Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

December 27, 2013 3:36 pm

Common elements. Parts of a condominium, cooperative, or private home association shared by all residents, so that each unit owner holds an undivided interest in, for example, the hallways, parking facilities, or swimming pool.


Q: What do zoning regulations do?

December 27, 2013 3:36 pm

A: Zoning is the government’s way of controlling the physical development of land and the kinds of uses to which each individual property may be put.

Zoning regulations establish how the land can be used, either for residential, industrial, commercial, or recreational purposes – although they also can allow for more than one use in a given jurisdiction.

Designed to protect you, your neighbors, and the community from undesirable, or inappropriate, land uses and/or construction, zoning laws in many communities can be very rigid and inflexible.

On the other hand, they can protect your property value and give you a piece of mind. This is particularly true in instances where the community debates whether to locate a prison in your neighborhood or a neighbor illegally builds a second story onto his home that blocks your view of the lake or mountains.


What Is a Postnup? Do You Need One?

December 26, 2013 12:18 pm

Prenups are pretty common nowadays, but what is a postnup? Unlike prenups, which are entered into before a marriage, postnuptial agreements are signed after the wedding has taken place.

Even if you're happily married, a postnup can be a good financial tool that can help smooth out money-related tensions in a relationship.

Since financial disagreements tend to cause heartache, postnups could be the key a happy marriage.

What Is a Postnup?

A postnup is a legal document that's signed by the couple after they're married. This legal instrument details the couple's marital property and what would happen to those assets if they divorced or separated.

According to NBC's "Today," money is often cited as one of the top reasons for unhappiness in a marriage. However, the process of putting together a postnup can actually alleviate some of that financial tension. This is because postnups can, for example:

  • Help determine which spouse owns which assets,
  • Provide some groundwork for how to negotiate probate issues, or
  • Specify that one spouse's student loan debts aren't joint marital debts.

It's recommended that each individual spouse seek out his or her own attorney when drafting a postnup. It's also ideal to have a "neutral" third lawyer look over the agreement.

Can a Postnup Help Your Marriage?

Postnups can potentially help save a marriage, and indeed many postnups are executed when couples are nearing their breaking point.

In fact, the mediation process of sitting down and analyzing your joint financial issues can be therapeutic. Case in point: CNN once reported on a couple who had been through several marriage counselors over their financial burdens with no avail. Then they learned about postnuptial agreements and each retained an attorney to hash out their concerns. In the end, they came up with a solid plan that both parties agreed to, and it saved their marriage.

Source: Findlaw.com 


Financially Fit: 5 Steps to Get a Handle on Your Credit

December 26, 2013 12:18 pm

(BPT)—After countless hours spent holiday shopping, you finally finished. Now, you're faced with the credit card payments as you roll into the new year. While it may have been difficult to keep your finances - particularly your credit cards - top of mind amid the dash from store to store, those payments aren't going anywhere.

Managing your credit can seem like a daunting task—but it doesn't have to be. Even if you've blown your budget and maxed out your cards, you can still take control of your credit and become financially fit in 2014.

Here are five things you should do right now to help get your credit back on track and sustain your financial reputation all year long:

Review your credit report. Start with taking a comprehensive look at what's there, good and bad. Make sure you thoroughly review your report for any errors or mistakes, especially after the holidays. Tools like AnnualCreditReport.com let you check your report annually for free. It's also a good idea to check your credit score to see if it's dropped and to give you a basis for comparison moving forward. Resources such as Credit.com allow you to easily pull your score.

Know what you owe. Tally up those balances and determine your debt to credit ratio - that is, the amount of money you owe on your cards versus your available credit, which accounts for approximately 30 percent of your credit score. If you're using more than half of your available credit, this will likely lower your credit score. This means that if you have three credit cards with a combined limit of $10,000, your total balance should be below $5,000.

Be sure to pay your bills on time and at more than the monthly minimum. Sure, it's intuitive, but simply paying your bills on time accounts for about 35 percent of your credit score. Start with your holiday shopping bills and make sure that at least the minimum required balance is paid - even if you can't pay them in full.- Also, pay more than the minimum payment every month to pay down your balance faster and decrease interest charges.

Pay off the card with the highest interest rate first. These are the cards that are costing you the most, so paying them off ahead of a card with a lower interest rate will save you more money in the long run.

Keep your cards open. Unless you have a compelling reason to close a card - for instance, if you're paying a large fee on it - it's best not to close credit cards, especially ones where you have a long positive payment history. When closing a card, not only can your debt to credit ratio increase, you also end up losing the history associated with the card and change the mix of your credit, which could negatively impact your score. And, in the future, do your research before signing on that dotted line. It may have been tempting to open up a retail store credit card to save 15 percent on a recent purchase, but those savings are now ultimately going to end up on your billing statement as interest. Instead, look for a card that works with your lifestyle. Review your options and find a card with a great rewards program and the lowest interest rate possible.

