Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

September 6, 2013 6:21 pm

Grantee. Person named in a deed who acquires ownership of real estate; the buyer.

 


Q: Do State and Local Governments Offer Home Improvement Programs?

September 6, 2013 6:21 pm

A: Just about every state now offers loans for renovation and rehabilitation at below-market interest rates through its Housing Finance Agency or a similar agency.  Call your governor’s office to get the name and phone number of the agency in your area.  

At the municipal level, many cities also have programs for special improvements to certain blocks and neighborhoods they are trying to spruce up.  Call City Hall, as well as a Community Development Agency in your city.


6 Tips for Keeping Teens Safe on Social Media

September 5, 2013 8:36 pm

Going back to school is about more than shiny shoes and trendy notebooks. It's also about kids making new friends and adding those friends on social network sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

More than 60 percent of teens in the United States have at least one social media account, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. And while being online is a good way to keep in touch with friends, it's important for parents to be proactive about Internet safety.

Unfortunately, there are people who can use your child's personal information to steal identities, bully them or begin an inappropriate relationship. Help protect students from online dangers by following these safety tips:

  • Keep your child's profile private so that only family and people you know see photos, important dates and other information.
  • Make sure they're not posting personal details, including phone numbers, home address, and the name of their school or Social Security number.
  • Only allow them to publish photos and videos that don't jeopardize their safety or their integrity.
  • Make sure they choose a strong password that can't be guessed, and that it gets changed every three months.
  • Never allow them to accept friend requests from people they don't know. 
  • Keep an open dialogue with your children. Ask them to let you know if they've received private messages from a stranger, or from someone at school who is teasing, harassing or threatening them. Those could be signs of cyber-bullying or even a sexual predator.

Source: GobiernoUSA.gov/USA.gov

 


Life insurance 101: What You Need to Know

September 5, 2013 8:36 pm

(BPT) - Life insurance. Everyone says it's important, but it can be a difficult topic to talk about and even more difficult to understand. However, it is critical to understand this topic because of its importance to building your financial strategy.

Life insurance can help you provide for the people and organizations you care about. Choosing the right life insurance solution gives you peace of mind knowing your loved ones will be taken care of. Here's a quick primer from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans on some of the most common types of life insurance.

* Term life insurance - Temporary life insurance that offers a death benefit and is generally less expensive than permanent insurance. It's ideal for short-term life insurance needs, like when you are raising a family, paying off a mortgage or starting a business.

* Whole life insurance - Permanent life insurance that gives you a guaranteed death benefit, guaranteed level premiums and a guaranteed cash value that increases each year. The guarantees are contingent on all premiums being paid and no loans or changes being made to the contract.

* Whole life plus term protection - Permanent life insurance with added flexibility. It lets you "dial-in" your premium to the level of whole life and term insurance desired. This insurance offers lifetime protection through a blend of whole life insurance plus term insurance and paid-up additional coverage.

* Universal life insurance - Permanent life insurance that allows you to increase or decrease your death benefit and your premium is flexible; subject to any limitations in the contract. Accumulated value in a universal life contract earns interest at the current rate, with a minimum rate stated in the contract.

* Variable universal life insurance - Permanent life insurance that gives you a flexible premium and the potential to build accumulated value. However, death benefits and other values may vary, because you direct how the cash is invested among the investment portfolios offered. The investment performance has no guarantees and you could lose money.

How much life insurance should you have?

When purchasing life insurance, think about your goals for your overall financial strategy, your economic value to your loved ones and your wishes for your survivors.

First you'll need to calculate your economic value - the value of your future earnings over your lifetime. To do so, consider the following factors:

* Your current annual earnings.

* The amount your annual earnings increase.

* How many years you plan to work until retirement.

* The rate of return you expect your invested assets to earn.

Use these numbers as a starting point when you sit with a financial professional to determine the level of coverage you might need. Remember to consider how much of your future economic value you want to replace in the event of your death. This will depend on the financial goals you set for yourself and your survivors.

Life insurance is an essential part of any healthy financial program. It is important that you choose what's right for you and your situation and that you plan accordingly with a licensed professional.

