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Perkasie, PA 18944
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Tom's Blog

Don't Eat Away Your Retirement

January 11, 2013 6:12 pm

Saving is tough, and every now and then, it’s nice to splurge—especially on a meal out. Or maybe grabbing a mid-day meal is your preferred way of easing the stress of the workday. But if you go out for lunch four days a week, over the course of a 40-year working life, you've eaten away nearly $60,000!

Still not convinced that bringing lunch to work is a smart decision? Read the following reasons, courtesy of BMO Harris Bank.

  • It's healthier. Packing your own lunch gives you complete command over exactly what you eat and how much you eat. Think portion control.
  • It's cheaper than eating out. A typical sit-down lunch at a restaurant can run you anywhere from $8 - $15. Add tax and tip on top of that, and you could be spending as much as $350 PER MONTH on lunch.
  • You can make new friends. Since everyone shares the employee lunchroom, eating your lunch there (and not at your desk) may provide you the opportunity to have conversations with others whom you may not typically interact.
  • Leftovers. Leftovers aren't just for dinner. The next time you make one of your favorite meals, prepare at least one extra, smaller, portion to take to work. Pasta typically heats up easily.
  • Time is your friend. You aren't wasting precious minutes getting to your lunch destination, standing in line, or waiting for your order to be prepared.
Can't see yourself going cold turkey and bringing your lunch every day? Then start out small. Even taking it to the office twice a week will help build your savings.

"You can save hundreds of dollars each year if you simply cut back on that morning latte," says Julie Curran, Regional President, BMO Harris Bank. "You'll be amazed how quickly the savings add up."

Source: BMO Harris branch.

5 Tips for a Successful Franchise

January 11, 2013 6:12 pm

The current economic climate has many Americans adjusting their career paths, and exploring new opportunities—including starting their own businesses. Since 2001, the number of people who primarily work on their own has increased by 1.3 million to reach 10.6 million, a significant 14 percent, according to a recent Forbes article.

Read the following advice for those harboring franchise dreams, provided by Home Instead Senior Care.

  1. Think demographics. Consider the population composition, nationally, globally and in your community. What are its needs, behaviors and preferences? How do people live their daily lives? You'll want to identify where consumers in your target market spend their money and how they make financial decisions to determine what products and services they'll find worthwhile. Then deliver on one of those products or services.
  2. Doing what you love pays. Know yourself. Awareness of your preferences and natural strengths, and pursuing your interests is critical. You're most likely to excel and work hard when you find the work meaningful and you are passionate about it.
  3. Address unmet needs. The most successful businesses meet important yet unmet needs, which allows them to occupy niches with little or no competition. Apple with its iPhone, did just this — bringing together, in a mobile device, information useful to people while on the move. Home Instead Senior Care also founded its business on the unmet need of a growing senior population and the generation's intention to age in place.
  4. Don't underestimate the power of good timing. Interest rates for Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, for example, are at an all-time low. Starting a business when rates are favorable can help lock-in terms that free capital over time and reduce overall business costs.
  5. Partner for success. Do you have a great business mind, but your spouse is terrific with people? Your talented spouse can balance weaknesses (and vice versa) that could otherwise hinder your success. A husband-wife partnership enables you to bring a robust and well-rounded skill-set to market. Those not quite ready to give a new business idea a try may consider buying into an existing franchise.

Source: Home Instead Senior Care

Word of the Day

January 11, 2013 6:12 pm

Depreciation. Gradual decline on paper in market value of real estate, especially because of age, obsolescence, wear and tear, or economic conditions.

Q: What If I Am Not Happy with the Listing Agent and Want to Terminate the Contract?

January 11, 2013 6:12 pm

A: Experts say unhappiness is not a legal reason to terminate a valid home sale-listing contract. Legally, to cancel a listing, you must be able to prove the agent's lack of "due diligence." This means the agent isn't taking the normal steps to properly market your home, such as putting your listing into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), advertising on the Internet and in local newspapers, and posting a for-sale sign on the property.
If your home is overpriced, perhaps you need to consider reducing the price to spark buyer interest. Otherwise, you may need to meet with the listing agent and his or her supervising broker to discuss the problem. If the agent is doing an awful job, you might suggest the listing be transferred to a more effective agent within the same brokerage firm.

Remember, limit the listing contract to 90 days, in case you become unhappy and would like to get another agent after the contract expires.

Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Add ‘Hugelkultur’ to Your Yard Care Vocabulary

January 10, 2013 6:12 pm

In researching this latest segment on mulching, I turned to the land of high-performance cars and timepieces to learn about Hugelkultur—a German word for building a new garden area with branches or even trees as the base. And we got a good lesson in Hugelkultur from, and Toby Hemenway, author of 'Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture.'

According to the site, those who have adopted the practice stateside sometimes refer to Hugelkultur as wood composting. Similar to sheet mulching or a traditional compost pile, the hugelkultur mound can be low or steep.

Organic waste is layered on top of the branches, and a cover crop or plants make the top layer. First timers shouldn't be concerned when the pile begins heating up -- for a few years this can make it a season-lengthening spot for growing tender vegetables.

And as the wood breaks down the temperature will drop, and air pockets will take the place of some of the lost wood. This mixture of soil organisms, oxygen, and moisture will create superb soil.

The book points out that a downed tree can also keep on giving to your garden’s ecosystem if you use it as the base of your mound, and heap branches at its sides, then layer on organic materials, and add plants on the top.

That newly fallen tree will use up a lot of nitrogen as it decomposes, so be sure to add bone meal and blood meal amendments over time. A tree trunk that is already rotten will not use as much nitrogen, and those nitrogen-rich amendments would not be necessary.

A fallen tree also acts as a reservoir of water, and as it slowly decays it will release that moisture. So bushes or small trees planted on the mound will reach their roots down to drink the moisture from the rotting tree to such an extent that they can survive in arid climates without extra water.

Live Well This Winter with These Tips

January 10, 2013 6:12 pm

(BPT) - Dreaming of spring despite the cold weather outside? You're not the only one. Many people start thinking of warmer temperatures as soon as the mercury drops. Instead of sitting inside this winter, use these tips to "think spring" so you'll be ready when the thermometer rises again.
Get moving

Exercise is essential to staying healthy, especially during winter, when it's tempting to hibernate. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that healthy adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity, plus muscle-strengthening activities twice a week. One way to get moving while having fun is to exercise with a friend. You could join a dance or fitness class together, go hiking, cycling or cross-country skiing in a nearby park, or try rock climbing.

Even if your hectic schedule doesn't leave much room for daily trips to the gym or local park, you can still incorporate exercise into your regular winter routine. Playing outside with your dog or kids, keeping dumbbells at your desk, walking down the hall to deliver messages in-person versus via email, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator are just a few examples of how you can get moving despite inclement weather. Even doing your daily chores - like getting outside to shovel snow - is a great way to build physical fitness and endurance.

Set a goal
Planning a vacation for springtime can give you something to look forward to through the cold winter months and is great motivation for remaining committed to a healthy lifestyle. Organize an exciting adventure with your family or friends - like hiking, mountain biking or kayaking - to take your mind off the dreary weather outside and keep you inspired to stay in shape. Plus, you can find some great travel deals during the off-season.

Remember to laugh

Don't let the overcast weather bring you down. Smiling and laughing are good for your health any time of year. Recent Stanford University research suggests that a good giggle fit can actually lower stress and act as a mini-workout. Try grabbing your friends for a game night or to watch a funny movie. Besides making you feel better, laughter is also contagious, so you just may make those around you feel better, too.
Although spring may seem light-years away, you can use these tips to help you "think spring" now and commit to a healthy winter lifestyle. That way, when the trees start to bloom and the air feels warm again, you'll be ready for whatever comes your way. Try this delicious smoothie recipe to get you started.

Try a smoothie
Nutrition has an incredible impact on wellness, and incorporating whole foods into your daily routine can help you stay fit through the winter months. A quick and easy way to begin incorporating more nutrient-packed foods into your diet is with fruit and vegetable smoothies. Try making a fruit salad smoothie in your blender to start your day. Toss whole fruits and vegetables into the machine, and its powerful motor will blend the mix into a smooth, on-the-go treat that tastes great and gives you natural energy.


10 Ways to Offset Payroll Tax Hikes Caused by Fiscal Cliff

January 10, 2013 6:12 pm

American workers enter 2013 having to cope with less in their paychecks as Congress passed legislation that avoided the "Fiscal Cliff" but increased Social Security taxes by two percent. That's the bad news.
The good news is that it's a new year, time for resolutions. Below are ten steps, offered by InCharge Debt Solutions, that you can take that will help you manage your money better and even offset the payroll tax increases you'll see beginning this month.

