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Thomas Skiffington,  CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Phone: 215-453-7883
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
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email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

Riding the Market Roller Coaster

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

The stock market’s drop in April, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed in March at its first new high since the Great Panic of 2008, has prompted a lot of conflicting predictions from analysts.

Some say it marks the end of an impressive bull market, while others say it’s just the beginning of a much larger rally. These predictions may or may not turn out to be correct -- and they leave the investor confused.

However, as with the downturn four years ago, there are smart financial moves everyone can make to potentially take advantage when and if the market rebounds.

Rebalance - Rebalancing is the process of correcting an asset allocation that has become over-weighted or under-weighted due to a market fluctuation. In layman’s terms, it is the process of bringing all your investments back into a predefined mix of equities and fixed income assets. This is an important part of creating an investment strategy. Your portfolio may be over-weighted in stocks during a market high. Rebalancing would force you to harvest some of the gains. When the market is down, rebalancing would force you to buy at reduced prices. Although there are no guarantees, buying low and selling high is a terrific investment strategy!

Donate Appreciated Securities – Anyone charitable minded may have a perfect opportunity to meet donation goals and double their tax savings using appreciated securities during a market high. Provided you have owned the security for at least a year, you can donate the asset and use the current market value as a deduction on your taxes. You also avoid paying capital gains tax on the asset if you had sold it. This could be a significant tax savings on stocks purchased during a market low.

Exercise Stock Options - Stock compensation is an important tool of corporations today in attracting and retaining key employees. Many executives find a significant portion of their compensation being paid in the form of stock options. A market high may be an excellent time to exercise some of your vested stock options if your company stock participated in the market rally. Stock options come in two forms: non-qualified stock options (NQSOs) and incentive stock options (ISOs). Both forms come with expiration dates and price targets, but they differ significantly in their tax treatment. Be sure to consult your tax adviser before taking action.

Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA) strategy
- Withdraw company stock from your 401(k) and, instead of rolling it into an IRA, transfer it to a taxable brokerage account. This strategy avoids paying ordinary income taxes (maximum rate 39.6 percent) on the stock's net unrealized appreciation and turns it into a capital gain (maximum rate of 20 percent). There are strict rules to follow so consult a financial adviser who is experienced with this transaction before proceeding.

Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) - The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 reinstated the ability to make a QCD through Dec. 31, 2013. A QCD allows individuals over age 70½ to directly transfer up to $100,000 from an IRA account to one or more charities. These transfers can be done using appreciated securities and are credited toward the IRA owner’s required minimum distribution for the year.

Stop Timing the Market –
The Great Panic in 2008 and 2009 scared many investors out of stocks entirely. The past four years may have been a missed opportunity as these investors waited on the sidelines for the right time to get back in. You will never know when the stock market is going to go down or when it will recover. The good news is you don’t have to know. Devise a solid financial plan using an asset-allocation strategy that divides your money between a diversified equity portfolio and fixed income. Rebalance your portfolio periodically to take advantage of stock market volatility. The famous investor Peter Lynch said "Far more money has been lost by investors preparing for corrections, or trying to anticipate corrections, than has been lost in corrections themselves."

Certified Financial Planner® Rick Rodgers is president of Rodgers & Associates, “The Retirement Specialists,” in Lancaster, Pa., and author of “The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach to Retirement Planning.”

For more information, visit www.RodgersSpeaks.com
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House Hunting? Pay Attention to Outdated Wiring

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

Spring is here and home buying is in full bloom. I want to gently remind you that while "curb appeal" may attract you, it's the "guts" that should play a key role in determining whether or not a home is a good buy.

According to Ed Ingalls of Newington Electric Company, most people have no idea how dangerous wiring problems may be in a potential new home, even if they hire a home inspector.