Source: Thrivent.com/disclosures.


6 Sleep-Friendly Bedroom Tips for Your Kids

September 5, 2013 8:36 pm

As kids transition from summer vacations, picnics and barbecues, to homework, sports and after-school activities, they're faced with plenty of new challenges to conquer … one of which may be lack of sleep.

While it varies from child to child, experts say school-aged children need between 10 and 12 hours of sleep per night, depending on their age. But research suggests that more than 2/3 of children suffer from some kind of sleep issue, which can lead to drowsiness, obesity, inability to focus, substandard academic performance, irritability, low self-esteem and more.

"Back-to-school time can be an exciting time for kids," says Brenda Dillon, VP of Merchandising. "Unfortunately, with earlier mornings and piles of homework, as well as new activities and social demands, it can also lead to less down time and more disruptions to their sleep. But just a few simple changes to their bedroom environment can help give them the sleep they need to face the day, refreshed and ready to go."

Here are six simple back-to-school tips from Ashley Furniture HomeStore to help make their bedrooms more sleep-friendly:

  1. Nix the light. Too much light can wreak havoc on a good night's sleep. Be sure to keep your child's bedroom as dark as possible by adjusting the blinds or curtains, turning off the TV, nightlight, illuminated alarm clock or any other disruptive light source.
  2. Help them keep their cool. Did you know that the ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit? Set the thermostat accordingly to give them a better night's rest.
  3. Let in some fresh air. Oftentimes, unpleasant odors can impact your child's level of sleep. Allowing fresh air into their room each day can help get rid of bad odors, as can choosing aromas that tend to relax (e.g. lavender, chamomile, rose).
  4. Create a bedroom that's uniquely "them."  A bedroom should be a comfortable, clean, inviting place that reflects your child's personality and taste. Help them keep their rooms neat and orderly with creative storage solutions, including kids' storage beds, cubes, or dressers. And be sure they have some freedom to choose the bedding, décor or accessories that reflect their own style.
  5. Say "no" to TV in the bedroom. Reserving this space for sleep alone will lead to a more restful environment and better night's sleep for your kids.
  6. Be sure they have a good mattress. Nothing wreaks havoc on a good night's sleep like an uncomfortable bed. If you can't afford a new mattress for your child, consider investing in a gel or memory-foam mattress topper, as well as new sheets with a good thread count. Pillows should be replaced every year.

Source: AshleyFurnitureHomeStore.com.


Word of the Day

September 5, 2013 8:36 pm

Balloon loan. Mortgage loan in which a larger final payment becomes due because the loan amount was not fully amortized.

 


Q: What guidelines should I follow to find a contractor?

September 5, 2013 8:36 pm

A: Always exercise caution and be comfortable and confident about your final decision.  This means selecting a competent and reliable contractor with a track record who can complete the job without hassles or negative consequences.  What you can do:

  • Get word-of-mouth referrals. Ask friends, family, co-workers and neighbors for the names of established, local contractors in your area; avoid the telephone book.
  • Call trade groups.  When all else fails, contact local trade organizations, such as the local builder association or the Remodelors Council, an arm of the National Association of Home Builders, for the names of reputable members in your area.
  • Associate with licensed contractors.  Many states require contractors to be licensed and bonded.  Contact your state or local licensing board to ensure the contractor meets all requirements and has a decent record.  The Better Business Bureau and the local Consumer Affairs Office can also tell you if any complaints have been filed against the contractor and how they were resolved.
  • Conduct interviews.  Talk with each contractor, request free estimates, and ask for recent references.  When dealing with several different contractors, make sure they’re bidding on similar project specifications and quality of work.  Remember, the lowest bid isn’t always the best.
  • Check insurance information.  Most states require a contractor to have workers’ compensation, property damage, and personal liability insurance.  Ask for proof of this insurance and get the name of the insurance company to verify the information and to ensure that all minimum insurance requirements are met.  You could be held liable for any work-related injury if the contractor is not covered.

