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NeighborWorks America Kicks Off National Homeownership Month

June 2, 2011 5:27 pm

NeighborWorks®America kicked off National Homeownership Month by announcing a series of activities that will highlight the important role that informed, prepared and engaged residents play in healthy communities through long-term, affordable homeownership.

"For more than 30 years, NeighborWorks America and its network of affiliates around the country have supported and encouraged affordable and long-term homeownership," says Eileen Fitzgerald, Acting CEO of NeighborWorks America. "From providing homeownership tips and urging homeowners facing foreclosure to talk to the right people, to strengthening communities through NeighborWorks Week and NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Centers, throughout National Homeownership Month we are working to get good information in the hands of potential homebuyers and current homeowners so they can achieve and sustain homeownership."

NeighborWorks America activities during Homeownership Month include:
• NeighborWorks Week(June 4-11, 2011): Every year during NeighborWorks Week—the first week in June—NeighborWorks America and the NeighborWorks network mobilize tens of thousands of volunteers, business leaders, neighbors, friends and local and national elected and civic leaders for a week of neighborhood change and awareness. Homes are rehabbed and repaired, properties are painted and landscaped, neighborhood tours are conducted, partnerships are recognized, and education events are held. During this week NeighborWorks America will highlight NeighborWorks Week events happening across the country on www.nw.org, the NeighborWorks News blog, NeighborWorks' Facebook fan page and our YouTube channel.
• HomeOwnership Centers(June 13-17, 2011): NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Centers are one-stop shops for all things related to homeownership. From professional homebuyer advice and education on affordable mortgage loans, to home repair and rehab guidance and foreclosure intervention counseling, NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Centers pave the road to long-term affordable homeownership for thousands of homebuyers and homeowners each year. During this week, NeighborWorks America will highlight the services NeighborWorks HomeOwnership Centers offer and help you locate one in your community. This information will be available on www.nw.org, the NeighborWorks News blog, NeighborWorks' Facebook fan page and our YouTube channel.
• Homebuyer Education(June 20-24, 2011): Everyday homeownership advisors work with potential homebuyers to prepare them for long-term, affordable homeownership. During this week NeighborWorks America will offer consumer tips on how to prepare for homeownership, seven steps to obtain a mortgage, and more on www.nw.org, the NeighborWorks News blog, NeighborWorks' Facebook fan page and our YouTube channel.
• Loan Scam Alert Campaign (June 27-30, 2011): Every day homeowners facing financial difficulty fall victim to vicious scam artists. During the last week in June, NeighborWorks will remind homeowners of the signs of a loan modification scam, how to report scams and point homeowners facing foreclosure to the right people—nonprofit, HUD approved counseling agencies who offer foreclosure intervention counseling. This information will be available on www.nw.org, the NeighborWorks News blog, the Loan Scam Alert Campaign's Facebook fan page and our YouTube channel.

For more information about Homeownership Month, visit www.nw.org/homeownership.

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Employee Wellness Programs Help Lower Healthcare Costs, Incentives and Social Networks Key Motivators

June 2, 2011 5:27 pm

Healthcare costs are rising, but employers are proactively working to curb costs and create healthier workforces—and employees are getting onboard, according to a survey released today by Virgin HealthMiles.
While 76 percent of American businesses report healthcare cost increases of as much as 10 percent year-over-year, nearly 90 percent are now relying on employee health and wellness programs to lower costs. Seventy percent of employers now offer incentives to employees to participate in wellness initiatives. The approach is working: nearly 88 percent of employees said incentives were an extremely or somewhat important contributor to long-term participation in wellness programs. 

Additionally, social networks are creating organizational cultures of good health. Forty-four percent of employers say leveraging an individual's social connections with its workplace wellness programs has increased employee engagement. Almost 60 percent of employees said community and social elements of wellness programs were either "extremely" or "very" important in staying committed to good health.
The survey was released to mark June's National Employee Wellness Month. In its third year, the initiative was created by Virgin HealthMiles with support from the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance, the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease and the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation. More than 90 companies across the U.S. and over 40,000 of their employees are participating. 

