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Mary Mastroeni

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How to Save Money on That New Vehicle

December 20, 2016 1:03 am

On the wishlist for many of us is a shiny new car. However, three out of four U.S. consumers believe that new vehicles are unaffordable. This is not necessarily true. Below are four money-saving tips that can help you snag that new vehicle, courtesy of Requisite Press.

Obtain preapproved financing. Financing costs can add thousands of dollars to a vehicle purchase. Car buyers can ensure a competitive financing environment and avoid unnecessary costs by obtaining a preapproved loan from their bank or credit union.

Sell a trade-in separately. When a purchase is combined with a trade-in, a seemingly great price quote may be offset by a mediocre trade-in offer. Separating the transactions ensures that the price quote can be easily compared to quotes from competing dealers.

Avoid add-ons. Add-ons, such as a vehicle service contract, are costly and rarely make financial sense. Consumers are better served by using savings to pay for both planned and unplanned maintenance.

Obtain a market price. There are internet prices, "fair" prices, and better than the neighbor's price prices—all higher than the market price. The best price—a market price—is obtained through robust competition. This can be efficiently achieved with negotiation-free car buying.

Source: http://www.requisitepress.com/ABAI

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Do You Know Where Your Most Important Records Are?

December 17, 2016 1:03 am

It's one thing to have the luxury of time when you need to search for important personal records you socked away in a closet, box or drawer. However, it's important for homeowners to be able to access their most important records immediately in an emergency.

Paul Improta, CPIA, AAI, LUTCF, President & CEO of Underwriters, Inc. believes there's no time like the present to get organized, particularly with a new year fast approaching. To avoid messy, time-consuming searches Improta says the first thing to do is gather what matters.

Ask yourself what documentation you or a family member might need in a dire situation and put it all in a safe place, whether that's on a USB flash drive, in a fireproof box or both. Include emergency contact numbers, medical records, financial information, vital passwords, legal paperwork and other relevant documents.
Improta says you should also streamline insurance paperwork.

If you recently bought a new car or added a driver to your policy, make sure to create a digital paper trail. Then, take photos of insurance cards for each driver and scan the policy information for your vehicles.

Did you purchase a home, remodel your house or take out a renter's insurance policy? Keep a copy of your home inventory on hand. Apps such as Insurance Information Institute's "Know Your Stuff" help by exporting an organized list of your belongings should you ever need to file a claim.

You can also download free mobile apps that help you prepare for and respond to the unexpected. Wonderoftech.com blogger Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently unveiled "10 Disaster Apps That Could Save Your Life."

Among those is the free SirenGPS Mobile app that connects you to emergency services at the tap of the screen. Your location will be sent automatically so you can be found.

The app works over Wi-Fi as well as cell networks, so can be used if cell networks are down after an emergency. Users can also use the app to create a personal health profile which can be shared with emergency services to give better information and save time.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Top Design Trends for 2017 Unveiled

December 17, 2016 1:03 am

Do you like to stay abreast of the latest interior design trends? A recent report from Zillow shows that velvet, jewel tones, white marble and built-in bars are forecasted to be the biggest interior trends for 2017.

"Interior design in 2017 will be about bringing warmth and comfort into the home," says Kerrie Kelly, Zillow Digs home design expert. "Homeowners will start to shy away from overly industrial designs that feel stiff or cold. Instead, they will incorporate plush fabrics like velvet and rich jewel tones into their home to make it feel more approachable and welcoming."

Below are the top hot trends from the Zillow Digs® Home Trend Forecast.

1. Velvet

A hot fashion trend right now, velvet is expected to make a big splash in interior design next year. Look for velvet fabrics and textures to weave their way into anything from throw pillows to upholstered couches and curtains.

2. Jewel Colors

Saturated colors like emerald green or sapphire blue will take center stage in 2017. From artwork to furniture, these vibrate hues will be popping up everywhere, bringing life and richness to homes.

3. Marble Surfaces

Marble, especially in shades of white and light gray, will be one of 2017's biggest design trends. Experts predict marble to become an increasingly popular material for countertops, flooring and tabletops, as well as in everyday household items like serving platters or vases.

