Gunning Daily News

Getting the Most Out of Social Security Retirement Benefits

September 12, 2013 1:18 am

Too many people end up getting less than what’s due them from Social Security when they retire because they don’t know the rules and the real financial impacts, says independent retirement advisor Gary Marriage, Jr.

“There’s a lot of talk about the future of Social Security, but we still have this benefit and if you’re 50 or older, you should be planning to make the best use of it,” Marriage says.

Marriage, CEO of Nature Coast Financial Advisors, which specializes in maximizing retirees’ finances, shares important facts to keep in mind as you plan for how Social Security will factor in your retirement:

• “Can I convince you to wait a few more years?” Many people are understandably eager to retire as early as possible; others fear Social Security retirement benefits will suddenly vanish, so they want to get what they can as quickly as possible – at age 62. But if you’re counting on those benefits as part of your income, you should wait until you’re eligible for the full amount. That’s age 66 if you were born 1943-54, and age 67 if you were born in 1960 and later. If you’re in the older group, retiring at 62 cuts your benefits by a quarter; for the younger group it’s nearly a third. “Chances are, you’ll be better of mentally and physically if you wait anyway,” Marriage says. “Many studies show that people live longer and are more vital the longer they remain employed; more importantly.”

• The reductions in Social Security add up to a considerable sum. The average retirement benefit in June of this year was 1,222.43, according to the Social Security Administration. People born in the 1943-54 group who are eligible for that amount at age 66 will get just $916.82 a month if they retire at 62. If they live to age 90, that’s a total of $308,052.36. By waiting just four years, they’ll net an additional $44,007.48. Waiting until age 70 can make you eligible for a bump in benefits – up to 8 percent a year – but there are no increases if you delay longer.

• If divorced, were you married for at least 10 years? Were you married for a decade and aren’t currently remarried? You may be eligible to receive benefits based on the former spouse’s work record. Here are some of the other requisites: you must be age 62 or older, and the former spouse must be entitled to receive his or her own benefits. If the former spouse is eligible for a benefit, but has not yet applied for it, the divorced spouse can still receive a benefit. Additionally, two years must pass after the divorce.

Source: www.naturecoastfinancial.com


Kitchen Remodeling 101: Making the Space Your Own

September 12, 2013 1:18 am

BPT—There is a lot to think about when remodeling your kitchen. You want to design a kitchen that reflects your taste and style, which you'll love for years to come. Whether you're designing for yourself or for resale, the key to success is to embrace timelessness. That doesn't mean sacrificing personality for a neutral palette, though. Quite the opposite.

Here are five creative, thrifty and helpful tips from Summer Baltzer, interior designer and former host of HGTV's Design on a Dime, to send you well on your way to a kitchen design that not only looks great in the long term, but also reflects you.

Tip one: Know your style.

Design your kitchen around colors and objects that make you feel great. This is the room you probably spend most of your time in whether you're cooking, entertaining or just doing homework with the kids. Loving the look is important. Make your design meaningful and something you'll want to see every day. Look for inspiration from a pottery collection, a piece of artwork, or even the food you love.

Tip two: Get creative on a budget.

A great way to save money is to repurpose found items for your accents where you can. Frame pictures from favorite recipes, use inexpensive flower pots or mason jars to store utensils and cutlery, repurpose an old console table as a center island. You might even want to spray-paint the old dining table and give it a new life. Look for salvaged floors, pallets or pottery to create new furniture pieces or accents. This approach not only saves you money, but also makes your kitchen enviably unique.

Tip three: Develop your vision.

Keep your ideas on track by collecting loose drawings; they can become your own personal design board. They don't have to be professional or even exactly like the finished product - just enough to make your point and start to envision what the finished product will look like. Seeing your ideas come together before taking a sledgehammer to your old tile not only gets you excited about your project, but can also save you from making design decisions that don't fit your vision. If you're hiring a professional, plans for the kitchen should be included in the cost. Make sure that they fit your vision and that you're getting everything you need from your new space before demo and installation begin.

Tip four: Create timeless beauty.

When focusing on your large installed items, don't just concentrate on what's popular now. Instead, take a look at the items that have been relevant for more than a decade. If you're designing a kitchen for a home you plan on living in for the next 20 years, by all means, go crazy and embrace colors and patterns that make you happy. But if you don't plan on staying there forever, give yourself room to grow. Look to classic color combinations like white, black or gray cabinets; stone countertops with white or walnut cabinets; or butcher block with just about any cabinet color you can imagine.