"Employers and employees recognize they play a role in bending the healthcare cost curve—and it must start with prevention," says Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin HealthMiles. "More companies are implementing prevention-based wellness initiatives and using tools such as incentives and social connections to drive long-term participation and healthy behavior change. The value of these strategies is powerful, and our survey results show they create healthier workforces." 

Key Survey Findings:
• Implementing Wellness and Education Programs Helping to Offset Rising Costs: More than 42 percent of employers said improved employee health from wellness investments would lower costs. Other strategies include education to make employees better healthcare consumers and increasing emphasis on work/life balance.
• Incentives Aren't One-Size-Fits-All: More than 38 percent of employers reported offering incentives in the $100-500 range and 22 percent in the $501-1,000-plus range.
• Measuring Program Impact Poses Challenges: More than 65 percent of employers said they measured the impact of wellness initiatives, but the approach is largely not validated and cumbersome. More than 61 percent rely solely on manual approaches, anecdotal data or periodic employee surveys to measure program impact. Correspondingly, more than 35 percent of employers said it is difficult to accurately track overall employee health improvements and impacts on healthcare costs. Only 23 percent leveraged technology to gain validated reporting to measure program impact.
• Employees Want Employers to Help Create Healthier Workplaces: Nearly 88 percent of employees said an employer has a responsibility to take a leadership role in encouraging and promoting workplace health.
• Employees Reap the Benefits of Improved Health: Employees who participate in wellness initiatives report improved activity levels, feel healthier and happier, and pay less in healthcare premiums. 

Visit www.nationalemployeewellnessmonth.com for an executive summary and more information on National Employee Wellness Month.

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Summer Is an Ideal Time to Volunteer

June 2, 2011 5:27 pm

Summer camps and summer school are not the only stimulating activities young people can do to have a productive summer. Another attractive option is to do volunteer work. 

There's no shortage of opportunities nationwide to do charitable work, from food banks and clothing drives, to community emergency preparedness and health events. No matter what you choose, it's relatively easy to join a group of people working for a good cause. 

Below you'll find some of the resources available, whether you are looking to join a charitable group, create your own volunteer project or participate in long-term volunteer work. 

How to Become a Volunteer
There are plenty of opportunities to do volunteer work, and Serve.gov is a great place to start your search. This is a website created by the federal government as part of a nationwide initiative that seeks to promote community service. 

Serve.gov can help you:
• Search for volunteer opportunities by topic of interest and geographical area
• Learn about volunteer work available in your community
• Get contact information for organizations seeking volunteers
• Share your experience with others

How to Create Your Own Volunteer Project
You can also create your own volunteer project tailored to the needs of your community. This might be a good opportunity for parents and children to share a positive and stimulating activity.
Serve.gov has several toolkits to help you create a community campaign such as a food bank. The guides offer step-by-step instructions on how to build your own community project. 

These toolkits can teach you how to:
• Organize a book drive for low-income students who lack age-appropriate books
• Start a walking team for senior citizens
• Make your home energy efficient and get your neighbors to do the same

If you start your own project, you can also use Serve.gov to promote your initiative and to look for volunteers. 

Long-Term Volunteer Work
For some, volunteering is a commitment that goes beyond the summer. There are federal programs that offer volunteer work both in the United States as well as in foreign countries:
• AmeriCorps is a network of domestic volunteer programs that features full time volunteer work in different parts of the country. Here you'll find opportunities in the areas of urban and rural development, infrastructure improvement and emergency assistance
• Peace Corps offers full-time volunteer work in other countries for periods of about 27 months. Volunteers get to work in different areas of interest and in several parts of the world

USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov are the U.S. Government's official web portals in English and Spanish, and part of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

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New Data Underscore Debilitating Symptoms of Migraine, Potentially Impacting Millions of Patients

June 2, 2011 5:27 pm

A new analysis of the National Headache Foundation’s landmark American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study, the largest study of migraine and headache sufferers ever conducted, indicates that those with frequent migraine-related nausea experienced more severe pain and worse outcomes than those with rare or no presence of nausea. Frequent nausea may also be a predictor of patients’ satisfaction with their treatments and ability to perform everyday activities. These findings, which will be presented at the 53rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society (AHS), suggest that treating nausea may reduce the overall burden of migraine for certain EM (episodic migraine) patients, particularly for women, who experience migraine-related nausea more frequently than men (52.6 percent vs. 39.3 percent). 

