Gunning Daily News

63 Percent of Americans Cutting Back due to Rising Gas Prices

May 23, 2011 3:49 pm

A study released by Bankrate.com found that more Americans are holding back on nonessential spending, such as vacations or dining out, since the beginning of 2011, specifically due to the rise in gasoline prices. Of the respondents who have had to change their spending habits, 72 percent are from households with incomes less than $50,000 and 66 percent are retirees and those living in rural communities. The new study, which measures feelings of financial security among Americans, was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International.

Among the findings:

• Feelings of financial security among Americans—as measured by the Financial Security Index—rebounded from April's low of 93.5, back to the same level seen in January (98.5), with all components showing improvement.
• 35 percent of Americans are less comfortable with their savings now compared to 12 months ago, down from 42 percent in April. One in six (16 percent) are more comfortable, up from 14 percent in April.
• A strong April jobs report, released the morning of May 6, buoyed Americans' feelings of job security with only 18 percent feeling less secure now than 12 months ago, an improvement from 25 percent in April (The Financial Security Index poll was conducted May 5-8, 2011).
• Americans are split on their overall financial security, with 27 percent reporting better overall financial security compared to 12 months ago and 28 percent saying they're worse-off. Those reporting better overall financial security are higher-income earners ($75,000-up), college graduates and those under age 50. Those reporting worse overall financial security are those with household incomes under $50,000, the unemployed and retirees.

"The sensitivity to gasoline prices voiced by Americans cuts both ways. Any sustained pullback in prices would be a boost to the economy, but a renewed increase in gas prices would be a further drag on growth," says Greg McBride, CFA, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com.

For more information visit www.Bankrate.com.

Word of the Day

May 23, 2011 3:49 pm

Value. Market value or present worth. To have value, a property must have utility, scarcity, effective demand, and transferability.

Question of the Day

May 23, 2011 3:49 pm

Q: What does a home inspector do?

A: A home inspector is a paid professional—often a contractor or an engineer—who checks the safety of a home. Home inspectors search for defects or other problems that could become your worst nightmare later on. They focus particularly on the home’s structure, construction, and mechanical systems.

It is not the inspector’s job to determine whether you are getting good value for your money. He does not establish value, only whether the home might collapse in a storm or if the roof might cave in.

A home inspection typically takes place after a purchase contract between the buyer and seller has been signed.

Women Concerned about Health Risks yet Lack Knowledge to Promote Wellness in the Home, According to New Survey

May 20, 2011 4:49 pm

Roughly half of women worry about cross-contamination of germs when cleaning and lack confidence that their home is sanitary, according to a new survey conducted by Maid Brigade and Mom Corps.

Despite elevated concerns about the safety and health of their home environments and the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warning that indoor environments are two to five times more polluted than the outdoors, only 27.8 percent of total respondents say a ‘healthy safe environment’ is their primary motivator for house cleaning.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, about 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from allergies and asthma and their conditions are exacerbated by the tiny dry particles floating around in the home.

The natural response to this is to clean, but unfortunately some of the products used to rid homes of allergens contain irritating ingredients themselves.
“Asthma and allergy season is inside people’s homes every day of the year,” comments Marie Stegner, consumer health advocate for Maid Brigade. “The data suggests consumers may not view the inside of the home as an exposure point for sickness, allergies, or health risks.”

To help consumers become aware of invisible indoor air triggers that can cause potential health risks like asthma and allergies, Maid Brigade has released an educational video to show how green cleaning can help improve indoor environments. The video explains how to reduce the impact of allergens in the home including combating dust mites, mold, and pet dander and eliminating the detriments to household air quality that chemical fumes from cleaning products and spray air fresheners can also present.

The recent survey also shows that there is a lack of understanding regarding the effect many chemical-based cleaning supplies and ordinary cleaning equipment can have on family health including causing asthma and allergy attacks. Less than one in three women surveyed understand proper disinfection cleaning methods.

One in three survey respondents say they use outside cleaning help—an increase from 25 percent in 2009—to provide a better sense of balance and improve their quality of life. Most of the women surveyed who use local house cleaning services feel that the service is a necessity rather than an indulgence as they feel more time starved and burdened with their multiple roles than ever before. Seventy two percent of women also feel they work a ‘second shift’ when it comes to the number of hours they spend cleaning their homes.

More than 1,000 women between the ages of 25 and 64 were polled in the Maid Brigade and Mom Corps survey that probes women’s attitudes about housework, infectious disease and ‘doing it all well.’ The two companies formed an alliance in 2009 to help women improve their quality of life. To view the companies’ 2011 study findings, as well as survey methodology, visit maidbrigade.com/momcorps.

