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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
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Perkasie, PA 18944
Phone: 215-453-7883
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
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email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

Prep Yourself Financially for a Natural Disaster

August 30, 2012 5:20 pm

Prep Yourself Financially for a Natural Disaster
September is National Preparedness Month and the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) is offering tips to help individuals put their financial documents in order before a disaster strikes.

"While the first priority is the physical safety and well-being of you and your family, knowing that your banking and financial papers are safe gives you one less thing to worry about during times of duress," says Jeff Gerhart, chairman of ICBA and Bank of Newman Grove, Neb. “Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and other natural disasters remind us how important it is to be organized and have a plan. Having a financial preparedness plan will protect you and your family from the long-term effects of damaged or destroyed financial documents."

ICBA offers the following tips to help consumers prepare before an emergency occurs.

• Keep marriage and family records, including adoption papers, property deeds, birth certificates, wills, insurance policies, passports, Social Security cards, immunization records, credit card account numbers, car titles or lease contracts, bank and investment account numbers and three years of tax returns in a bank safe-deposit box. Put each of these documents in a sealed plastic bag to keep out moisture.
• Make and safeguard additional official copies of critical documents such as birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage certificates and the deed to your home for safekeeping and notify a trustee, close relative or attorney where your important financial information is located.
• Keep names and contact numbers for executors, trustees and guardians in a safe place, either in your safe deposit box or with a close relative.
• Take an inventory and keep a list of household valuables. Taking photographs of these items can help as well.
• Start and regularly contribute to an emergency fund that can cover at least three to four months of expenses. This fund should be separate from your savings or investment account.
• Include extra cash (ideally small denominations) in your home emergency kit, which should include a three-day supply of water, food, a first aid kit, can opener, flashlights, radio and extra batteries.
• Identify the records that you keep only on computer. They may not be available if electrical power fails, so make a printout and safeguard them or back them up to an external device or web storage facility.
• The web can serve as a supplement or back up to paper copies. Scanned or other electronic documents can be attached to e-mails and stored in your e-mail account or with secure online back-up services.
• If you feel flood insurance may be necessary to protect your home, start shopping around. Contact your insurance agent or visit FEMA’s website at www.fema.gov for more information.

Source: www.icba.org.
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Cranky Pants? 7 Positive Strategies for Managing Aggressive Behavior in Children

August 30, 2012 5:20 pm

As the school year starts, teachers (and parents) may worry about how to handle child who is "having a total meltdown." Some children may fall in a puddle of tears and sob, others yell and scream. What can be the hardest to handle is when a child becomes aggressive and hits, bites, shoves, throws things or kicks, possibly hurting themselves and others in a fit of anger or frustration.

"One of the most difficult issues when living and working with children of any age is knowing how to calmly, lovingly, and safely stop them if they are acting out in ways that are potentially harmful to themselves or others," says Irene van der Zande, child safety education expert and founder of Kidpower.org.

"Although aggressive behavior must be stopped, great harm can be done if an adult restrains an upset child in a way that is physically unsafe for the child or for the adult; acts worried or angry about the child being upset; or shames the child for losing control," writes van der Zande. "Firm, kind, matter-of-fact adult intervention is necessary for everyone’s emotional and physical safety."

Below are seven intervention strategies for managing aggressive behavior in children:
1. Be prepared that children will sometimes have difficulty staying in charge of their behavior.
2. Identify and reduce causes of stress that trigger outbursts.
3. Teach children how to recognize and manage the feelings and actions that lead to unsafe behavior.
4. Create a plan for how to prevent and handle outbursts for every place the child might be.
5. As the adult in charge, understand and stay in charge of your own emotional triggers.
6. Be a powerful, respectful, adult leader when taking charge of an out-of-control child.
7. When you are caring for other people's children, make a plan ahead of time with the parents and/or your work supervisor about how to handle problems and what you are and are not authorized to do to manage outbursts and keep kids safe.

"Children need to understand that all of their feelings are acceptable and normal, including anger," writes van der Zande. "Everyone gets upset sometimes and wants to do hurtful things. As adults, we can help our kids learn how to stay in charge of what they say and do even if they are feeling very angry or upset at that moment. Being able to recognize when you are feeling upset, take care of your feelings in positive ways, and act safely no matter how you feel inside are tremendous life skills."

