Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
July 3, 2013 2:32 pm
Taking time off after having a having a baby can be stressful as well as expensive. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave, many parents take less than that, either to avoid giving up their salaries for an extended period or because they are afraid the job may not wait for them.
Financial strategist Kimberly Palmer suggests seven tips for planning ahead to ensure that your maternity leave is financially and emotionally on track:
- Research your options – Early on, ask other parents at work about available maternity leave options, and take note of whether people are able to work from home or work flexible hours. Once you are ready to tell people you are pregnant, usually around three-months, speak with the human resources department about leave benefits. The same advice goes for fathers. Some companies offer at least a couple of weeks of paid paternity leave.
- Delegate your responsibilities – Some people fear that turning their responsibilities over to others will make them appear replaceable. But most employers will value your efforts to be certain the company will not be left in the lurch while you are away. Before you leave, inform your employer about any arrangements you have made.
- Plan a short but complete work blackout – While it might be tempting to check emails or phone messages in the first couple of weeks after giving birth, give yourself that time to free your mind of work-related issues, bond with your baby, and get as much sleep as possible.
- Then stay in touch – By your third or fourth week at home, begin checking in with the office once every week or two. Getting updates lets people know you are interested and will be coming back.
- Find good child care – If you have not made child care arrangements beforehand, use your time off to secure affordable and reassuring arrangements.
- Once back at work, be the same person – Feel free to show baby photos to those who ask, but do your best to show the office staff you are the same responsible person you were before you left.
- Help others – Supporting pregnant co-workers through the process with tips that worked for you makes for a more family-friendly work environment.
July 3, 2013 2:32 pm
At last! Summer is finally here. No matter how long winter seemed, summer sneaks up on us fast — sometimes too fast for the health and safety of our pets. So here, from the experts at the American Humane Association, are a few tips to help your pets get through the hotter months of the year safely:
Regular exercise, surprisingly, can be dangerous for pets at this time of year. Even if your pets are active, get exercise every day and are in excellent physical shape, you may want to scale back their activities or change your exercise routine to the cooler hours of the morning or evening. That will allow them to acclimate to the sometimes sudden increases in daily temperatures that occur during these hot summer days. Remember, we humans can take off our "winter coats" and put on t-shirts and shorts as the days suddenly grow hotter. However, at this time of year, our pets are often still wearing the remnants of their winter wardrobes. And while people have the capacity to perspire and cool themselves during exercise, our furred friends are limited in how they can cool themselves, relying on panting and limited sweating through the bottoms of their feet. While your pets are acclimating to the new season, develop an exercise plan that will get them safely through the hotter summer months.
A pet in a closed vehicle is not cool. Nearly everyone knows that leaving a pet in a closed vehicle on a 100-degree day is dangerous. However, it is the pleasant days of spring and early summer that can actually be the most dangerous for pets left in vehicles. Many people forget that pets are affected by heat much more quickly than humans are, and that leaving a pet in a car for "just a minute" can have a deadly outcome. Remember that cars heat up fast — even with the windows cracked!
At home outdoors, ensure that your pets have access to shade and fresh water at all times. Your trip to the supermarket or dentist's office may take longer than you expect. Temperatures in your yard can increase to high levels in just a few hours, and heat stroke can become a serious issue.
Avoid giving your pet a hot foot. Pavement, sidewalks, sand on beaches and other hot surfaces can burn a pet's feet. Consider buying booties to protect them in such circumstances.
Heat stroke requires immediate veterinary attention! Heat stroke can be deadly. Signs of heat stroke include excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, lethargy, stumbling, seizures, bloody diarrhea or vomiting, and coma. If you suspect heat stroke, you should seek veterinary treatment for your pet as soon as possible. You can provide some immediate treatment using cool (but not icy) water to lower your pet's temperature by submerging the pet in a tub of water, wetting him with a hose or sponging him down. If your pet showed signs of heat stroke but has been cooled and now appears fine, do not assume that all is well. Internal organs, such as the liver, kidneys and the brain, are all affected by extreme body temperature elevation. It is best to have a veterinarian examine your pet to assess potential health complications and ensure that other risks are not overlooked.
