Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

October 11, 2012 1:28 pm

VA loan. Veterans Administration-backed mortgage. The VA, a federal agency, operates a loan guarantee program for honorably discharged veterans and widows of veterans who died of a service-related injury. Mortgages call for low or no downpayment. Sometimes referred to as GI loan.

Q: Can a home be sold for less than its mortgage?

October 11, 2012 1:28 pm

A: Sometimes. But it is a complicated process and a lot will depend on the lender.
This process is called a “short sale,” which occurs when a lender agrees to write off the portion of a mortgage that's higher than the value of a home. But, usually, a buyer must be willing to purchase the property first.

A short sale may be more complicated if the loan has been sold in the secondary market. Then the lender will need permission from Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, the two major secondary-market players.
If the loan was a low down payment mortgage with private mortgage insurance, the lender also will need to involve the mortgage insurance company that insured the low down payment loan.

The short sale can keep the homeowner from landing in bankruptcy or foreclosure. But it is not an easy procedure to approve, and it involves as much, if not more, paperwork than an original mortgage application.

Instead of proving your credit worthiness and financial stability, you must prove you are broke. And any remaining difference between your home's value and the balance on your mortgage is considered a forgiveness of debt, which usually means it is taxable income.

Nothing Like a Good ‘Fact Check

October 10, 2012 5:50 pm

I believe in the free flow of information, especially when homeowners can benefit from the information in question. So it was a welcome site to see last month's launch of EnergyFactCheck.org.

This important website is not only a resource for journalists, but for policymakers and others engaged in the debate over clean and renewable energy - that means consumers. EnergyFactCheck.org is a resource of the nonprofit American Council On Renewable Energy.

The site is designed to help ensure both sides of the story are told by responding to inaccuracies and misrepresentations with the facts on an industry that is popular, productive, growing and essential to America’s economy, energy independence and national security.

In one recent 'fact check' columns, the site addressed the argument that clean and renewable energy is more practical for the “coasts” versus the South or Midwest. In response, EnergyFactCheck.org cites the following data:

1. 16 states get more than 10 percent of electricity from renewable resources. That includes states like Iowa and North and South Dakota.

2. The country’s top 10 hydropower-producing states include Arizona, Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee

3. Nearly 1,000 companies in the South and Rustbelt states are part of the U.S. hydropower industry’s supply chain.

4. In 2011, Texas was the country’s top producer of wind power, and Iowa ranks first for the percentage of its electricity that comes from wind.

5. A recent study showed that adding more wind to the grid could save Midwestern households between $65 and $200 each year. The Southeast has an abundant supply of biomass from forests, mills, urban wood, and agricultural residues that can be used for the production of clean, renewable energy.

And, according to EnergyFactCheck.org, renewables are beginning to match or beat fossil-fueled electricity on price, and with continued growth, deployment and innovation, renewables are becoming more widespread every day.

Proof Positive: 5 Facts to Breathe Life into Your Business

October 10, 2012 5:50 pm

If you’re an entrepreneur or an entrepreneur-hopeful, it’s probably difficult to keep those four words from causing you to second guess your every move as you plan and run your business. They become especially hard to ignore when you consider the fact that less than 30 percent of businesses last more than 10 years, and most failures happen within the first few years of operation. The truth is, many things could go wrong: an ill-conceived business idea, poor planning, lack of capital, ineffective leadership, and more. In the high stakes world of running a business, those are the facts.

But, says Bill McBean, author of the new book The Facts of Business Life: What Every Successful Business Owner Knows That You Don’t, there are other important facts about business ownership. Facts that could help you avoid the mistakes and pitfalls that trip up so many others, and go on to achieve the success you’ve dreamed of. He calls them the Facts of Business Life.

“Of course, there are a variety of skills owners need to know in order to make a business work,” says McBean. “But after many decades of running my own successful businesses, and learning how other successful owners have created success, I have come to the conclusion that these facts are the seven essential concepts needed to create a successful business life.”

“Now, don’t get me wrong,” McBean clarifies. “There are no guarantees for entrepreneurs—and to add to the challenge, each business is one of a kind, in terms of how it competes, its constraints, and how it operates. But what you can do is tilt the odds in your favor.”

