Gunning Daily News

Turn a New Leaf with a Fall Family Road Trip

October 18, 2013 6:27 pm

(BPT) - With the cooler temperatures of autumn flowing in, many Americans will be hitting the road to discover the natural beauty that the season brings. Whether they crave adventure, want to see the fall foliage or are just getting ready for the Thanksgiving holiday, families need to be prepared to ensure they are getting the most out of this travel season.

"When it comes to fall travel, there is no experience quite like the autumn day drive - it's your last taste of crisp air and warm colors before the blanket of winter hibernation sets in," says Editor in Chief of "Road & Travel Magazine," Courtney Caldwell. "The keys to a successful road trip lay within the amount of preparation you do for your family and vehicle before you put either into motion."

Nothing puts a damper on a weekend getaway like car issues that could have easily been prevented by simple maintenance.

The American Petroleum Institute's (API) Motor Oil Matters (MOM) program has been established to provide information to consumers on the importance of using high quality motor oils, and verifying the oils are properly identified on invoices and receipts. Oil-change locations and motor oil distributors that share MOM's commitment - and submit to independent, third-party auditing - have the opportunity to be recognized by MOM through the Motor Oil Matters distributor and installer licensing programs.

MOM and Caldwell recommend fall travelers arm themselves with a simple plan of action and preparation to help get to their destination:

Don't fall behind on your vehicle maintenance

Change that oil: Motor oil is the lifeblood of your engine. One of the simplest steps you can take to ensure your vehicle is maintained is to change your motor oil with an API-licensed motor oil that meets your vehicle manufacturer's recommendations. Be wary of deals that sound too good to be true, and make sure your value-priced oil change includes high quality motor oil. MOM has put together a checklist for consumers, to ensure they are confident when going into a shop. To download this checklist, please visit www.motoroilmatters.org.

Breathe free: Replacing a dirty air filter can increase a vehicle's life expectancy and fuel efficiency by reducing the strain on the engine, especially during warmer months.

Check your tires: Pay attention to your tire pressure and tread depth, as they are essential for increased automotive safety and optimum driving performance. The lower the tread depth is on your tires, the less traction you will have on wet and dry roads, and the greater the distance you will need to stop.

Enjoy more than the season

Keeping everyone happy: Write out a packing list for each family member. Store these lists on your computer so you can adjust them for different seasons and trips. Kids can be easily entertained during long car rides in the backseat with trivia, coloring books, games, books, assorted toys and stuffed animals.

Stop and pop: Bathroom breaks are always a good thing. They force you to get out of the car and talk with locals. A 10-minute break every two hours also increases alertness and adds to the overall sight-seeing experience.

Expect the unexpected: Always have a car-safety kit packed for you and your family. It should contain: an auto escape tool, blankets, cell phone charger, cleaning items, flashlight, jumper cables, matches, pencil and notepad, warning lights or road flares, bottled water, non-perishable items and drinks, extra (hidden) cash, and a well-equipped first aid kit.

Keep it clean: Save and bring a handful of plastic grocery bags in the car to use for trash, damp clothes, or a "sick" bag for any car-sick passengers.

Source: www.roadandtravel.com.


10 things Many Parents Don't Know about Teen Driving

October 18, 2013 6:27 pm

The most significant threat facing teens is the vehicle sitting in their parents' driveways. Yet, many parents remain under-educated about teen driving safety and the risks new drivers face. In observance of National Teen Driver Safety Week Oct. 20-26, the National Safety Council has released a comprehensive list of things many parents do not – but need to – know about teen driver safety:

  1. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S.
  2. Most dangerous time of a teen driver's life is the first 12 months after receiving a license
  3. A teen driver's crash risk is three times that of drivers ages 20 and older
  4. Teens crash most often because they are inexperienced – not because they take more risks behind the wheel.
  5. Teen passengers are one of the biggest distractions for teen drivers. Just one teen passenger raises a teen driver's fatal crash risk 44 percent. Two passengers doubles fatal crash risk. Three or more quadruples crash risk.
  6. Most fatal nighttime crashes involving teen drivers happen between 9 p.m. and midnight
  7. More than half of teens killed in car crashes were not restrained by a seatbelt.
  8. Most states' teen driving laws and restrictions do not adequately protect teen drivers from the most serious crash risks
  9. Teens really do learn to drive from watching their parents. A survey from The Allstate Foundation found 80 percent of teens cite their parents as having the most influence over teens' driving habits.
  10. Crash risk remains high after licensure. In fact, young drivers' crash risk does not significantly begin decreasing until age 25.

"Parents literally hold the keys to developing good teen drivers," says John Ulczycki, vice president of strategic initiatives at NSC. "National Teen Driver Safety Week is the perfect time for parents to learn the facts and put their knowledge to action. The more parents know, the further most will go to protect their teens, which will keep our roads safer for all motorists."

Sources: driveithome.org, nsc.org.


Word of the Day

October 18, 2013 6:27 pm

Brokerage. Business of a broker. Also, the amount charged for a broker’s service.


