Gunning Daily News

Question of the Day

June 16, 2011 2:21 pm

Q: Is it possible to save on closing costs?

A: Certainly, once you get pass the sticker shock. Closing costs are expensive. They can average between 2 to 3 percent of the total home purchase price. But here are a few ways to save:

• Haggle with the seller. He may pay all or part of the closing costs.
• Nab a no-point loan. You may have to pay a higher interest rate, but if you are strapped for cash and can qualify for a higher interest rate, you may find this type of loan can significantly reduce your closing costs.
• Grab a no-fee loan. Although the fee is usually wrapped into a higher rate loan, it does offer one advantage—you get to save on the amount of cash you would need up-front.
• Secure seller financing. These loans typically avoid the traditional fees or charges imposed by lenders. • Shop ‘til you drop for the best deal. Every lender has its own unique fee structure; you are bound to find one that works for you.

Word of the Day

June 16, 2011 2:21 pm

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


Take 13 Steps Toward Safer Lawn Mowing

June 16, 2011 2:21 pm

‘Tis the season that many of us practice our weekly ritual of lawn mowing. But it’s also the season that accidents with lawn mowers send people to the emergency room. Each year, lawn mowers are associated with an estimated 86,000 hospital-treated injuries and about 100 deaths. Here are 13 steps you can take to avoid becoming one of those statistics. 

1. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instruction before using your mower for the first time. Insist that anyone else who uses your mower reads the instructions first. 
2. Never circumvent a safety device such as the “deadman” control or discharge chute.
3. Before starting your mower, make sure there are no missing or loose parts. If there is any sign of leaking fuel, don’t use the mower until it’s fixed. Many lawn mowers have been recalled because of fuel leaks. Check www.recalls.gov.
4. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, never start your mower in a garage or shed.
5. Wear sturdy work shoes with good traction and hearing protection while mowing. Long term exposure to noisy mowers could lead to hearing loss.
6. Check your lawn for debris such as rocks, sticks, or toys that could become dangerous projectiles if you run over them.
7. Keep kids and pets well away from the mowing area.
8. Never let a child sit on your lap on a riding mower or tractor.
9. Never allow children younger than 14 to use a ride-on mower, and don’t allow children younger than 12 to use walk-behind mowers.
10. For walk-behind mowers, mow parallel with slopes; for tractors and riding mowers, mow up and down slopes.
11. Never mow wet grass where you or the mower could easily slip.
12. Always look behind you before reversing a ride-on mower but avoid mowing in reverse.
13. Never refuel a hot engine.

In Consumer Reports’ recent lawn-care poll, folks ‘fessed up to some hazardous mowing practices. In fact, 25 percent said they listened to music through headphones, 8 percent drink beer or other alcohol and 4 percent text or talk on the phone. 

For more information, please visit www.consumerreports.org

9 Body Language Tips to Help You Win in Business World

June 16, 2011 2:21 pm

Today’s business world is more competitive than ever. As the economy continues to struggle, competition for jobs, clients, sales—you name it—continues to be tight. If you’re sure you’ve been saying all the right things, but you still can’t get ahead, author Sharon Sayler suggests you consider what you’ve really been saying to potential employers or customers—not just verbally, but nonverbally.

“True communication goes beyond words, and great communicators use every tool they have to deliver their message,” says Sayler. “When you have control of your nonverbal language, you can communicate confidence with passion, persuasion, credibility and candor—factors that will help you soar above your competition in the business world.”

Sayler offers the following nonverbal do’s and don’ts that will help you win in the business world:

Don’t fill the air with “um, ah, uh,” and “you know.” It is natural to pause when you speak—it gives you a chance to breathe. What’s not natural is to fill the silent pause with um, ah, uh, you know, and other sounds. Verbal pauses are distracting and muddle what you are trying to say, because the audience sees you searching for the next words. Meaningless extra syllables or words make you look less intelligent. Your message will be more effective once you eliminate them. This may take practice.

Don’t use the fig-leaf pose. “When you place your hands in the fig-leaf pose, your body says, ‘I’m harmless,’ or, ‘I’m afraid,’” explains Sayler. “Not exactly the way to convey the level of confidence that a new employer might want to see in a new hire or that a client wants to see in the genius he needs to help improve his business.”

Do use hand gestures systematically. When we use only words to convey our message, we make it necessary for our audience to pay very close attention to what we say. Using gestures systematically, especially when giving directions or teaching, makes the audience less dependent on the verbal part of the presentation. The visual reminder created by gestures allows the listener two ways to remember: auditory and visual. It thereby increases the likelihood of accurate recall.

Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Thumbs hanging off the pockets and hands deep in both pockets say something similar to the fig leaf hand gesture, “Geez, I hope you like me.” Hands deep in the pockets jingling change say one of two things, depending on context: “Geez, I’m nervous and hope you like me,” or, “Geez, I’m so bored. Is this ever going to be over?”