If you’re ready to build a strong, lasting foundation for your business, then read on for an overview of McBean’s tried-and-true seven Facts of Business Life:
Fact 1: If you don’t lead, no one will follow. At first, this statement seems mind-numbingly obvious. But often, “leadership” is one of those words that is thrown around by people who haven’t given much thought to what it looks like in action. According to McBean, good business leadership begins with defining the destination and direction of your company and deciding how the business should look and operate when it arrives. But it doesn’t stop there. It also involves developing and continuously improving on a set of skills in order to move your business from where it is today to where you want it to be tomorrow.

“What’s important to understand is without effective leadership your managers or employees have no idea what is important to the owner, what to manage, or what success and failure look like,” notes McBean.

Fact 2: If you don’t control it, you don’t own it. Control is the owner’s management reality. If you don’t control your company by defining key tasks and dictating how they must be handled, and “inspect what you expect,” then you don’t truly “own” the business because all you are is a spectator watching others play with your money.

“There are two overriding or macro concepts successful owners understand over their unsuccessful competitors,” explains McBean. “First, great procedures and processes need controls, and these in turn create great employees. This happens because procedures and processes operate the business, and employees operate the processes. This is one of those business basics that owners must understand to be successful.

Fact 3: Protecting your company’s assets should be your first priority. Were you surprised because this fact didn’t instruct you to first protect your company’s sales, profits, and growth? If so, you’re not alone. But the truth is, assets—which include both tangible and intangible assets—are what power sales, profits, and growth.

Usually, owners and soon-to-be owners understand the need for insurance on assets like their buildings and equipment. In fact, bankers insist on insuring specific assets they lend money on like facilities, equipment, and sometimes even insurance on an owner’s life. However, successful owners don’t stop at protecting obvious assets. They understand the importance of every asset, because assets represent invested cash, which should be managed to produce exceptional and maximized profits.

Fact 4: Planning is about preparing for the future, not predicting it. Nobody knows what tomorrow, next week, or next year will bring for your business. But you can make educated guesses based on the most current, accurate information available as well as your own past experiences, and this should be an ongoing process. Effective planning, McBean asserts, is a mix of science (gathering pertinent information) and art (taking that information and turning it into a plan that will move your business from “here” to “there” over a specific time period).

“Being able to plan better than your competitors can give you a significant competitive edge in the market,” he adds. “Ford Motor Company is a great example. In 2008 and 2009, its competitors, GM and Chrysler, ran out of cash and needed taxpayer bailouts to avoid bankruptcy. But not Ford. Years prior to the credit crunch, Ford began to restructure its debt and raised billions as it continually added to cash reserves. Was this luck or good planning? Industry insiders will say good planning. The point is Ford knew, as you should, that planning is important because it focuses owners on what’s important and it prepares them for what lies ahead.”

Fact 5: If you don’t market your business, you won’t have one. Maybe working to market and advertise your product isn’t your cup of tea. Or maybe you believe your product is so great that it should speak for itself. If so, too bad—you’re going to have to do it anyway. The bottom line is, if people don’t know about your product, you won’t be successful.

Bill McBean is the author of The Facts of Business Life. For more information, visit www.FactsOfBusinessLife.com.

How to Prepare Your Teen for 21st-Century Challenges

October 10, 2012 5:50 pm

Parents today contend not only with yesterday’s worries -- drug abuse, bullying, and delinquency – but new challenges that weren’t around 10 years ago. The digital age has introduced adult predators and other online hazards , says James G. Wellborn, a clinical psychologist with 18 years of experience working with parents and teens.

“The teenage years are unlike any other in a person’s life – it’s a unique in-between period from childhood to adulthood, and it’s helpful to remember that problems during this time are actually normal,” says Wellborn, author of the new book Raising Teens in the 21st Century: A Practical Guide to Effective Parenting. “But teens still require guidance, encouragement and good ideas to see them through to adulthood.”

A universally admired trait—spanning all cultures, religion and philosophy—is compassion. A truly compassionate teen will inevitably have a host of other positive qualities, Wellborn says, including patience, understanding, sensitivity, tolerance, intuition and more. He says parents can encourage compassion in the following ways:

