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Tom's Blog

Splash Your Autumn World With The Latest Colors

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

Did you ever wonder where they come up with the colors that will lead predominant interior design trends for the next year? I recently came across a great piece from Gudy Herder of Eclectic Trends, who appears on

Herder recently attended a trend conference forum from Mix Global Color Research in London, where Sallie Davies from Global Color Research gave her a sneak peak at the newest color and pattern trends for Fall/Winter 2013-14.

If you’ve ever wanted to know how trends are established, Herder explains that Global Color Research holds biennial sessions bringing together top experts from all over the globe from different industries. Trends that are being observed and shared at these events are done two years in advance.

It’s all about future thinking, discussing certain influences, bringing in their own insights, collaborating, and at the end, defining the trends, Herder says. And she is interested to see how every kind of environmental, economic or psychological issues might influence a new trend.

The major trends that are influencing the color and pattern landscape for the upcoming season Fall/Winter 2013/14 are: Flint, Storm, Clash, Alpine.

Herder says there is a certain Neolithic style going back to our roots reflected by rich earth soil colors, warm neutrals, rust. Primitive aesthetics, organic and handmade themes, found objects meant to express our own personality.

She says sophisticated and soft, rough and ready are the opposites that play nicely together. Thick leathers, hemp yarns and rustic and fossil textures are key for Flint category colors like taupey Lascaux, rich rusty Mammoth, and the classic Bone.

We'll come back in the next report and examine the balance of the 2013/14 fall/winter color trends. And take a look at all the color palettes here.



Taming the 'First Day of Kindergarten' Jitters

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

For many children, going to kindergarten is just a continuation of preschool. For others, it is truly a milestone – perhaps the first time they will be leaving Mom and Dad behind to go off on their own. Whichever it is for your child, the American School Counselor Association suggests 10 things you can do to ensure a smooth transition:

  • Review the route – If your child will be walking to school, take a few practice walks, pointing out landmarks and where the crossing guards will be. Whether walking or busing, be sure he knows where you will drop him off and pick him up.
  • Visit the teacher and the classroom – Most schools are happy to have your child visit a few days before classes begin. Call to make an appointment.
  • Buy supplies together – Take your child to pick out a backpack, a lunch box, and basic school supplies.
  • Make sure clothes are kid-friendly – Choose easy zippers, Velcro shoe closures, and clothing that is easy for kids to maneuver through bathroom trips, recess, etc.
  • Adjust his or her body clock – If summer has meant later bedtimes and wake-ups, start at least a week before school starts to adjust your child’s body clock in preparation for school.
  • Set the scene – Designate where your child will store his backpack, where after school snacks may be found, and where homework will be done. Helping him settle into a routine will make life easier for all.
  • Have a rehearsal lunch – Together, establish a list of nutritious and well-liked foods she can expect to find in her lunchbox. Pack a lunch one day and be sure she can easily open the thermos or juice carton, plastic containers, etc.
  • Get a library card – If you have not already done so, sign your child up for a library card and begin a nighttime ritual that includes at least 15 minutes of reading.
  • Check in with yourself – Parents have every reason to feel apprehensive when they send a child off to school. Take time to calm your concerns and present an enthusiastic face – and don’t hesitate to put a photo or little love notes in his or her lunchbox.
  • Celebrate the occasion – Make dinner the night before school starts a celebration; favorite foods, a cake for dessert, even party hats and blowers. This is a big day in your child’s life. Make it special for all.

What Gen Z Should Know About Saving for College

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

(BPT) - Is it ever too early to start saving for college? Is it ever too late? Finance experts say the answer to both questions is a resounding "no," and an annual Gen Z & Money survey released by TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation (NYSE: AMTD) indicates that members of Generation Z are hearing the message loud and clear.

Many members of Gen Z (people born during the 1990s) are either already facing, or are on the verge of facing, their own college funding challenges. Head Research, on behalf of TD Ameritrade, Inc., surveyed 1,000 people, ages 14 to 23, regarding saving for college. Survey results and methodology are available online here.

"Many parents of Gen Z kids are still paying back loans for their own college education," says Carrie Braxdale, managing director of investor services for TD Ameritrade, Inc. (TD Ameritrade), a broker dealer subsidiary of TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation. "Aware of their parents' struggles, this young generation is concerned about the cost of college. Forty-six percent of those surveyed say their biggest post-graduation worry is having a large student loan balance, and 36 percent worry about being able to afford college at all."

College costs continue to rise - more than 1,120 percent in the past 35 years, according to a Bloomberg report. The average student loan debt owed was $26,600 in 2011, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.

Still, Gen Z has no doubt the investment is worth the money. More than half (54 percent) say obtaining a higher education is critical to achieving success, and 64 percent agree college is worth the cost because it will help them secure employment, according to the TD Ameritrade survey.