4. Built-in Bars

Stemming from 2016's popular bar cart trend, homeowners next year will look for a more permanent solution for entertaining within their home. From built-in shelving for craft cocktail fixings, to a small bar seating area, homeowners are enjoying decorating and hosting more classic parties and will seek ways to make these spaces more of a focal point within the home.

Source: Zillow Digs

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Leaving Your Home Alone? Make Sure it Stays Safe

December 17, 2016 1:03 am

There’s nothing like leaving it all behind and getting out of Dodge for a few well-deserved days of R and R. But that vacation high will quickly disappear if you return to trouble on the home front. So while you’re packing for your getaway, make sure you’re also prepping the empty home you’re leaving behind. Take the following steps prior to leaving your home unattended for a few days to ensure you won’t return to an upsetting or costly scenario:

Turn off the main water valve that leads into the house and check for leaks. If a pipe bursts while you’re away, water could ruin your floors, furniture, walls and possessions.

Put your water heater on vacation mode. The pilot light will remain on, but you'll save the cost of unnecessary heating. If you have an electric water heater, turn the temperature dial down or turn it off at the circuit breaker panel.

Adjust the thermostat. Set the thermostat to 55 degrees in the colder winter months if there’s a chance pipes could freeze. Or consider a smart thermostat that will let you control the temperature remotely from your mobile device.

Put the lights on a timer. Total darkness or lights blazing round the clock are both good ways to let burglars know you’re out of town. Invest in a timer or smart home app that lets you turn the lights on and off remotely.

Notify your security company. If you have a security alarm system, notify the monitoring company that you plan to be away. Consider an outside motion sensor that will alert your neighbors and the police if anyone attempts a break-in.

Be smart on social media. We all love to share a vacation picture or two, but hold back on the details. Don’t share your departure date or check-in to out of town locations. This lets thieves know precisely where you are – which is not home.  

For more information on protecting your real estate investment, contact me.

Source: 128 Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electric

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Will Renters Pay More For An Energy Efficient Pad?

December 15, 2016 1:00 am

You might think that renters across the U.S. would be most concerned about making their monthly rent payments. But we were surprised to learn that more of today's renters are worried about their utility bills than their rent.

The latest Freddie Mac research shows more renters are worried about rising utility bills than rising rents, and nearly half of the renters surveyed say they are willing to pay more for rentals with cost-saving water and energy features.

A large majority (88 percent) agreed multifamily properties with green energy, and water-saving features would help reduce their utility bills, with 84 percent saying green properties are generally better places to live.
Nearly half (47 percent) say they are willing to pay more for an environmentally-friendly rental. Renters in the South (52 percent) and West (49 percent) were more likely to say they would pay more than those in the Midwest (39 percent) or Northeast (44 percent).

David Brickman, executive vice president and head of Freddie Mac's Multifamily business says it is striking that so many are apparently willing to pay more for properties with features they believe will reduce their utility bills.

Other significant findings from Freddie Mac's new research show:
  • Most renters say the rental experience is satisfying and affordable.
  • More than half expect to rent their new home.
  • Down Payments are ranked below other savings goals.
  • Concern about household finances is rising.
By generation, Gen-Xers' showed the biggest increase in concern about household financial situations over the past year (53 percent to 70 percent), followed by Millennials (64 percent to 68 percent) and Baby Boomers (61 percent to 62 percent).

Overall, the percentage of renters who say they have enough money to go beyond each payday fell from 41 percent to 34 percent over the past year. The percentage of renters who say they either live payday to payday, or don't have enough for basics between paychecks, rose from 59 percent to 66 percent.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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A Holiday Lesson in Light Safety

December 15, 2016 1:00 am

Nothing is more festive than a home ablaze with holiday lights. However,  it's important to remember that your favorite holiday décor could pose serious hazards, like fire or electrical injury. To avoid this, make sure you take the proper precautions.

- Use good quality light sets. A good quality light set should be sturdy with a minimum of 22 gauge (awg) wiring, no loose connectors, and have fuses at the plug to protect against overheating.

