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Mary Mastroeni

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Word of the Day

October 6, 2011 5:03 pm

Lessor. Someone who rents to another party through a lease; the landlord.

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Question of the Day

October 6, 2011 5:03 pm

Q: How do you clear up bad credit?

A:
It is not easy but certainly doable with both commitment and time.

By law, any unfavorable information in your credit file can stay there from 7 to 10 years. Today, however, a creditor must remove credit blemishes in a timely fashion if you challenge them and they turn out to be false.

The first step in any recovery plan is to get copies of your credit records. You are entitled to free copies if you have recently been turned down for credit. Otherwise, request copies for a fee from the three major credit-reporting agencies: Experian, (800) 311-4769; Equifax, (800) 685-1111; and Trans Union, (800) 916-8800.

If you see any incorrect information, let the credit reporting agencies know. Also contact the companies that reported the negative claims against you.

If the credit report is correct, move immediately to take care of any outstanding delinquencies, tackling a little at a time until you get back on the right track. In fact, make an effort, if at all possible, to repay your debt in full and on time for six months to a year to prove you are working hard to repair any damage.


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Insurance: What Can You Do Without?

October 5, 2011 5:03 pm

12 Types You May Want to Reconsider

When it comes to life insurance, and even car insurance, you may be best off erring on the side of carrying too much. But insurance companies thrive on our natural urge to protect all the things around us—so much so, that many people find themselves paying for policies they likely will never need.

That’s the observation of consumer advisor Lisa Smith, who suggests the average consumer pays for too much insurance protection. She recommends 12 types of insurance policies we probably should not buy.

• Extended warranties – Most appliance stores offer extended warranties on new appliances, TVs, and more. But for most reputable, brand-name products, extended warranties are statistically just not necessary.
• Car rental damage insurance – Most auto policies protect you against damage costs no matter what car you are driving. If yours does, don’t let a rental salesman talk you into an added policy.
• Flight insurance – Air accidents are very rare—and your life insurance policy very likely offers all the protection you need.
• Mortgage life insurance – Designed solely to pay off your mortgage in the event of your death. Carry enough life insurance to pay off your mortgage and other obligations as well.
• Accidental death – Again, carrying enough life insurance offers protection whether death is accidental or not.
• Credit card insurance – These policies pay off your credit card in the event you are unable to work. Nice, but a better idea is not to carry a balance and save the cost of the insurance.
• Unemployment insurance – pays minimal monthly payments on your bills if you are unable to work. Think about saving the premiums and building up a healthy emergency fund.
• Credit card loss insurance - Federal law limits your liability if your credit card is stolen. Your out-of-pocket costs are limited to $50 per card and not a penny more. In fact, many credit card companies don't even try to collect the $50.
• Disease insurance – There are policies that specifically cover cancer, heart disease and other illnesses. If you have good medical coverage, you will be protected no matter what malady occurs.
• Flood insurance – unless you live in a flood plain, where it is required, don’t buy it. If the community you are buying in has never flooded, it is unlikely to do so now.

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How to Keep Warmth in and Pests out

October 5, 2011 5:03 pm

When the temperature drops, people aren't the only ones looking for ways to stay warm. Pests seek warmth indoors, too. 

Protect your home from unwanted visitors this winter with these simple home preparedness tips from Terminix, a provider of pest control services. 

Seal pests out and warmth in.
• Place weather stripping on the bottom of all exterior doors to ensure they seal tightly. Doors that do not have a tight seal can allow a variety of pests to enter the home and can allow warm air to escape.
• Use caulk to seal any holes or cracks in your home's exterior. Large holes should be stuffed with steel wool or wire before sealing with caulk or other materials.
• Eliminate cracks or openings around pipes and utility lines that enter the home. These are potential problem areas that can allow pests in and heated air out.
• Close the flue damper when the fireplace isn't in use. An open damper can allow a large amount of air out and can be an entry point for a variety of insects, rodents and wildlife.
• Ensure attic and foundation vents are equipped with tight-fitting 1/4-inch hardware cloth. This will help keep rodents at bay. Also install insect screening over windows, utility vents and other areas where small pests may slip through. 

Check the exterior.
• Move piles of firewood and other debris away from the home's foundation. Both provide ample sources of shelter for rodents and other pests such as termites, and could encourage them to live near the home.
• Trim tree branches and shrubs away from the home. Rodents and other insects can scale rough surfaces like trees or large shrubs in order to access your home's roof or other entry points in the home's exterior.
• Protect your investment. Just because it's cooler, termites don't slow down their destructive behavior. Termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year, and most homeowners' insurance does not cover the damage.
• It's essential to have an annual professional home inspection for termites from a reputable pest and termite control company. Prompt treatment and regular inspections can save thousands of dollars in damage repair. "Homeowners can ease their minds and protect their investment this winter by scheduling a proactive termite inspection and doing a few simple tasks to keep pests away," says Paul Curtis, Terminix entomologist. "The best tool to fight pests is prevention." 