Q: Are Impound Accounts Required for All Mortgage Loans?

October 18, 2013 6:27 pm

A: They can typically be waived on a conventional loan if the loan amount is 80 percent or less of the purchase price. But the lender might charge you an additional 1/4 point for this option to waive the escrow.

One way to avoid an impound account on an owner-occupied mortgage is to raise your down payment amount slightly. The exact amount necessary to avoid the escrow will vary with the lender.

In some states, lenders let buyers set up separate accounts in which they place specific funds and then pay the insurance and property taxes themselves. These are called pledge accounts, and they must be set up before you close on the home.

An impound account can usually be dropped on an owner-occupied loan once the loan-to-value ratio equals 80 percent or less. But restrictions apply: payments will have to be current and your record of making on-time payments pretty solid.  Contact your lender if you meet these requirements and want to drop your impound account.


'Bat Appreciation Month' Brings Good, Bad News about Furry Fliers

October 17, 2013 6:06 pm

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense to designate October as 'Bat Appreciation
Month.' These mostly tiny flying critters have been a boon and a curse to homeowners through
the ages - depending on if the bats stay outside, or get inside.

According to the Cincinnati, Ohio based wildlife outfitters bestnest.com, the presence of bats
in and around your yard provide a number of health-related advantages. Because bats are
sensitive to high pollution and pesticide levels, they are useful as a warning sign to potential
environmental problems.

Bats can also be important weapons in combating insects that are actually dangerous to
humans. Since the West Nile Virus is primarily spread through mosquitoes, which make up a
significant portion of a bat’s diet, bats can help reduce the likelihood of getting infected.
A small bat can capture more than 1,200 mosquitoes in a single hour, according to the post,
and bats cannot contract the West Nile Virus by eating infected mosquitoes.

Besides mosquitoes, bats can help control the populations of beetles, moths, and leafhoppers.
Many insects can hear bats up to 100 feet away and will avoid those areas occupied by bats.
The effectiveness of bats in some areas diminishes the need for pesticides that can harm both
the pests and their natural predators.

On the other hand, if a bat gets into your house, it's no fun for you or the bat. And in most
cases, it's the bat who comes out the loser. With that in mind, our friends at batsintheattic.org
publish a list of ways to humanely and safely remove a bat if it gets into the house.

The site advises the following:
1) Watch the bat, and wait for it to land, then drape a towel over it and bunch it up in the towel,
then bring it outside and unfold the towel.
2) If it lands on an unobstructed wall or floor, place a plastic container over the bat, then slide
paper under the container to trap it.
3) Open windows and doors and wait for it to fly out - although this is the alternative least likely
to work.
 


Five Insurance Tips for Married Couples

October 17, 2013 6:06 pm

Whether you've dated forever or had a whirlwind romance, enjoyed a big wedding or kept it simple, one fact appears to be almost universal – those first months and years of marriage are a big adjustment.

Money matters are a source of potential conflict once the honeymoon is over. According to information from an Allstate Life Tracks survey released earlier this year, just half (50 percent) of Americans said they have money left over at the end of the month after paying for essentials.

"In real life, it's no laughing matter when partners have different approaches to financial matters but don't talk much about it before they marry," says Don Civgin, president and chief executive officer of Allstate Financial. "As you focus on the obvious money decisions, such as developing a joint budget and savings plan, insurance may be put on the back burner. That can be a big mistake."

Below are five insurance tips for newlyweds:

Assess your insurance needs. Make sure you have the right amount of homeowners' or renters' coverage for your newly combined possessions. Don't forget to insure your beautiful and costly-to-replace engagement ring via an insurance rider to your homeowners' policy. In addition, you may want life insurance to help repay the mortgage and take care of your children, should one of you die unexpectedly. Depending on your age and personal health situation, you also may want to consider disability insurance.

Consolidate your financial relationships. You each may have an accountant, insurance agent and financial planner. Now that you're a family, you should choose a single relationship in each area – whether that is a current advisor or someone new to both of you. You can rely on referrals from family or friends, or ask for a referral from other professionals you currently deal with and trust. For example, your insurance agent is likely to know financial planners in your community. A financial planner may be able to refer you to a local attorney or accountant.

Update your records. Make sure you are the beneficiaries of each other's existing life insurance policies.

Combine your "just in case" files so that you can quickly find important financial documents just in case one of you is incapacitated or dies unexpectedly. The files should include insurance policies, wills and other legal documents (such as trusts, durable powers of attorney, living wills and healthcare proxies). Store originals in a safety deposit box and make sure each of you signs the form to have access to the box.

Consider combining your health insurance. If you both have health insurance through work, compare the coverage to see if it makes sense for both of you to be covered under one of the plans. It's likely to be less costly to insure an employee and spouse under a single plan. Many plans allow you to add a spouse within 30 days of your marriage without providing proof of insurability. Depending on your personal health situation, you might consider supplemental health insurance, which can help with doctor bills, hospital stays and even nonmedical expenses (such as transportation) if you're dealing with an accident, disability, cancer or critical illness.


