Gunning Daily News

Tips to Close the Income Inequality Gap

February 27, 2012 5:58 pm

The memes for the current economic recession have been “income inequality” and “the 99 percent versus the 1 percent” as the 106 million Americans earning $45,000 or less each year feel the most pain from job loss, foreclosure, underwater mortgages and inflation.

Some say the solution is for the government to redistribute the wealth, perhaps by taxing the top money-makers at a higher rate. Real estate businessman Trevor Bolin, author of Take Charge and Change Your Life Today, says there’s a better way and it’s one that will make more people happier—and wealthier.

“I went from the bottom 10 percent at age 17 to the top 2 percent at 28 by making some changes in my life,” says Bolin, who owns three realty companies in British Columbia.

“The system is very simple, but not all of the steps are easy. It requires self-discipline and changing bad habits, but it’s all possible if you follow the steps. And I promise, following through on just one will dramatically affect your life.”

Some of Bolin’s strategies:
• Commit. Vow right now that you will follow through 100 percent on every step you take toward changing your life, whether it’s making more money, losing weight or becoming a better parent. Commit to succeeding, not just surviving. Know that luck has nothing to do with it – it’s hard work, attitude and giving back. Committing 100 percent means that, if you decide to read a book on investing, you won’t quit after three chapters. If your goal is to drop 20 pounds, don’t stop after 10.

• Change your attitude. Just as negative thoughts have the power to negatively affect outcomes, so do positive thoughts. Start each day with positive thoughts, and change negative thoughts to positive ones throughout the day. This may be hard at first, but the more you work at it, the easier it gets. Rather than wake up cursing the rainy day, be grateful for it. Water is one of our most valuable natural resources, and rain is cleansing. Remind yourself each morning of all the good things in your life—your health, your home, your spouse. Tell yourself that your meeting today is going to be engaging and productive, or your job interview is going to go well.

• Figure out your “Y.” Your Y is your reason for everything. It’s shaped by the past, formatted for the present and goal-formatted for the future. It’s reflected in every decision you make. If you don’t know your Y, your decisions will be made on the basis of habit, what you learned growing up, and what your immediate needs are. But if you’ve decided your Y is that you want the peace and security of financial success, you’ll be guided by that every time you make a choice.

• Set goals. On a piece of paper write down all of your goals, short-term and long-term. Next, number them 1, 3, 5, 10 or 20 based on how many years it should take to achieve them. Losing 20 pounds? That might be a 1. Buying a new car? That could be a 3. Now, take your top five 1 goals and write down why you want them and how you plan to achieve them. Do the same thing for each set of goals. Having goals is vital and keeping them in front of you will help keep you on track toward achieving them. Most important – be sure to cross each one off as you achieve it. Take it from me, there’s no better feeling.

Paying yourself first—saving a portion of every check—and giving back to society, whether through service or philanthropy, are also key to Bolin’s roadmap for changing your life.

“It’s all about having a plan,” he says. “You can create success as long as you’re putting a plan into motion.”

Trevor Bolin owns three realty companies in British Columbia.

For more information, visit www.bolininternational.com.

Use Tax Season to Organize for the Future

February 27, 2012 5:58 pm

Tax season is the perfect time to stash all your financial records, making future financial matters much easier. But what records do you keep? Many people are confused about what records they need to keep and for how long. They hold onto tax returns, bank records, brokerage statements and other financial information simply because they don’t know if they’ll need it again.

“Most people are going through their records to get ready to file their return,” says financial planner Rick Rodgers, author of The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach To Retirement Planning, “This is the time to get smart about what you need to keep and then set up a system to store it efficiently going forward.”

