Gunning Daily News

Question of the Day

September 14, 2012 6:36 pm

Q: What Are Allowances and What Should I Know about Them When Planning with a Remodeling Contractor?

A: Rather than price specific products or materials, many contractors prefer to use product allowances, an amount included in the contract to be used toward the purchase of these products and materials as they are selected by the consumer. Typical categories where allowances might be used include flooring, cabinets, and lighting fixtures. Allowances allow homeowners more time to finalize exact selections as the project progresses, and they can simplify the cost control process. The disadvantage, however, is that the cost of final selections can easily exceed the amount of money allowed, resulting in significant extra charges to the homeowner. Shop for each allowance category before you finalize the allowance amounts provided in the contract. This way, you can budget for additional funds or adjust allowances to better reflect the actual monies required.

Needs and Wants: It's Important to Know the Difference

September 14, 2012 6:36 pm

With the summer behind us and the official start of fall just around the corner, many are looking at their credit card bills and wondering what on earth they did with their money this summer. Wondering why you can't seem to manage your spending? One reason may be a tendency to confuse what you need with what you want, which can lead to unwise buying decisions.

While there's nothing wrong with buying things that aren't exactly life's necessities, doing this too often could get you into financial trouble.

Here are a few tips that can help you gain control of your spending.

Before you buy, pose the "want versus need" question
Each time you go shopping, ask yourself whether the item you're considering is something you really need or something you just want. You'll be surprised at how often you end up putting something back on the shelf because, let's face it, did you really need another black sweater or that new set of high-tech golf clubs?

Learn to delay gratification
All right, so you've decided that you need to take that one-week getaway to the Bahamas. Your job is extremely stressful and you're at the breaking point. But before you book your flight and hotel, sleep on it. You may still feel the same way in the morning, but it's good practice to take some time to think before you buy instead of constantly making impulse purchases.

Make a shopping list
Before you head out to the supermarket or shopping mall, make a list of the things you want to buy and the approximate cost of each item. Then add everything up. If the total exceeds what you can afford to spend, go through the list and put each item through the "want versus need" test. Highlight the "want" items and take them off the list one by one until you reach a more reasonable total.

Don't forget to reward yourself
While managing your spending is critical to a sound financial future, it's also important to enjoy your money. So if your budget allows it this month, go ahead and treat your family to dinner at that ritzy new restaurant. Or buy that mobile phone with all the bells and whistles you've been dying to play with. By keeping your indulgences within a reasonable limit, you'll enjoy them more knowing you've got your spending under control.

Source: BMO Harris Bank

Tips for Buying a Used Vehicle

September 14, 2012 6:36 pm

With budgets tight, many Americans are choosing to buy used vehicles instead of new ones, and approximately 3.3 used cars are sold for every one new car sold. This makes understanding the buying process an important skill.

Below are a few tips from AutoTrader.com and OnStar about what to know and do when shopping for a used car:

Consider purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle: Certified pre-owned vehicles usually come with extended warranties and have been thoroughly inspected before being sold.
Make sure the potential vehicle is functional for everyone who will be traveling in it: If searching for a used family vehicle, bring the whole family on an extended test drive to make sure everyone is comfortable with the vehicle. If you have small children, use this time to make sure child safety seats fit and can easily be installed in the vehicle.
Purchase a vehicle history report and have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic: Taking both of these actions can reduce the chance of unexpected issues later.
Ask about promotional programs: Many manufactures offer incentives to purchase their used vehicles.
Secure your financing in advance: Because used vehicle loans can vary when it comes to interest rates, visit your local bank or credit union before making a final decision so you can be sure you're receiving the best interest rate.
Don't negotiate price based on what you want your monthly payment to be: Monthly payments can always be lowered to fit your budget by extending the length of the loan. But extending the length of the loan makes the car more expensive. Negotiations should be made based on the price of the car, rather that the monthly payment.
Remember the sale process continues past the acceptance of an offer: After both parties agree upon an appropriate price, dealers usually will offer extra accessories and services you might not be interested in. Be sure to stand firm and make it clear that you are not interested in paying more than the previously agreed upon price.