Encore Careers: Re-Inventing Your Work Life with a Career Change

September 4, 2013 11:21 pm

They’re called second acts, encore careers or reinventing yourself – they’re the completely new and different jobs people take in midlife or later.

Today, making that jump is more likely to be a matter of following the heart than it was during the throes of the economic recession, when professionals caught up in corporate layoffs discovered they were too old to find jobs in a poor market and too young to retire. They started second careers not to follow a vocation but to pay the bills.

“I’m glad to see the tide turning again – especially for all the baby boomers who don’t want to  retire but do want to do something gratifying,” says Betty Hechtman, who was on the eve of her 60th birthday when her first mystery series prompted a bidding war between St. Martin’s Press and Berkley Books.

She has since published eight “cozy mysteries,” including her newest, “Yarn to Go” – the first in her Berkley Prime Crime Yarn Mystery series.

Hechtman has had a lot of practice reinventing herself. She has volunteered as a farmworker on a kibbutz in Israel, waitressed and worked in retail sales, and made connections as a telephone operator, among a host of jobs.

“I’ve held jobs just for the paycheck and I’ve pursued my passions, so I know how profoundly different it is to do one versus the other,” she says. “No matter what age you are, if there’s work you feel called to, you should most definitely give it a try -- you may well experience a joy unlike any you’ve ever known.”

Hechtman offers these tips for people considering an encore:

• Do your homework. There’s nothing more disappointing them jumping in to something new only to become disillusioned and frustrated because you didn’t take the time to prepare. If your dream is to open a particular business, research the market. Is there a demand for what you hope to sell? Should you give it a trial run as an online business before investing in shop space and other overhead? Start by checking the resources at Score.org, a nonprofit supported by more than 12,000 volunteers dedicated to helping small businesses off the ground. For other encore pursuits, you might take classes or spend a few hours a week working as a volunteer to learn the ropes.

• Join a group of like-minded people. This is particularly helpful for aspiring artists who want to paint, play music, write a book or indulge some other creative talent. You can brush up on your skills and make valuable contacts by becoming a part of a community theater, joining a writers circle, or finding a group of hobbyists. You may find your skills develop much more quickly with the support and guidance of collegial peers who are all helping one another achieve a dream.

• Consider working in one of the five most popular encore fields.  Most people seek second their careers in health, education, government, environment and non-profits -- all fields expected to provide abundant job opportunities in the next couple of years, according to Encore.org, a non-profit that supports second careers “for the greater good.” If you need training to qualify, now is the time to get it, Hechtman says. “Invest now in the education, and you can soon have a job that feeds the heart, the mind – and the body!”

 


Does How You Feel about Money Affect Your Wealth?

September 4, 2013 11:21 pm

Although we live in the richest and most advanced society the world has ever known, many of us say we need more money in order to be happy, notes best-selling business book author Doug Vermeeren.

“Even some of those in the top percentile of earners often feel like they don’t have enough money,” says Vermeeren, an international speaker who consults with celebrities, business executives and professional athletes.

“The math is simple: More money does not equal more happiness. It’s our attitude toward money, not the amount that influences our happiness the most.”

Happiness researchers Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, professors at the Harvard Business School, recently published research indicating that it’s not money that makes people happy, nor the things people buy with it. Rather, it’s the experiences one has that ultimately account for happiness.

“How you experience your money on a day-to-day basis is what matters,” Vermeeren says. “If the software running in your brain is constantly reinforcing the message, ‘it’s not enough,’ then that is likely how you will see yourself and experience your life – as ‘not enough.’ ”

Vermeeren reviews the three fallacies of abundance as it relates to happiness:

• We are all entitled to a certain amount of wealth: The feeling that we deserve or are owed a certain amount of wealth will always make us unhappy with whatever we have. While we are entitled to certain human rights, those do not include a winning lottery ticket. In reality, we are not owed any amount of abundance and, in fact, should count ourselves lucky if we’re able to meet our basic needs; many in the world are not. More of us, however, would be happier simply appreciating what we have.

