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
October 3, 2012 6:52 pm
Despite lingering warm weather in many parts of the country, the calendar tells us fall is here, which means it’s time to prepare our homes and yards for winter’s onslaught.
“If you live in an area where winter brings snow, it is especially important to be prepared,” noted consumer advocate Tim Parker at Investopedia.com. “Even in milder climates, there should be five must-do chores on every homeowner’s list this fall.”
Parker advises now is the time to:
Clear the gutters - Once the leaves fall, do a thorough cleaning of gutters and downspouts. Clogged gutters impede rain and snow runoff, and could lead to pooling water and possible damage to the gutters and the underlying roof structure. If you don't like cleaning out your gutters, invest in gutter guards.
Do an energy audit - Sealing areas where the heat or air conditioning is escaping can result in substantial savings over time, as even the smallest leaks add up. You can do an energy audit yourself by examining for cracks or separations in doors and windows where you can see daylight coming through. In some areas, utility companies may provide free energy audits.
Trim trees - Have your trees trimmed every few years to assure that accumulated ice or rain doesn't cause a dead branch to fall onto your roof. Once the leaves fall and you can see the branches clearly, look for larger-sized branches that might fall onto your roof or a neighbor's.
Test your home generator – If you live in an area with extreme weather or have medical or other essential devices that require electricity, investing in a home generator might be wise. If you have one, test it, along with your snow blower, to be sure it is working. Also check extension cords for signs of wear and repair or replace them if required.
Clean and inspect your yard – Aside from raking the leaves, check the foundation of your home. It should be built up so that water flows away from your home. Also, disconnect hoses that won’t be needed for a while and store them in the garage, and replace any outside light bulbs that are burnt out.
October 3, 2012 6:52 pm
Are You Raising Your Kids to Make Tomorrow’s Forbes 400 List?
Forbes has just released its list of the 400 Richest People in America. The combined net worth of these men and women clocks in at a staggering $1.7 trillion dollars. And here’s the truly amazing part: Some 70 percent of this year’s 400 built their fortunes from the ground up. If you’re a parent, this statistic may lead you to wonder: Will my kids ever have a shot at this kind of success?
Absolutely, says author and speaker Gregory Downing—but first they’ll have to learn to think and work like entrepreneurs.
“The Forbes 400 list proves that you don’t have to be born wealthy,” asserts Gregory Downing, author of Entrepreneur Unleashed: Wealth to Stand the Test of Time , as well as an upcoming book on providing a financial legacy for kids. “You just have to have the right skills and know how to leverage them. But here’s the thing: Your chances will dramatically improve if you can learn these skills, and the mindset to apply them, at an early age.”
Of course, raising billionaires might not be your goal. Maybe you just want your kids to grow up to be financially stable, live comfortable lives, and maybe retire someday. Even if that’s the case, Downing insists, they must learn to think about working and building wealth in a new way. That’s because the world is undergoing a profound shift.
“The old path—get good grades, go to college, get a good job, and save money—no longer leads anywhere you’d want your kids to go,” he says. “Degrees are a dime a dozen. College grads are moving back home with six-figure debt. Gold-watch jobs are a relic of another era. We’ve entered the age of the entrepreneur, and those who blindly pursue the rules of an earlier time will be left behind.”
Teaching kids the basics of entrepreneurship is not a radical notion, insists Downing. It’s a necessity. Even people who do end up working for someone else will be expected to think and work like entrepreneurs. The more we narrate the mindset and the skills of entrepreneurship to our kids—and even better, let them experience the reality for themselves—the more suited they’ll be for tomorrow’s workforce.
“Teaching these foundational skills is not optional if we want our children to be able to maintain even a minimal standard of living,” warns Downing.