Additional tips for termite prevention:
• Repair roof or plumbing leaks. The moisture from these allows termites to survive above ground.
• Ensure gutters drain properly and direct moisture away from your foundation.
• Keep mulch or soil away from your home's siding. It's best to have a barrier of a few inches.
• Remove items like scrap lumber, boxes and even old books or newspapers from crawl spaces.
• Maintain adequate ventilation in crawl spaces. 

For more helpful tips, visit www.terminix.com.

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Baby Boomers Poised to Benefit Most from Medicare

October 5, 2011 5:03 pm

Younger seniors and baby boomers are more engaged in their Medicare coverage and more willing to make changes to ensure it meets their needs, according to a national survey of seniors enrolled in Medicare. The Allsup Medicare Advisor Seniors Survey, commissioned by Allsup and conducted by Richard Day Research (RDR), indicates age is a primary driver of attitudes toward current Medicare coverage, future intentions of changing plans and active use of free preventive care services. Allsup is a nationwide provider of Medicare plan selection and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) representation services. 

"People who've recently enrolled in Medicare are more critical and informed about their Medicare coverage," says Paul Gada, personal financial planning director for Allsup. He directs Allsup Medicare Advisor®, an impartial nationwide Medicare plan selection service. "They are more likely to change if they're not happy with their coverage and more likely to take advantage of free healthcare services available to them." 

In fact, the Allsup Medicare Advisor Seniors Survey of 900 individuals shows important differences among younger seniors (ages 65-69) and older seniors, including that younger seniors are:
Less satisfied with coverage. Only 58 percent of those under 70 years of age were very satisfied with their Medicare coverage compared to 72 percent of those 80 years of age or older.
More willing to change coverage. Most seniors don't plan to change Medicare plans during the next year. However, 48 percent of those under age 70 are not ruling out a change, compared to 38 percent who are age 80 and older.
More frequently changing coverage. In just the few years that those under 70 years of age have been eligible for Medicare, 18 percent have already changed plans.
Nearly twice as likely to review their plan. Forty percent of seniors under age 70 have reviewed their current Medicare plan in the past 12 months, compared to just 22 percent of those 80 years of age or older. More likely to take advantage of preventive services under Medicare. Forty percent of seniors under age 70 already have used at least one of the preventive services now offered under Medicare at no additional cost. Additionally, 63 percent of those under 70 who have not used a preventive service said they plan to do so in the next year. In comparison, only 34 percent of those 80 or older have used a free preventive service, and only 44 percent of those who have not done so said they plan to in the next year. Examples of these preventive services include annual wellness exams, cardiovascular screenings, flu shots, medical nutritional therapy and glaucoma tests. 

"Whether it's a generational issue— with baby boomers being more persistent— or it's simply that people become less engaged and more tolerant of the status quo over time, younger seniors do appear to be poised to benefit more, so long as they continue to remain involved with their Medicare coverage," Gada says. 

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

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5 Tricks for Saving on Halloween Treats

October 5, 2011 5:03 pm

The US Census estimates that 40 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 will go treat-or-treating this year. Planning parties, purchasing costumes and decorating the house in preparation for all the little ghosts and goblins can be scary. To help, DealTaker.com has a Halloween page filled with coupons, deals, and tips to save when planning your Halloween fun:

• Dress-up for less - Look for special offers online for costumes. Many online costume retailers like Costume Express and Buy Costumes have clearance sales for certain costumes or offer promotional codes for extra savings on the most popular costumes.
• Skip the candy - Consider less expensive alternatives to candy. Trinkets like Silly Bandz, pencils/erasers or bubbles not only cost less, but can be fun options to traditional sugary treats.
• Safety first - Reflective safety stickers are fun and less expensive than glow sticks or flashlights. Check retailers like Smile Makers or 4imprint for special Halloween designs.
• Haunt the house - Buying spooky Halloween decorations can add up; instead consider buying after-Halloween sale items or making your own homemade items. Find creative ideas at Spirit Halloween and Fright Catalog.
• Party time - To save when hosting a Halloween party, try co-hosting the event with friends, making treats instead of buying, and purchasing small party items in bulk at a dollar stores like Dollar Tree. Plus, websites like Kaboose and Family Fun offer a variety of free party ideas.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers are expected to spend an average of $72.31 on Halloween costumes, decorations and candy this year.