Source: www.OnStar.com, www.AutoTrader.com

No Short Cuts to Healthy Aging

September 14, 2012 6:36 pm

In recognition of September as healthy aging month, the Minnesota Chiropractic Association (MCA) is encouraging seniors to embrace an active and wellness-based approach to life.

"There are simply no short cuts" states MCA President, Dr. Christian Kollar. "An active, engaged and wellness approach to everything we do is essential to a high quality, functional life as we get older," Kollar explains.

Dr. Kollar who has seen the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle first hand, practices with his active 73-year old father in New Brighton, Minnesota. He says, "The earlier you take care of your body, the longer it will continue to take care of you and it's never too late to start."

Daily Anti-Aging Tips:

  • Make sure to keep your body moving every day, even if it's just walking at the mall, up and down stairs at work or taking a stroll around the block. Exercise is key to living a long and healthy life.
  • Hydration is important for cellular functioning, so make sure you drink liquids regularly throughout the day.
  • The nutrients in plant-based foods are essential for health and wellness. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits every day.
  • Incorporate a diet that is rich in fiber which can help slow the aging process.
  • Don't under estimate the fun factor. Take time to have fun with your friend and loved ones. Social support and positive experiences have been seen in studies to be beneficial to health.
  • Rest is necessary for your body to run optimally.

Source:www.mnchiro.com

Word of the Day

September 14, 2012 6:36 pm

Tax basis. The price paid for a property plus certain costs and expenses, such as closing costs, legal counsel, and a commission paid to help find the property.

Q: What Should I Know About Mechanics’ Liens?

September 14, 2012 6:36 pm

A: A mechanic’s lien is a “hold” against your property that provides contractors and suppliers legal recourse to assure payment for services. The liens vary from state to state and allow for a cloud on the title of your property and foreclosure action. Also, if you paid the contractor, but he failed to pay the subcontractors and laborers – who do not have a contract with you – then the workers may file a mechanic's lien on your home. This could result in a double payment by you for the same job. You can protect yourself from unwarranted liens by selecting your contractor carefully and managing your construction project responsibly. Also, most construction lenders will specify a payment distribution process that involves the securing of lien waivers. The remodeling contract should address this as well, assuring that the general contractor is responsible for all payments as well as any costs required to remedy lien disputes that may arise.

Protect Yourself with The Latest Consumerfed Data (Part3)

September 14, 2012 5:06 pm

In our last segment we started drilling into the cache of data available in the latest federal Consumer Complaint Survey Report (consumerfed.org), compiled by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI).

Several of the top complaint categories involved homeowner, finance and mortgage issues, so we'll continue looking at some specific concerns to help protect you, your home and finances from unscrupulous schemes.

After one of the owners of a New Jersey furniture store embezzled money and assets from the business, forcing its abrupt closure, the Somerset County Division of Consumer Protection received 21 complaints from consumers who paid in full but never received their orders.

The cumulative loss was more than $60,000, while other customers were left with no recourse for damaged delivery, partial deliveries, and repairs that were promised but never made. And wouldn't you know it - the business filed for bankruptcy, offering little recompense to the consumers.

This story out of Jersey prompts the reminder: if you are paying in full for household goods or services that will be delivered at a future date, pay with a credit card, which gives you the right to dispute the charges if the merchandise never arrives or the services are never performed, or if what you get is not what you were promised.

Debit cards aren’t required to provide that protection, though some do voluntarily. Check with your card issuer before using it for that kind of purchase. And if you’re using a check or cash, pay only a small deposit, not the full amount - only pay the balance when the goods are delivered or work is completed.

If you do pay for purchases on installment against a debit card (versus a credit card) remember, businesses must have your express consent to take money from the account. Check your bank statements carefully and notify your bank immediately if you spot any unauthorized withdrawals.

Want to Make Movies? Tips for Ambitious Amateurs

September 14, 2012 5:06 pm

Because technology is moving so quickly, it’s easy to miss out on gadgets that may impact one’s life.

“Anyone with a cell phone knows how accessible taking pictures and shooting footage is nowadays, but with a minimum of investment, movie fans can tell their own stories with the same professional hardware that legends are using today,” says seasoned filmmaker Kerstin Karlhuber.

She completed her latest project, “Tides of the Heart” in collaboration with partner and renowned songwriter Daniel Jay Paul.