Tip five: Start with simplicity.

Keep the lines of your installed, more permanent items clean and simple. To add style and versatility, get creative with your accents. For instance, try going Shaker with your cabinets. Traditional cup pull handles will move them in a more classic and traditional direction and linear pull handles will take you down a modern road. By keeping your appliances and more permanent items simple, and using your accents to create a sense of style, you'll open up tons of design doors for yourself, creating a kitchen that transitions easily, keeps up with your style and has staying power.

With this timeless know-how and creative inspiration, you're ready to create a kitchen you'll love both now and a decade down the road.

Source: www.wilsonart.com.


Word of the Day

September 12, 2013 1:18 am

As is. Said of property offered for sale in its present condition with no guarantees as to quality and no promise of repair or fix-up by the seller; property is purchased in exactly the condition in which it is found.


Q: Should I Sell My Home First or Wait until I Have Bought another Home?

September 12, 2013 1:18 am

A: This is a tough decision, but the answer will depend on your personal situation, as well as the condition of the local housing market.

If you put your home on the market first, you may have to scramble to find another one before settlement, which could cause you to buy a home that does not meet all your requirements.  If you cannot find another home, you may need to move twice, temporarily staying with relatives or in a hotel.

On the other hand, if you make an offer to buy first, you may be tempted to sell your existing home quickly, even at a lower price.

The advantage of buying first is you can shop carefully for the right home and feel comfortable with your decision before putting the existing home on the market.

On the flip side, the advantage of selling your existing home first is that it maximizes your negotiating position because you are under no pressure to sell quickly.  It also eliminates the need to carry two mortgages at once.

Talk with your agent for advice.  Discuss the pros and of each and whether certain contingencies written into the contract can ease some of the pressures.

 


Are You Covered? Five Tips for Roof Replacement Projects

September 10, 2013 8:21 pm

BPT—Summer storms are a reminder to make certain your roof is well-equipped to help provide protection from Mother Nature. Considering a roof replacement? Follow these tips for outstanding performance, increased curb appeal and enhanced comfort for your family.

1. Check the warning signs

One of the best ways to stay in front of a roof replacement is to look for small annoyances that could eventually turn into big problems. Do a thorough investigation, but remember to practice ladder safety. Look for discoloration, cracking, uneven surfaces, curled and missing shingles and stains on the underside of the roof deck when viewed from the attic and excessive amounts of granules in the gutter, which fall from shingles and expose the asphalt underneath. If any warning signs are evident, it's time to get in touch with a contractor to assess your roof's condition and discuss replacement.

2. Choose a complete roofing system

When most people think about roof replacements, they think shingles. While shingles add beauty and character to a home's exterior, it's important to understand that they're only the first line of defense in protecting your home from the elements. For true peace of mind, your roof should consist of high-quality shingles and underlayment products to help guard against severe weather outside, as well as ventilation products that balance airflow to control temperature and humidity inside.

"A high-performance roof needs to include components and layers that are specifically designed to work as one system for outstanding protection," says Carl Baca, director of strategic marketing for Owens Corning Roofing and Asphalt.

3. Select your contractor wisely

Finding a skilled and reputable professional who will be able to guide you through the roof replacement process from start to finish is key. It may seem like a difficult task, but it doesn't have to be. Begin by looking for preferred contractors on roofing manufacturers' websites. Ask trusted friends and neighbors for recommendations. Then, obtain quotes from multiple contractors and ask for references. Insist on someone who is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau, holds at least $1 million in general liability insurance and carries all required state and local licensing. The best contractor for the job will be specifically certified to install the roofing components you've selected and possess both a dedication to outstanding craftsmanship and knowledge of the latest industry standards and technologies.

4. Plan for the future

Replacing a roof can be a significant investment, so make sure it's protected with a strong warranty. If you've installed a roofing system, ask your contractor about adding on a warranty that covers the system of components.

5. Don't hesitate to insulate

While your roof is being replaced, consider adding another layer of protection to the top of your home. Ask your contractor to assess your insulation levels when he's in the attic inspecting the underside of your roof. When installed in an attic, loosefill insulation contributes to energy savings and helps control interior temperatures for a comfortable living environment. This could be a DIY project, but many contractors are specifically certified to install insulation - making it an easy add-on to your roofing project.