Enjoy your summer days with your furred friends — just be sure to take a few precautions and stay cool!
July 3, 2013 2:32 pm
Origination fee. A charge by the lender for granting and processing a new mortgage loan.
July 3, 2013 2:32 pm
A: Sometimes. But it is a complicated process and a lot will depend on the lender.
This process is called a “short sale,” which occurs when a lender agrees to write off the portion of a mortgage that's higher than the value of a home. But, usually, a buyer must be willing to purchase the property first.
A short sale may be more complicated if the loan has been sold in the secondary market. Then the lender will need permission from Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, the two major secondary-market players.
July 2, 2013 2:32 pm
There are plenty of reasons to promote defined borders, especially between your walkways and your lawn. So we turned to Todd Fratzel, a full-time, custom-home builder, chief engineer and project manager for the Building Division at United Construction in Newport, NH, for some advice about edging.
Fratzel says edging creates a clean line between a lawn and a flower garden or other landscape feature by “cutting” back the edge of the lawn.
There are other more decorative methods that involve structure such as landscaping stones, pavers, wood and even that cheap-looking black plastic; Fratzel says none of that is necessary if you edge properly with a half-moon edger.
Besides the obvious aesthetic reasons for edging your flower gardens, he says there are some performance benefits. Without a proper garden edge, a flower garden is susceptible to invading grass stolons, which allows the grass to take root and spread outward.
Proper edging also helps keep mulch in the garden where it belongs instead of spread all over your lawn.
Before you start edging, Fratzel says make a plan for the shape of the flower garden and either mark it out with some marking paint or lay out a garden hose in the pattern you want. Then you just walk around and cut the sod in a nice clean line.
Once you’ve cut the sod around the perimeter of the flower garden, remove the sod that’s left behind on the garden side of the cut. You should remove at least 3-inches of sod so there is a minimum of three inches of soil showing.
The key to a successful edge is making sure that once the mulch is applied to the garden that the edge is still exposed down below the grass roots. This keeps the grass stolons from spreading into the flower garden.
Once your initial edging project is completed, Fratzel says just use a weed trimmer to clean up the edge all season long.
July 2, 2013 2:32 pm
The 4th of July is tons of fun; with beach trips, barbecues, and fireworks, the whole family is bound to have a good time, including your pet.
Booming fireworks, barbecues and lots of activity can present significant danger to pets.
Although most pets are not directly exposed to fireworks, the loud noises fireworks produce can result in stress and anxiety for pets. Pet owners are encouraged to visit their veterinarian in advance of the holiday to develop a plan for keeping pets safe and calm during the July 4 celebrations. If necessary, a veterinarian may prescribe medication to help ease the pet's stress.
Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center offers tips to help pet owners protect their cats and dogs over the holiday and throughout the summer.
Leashes: Keep your pet on a leash when outdoors. An unleashed pet can be hit by a car, bitten by another animal, or otherwise be a danger to themselves and others.
Balconies, decks and windows: Balconies, decks and open windows are dangerous to pets. Both cats and dogs are known to jump or fall off balconies and decks and through open windows. Fireworks can cause even usually calm pets to jump. When on a balcony or deck, pets should be on a harness leash held by a responsible adult.
Food: Pets that get into human food during cookouts can suffer serious health problems as a result. Corn cobs and bones can get lodged in a pet's intestine and require surgery to remove. High-fat foods such as hot dogs, hamburgers and sausages often cause stomach upset and can lead to pancreatitis, a serious health problem for dogs. Many foods, including chocolate, sugar-free gum, avocados, grapes and onions, can be poisonous to pets. It's best to always keep pets on their usual diet.
Sunscreen and bug spray: Sunscreen and bug spray should never be used on pets unless the item is specifically approved for use on animals. Bug sprays are particularly problematic because they often contain DEET, a product that can cause neurological damage to pets. Pet owners should check with their veterinarian to learn how to protect pets from fleas, ticks and other pests.