Don’t hide your hands behind your back. Depending on the situation, grasping your hands behind your back can be interpreted as meaning, “Geez, I hope you like me,” or, “You better fear me.” Neither interpretation leaves a very good impression of you, so avoid this position altogether.

Don’t cross your arms. This stance is most frequently understood to indicate that you’re upset or uncomfortable. In business, others often interpret it as, “I am not open to discussion,” or, “I am annoyed.”

Do know when to put your hands on your hips. This is a ready-to-take-action gesture. It makes most people appear bigger, because they are actually taking up more space. Yet, it is often given negative labels by others, such as meaning you are annoyed, closed, or won’t listen—similar to placing your arms across your chest.

Do remember the eyes have it. Of all the nonverbal messages one can use, the eyes are the most expressive and really are the window to thoughts and emotions. Little or no eye contact is often thought to be associated with lying, but this is not always true. Experienced liars will look you right in the eye every time. It might also indicate lack of self-esteem or interest.

Do stop fidgeting. Unintentional gestures are emotional reactions or the result of the body’s desire for physical comfort and are often lovingly called fidgets. Even though fidgets can calm us, those pesky, jerky movements or anxious behaviors often make others uneasy.

“When it comes to inspiring and influencing others, we can say all the right words, but if our nonverbal postures send a different message, that is what others will understand and take away,” says Sayler. “True communication goes beyond words, and great communicators use every tool they have to deliver their message. When you learn to communicate not only through what you say, but also through what your body says, you can build stronger relationships, become a more influential leader, and receive enthusiastic responses from potential employers, clients and colleagues.

Summer Fun on a Budget—Five Ways to Do More with Less

June 16, 2011 2:21 pm

For many families, times are tough, and the budget may not stretch far enough this year for a family vacation or summer camp. But, says life coach Valorie Burton, there are many ways to plan a summer of fun without spending a lot of money—even without a swimming pool in your own backyard.

Burton suggests starting with the following five questions, and plan your fun based on the results of your answers. 

• What gives me joy? Are you happiest at the seashore? At a picnic in the woods? Playing with the kids at the park? Make this the year to plan family outings at the places you enjoy.
• Who do we want to connect with? Are there cousins, friends, or grandparents you don’t see often enough, even though they don’t live far away? This might be the year to plan a car trip—or invite other people to your own home—for a few days of visiting fun.
• What do tourists do around here? Often, we travel long distances on vacation while passing on the local attractions other people come to see in our region. Is there a national park within easy driving distance? A state or county fair? A museum? Plan a few picnics or an overnight stay at a few of these local treasures.
• Who can we team up with? Plan a block party or barbecue with neighbors. Teaming up and sharing the cost can be more fun than planning a party on your own.
• What can we do for someone else? Volunteering is a great way to feel good about yourself while helping those in need. You can volunteer at a home improvement project, read to the elderly at a senior facility, or organize a school supplies donation project before school resumes. Have a family conference and let the kids help choose what projects they would like to do.

Home Entertaining Tips

June 16, 2011 2:21 pm

A recent survey conducted by NPD Group, a leading market research company, showed a significant increase of consumers who are opting to bring the party home. 

One trend that is flashing back to grab the “retro” market, and the attention of hip hosts, is slipcovers. And these ain’t your mom’s slipcovers, either. 

The folks from SureFit, (www.SureFit.com), a leading provider of decorative and protective ideas for the home and office say slip covers are the perfect option for entertainers looking to upgrade their mismatched and worn-out furniture without breaking the bank. 

From your couch to your recliner and for under $200, SureFit says these machine-washable home solutions provide a smart and efficient way to create a well-designed, well-furnished venue for any gathering. Sure Fit also carries a wide variety of home-furnishing accessories, including decorative pillows, mood-setting window treatments and lamp shades that can spice up the drabbest décor.

Another source, best-slipcovers.com has some great ideas for using slip covers to create a fresh look with your existing furniture, or for simple and economic home staging. First, think like a home stager by looking at what design of slip cover would coordinate well with the color scheme in your home, or various rooms.
Going from a cool to a warm season, throw open the windows and don’t fret that your once cozy sofa and chairs look dark and heavy in the room. Go for a lighter look by dressing your upholstered furniture in slipcovers made of fabrics that are lighter or brighter. 

Change the texture from that nubby woven fabric or heavy velvet to a crisp linen fabric or vividly patterned cotton print. Not only will the change look fresher, the new fabric feels refreshing to the touch.
Then, toss on a colorful pillow or two and you've got a great new look in minutes. The folks at best-slipcovers.com have a lot more information and tips about the best ways to “go retro” with hip new slipcover designs and styles to make any piece of furniture, or your entire house, look brand new.

Question of the Day

June 16, 2011 1:51 pm

Q: Do I need an attorney to buy a home?

A: A lot depends on the state where the property is located. Some require an attorney; others do not.

Most home buyers can generally handle routine real estate purchase contracts as long as they read the fine print and understand all the terms. But pay close attention to any clauses, contingencies, and other special considerations that will allow you or the seller to back out of the contract.

