Gunning Daily News

Survival Plan for Maintaining Financial Stability during Sequestration

March 5, 2013 5:40 pm

Sequestration is now in place, and along with it came a good amount of uncertainty, causing many Americans to wonder how they will be impacted. By some estimates, more than one million employees of federal agencies may receive furlough notices.

Some workers are not adequately prepared to deal with a loss of income, even a short-term one. For those living from paycheck to paycheck or without significant savings, any income interruption is likely to put them over the financial edge.

For example, consider the statistics below from the National Foundation for
Credit Counseling (NFCC) Financial Literacy Survey:

• Thirty-three percent of respondents admit to not paying all bills on time;
• Thirty-nine percent have zero non-retirement savings;
• Thirty-nine percent carry debt over from month to month, and
• Sixteen percent have utilized overdraft protection in the last 12 months.

“Even if a person does not anticipate being impacted by sequestration, now
is a good time for a comprehensive financial review,” says Gail Cunningham,
spokesperson for the NFCC. “Whether due to an unplanned expense or a job
loss, no one has ever regretted being financially prepared, and preparation
starts with understanding where you stand today.”

The NFCC advises consumers to take the following steps to put themselves in
a better financial position, regardless of what the coming months may hold:

• Assess current financial situation – The NFCC’s free financial
self-assessment tool, MyMoneyCheckUp™, is a good place to start. The tool
provides consumers with a means of evaluating four key areas of personal
finance: budgeting and credit management, saving and investing, planning for
retirement, and home equity. After answering a series of topic specific
questions, a personalized assessment of the individual’s overall financial
health and associated behaviors is generated. With areas of concern
identified, the analysis suggests changes that consumers are encouraged to
implement in order to become more financially independent. The traditional
green, yellow and red traffic light colors signal whether the consumer
should continue on their current money path, proceed with caution, or stop
and make a change. Individuals can also complete an optional budget to
further help them assess their financial health. The tool is available in
English at www.MyMoneyCheckUp.org and in Spanish at
https://www.miayudafinanciera.org.
• Face the financial facts – After completing the financial discovery step,
consumers may find the results surprising. Don’t ignore them. Financial
problems rarely resolve themselves, particularly in emergency situations.
Take action sooner rather than later, as delaying only makes the problem
harder to resolve.
• Take control – Admittedly, some things are beyond a person’s financial
control, but some aren’t. Control what you can by doing the following:

  • Review your credit report and score, both necessary to fully understand
    the current financial situation, and provide a framework for next steps.
  • Create a cash-flow calendar listing all sources of income. Next, plug in
    the dates all bills are due. This will ensure that bills are paid on time
    and protect the credit report and score from future damage.
  • Commit to paying down debt, and if necessary, suspend all charging,
    consistently moving toward solid financial ground.
  • Reach out to a legitimate credit counseling agency for help creating a
    survival plan.
“If there is a quick resolution to the sequestration, nothing has been lost
by implementing the above steps,” continues Cunningham. “If not, consumers
will be better prepared to face whatever comes their way financially.”

For more information, visit www.DebtAdvice.org.

7 Tips to Hire a Reliable Basement Waterproofing Contractor

March 5, 2013 5:40 pm

Though the U.S census Bureau indicates more than 25 percent of homeowners with basements are burdened with chronic basement moisture or flooding, that's no reason to feel downhearted. According to Steve Rivette, a seasoned waterproofing contractor, "The ground is very porous now because warmer weather is thawing the frost from the ground. Basements are becoming ripe for leakage at this time of the year.”

These problems can be taken care of by an experienced waterproofing contractor. Take these tips from the basement waterproofing experts at the B-Dry® Owners Association to help you select a reliable waterproofer:

  • Check with the Better Business Bureau, chamber of commerce, state attorney general's office, county clerk and consumer advocate organizations for information about waterproofing firms
  • Ask each firm to provide a lengthy list of references and speak with several previous customers. Don't settle for one or two pre selected names. Ask for references in your own community or surrounding neighborhood.
  • Carefully examine each firm's guarantee or warranty. Are there hidden costs for repair? Does the warranty last for the lifetime of the home? Is it transferable to a new owner? Is a clearly written, understandable guarantee or warranty provided?
  • Be wary of a sales person who changes a warranty to close a sale. Those revisions may not be honored by the company.
  • Make sure any long-term guarantee can be honored. The best protection is offered by a large company with a long term history of success. The home office should stand behind the work, not merely a sub-contractor hired by the firm.
  • Beware of any contractor promising a final cost estimate over the phone. The actual cost will always depend on the size of your basement and the scope of the problem.
  • Review the credentials of each company. Is waterproofing its primary business? Does the company provide waterproofing services throughout the year? Verify that the companies providing the bid will also perform the work themselves and will not hire sub-contractors. A sub-contractor can jeopardize the validity of the warranty.

Source: www.b-dry.com

Word of the Day

March 5, 2013 5:40 pm

Judgment. Court decree stating that one person is indebted to another. Also specifies the amount of the debt.

Q: What Factors Should Determine whether I Decide to Move or Remodel?

March 5, 2013 5:40 pm

A: Your personal needs, preferences and finances are all factors. If you’ve lived in your home awhile and prefer to stay in your school district or neighborhood, improving your existing space may work best for you. If a second bathroom is what you desire, it may also be cheaper to convert existing space than to relocate to another home. According to the American Homeowner Foundation, you can expect to spend 8-10% of your current home’s value when you move. Ask yourself if that money could be better spent on a remodeling project instead. Chances are you’d increase your home’s value, derive more pleasure from your home than you did previously, and save yourself the time, expense and headache of a move.

