Gunning Daily News

Helpful Tips for First-Time Pet Owners

April 26, 2013 3:24 pm

(Family Features) For years, research has shown that having a pet can be very beneficial to a person's health. In addition to warming your heart, a cute and cuddly friend can also help protect it by helping to lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve your overall mood.

From online websites to local drives, the opportunity to adopt is abundant. Millions of dogs and cats are looking for their forever home. With the many joys associated with pet ownership, there are also many things to consider. Here are several tips to be mindful of regardless of whether you are a first-time or seasoned pet parent:

Visit the Vet: Get your new buddy checked out at your local veterinarian's office. While many pet adoptions include a complete medical check-up with the adoption fee, it's still important to ensure they are up-to-date on all shots and preventatives. The vet is also a valuable resource to answer any questions you may have about the proper care of your new companion.

Get to Grooming:
Many people think it's only "for the dogs," but both canines and felines need to be groomed on a regular basis. Though this task may seem uncomfortable for your pet, beginning this routine will make the task more predictable for them. Your vet can help you select the proper brush and bath supplies for your pet.

Avoid Odors and Stains:
Accidents happen so be sure that you have a plan to fight stains and odor with the proper household cleaners. For your feline friends, make sure that the litter box is easily accessible. A litter like ARM & HAMMER™ Ultra Last Clumping Cat Litter is long-lasting, with powerful odor destroyers to continuously eliminate even the worst odors and keep your home smelling fresh and clean.

Pet-Proof Your Home:
Make sure your home is a safe haven for your new furry friend, from the floor to the ceiling. Cats love to scratch and dogs love to chew. Providing them with the proper toys will not only keep them happy, but will also help protect your furniture and personal items.

Instill Good Behavior: Begin
good behavior habits from the moment you bring your pet home. Though nipping may seem adorable at first, this behavior may become a pattern that could become a big problem later. Use simple words to praise and command, setting boundaries and confirming you are the boss. For more formal training, seek your local animal trainer or enroll your pooch in an obedience class.

Source: www.UltraLastLitter.com.

How to Get More for Your Money

April 26, 2013 3:24 pm

It used to be that "middle class" meant "comfortable." Yet today, some are finding that lifestyle is slipping away as they struggle to maintain their standard of living.

Today, the best way to maintain the lifestyle you're accustomed to is to become smarter with the money you do have.

Here are a few ways you can maximize your money:

Budget for your specific needs. When every dollar counts, you can't afford to let anything slip through the cracks. That's where a budget comes in. Creating one—and actually using it—can help you take control of your money. Start by keeping a spending journal so you can see where your money's going. Next, subtract your fixed monthly costs (i.e. mortgage or rent, car payment, utilities, savings, etc.) from your monthly income. The remaining money is what you have left for variable expenses, such as groceries, entertainment, gas, etc. How you divide this money is up to you -- the only catch is you have to stay within your budget limits.

Plan ahead to avoid ATM fees. Avoiding this extra cost is as simple as planning ahead. Paying $3 here and there may not seem like a lot, but it adds up over time. For example, paying $3 at a non-bank ATM, four times a month adds up to $144 each year. That's money that could have been put away in savings or spent on other items.

Find a credit card that benefits you.
Look for one that rewards you for the money you spend.

Save money on everything. With a bit of advance planning and research, you can save money on everything from groceries and gas to haircuts and entertainment. Many of these savings can be found online and through mobile apps. Follow your favorite businesses via social media to learn about exclusive discounts and sales. Mobile apps can help you find the lowest prices on gas and other items you use every day.

Source: BMO Harris Bank

Need to Perk Up Your Lawn? Time for Lime!

April 26, 2013 3:24 pm

I know fairer spring days bring homeowners outside to take a good look at their lawns and landscaping. This brought to mind an article Rhonda Gaster of the North Carolina State University's Lee County Center (http://lee.ces.ncsu.edu) which talks about soil testing and the application of lime to enhance the health and beauty of one's lawn.

Gaster says making a soil test before planting any landscape or garden can provide lots of important information. A typical soil report will present two recommendations: a lime recommendation and a fertilizer recommendation.

Lime is a soil additive usually made by pulverizing limestone (there are other materials that can be used to make lime). Lime's main function is to decrease soil acidity and provides some important plant nutrients.

For most plants, the target pH is between 6.0 and 7.0. There are two types of lime: calcitic and dolomitic.

Calcitic lime is mainly calcium carbonate, while dolomitic lime contains both calcium and magnesium carbonates. If you have sandy soils, dolomitic lime will be the best choice because sandy soils do not hold onto calcium or magnesium well.

If you have a clay soil, Gaster says you will need to base your lime choice on the amount of magnesium already in the soil (if the Mg% is greater than 20, apply calcitic lime).