He says there are certain fundamental truths parents need to teach their kids about being an entrepreneur. Here are some of the most important (keeping in mind that their appropriateness may depend on the ages of your kids):
Mindset matters. The old path to success—get good grades, go to college, get a good job, work hard for 40 years, and retire comfortably—no longer works in a flat global economy. Even if your children manage to find a “good job” (and there are fewer and fewer of them), the income it yields may not be enough to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Multiple streams of income will be necessary—Downing stresses the importance of having all three types: earned, passive, and portfolio—and kids need to get their minds around this reality now.
“It’s critical that kids learn how to think about money in a new way,” says Downing.
Opportunity is everywhere. Develop a nose for finding it. As a parent, it’s up to you to point out opportunities as you see them. If you’re at a golf tournament in July you can say, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to sell ice water, sunscreen, and hats?” Or if your child is talking about how no one at afterschool daycare can ever seem to get their homework done, you might say, “Wouldn’t it be great to start a business where high school students come to afterschool daycares to tutor younger kids?” Ask them how they think such a business might work.
“Do this regularly and before you know it, kids will be thinking up ideas on their own,” says Downing.
Your brand will create the foundation for your business. Depending on their ages, your kids may or may not be familiar with the word “brand.” But explain to them that, basically, it comes down to what they want to be known for. Neatness? Friendliness? Trustworthiness? Then, start a dialogue on how to make that happen—and how to avoid doing things that might tear down that brand.
You need a differentiator. Help your kids determine what makes their business different and explain how it will bring them more business. Maybe they offer an exceptional level of personal service. Maybe they cater to a certain group or meet a particular need. Maybe they’re eco-friendly. Help kids talk through what makes them different and better. Ask them how they might play up their differentiator and use it to get themselves seen in a crowded marketplace.
Know the value of marketing. Having a great business idea is one thing. Telling people about it is another. Help kids figure out ways to maximize their exposure without spending a ton of money (which they probably don’t have) or turning off potential customers with a hard sell approach. Teach them to introduce themselves and talk about their business when it’s appropriate: “I heard you mention your dog, Buster. I wanted to let you know I have a pet sitting business if you ever need that.”
Specifically, you might work with them to develop several “scripts” (elevator speeches) about their business to use in a variety of settings. Also, help them create some simple business cards to hand out.
Sometimes you have to give something away up-front. Explain that before people will be willing to pay for your product or service, they need a taste of how great it is just to get their attention. That might mean giving out a free sample of their homemade salsa or offering a free hour of math tutoring to new customers.
“The trick is always learning how much to give away without giving away the farm,” says Downing. “This is a balancing act that will need to be walked again and again throughout an entrepreneur’s life.”
A big part of success is learning how to buy your own supplies and manage your own business. When your child wants to start a lemonade stand, you will be tempted to provide the lemonade mix, the cups, and the poster board for the sign in order to give your child a leg up. You may also want to get out the calendar and figure out a schedule that works for him and takes advantage of high traffic. While you can offer helpful hints and be supportive, don’t do these things for him, says Downing.
Know the difference between revenue and profits. This is a big part of the reason for the previous point. Kids need to understand that the $40 they receive from customers isn’t all free and clear profit. What about the costs of the lemonade ingredients? What about the cups? What about the marketing materials? Beyond that, what about the value of their time? Have them subtract the cost of the supplies and then divide the rest by the number of hours they spent sitting at the lemonade booth.
The highest price won’t necessarily earn you the most money. Teach kids the importance of finding the “sweet spot” on pricing. If they price too high, they may not get many customers. If they price too low, on the other hand, they may get lots of customers but make so little profit that they’ll go out of business.
“Learning to set the right price won’t just attract more customers; it will keep them coming back,” notes Downing. “It’s so much easier to make money off return customers and referrals than to constantly have to seek out new customers.”
Don’t overcommit. Learn to manage your workload. Sometimes kids get so excited when business starts rolling in that they take on more customers than they can handle. Then, they either have to skimp on quality or fail to meet all their commitments. Teach kids that both will hurt their reputation.
“Kids need to learn to evaluate their capabilities and be realistic,” notes Downing. “Just a few dissatisfied customers can ruin a reputation.”