Ingalls notes that about 80 percent of homes he sees have some level of outdated wiring. Whether buying a new home or assessing an existing home, there are red flags that wiring should be updated such as:

  • An electric meter located in the basement
  • Old, outdated fuse system
  • Frayed or deteriorated main electrical cable outside of the house
  • Rusted electrical meter box on the outside of your house
  • Lights that flicker on and off or go dim
  • Rusted and corroded grounding wire attached to the water meter
  • Two prong outlets vs. three pronged grounding type electrical outlets
  • Blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers

Other warning signs that a home's electrical system needs attention include:

  • Flickering lights, tripping circuit breakers or blowing fuses
  • You hear the sound of electricity, such as buzzing, sizzling or zapping
  • The circuit breaker panel or fuse panel in the basement is rusty
  • Water dripping from your electrical panel when it rains
  • Two prong outlets in the wall instead of three prong grounding type
  • If you don't have GFI outlets (ground fault interrupters) in the kitchen or bathroom
  • If you use extension cords to run your appliances or lights
Ingalls says all homes need to have at least a 100 amp service and may even need 200 or even 400 amp upgrades to accommodate wiring for today's appliances.

For instance, a modern household with normal everyday appliances would require a 100-amp service minimum, but a household that had a few additional items such as a hot tub and/or air conditioning would most likely need a minimum of 200 amps.

Ingalls further notes that most banks, lending institutions and insurance companies will require a homeowner to upgrade the electrical system before buying or selling a house. In doing so, it may also reduce one's homeowner's insurance.

Source: www.newingtonelectric.com
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Bringing Home Baby: When to Call the Doctor

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

(BPT) - Most new parents are anxious when their infant has a fever, or is fussy, stuffy and simply not acting right. But how do you decide to call the pediatrician or to wait - especially in the middle of the night?

"We understand the uncertainty that comes with bringing home a newborn, and it's always better to be safe than sorry," says Linda Ciampa, a registered nurse in the labor and delivery department of a Boston-area hospital. "Even at 2 a.m., most doctors' offices are on call to give you assurance and advice. We would much rather have you call than be up all night worrying - or possibly overlook something important," adds Ciampa. "Even for the pros - ruling out anything serious offers the best possible peace of mind for us all."

Ciampa encourages all first-time parents to take advantage of the postpartum care, newborn CPR and safety classes offered at many hospitals and community centers. Knowledge and information can reduce stress when your baby isn't feeling well. She offers the following tips on what to look for when you suspect your baby may be sick:

Fever


Fever helps the body fight infection and doesn't always need to be treated. But sometimes, fever in a newborn can be serious. A temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher in a baby under the age of 2 months should be reported. Your doctor will likely ask whether the baby is feeding, urinating and sleeping adequately. Never give medicines or other home remedies to a baby without first consulting with a pediatrician.

Historically, the most accurate way to determine a baby's core-body temperature was with a rectal thermometer. Now, however, many doctors' offices and hospitals use a forehead scanner, such as the Exergen TemporalScanner. One swipe provides a fast and accurate reading in just two seconds.

Studies show that temporal artery thermometers are just as accurate as the more invasive methods of temperature taking, such as rectal. They take the stress out of taking a baby's temperature - and work on grownups too.

Seek immediate medical attention and call 911 if your infant is struggling to breathe or turns a shade of blue. Don't hesitate to call your pediatrician if:

  • Your baby's skin appears yellow or you suspect jaundice
  • The newborn's stools appear red, white or black (aside from the first black meconium bowel movements)
  • Your little one has a persistent cold, cough or is vomiting (more than spitting up)
  • Your baby is unusually fussy, lethargic or not waking up for feeds
  • The baby is not wetting enough diapers (look for six or more daily after 6 days of age)

Health care providers are there to offer advice and reassurance whenever you are unsure about any health issue concerning your newborn. Health care providers want your baby to be healthy—and you to feel confident –so you can enjoy this special time with your precious, new arrival.
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Word of the Day

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

Master deed. Document that converts a parcel of land into a condominium subdivision.
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Q: Can an Older Homeowner Who Is Cash Poor but House Rich Use Their Home to Tap into the Equity?

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

A: Yes, but not so much by refinancing. A reverse mortgage is a better, and increasingly popular, option for older Americans to convert home equity into cash. Money can then be used to cover home repairs, everyday living expenses, and medical bills.

Instead of making monthly payments to a lender, the lender makes payments to the homeowner, who continues to own the home and hold title to it.

According to the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association, the money given by the lender is tax-free and does not affect Social Security or Medicare benefits, although it may affect the homeowners’ eligibility for certain kinds of government assistance, including Medicaid.

Homeowners must be at least 62 and own their own homes to get a reverse mortgage. No income or medical requirements are necessary to qualify, and they may be eligible even if they still owe money on a first or second mortgage. In fact, many seniors get reverse mortgages to pay off the original loan.