When in doubt, consult an attorney. Ask relatives and friends, or your real estate agent, for recommendations. Call to inquire about their fees and to check their level of experience. Expect that more seasoned attorneys will cost more.

Word of the Day

June 16, 2011 1:21 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.

Employee Engagement Most Influenced by Immediate Supervisors and Workplace Communication

June 16, 2011 1:21 pm

As companies emerge from the worst recession since the Depression, they are faced with low employee engagement and poor workplace morale that can slow the recovery process. A new survey by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Research Foundation and Buck Consultants, A Xerox Company, finds that an individual's supervisor and the amount of employee communication in an organization are the top two influencers of employee engagement. 

Factors increasing and decreasing employee engagement:
An immediate supervisor can influence an employee's engagement level both positively and negatively. Forty-four percent of survey respondents said their supervisor strongly increased employee engagement, while 41 percent said supervisors strongly decreased employee engagement. 

Thirty-nine percent of respondents indicated the amount of employee communication is a strong contributor to employee engagement, and 47 percent said it had a moderate influence. Other factors contributing to increased engagement included change in leadership (31 percent) and rewards/recognition programs (18 percent). Factors contributing to decreased employee engagement are poor morale (49 percent), poor management/leadership (48 percent), downsizing (38 percent), and change in leadership (26 percent). 

"Another trend we're seeing is more common use of social media as part of an organization's employee engagement strategy," says Robin McCasland, chair, IABC Research Foundation and president, Brain Biscuits Strategic Communication. "The differences between internal and external communication are blurring, and organizations that communicate effectively through social media are finding that it enhances a positive workplace culture, supports employee engagement and reinforces a favorable external reputation." 

"One of the key findings of this year's survey is that enhancing the organization's culture and work environment has become the respondents' highest ranked goal for employee engagement," says Bob Carr, principal at Buck Consultants. "Organizations are committing themselves more deeply to effectively engaging their employees, knowing that this is the key to meeting their productivity, retention, and overarching business goals." 

This is the third "Employee Engagement Survey" conducted by the IABC Research Foundation and Buck Consultants to determine how organizations are communicating with employees to keep them engaged and productive. Nearly 1,000 communication professionals participated in this year's survey, representing a broad industry and geographic base. 

Other survey highlights include:
• Goals for Engaging Employees
Last year, companies were most concerned with increasing productivity in the workplace. This year's survey found that creating a new culture or work environment (33 percent) was the most important goal identified by survey respondents, followed by increasing productivity (28 percent) and retaining top talent (26 percent). 

• Communication methods used to engage employees and foster productivity
Similar to the results from the previous year's survey, emails (81 percent) and intranet (72 percent) are the most frequently used communication methods in the workplace for employee engagement. Compared to results in 2010, there was a slight decrease in the numbers for face-to-face communication (46 percent) and a slight increase in the numbers for social media (16 percent).

More than half the companies surveyed used blogs (69 percent), Twitter (58 percent), Facebook (57 percent), instant messaging (57 percent) and YouTube (53 percent) to communicate with their internal and external audiences. 

• Tools added to the corporate intranet
More than 50 percent of respondents said their organizations added content-sharing tools to their intranets within the past five years. Employee profiles/bios, news feeds, traditional blogs and various collaboration tools were popular additions.

To download the complete survey report, visit http://www.iabc.com/researchfoundation.

Retirement Planning: 4 Tips for Late Bloomers

June 16, 2011 1:21 pm

Increasingly, Americans are entering the age of retirement without enough savings to do so comfortably. However, it is never too late to focus on life stage retirement planning to make the golden years glisten much more.

Here are some tips to help from retirementplanning.net: 

1. Saving should be a top priority.
Some people may have procrastinated while others hit some bumps in the road. Either way, the closer a person gets to retiring, the less working years they have and less time to save. One should look at finances, consider needs and wants, and reprioritize.

2. Delay retiring, especially if you started saving late in life. This is beneficial for Social Security and health insurance purposes. Social Security income is adjusted for inflation, tax efficient and guaranteed by the federal government. Every month a worker is able to put money toward this benefit, up to the age of 70, the more savings will accumulate. If an employer-sponsored health care plan is superior, depending on their situation, one can save a great deal. When retirement planning, people often forget that Medicare does not cover every needed item, which can be very expensive.

3. Reconsider investments. Whether to invest aggressively or conservatively is a tough decision at any age, but especially for someone who is creating a financial plan later in life. One may invest aggressively to make up for lost time while another may shy away from risk because they don't want to lose what little they have saved. Risky speculation and eroding inflation are heavy considerations. The sound advice from a professional in the retirement planning field should be considered to make the right calls.

4. Take advantage of tax-efficient plans. Taxes can quickly chip away at savings. People entering an age to retire should especially consider as many tax efficient plans as possible, such as a 401k, Roth IRA and traditional IRAs.