Lime can be applied at any time during the year, but it will take several months to fully benefit the soil. Try to apply lime before rainfall or plan to irrigate after application.

Gaster says consumers will find both powdered and pelletized lime available. The pelletized lime is easier to use and makes less of a mess.

The lime recommendation is based on the soil pH, and will be expressed in the unit M on a soil report. This unit is the same as lbs per 1,000 square feet.

Only apply 50 lbs of lime per 1,000 square feet at a single application. If your recommendation is higher than 50, apply the initial 50 lbs, then apply the remainder six months later.

Protecting Home Improvement Investments: Why House Paint Fails

April 26, 2013 10:24 am

I am always surprised when finding great information for homeowners in unlikely places. In the latest instance, it is the US Department of Agriculture's Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory with its comprehensive report on why house paint fails.

The prospect of painting even a small building is one of the more involving and expensive improvement projects a homeowner can take on themselves. And many opt to leave it to professional painters.

Either way, take into account things to watch for that could cause all that hard and expensive exterior painting work to fail:

  • Wood was wet when it was painted. If only the surface of the wood is wet, then only 1 sunny day is usually needed for drying prior to painting. If the wood is saturated, several sunny or windy days are necessary for drying prior to painting.
  • Unfinished siding was exposed to several weeks of sunlight before painting. Sunlight degrades the unfinished wood surface, thus it will never hold paint as well as fresh wood. If the unfinished wood was exposed more than 3 to 4 weeks, lightly sand or power wash the surface to remove the thin layer of degraded wood before applying paint.
  • Wood was installed directly over foam or foil-faced insulation board. Water can travel in behind the siding of the house through various routes but has to travel out through the wood, pushing the paint off.
  • House has no interior vapor barrier. The absence of an interior vapor barrier is related to the problems of high levels of humidity inside the house during the heating season and wood that was installed directly over foam or foil-faced insulation board.
  • Wood siding is dirty. If the siding is dirty, the surface of the siding should be power washed or cleaned with detergent and a stiff bristle or brass brush and rinsed well. Never use steel or iron, which causes iron stain and may glaze the surface.
  • Brown stains appear on the surface of the paint. Paint does not have to fall off to fail. Moisture traveling through wood pulls water-based extractives through the paint, leaving brown stains on the surface of the paint. If the wood is kept dry, the water-based extractives in the wood will not bleed through paint.
Read the entire report here. http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/documnts/finlines/knaeb95a.pdf

Riding the Market Roller Coaster

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

The stock market’s drop in April, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed in March at its first new high since the Great Panic of 2008, has prompted a lot of conflicting predictions from analysts.

Some say it marks the end of an impressive bull market, while others say it’s just the beginning of a much larger rally. These predictions may or may not turn out to be correct -- and they leave the investor confused.

However, as with the downturn four years ago, there are smart financial moves everyone can make to potentially take advantage when and if the market rebounds.

Rebalance - Rebalancing is the process of correcting an asset allocation that has become over-weighted or under-weighted due to a market fluctuation. In layman’s terms, it is the process of bringing all your investments back into a predefined mix of equities and fixed income assets. This is an important part of creating an investment strategy. Your portfolio may be over-weighted in stocks during a market high. Rebalancing would force you to harvest some of the gains. When the market is down, rebalancing would force you to buy at reduced prices. Although there are no guarantees, buying low and selling high is a terrific investment strategy!

Donate Appreciated Securities – Anyone charitable minded may have a perfect opportunity to meet donation goals and double their tax savings using appreciated securities during a market high. Provided you have owned the security for at least a year, you can donate the asset and use the current market value as a deduction on your taxes. You also avoid paying capital gains tax on the asset if you had sold it. This could be a significant tax savings on stocks purchased during a market low.

Exercise Stock Options - Stock compensation is an important tool of corporations today in attracting and retaining key employees. Many executives find a significant portion of their compensation being paid in the form of stock options. A market high may be an excellent time to exercise some of your vested stock options if your company stock participated in the market rally. Stock options come in two forms: non-qualified stock options (NQSOs) and incentive stock options (ISOs). Both forms come with expiration dates and price targets, but they differ significantly in their tax treatment. Be sure to consult your tax adviser before taking action.

Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA) strategy
- Withdraw company stock from your 401(k) and, instead of rolling it into an IRA, transfer it to a taxable brokerage account. This strategy avoids paying ordinary income taxes (maximum rate 39.6 percent) on the stock's net unrealized appreciation and turns it into a capital gain (maximum rate of 20 percent). There are strict rules to follow so consult a financial adviser who is experienced with this transaction before proceeding.

Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) - The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 reinstated the ability to make a QCD through Dec. 31, 2013. A QCD allows individuals over age 70½ to directly transfer up to $100,000 from an IRA account to one or more charities. These transfers can be done using appreciated securities and are credited toward the IRA owner’s required minimum distribution for the year.

Stop Timing the Market –
The Great Panic in 2008 and 2009 scared many investors out of stocks entirely. The past four years may have been a missed opportunity as these investors waited on the sidelines for the right time to get back in. You will never know when the stock market is going to go down or when it will recover. The good news is you don’t have to know. Devise a solid financial plan using an asset-allocation strategy that divides your money between a diversified equity portfolio and fixed income. Rebalance your portfolio periodically to take advantage of stock market volatility. The famous investor Peter Lynch said "Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections, or trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in corrections themselves."

Certified Financial Planner® Rick Rodgers is president of Rodgers & Associates, “The Retirement Specialists,” in Lancaster, Pa., and author of “The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach to Retirement Planning.”

For more information, visit www.RodgersSpeaks.com

House Hunting? Pay Attention to Outdated Wiring

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

Spring is here and home buying is in full bloom. I want to gently remind you that while "curb appeal" may attract you, it's the "guts" that should play a key role in determining whether or not a home is a good buy.

According to Ed Ingalls of Newington Electric Company, most people have no idea how dangerous wiring problems may be in a potential new home, even if they hire a home inspector.

Ingalls notes that about 80 percent of homes he sees have some level of outdated wiring. Whether buying a new home or assessing an existing home, there are red flags that wiring should be updated such as:

  • An electric meter located in the basement
  • Old, outdated fuse system
  • Frayed or deteriorated main electrical cable outside of the house
  • Rusted electrical meter box on the outside of your house
  • Lights that flicker on and off or go dim
  • Rusted and corroded grounding wire attached to the water meter
  • Two prong outlets vs. three pronged grounding type electrical outlets
  • Blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers

Other warning signs that a home's electrical system needs attention include:

  • Flickering lights, tripping circuit breakers or blowing fuses
  • You hear the sound of electricity, such as buzzing, sizzling or zapping
  • The circuit breaker panel or fuse panel in the basement is rusty
  • Water dripping from your electrical panel when it rains
  • Two prong outlets in the wall instead of three prong grounding type
  • If you don't have GFI outlets (ground fault interrupters) in the kitchen or bathroom
  • If you use extension cords to run your appliances or lights
Ingalls says all homes need to have at least a 100 amp service and may even need 200 or even 400 amp upgrades to accommodate wiring for today's appliances.

For instance, a modern household with normal everyday appliances would require a 100-amp service minimum, but a household that had a few additional items such as a hot tub and/or air conditioning would most likely need a minimum of 200 amps.

Ingalls further notes that most banks, lending institutions and insurance companies will require a homeowner to upgrade the electrical system before buying or selling a house. In doing so, it may also reduce one's homeowner's insurance.

Source: www.newingtonelectric.com

Bringing Home Baby: When to Call the Doctor

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

(BPT) - Most new parents are anxious when their infant has a fever, or is fussy, stuffy and simply not acting right. But how do you decide to call the pediatrician or to wait - especially in the middle of the night?

"We understand the uncertainty that comes with bringing home a newborn, and it's always better to be safe than sorry," says Linda Ciampa, a registered nurse in the labor and delivery department of a Boston-area hospital. "Even at 2 a.m., most doctors' offices are on call to give you assurance and advice. We would much rather have you call than be up all night worrying - or possibly overlook something important," adds Ciampa. "Even for the pros - ruling out anything serious offers the best possible peace of mind for us all."

Ciampa encourages all first-time parents to take advantage of the postpartum care, newborn CPR and safety classes offered at many hospitals and community centers. Knowledge and information can reduce stress when your baby isn't feeling well. She offers the following tips on what to look for when you suspect your baby may be sick:

Fever


Fever helps the body fight infection and doesn't always need to be treated. But sometimes, fever in a newborn can be serious. A temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher in a baby under the age of 2 months should be reported. Your doctor will likely ask whether the baby is feeding, urinating and sleeping adequately. Never give medicines or other home remedies to a baby without first consulting with a pediatrician.

Historically, the most accurate way to determine a baby's core-body temperature was with a rectal thermometer. Now, however, many doctors' offices and hospitals use a forehead scanner, such as the Exergen TemporalScanner. One swipe provides a fast and accurate reading in just two seconds.

Studies show that temporal artery thermometers are just as accurate as the more invasive methods of temperature taking, such as rectal. They take the stress out of taking a baby's temperature - and work on grownups too.

