Gunning Daily News
June 1, 2011 5:19 pm
The lingering effects of the recession and unemployment have left many Americans still struggling with unsecured debt. Estimates place the average credit card debt per household with a credit card at more than $14,000.
Unfortunately, those deepest in debt are often unable to easily understand and identify the best ways to resolve debt or distinguish between predatory and viable debt solutions because of a lack of transparency and often confusing information.
To help remove this mystery and empower consumers, Bills.com recently introduced a money tool called Debt Coach that helps consumers see what they owe, learn about the five possible debt payoff solutions, and find the best way out of debt based on their own unique preferences and situation. The tool assesses complex factors and historical debt payment data for these five debt solutions in order to make a recommendation that includes payment, total cost and credit impact for each user.
How Debt Coach Works
Consumers begin by using sliders to enter basic information about their financial position, debt levels, income and more into the tool. Users are then prompted to rank their preferences in paying off their debts, including the impact to their:
• Credit score
• Total cost
• Payment amount, and
• Other key considerations
As users enter these fields, Debt Coach illustrates each individual's debt stress, total debt, cash flow, credit, and net worth in relation to national averages. This real-time bar chart provides a simple view into each user's debt level and demonstrates the resources they have available to them.
Five Debt Solutions
With this information, Debt Coach pulls actual debt lines and amounts from its credit partner Experian to accurately gauge the precise debt situation of each user. This data allows Debt Coach to determine if certain debt lines are eligible for formal debt relief programs in order to make a more accurate recommendation about the best way to eliminate debt.
After this information has been collected, the Debt Coach decision engine recommends an optimal path to debt freedom based on each user's specific situation. This recommendation can currently be one of five different options:
• Maintaining current payment schedule
• Optimizing self-payment schedule using an "avalanche" or "snowball" strategy
• Credit counseling
• Debt settlement
• Cash-out mortgage refinance
Detailed Customized Recommendations
Recommendations are accompanied by an easy to understand explanation of why this strategy was suggested. More importantly, users can evaluate this recommendation against other available options through a side-by-side comparison chart that normalizes data in order to effectively compare monthly payments, user experience, credit impact, time to debt free, and total cost (including fees) for each. This is the first time that consumers have direct access to this completely transparent and personalized comparison, giving them control over their debt situation.
For more information visit www.DebtCoach.Bills.com.
June 1, 2011 5:19 pm
A recently released study by Moore Recycling Associates Inc. found that a much larger portion of the U.S. population has ready access to recycle commonly used plastics than previously believed. Specifically the study, "Plastics Recycling Collection: National Reach Study," found that 94 percent of Americans have access to recycle plastic bottles and 40 percent of the population also can recycle other types of plastic containers, such as yogurt cups, dairy tubs and lids.
Although the study surveyed nearly 2,500 communities across the United States, it found that within the 100 largest cities, the percentage of the population with access to recycle plastic containers in addition to bottles has nearly doubled since 2008.
The study did not look at recycling film plastics—a category that includes plastic bags and many product wraps—but it is well documented that these materials are collected separately at more than 12,000 locations across the country.
"We are thrilled that so many consumers have access to plastics recycling in their communities," says Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council. "The next step is to increase awareness, so that more people take advantage of this opportunity to do something good for our environment and for the businesses that depend on this valuable material."
Recyclers—typically small community-based businesses—rely on consumers to recover a steady supply of used plastics, such as assorted bottles, containers, bags and wraps. Recycled plastics can be made into a variety of innovative products, including soft T-shirts, durable backyard decks, storage containers, car parts, decorative moldings and other home building products, cutting boards, and even fashionable hand bags.
The study also noted that it is more effective to communicate which plastics are recycled in various communities by listing shapes (e.g., bottles, tubs, trays, lids, etc.) than by listing resin codes (numbers 1-7), which can be confusing.