• Model it: Compassion is largely learned, so be aware of how you act around your children. How did you respond to the request for money from that panhandler on the street? What comment did you make behind his back, in the presence of your kid? What did you say about that idiot driver who just cut you off in traffic? Your teens are watching and listening.
• Notice it: Point out examples of compassion that occur around you. It comes in many forms. Relevant to our daily lives are the people who quietly, and without recognition, help others in need, including volunteers of all types. Make a game of identifying instances of compassionate deeds you’ve witnessed.
• Teach it: Compassion has to be taught, so be prepared to provide direct instruction on how your teen needs to think and act in order to develop that quality. One important component empathy. If your teens can’t see things from another’s perspective, it is difficult for them to appreciate what that person is going through. Help them learn to walk a mile in their shoes.
• Anticipate it: Character can be fostered by projecting moral strength into their future. In this way, you will be subtly shaping the adult they are working to become. Say things like: “By the time you’re an adult, you will be such a person of strong character. That’ll be really cool.”
• Guilt it: A personal value system serves as a means of accountability to oneself (and your family and community). This begins with the value system parents promote in their kids. If they fulfill the promise of personal values it is a source of justifiable pride. Violating personal values should result in guilt for not doing what’s right and shame for letting other people down. Parents need to help their kids along with this.
• Repeat it: Once is not enough when it comes to character. Find every opportunity to work it into the conversation. Using all of the strategies mentioned above, you will be able to work character issues into every possible situation in a remarkably diverse number of ways. You need to have mentioned character so often – at least once every couple of days – and in so many different forms that they are sick of hearing about it by the time they graduate from high school.

Jim Wellborn is a clinical psychologist who specializes in individual, family and group psychotherapy, with children and adolescents.

For more information, visit www.drjameswellborn.com.

Word of the Day

October 10, 2012 5:50 pm

Variance. A permit granted as an exception to a zoning ordinance that allows a property owner to meet certain specified needs.

Q: How Long Do Bankruptcies and Foreclosure Stay on a Credit Report?

October 10, 2012 5:50 pm

A: They can remain on your credit record for seven to 10 years.

However, a borrower who has worked hard to reestablish good credit may be shown some leniency by the lender. And the circumstances surrounding the bankruptcy may also influence a lender's decision. For example, if you went bankrupt because you were laid off from your job, the lender may be more sympathetic.

If, however, you went through bankruptcy because you overextended personal credit lines and lived beyond your means, it is unlikely the lender will readily give you a break.

A Five-Point Guide to Using Big, Bold Color at Home

October 10, 2012 5:50 pm

When it comes to painting the interior of your house, many people are intimidated by color. “Going beige, or off-white, or some neutral color just seems safer,” says HGTV decorator Candice Olsen. “But a splash of vibrant color, whether on all four walls or in a major accessory or furniture piece, can add zest and interest to your rooms as well as insight into your mood and personality.”

It isn’t easy to choose the right color when you are working from tiny paint chip samples, Olsen observed. Before you go bold on a wall or walls, try a broad swath of your chosen color to be sure it is exactly what you want – and remember that paint is not permanent. If the look you aspired to is not quite right, try another.

Olsen offers tips on choosing – and using – bold color to help your home make a statement to be proud of:

Think palette –
You can have different colors in different rooms, but think in terms of broad palette choices that look well together; a range of pastels, for example, or bright primary colors, or a spectrum of deep jewel tones.
Start small – If going bold seems scary, start with a small room, such as the front hallway or the guest bathroom. It’s a great area in which to experiment; try a deep lavender or cornflower blue accented with white or ivory accessories.
Choose bright accents – Stick with a neutral wall color in the living room or dining room if you like, but use lots of color in the furnishings: a sectional sofa in burnt orange or deep Tangerine Tango (Pantone’s color of the year in 2012) for example, or a rug and dining chair fabrics in a rich, jewel-toned aquamarine.
Cool if down – If you do go bold with deeply colored walls, choose furniture and accents that cool and contrast the choice: a white area rug and bedstead against a hot pink bedroom wall, or black and white accents against red.
Try classic combos – Some colors are trendy, but many classic combinations withstand the test of time; black and white, for example, with an unexpected pop from hot pink or lime green pillows.

Is It Just a Cold Or Is It Allergies?

October 9, 2012 5:38 pm

The season for colds is nearly upon us. As you bundle your child up to prevent those fall sniffles, keep in mind that their runny nose could be more than the passing cold.

"Runny, stuffy or itchy noses, sneezing, coughing, fatigue, and headaches can all be symptoms of both allergies and colds but when parents pay close attention to minor details they will be able to tell the difference," says Michelle Lierl, M.D., a pediatric allergist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

"Children who have springtime or fall allergies have much more itching of their noses; they often have fits of sneezing and usually rub their noses in an upward motion. They also complain about an itchy, scratchy throat or itchy eyes, whereas with a cold, they don't," she said.

Dr. Lierl also said that nasal discharge for allergy patients is usually clear and has the consistency of watery mucus, while patients who have colds usually have yellowish mucus discharge.