Being able to manage others will help your business grow. This may sound a bit far-fetched, but a motivated child could make it work. For example, a lemonade stand owner could start another stand at the other end of the neighborhood and ask a friend to staff it for a cut of the profits. Or a dog walker could hire a “poop scooper” assistant to clean up the client’s yard while he is taking Rover for his daily stroll (a nice add-on!).
“All entrepreneurs need a power team to help them be successful,” reflects Downing. “The more practice kids have at managing others, the better.”
Bite the bullet and have the tough conversations. Whatever their age, business owners will face uncomfortable moments. Your kids may have to deal with unhappy customers or customers who don’t pay on time. Don’t step in and handle these problems for them. Instead, guide them through their fear of confrontation and provide pointers on finding win/win solutions and remaining calm and professional.
“Some people never learn to have tough conversations,” says Downing. “If you can help kids learn to have honest conversations about money—when a customer forgets to pay them for part of their time, for example—you’re giving them a valuable gift they will appreciate later.”
Nothing replaces picking up the phone. Kids love to text and we all know it. That’s their world, for better or worse. But they need to learn that most adults appreciate a phone call when things aren’t going exactly right. “Mrs. Laney, I wanted to let you know I was throwing the ball to Princess and I accidentally broke the lamp on your end table in the living room. I am so sorry.”
Failure happens. Learn from it and move on. Every business and business owner will fail at some point. That’s okay. In fact, it shows that she is pushing beyond her comfort zone, and that’s a good thing. Make sure your child understands that it’s how you deal with failure that matters. When something goes wrong, use it as a teachable moment to help her reevaluate her strategy. What decisions might have led to this mistake? What might she do differently next time?
“Don’t let kids use failure as a reason to quit,” stresses Downing. “Failure is not a get-out-of-trying-new-things card. It’s an impetus to do something great next time.”
A good mentor can make all the difference. You may assume you’re the one who should teach your child, and you certainly do have a critical role to play. But there may be other adults in your family’s sphere of influence who have demonstrated the ability to achieve in business. Nurture those relationships.
“A cornerstone of my philosophy is learning from other successful people,” says Downing. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been open to learning from the experts, and my son wouldn’t be where he is without learning from me.”
For more information, visit www.GregoryDowning.com
October 3, 2012 6:52 pm
Urban renewal. The acquisition of run-down city areas for purposes of redevelopment.
October 3, 2012 6:52 pm
A: Like any investment, it can be risky. Location and current market conditions are extremely important when deciding whether to buy.
Other things to consider:
- Will you be able to afford repairs, maintenance, insurance, and utilities?
- What about fees to pay agents who rent the property for you?
- If you live several miles away from your vacation home, who will clean up between tenants and take an inventory of household items once the tenants leave?
- What if you are unable to rent your second home? Can your pocketbook withstand the strain of paying the mortgage?
October 2, 2012 6:48 pm
After a couple of chilly or rainy early fall days, I am ready to turn attention inward. With holidays coming you can never have enough advice on improving your interior living space –whether it is a sprawling mansion or cozy apartment.
With that in mind, we turned to Vanessa Pereira an Interior Design Consultant at Mid-Atlantic Builders (midatlanticbuilders.com) who offered these tips about planning for fall interior design projects that will impress all your holiday guests.
Before investing your time and money on the interior design of a room, Pereira suggests evaluating the following:
Function – Decide the purpose of the room up front. As an example, a family room should have furniture that is both durable and comfortable, as you will likely spend a lot of time in that room. The function of the space will help determine fabrics, furniture placement, lighting and what color scheme to use.
Scale – Fitting properly sized pieces into the appropriate space helps to bring out naturally beautiful features of your home like floor to ceiling windows and fireplaces in the family rooms. A room that is designed with scale in mind will have the right size furniture and a fitting amount of wall treatments with a noticeable focal point.
In rooms with natural focal points, the furniture should be oriented in a way so as to accentuate those features. Pereira says there should be enough room for traffic to navigate between the furniture.