Rodgers suggests these five steps to help you effectively organize your finances for 2012 and beyond:
1. Out with the old – Discard the records you no longer need: Tax returns older than seven years; bank records and credit card statements that are not related to the tax returns you’re keeping; brokerage statements that aren’t related to purchases of current holdings. Be sure to shred all your old documents before throwing them out.
2. Go digital – Convert the documents you plan to save into digital images that are stored on your hard drive. Invest in a good scanner and scan as you go through your paperwork, shredding and tossing the hard copies as you go. On your computer, file by tax year, so your 2011 folder will contain your tax return for 2011 and all pertinent bank records and receipts. Organize the previous six years the same way. Next year you can delete the oldest folder when you add the 2012 folder.
3. Save a forest – All of the financial institutions you deal with would prefer to send your statements electronically. Stop receiving paper statements. Instead, download your statements electronically and store them in your new filing system. Most banks and credit card companies keep at least a year’s worth of statements available. You need to download these files only once a year to complete the year’s file.
4. Save backups in case of emergency – Make backup copies of your files on a CD. Choose a CD-R (recordable) as opposed to a CD-RW (rewriteable), because CD-R cannot accidentally be overwritten. Depending on your computer operating system, you may be able to continue adding data to a CD-R each year, until the CD is full. However, some operating systems won’t allow that, so you’ll need a new CD for each year.
5. Go paperless – Your new electronic filing system can be expanded to include all your financial records, from car maintenance receipts to pay stubs. Wills and insurance policies can also be scanned and stored but, of course, keep the originals of those in a safe deposit box or fireproof safe.

Gone are the days of saving your financial documents in box and shoving it into the attic. Technology advances have made organizing your personal finances easier with minimal cost. Make 2012 the year you get organized by moving your finances into a 21st century filing system.

Certified Financial Planner Rick Rodgers is president of Rodgers & Associates, “The Retirement Specialists,” in Lancaster, Pa.


For more information, visit www.TheNewThreeLeggedStool.com or www.rodgersspeaks.com.

8 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

February 27, 2012 5:58 pm

Whether you want to lose a few pounds or just stay fit, speeding up your metabolism will help you burn calories more efficiently and make the best use of the fuel that goes into your body.

Nutritionist Heather Bauer recommends nine tips for achieving these worthwhile goals:

• Stay hydrated – Even if you’re tired of hearing it, drinking eight glasses of water a day will help your body function best. Steer clear of diet sodas and alcohol, which tend to bog down your metabolism. An acceptable substitute, if you crave some bubbly, is seltzer.
• Snack often – Starving your body can derail diet efforts. Keep hunger in check by snacking often on low-fat cheese, fiber crackers, fruits, veggies, Greek yogurt, and other high fiber, low fat foods. Bonus: if you’re not so hungry, you will eat less at mealtime.
• Keep up calcium and vitamin levels - Obesity research shows that a dip in calcium levels can trigger the hormone that causes the body to hold onto fat. Increase calcium intake with low-fat dairy, cheese, yogurt, salmon, tofu, and oatmeal. Key vitamins are B, found in small amounts of nuts, seeds, lean meats and legumes, and C, which helps the body absorb and make best use of calcium.
• Drink green tea - The polyphenols in green tea have properties that rev up your metabolic rate – but to get greatest benefit, you should drink at least 4 cups a day. Second choice? Oolong tea, recommended by Chinese medicine experts for its calorie-burning properties.
• Avoid high fructose corn syrup – It’s in many prepared foods, so read labels to avoid this culprit, which can make the body insulin-resistant.
• Soak up some sun – Research suggests spending too much time indoors or in darkened circumstances can trigger the same physiological functions as gaining weight or sleeping too much. Taking a brisk walk in the early afternoon is a good way to rev up your heart rate as well as your metabolism.
• Ditch the stress – Stress raises your cortisol level, which tells the body to hang onto fat. Try yoga, meditation, or whatever it takes to reduce your stress level.
• Work out smartly – Weight-bearing exercises and working out in the cold can maximize the benefits of exercise.
• Catch enough ZZZs – Getting seven to eight hours of sleep every night is crucial for a healthy metabolism.

Word of the Day

February 27, 2012 5:58 pm

Balloon loan. Mortgage loan in which a larger final payment becomes due because the loan amount was not fully amortized.

Question of the day

February 27, 2012 5:58 pm

Q: What is a bridge loan?