Source: Allstate


Six Things Every Woman Should Know about Money

October 17, 2013 6:06 pm

Women often rely too heavily on others when it comes to making important financial decisions. That's according to Lori Embrey, a Certified Financial Planner ™, associate vice president of Hamilton Capital Management and a founding member of the Women's Exchange, which works to develop greater financial literacy among women. She offers six tips for women looking to take charge of their own financial security.

Your choices should reflect your goals. "Look in the mirror," Embrey advises. "Your financial situation is likely to be a reflection of the choices you've made: choices to spend or save, to use cash or credit, to invest or not invest, to cover your eyes and hope for the best or to take charge of your finances. If you want to change your reflection, spend some time carefully considering your short-term and long-term goals. Write them down, including an estimated cost and date of completion. Be specific. Then make sure that your goals define your choices rather than your choices defining you."

Take a closer look. "Once you've defined your goals, learn what it will take to achieve them," she says. "Start by taking inventory to see where you stand. Know your assets (what you own) and your liabilities (what you owe) and review your financial statement regularly."

Don't pass the buck on money matters. "Women are often the managers of household cash flow, but we tend to pass the buck to partners, husbands or fathers when it comes to making big financial decisions or investing for our future," says Embrey.  She encourages women to take an active role in making decisions and gain confidence by talking money with a trusted friend or joining a financial discussion group for women.

Put your money to work. "When a $10 store coupon arrives in the mail, we rush right out to use it," she says, "but we leave a 401(k) match sitting on the table. An investment in your employer retirement plan may be worth far more in tax savings and could earn you an employer matching contribution as well. It's putting your money to work. Take advantage of opportunities like these. While volatility will always be a risk, the price of doing nothing is a certain decline in your standard of living each year. Because the price of groceries isn't going down and your savings account can't keep up."

Test your safety net. "I've counseled countless clients who 'thought this would never happen to me,'" Embrey recalls.  "The death of a loved one, disability, job loss, divorce or other personal trials derailed their life plans and upset their financial security. They were forced to make big financial decisions with little knowledge when they were least emotionally prepared to tackle the challenge. Test your own financial safety net before you need it to be sure your household can continue to thrive."

Money is a tool. "Learn to view money as a means to get where you want to go, to help further causes that are important to you or to take care of loved ones," she recommends. "Managing money with forethought will help you use it more efficiently and make good choices."

Source: Hamilton Capital Management

 


Word of the Day

October 17, 2013 6:06 pm

Improvement. Any form of land development or man-made addition, such as the erection of a building or fence, to enhance the value of private property; also an improvement to publicly owned structures, such as a sewer or road.


Q: What Kind of Return Can I expect from Home Improvements?

October 17, 2013 6:06 pm

A: Some improvements offer a greater return than others do. This will vary greatly depending on the type of work you have done.  Remodeling magazine publishes an annual "Cost vs. Value Report'' that can answer this question in more detail, based on the top 15 home improvements. A recent study it conducted says the highest remodeling paybacks have come from siding and window replacements, major kitchen remodeling, bathroom and family room additions, and mid-range master bedroom suites.  

 


8 Easy Ways to Lower Food Costs

October 14, 2013 4:03 pm

Grocery shopping for the family’s meals can be a fairly mindless chore, though coupon clipping has become increasingly popular as a way to save dollars in a tight money environment.

Savvy shoppers at thesimpledollar.com suggest eight more ways to help cut food costs:

  • Determine where the best prices are – Make a list of 25-30 items you buy often. Shop once at each of several markets in your area and write down the prices of each of those items. From that, you should be able to determine where prices are generally lowest.
  • Start with a list – Take the time each week to write out a meal plan and a shopping list. Resist impulse buying unless the item is on sale at a really great price and/or can be substituted for something else on your list.
  • Buy unprocessed foods – The more processed it is, the more expensive it will be. Choose raw pasta, rice and veggies instead of canned or frozen varieties. It will cost far less and taste better.
  • Buy produce in season – The produce you buy in summer is often twice as costly in mid-winter. Buy lots of in-season fruit and veggies, cooking and freezing to use in family meals months later.
  • Think about a deep freezer – It may be worth the cost if you use it to buy meat and other items on sale and to store casseroles and sauces you cooked while ingredient prices were at their lowest.
  • Try a garden – Cooking staples like tomatoes, onions, and squash are fairly easy to grow, and the savings mount up when you don’t have to buy them at the market. If gardening isn’t your thing, shop for produce at a local farmer’s market.
  • Buy in bulk – Detergents, paper products, and multi-packs of the items you use frequently are much cheaper per unit. Buy items in bulk if you can store or freeze them until needed.
  • Prepare more of your own food – Making cookies from scratch or soup from fresh veggies is cheaper and better-tasting than anything in a box or can. Get a basic cookbook, involve the family, and learn to cook better together.