even if you don’t plan to sell for a few years.

The same holds true for the rental market, according to Jim McClelland of MACK Companies, which manages more than 500 single-family rentals in the Chicago area. McClelland told Johnson that while rental demand is high right now for single-family homes, quality still counts.

He says people aren’t interested in old, outdated homes. It’s important that smart renovations are made before trying to rent a property in order to find a good tenant and top dollar for your rental income.

McClelland said on average, MACK invests $50,000 into each of its redeveloped properties to bring them up to new-construction standards.

And Anthony Rossi, Sr., president of RMK Management Corp., told Johnson his company is continually renovating and improving its 26 properties—and the company has scheduled several large renovation projects at various communities in the works for 2012.

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7 Ways to Beat Winter Blues

January 5, 2012 5:48 pm

The holidays are over. Darkness comes early, and inclement weather may be keeping you indoors. That’s a good recipe for the wintertime blues, notes marriage and family counselor Emily Adams. But unless you are suffering from real depression—for which you may need to seek professional help—there are many effective ways for beating the symptoms of more commonplace winter doldrums.

Adams suggests seven activities to help you blast through the winter blues:

• Exercise – if you can’t get to the gym, exercise at home for at least 30 minutes a day. Do bending and stretching exercises. Use a jump rope. Get on the treadmill or stair stepper if you have one. Physical activity is the surest way to pump you up mentally and emotionally.
• Take a break – A week in the Caribbean may do wonders. But so can a weekend in the country—or even a “mental health” sick day from the office, spent at the movies or another pursuit you enjoy.
• Take care of yourself – A hot meal—even a steaming bowl of canned soup—can be a treat after a long day. Eat properly. Get enough rest. Pamper yourself with a professional massage.
• Let the sunshine in – Try not to mope. Open the blinds and enjoy the sunlight at every opportunity.
• Do some chores – Set yourself goals. Scrub down the kitchen. Do some ironing. Clean out that overstuffed closet. Making a list of chores and crossing them off can do wonders to elevate your mood.
• Do volunteer work – Check in to see how you can help at a local church, senior center or food pantry. Check out online volunteer opportunities. Doing something to help others can make you feel better about life.
• Connect with positive people – Who’s the most cockeyed optimist you know? That’s who you want to connect with. Get together for lunch, or a chat over coffee. Stay in touch and stay connected, and the good mood may wash over you.

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How-To: Avoid Injury Clearing Snow

January 5, 2012 5:48 pm

While snow can be beautiful and provide endless thrills for both children and adults, fallen snow must be cleared regularly to ensure safety both on and off the road. However, if done improperly, shoveling or snow blower use can cause serious injury to the back, shoulders, hands or feet.

In 2010, more than 148,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices, clinics and other medical settings for injuries sustained while shoveling or otherwise removing ice and snow manually, according to the U.S Consumer Products Safety Commission. In that same year, more than 21,500 were injured using snow blowers.

"Shoveling snow involves a lot of bending, heavy lifting and repetitive motion," says Roxanne Wallace, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). "For older Americans, and individuals who do not regularly exercise, shoveling can cause pain and injury to the back, and shoulder and arm muscles, and increase the risk for a heart attack."
For individuals who feel they are physically healthy enough to shovel, Dr. Wallace suggests taking frequent rest breaks, and drinking plenty of water and fluids. If you feel pain, stop shoveling, and find a friend, family member or professional to resume the task.

Using a snow blower is not as physically taxing as shoveling; however, the rapid, powerful blades of a running snow blower have the potential to severely injure hands or feet.

"Hands or feet should be kept away from the undersurface of a running snow blower at all times," adds Dr. Wallace. "And do not ever use your hands to address a jammed snow blower. Even if the machine is powered off, the blades may rotate forcefully after the jam is cleared, potentially causing injury. Children should never be allowed to operate or touch a snow blower. Snow blowers should not be used when children are nearby."

The AAOS has recommendations to help you stay safe while clearing snow:
• Check with your doctor. Because this activity places high stress on the heart, speak with your physician first. If you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, consider hiring someone to remove the snow.
• Dress appropriately. Light, layered, water-repellent clothing provides both ventilation and insulation. It is also important to wear the appropriate hat, as well as mittens or gloves and thick, warm socks. Take a break if you feel yourself getting too hot or too cold.
• See what you are shoveling/snow blowing. Make sure that your hat or scarf does not block your vision. Expect icy patches and uneven surfaces. Avoid falls by wearing shoes or boots that have slip-resistant soles.
• Clear snow early and often. Begin when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid trying to clear packed, heavy snow. If the snow is wet, lift smaller, lighter amounts with each shovel load.

Shoveling:
• Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, seek emergency care, such as by calling 9-1-1.
• Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you. Consider buying a shovel that is specially designed to prevent too much stooping. Space your hands on the tool grip to increase your leverage.
• Push the snow instead of lifting it, as much as you can. If you must lift, take small amounts of snow, and lift it with your legs: Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift by straightening your legs, without bending at the waist. Then walk to where you want to dump the snow; holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine.
• Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.

Snow blowing:
• Never stick your hands or feet in the snow blower! If snow becomes impacted, stop the engine and wait at least five seconds. Use a solid object to clear wet snow or debris from the chute. Beware of the recoil of the motor and blades after the machine has been turned off.
• Do not leave the snow blower unattended when it is running. Shut off the engine if you must walk away from the machine.
• Watch the snow blower cord. If you are operating an electric snow blower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times, so you do not trip and fall.
• Add fuel before starting the snow blower. Never add fuel when the engine is running or hot. Do not operate the machine in an enclosed area.
• Read the instruction manual. Prior to using a snow blower, read the instruction manual for specific safety hazards, unfamiliar features, and whenever attempting to repair or maintain the snow blower.