Below are some tips to make it easier to recycle more of the plastics we use every day:
Bottles: For recycling purposes, a bottle is any container with a neck or an opening that's smaller than its base. Include the following wherever plastic bottles are recycled:
• Milk jugs
• Beverage bottles (e.g., water, soft drinks, juice and beer)
• Bottles from shampoo, toiletries, laundry detergent and other household cleaners
• Salad dressing, cooking oil and condiment bottles
• Food jars, such as peanut butter and mayonnaise
• Tip: Twist caps back on before placing in the recycling bin; recyclers want those, too!
Containers: Include the following wherever containers, tubs and/or lids are recycled:
• Yogurt cups
• Butter tubs
• Deli containers
• Dairy containers
• Frozen food trays
• Produce containers (hinged or lidded)
Bags and Wraps: Clean and dry plastic bags and wraps should be returned to grocery and retail stores for recycling instead of being placed in curbside bins. Include the following wherever plastic bags are recycled:
• Grocery bags
• Retail bags (remove hard plastic or string handles)
• Newspaper bags
• Dry cleaning bags (remove paper and hangers)
• Bread bags (with crumbs shaken out)
• Produce bags
• Sealable and non-sealable food storage bags
• Product wraps from paper towels, bathroom tissue, napkins, bulk beverages, and diapers
For more information, see: http://plastics.americanchemistry.com/recycling.
ACC sponsored this study as part of a cooperative effort with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a project of the nonprofit GreenBlue, which is working to launch a new voluntary labeling system for the recycling of packaging in June. This initiative is designed to help consumers better understand how to recycle various packaging components and to provide a harmonized approach to consumer communication on recycling.
For more information visit http://www.americanchemistry.com
June 1, 2011 5:19 pm
Finally, it's that wonderful time of year when we can say with certainty that the snow is long gone. Of course that means it's time to turn our thoughts from snow blowers to lawn mowers and spring and summer lawn care. So if the melted snow has revealed a lawn that is less than ideal, here are five important things you should know about spring and summer lawn care.
1. Timing Is Everything
If your lawn is looking a little sparse or if your dog's winter bathroom breaks have resulted into several dead spots, you might be tempted to over seed this spring. It's an understandable thought, but the fact is unless the situation is dire, over seeding really shouldn't be part of your springtime lawn care. Fall is the ideal time to over seed your lawn because it gives the new grass a chance to grow without having to compete with invading weeds.
2. Raking Isn't Just for Fall Leaves
Prior to applying lawn fertilizer, raking and thatch removal are vital parts of your springtime lawn care regimen. So if you haven't already, grab your rake and clear any leftover winter debris from your lawn. Then give it a more thorough raking to remove any thatch. Thatch is a dry, light brown layer of stems and roots that develops between your lawn and the soil. Because thatch can increase insect and disease problems, you'll want to be sure to have it taken care of.
3. Apply the Right Lawn Fertilizer at the Right Time
Lawn fertilizers should be applied at specific intervals, as part of a seasonal fertilization program. However; homeowners must be careful to add the right amount at the right time. Because, while adding spring lawn fertilizer is an important part of springtime lawn care, adding too much spring lawn fertilizer can actually cause weed growth and disease. In terms of applying fertilizers during the summer season, adding lawn fertilizer too late in the season will encourage growth at a time when grass should be slowing its growth in preparation for winter.
In addition to timing, when adding lawn fertilizer as part of your lawn care program it's very important to use the right kind of fertilizer. When staring down aisles of different fertilizers, choosing the right fertilizer can seem a little daunting. Make sure you read the labels carefully and get to know the needs of your lawn. To be 100 percent sure that your lawn receives the right care at the right time, contact a professional lawn care service.
4. Yes, You Can Help Prevent Weed Growth
While it may be practically impossible to prevent weed seeds from finding their way into your lawn, there are things you can do to help make your lawn an unfavorable place for them to grow. Lawn aeration, adjusting fertilizing schedules and even changing the height of your mower blade can all play a part in discouraging weed growth. Of course, if weeds continue to be a problem, the best thing you can do is to call your local lawn care specialists for professional weed control help.