Source: BetterMoneyHabits.com 


Homeowners Consumer Center Updates 'Chinese Drywall' Warnings

December 23, 2013 6:54 pm

A recent visit to the Homeowners Consumer Center (homeownersconsumercenter.com) website revealed a recent reminder for homeowners about the continuing issues related to "Chinese drywall."

Before you purchase a home in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Southeast Texas, or Virginia, the Center is advising to make sure you have the home checked for toxic Chinese drywall by a qualified building inspector. The time frame of concern should be if the house was built or renovated between 2000 and early 2009.

The Center's pointed advice is: "Do Not Purchase a Home That Is Known to Have Toxic Chinese Drywall."

Homeowners who suspect they might have the toxic Chinese drywall in their home should check the copper coils on their air conditioning units. If the AC copper coils have turned black, or a grayish black they should contact the Chinese Drywall Complaint Center at 866-714-6466.

Homeowners, building owners, or occupants in the US Southeast may have noticed corroded, or black electrical wiring in their walls in properties built, or remodeled since 2000. Many homeowners who have the toxic Chinese drywall in their home might have copper ground wires in the electrical receptacles that have turned black in the US South.

Homeowners who suspect their home may have the Chinese drywall can remove electrical receptacle plates to see if the copper ground wire has turned black. If a homeowner in any state sees this, they should also call the Chinese Drywall Complaint Center immediately.

According to the Center, Toxic Chinese Drywall Symptoms also include:

  • Oven, or stove elements, or refrigerator coils may have failed in the homes, or condominiums a number of times.
  • The Homeowners Consumer Center has also discovered that computer, TV sets, radios, DVD players, smoke detectors microwave information display panels may have failed in homes, where the toxic Chinese drywall is present.
  • Light bulbs in homes with toxic Chinese drywall may burn out at a much faster rate than specified by the manufacturer.

The Homeowners Consumer Center is part of AmericasWatchdog, a national consumer advocacy group focused on consumer protection and corporate fair play. To learn more, visit: AmericasWatchdog.com 


Looking for a New You in the New Year?

December 23, 2013 6:54 pm

In January, the job search websites go crazy as people start the new year resolved to find work that’s more satisfying.

“While thousands of people are dealing with the tragedy of unemployment, many others are looking for jobs that are more fulfilling than the ones they have,” says attorney and author Pamela Samuels Young.

In January 2013, job search website Indeed.com had a record 17.3 million unique visitors—a 24-percent jump, and January 2014 will likely see a similar increase. Many of those job seekers won’t be looking for just a job, but one they’re passionate about.

“It’s great if your day job is your passion,” Young says. “But if it’s not, you don’t have to give up a position that pays the bills in order to pursue your dream. You can do both.”

Since 2006, Young has pursued her passion—writing legal thrillers—as well as her day job as Managing Counsel for Labor and Employment Law for Toyota Motors Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

“I enjoy practicing law and I didn’t want to leave Toyota, nor could I afford to. But I also had a burning desire to write mystery novels,” says Young. She recently released her sixth novel, “Anybody’s Daughter.” Described by Kirkus Reviews as a "fast-paced, well-written thriller that's grounded in social issues."

“I’ve always believed that if you have a dream, you should formulate a plan and make it happen. So that’s what I did.”

Young’s plan included rising at 4 a.m. to squeeze in some writing time before heading off to work, and turning weekends and vacation time into creation time.

“Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I’ve published six novels, while still practicing law,” she says. “The hard work and commitment have definitely paid off.”

Young offers these tips for busy professionals itching to pursue their own passions.

• Schedule time to devote to your passion. “On my calendar, you’ll find a few hours or full days blocked out as ‘Writing Time’ every week,” Young says. “You have to schedule time for your passion. If you don’t, the day-to-day demands of life will get in the way.”

• Put “passion” time ahead of “pleasure” time.  If you’re working full-time and pursuing another “job,” you won’t have a lot of free time. “You’ll have to cut back on watching television, socializing with friends and even family time,” Young says. “Explain your goals to friends and family. People who have your best interests at heart will support you. “But do take an occasional break to relax.  Otherwise, you’ll burn yourself out by working around the clock.”

• Learn from others. Surround yourself with people who share your passion. Sign up for newsletters, read books and join communities of other like-minded people, Young says. “There are tons of professional groups whose sole function is to help their members develop their creative talents and business goals.” Young is a diehard member of Sisters in Crime, an organization that promotes the advancement of women mystery writers. “Not only will you get energy and inspiration from networking with others, you’ll grow.”

• Don’t put your day job on the backburner. Young says it’s important to give your day job 100 percent. “I never want my co-workers to think I’m phoning it in because I also have a writing career.” That attitude has paid off. “I have a strong support system at work. My co-workers read my books, critique my manuscripts and come to book signings.” Many of the people Young thanks in the Acknowledgements in each of her books are co-workers. Her fourth novel is even dedicated to another Toyota attorney.

“Don’t just dream about pursuing your passion,” Young says, “make it happen!”