"Parents who work with their children early to develop a financial plan and clearly set financial expectations can help better prepare them for financial success later in life," Braxdale says. "And even if they start saving when their child is already in high school, they should remember that every dollar they save toward college now is a dollar less they will owe in student loans."

Fortunately, a variety of college savings plans can help better prepare parents and their kids for the future, including:

  • A 529 College Savings Plan - Usually administered through or sponsored by a state government, 529s offer several tax advantages. Earnings in the account are not subject to federal tax and withdrawals for qualified higher education expenses are generally free of state and federal taxes. Contributions are generally not tax deductible, but parents may be able to exclude 529 money from their taxable estate, making them a possible way to reduce one's estate taxes while helping a child pay for college.
  • Before investing in a 529 Plan, carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses involved. This and other important information regarding the plan is included in the Program Disclosure Statement and Participation Agreement and each prospectus on the underlying investments, which may be obtained by contacting the issuer. Please read each prospectus, the Program Disclosure Statement, and Participation Agreement carefully prior to investing. Investment return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate so that an investor's units, when withdrawn, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

You should be aware that other states may sponsor their own qualified tuition plans and may offer a state tax deduction or other benefits that are limited to residents who invest in that plan. You should consult with your financial, tax or other advisor about state and local tax benefits or limitations based on your specific situation. Favorable tax treatment by your state of residence should be one of many appropriately weighted factors you should consider in making an investment decision.

  • Coverdell Education Savings Accounts - In general, earnings and qualified withdrawals in an education savings account are federal tax free. While 529s are exclusively for college, you can use an ESA to help pay for elementary school, high school or college expenses. There are no minimum contribution requirements, and you can put up to $2,000 per child, per year into the account. Contributions are generally not tax deductible.
  • Custodial accounts - A great way to build assets for children or loved ones, custodial accounts allow you to manage a minor's assets and investments. The account will be in the child's name and Social Security number, but it cannot be accessed until he or she reaches legal age. You act as guardian until the child is old enough and can assume control of the assets.

Braxdale offers some tips for creating a college investing strategy:

  • Start early. Even a small amount set aside each month allows your money to start working for you long before the first tuition bill arrives.
  • Set goals, including the total you want to have saved and how much you will save each year to reach that goal. TD Ameritrade's College Planner can help with goal setting by helping project how much you'll need to save to cover expected tuition costs.
  • Choose an investing vehicle. Decide which type of college investing plan will best help you pursue your goal.
  • Track your progress. Check regularly on your college investing accounts to see if you're on track toward meeting your goals.
  • Consult a qualified tax advisor. Every individual's tax situation is different, so it is important to consider talking with a qualified tax advisor regarding the particular investment vehicle you choose. TD Ameritrade does not provide tax advice.
  • Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that the investment vehicle you choose will achieve its investment goals. The value of an account will go up or down based on the performance of the underlying investments. When funds are withdrawn, they may have more or less value than the total contributions made to the account.

Source: TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation



Word of the Day

August 13, 2013 7:40 pm

Sales contract.  Contract that contains the terms of the agreement between the buyer and seller for the sale of a particular parcel or parcels of real estate.



Simple Ways to Improve Personal Finances

August 9, 2013 8:10 pm

(Family Features)--As more Americans make strides towards responsible spending and debt management, there are still ways to improve the control of family finances.

According to a survey recently conducted by Bank of America, which asked respondents about their credit card usage, balance and rewards, less than half of cardholders always pay their entire credit card balance. With more than half of individuals carrying credit card debt, Jason Gaughan, card products executive for Bank of America, said to think about personal spending before taking on a credit card.

"Credit cards provide consumers an efficient and protected way to make purchases," says Gaughan. "They are more convenient than cash and they are incredibly useful in an emergency. The key to successfully managing your credit card account is to understand your budget and stick to a plan that works for you when borrowing. You want a card with a rewards program that fits your lifestyle and how you manage your finances. If you typically carry a balance, look for a card that has low interest and reinforces good payment practices."

Along with these practices, there are other ways to promote good spending and personal finance habits, such as:

Limit Number of Credit Cards
According to the survey, three out of 10 respondents carried four or more credit cards. Limiting the number of cards you own can help limit your spending and increase the likelihood you can pay above the minimum balance. Before you start cutting up your plastic, remember having more than one credit card can have merits. If you need money for an emergency, the immediate buying power of a credit card can be a lifesaver. Try a card with no annual fee and a generous credit line to cover unexpected expenses. One idea is to have three cards: one in a safe place at home for emergencies and two with you at all times.