A
: It is a short-term bank loan of the equity in the home you are selling. You may take out a bridge loan, or interim financing, to help with a knotty situation: closing on the home you are buying before you close on the property you are selling. This loan basically enables you to have a place to live after the closing on the old home.

The key to a bridge loan is having a qualified buyer and a signed contract. Usually, the lender issuing the mortgage loan on the new home will write the interim financing as a personal note due at settlement on the property being sold.

If, however, there is no buyer for the property you have up for sale, most lenders will place a lien on the property, thereby making that bridge loan a kind of second mortgage.

Things to consider: interest rates are high, points are high, and there are costs and fees involved on bridge loans. It may be cheaper to borrow from your 401(K). Actually, any secured loan is acceptable to lenders for the down payment. So if you have stocks or bonds or an insurance policy, you can borrow against them as well.

Money Matters: Nearly 40 Percent of Adults Don't Invest

February 24, 2012 5:44 pm

Even with the stock market soaring, many Americans report they continue they still have reservations about investing in the stock market. Nearly four-in-ten (39 percent) U.S. adults report they don't currently have any types of financial investments, like 401(k)s or IRA retirement accounts, mutual funds or stocks. In addition, 61 percent of U.S. adults said they have reservations about investing in the stock market.

Their concerns include not having enough money to invest (32 percent), not trusting the stock market (26 percent), thinking it's too complicated (17 percent) and being unsure of how to get started (11 percent). This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of CouponCabin from February 7th-9th, 2012, among 2,339 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

Even though many U.S. adults report they don't have financial investments, they are still keeping an eye on the market. Fifty-five percent of U.S. adults said they follow the stock market in some capacity, with one-quarter (25 percent) reporting they track its ups and downs at least once a week. When it comes to young adults, there was a significant difference between men and women. Fifty-nine percent of men ages 18-34 said they follow the stock market compared to 30 percent of women ages 18-34.

In addition, Americans aged 18-34 are the highest age group to report that they don't have financial investments. In fact, nearly three-in-four (73 percent) U.S. adults ages 18-34 said they don't currently invest in retirement accounts such as a 401 (k) or IRA, while more than half (55 percent) of those ages 18-34 said they don't have any financial investments at all.

"It's been a challenging few years for Americans of all ages and financial standing," says Jackie Warrick, president and chief savings officer at CouponCabin.com. "As a result, many Americans have shied away from investing in the stock market. Among the reasons is complexity, as 35 percent of people we surveyed said they would be more likely to invest money in the market if it were less complicated."

While some Americans report they are intimidated by the complexity of the market, others said if the economy were more stable they would be more likely to invest.
• 39 percent said they were much or somewhat more likely to invest money in the market if the economy were more stable.
• 46 percent said they weren't any more or less likely to invest if the economy were more stable.
• 15 percent said they were much/somewhat less likely to invest.

Regardless of apprehensions in investing in the stock market, many U.S. adults said they would be open to learning more about the process. Forty-three percent would be at least somewhat likely to consider taking a course or class to learn more about the stock market and investments.

Warrick offers the following tips for beginning investors:
Dig into the basics: What's the difference between a stock and mutual fund? First, you'll want to become familiar with investing terms and language so you're clear on what everything means. That way, you know where your money is going. Hop online and or pick up an investing basics book to get you started.
Join a club: Many communities have stock market clubs and local organizations that bring together different levels of investors, whether you're a novice or an expert. Do a quick Internet search to see if there's a local group that fits your needs.
Speak up: Ask friends, family and colleagues for advice on finding resources to get you started, such as a broker recommendation or online resources they use. Don't forget to ask your HR department if your company has a program or recommendations in place to help beginning investors.

Source: http://www.CouponCabin.com.

Smartphone Tips for Family Caregivers of Senior Adults

February 24, 2012 5:44 pm

With the boomer aging, there will soon be more elderly adults being cared for by their children. While “there’s an app for that” has become ubiquitous and there are over 1 million smartphone apps available, those tailored to the needs of seniors and their caregivers are a developing market.