Source: www.orthoinfo.org

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Tips for Saving on Health Insurance

January 5, 2012 5:48 pm

Health insurance is important, as you never know what life may throw at your, and shouldn’t take your well-being—or the well-being of those you love—for granted. However, health insurance plans can vary, and pricing can be steep. The following tips, offered by Health Insurance Outlet, let you in on 6 ways to save on individual health insurance.

1) Compare plans
Based on your affordability, see what plans make sense for your health history. If you are a healthier person, maybe a higher deductible plan will be the right route for you.

2) Choose an insurance plan with a smaller network
This will instantly save you money because carriers will always charge you a premium if the network is large.

3) Increase your deductible
The deductible is the money you have to pay out of your own pocket first before the insurance carrier will start paying benefits.

4) Consider your health history and how old you are
For instance, if you do not have a history of taking prescription drugs, then pick a plan with lower drug benefits and that will lower your California health insurance premium.

5) Ask your employer if they offer health insurance
For the most part, group insurance through your employer will have lower monthly premiums. This is also because employers are required to contribute towards your health coverage and that will always save you money.

6) Consider HSAs to maximize your tax benefits
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are great ways to spend your tax dollars wisely. These health insurance plans are meant for people who have recurring or predictable health care needs.

Source: www.healthinsuranceoutlet.com

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Word of the Day

January 5, 2012 5:48 pm

Subletting. The leasing of premises by a lessee to a third party for part of the lessee’s remaining term.

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Question of the Day

January 5, 2012 5:48 pm

Q: What contingencies should appear in the offer?

A: When you look to purchase a home, anticipate potential problems. But protect against them so that if something does go wrong, you can cancel the contract without penalty. This is what contingencies allow you to do. They should be included in any offer you present to buy a home.

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Hot Trends: Wall-Mounted Home Heating

January 4, 2012 5:46 pm

As cold creeps in across the nation, everyone is looking for the most efficient and effective way to keep warm. With that in mind, I went looking to see what the latest trends are firing up the home heating marketplace.

Enter Mark J McCourt, founder and president of eheat, Inc. (eheat.us) of Houston, Texas, an online distributor of wall-mounted electric panel heaters and associated accessories. One of the company's latest developments is the "envi"— an electric, wall-mounted, fanless, 100 percent pure convection panel space heater that McCourt says is more efficient, from a convection basis, than many of his competitors.

McCourt says unlike a central heating system and portable fan heaters using forced convection heat, envi wall-mounted heaters create a natural circulation of warm air within a room. And they are mounted flush to the wall with an air gap built into the heater.

Cold air is then drawn (inducted) into the air gap inside the heater where it flows through dual heating stacks, causing rapid heating of air as it rises out. It is this unique "stack convection" technology that allows the envi to be more efficient, effective and safer than radiator, fan, ceramic, gas, oil filled, baseboard and other types of heaters.

The newest line of envis are 100 percent pure convection heaters with 50 Watts more power than older models, enabling it to heat a larger area more quickly. And the envi features a built in temperature sensing thermostat and a sleep-friendly auto-dimmer function for the on/off power light.

The envi heater has no exposed elements and operates at a safe surface temperature of approximately 90°F. Plus, envi wall-mounted heaters eliminate the usual problems connected with allergy sufferers and dust disturbances because they do not use a fan.

Additionally, the low wattage of the heater, and its low-temperature heating core, won’t allow the air to dry out. Even sufferers of Dry-Eye-Pain syndrome can experience relief during the heating season by the reduction of dried out air, and airborne particles normally blown about by other heating systems.

eHeat's 475 watt envi heater has been specifically designed to heat an average room measuring 130 - 150 square feet in floor area, to between 68 and 72 degrees, even in the coldest parts of the country. If you thought your home was warm and welcoming now, with the addition of eHeat teachnology, you could be the "envi" of your neighborhood.

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Do-It-Yourself Home Projects Save Time and Money

January 4, 2012 5:46 pm

This year, everyone is looking to save on their household budget. But just because you're scaling back, doesn't mean you can't make some improvements around the house.

Use these DIY home improvement and cleanup tips from the experts at Grime Boss to help revamp your home, without spending a fortune:

Repaint the walls
One great way to update your home without having to replace carpeting or furniture is to refresh walls with a fresh coat of paint. Determine the amount of paint needed by using an online calculator.

To save even more, simply update the paint on doors, cabinets and crown molding, rather than the walls. Likewise, you can paint an accent wall along a hallway, or within your kitchen or living room, rather than the entire space.

Replace hardware
If you'd love to renovate, but it's simply not in the budget for this year; make small updates now that you can incorporate into later construction projects. One small trick is to replace the hardware in highly trafficked areas, such as the kitchen or the bathroom. Replace cabinet handles or knobs and drawer pulls. While replacing hardware, make sure to give your door hinges and drawer tracks a good oiling to prevent squeaking.

Give your car a tune-up

When it comes to saving, learning how to maintain your vehicle can go a long way in terms of managing your household budget. Remember, you should change the oil in your car every 3,000 miles or 3 months.

Install shelving in the garage
Who couldn't use extra storage space? For many, additional storage may mean looking beyond the house to the garage. Find a variety of storage solutions that fit within your budget—from finishing rod racks to cabinets and overhead ceiling-mounted shelving—at a variety of retail stores.

Source: www.grimeboss.com.

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