Source: www.OwensCorning.com.


How-to Protect Yourself against Power Outages

September 10, 2013 8:21 pm

Are you prepared for the next emergency? Well, September is National Emergency Preparedness Month, so if you're not ready yet, now is the time to kick it in gear. This month, take the important steps necessary to prepare yourself for future disasters – both the expected and unforeseen emergencies.

To help businesses and cities protect critical facilities during a power outage, the Diesel Technology Forum has outlined several ways to ensure backup power in a crisis:

Assess the risk: Identifying your facility's critical loads is an important first step. Assign a cost to the risks associated with utility power interruptions, production losses and downtime. Make considerations if natural gas pipeline service is disrupted in your community.

Install a standby generator: Frequent outages of a few seconds, a few minutes or more can often disrupt production lines and have significant cost implications to businesses. While other generator drivers take up to two minutes to engage, diesel-powered generators are uniquely qualified to provide power quickly during a power outage and offers the most cost-effective source of reliable backup power available.

Have sufficient fuel storage: Diesel fuel's energy density and the engine's high efficiency allow for smaller fuel storage facilities compared to other fuels, which provides a cost savings to owners. Still, it is important to make sure that you have sufficient fuel storage capacity on-site for an extended outage of several days.

Maintain your equipment: As required by electrical and safety codes, standby generators should be "exercised" periodically to ensure they will operate as designed in the event of an emergency.

Contract rental power: If installing your own standby generation is not feasible for your business, you might consider contracting with a firm to reserve rental generator power for use in the event of an extended outage.

Recheck your system and set up: One of the great lessons of Superstorm Sandy last year was that even the best generators won't work underwater when subjected to extreme flooding. Is your unit properly located? Is your fuel source also located in a protected area? Also, check the connections and assure you have the proper gauge extension cord for the electrical load and distance.

Never operate a generator in an enclosed area! Generators need to be used safely in an outdoor setting. Carbon monoxide fumes from generators can build up in enclosed areas and poison people. Never use generators or other gasoline or charcoal-burning devices such as grills or heaters inside your home, in a garage, in an enclosed area or outside near an open window.

Check your load: Have you added any new demands or critical circuits to protect? If you've added new computers or other power-hungry devices, consider updating switchgear.

Renew your commitment to maintenance: Make sure your current on all oil and filter changes, service contracts etc. You want your generator to start when you need it.

Exercise is important: All manufacturers suggest you run the units periodically before you need them in an emergency. Many stationary units have automated weekly run cycles.

Plan your refuel strategy: You don't want to have a generator without fuel to operate it. Consider fuel contracts for your generator.

Follow the rules: If you're a business operating a stationary unit, make sure you have the proper permits and records on operations.

Source: www.dieselforum.org.

 


Word of the Day

September 10, 2013 8:21 pm

Loan origination fee. Paid by the borrower to get a loan; it covers expenses incurred by the lender, such as the cost of the appraisal, credit report, title search, etc.

 


Q: What Is a Loan-to-Value Ratio?

September 10, 2013 8:21 pm

A: The loan-to-value ratio, or LTV, is the loan amount expressed as a percent of either the purchase price or the appraised value of the property.  It is an important factor considered by lenders before approving a mortgage.

Few lenders will lend the full value of a property unless they have guarantees such as those offered by the Veterans Administration (VA).  Otherwise, the risks are just too high because if the borrower defaults in the early years of the loan, the lender is stuck with a bad loan.  

This is why lenders prefer a down payment of 20 percent, with an 80 percent LTV.  

Buying private mortgage insurance, which insures the lender against default, can reduce the LTV to 90 or 95 percent, making it possible to have a down payment of 10 or 5 percent.


Home Repairs on the Cheap: 7 Fixes You Can Make Now

September 10, 2013 6:51 pm

If you’re tired of shelling out hefty service fees, consider that many of the most common home repair needs can be fixed easily – and cheaply – even by people with only a passing knowledge about tools and cleaning fluids.

From a consumer blog at ABC News, here are seven easy home repair solutions you should be willing to try yourself:

Clogged drains – Pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. As they bubble down the clogged drain, follow with at least a teapot full of boiling water.