Heatstroke: Heat stroke can lead to kidney failure, brain damage, and in severe cases, death. Keep pets cool when temperatures rise and make certain they always have plenty of cool, fresh drinking water. Leaving pets in an unattended vehicle is especially dangerous on warm days because car temperatures can increase dramatically in just a few minutes.
"We encourage pet owners to pay special attention to their pet's activities at this time of the year. Many of the emergencies we treat could have been prevented had pet owners been a bit more vigilant than usual," says Dr. Jerry Klein, supervising veterinarian of Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center.
Source: Chicago Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Center
July 2, 2013 2:32 pm
(BPT) - While college can be one of the best experiences of your life, it can also be one of the most expensive. The average cost per year for a four-year degree at a state-sponsored school currently runs $22,261 for in-state students and $35,321 for out-of-state students, according to a 2012 College Board report. With a few tips and strategies, you can ease your financial burden by applying for scholarships.
The fact is, the more money you can get in scholarships, the less you'll need to borrow. Scholarships are awarded by universities, nonprofit organizations, corporations and private individuals. There are many different kinds of scholarships - some are needs-based while others focus on what a student's interests are - so start searching early and be persistent.
Do your research
Fortunately, there are plenty of helpful ways to find scholarships. Look online by conducting a simple keyword search or by using free scholarship search services such as Fastweb, CollegeBoard or Edvisors.
Visit your high school counselor or college resource center
If you are still in high school, counselors can give you directions for what types of scholarships you should apply for. If you know where you're going to college, be sure to talk with the financial aid office and see if they can assist you with your search. The admissions office may be able to help you determine if there are any school-specific scholarships.
You can also look for scholarship sources within your own community. Check with your local newspaper, community organizations, and your parents'/guardians' employer. Religious organizations, banks or other civic organizations often offer scholarship programs.
Beware of scholarship scams
Scholarships are "free money," so you should never have to pay money to get them. Watch out for scholarship scams or companies that require a credit card number just to perform a search. Save the money and do it yourself.
Once you identify the scholarships and grants you want to apply for, take careful note of the due dates, then complete and submit the applications accordingly. Give yourself plenty of time to devote to the scholarship hunt and application process. It may seem like a lot of work when you don't have a lot of time to spare, but in the end, it's worth it to secure college money that doesn't need to be repaid.
July 2, 2013 2:32 pm
Special assessment. A special tax imposed on specific parcels of real estate that will benefit from a proposed public improvement, such as a street or sewer.
July 1, 2013 4:30 pm
It’s no wonder baby boomers worry about outliving their retirement savings. One out of four 65-year-olds today can expect to live past 90, and if they’re married, one of every four will live even longer.
With 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day, it’s a big worry for 26 percent of the U.S. population.
“The biggest concern for boomers is living too long, or getting sick, and running out of money,” says Rao K. Garuda, an engineer-turned-independent financial planning advisor specializing in work with seniors, high net-worth business owners, and professionals.
“The average 65-year-old retires today with $500,000 to $1 million in assets, and while that might sound like a lot to a 20-year-old, it isn’t,” Garuda says.
Even if you plan to continue some kind of work post-retirement – as many people do whether because they must or because they enjoy it – it’s imperative to plan ahead for the day you can’t work, he says.
“Equally important, people deserve the freedom to make choices about how they’ll spend their last 20 or 30 years, especially if they’ve spent 45 years going to work every day. That’s part of the American dream,” Garuda says. “And you don’t have to earn a fortune to save a fortune!”
Garuda shares four things everyone should know about preparing for retirement:
• Save first, then spend. Most people spend first, and then try to save what’s left, Garuda says. The secret is to make saving first your priority. “The people who save first will always be the people who are employing everyone else!” he says. The more you can save the better, but that will vary at different stages of your life. At the minimum, 10 percent is a good rule of thumb.
• Take advantage of tax-free savings. Taxes are the biggest expense anyone has. Besides federal, state, city and death taxes there are 59 other different ways your money is taxed, Garuda says. “If you save $1, Uncle Sam will help you by waiting for his cut of that $1. With planning, you can put him on hold for about two generations,” he says. With tax-free compounding, a relatively small amount of money saved can yield huge returns years from now.