"For the average American family with a household income of $50,000, the payroll tax hikes could mean the loss of about a thousand dollars a year," says Etta Money , InCharge's President. "That kind of income loss requires some planning early in 2013 in order to cut expenses or increase earnings so the financial hit won't be so tough to absorb."

Here are ten tips to offsetting Social Security tax increass this year:

  1. Improve your credit score – Pay your bills on time, review your credit report and correct errors. Good credit scores can help you get better interest rates on car loans, mortgages, and credit cards.
  2. Look into cash back cards – If you have good credit, you can find cash back credit cards that pay up to 5 percent on purchases.
  3. Listen to the experts – Bloggers, tweeters, and financial experts with websites or Facebook pages write about and collect great ideas for cutting expenses and making money. Follow them or get on their emails lists.
  4. Avoid convenience stores – Studies show that the same items are an average of 45 percent cheaper at supermarkets, that totals hundreds of dollars per year on hurried and often last-minute purchases.
  5. Plan your meals and use coupons – Spend an extra hour a week planning menus and matching stores sales with coupons. An average family of four could save $25 per week or more, depending on how much they spend on groceries.
  6. Eat what you have – New reports show that 40 percent of all food in the United States goes uneaten, and American families throw out between 14 and 25 percent of the food and drinks they purchase. Plan your meals and eat leftovers, you could save between $1,365 and $2,275 per year.
  7. Break a bad habit – Whether it is cigarettes, alcohol, sodas, or candy, break the habit. A single pack of cigarettes each day costs $2,000 per year, $100,000 in a lifetime.
  8. Review your insurances – If you haven't had a recent car and homeowner insurance review, you may save by increasing deductibles and eliminating coverage overlaps. Good driver discounts may enable you to drop collision coverage on an aged vehicle.
  9. Refinance your mortgage – Online tools can tell you within a few minutes whether you can save money by getting a better rate on your mortgage.
  10. Check your withholdings – If you are getting money back from the IRS every year, you are withholding too much. has a simple payroll deductions calculator that can help you determine how much to take out so you don't owe money or get anything back in April.

Source: InCharge Debt Solutions

Word of the Day

January 10, 2013 6:12 pm

Delinquent loan. One where the borrower is behind, or late, in payments.

Q: What Is the Most Common Type of Contract for Listing Properties?

January 10, 2013 6:12 pm

A: The exclusive right to sell. It gives the real estate broker the exclusive right to sell your home during the term of the listing. If a sale occurs – even if you sell the home yourself – the broker gets a commission. The broker may share the listing with other brokers on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to get the widest possible exposure for your home. If you request that the property not be listed on a multiple basis, only the broker named in the contract and his or her sales agents can market and show it.

7 Ways to Ward off Flu

January 9, 2013 6:04 pm

You’ve heard it before, but the number one thing you can do to protect against colds or flu is to wash your hands thoroughly and often.

“Lather up with running water and scrub at least 5 times a day,” said Dr. Andrew Pekosz of Johns Hopkins University. “Antibacterial soaps are no better than regular soap, and in a pinch, use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol for a minimum of 20 seconds.”

The doctor suggests six more documented ways to help keep colds and flu at bay:

Try a humidifier – Flu viruses last longer in dry air than in moist air. A humidifier that keeps the humidity level in your home between 40 and 60 percent could be a good investment.
Skip the second drink – Alcohol can impair the ability of your white blood cells to combat viruses for up to 24 hours after you indulge. Keep your imbibing to one drink a day during flu season.
Get more sleep – Studies show that people who sleep seven hours a night or less are more apt to succumb to colds or flu than those who sleep eight hours or more.
Eat the rainbow – The immune-boosting antioxidants in brightly colored fruits and veggies battle the free radicals that can dampen your natural defenses. The brighter the color (think eggplant, red beans and blueberries) the higher the antioxidant count. Green tea is another good ally.
Season with garlic – The cloves contain a sulfuric compound that produces potent antioxidants as it decomposes. If the flavor is too strong for you, try aged-garlic extract capsules, which have no garlicky taste or odor.
Don’t rely on C – Though it’s been touted as a cold fighter, vitamin C has never been proven to fend off a cold or flu – and multiple studies show it does zilch to speed up recovery if you are sick.

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Tom Skiffington - RE/MAX 440

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