“It’s a feature-length music video – there’s no dialogue. The story is told completely through the music and Kerstin’s direction,” says Paul, whose latest album, “Clean Getaway,” not only makes up much of the score for the film, but also structures the plot.

“With the technology available today, you can really afford to experiment and innovate. That’s what keeps pushing the artistry to the next level,” he says.

Karlhuber and Paul offer suggestions for creative-minded individuals who have been kicking around ideas, but haven’t yet pulled the trigger on a project:

• The Canon EOS 5D Mark III: Canon v. Nikon … who cares? The point is that the big dogs in the film business, from James Cameron to Neill Blomkamp of indie-film success story “District 9,” are using digital gear that can be purchased by the average movie fan. The sharpest, crispest picture in the history of images can tell your story for a few thousand dollars.
• Adobe, CyberLink, Final Cut Pro, etc.: Film editing software, more than ever, is cheap, user-friendly and easy to acquire. There are several tutorial demonstrations available online, and if you need to come up with ideas for a project brainstorm with friends or family. That’s half the fun.
• Getting started: Sadly, most of the failure of creative projects – whether film, music, art or writing – involves work-ethic issues, or lack of confidence. Ask the following questions: How long have I been thinking about my idea? Is my vision doable? What’s keeping me from pursuing it? … And, perhaps the most insightful question – Why not?
• A little help from your friends: Chances are that if you’re a creative person, you have a few creative buddies who can help you troubleshoot concepts and technical issues. Lean on your artistic friends for moral support – they understand the struggle of the creative process. The same people may be a good source for constructive criticism, too, when the project is nearing completion.
• Consider trends: Karlhuber’s film has no dialogue and relies solely on Paul’s songs for sound. The most recent Oscar winner for best picture, “The Artist,” also features no dialogue, relying on old-school Hollywood visual drama. While this is a coincidence, Karlhuber says it has helped her film gain attention. “If your creative ideas happen to line up with a trending topic, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of the public’s zeitgeist,” she says.

Are Books Doomed to Extinction?

September 14, 2012 5:06 pm

Michael Levin, a New York Times best-selling author, as well as editor, publisher, co-writer and ghostwriter, says he can see the writing on the iPad.

“Unless something changes, books as we know them are doomed, and not simply because people prefer to read on their iPads or Kindles,” says Levin.

“You’ll see the major publishing houses starting to go away in three to five years,” Levin says. “Their business model is in free fall. Already, we’re seeing books becoming shorter, cheaper, and diminishing in quality. You’ll soon see fewer really good authors bothering to write books, because books are no longer a meaningful source of revenue.”

Levin points to several developments he says foreshadow a sad ending for books:
• Attention spans are diminishing. Three-fourths of teachers said their students’ attention spans are shorter than ever, according to a poll released in June. By 11 years old, nearly half of the kids had stopped reading for pleasure. The poll, by publisher Pearson UK, is just the most recent survey/study documenting shrinking attention spans and a corresponding drift from books. “Part of the problem is children don’t see their parents reading,” Levin says. “Obviously, the kids’ aren’t the only ones with diminishing attention spans.”
• Major publishers are producing lower-quality books. The big publishing houses today are more interested in a quality marketing plan than in the quality of the book, so we’re being deluged by low-quality books. One reason is that many large publishers have stopped taking on the expense of marketing books, but they know it’s necessary for sales. So they take on authors with a marketing plan and budget. They’re also less interested in “star” authors, who demand higher royalties. They also lost authors when they eliminated advances in response to the 2008 recession.
• Books are moving to devices, where content is free and time is thin-sliced. Online, you don’t expect to pay for content. People will expect books available online to be either free or very inexpensive, and if those books turn out to be one chapter of ideas and eleven chapters of Hamburger Helper, they will be less willing to pay for them. Also, people don’t spend much time going into depth online; books are supremely inappropriate for the surface-skimming nature of the Internet. Once people have bought a bunch of ebooks they’ve never started, they’ll stop buying them altogether.
• Authors have a more difficult time earning a livable wage. Fewer authors can earn enough to make writing a full-time job. The audience is shrinking and fewer people are willing to pay $15 for a paper book when cheap alternatives are available. “We’ve already seen more books written to promote a product, service or company, or to brand the writer so he or she can pursue a more lucrative field,” Levin says. “Most books of the future will be marketing tools, since that’s the only way they’ll be profitable.”