- Test your lights and check cords for damage. It's always a good idea to plug in your lights before you hang them to look for bad bulbs and frayed cords.

- Use lights, extension cords and surge protectors that are specifically rated for outdoor use when hanging lights outdoors. You'll know they are outdoor-approved by clearly marked labels and tags.

- Limit the length of your light strings. Many holiday light manufacturers advise connecting no more than three strings of incandescent lights together. LED light sets can be longer, but it's important to avoid running extension cords, wires or strings of lights across driveways, sidewalks, stairs, or anywhere they could present a tripping hazard.

- Take proper safety precautions when using a ladder to string lights. Safe ladder usage means setting the ladder on stable ground and about one foot away from the wall for every four feet the ladder reaches up.

- Use a timer to ensure that your lights and other decorations are only lit between sundown and bedtime. This will help illuminated décor from overheating.

Source: www.mistersparky.com

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Scam Alert: Holiday Hoaxes Cost Consumers

December 14, 2016 1:00 am

While you may be brimming with holiday cheer and good will, scamsters are on the prowl for a quick buck. According to ScamAwareness.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about financial fraud, consumers should be on the look-out for the following three holiday scams:

1. Online Shopping Scams
With online sales tallying more than $1 billion on Thanksgiving Day alone and jumping 12.1 percent versus last year on Cyber Monday, the internet is prime hunting ground for criminals. According to the National Retail Federation, customers are expected to spend an estimated $117 billion online this holiday season, so it’s no wonder that internet purchase scams are the top fraud complaint reported by U.S. consumers each year. Scam artists offer merchandise, gift cards and even pets at a steep discount. Consumers should never wire money for an online purchase. A money transfer is the same as cash and once it is received it cannot be recovered. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

2. Charity Scams 
The holidays bring out the best in most of us, which makes this the number-one time of the year for charitable donations. Scammers take advantage of this outpouring of goodwill by creating new charities or misusing the name and brand of a well-known charity to get donations sent directly to them. Before donating, consumers should verify that the charity and its web address are legitimate. When sending the money, use a check or credit card instead of a wire transfer or cash for donations.

3. Employment Scams
Who couldn’t use a little extra cash for holiday shopping? Savvy scammers are taking advantage of those looking for extra work by developing several employment scams. Some offer jobs that involve spending money up front for "training" or a "start-up kit"… which, of course, the victim never receives. Other fraudsters may send a fake check to a "new hire" and ask them to cash it, keep some of the money as payment, and then wire what's left back to them. The victims in both of these situations end up losing their money and a job they thought they had. Consumers should be aware that no legitimate company will ask them to pay money in order to earn money.

Consumers who think they've been scammed should contact their local police immediately. More information about these scams and others can be found at scamawareness.org. For more helpful financial and real estate information, feel free to contact me directly.
 

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Are Your Holiday Decorations Making You Sick?

December 14, 2016 1:00 am

Most of us like decking the halls during the holidays. However, a recent report from a leading national environmental services company is shedding new light on how the most popular holiday accoutrements could be hazardous to your health.

Whether it's "Christmas Tree Syndrome" or candles that can release unwanted fumes - homeowners, family members and visitors can be at risk. So AdvantaClean (advantaclean.com) has created a "Healthy Home Holiday Check List," so homeowners can celebrate without sickness.

AdvantaClean CEO Jeff Dudan says Christmas Tree Syndrome, for example, can affect people regardless of whether there are real or artificial trees present, according to Dudan.

He says researchers at State University of New York found that 70 percent of the molds found in live Christmas trees can trigger severe asthma attacks, fatigue, sinus congestion and more. Fake trees can cause problems too — especially if they are not wrapped properly and have accumulated dust and mold spores. AdvantaClean offers the following suggestions.

For live trees:
- Hose off your tree to remove pollen and mold and let it dry before you bring it into the house.
- Wear gloves and long sleeves when carrying the tree to avoid sap touching your skin.
- Families with severe allergies should avoid buying a live tree. If you must have it, bring it in the home for no more than a week.