Reap the Rewards
With so many rewards programs available for credit card holders, it's important to do your homework so you can cash in on things your family really needs. While some credit cards will offer rewards to use at your favorite hotels and airlines, others will give you special discounts for the purchases you make on a frequent basis. The most popular of these programs is cash back for spending. Some cards let you earn more cash back where you spend the most money, like gas stations and grocery stores. 

Track Spending Habits
Now—if you've been lax about keeping track of your spending, take the first step towards tracking as soon as possible. Include info on where you spend, when you spend and how much you spend. Making note of all of those little purchases—a cup of coffee here or a gift store trinket there—will help you see how quickly they add up. Whether you're the old-fashioned, pen-and-paper type, or if you prefer a more modern, digital form of tracking, the importance is in the act itself.

Evaluate All Debts
Many carry debts beyond credit cards, including student loans, car payments and mortgages. While some may consider these types as necessary debts, it is important to keep track of the balance due for each as well as the interest rate you are paying. According to the survey, when respondents were asked what they would do with $1,000, nearly half (44 percent) revealed they would pay off debt. Evaluate your debts and decide which ones have the highest interest rates. Making it a priority to pay down these debts first will save you more money in the long run.

Create a Budget
It's never too soon to put yourself in control of your money and stop letting it control you. A budget will give you financial peace of mind and it can help you stretch the income you have. First, write down the financial goals you want to achieve in the next few years and the ones you want to accomplish for the long term. Then, gather all of the purchasing information for the household and categorize each type of spending. Divide your expenses into fixed expenses (those that stay the same from month to month, such as a mortgage payment or cable television bill) and variable ones (those that may change, such as fuel bills or entertainment). Be sure to also set aside some money for personal savings and an emergency fund. Once you've calculated your income and expenses a month ahead of time and set your budget, you can focus on the most important part -- adhering to the plan. Find ways to decrease spending. Adopt just one new way of trimming expenses each week and you'll find your overhead shrinking fast. Though you may not be on-point every month, the simple act of tracking and communicating your family's finances will be a huge step forward in your quest towards responsible spending.




Throw a Perfect Party, without All the Costs and Clutter

August 9, 2013 8:10 pm

BPT—Whether it's your child's birthday or your relatives are flying in from overseas to take part in a family reunion, your life is filled with special events worth celebrating. Of course, you'd love to salute every one of them with a once-in-a-lifetime party, but how do you do that without winding up with a garage filled with party clutter that you'll never use again and an empty wallet?

It's easier than you think.

Celebrating that special event doesn't have to break the bank or leave you the not-so-proud owner of items you'll have no use for once the party is over. There is another solution: rent what you need. You'll wow your guests and save money in the process.

Not sure what can be rented? Here are some ideas to create a party beyond your guests' wildest expectations.

Create the perfect environment

Many party planners feel constrained by the materials they already own when hosting a party, but the truth is renting opportunities allow you to create an atmosphere limited only by your imagination. If you're looking to hold your party outside, rent a tent. Your area rental business will have tents available in all shapes, sizes and styles, allowing you to pick the perfect one for your event. Heating and cooling units are also available so your guests will always be comfortable, regardless of weather conditions.

You'll also be able to rent tables and chairs, saving you from having to try and borrow these items or, worse yet, buying more for this one occasion. It creates a more relaxing atmosphere for your guests and they'll be able to sit and rest rather than having to stand up throughout the event.

For a more formal affair, your local rental store can also provide linens, table service and stemware to complete your look. This will keep you from having to use disposables or from washing dishes when the event is finished, allowing you to relax and enjoy your company.

Wow them with food

If you're in charge of planning the party, you've probably been nervously pondering what you will do about the food. No other party aspect requires so much work, and often you still find yourself eating leftovers for weeks. But rental stores offer several options that will help you wow your guests and indulge them at the same time.

Keeping foods the perfect temperature is always a challenge when hosting an event, but there are some great options available for rent. An ice table is a great way to keep things chilled in the summer heat, preventing undesirable illness. For hot foods, chafers will keep main dishes hot for hours so guests can eat at their leisure.

When it comes to that main course, grilling allows you to feed a lot of people with minimal prep work. But what if you don't have a grill? You can always rent one. Many rental facilities offer grills of varying sizes, allowing you the chance to pick the right grill for your event.

Consider renting a popcorn machine for your party. People get hungry at different times and a popcorn machine allows your guests to serve themselves and munch on this delicious snack while they wait for the main course.

Activities for kids of any age

Whether it's a birthday party, a family reunion or some other gathering, odds are children will be at your party. If your venue lacks the appropriate activities to entertain kids for the long haul, consult your area rental facility for options.

An inflatable bounce house will keep your youngest guests entertained for hours while obstacle courses or laser tag are great options for your teenage guests. And the biggest kids at your event will enjoy a casino night with the games you rented.