“These data suggest that there are millions of people who, because of migraine-related nausea as well as pain, are having a hard time finding relief from medication,” says Dr. Richard B. Lipton, lead study investigator, professor/vice chair of The Saul R. Korey Department of Neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and director of the Montefiore Headache Unit in New York. “Some patients with nausea delay or skip taking their oral treatment. Recognizing nausea may be a key to reducing the overall burden of migraine for certain episodic migraine sufferers.” 

Episodic migraine is one of the most common chronic pain conditions, affecting more than 29.5 million Americans, with women affected three times as frequently as men. Still, less than half of all people with migraine have consulted a healthcare professional for headache in the past year.
In this analysis of the AMPP Study, EM patients who frequently experienced nausea with migraine also had greater odds of experiencing other symptoms, including:
• One-sided pain
• Throbbing or pulsating pain
• Sensitivity to light, sound and/or smell
• Loss of appetite
• Neck pain
• Sinus pain 

“These findings shine a light for the first time on just how serious an impact migraine-related nausea can have on people’s lives,” says Robert Dalton, executive director of the National Headache Foundation. “These data underscore that those who have frequent migraine-related nausea fare worse on several levels than those who don’t. There is a clear need for more dialogue between healthcare providers and migraineurs to ensure patients receive relief from all the symptoms of migraine, including debilitating nausea.”
Patients in the study who experienced frequent migraine-related nausea also reported less satisfaction with medications, including:
• Greater dissatisfaction with medication effectiveness
• More medication side effects
• More medication-related interference in several aspects of life, including their ability to work, perform household work, spend time with family, and pursue social and leisure activities 

For more information on migraine-related nausea, visit www.MigraineNausea.com or www.headaches.org.

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Word of the Day

June 2, 2011 5:27 pm

Acceleration Clause. Stipulation in a mortgage agreement that allows the lender to demand immediate payment of the entire loan balance if any scheduled payment is missed.

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Question of the Day

June 2, 2011 5:27 pm


Q: What is an assumable mortgage?

A: It is a mortgage held by the seller that can be taken over by the buyer when a home is sold. Such loans are hard to find because most lenders stopped voluntarily writing them many years ago. Most new assumable loans today are adjustable rate mortgages.

An assumable mortgage may be attractive if the interest rate on the existing loan is lower than the rate the buyer could otherwise get on a new mortgage, either because of current market conditions or the buyer’s poor credit history.

To determine whether to assume an old loan or apply for a new one, pay close attention to the possible assumption fee, usually one point, and other terms of assumption set forth in the existing loan. One plus: there are generally few closing costs with an assumable loan.

While an assumable mortgage can speed up the property sale, sellers should be careful about letting a buyer assume their mortgage. Depending on the state and terms of the mortgage, a seller may remain liable for the loan until it is paid off in full. Or the lender may go after both the seller and the buyer if the loan is not paid.

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2010 Census Shows Nation's Population Is Aging

June 1, 2011 5:27 pm

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released a 2010 Census brief on our nation's changing age and sex composition that shows the nation grew older while the male population grew faster than the female population over the last decade. 

According to Age and Sex Composition: 2010, the median age of Americans is now 37.2, with seven states recording a median age of 40 or older. The brief also shows the male population grew 9.9 percent between 2000 and 2010, while the female population grew 9.5 percent. Of the total 2010 Census population, 157.0 million people were female (50.8 percent) and 151.8 million were male (49.2 percent). 