5. Hiring a Lawn Care Service can be Affordable
If you've been looking over at your neighbor’s lawn and thinking the grass really is greener on the other side, take comfort in knowing that you can have a healthy, beautiful lawn this summer too. Lawn care really is affordable. Your local lawn care service can give your lawn the love it deserves with services such as fertilization, weed control, pest control and more, and all at a price you can afford. So this year, instead of worrying about the basics of lawn fertilization or hunting dandelions, call on the professionals, sit back and enjoy the results.
For more information visit http://local.greenlawncanada.com/Lawn-Care.
June 1, 2011 5:19 pm
Zoning. Procedure that classifies real property for a number of different uses: residential, commercial, industrial, etc. in accordance with a land-use plan.
June 1, 2011 5:19 pm
Q: What is condo and co-op insurance?
A: This insurance protects your investment and personal belongings from most disasters. As an owner, you will need two insurance policies—your own to cover liability, living expenses, your belongings and structural improvements, and a master policy provided by the condo or co-op board. The master policy covers the common areas that you share with others in the building. It is paid for using the monthly condo fee that you and other owners pay.
May 31, 2011 4:49 pm
By Barbara Pronin, RISMedia Columnist
If this is the year you will be taking possession of your first home—or even if you have closed on a home before—congratulations! You and your family are embarking on a new and life-changing experience, and one that should bring you pride and pleasure over the coming years.
In most instances, however, in the days or weeks prior to closing, you will have the opportunity for a final walk-through of the home—affording you an opportunity to be sure everything is in working order and ready for your move-in.
“This is a time to check that nothing has been removed from the home without permission, and that any agreed-upon changes or repairs have been made,” says REALTOR® Ellen Parker in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. “Take the walk-through seriously, and be prepared to be thorough and efficient.”
Parker suggests the following checklist:
• Show up early and leave enough time – This is especially important if you are buying a short sale or bank-owned property because this is the only time you will have to be certain that everything promised is being delivered.
• Make sure nothing has changed – Open and close doors and windows, flush the toilets, turn on all appliances, and inspect the ceilings and basement or crawl space to be sure there has been no leakage and no mold is growing.
• If new construction, be sure everything the developer promised has been done and installed, including landscaping, doorknobs and doorbells, window screens, electrical outlets, fixtures and appliances.
• Heating/air conditioning – Turn on the furnace and air conditioning systems and check the garage door opener to be sure it is working and that you are taking possession of two garage door openers.
• Take a camera – If anything in the house has changed or is missing, make a detailed note and take a picture of the area so you can present it to the seller and/or lender and make any needed last-minute negotiations prior to closing.
May 31, 2011 4:49 pm
By John Voket, RISMedia Columnist
Even though National Electrical Safety Month (May) is over, your RIS Consumer Confidant warns homeowners that with warmer weather and vacations come more outdoor activities and potential distractions that can spell trouble if an unsafe electrical situation or hazard exists.
Local and regional electric utilities across the country have joined together to promote a number of tips to help ensure the safety of everyone when it comes to the most common electrical hazards.
• Always stay away from downed power lines and assume any fallen wires are live and extremely dangerous. Don’t touch anything that may be in contact with downed wires. Call 911 immediately to report downed wires.
• Underground wires are a hidden danger. Never dig around a home or business without checking for underground wires or cables. Some states and municipalities even make you call to notify utility officials before digging.
• When working outdoors, position ladders away from power lines; keep this in mind when painting or cleaning gutters. Even a wooden ladder can conduct electricity. Maintain a minimum 10 feet of clearance from overhead power lines.
• Before using any electrical tool, be sure to inspect it for frayed power cords, broken plugs and cracked or broken sockets. When using an electric appliance outdoors, be sure it is plugged into an outlet that has a weatherproof cover and a ground fault circuit interrupter. Never use an electric appliance near a pool or other wet surfaces.
• Speaking of pools, be sure all electrical equipment for your swimming pool is grounded properly. If you're installing a pool, have it inspected by an official electrical inspector when the job is completed. A ground fault circuit interrupter should be installed on your pool's electrical equipment.