Seek immediate medical attention and call 911 if your infant is struggling to breathe or turns a shade of blue. Don't hesitate to call your pediatrician if:

  • Your baby's skin appears yellow or you suspect jaundice
  • The newborn's stools appear red, white or black (aside from the first black meconium bowel movements)
  • Your little one has a persistent cold, cough or is vomiting (more than spitting up)
  • Your baby is unusually fussy, lethargic or not waking up for feeds
  • The baby is not wetting enough diapers (look for six or more daily after 6 days of age)

Health care providers are there to offer advice and reassurance whenever you are unsure about any health issue concerning your newborn. Health care providers want your baby to be healthy—and you to feel confident –so you can enjoy this special time with your precious, new arrival.

Word of the Day

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

Master deed. Document that converts a parcel of land into a condominium subdivision.

Q: Can an Older Homeowner Who Is Cash Poor but House Rich Use Their Home to Tap into the Equity?

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

A: Yes, but not so much by refinancing. A reverse mortgage is a better, and increasingly popular, option for older Americans to convert home equity into cash. Money can then be used to cover home repairs, everyday living expenses, and medical bills.

Instead of making monthly payments to a lender, the lender makes payments to the homeowner, who continues to own the home and hold title to it.

According to the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, the money given by the lender is tax-free and does not affect Social Security or Medicare benefits, although it may affect the homeowners’ eligibility for certain kinds of government assistance, including Medicaid.

Homeowners must be at least 62 and own their own homes to get a reverse mortgage. No income or medical requirements are necessary to qualify, and they may be eligible even if they still owe money on a first or second mortgage. In fact, many seniors get reverse mortgages to pay off the original loan.

Repaying a reverse mortgage is not necessary until the property is sold or the owner moves. Should the owner die before the property is sold, the estate repays the loan, plus any interest that has accrued.

What Will Really Make You Happy?

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

The idea of a happy and meaningful life has become unnecessarily complicated in some circles, says author and certified positive psychology coach Lynda Wallace, who left a high-powered executive career with Johnson & Johnson to pursue her real passion – helping individuals and groups achieve greater happiness and success.

“Happiness has been appropriately cited as a goal in political debates on issues from taxation to the social safety net to marriage equality, but the debate is often confused,” says Wallace, author of “A Short Course in Happiness: Practical Steps to a Happier Life,” which topped Amazon’s Self-Help Best Seller list.

“Some people claim that happiness is all in your DNA or bank account. The truth is that happiness is largely a matter of everyday choices and actions. There are straightforward, well-researched and effective things every one of us can do to create greater happiness in our lives and in the lives of those we care about.”

The essential elements of a happy life are not mysterious, she says.

Research shows that the happiest people do four basic things that make the difference: they focus on what is good and positive in their lives; cope effectively with life’s inevitable challenges; develop strong relationships; and pursue meaningful goals.

“We can all become happier by putting our efforts into these areas,” Wallace says.

One of the first steps we can take is to get past some of the common misperceptions about happiness that can stand in our way. Wallace offers these four examples.

• Misconception 1: Happiness is about getting the big things right. It’s natural to think that if we were suddenly rich, beautiful and living on the beach somewhere, we’d be happy. But that type of good fortune turns out to have a surprisingly small impact on happiness. The happiest people are most often not those in the most enviable circumstances, but those who cultivate positive emotional outlooks and actions. So how can we do it? “Take concrete steps to practice optimism, gratitude, kindness and self-compassion in your everyday life,” says Wallace. “The cumulative effect of those everyday choices can have a tremendous impact on how you experience your life.”

• Misconception 2: Happy people suppress negative emotions. Happy people actually experience sadness, grief, worry and other so-called negative emotions nearly as frequently as unhappy people do. The difference is what happens when those feelings occur. Happier people are generally able to experience negative feelings without losing hope for the future. “They give themselves permission to feel sad, angry or lonely, but they remain confident that things will get better. As a result, their sadness progresses into hope and action rather than regressing into anxiety and despair.”

• Misconception 3: Pursuing happiness is self-centered. The strongest of all conclusions drawn by researchers into emotional well-being is that our happiness is determined more by our relationships with other people than by any other single factor. The happiest people build their lives around good, trusting relationships. “If other priorities are getting in the way of your relationships,” says Wallace, “take steps to shift the balance back to where it will really make a difference.”

• Misconception 4: I’ll be happy when I achieve my goals. Have you ever noticed that when someone wins the Super Bowl or an Academy Award, or when you achieve a long-sought ambition, that wonderful sense of accomplishment and happiness seems to fade faster than you’d expect? “That’s just the way our brains work,” says Wallace. “Committed goal pursuit is one of the keys to a happy life, but most of the happiness we get from striving for goals comes while we’re making progress toward them, not after we achieve them. That’s why it’s so important that we choose goals that are in synch with what we love and value, and that we make a conscious effort to enjoy them along the way.”

Source: www.lyndawallace.com.