Repaying a reverse mortgage is not necessary until the property is sold or the owner moves. Should the owner die before the property is sold, the estate repays the loan, plus any interest that has accrued.
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What Will Really Make You Happy?

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

The idea of a happy and meaningful life has become unnecessarily complicated in some circles, says author and certified positive psychology coach Lynda Wallace, who left a high-powered executive career with Johnson & Johnson to pursue her real passion – helping individuals and groups achieve greater happiness and success.

“Happiness has been appropriately cited as a goal in political debates on issues from taxation to the social safety net to marriage equality, but the debate is often confused,” says Wallace, author of “A Short Course in Happiness: Practical Steps to a Happier Life,” which topped Amazon’s Self-Help Best Seller list.

“Some people claim that happiness is all in your DNA or bank account. The truth is that happiness is largely a matter of everyday choices and actions. There are straightforward, well-researched and effective things every one of us can do to create greater happiness in our lives and in the lives of those we care about.”

The essential elements of a happy life are not mysterious, she says.

Research shows that the happiest people do four basic things that make the difference: they focus on what is good and positive in their lives; cope effectively with life’s inevitable challenges; develop strong relationships; and pursue meaningful goals.

“We can all become happier by putting our efforts into these areas,” Wallace says.

One of the first steps we can take is to get past some of the common misperceptions about happiness that can stand in our way. Wallace offers these four examples.

• Misconception 1: Happiness is about getting the big things right. It’s natural to think that if we were suddenly rich, beautiful and living on the beach somewhere, we’d be happy. But that type of good fortune turns out to have a surprisingly small impact on happiness. The happiest people are most often not those in the most enviable circumstances, but those who cultivate positive emotional outlooks and actions. So how can we do it? “Take concrete steps to practice optimism, gratitude, kindness and self-compassion in your everyday life,” says Wallace. “The cumulative effect of those everyday choices can have a tremendous impact on how you experience your life.”

• Misconception 2: Happy people suppress negative emotions. Happy people actually experience sadness, grief, worry and other so-called negative emotions nearly as frequently as unhappy people do. The difference is what happens when those feelings occur. Happier people are generally able to experience negative feelings without losing hope for the future. “They give themselves permission to feel sad, angry or lonely, but they remain confident that things will get better. As a result, their sadness progresses into hope and action rather than regressing into anxiety and despair.”

• Misconception 3: Pursuing happiness is self-centered. The strongest of all conclusions drawn by researchers into emotional well-being is that our happiness is determined more by our relationships with other people than by any other single factor. The happiest people build their lives around good, trusting relationships. “If other priorities are getting in the way of your relationships,” says Wallace, “take steps to shift the balance back to where it will really make a difference.”

• Misconception 4: I’ll be happy when I achieve my goals. Have you ever noticed that when someone wins the Super Bowl or an Academy Award, or when you achieve a long-sought ambition, that wonderful sense of accomplishment and happiness seems to fade faster than you’d expect? “That’s just the way our brains work,” says Wallace. “Committed goal pursuit is one of the keys to a happy life, but most of the happiness we get from striving for goals comes while we’re making progress toward them, not after we achieve them. That’s why it’s so important that we choose goals that are in synch with what we love and value, and that we make a conscious effort to enjoy them along the way.”

Source: www.lyndawallace.com.
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Whitewashed Floors Complement Lively Decorating Trends

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

(BPT) - It's the season of sunshine and enjoying the great outdoors. Celebrate it with a style makeover for your home by tapping lively decorating trends and home decor ideas that will refresh and brighten your living space.

"Look to nature for inspiration for decorating ideas to refresh your home," says Erinn Valencich, Los Angeles-based interior designer, style expert and designer partner for Quick-Step, a laminate flooring leader. "Incorporate garden-fresh shades of green, warm and sunny color palettes, botanical prints, weathered woods and whimsical accents that will help reinvigorate your home's style and awaken your senses."

Top style trends for 2013

Green - It's the eternal color of lush and abundant life and the 2013 Pantone Color of the Year. Look for accent pieces in emerald and other shades of green to create a sense of well-being, balance and harmony.

Patterns - Floral patterns are hot, especially as fabric covers and wall decor. Choose bold, bright florals to make a big statement or florals on white backgrounds for a softer, romantic touch.