• Don’t let anyone climb utility poles, towers, pad-mounted transformers or trees near power lines. If a kite gets snagged in power lines or in a tree in which lines might be concealed, don't try to free it yourself. If your pet gets stranded on a pole or if your child’s ball or toy goes into an electric substation, don't try to retrieve them.
• If you buy a generator, make sure it is properly installed by a licensed electrician and it includes a transfer switch. Keep in mind that you may also need a town permit or an official inspection.
Keep these electrical safety tips in mind year-round, and if you have any questions, contact your local electrical utility or provider.
May 31, 2011 4:49 pm
Think installing solar panels onto your home is an upfront cost out of your reach? American Vision® Solar is helping homeowners across the country see solar energy in a new light, and learn that taking advantage of solar power is affordable, and provides an incredible return on investment.
Homeowners now have the 'power' to choose to whom they pay their monthly electric bill, and how much they pay each month. It's what American Vision is calling 'Solar as service,' and it's through the company's new Power Purchase Agreement where qualifying customers get the benefits of solar with virtually no investment and avoid the expense of purchasing a system outright. Customers can finance solar panel installation by simply paying a monthly payment—a monthly cost that is guaranteed to be less than a Southern California Edison bill without solar. Over a year period, this monthly savings can equate to more than $1,100 back in your pocket (on average). In fact, over a period of 20 years, the solar panels boast a 469% rate of return on investment!
"Numbers don't lie, and we're thrilled to be able to make the up-front costs of solar panel installation more affordable to our customers," says company President Al Alferi. "In this economy, every dollar counts, and with the immediate monthly savings our Power Purchase Agreement offers, homeowners can reap all of the cost benefits of solar power with no initial investment."
Benefits to having 'Solar as service' run deeper than just cost savings. The American Vision Power Purchase Agreement provides customers with 20 years of pro-active monitoring, included maintenance and repair, production guarantee, included inverter replacement and full-system insurance. And, let's not forget the benefit of owning an eco-friendly home, and being a friend to the environment by taking advantage of the sun's brilliant resource.
To learn more about American Vision Solar, visit the company online at http://www.americanvisionsolar.com.
May 31, 2011 4:49 pm
America's hiring managers and recruiters are forecasting healthy job growth for the remainder of this year, according to a new survey by Dice Holdings, Inc., a leading provider of specialized career websites for professional communities. Slightly more than half (51%) of employers and recruiters anticipate hiring more professionals in the second half of 2011 than in the previous six months. These survey results suggest the U.S. labor market remains on a favorable trajectory, particularly when the stronger levels of hiring experienced in the first half of the year are taken into account.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private sector employers have added more than 200,000 jobs per month this year.
Companies expecting a step-up in hiring in the next six months represented a broad spectrum of industries, including energy, technology, telecom, media, Internet, distribution, financial services, consulting and retail.
"The recovery in jobs appears to be broadening to include more industries, more professions and certainly more local markets," says Scot Melland, Chairman, President and CEO of Dice Holdings, Inc. "We see this every day in our businesses as more and more companies return to recruiting and speed-to-hire becomes increasingly important."
The disparity between available jobs and skilled talent has sparked companies to adapt to a more competitive market. Nearly half of the hiring managers and recruiters (49%) say they have started to recruit talent from geographies outside their local market due to talent shortages. This emerging phenomenon was more pronounced for companies headquartered in the East, Midwest and South, as compared to those in the Northeast and West.
At the same time, paychecks are starting to be positively impacted, as 41% of hiring managers and recruiters indicated salaries for new hires are rising, compared to just 29% who felt that way six months ago.
For those planning on making more hires in the second half of 2011, 48% project they will add up to 10% more employees compared with the first half of 2011, while 29% plan to increase hiring by 11-20%.
Half of employers and recruiters noted they are no longer seeing increases in the number of candidates applying for positions. June 2008 was the last time a similar number of employers indicated a change in applicant behavior.
May 31, 2011 4:49 pm
Yield. What an investment or property will return; the profit or income.