If you're expecting a large number of children at that family reunion, you may also consider renting a helium tank and providing balloons for your younger guests. The kids will be entertained, and you'll save yourself from being out of breath all afternoon.



5 Reasons to Get Flight Insurance

August 9, 2013 8:10 pm

In an age where checked bags are rarely free, flight insurance seems like one of those superfluous added costs that airlines try to shoehorn onto tickets.

But despite a completely valid suspicion about added costs, flight insurance can be a really smart investment, and it can pay off for passengers.

Consider these five scenarios in which flight insurance can come in handy:

1. Trip Cancellation.

Airlines understand that travelers often have to cancel their flights for unexpected reasons, but they tend to be somewhat mercenary in charging cancellation fees.

A discount-rate ticket or one purchased through a discount travel site generally has an inflexible cancellation policy, one that can be mitigated by purchasing travel insurance.

Most basic flight insurance plans will cover last-minute cancellations due to family member illness, injuries, or even political unrest.

2. Flight Life Insurance.

As relatives of victims from any tragic plane crash know, there are potential dangers to health and life when stepping on a plane.

In the event of a flight passenger's death, she may already have life insurance through her employer or individual policy. But flight life insurance can often pay up to $1 million to a passenger's beneficiaries, at a cost of less than $100 per passenger.

3. Lost Baggage.

If your baggage is lost during a trip, flight insurance can often pay for you to buy necessary replacement items like clothing or even prescription medications.

4. Trip Interruption.

Vacations can often be cut short due to inclement weather, unexpected injuries and illnesses, or even a cruise liner losing power.

Many flight insurance plans will cover the costs for returning early due to an unexpected event, and may even supplement existing health insurance in the event of an injury.

5. Stolen Passports.

Having a passport stolen is a nightmare for any international traveler, but some flight insurance policies will cover a replacement.

Ultimately, passengers should base their insurance needs around their expectations for travel, making flight insurance a better buy for international or cross-country flights and not for commuter flights.




Word of the Day

August 9, 2013 8:10 pm

Right of survivorship. A feature of joint tenancy giving the surviving joint tenants the rights, title and interests of the deceased joint tenant. Right of survivorship is the basic difference between buying property as joint tenants and as tenants in common.


Q: What Should I Know about Zoning Issues and Approvals?

August 9, 2013 8:10 pm

A: Zoning regulations establish how the land can be used, either for residential, industrial, commercial, or recreational purposes, or sometimes a combination thereof.  Designed to protect property owners and communities from undesirable, or inappropriate, land uses and/or construction, zoning laws can be very rigid and inflexible.  On the other hand, they can protect your property value and ensure against the stationing of a mega-store right next to your home.  Before you begin any remodeling job, determine how your local zoning laws might affect your project.  You can visit your local zoning office, city hall, or some other local planning board to get a copy of your local ordinance and determine how you will need to seek approval for your project.  Take nothing for granted; some communities even require approval to erect fences.


Clearly Modern Glass Innovations Create Great Home Improvements

August 9, 2013 8:10 pm

When you talk renovations most people envision new cabinets, floors or even an addition. However, I am learning just how much you can do spruce up the look of your home with glass from Ridgefield Glass is an industry leader in Connecticut offering an array of services to improve home aesthetics.

According to co-owner John Petchonka, “Glass can offer a modern twist on a previously tired look in various areas of your home.”

He says new uses for glass can be found in the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, exercise room and even as a partition in any spacious room.  Ultimately, creative glass upgrades make your house more livable and luxurious.

Some renovation options room by room, include:

  • Bathrooms - Curved, frameless glass shower doors and panels remove visual clutter to create an inspiring showering environment, while easing maintenance and cleaning, especially when the glass is coated with a Teflon surface protector; painted shower glass walls with any pattern or color complement existing bathroom décor; glass countertops and beveled mirrors create a crisp, clean surface area for all bathroom toiletries and necessities with maximum reflective capacity.
  • Kitchen - Glass counters and backsplashes are an innovative and functional upgrade that cleans easily in the messiest of rooms.
  • Bedroom - Opalescent frosted glass closet doors and glass drawers offer an artistic home for the wardrobes of some of the most discerning fashionistas and pairing them with antique mirrors, creates a perfect mix of old and new.
  • Exercise Rooms - The more glass, the more inspiration in today’s home gyms…from flat wall-to-wall mirrors to entire glass walls and floors, seeing oneself in every angle helps keep exercise motivation at its peak!
  • Wine Rooms - Using a glass door for your wine room adds elegance and an attractive presentation to your finest spirit collection.
  • Open Area Rooms - Textured glass room partitions help separate an open floor area with fashion and flair- the texture of the glass makes it less translucent than regular glass, but the divider still allows enough light and sound.

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Tom Skiffington - RE/MAX 440 - PERKASIE

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