Mice – If you can spot the opening where mice are crawling in, stuff it with a rag saturated with peppermint oil. Mint planted near doorways, or spraying door frames with peppermint oil will also deter mice from entering.

Ants – Ants hate peppermint, too, the solution for mice infestation should work for ants as well. Other solutions? Sprinkle baking soda where you have seen ants congregate. Leave it for 24 hours, then brush or vacuum away. Or try cinnamon sprinkled in the doorway where the ants are seen to be coming from.

Carpet stains – Put a dab of white shaving cream (not the gel variety) onto the stain and blot. Use cool water to clean off the shaving cream. Let dry and vacuum. For pet stains, try a bit of white vinegar or a little dishwashing soap and water.

Squeaky wood floors – Before you call in a pro to adjust your squeaky hardwood floor, try sprinkling baby powder between the floorboards and sweeping up the excess. The powder should lubricate the boards so they no longer rub together.

Dirty windows – White vinegar or a mixture of lemon juice and water – and a little elbow grease – should get windows sparkling.

Appliance breakdowns – Keep the instruction booklets for every appliance you buy. Before you call the repairman, check the handbook. Most contain troubleshooting tips that may help you solve the problem yourself.


Small Changes to Upgrade Your Home

September 10, 2013 1:06 am

(BPT)—Flipping through the television channels, it's hard not to find a home improvement show about remodeling and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. From "Property Brothers" to "Design Star," these popular programs give homeowners ideas on how to modernize their spaces. If you're planning your own DIY projects, here are three areas of the home that will give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to a makeover.

First stop: the bathroom

Bathroom remodels are the most popular remodeling projects because they have a high return on investment, according to the National Association of Home Builders. When you're ready to sell your house, renovating the bathroom typically has a return of 62 percent. A low-cost way to modernize the bathroom is installing new faucets. Look for a signature style featuring cylindrical, geometric shapes and distinct 90-degree angles, such as the new Moen Arris collection, for an iconic, modern update.

Another idea for modernizing the bathroom is to add additional light sources. Bringing in more light will open up the space and make your bathroom come to life. The bathroom is often a place to unwind, and adding the right lighting can set the tone for a spa-like atmosphere. One way to do this, without breaking your budget, is by simply replacing the light fixtures. Add a modern touch to your bath with dramatic choices like chandeliers and sconces.

Second stop: the living room

Modern design doesn't have to mean uncomfortable. Homeowners love modern interiors for the sleek and streamlined look, which leads to less clutter and visual stress. Expand the modern theme throughout the home by updating furniture with unfussy and relaxed pieces. You don't need to buy everything new. Fabric covers, in an array of prints and colors, can instantly bring new life to old furniture. For pieces that need to be replaced, consider purchasing solid and neutral furniture. As trends change, you can switch out pillows and blankets to stay up-to-date.

Keep neutrals in mind when selecting paint colors, as well. White, black, brown and gray will go with just about anything. For a pop of color, paint an accent wall with a bold color, or add extra personality with drapery or area rugs. Use lamps, paintings and accessories to give a personal touch throughout the rest of your living space.

Final stop: the kitchen

Opening up shelving is a way to put a fresh, modern spin on your existing kitchen layout. You can order new cabinets with glass panels or simply remove the doors from your existing ones. Just make sure the exposed areas are not cluttered. Open shelving is a perfect place to display dishes. For a crisp look, try stacks of white plates and bowls. If you're looking for an edgy feel, try patterned or bright-colored ones. Adding new hardware to cabinets is also an inexpensive way to improve the look of your kitchen.

Since you updated your faucet in the bathroom, consider doing your kitchen the same favor.  . To complement your new faucet, look to update your counters as well. Granite remains a popular choice because of its high style and durability.

Integrating technology into home design

It's not just about making your life easier, technology can also aesthetically enhance your living space with modern touches. Mirror technology allows homeowners to disguise the TV when it isn't in use. Available for all TV models, it will look like a mirror is in the room until the unit is turned on. The iCon Bed from Hollandia features a headboard equipped with speakers, an amplifier and docking stations for two iPads. The NestLearning Thermostat shares the same designer as the iPod, and automatically creates a temperature-control schedule personalized around your lifestyle; while also saving energy.

Source: moen.com