Selected Age Categories
Between 2000 and 2010, the population 45 to 64 years old grew 31.5 percent to 81.5 million. This age group now makes up 26.4 percent of the total U.S. population. The large growth among 45- to 64-year-olds is primarily because of the aging of the baby boom population. The 65-and-older population also grew faster than most younger population groups at a rate of 15.1 percent to 40.3 million people, or 13.0 percent of the total population. 

For those under 18 and between the ages of 18 and 44, growth rates were much slower. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people under 18 grew 2.6 percent to 74.2 million people, comprising 24.0 percent of the total population. The 18 to 44 age group grew at an even slower rate of 0.6 percent to 112.8 million, comprising 36.5 percent of the population. 

Median Age
In 2010, the median age increased to 37.2 from 35.3 in 2000, with the proportion of older Americans increasing. The 1.9-year increase between 2000 and 2010 was a more modest increase than the 2.4-year increase in median age that occurred between 1990 and 2000. The aging of the baby boom population, along with stabilizing birth rates and longer life expectancy, have contributed to the increase in median age. 

Sex Ratios
In 2010, there were 96.7 males for every 100 females in the United States, representing an increase from 2000 when the male-to-female ratio was 96.3 males for every 100 females. The increase in the population of older males was notable over the last decade, with males between the ages of 60 and 74 increasing by 35.2 percent, while females in the same age group increased by just 29.2 percent. This increase in the male population relative to the female population for those 60 and over has led to a notable increase in the sex ratio among this age group—potentially because of the narrowing gap in mortality between older men and women. 

Geographic Distribution
In the 2010 Census, seven states had a median age of 40 or older: Maine (42.7), Vermont (41.5), West Virginia (41.3), New Hampshire (41.1), Florida (40.7), Pennsylvania (40.1) and Connecticut (40.0). In both 1990 and 2000, West Virginia and Florida had the highest median age of all states. Maine overtook West Virginia and Florida as the state with the highest median age in 2010, while Utah remained the state with the lowest median age. 

States with the lowest median age (excluding the District of Columbia) remained the same as they were in 2000: Utah (29.2), Texas (33.6), Alaska (33.8) and Idaho (34.6). Utah had the highest percentage of population under age 18 (31.5 percent) and remained the only state with a median age under 30.
All states experienced an increase in median age when compared with 2000 - a further indication of population aging. However, the District of Columbia experienced a decrease in median age, declining from 34.6 to 33.8. In the District of Columbia, almost half (48.6 percent) of the 2010 Census population was between the ages of 18 and 44. 

Regionally, the Northeast recorded the oldest median age at 39.2, followed by the Midwest at 37.7, the South at 37.0 and the West at 35.6. In the West, 24.9 percent of people were under the age of 18 and 37.8 percent of people were between the ages of 18 and 44. The Northeast recorded the largest percentages of people in the age groups 45 to 64, and 65 and over (27.7 percent and 14.1 percent, respectively). 

All four regions of the United States had a sex ratio of less than 100 in 2010, indicating more females than males nationwide. The Northeast had the lowest sex ratio (94.5 males per 100 females), followed by the South (96.1), the Midwest (96.8) and the West (99.3).

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Consumers Able to Make a Comparison of the Cost and Benefits of Five Debt Payoff Solutions

June 1, 2011 5:27 pm

The lingering effects of the recession and unemployment have left many Americans still struggling with unsecured debt. Estimates place the average credit card debt per household with a credit card at more than $14,000. 

Unfortunately, those deepest in debt are often unable to easily understand and identify the best ways to resolve debt or distinguish between predatory and viable debt solutions because of a lack of transparency and often confusing information. 

To help remove this mystery and empower consumers, Bills.com recently introduced a money tool called Debt Coach that helps consumers see what they owe, learn about the five possible debt payoff solutions, and find the best way out of debt based on their own unique preferences and situation. The tool assesses complex factors and historical debt payment data for these five debt solutions in order to make a recommendation that includes payment, total cost and credit impact for each user. 