For artificial trees:
- Wrap the tree securely, store in a cool and dry place.
- Wipe down the tree and ornaments.
- Go easy on the spray snow to frost your tree and windows. Aerosolized chemicals can cause irritant reactions in the eyes, nose or lungs.

Since most candles with heavy fragrances are made of paraffin wax and are scented with synthetic fragrances derived from petroleum, they can emit chemicals and fumes that irritate breathing, triggering allergies and asthma - and produce unwanted soot.

So for better breathing choose candles made from soybean, palm, hemp or beeswax. For safer smells use candles that are scented with essential oils.

For more ideas on how to make your home more environmentally safe and healthy year-round, visit advantaclean.com/blog/

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How to Heat Your Home Safely

December 14, 2016 1:00 am

As the weather cools, we tend to turn inward and crank up the heat. While this is a great idea for staying cozy, it can lead to some health and safety problems. Here are some tips to stay safe.

General furnace safety
If you're turning on your furnace for the first time in months, remember to:  

- Never store or use highly flammable products in the same room as any natural gas or heat-producing appliances.

- Never store ordinary combustibles such as rags, mops or paper on or near an appliance.

CO poisoning prevention
Heating units and other appliances should be properly maintained to avoid the threat of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Have natural gas furnaces checked at least once a year by a licensed heating contractor. In addition:

- Vacuum and clean in and around the furnace regularly, particularly around the burner compartment, to prevent a build-up of dust and lint.

- Never store items in, on or around an appliance as this can obstruct airflow.

- Most forced-air units have a filter that cleans the air before heating and circulating it throughout the home. Check furnace filters every month during the heating season and clean or replace the filter when it becomes visibly dusty or dirty. 

- When installing a new or cleaned furnace filter, be sure to re-install the front panel door of the furnace properly so it fits snugly. Never operate the furnace without the front-panel door properly in place because doing so may create the risk of producing CO.

- Check the appearance of the furnace flame. If the flame is yellow, large and unsteady, the furnace needs to be inspected immediately by a licensed heating contractor to have the condition corrected.

- Never use an unvented natural gas heater in a home. 

- Never use an oven, range or outdoor barbecue to heat your home. These appliances are not designed for this purpose and can cause CO poisoning.

- Make sure all natural gas appliances—such as stove tops—are safely maintained and vented properly.

-Install a CO alarm in your home. Though these alarms may provide an extra level of safety, keep in mind that they require routine maintenance and replacement at least every three to five years to perform properly.

- Even with alarms in place, regular natural gas appliance maintenance is still required. Inspection and routine maintenance are still an effective defense against accidental CO poisoning.

- If you suspect that you or someone else is suffering from CO poisoning, call 911 immediately.

Source: www.socalgas.com

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Financial Well-Being May Be Best Gift This Season

December 14, 2016 1:00 am

While gifting loved ones with holiday cash or gift cards has been a long-standing option, retailers are offering new ways this season give your favorite people some financial well-being instead of the latest toys, fads or fashions.

Among them, according to Sarah Skidmore Sell at the Associated Press, is Stockpile, a company whose gift cards can be redeemed for stock, which is rolling out its products to more than 14,000 stores this holiday season.

Sold at popular retail chains like Target, Kroger, and Safeway, the gift cards may be purchased for a dollar amount of stock rather than the price for a share – and purchases can be in any amount.

Gift of College, which gives people another way to contribute to college savings plans or pay down student loans, began selling its gift cards at Toys R Us and Babies R Us nationally this month.

All 529 college savings plans grow tax-free, and withdrawals for educational expenses are also untaxed. The giver may get also a tax break, as 34 states and the District of Columbia offer either a state income tax deduction or tax credits for such contributions.

Since the average debt at graduation with a bachelor’s degree was more than $35,000 last year, Gift of College gift cards are becoming so popular that some employers are offering them as holiday bonus gifts for their workers, Sell said.

Financial gifts, whether in the form of cash or gift cards, may have tax implications, so it may be advisable to check with a financial advisor if your gift will be substantial. But in most cases, gifts of cash or any of these new gift card options offer a unique opportunity to send love and best wishes in a way that may help recipients develop an interest in thrift and/or in future investing.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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