Avoid placing many small pieces of furniture in an oversized room. Instead use two larger pieces complemented with a few smaller pieces such as side tables or accent chairs.
Pereira also says each room should be a reflection of your individuality. The mood of a room comes together by the color scheme, style of furnishings, fabric textures, patterns and accessories.
An inspiration piece such as an antique sofa or painting can lead the way for the rest of the room’s design. To make it easy, Pereira suggests you make sure all the fabric patterns in a room have at least one color in common.
And resist the urge to be trendy - everyone else has already done that and seen that. Since trends come and go, your best bet is always going with an overall plan to fit your personality or your lifestyle.
October 2, 2012 6:48 pm
We all know that dogs can be great companions or cuddle buddies. But it turns out that we have another reason to celebrate man’s best friend– they’re good for kids’ report cards, too! Now before you scoff, consider the following:
A Minnesota pilot project called PAWSitive Readers finds that trained therapy dogs helped 10 of 14 grade-school participants improve their reading skills by one grade level. Additionally, a University of California study showed that children who read to the family dog improved their ability by an average of 12 percent.
Michael Amiri, coauthor of the children’s book Shellie, the Magical dog, discusses five reasons why dogs help kids learn to love reading:
• No embarrassment: “Most of us have memories of reading out loud in class,” he says. “Though we may have been proficient readers, the fear of stumbling on a word in front of everyone was a constant source of anxiety.” Dogs are excellent for unconditional, nonjudgmental love; they won’t laugh if and when mistakes happen.
• Confidence boosters: “I never had a dog while growing up, which is too bad because I think I would have had an easier time gaining self-confidence,” says Amiri. As an adult, he discovered the many benefits of dogs through he and his wife Lisa’s very special Maltese, Shellie. She’s often the center of attention in their community at pet-friendly restaurants, where she laps her water out of a martini glass. And she has a full-time job as the greeter at Linda’s hair and nail salon. “If a little dog can give me, a grown man, more confidence, imagine what it can do for kids,” he says.
• Polite listeners: Like humans, dogs are social creatures and most enjoy the sound of a calm voice speaking to them. Many – except perhaps the most energetic breeds – seem to enjoy curling up on a rug and listening to a story being read aloud. They don’t interrupt (except for the occasional ear scratch or to sniff a body part) and they often show appreciation for the attention.
• A fun approach to schoolwork: Too often, when children think of studying, they think of time spent hunched over a desk struggling alone to work out problems and memorize lists. Interacting with a lovable, fuzzy friend for an hour of homework is an appealing alternative.
• Win-win: A canine-student reading program is a great way to help service dogs-in-training learn patience and discipline. Dogs are trained to help veterans suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, the blind, and people who use wheelchairs, among others. These dogs in training help children, while children improve a dog’s service abilities.
For more information on Michael and Linda Amiri’s book, Shellie the Magical Dog, visit www.shelliethemagicaldog.com.
October 2, 2012 6:48 pm
Thanksgiving is a time for great food, fun and family. Unfortunately, family isn’t always local. Traditionally over 40 million Americans travel more than 50 miles from their home each Thanksgiving, to connect with friends and family in all corners of the country.
Recognized as one of the most travel intense weekends in the year, packing becomes just another part of life we must be thankful for.
Whether you and your crew are jamming five people into a sedan, or you have the luxury of running through crowded airports, there are a few packing tricks you can use to take some of the stress out of Thanksgiving weekend travel.
First and foremost, select a suitcase that ensures your bag isn’t one of the items weighing you down.
Step two, pack only what you need. While we all like to have a few choices, depending on different scenarios we may encounter on the long weekend, making the commitment to travel light will ensure your packing (and equally as important, your unpacking!) experience is a much easier task. Take some time to check the weather forecast for your destination to choose appropriate attire. And do throw in a few back-up items, just in case! Best of all, by packing light, you may just have some room to pick up a few souvenirs along the way.