How Debt Coach Works 

Consumers begin by using sliders to enter basic information about their financial position, debt levels, income and more into the tool. Users are then prompted to rank their preferences in paying off their debts, including the impact to their:
• Credit score
• Total cost
• Stress
• Payment amount, and
• Other key considerations 

As users enter these fields, Debt Coach illustrates each individual's debt stress, total debt, cash flow, credit, and net worth in relation to national averages. This real-time bar chart provides a simple view into each user's debt level and demonstrates the resources they have available to them. 

Five Debt Solutions 

With this information, Debt Coach pulls actual debt lines and amounts from its credit partner Experian to accurately gauge the precise debt situation of each user. This data allows Debt Coach to determine if certain debt lines are eligible for formal debt relief programs in order to make a more accurate recommendation about the best way to eliminate debt. 

After this information has been collected, the Debt Coach decision engine recommends an optimal path to debt freedom based on each user's specific situation. This recommendation can currently be one of five different options: 

• Maintaining current payment schedule
• Optimizing self-payment schedule using an "avalanche" or "snowball" strategy
• Credit counseling
• Debt settlement
• Cash-out mortgage refinance 

Detailed Customized Recommendations
Recommendations are accompanied by an easy to understand explanation of why this strategy was suggested. More importantly, users can evaluate this recommendation against other available options through a side-by-side comparison chart that normalizes data in order to effectively compare monthly payments, user experience, credit impact, time to debt free, and total cost (including fees) for each. This is the first time that consumers have direct access to this completely transparent and personalized comparison, giving them control over their debt situation.
For more information visit www.DebtCoach.Bills.com.

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Access to Plastics Recycling More Widespread Than Previously Believed

June 1, 2011 5:27 pm

A recently released study by Moore Recycling Associates Inc. found that a much larger portion of the U.S. population has ready access to recycle commonly used plastics than previously believed. Specifically the study, "Plastics Recycling Collection: National Reach Study," found that 94 percent of Americans have access to recycle plastic bottles and 40 percent of the population also can recycle other types of plastic containers, such as yogurt cups, dairy tubs and lids. 

Although the study surveyed nearly 2,500 communities across the United States, it found that within the 100 largest cities, the percentage of the population with access to recycle plastic containers in addition to bottles has nearly doubled since 2008. 

The study did not look at recycling film plastics—a category that includes plastic bags and many product wraps—but it is well documented that these materials are collected separately at more than 12,000 locations across the country. 

"We are thrilled that so many consumers have access to plastics recycling in their communities," says Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council. "The next step is to increase awareness, so that more people take advantage of this opportunity to do something good for our environment and for the businesses that depend on this valuable material." 

Recyclers—typically small community-based businesses—rely on consumers to recover a steady supply of used plastics, such as assorted bottles, containers, bags and wraps. Recycled plastics can be made into a variety of innovative products, including soft T-shirts, durable backyard decks, storage containers, car parts, decorative moldings and other home building products, cutting boards, and even fashionable hand bags. 

The study also noted that it is more effective to communicate which plastics are recycled in various communities by listing shapes (e.g., bottles, tubs, trays, lids, etc.) than by listing resin codes (numbers 1-7), which can be confusing. 

Below are some tips to make it easier to recycle more of the plastics we use every day:
Bottles:
For recycling purposes, a bottle is any container with a neck or an opening that's smaller than its base. Include the following wherever plastic bottles are recycled:
• Milk jugs
• Beverage bottles (e.g., water, soft drinks, juice and beer)
• Bottles from shampoo, toiletries, laundry detergent and other household cleaners
• Salad dressing, cooking oil and condiment bottles
• Food jars, such as peanut butter and mayonnaise
• Tip: Twist caps back on before placing in the recycling bin; recyclers want those, too!

