April 3, 2013 5:02 pm
(BPT) - Saving for retirement is an essential task, but one that can be complex and demand a lot of attention. With the arrival of April - Financial Literacy Month - focusing on your existing saving strategies should be a priority. It's also an ideal time to talk to a financial professional who can help you shoulder the burden and explore other options to make your money work harder for your future.
According to a recent Investor Sentiment survey conducted by Research Now on behalf of TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation, the majority (63 percent) of investors report they do rely on or seek guidance from a professional investment advisor when making investment decisions.
Even if you have a good handle on your investments, you may find that hiring a financial advisor - who can put the time and energy into making sure you and your family plan for a secure financial future - may be a worthwhile investment. By hiring an independent registered investment advisor - commonly referred to as an RIA - you can make sure your investments are managed on a full-time basis by a professional, while still having control.
Of course deciding to put someone in charge of your hard-earned money is not a process to be taken lightly. TD Ameritrade offers these tips to consider as you choose an independent financial advisor or RIA:
- Just as it is wise to do research on the background of anyone who would take care of your children, you should investigate the person or company you enlist to handle your money. The Securities and Exchange Commission (www.adviserinfo.sec.gov), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (www.finra.org), Certified Planning Board of Standards (www.cfp.net), National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (www.findanadvisor.napfa.org/Home.aspx), and Financial Planning Association (www.fpanet.org), as well as your own state securities agency all collect background information on financial professionals that can be accessed through their websites. Use these sites to make sure the advisors you are considering haven't faced disciplinary action for dishonest practices and are in good standing with regulators.
- Know the difference between working with an independent RIA and a stock broker, or other financial services provider. Independent RIAs, for example, are bound by law to act in their clients' best interest. Brokers, on the other hand, are held to a "suitability" standard, meaning the advice they give must be suitable to that client's situation. If you are looking for objective, comprehensive money management, you might want to consider an RIA.
- While RIAs are required by law to act in your best interest, there are other ways that you can ensure they will do what is best for you. One is to ask how they are compensated. Fee-only compensation can help minimize conflicts of interest and means that your advisor is paid only for the management services and advice he or she offers, and only by you, not by investment product providers. When an advisor is paid on commission, there's a greater chance he or she will make choices with your money that serve not only your interests, but their own as well. That's not to say that advisors do not work fairly under this model, but potential conflicts of interest are something to consider as you choose an advisor.
- When looking for referrals from friends or relatives, the most valuable referrals may come from those in similar situations. It's also a good idea to ask potential advisors if they specialize in working with certain types of clients and choose one that fits your unique profile.
- Check to make sure your advisor's firm is audited on a regular basis. A third party custodian should also handle all your deposits, to ensure checks and balances. An independent custodian can help ensure the safety and security of your assets, and will provide you with a clear, concise statement every month. A duplicate monthly statement is also sent to your advisor. Make sure this is also a legitimate and upstanding business.
April 3, 2013 5:02 pm
As more homeowners are making the commitment to aging in place, I continue to seek out new resources to help folks with ways to transition their homes for the 'extended stay.'
So it was great to discover aging in place expert Mary Jo Peterson, CKD, CBD, CAPS (www.mjpdesign.com), a relatively close neighbor from Connecticut. She noted that design trends toward more open spaces and generous daylight have forced designers to use fewer wall cabinets and the response from consumers is tremendous.
Peterson also points out that more renovations include placing appliances at comfortable heights. Peterson says she used to be a lonely voice encouraging splitting double ovens so each might be placed at a more accessible height, but today, clients are asking for them.
She says beware, however, because this is one of those Universal Design concepts that only works when it fits into the design.
Another source, Certified Aging in Place Specialist, Charlie Hudson of Hudson Remodeling in Lynden, WA offers these Aging in Place/Universal Design Tips:
Install bath and shower grab bars. When properly installed, grab bars are effective in helping prevent slips and falls. Typically, they are the first item people turn to when looking to improve bathroom safety.
Replace a traditional tub with a walk-in shower unit. Wonderful step-free shower units can be created in the same space currently used for a bathtub. Walk-in showers can be installed as prefabricated units or as a custom project using materials like tile and glass.
Consider remodeling to add a ground floor master suite. This type of remodel not only allows seniors to stay in their own home as long as possible, it can also help those recovering from injury or illness.