Stripes - In fabrics, carpets, artwork and other design elements, stripes can create the sense of movement and energy in a room.

Wide planks - Update the look of your room with new wide plank flooring to show off your unique sense of style. Wide plank laminate floors from Quick-Step come in many hardwood styles and colors and will help transform the look of a room.

Reclaimed woods - From barn board bedroom walls to wooden beams in kitchens, reclaimed wood adds unexpected rustic touches and weathered warmth to your home. For the look of time-worn wood without the high cost, Quick-Step offers the Reclaime Collection of laminate planks that look like vintage hardwood floors. There are nine reclaimed wood designs from which to choose, including the newest White Wash Oak Planks, which mirror the wood grain pattern, color and texture of weathered, whitewashed boards.

"Whitewashed floors offer tranquility and comfort, making them ideal for family rooms, dining rooms and other high-traffic living spaces," Valencich says. "Whitewash opens up a space and adds rustic appeal while keeping the look of your room fresh, soft and clean. It is also a very versatile foundation for a room's design and serves as a pleasing canvas on which to nicely showcase just about any wall colors and most styles of furniture.

"Work with what you have and add a few new-to-you items to your spring decorating projects," Valencich adds. "This will help you stay within a budget and create beautiful living spaces quickly, easily and affordably."

How to choose a new floor

Keep these tips in mind when selecting a new floor for your room makeover project:

  • When selecting a floor color, consider the tones of furniture you have, but don't feel that everything has to match. Contrasting tones make for a more pleasing design.
  • Brown, gray and white floor tones work with a greater variety of furniture colors and paints.
  • Light, neutral floor colors brighten a room and make it feel more spacious.

Source: www.quickstep.com.
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Relocating? Find a Trusty Mover with These Tips

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

I am spending a lot of time this April focusing on the many issues one has to consider when planning a move. But we haven't really touched on the basics.

According to the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) the April and May time period is when many leases expire and renters move. BBB recommends doing your homework before selecting a mover and there are many good reasons to do so.

Across the nation last year, 1.2 million consumers researched moving company Business Reviews to check companies’ marketplace reputations, however, BBB processed more than 8,400 complaints against movers.

Consumers should follow a few simple rules when selecting a mover to protect against potential scams this moving season.

State laws offer regulations that protect consumers and their property, and it is vital that consumers are aware of their legal rights and be aware of the red flags of moving scams.

BBB offers the following checklist for finding a trustworthy moving company:

  • Research the company thoroughly. While state regulations vary, all interstate movers must, at minimum, be licensed by the federal government and are assigned a motor carrier number you can verify.
  • Get at least three written in-home estimates. Not all price-quotes online or over the phone are legitimate. Keep in mind that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic low-ball offer, which can cost you more in the end.
  • Know your rights. Research your rights as a consumer for interstate moves or for moves within Connecticut. Also, contact BBB and local law enforcement if the moving company fails to live up to its promises or threatens to hold your belongings hostage.
  • Consider getting full-value protection. It may cost a few dollars more up front, but it can provide some peace of mind and eliminate a headache after your move. Investing in full (replacement) value protection means any lost or damaged
  • Articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made.

Before hiring movers to transport your belongings from one state to another, the Better Business Bureau, along with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), suggest you know your rights and responsibilities. The FMCSA regulations protect consumers on interstate (state-to-state) moves - go to www.fmcsa.dot.gov for information.
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Q: If Faced with Foreclosure, What Are My Options?

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

A: Talk with your lender immediately. The lender may be able to arrange a repayment plan or the temporary reduction or suspension of your payment, particularly if your income has dropped substantially or expenses have shot up beyond your control.

You also may be able to refinance the debt or extend the term of your mortgage loan. In almost every case, you will likely be able to work out some kind of deal that will avert foreclosure.

If you have mortgage insurance, the insurer may also be interested in helping you. The company can temporarily pay the mortgage until you get back on your feet and are able to repay their “loan.”

If your money problems are long term, the lender may suggest that you sell the property, which will allow you to avoid foreclosure and protect your credit record.

As a last resort, you could consider a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. This is where you voluntarily “give back” your property to the lender. While this will not save your house, it is not as damaging to your credit rating as a foreclosure.
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Word of the Day

April 24, 2013 6:58 pm

Master plan. Long-range, comprehensive guide for the physical growth or development of a community.
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