Five Steps to Financial Protection

March 4, 2013 6:00 pm

Squirreling away a bit of each paycheck is a terrific way to bolster your finances, but it may not be enough. Below are five additional tips you can follow to keep yourself, and your bank account, protected.

Create a realistic budget. Living within your means is your financial foundation toward eventual security. Learn the difference between wants and needs.
Build an emergency fund, so when the unexpected happens, you can protect your assets. The general rule-of-thumb is that a healthy emergency fund covers three to six months of living expenses.
Contribute to your retirement. Because women live longer and are often in and out of the workforce, they are economically vulnerable, especially in retirement. Start saving now.
Establish and protect your good credit. Try to pay off your credit card balance monthly or get on a payment plan to pay off the credit card altogether. Pay cash whenever possible.
Protect all you've earned with adequate life insurance. An unexpected death and loss of salary can leave loved ones vulnerable. Life insurance can help cover mortgage, childcare, and college expenses.

Source: www.royalneighbors.org.

How To: Sleep Better Tonight

March 4, 2013 6:00 pm

A good night’s sleep can aid your productivity, allow you to feel fresh and alert, and even keep you healthier in the long run. To improve your sleep, try the following tips:

  • Exercise regularly. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
  • Create an environment that is conducive to sleep that is quiet, dark and cool with a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual, like a warm bath or listening to calming music.
  • Go to sleep and wake at the same time every day, and avoid spending more time in bed than needed.
  • Use bright light to help manage your "body clock." Avoid bright light in the evening and expose yourself to sunlight in the morning.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep to strengthen the association between your bed and sleep. It may help to remove work materials, computers and televisions from your bedroom.
  • Save your worries for the daytime. If concerns come to mind, write them in a "worry book" so you can address those issues the next day.
  • If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired.
  • If you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring, or "stop breathing" episodes in your sleep, contact your health care professional for a sleep apnea screening.

Source: www.sleepfoundation.org

Word of the Day

March 4, 2013 6:00 pm

Joint tenancy. Property owned by two or more persons with equal and undivided interest and ownership and the right of survivorship. If one owner dies, the property automatically passes to the others.

Q: Are Home Improvements Deductable?

March 4, 2013 6:00 pm

A: Yes, but only after you have sold your home. According to the IRS, home improvements add to the basis, or value, of your home. A tax-acceptable improvement is defined as one that adds value to your home, "considerably" prolongs your home's useful life, or adapts your house to new uses. Examples include installing new plumbing or wiring or adding a bathroom. If the work done on the home is purely for maintenance, the cost cannot be deducted and generally cannot be added to the basis, or value, of your home. However, repairs done as part of an extensive remodeling or restoration of your home are considered improvements and therefore pass the deductible test.

Avoid These Costly Central Air Mistakes

March 1, 2013 5:32 pm

Air conditioning is almost a necessity for homes in very warm climates – but considering that the cost for running the unit amounts to almost 70 percent of your summer electric bill, it’s wise to avoid the costly mistakes that can lead to excessive outlay.

If a new air conditioning unit is in your future, take these tips from professional installers to help reduce usage and trim costs to a minimum:

  • Buy the right size – An oversized unit will not cool any faster, but will run far less efficiently. A too-small unit will not properly cool the space. Don’t guess. Consult with a professional to determine the proper size needed for your home.
  • Place it properly – A unit placed on the southwest side of the house will almost always work too hard. Install the air conditioner in a shady spot on the east or north side of the house, where there is less direct sunlight.
  • Don’t surround it with plants – Sure, the unit is not pretty, but trying to hide it behind shrubs or other plants will hinder ventilation, clog condenser coils, and make the unit run less efficiently.
  • Use a programmable thermostat – Despite rumors to the contrary, it cheaper and more efficient than letting the unit run all day.
  • Be careful about closing off unused rooms – Closing the vents and doors of unused rooms can decrease the efficiency of central air conditioning. Consult an expert before you do.
  • Use ceiling fans wisely – The air conditioner should be used in tandem with ceiling fans. Make sure the fan Is switched to push air downward (typically counter-clockwise.) The downward airflow creates a ‘wind chill effect,’ which makes you feel cooler.
  • Don’t ignore maintenance - Clean or replace filters every two months – more frequently if there is a lot of dust or pet hair in your home. Check and clean the evaporator coil once a year. Run a stiff wire through the drain channels regularly – and check the window seals each year to be sure the cool air is not leaking out.

Time Is Ticking on Taking Certain Energy Credits

March 1, 2013 5:32 pm

According to a report by Chicago's Center for Neighborhood Technology - part of the recent “fiscal cliff” legislation provided certain tax credits for home energy efficiency improvements. These tax credits, coupled with financial incentives available for energy efficiency improvements, are available right now to qualified applicants in various states.

In Illinois for example, applicants could receive an instant rebate of up to $1,750 from Energy Impact Illinois and their local utility. According to the report, homeowners can also claim another credit of up to $500 for the very same improvements, so long as they are eligible under a state tax extension.

The Energy Efficiency Business Coalition (EEBC) reminds builders and homeowners that certain energy-efficient home products must be “placed in service” before December, 31, 2013. And remember - taxpayers, who claimed $500 or more of this credit in prior years, particularly 2009 and 2010, can no longer participate.

A credit of $2,000 is available to builders who develop site-built and manufactured homes projected to save at least 50 percent of heating and cooling energy based on standards in the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code.

A $1,000 credit is available to manufactured home producers for models that save 30 percent or that qualify for the federal Energy Star Homes program. These credits are available for buildings or systems placed in service before December 31, 2013.

See a state-by-state breakdown of energy efficiency programs courtesy of the nonprofit ACEEE (American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy) by clicking visiting aceee.org/sector/state-policy.