In the kitchen, relocate (or raise) the level of your dishwasher to make loading/unloading easier; install pull-out shelves in lower cabinets for easier access.
Change hardware throughout the house; using levers or “D” pulls can make it easier for all abilities to open and close doors and cabinets.
Install handrails along interior and exterior staircases; make sure those areas are well lit as well.
April 2, 2013 5:52 pm
I recently uncovered a very educational article from Suzanne DeJohn at gardeners.com about the latest government hardiness zone map.
Among upgrades on the USDA's latest version of the U.S. Hardiness Zone Map are colorful stripes delineating the zones in 5-degree Fahrenheit increments, from zone 1a (-60 to -55F, found only in Alaska) to zone 13b (65 to 70F, found only in Puerto Rico).
DeJohn points out that since its predecessor map, many gardeners are finding themselves in a half-zone warmer region on the new map, while a relative few will find themselves in a cooler zone. Creators of the map say the warming trend is due to more sophisticated measuring equipment, a longer period from which the averages were drawn, and additional weather monitoring stations.
Most 'seasoned' gardeners are familiar with their hardiness zones. And information to determine yours can be found everywhere, from seed packets and nursery tags to reference books and websites.
But the very latest hardiness ratings are handy guidelines that can help when you select perennials plants, trees and shrubs. So, for instance, if you live in zone 5, you can be relatively confident that a plant rated hardy in zones 1 through 5 will tolerate your winter temperatures.
Gardeners may be tempted to rush out and buy plants for their newly designated zone. However, DeJohn says despite the hullabaloo about the new map, it does have limitations, because many factors besides cold hardiness affect a plant's ability to thrive.
Although the new hardiness zone map is a useful tool, she says don't rely on it too much when selecting plants for your landscape. Instead, consider each potential plant's native habitat.
A perennial that is adapted to sunny desert conditions will have a tough time in a cloudy, wet climate, even if it's the right hardiness zone. To stay up to date, check out the map at planthardiness.ars.usda.gov.
April 2, 2013 5:52 pm
Spring is here and many homeowners are looking to revamp their curb appeal.
What simple steps can be taken to improve your home’s value besides reviving
your gardens? By updating or repairing your roof you can upgrade your curb
Alyssa Hall from GAF, North America’s Largest Roofing manufacturer, offers the following tips to protect your roof this spring as well as new trends and styles that will make your roof stand out and increase the value of your home.
1. Start off by checking the roof framing structure to make sure it is not compromised. Visually scan the roof for any sagging or uneven areas.
2. Inspect the gutter systems to make sure they are not clogged with branches, leaves, or other debris.
3. Make sure that gutters are fastened properly and are tight and secure so that they don’t cause overflow and build-up or fall off the fascia board.
4. Check the valleys of the roof to ensure that they are also free and clear of debris that can add weight to the roof and also act as a barrier to rain.
5. Metal flashing should also be used around roof vents, pipes, skylights, and chimneys. One of the most common causes for roofing leaks is due to problems with flashing.
6. Walk around to carefully inspect the shingles on the roof – look for curling edges, missing granules, etc.
April 2, 2013 5:52 pm
Living on a budget is never easy – and building an emergency fund or saving for a major purchase may seem too difficult a task. But, said single parent and money blogger Linda Ramos, it only takes a bit of discipline – and a firm commitment – to shave dollars off monthly expenses.
“The trick,” said Ramos, “is not just to save, but to take the dollars you would have spent and put them into a savings account. Then pat yourself on the back for your cleverness and restraint as you watch your money grow.”
Ramos suggests seven painless ways to cut expenses and save:
Better food planning – Forget fast food. Read supermarket ads and plan meals around what’s on sale. Prowl the Internet for meatless recipes and do vegetarian meals once or twice a week. Save on snacks or mindless munching by dividing boxes of cookies and crackers into snack-sized portions when you bring them home from the store…and force yourself to bank a few bucks weekly based on what you are now saving.
Check out the dollar store – It’s chock full of off-brand household products and grocery items – even fresh produce – priced well below retail, that will leave you with extra dollars you can feed into your savings account.
Cutting coupons – Clip discount coupons for groceries and local restaurants. If you must dine out, use a coupon – and if your grocery bill is reduced by $6 when you use your coupons, put at least half that into savings.