“While there are special purpose apps available, focusing on a few key apps may be better,” says to Barry Birkett, Senior Care Corner co-founder. “It’s easier to keep a few apps current so they’re more likely to be used and thus provide greater benefits to senior loved ones.”

Apps for Seniors and Family Caregivers

A recent Senior Care Corner podcast discusses some categories where both real benefits and simplification can be achieved.

Calendar apps let seniors and caregivers share a common calendar, which can be used to track doctor appointments, daily prescription schedules and other events.

List and Document Sharing apps provide seniors and caregivers the ability to share files on the smartphones, computers and other devices of both. Examples include physician and insurance information, prescription lists and scans of labels, shopping lists and trip itineraries, as well as advance medical directives and other documents that might be needed in emergencies.

Navigation apps can be programmed to provide directions to stores, doctors’ offices and other locations. Maybe most important, they can be programmed to show seniors the way home.

Banking and Financial apps let both seniors and caregivers monitor checking, savings and credit card accounts for unusual or fraudulent activity and make sure loan payment deadlines are met.

Pharmacy apps may be the most valuable offered by a retailer because they allow both seniors and caregivers to track prescriptions, order refills and see when a doctor appointment is needed to get the next refill.

“The future will bring many more options for family caregivers to use their smartphones and other devices to improve the lives of their senior loved ones,” says Birkett. “In the meantime, existing apps can provide a lot of benefit without a lot of ongoing effort.”

Source: Senior Care Corner

Word of the Day

February 24, 2012 5:44 pm

Assumption of mortgage. Taking title to property that has an existing mortgage, and being personally liable for its payment as a condition of the sale.

Question of the Day

February 24, 2012 5:44 pm

Q: Is a reverse mortgage good for elderly homeowners?

A: A reverse mortgage is an 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.

A reverse mortgage is repaid when 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.

Is Hard Water Ruining Your Appliances?

February 24, 2012 5:44 pm

Preserving expensive appliances is common household concern. With that in mind, it’s alarming that so many Americans do not realize the damage their water is doing. Most Americans have hard water flowing through their plumbing, and it's taking a silent, but pricey toll on their water-using appliances and pipes.

"If you think you're not affected, think again: 85 percent of Americans have hard water," says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. "Water with a high mineral count is really hard on your appliances and can take years off their useful lives."

Signs your hard water is becoming a problem:
• Reduction in supply of hot water from a traditional tank water heater
• Clothes are dingy or unclean after going through the washer
• Calcium rings or deposits in tubs, sinks and dishwasher
• Shower head and faucet clogs
• Spotty or unclean dishes, glasses and flatware after the dishwasher has run
• Water pipe leakage

The good news, Hicks says, is that it's fairly simple to determine if you have hard water and relatively inexpensive to address it. "When you consider the benefit to your appliances, it's a smart investment," she says.

Step one is to have your water analyzed, Hicks says. Some utilities and health departments offer this service, but companies that specialize in water conditioning also offer it, often free-of-charge. Because those companies have a vested interest in the outcome of such tests, consumers should consider getting at least one outside opinion.

Consumers have a few options when it comes to removing calcium and magnesium, the troublesome minerals that make water hard. Traditional water softeners use salt to remove those minerals. Devices that do not use salt to accomplish the same thing are often called "water conditioners" or "descalers."

"A licensed plumber or water conditioning expert will give you alternatives to consider," Hicks says. "If you feel pressured to go with one option or another, get another opinion from a company that will give you information without aggressively pushing for one method over another."

Tips for buying a water softener:
• Water softeners can cost range from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000 depending on size and type. Some companies offer rental equipment for a nominal monthly charge. Installation typically runs $150 to $300.
• Before you buy a water softener or conditioner, research available products and service companies. Insist on a money-back guarantee.
• In most states, installation does not require a licensed plumber. At a minimum, use a company with technicians certified by the Water Quality Association.
• Understand and follow the maintenance required to keep the unit operating properly.

Source: http://www.angieslist.com