• Decide how you’ll manage risk. There is risk in everything, and Garuda warns that those who simply choose to ignore it, do so at their own peril. Others choose to “go broke safely” – they avoid risk to such an extent, they lose money. A good example is people putting all their savings in CDs that pay just 1 percent; since that’s lower than the rate of inflation, they’re losing money. In some cases, people transfer risk to someone else, for instance, when they buy homeowners insurance. Finally, they choose to manage their risk emotionally, psychologically and technically through asset allocation rebalancing and other tools that allow you the amount of risk you’re willing to assume while still providing opportunities for growth.
• Create tax-free income. “My favorite question to ask people is, ‘What have you done to create tax-free income?’ ” Garuda says. There are many ways to do this – Roth IRAs, life insurance, tax-free bonds, annuities -- but most involve working with a knowledgeable financial planner. “An indexed life insurance policy is a great one; it protects your money while offering a lot of benefits. But it’s like a Swiss army knife – there are a lot of ways to use it, and most people don’t know how to use it properly,” Garuda says.
July 1, 2013 4:30 pm
(BPT) - Yes, everyone knows making home improvements is a worthy investment in your greatest material asset. Sure you want every improvement job done well with top-notch end results. But when all is said and done, do you really want to have to put a lot of effort and money into maintaining those improvements? For most people - whether they'll admit it or not - the answer is "no."
The best home improvements are the ones that not only enhance your home's value and livability, but also require little work from you afterward to keep them looking great and functioning well. If you're looking for high-impact, low-maintenance home improvements, consider these popular projects:
When it comes to an improvement that brightens your home, enhances its indoor air quality and boosts energy-efficiency, skylights deliver. Unfortunately, early skylights had a reputation for being leaky - a problem that simply doesn't occur with modern, no-leak, energy-efficient skylights. Pre-engineered flashing kits (the metal shield that surrounds any opening in a wall or roof) work with all types of roofs, from shingles to metal, to ensure a properly installed skylight won't leak.
Need further low-maintenance points to make the case for adding a skylight? Not only do modern skylights keep water out, they're energy efficient as well. Energy Star-qualified, no-leak, solar-powered fresh air skylights deliver fresh air through cost-effective passive ventilation. Adding remote-controlled, solar-powered blinds allows you to easily open or close a fresh-air skylight and shade it when the sun hits that part of the roof, boosting the skylight's energy efficiency by 39 percent. Keep the shade open during cold weather to admit warmth and reduce heating costs. A 30 percent federal tax credit on both products and installation costs makes a skylight project even more appealing.
Older light fixtures not only look dated, they often use outdated, inefficient bulbs and are lacking in the energy-efficient emphasis that comes with newer fixtures. Upgrading lighting throughout your home is a great way to ensure you won't have to think about it again any time soon.
If a total lighting redesign is out of the question, you can still make your existing light fixtures lower maintenance simply by swapping out old, inefficient incandescent light bulbs with newer, electricity-sipping versions. Options like CFLs and LEDs provide all the light of incandescents while using a fraction of the energy. Energy.gov says Energy Star-rated LEDs use at least 75 percent less power than incandescent bulbs, and last 25 times longer. Imagine the time, hassle and money you'll save not having to replace bulbs constantly - especially in lights that get a lot of use, like porch lights, or that are hard to reach, like the chandelier in your two-story entryway.
Wood, fiber cement, stucco, brick - there are nearly as many types of exterior siding as there are colors to paint it. When it comes to low- or no-maintenance siding, vinyl remains the gold standard. In fact, more new homes are built using vinyl siding than any other type of siding product, according to the Vinyl Siding Institute.
While early versions of vinyl siding introduced in the 1950s earned criticism for being less lovely than wood, even those less sophisticated versions had staying power; it's possible to find homes in use today sporting vinyl siding that was added to the house in the 1970s or even earlier.
Vinyl siding never needs to be painted, and when properly installed provides exceptional shielding from the elements. New technology has made modern vinyl siding look better and last longer without fading issues associated with older versions of vinyl. It requires basic cleaning, and overall maintenance demands are much less than other types of siding. Visit www.vinylsiding.org to learn more.