Levin does find reason for hope, but it will require publishers to change how they do business.

“They need to stop trying to go after the mass market, which doesn’t exist anymore, settle on a niche and develop a brand. Publishers that stand for something in the reader’s mind – like Harlequin stands for romance – are built for the long haul,” he says.

Instead of publishing 500 low-quality books every year, major publishers should bring out only 50 top-quality winners and actually market them, he says. And publish how-to and other guidance and instructional books in concentrated form: short, powerful and to the point.

The rest of us have a job to do, too, Levin adds.

“People need to read, and they need to read to their kids or buy them books. If people stop demanding good books, there eventually will be none available,” he says. “The winners, going forward, will be that minority who still read and think for themselves. It’s a lot easier for government, the military, and the corporate world to control the way people think if they aren’t reading for themselves. That ought to be reason enough to save the book.”

Michael Levin, founder and CEO of BusinessGhost, Inc., has written more than 100 books, including eight national best-sellers; five that have been optioned for film or TV by Steven Soderbergh/Paramount, HBO, Disney, ABC, and others.

For more information, visit www.BusinessGhost.com.

Talent Tips for Tweens and Teens with Big Dreams

September 12, 2012 6:12 pm

If you have a vision and a talent, don’t ignore it. At least that’s what Sydney Rose, 20, has learned.
The singer/songwriter whose debut pop single, “Breaking Rules,” hit No. 23 on the national radio Top 40 chart in Sep, says she tried to put her dream on hold – and couldn’t.

“I’ve been in love with music all my life,” says Rose. “I’ve learned it’s an important part of who I am and you can’t ignore that, no matter what your age.”

Rose grew up honing her singing skills, then learning guitar (“My first chord was D”) and dancing. She overcame any lingering shyness about performing before audiences by joining two other girls in a pop/dance group called Rosemadayne.

But when it came time to attend college, she decided it was best to put her dream on a back burner.
“I was afraid,” she says. “I wanted to experience college without the pressure of a music career, but I actually felt more pressure without my dream and I knew I had to nurture that passion that is so a part of me.”

That’s when she wrote her newest album, “Rise,” an up-tempo celebration of life. It’s getting airplay on radio stations across the country, a development that never ceases to amaze and delight the rising star.
Rose offers tips for other young people who are determined to follow their dreams:

• Get your support team together: Whether it’s parents, other family members, friends or teachers, you’ll need people who encourage and help guide you. Coaches, mentors or instructors can help you improve – because no matter what your talent and how much of it you’ve got, you can always expand your abilities with help. Depending on your age, that may require financial and transportation support. “I started voice lessons when I was a tween, and to this day I get intensive voice training,” Rose says. “But the more skills you have, the better, so I also started working on dance when I was 13 years old. No matter what type of creative talent you have – singing, acting, writing or painting – if you want to become a professional, you need training.” Anyone who is supportive in your life, including friends, other family members and teachers, are reminders of why dreams matter to you.

• Set realistic goals: You may dream of being in the movies or on TV, but don’t expect to start there! “I happily performed at bar and bat mitzvahs (bonus! – I met my manager through those), book stores, Best Buy stores, and at my vocal school,” Sydney says. “These were great opportunities to get used to being in front of live audiences and learning how to interact with the audience.” The smaller goals are there for you to reach the bigger ones – Rome was not built overnight, she says. Those who are supportive will remind you of the big picture.

• Remember, it’s OK to be scared: Doing something for the first time can be really scary, and it’s perfectly normal to be nervous. But don’t let that stop you from getting out there and trying! “From experience, I know that almost anything that seems scary the first time gets much easier, and less scary, every time you do it,” Sydney says. “Don’t let fear keep you from ever taking the next step.”

• Have fun! “With ‘Rise,’ I wrote songs that are fun and upbeat. I thought, ‘If I’m going to do this for the rest of my life, I have to have an amazing time. Right?’ she says. Part of what has helped the album’s success is that she was genuinely happy and having a good time when she recorded it. No matter what you’re doing, your true emotions tend to color your work – they’re hard to hide, so work with them.

For more info on Rose visit www.sydneyrosemusic.com.