Containers: Include the following wherever containers, tubs and/or lids are recycled:
• Yogurt cups
• Butter tubs
• Deli containers
• Dairy containers
• Frozen food trays
• Produce containers (hinged or lidded)
• Lids

Bags and Wraps: Clean and dry plastic bags and wraps should be returned to grocery and retail stores for recycling instead of being placed in curbside bins. Include the following wherever plastic bags are recycled:
• Grocery bags
• Retail bags (remove hard plastic or string handles)
• Newspaper bags
• Dry cleaning bags (remove paper and hangers)
• Bread bags (with crumbs shaken out)
• Produce bags
• Sealable and non-sealable food storage bags
• Product wraps from paper towels, bathroom tissue, napkins, bulk beverages, and diapers

For more information, see: http://plastics.americanchemistry.com/recycling. 

ACC sponsored this study as part of a cooperative effort with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a project of the nonprofit GreenBlue, which is working to launch a new voluntary labeling system for the recycling of packaging in June. This initiative is designed to help consumers better understand how to recycle various packaging components and to provide a harmonized approach to consumer communication on recycling. 

For more information visit http://www.americanchemistry.com

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5 Things You Should Know about Spring and Summer Lawn Care

June 1, 2011 5:27 pm

Finally, it's that wonderful time of year when we can say with certainty that the snow is long gone. Of course that means it's time to turn our thoughts from snow blowers to lawn mowers and spring and summer lawn care. So if the melted snow has revealed a lawn that is less than ideal, here are five important things you should know about spring and summer lawn care.

1. Timing Is Everything
If your lawn is looking a little sparse or if your dog's winter bathroom breaks have resulted into several dead spots, you might be tempted to over seed this spring. It's an understandable thought, but the fact is unless the situation is dire, over seeding really shouldn't be part of your springtime lawn care. Fall is the ideal time to over seed your lawn because it gives the new grass a chance to grow without having to compete with invading weeds.

2. Raking Isn't Just for Fall Leaves
Prior to applying lawn fertilizer, raking and thatch removal are vital parts of your springtime lawn care regimen. So if you haven't already, grab your rake and clear any leftover winter debris from your lawn. Then give it a more thorough raking to remove any thatch. Thatch is a dry, light brown layer of stems and roots that develops between your lawn and the soil. Because thatch can increase insect and disease problems, you'll want to be sure to have it taken care of.

3. Apply the Right Lawn Fertilizer at the Right Time
Lawn fertilizers should be applied at specific intervals, as part of a seasonal fertilization program. However; homeowners must be careful to add the right amount at the right time. Because, while adding spring lawn fertilizer is an important part of springtime lawn care, adding too much spring lawn fertilizer can actually cause weed growth and disease. In terms of applying fertilizers during the summer season, adding lawn fertilizer too late in the season will encourage growth at a time when grass should be slowing its growth in preparation for winter.

In addition to timing, when adding lawn fertilizer as part of your lawn care program it's very important to use the right kind of fertilizer. When staring down aisles of different fertilizers, choosing the right fertilizer can seem a little daunting. Make sure you read the labels carefully and get to know the needs of your lawn. To be 100 percent sure that your lawn receives the right care at the right time, contact a professional lawn care service.

4. Yes, You Can Help Prevent Weed Growth
While it may be practically impossible to prevent weed seeds from finding their way into your lawn, there are things you can do to help make your lawn an unfavorable place for them to grow. Lawn aeration, adjusting fertilizing schedules and even changing the height of your mower blade can all play a part in discouraging weed growth. Of course, if weeds continue to be a problem, the best thing you can do is to call your local lawn care specialists for professional weed control help.

5. Hiring a Lawn Care Service can be Affordable
If you've been looking over at your neighbor’s lawn and thinking the grass really is greener on the other side, take comfort in knowing that you can have a healthy, beautiful lawn this summer too. Lawn care really is affordable. Your local lawn care service can give your lawn the love it deserves with services such as fertilization, weed control, pest control and more, and all at a price you can afford. So this year, instead of worrying about the basics of lawn fertilization or hunting dandelions, call on the professionals, sit back and enjoy the results.

For more information visit http://local.greenlawncanada.com/Lawn-Care.

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