Leave your self room to maneuver
We’ve all been there – packed perfectly, maximizing each nook and cranny of our luggage. But what about those extra items you may need to bring home? Could a friend or relative have something to pass your way? Are you planning on doing any shopping?
Designed with the traveler in mind, the Helium Fusion 3.0 Trolley bags feature two additional inches of packing space with the expandable zip, so that you can accommodate all your new treasures. Exclusive to Delsey, the bags also include the patent-pending Over Weight Indicator, which signals packers when their bag exceeds the standard 50 lbs limit, and providing peace of mind by avoiding overweight baggage fees at the airport. And in case your bag is over the limit, the Pocket Tote-a-Long clip with an adjustable webbing strap allows you to attach and effortlessly carry another bag.
Once you have selected the correct combination of clothing, take some time to properly place these items into your suitcase. Think of what you will do when you arrive – will you unpack or live out of your suitcase for the weekend? Then, arrange accordingly.
Also, think of what you will need as soon as you arrive, and make sure those items are easy to access.
October 2, 2012 6:48 pm
You’ve heard that too much coffee and red wine can stain your pearly whites. But the Academy of General Dentistry spokesperson Steven A. Ghareeb, DDS, FAGD, offers advice on how to keep your smile healthy and pretty by avoiding these five bad oral health habits.
1. Not flossing
Brushing your teeth twice a day is important, but many patients don't realize that flossing at least once a day is just as critical to achieving—and maintaining—a healthy smile. Flossing removes the cavity-causing bacteria left behind from food particles that get stuck between teeth. "Although bleeding and irritation sometimes can occur when you first start flossing, it's important to keep at it," says Dr. Ghareeb. "Your gums will toughen up and your oral health will be better for it."
2. Brushing too soon after eating
Consuming acidic foods and beverages, such as sports and energy drinks, citrus fruits, wine, and tomatoes, can erode tooth enamel—the glossy outer layer of the tooth. Brushing your teeth too soon after eating and drinking these items can cause more damage because you are essentially brushing the acid into the teeth, not getting rid of it. Instead, you should rinse your mouth with water after consuming acidic foods and beverages and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your pearly whites!
3. Not replacing your toothbrush often enough
Not only are old toothbrushes ineffective, but they also harbor harmful bacteria that can cause infections. Toothbrushes should be changed every three to four months. "It's also important to change your toothbrush after you've had a cold," says Dr. Ghareeb.
4. Excessively bleaching your teeth
Overzealous bleaching can cause your teeth to look unnaturally white and increase tooth sensitivity. Before using an at-home bleaching product, talk to your dentist. "He or she can advise you on proper use of these products as well as which type of bleaching system will provide you with the best results," says Dr. Ghareeb.
5. Using a hard-bristled toothbrush
A hard-bristled toothbrush coupled with an aggressive brushing technique can cause irreversible damage to your gums. Use a soft toothbrush and gently brush your teeth at a 45-degree angle, in a circular motion. Using a back-and-forth, sawing motion causes the gums to recede, and can expose the root of the tooth, making teeth extremely sensitive.
October 2, 2012 6:48 pm
Undivided interest. Ownership by two or more persons that gives each the right to use the entire property.
October 2, 2012 6:48 pm
A: The second home market has more ebbs and flows than the primary home market. Sales are iffy in a bad economy except, perhaps, on the high-end. That said, there is a growing trend toward the purchase of vacation homes. They are being bought for investment purposes, enjoyment, as well as retirement. In the latter instance, some people are buying with the idea of turning a vacation home into a permanent retirement haven down the road, a move that puts them ahead of the game now.
Some of the tax benefits mirror those for a primary residence. Mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible, which helps to offset the cost of the home payment. And if you treat your second home as a rental property, you can fully depreciate it as well. But you are only allowed to occupy it for two weeks a year, or 10 percent of the total rented time, whichever is less.
Before taking the leap, ask yourself if you can afford to carry two mortgages, maintain two households, and pay the extra utilities and maintenance costs. Also, learn about financing requirements and options, which can differ slightly from those on a primary residence.