For more information, visit www.dealtaker.com.

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Word of the Day

October 5, 2011 5:03 pm

Lessee. Someone who rents under a lease; the tenant.

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Question of the Day

October 5, 2011 5:03 pm

Q: What are the disadvantages of buying foreclosures?

A: Buying directly at a legal foreclosure sale is risky. Among the disadvantages:
• There is no financing. You need cash and lots of it.
• The title needs to be checked before the purchase. If not, you risk assuming a seriously deficient title.
• It may not be possible to inspect the property’s interior before the sale. So you have no idea of the property’s condition.
• Foreclosures are routinely purchased “as is,” which means you cannot go back to the seller for repairs.
• Also, estate and foreclosure sales are the only property sales that are exempt from some state disclosure laws. In both instances, the law protects the seller —usually the heir or financial institution—who has recently acquired the property through adverse circumstances and may have little or no direct information about it.

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Decorating With Texas Designer Marcus Mohon

October 4, 2011 8:03 pm

I was awestruck by images of the finished product when Ballard Designs teamed up with Southern Living to outfit several stunning spaces in their new 2011 Idea House at Escondido in Horseshoe Bay, Texas.

According to the folks at Ballard, the Mediterranean-inspired villa, with walls of warm, rough-hewn Texas sandstone and weathered wood, embraces its natural surroundings with indoor and outdoor rooms that flow from one to the other in an effortless blending of open living spaces.

Texas designer Marcus Mohon, the decorating force behind all of the home’s interior and exterior spaces. said he used natural textures in both the finishes and in the decorating.

Mohon used a pair of Brockton benches in the dining room, and a little metal hexagonal occasional Padova table next to them. He said the upholstered benches soften the dining room and make it feel more livable, and make great seating for a party. He also draped the bench with Suzanne Kasler linen which provided a perfect natural texture for the setting.

For building, he went with plaster and stone rather than sheetrock and wood floors because the materials endure. And for fabrics, Mohon sought natural fibers like linens and cotton velvets—classic, timeless materials that are beautiful in any setting.

Mohon chose Ballard daybeds because they could function as beds and sofas, turning any room into a flexible space where it could be a living/lounge area or a bedroom. And outdoors, he employed natural rattan—a great texture and scale for the space that he said added a youthful, modern feeling.

The designer also offered these two tips anyone can consider when considering ideas for their own home:

• Don’t get hung up on is whether something you do is right or wrong according to someone else’s external rules

• Don’t waste time asking yourself what other people are doing right now. The basic questions to start with are: “Do you love it?” and “Do you think it works with everything else?”

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Is Your Plumbing Prepared for Winter?

October 4, 2011 8:03 pm

Preparing your home's plumbing for the winter is vital to minimizing the risk of potentially expensive repairs. Burst pipes, faulty boilers and radiators all need an inspection to ensure they're in good working condition. Being prepared is better than being taken by surprise, so spend the time to ensure your home is completely "winterized," that way you will also lower the likelihood of you having to call the plumbers in. 

Your radiators are a key component, not only in your home's heating system, but also to your comfort during the cold winter. Bleeding your radiators is a good way to restore their performance and efficiency. There is an easy way to determine whether your radiators need bleeding; check if they're hot at the top, but cold at the bottom. A simple home remedy is to get your radiator key and a cloth, and locate the square shaped bleed valve which is usually located near the top of the radiator. Turn off the heating, and gently turn the radiator key, while holding the cloth underneath to catch any dripping water, and let the air escape until water starts flowing. Tighten the valve again and move on to the next unit. 

Boilers can have a serious impact on your home's energy efficiency, so the first step is to ensure you have a modern boiler. Older boilers tend to use a lot more energy that their modern counterparts and it is recommended that if you boiler is older than 15 years you should look at replacing it. If you have a modern boiler, you should have it properly serviced before the winter. 

Pipes, more specifically frozen pipes, are often hardest hit by the winter. With some simple precautions, you should be able to avoid any damage to your home's plumbing system. All exposed pipes need to be covered with good lagging. Lagging provides protection to exposed pipes and taps during the cold winter and is more of a necessity than a good investment. Lagging helps reduce the risk of your home's pipes bursting, keeping condensation build up around the pipes to a minimum and improves energy efficiency. That means good lagging could not only protect your heating and plumbing, but it could even save you some money in the process. 

There are a number of plumbers and plumbing companies that will install lagging for you. However, be sure that the company you choose is a reputable and / or trusted authority—dealing with damaged pipes and a broken heating system in the middle of winter could be extremely inconvenient, not to mention potential financial implications. 

For more information, visit www.dyno.com.

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