You can get your child tested for allergies with a blood test called the Immunocap, or RAST, that can screen for allergy to specific foods or airborne allergens. RAST can be ordered by any doctor, but it is important that patients or their parents talk with their doctors first. Children experiencing seasonal allergy symptoms should be tested for environmental allergens present during that season and not for food allergies or allergens present during seasons when they had no symptoms. The results of the RAST test are back after three to five days, whereas allergists can do allergy skin testing in one day in the doctor's office.

If you discover that your child has allergies, try the following tips to combat symptoms:

  • Windows should be kept closed during periods of very high pollen and fungal spore levels.
  • Change air conditioner filters every month.
  • Change children's clothing when they come inside from the outdoors. Clothes should also be washed thoroughly to rid them of all of the outdoor pollutants.
  • Children should wash their face, hands and hair after being outside.
  • Flush the child's eyes and nose with a non-prescription saline solution when the child has been outside to remove the pollen and fungal spores.
  • Minimize early morning outdoor activity since pollen counts are higher in the morning.
  • Keep vehicle windows closed while traveling with an allergic child in the car to keep allergens out.
  • Most important, make sure children take their allergy medicine daily during the pollen season.
For more information about fall allergies, visit www.aaaai.org.

Has Your Marketing Message Changed with the Times?

October 9, 2012 5:38 pm

People have changed in dramatic ways over the past five years, and businesses should take that into consideration this holiday season.

“As people’s values change, so do their shopping habits. To market effectively, businesses should be aware of how their prospective customers have changed,” says Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI Public Relations in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

Consumers are fussier, and while recessionary budget concerns are one reason for that, thrift is not the only value affecting consumer choices, Friedman says.

“Some stem from personal issues. Take me, for instance. As I grow older, I view many more material things as clutter. I want to get rid of the junk in my life and focus on important things,” she says.
Friedman is a baby boomer – a group that makes up 26 percent of the U.S. population.

“I’m sure I’m not the only person experiencing a change in how I view material goods, what’s ‘clutter’ and what’s meaningful,” she says.

Other changing values have arisen from global concerns, such as the world’s reliance on oil, growing environmental issues, and whether goods were manufactured here or abroad, she says.

Here are her tips for developing a new marketing approach that’s in sync with the times:
• Identify what makes your product appealing to customers’ values. If your homemade soaps are produced right here in the U.S.A., brag about it! In a recent poll, 90 percent of us rated “keeping jobs in America” as the No. 1 step the government can take to help us economically. Many shoppers have friends or family members who are unemployed or underemployed; that makes for a greater appreciation of businesses that create jobs here at home. Your “made in America” label is valuable!

Does your packaging use recycled materials – or is it recyclable? There are now 69 percent of us recycling, according to a National Geographic poll. Does your manufacturing process use a renewable energy source? More than half of us think it’s more important to develop alternative sources of energy than to find more oil.

• Become an expert. You can gain valuable media exposure for your company or product by positioning yourself (or your spokesman) as an industry expert with useful information to share. For instance, if you’re highlighting the fact that your product is made in America because you to help put Americans to work, offer them suggestions based on your experience. What are skills employers value? What are the biggest mistakes applicants make during interviews?

• Which channels will be best for getting your message out? Where does your audience get its news and entertainment? Are they using social media? Reading the newspaper? Listening to radio or watching TV? Or a mix of all four? On social media, you can share your expertise by offering useful information and links to resources, and engaging in conversations. Print is a great medium for providing consumer tips, as is TV, which is also perfect if your message has a visual component. Talk radio shows look for debate and information that solves problems. On social media, you can build a following of fans who help spread your message, while mentions in (or appearances on) traditional media will give you the implied endorsement of journalists and talk show hosts.

• Choose a messenger who’s accessible. If you’re the CEO and the person best qualified to be interviewed by journalists and show hosts, you may be the perfect spokesperson. But if you’re so busy you can’t drop what you’re doing to respond to interview requests, you will lose valuable media opportunities. Your messenger should be a person who is well-versed on the chosen area of expertise – and available at the drop of a hat.

If your message hasn’t changed with the times, Friedman says, now is a good time to think about your company or product in a new light.

“If you look at it from the shoppers’ perspective, you may just see something that appeals to consumers’ changing values,” she says. “Turn that into a message that resonates with potential customers and you may just have your best holiday ever.

Marsha Friedman is a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations, a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms.

For more information, visit www.emsincorporated.com.