Make your cleaning products – Find ‘recipes’ online for making laundry detergents, fabric softeners and other household cleansers. Make your own, and bank a couple of bucks a week for what you save by shunning high-priced brands.
Try the thrift shop – Before you head for the mall, check the thrift shop for great bargains in hardly-worn kids’ clothing, gently used household goods and plenty more. Reward your savings account with a few of those unspent dollars.
Use the library – Stop magazine subscriptions and quit buying or renting movies, video games and more. There’s a huge selection at the local library that you can check out for free. Put a dollar into savings for every two you don’t spend.
Recycle – That means cans, bottles, newspapers and anything else you can recycle for cash – and you know what to do with that cash now, don’t you?
April 2, 2013 5:52 pm
Recording. Entering or recording documents affecting or conveying interests in real estate in the recorder’s office; until recorded a deed or mortgage generally is not effective against subsequent purchases or mortgage liens.
April 2, 2013 5:52 pm
A: When a homeowner falls behind on three payments, the bank will record a notice of default against the property. When the owner fails to pay up, a trustee sale is held, and the property is sold to the highest bidder. The lender that initiated the foreclosure proceedings will usually set the bid price at the loan amount. Successful bidders receive a trustee's deed as proof of ownership.
Trustee sales are advertised in advance and require all-cash bids, which can include cashiers’ checks. Normally, a sheriff, constable, or lawyer conducts the sale and acts as the trustee. Because these sales typically attract savvy investors, inexperienced buyers should come extremely prepared.
April 1, 2013 9:40 pm
Parents sending their children off to college for the first time typically have prepared years in advance for the big occasion. And since tuition rates continue to increase, parents are, more than ever, focused on having their child be successful and graduate, says David Porter, founder of a firm that designs campus wide dining programs and dining halls at colleges throughout North America, and author of “The Porter Principles: Retain & Recruit Students & Alumni, Save Millions on Dining and Stop Letting Food Service Contractors Eat Your Lunch.”
“The average cost for an in-state public college for the 2012–2013 academic year is $22,261, and a moderate budget at a private college averaged $43,289,” says Porter, who has worked with the University of Georgia, University of New Hampshire, Ferris State University, George Mason University and the University of Richmond, among others. “While many American families have seen a sharp decline in their household income, higher education for their children is still a top priority.”
So, what might parents be overlooking when trying to ensure their child starts off a career with a college degree? It’s the school’s dining program and the role it plays in campus life, including the location(s), facilities, the menu, meal plans, hours, operating days and more, Porter says.
“It can and will be the most powerful aspect of day to day life for your son or daughter to connect to their class, make friends, see and be seen and connect to the school,” he says. “The sooner they connect to one another, the more likely they are to return as sophomores and eventually graduate.”
Social architecture, he explains, is the conscious design of an environment to encourage social behaviors that lead toward a goal -- in this case, solidifying college students’ connection to one another, and a commitment to their school, through dining.
“Social architecture is a catalyst for students to connect, make friends and be social; it’s crucial to helping students connect with their school and develop bonds with other students, which are both critical to student success,” he says. “Students who live and dine on campus tend to have higher GPA’s and are more likely to graduate.”
A meticulously planned, student-focused and socially rich dining program on a campus can help a student graduate for the following reasons, he says:
• Crucial social steps: Out of the house for the first time, living alone or with roommates he or she doesn’t know, often far from home, studying challenging material and without the life skills of a mature adult – your child’s well-being is largely dependent upon the friends and colleagues he meets at school. Meals are when families, coworkers and friends come together and bond, and it’s also when students come together to meet new people, study or just blow off steam.
• Meal plan: These have often been the bane of a student’s existence, complete with limited food options, which are often scattered and frequently hamstrung with time limits. And, they can be expensive. But students won’t complain about a meal plan’s price is they’re happy with what they get. Many conscientious students today choose a vegetarian or vegan diet, or they have other diet restrictions, such as gluten, due to their health. A meal plan should complement a campus and the student clock, which is different from that of an administrator’s schedule.
• On-campus: Porter stresses the importance of unifying meal plans with dining halls; otherwise, students tend to experience the campus in a fractured manner. Meal plans that offer off-campus options are even more problematic, he says, because that steers the focus away from studies, students and other areas of university life.