National Healthy Homes Conference to Address Risks from Asthma to Bedbugs

May 20, 2011 4:49 pm

All across America, there are homes that can actually harm those who live in them. From lead-based paint that can poison children, to cancer-causing radon, to cockroach and bedbug infestations. Next month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is hosting a National Healthy Homes Conference in Denver that will explore the latest research and interventions from dozens of public health, housing, and environmental experts from more than 200 organizations.

From June 20-23, these experts will present findings on how to produce healthier housing for people living with disabilities, including a growing number of adults with autism who are confronted with the lack of supportive housing options. 

"It's shocking that the leading causes of preventable death, disease and disability are right in our own homes," says HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims. "Home ought to be a place where we feel safest, not a place where we're most likely to get sick or be injured. We need an honest conversation about supporting efforts to improve the health and safety conditions in our homes."

Asthma, lead poisoning, house fires, falls and drowning in bathtubs are just a few of the hazards that families face. For example, studies find that mold, cockroaches and dust mites trigger more than 4.5 million cases of asthma each year, costing $3.5 billion. In addition, lead poisoning and cancer are caused by lead-based paint and exposure to other environmental toxins, generate an estimated $53 billion in annual medical costs. Hazards that lead to falls and burns add another $222 billion.

To address these critical problems, HUD developed Seven Principles of Healthy Homes:
• Dry – Damp houses provide a nurturing environment for mites, roaches, rodents, and molds, all of which are associated with asthma.
• Clean – Clean homes help reduce pest infestations and exposure to contaminants.
• Pest-Free – Recent studies show there is a connection between exposure to mice and cockroaches and the development of asthma. Improper treatment of pest infestations can leave pesticide residues, which could cause neurological damage and cancer.
• Safe – The majority of injuries occur in the home. Falls are the most frequent cause of residential injuries, followed by injuries from objects in the home, burns, and poisonings.
• Contaminant-Free – It is important to keep homes clear of contaminants such as lead, asbestos particles, radon gas, carbon monoxide, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and tobacco smoke. Exposures to these contaminants are far higher indoors than outside.
• Ventilated – Studies show that increasing the fresh air supply in a home improves respiratory health. Even cooking in a poorly-ventilated home can produce harmful pollution.
• Maintained – Poorly maintained homes are at risk for moisture and pest problems. Lead-based paint in older homes is the primary cause of lead poisoning, which affects some 240,000 U.S. children.

About NHHC
The National Healthy Homes Conference will be held in Denver, June 20-23 and feature more than 150 educational sessions and workshops, allowing officials from the public health, housing, safety and environmental communities to collaborate and share ideas. NHHC is the housing industry's most comprehensive, progressive and educational forum on the issue of healthy, safe and sustainable homes. The conference is a federally sponsored event, bringing together a wide range of health, housing, and environmental professionals to work toward making housing healthy, safe and environmentally sustainable.

TD Economics: Small Businesses Will Reclaim the Driver's Seat behind the Economic Engine

May 20, 2011 4:49 pm

The next few years will mark a new phase for the U.S. economy, characterized by accelerated job growth and increased opportunities for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), particularly in international trade. This is according to a new report released recently by TD Economics, an affiliate of TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank®.

The American economy relies heavily on small- and medium-sized businesses. The sluggish economic recovery is partly attributed to the fact that SMEs have been hit on two critical fronts. One, they were highly concentrated in the hardest hit industries of the recession. And, two, tight credit conditions have been made worse with collateral tied to real estate. Of the two influences, the mix of industry concentration now seems to be the bigger, lingering issue holding back SMEs.

"Fortunately, the recovery is broadening out beyond the manufacturing sector and domestic demand is gaining strength. Opportunities for new firms to start up and take advantage of the economic recovery should continue to rise," says TD Deputy Chief Economist Beata Caranci.

"In the second and third quarters of 2010, small and medium sized enterprises—businesses that employ fewer than 500 people—began to reinstate their status as a dominant hiring source, accounting for 60 percent or more of national net jobs gains," says Caranci. "Although SME data at this disaggregated level is only available to the third quarter for 2010, there is reason to believe that small-sized firms were instrumental in driving the strong job gains seen over the February to April period in 2011. These firms have a high representation in the service sector where jobs accelerated sharply within the national non-farm monthly payroll figures."

The TD Economists also predict that along with the increased opportunities that are materializing from current, domestic economic improvement, there is enormous potential for small and medium sized businesses to tap into foreign markets.

"Emerging-market economies already make up 50 percent of the world economy and, in the next decade, that share will rise to 60 percent," says Caranci. "Given the increasingly diverse growth in world demand and the global competitiveness of the current American dollar, businesses adept enough to navigate products and services in an export market face a number of unique advantages over those focusing solely on the domestic market."