Your Will: The Overlooked Bucket-list Item

December 23, 2013 6:54 pm

Of the trendy terms to come around in the past decade, “bucket list” remains among the most useful, says retirement planning expert Jeff Gorton.

“As a neologism, I hope it endures because it reminds us of how precious our time is – and that it’s important to plan wisely,” says Gorton, a veteran Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner™, and head of Gorton Financial Group (www.gortonfinancialgroup.com).

“Unfortunately, after some have listed their items and even checked a few things off, they forget about one important item that really counts after they’ve ‘kicked the bucket’ – their will.”

Only about 40 percent of adults in America have a will, which is probably due to people not wanting to be reminded of their own mortality and that life will go on without them, he says.

“But what’s the alternative? If you die without one, the state decides what becomes of your property, without regard to your priorities,” says Gorton, who also advocates his clients make use of a written income plan (WIP), a living document that helps organize financial priorities. “Why not enjoy the fact that a will is an instrument of power? You get to decide who gets what.”

Since so many adults don’t have a will, many don’t understand how they work. Gorton breaks down wills into four basic parts:

• Executors — Most wills begin by naming an executor, the person responsible for carrying out the wishes outlined in the will. Duties include assessing the value of the estate, gathering the assets, paying inheritance tax and other debts if necessary, and distributing assets among beneficiaries. It is recommended that you name at least two executors in case your first choice is unable to fulfill the obligation.

• Guardians — A will allows you to designate a guardian for your minor children. Whomever you appoint, you will want to make sure beforehand that the individual is able and willing to assume the responsibility. For many people, this is the most important part of a will since, if you die without naming a guardian, the court will decide who takes care of your children.

• Gifts — This section enables you to identify people or organizations to whom you wish to give gifts of money or specific possessions, such as family heirlooms or a car. You can also specify conditional gifts, such as a sum of money to a young daughter, but only when she reaches a certain age.

• Estate — Your estate encompasses everything you own, including real property, financial investments, cash and personal possessions. Once you have identified specific gifts you would like to distribute, you can apportion the rest of your estate 
in equal shares among your heirs, or you can split it into percentages. For example, you may decide to give 45 percent each to two children and the remaining 10 percent to a sibling.

“You’re not legally required to have a professional write a will for you, but I highly recommend you get certified help because these documents are often contested by people who are unhappy with the decisions you made,” he says. “After working a lifetime for your assets, you deserve to have them go where you want after you’re gone, and your family will be grateful to you for not leaving them with the headache of trying to sort out your estate.”


Q: What Is a Bridge Loan?

December 23, 2013 6:54 pm

A: It is a short-term bank loan of the equity in the home you are selling. You may take out a bridge loan, or interim financing, to help with a knotty situation: closing on the home you are buying before you close on the property you are selling. This loan basically enables you to have a place to live after the closing on the old home.

The key to a bridge loan is having a qualified buyer and a signed contract. Usually, the lender issuing the mortgage loan on the new home will write the interim financing as a personal note due at settlement on the property being sold.

If, however, there is no buyer for the property you have up for sale, most lenders will place a lien on the property, thereby making that bridge loan a kind of second mortgage.

Things to consider: interest rates are high, points are high, and there are costs and fees involved on bridge loans. It may be cheaper to borrow from your 401(K). Actually, any secured loan is acceptable to lenders for the down payment. So if you have stocks or bonds or an insurance policy, you can borrow against them as well.


Celebrate a Greener Christmas

December 20, 2013 5:33 pm

Although many homeowners may not realize it, the holidays are a prime time of year for energy waste. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, holiday lighting consumes the equivalent electricity of 500,000 homes in just one month.

And from Thanksgiving to New Years, Americans will throw away 25 percent more trash than they typically throw out the rest of the year. Because wasted electricity and extra trash lead to higher utility bills and more environmental strain, many customers are seeking ways to celebrate a greener holiday.

Vivint is providing five holiday tips to save energy at home this season:
 

  • Energy-efficient appliances—A perfect gift this Christmas, energy-efficient appliances use between 10 and 50 percent less energy than their conventional counterparts.
  • Home automation—Smart home technology allows homeowners to automatically lock and unlock their doors, control holiday lights remotely, and schedule their smart thermostats all from a smartphone. All of these features save energy, and the smart thermostat alone can save up to $180 a year in energy costs.
  • LED light bulbs—LED Christmas lights (and LED lights in general) only use 10 percent of the power needed by incandescent lights and they last as much as 10 times longer. Conveniently, Vivint's Energy Management package comes with 12 energy-efficient bulbs.
  • Recycling—Recycling holiday wrapping supplies is a small effort that can make a big difference. In fact, if every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. 
  • Solar—Installing solar panels is one of the greenest power solutions for any homeowner—and a great green gift. Thanks to solar's growing popularity, it has also become possible to install a solar energy system with no upfront costs and see huge savings immediately.

Source: www.vivint.com


Word of the Day

December 20, 2013 5:33 pm

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