• School pride: If universities are like businesses, then loyal alumni are like customer loyalty and positive word of mouth wrapped in one idea. When all of the factors come together for a pleasant, sociable, convenient and generally inviting dining hall, it’s a concrete and positive way students can see themselves as lifelong proponents of their schools.
David Porter, FCSI, is chief executive officer and president of Porter Khouw Consulting, Inc., a foodservice master planning and design firm. David has more than 40 years of hands-on food service operations and consulting experience and is a professional member of the Foodservice Consultants Society International. For more information, visit www.porterkhouwconsulting.com.
April 1, 2013 9:40 pm
The U.S. is the most severe weather-prone country on Earth, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Each year, there are approximately 100,000 thunderstorms with 10,000 being severe; 5,000 floods; and 1,000 tornadoes.
Paul Davis Restoration and Remodeling of Tarrant County, leading provider of fire, water and mold damage restoration services for residential and commercial properties, offers the following tips for protecting life and property.
Have a disaster plan and emergency supplies in place. Your "Basic Emergency Kit" should include:
- Water - one gallon of water per person and pets for a minimum of three days
- Food - a three-day supply of non-perishable food for adults, children and pets and a can opener
- Battery-powered or hand crank commercial radio and a NOAA Weather
- Cell Phone with charger
- First aid kit, non-prescription drugs like pain relievers,
- prescription medications and supplies
- Copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account
- records in waterproof container.
- Sleeping bags or warm blankets
- Fire extinguisher
The beginning of spring is also a good time to inspect your property to
check for any damage winter left behind and to prepare for the spring
storm season. Below are some valuable tips for protecting your property
from severe weather.
- Clear yard of loose articles and debris
- Trim trees and shrubs
- Keep lawn furniture, outdoor toys, garbage cans secured or stored
- Inspect your roof and repair any loose shingles
- Repair siding, awnings, gutters and downspouts
April 1, 2013 9:40 pm
Metal theft continues to attract thieves across the country. Among the targets most often hit are recently foreclosed and vacated homes. These sites pose challenges to owners and banks who attempt to ward off would-be copper thieves, squatters and intruders.
While unsalable homes are still a relatively small part of the national inventory of foreclosed properties, the Department of Housing and Urban Development reports that the worse the economy is in a particular region, the more damaged and vandalized foreclosed homes are likely to be.
As the economy continues to climb out of a recession, Netwatch USA announces six tips to prevent vacant or foreclosed homes from falling victim to copper theft or potential occupation by trespassers or squatters.
Keep up with lawn care and exterior maintenance. This will not only increase curb appeal once it’s ready to sell, it will also let would-be trespassers know that the house is regularly visited and may, in fact, be inhabited. Be sure to keep gutters clean, snow shoveled, and the lawn mowed. Be sure to remove all ladders and tools after maintenance to prevent them from being used for break-ins.
Park a car in the driveway. If you have an extra car, keeping it in the driveway can be enough to make the house look inhabited. You may also want to ask a trusted neighbor to park in the driveway.
Invest in automatic interior and exterior lights. Keeping pathways, doorways, and interiors well-light may scare off potential burglars. Consider automatic lights for the exterior and lights on timers for the interior.
Lock up your circuit breaker. Effective lighting and certain surveillance equipment requires electricity, so lock the door to your circuit breaker. If kept unlocked, thieves can easily access the breaker and cut off the electricity, therefore disabling lighting and some traditional burglar alarms. To minimize electrical fire risk, turn off all unnecessary electrical circuits
Manage where the vacant property’s address is published. Until the property is ready to sell, keep the address as private as possible. Thieves will access lists of vacant homes which will make it easier and more efficient for them to find and break-in to homes.
Check that you have the correct type of insurance. Confirm with your insurance company to see if your policy needs to change now that the property is vacant. More often than not, carrying construction companies’ risk policy will adequately cover you from copper theft and vandals.
“Abandoned homes are, by their nature, a challenge to protect and are especially vulnerable to copper thieves,” says Netwatch CEO David Walsh. “Simply nailing plywood to windows and doors is not enough to scare off intruders and can easily be removed by saws and pry bars. Protecting your property with an effective surveillance system along with proper security measures will discourage potential copper thieves. "
For more information, visit www.netwatchusa.com.