This opportunity, the TD Economists say, will allow SMEs in the service trade industry – a key driver of exports – to expand sales and provide services such as accounting, advertising, consulting and legal advice.

Although entering the export market presents great potential for SMEs, there are some challenges in exploring foreign markets, such as obtaining financing, high tariffs and transportation and shipping costs. However, like many aspects of owning a business, practice will make perfect. As firms become more experienced in navigating foreign markets, and recruit the appropriate talent and services, they will become more successful at the business of exporting.
"Looking beyond the U.S. business cycle, the increasing global nature of economic growth should not be overlooked as businesses recover from the recession," says Caranci. "Some are already gaining a foothold in high-growth countries in emerging markets such as Asia, and the potential to expand further is prodigious."

TD Economics provides analysis of global economic performance and forecasting, and is an affiliate of TD Bank, America's Most Convenient Bank.

Question of the Day

May 20, 2011 4:49 pm

Q: Is there anything I should not tell my agent?

A: Most definitely! Never reveal the top dollar you are willing to pay for a home. It will severely undercut your chance to negotiate the home price with the seller. While an agent may spend a lot of time showing you homes and sharing information, the reality is that she works for the seller, who ultimately pays each and every agent involved in helping to complete the home sale. The seller pays the agents in the form of a commission, a percentage of the proceeds from the home sale. The exception is hiring your own real estate professional, now commonly known as a buyer’s agent or a buyer’s broker.

Word of the Day

May 20, 2011 4:49 pm

Valid contract. One that meets all requirements of law, is binding upon its parties, and is enforceable in a court of law.

Is Your Price Stealing from Your Profit?

May 20, 2011 4:49 pm

As a business owner or entrepreneur, you know that price can make or break your offering. If the price is set it too high then you can't make the sale. If the price is set too low, it steals away your profit with every transaction.

"When this happens it is a slow death by a thousand drips," comments Jason Marrs, price strategist and co-author of No B.S. Price Strategy with Dan S. Kennedy. "I say drips because a price that is too low is a reflection of something called a value leak. Like a slow leak in your house can go unnoticed for years, all the while causing profound structural damage, so too can a value leak in your business."

So what causes value leaks? Marrs answers that value leaks happen when you fail to recognize and collect on value that you are providing to your customers, clients or patients.

To put it another way, if you are not being compensated for your processing and shipping being faster than your competition—you have a value leak. If your waiting room is more spacious and cleaner than the competition, that is something of value. If you're not being compensated for it, it's a value leak. The list goes on and on.

Every business has value leaks. The question isn't if you have value leaks the question is how many and how severe.

Everything you add to your offering—be that service, quality, experience or something else –adds to the value being received by your customer. These value points also add to your costs of doing business.

"Value points must be recognized, accounted for, assessed and figured into your price," notes Marrs. "This will give you the ability to differentiate your offering from the competition, raise your price and produce more profit. That extra profit will then give you the ability to improve your offering, your service and your security."

Jason Marrs is a pricing strategist who coaches entrepreneurs and other professionals in overcoming price reluctance and resistance.

One in Eight Americans Have Contemplated Bankruptcy

May 20, 2011 4:49 pm

Nearly one in eight Americans—13 percent—have either filed or considered filing for bankruptcy, according to a new survey by FindLaw.com.

The FindLaw.com survey found that people between the ages of 35 and 54 are 50 percent more likely to have considered filing for bankruptcy than people ages 18-34 or 55 and older. People of retirement age (65 and older) are the least likely to have considered filing for bankruptcy (7 percent).

More than 1.5 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy last year, according to the National Bankruptcy Research Center. That's the highest level since 2005, which saw a wave of bankruptcy filings just ahead of major bankruptcy law reforms.

Personal bankruptcies are often the result of a major life event, such as loss of a job, a medical emergency, home foreclosure and so on. Bankruptcy laws dictate who is eligible to file for personal bankruptcy, which debts can be wiped out, which debts will remain, and what happens to personal property, including homes.

"Bankruptcy can be a long, complicated and emotionally difficult process," says Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney and editor at FindLaw.com. "Even after the bankruptcy is completed, it can affect people's lives for many years afterwards. Bankruptcy can be a useful tool for protecting debtors in some cases, but in other cases may not be the best option. People who are contemplating bankruptcy should consult with financial and legal advisers to discuss the pros and cons of bankruptcy, as well as potential alternatives, such as credit counseling and debt management plans."

The FindLaw survey was conducted using a telephone survey of a demographically balanced group of 1,000 American adults and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent.

For more information visit www.findlaw.com.