• The result of our labors is money: Money is a means to an end, not an end in itself. This can be a challenge to keep in mind since so much of our lives are spent in the pursuit of money. We work and go to school to support ourselves and our families. We see things we want, and we know we need more money for them. Study after study shows, however, that what really makes us happy is what we do and who we do it with, and not how much money we spend.

• We’ll be happiest when we finally reach our goal: We are happiest when we are progressing toward a goal. When we lose sight of our goal, veer off the path toward our goal, and even achieve our goal, we’re less happy. Rather than setting one goal and deciding you will be happy when you meet it, you’ll be most happy if you continually set goals and relish your journey toward them.


Back to School Safety for Teen Drivers

September 4, 2013 11:21 pm

September marks the end of summer, and it's back to school for families across the country. When school bells start ringing, so do early morning alarm clocks as the new school year brings brand new schedules that require an adjustment from the entire family. Whether your teenager is starting high school, contemplating where they might apply to college or learning to manage the teenage anxiety shared by so many during their sophomore or junior years, it's important to keep back-to-school safety in mind during this time.

As part of their ongoing effort to help raise awareness for teenage driving safety, Driving-Tests.org recently released a new Parent-Teen Safe Driving Contract, which is available for free download here.  

You might be asking, "Why is a Parent-Teen Driving Contract necessary?"

Consider that conversations between parents and teens are often difficult. The discussion around handing over the keys to the car - and establishing ground rules and curfews with a newly licensed driver - can prove to be particularly challenging. Not only can a contract make it easier for parents to establish family rules as well as consequences for breaking them, it will also help to instill safe driving habits by emphasizing safety and good driving skills while also clarifying high risk driving situations.

Car accidents are still the leading cause of death for 15-20 year olds, accounting for almost 40 percent of all teen deaths. Helping your teenager learn how to be a safe, careful driver can make the difference in their survival behind the wheel. Although this parent-driver contract may seem rather formal, it should serve as a symbol of the great passage of knowledge that goes into learning how to drive. This contract might not hold up in a court of law; however, it is a binding pact between parent and teen that says "I'll be a good teacher, if you be a good student."

In addition to the safe driving contract, Driving-Tests.org has also prepared 7 Safety Tips to help both parents and teens stay safer behind the wheel and maintain their focus on the road:

Catch Some ZZZ's: Studies have shown driving while deprived of sleep can have the same hazardous effects as being intoxicated. Driving while tired can decrease reaction time, impair vision or judgment, and can increase the chances of getting into a car crash. Make sure you are prioritizing a good night's rest when the school year begins.

Be the Early Bird: Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations and they have a harder time recognizing hazardous situations. Running late for school can put added pressure on stressed out adolescents; teens have less impulse control so being late can contribute to speeding, tailgating and weaving through traffic to make up for lost time. Try to leave ten minutes earlier than you need to and allow ample time for delays.

Buckle Up: At least 56 percent of young people between the ages of 16 to 20 years old involved in fatal crashes were unbuckled. Teens buckle up less frequently than adults do. Despite efforts aimed at increasing seatbelt use among teenagers, only about 80% of teens remember to buckle up. Everyone should wear a seatbelt at all times, even passengers; remember to buckle up today!

Curfews Are Cool: According to the CDC, half of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight and 55 percent occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Set a curfew to ensure no unsupervised driving occurs after 10 p.m. even on the weekends when there are more cars - and more drunk drivers - on the road.

Limit Passengers: A teenage driver's risk of an accident grows exponentially with each passenger added. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a teen's crash risk increases by 48 percent with each additional passenger.  During a teen's first 12 months of driving, passengers should be prohibited from riding along with a new driver.

Ignition On, Cell Phone Off: Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for about 4.6 seconds.  At 55 miles per hour, that's like driving the length of an entire football field, blindfolded.  Cell phone use should be banned among all drivers, and parents should lead by setting a good example. Just remember this simple rule: ignition on, cellphone off!

Zero Tolerance for Drinking and Driving: Nearly one million teens drank alcohol and got behind the wheel in 2011.  Even though every state has a "zero tolerance" law for underage drivers parents should still emphasize the dangers of drinking and driving; consider using a safe driving contract to open the lines of communication and establish clear guidelines.