Source: Kidpower.org.
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Word of the Day

August 30, 2012 5:20 pm

Restrictive covenants. Clauses placed in a deed to restrict the full use of the property by controlling how future landowners may or may not use the property; also used in leases.
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Q: Are Seller-Paid Points Deductible?

August 30, 2012 5:20 pm

A: For the buyer, yes, but not the seller – even though the seller pays them. Since January 1, 1991, homebuyers have been able to deduct points paid by the seller whereas, previously, they could only deduct the actual points they paid on the home loans themselves.
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How-To: Take the ‘Labor’ out of Housecleaning

August 29, 2012 5:18 pm

It's the stacks of dishes, piles of papers, and toys strewn everywhere that makes cleaning seem like an overwhelming chore for most homeowners. But once the clutter is removed, spaces look bigger, homeowners experience less stress and every room is easier to clean.

Below are five tips to make things easier:

Get organized
De-cluttering a home takes more effort and time than any other chore, but once it’s done, cleaning will be a snap. Start by tackling one room at a time. Go through the room and decide what to keep, what to sell or donate, and what items will go directly into the trash bin. Once that is finished, find a place to stow away all of the items you want to keep. Remember, the floor or the tops of tables, dressers or countertops are not storage areas. If you don't have enough storage space, invest in bookshelves, under-the-bed containers, or wicker baskets. Once your home is organized, don't bring in new items without eliminating something you already have.

Clean as you go

Housework is easier, less intimidating, and less time-consuming if you integrate individual chores into normal, daily activities. In the kitchen, for instance, clean as you cook. Fill the sink with soapy water and wash items as you use them or immediately place them in the dishwasher. While you wait for food to cook, get out the broom and dustpan and sweep the floor, or go through the mail and recycle what you don't need. In the bathroom, wipe down the tub or shower stall immediately after you've finished your morning routine. Do the same after you've used the sink. Remember to wipe the adjoining counter, too. All through the day, as you move from room to room, keep an eye out for items that are out of place and give them a home.

Keep cleaning supplies close at hand
Keeping supplies in the rooms where you will use them saves steps and time, and you will be more likely to clean up a mess as soon as you see it. Store a whisk broom and dustpan, a sponge or cleaning cloth, as well as other necessary cleaning products in the kitchen. Place appropriate cleaning supplies in each bathroom, too. If your home has several levels, keep a vacuum cleaner on each level.

Follow a schedule

For most busy people, it helps to build time to clean into their schedules. Clean the toilets every Saturday morning, for instance, and do the laundry on Thursday nights. Or you might choose to focus on one room each day. Schedule small cleaning tasks throughout the week, too, to make chores less onerous.

Now, not later
It only takes a few minutes to do some chores, so don't put them off. Make your bed every morning, throw out the trash as you leave the house for work, wash and fold the clothes while you're watching television, and pick up toys every night before bed.

Source: The Maids
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Top Tips for Finding the Perfect Sofa

August 29, 2012 5:18 pm

Whether you're browsing sofas online or hitting the stores, it can be tricky to find the right couch. Take a look at the following sofa buying guide to make sure you'll be sitting pretty on your new furniture.

Size
Before you start sofa shopping, you need to work out the exact size of your living space and how many people may be sitting at one time. Most large sofas will seat three adults comfortably, while a smaller sofa may only be suitable for two people. It's also important to work out the safe distance from a sofa to a radiator to prevent the risk of fire. You should also gauge whether a new sofa will fit through a tight doorway or space.

If you're short on space or have low ceilings, consider choosing a sofa with a low back to create the illusion of more room. Modular sofas are also a great flexible option for open-plan rooms or smaller spaces.

Material

Leather or fabric has become one of the biggest dilemmas when it comes to buying a sofa. Plain leather sofas are a fantastic way to add a contemporary feel to a home, while fabric furniture offers a greater range of colors and patterns. A leather sofa is a great choice if you would like your furniture to age over time, becoming part of the family as the years go by. A fabric sofa with washable loose covers, on the other hand, is perfect for anyone with young children or pets.

Filling
The filling of a sofa determines its level of support and appearance. Foam-filled sofas offer a structured look and provide firm support for anyone with limited mobility. Fiber upholstery offers a more relaxed finish with a softer sit, while feather-filled upholstery needs to be plumped up regularly, but is ideal for anyone who loves to curl up on the sofa for hours on end.

Make sure to browse, compare prices, and do a lot of test sits before choosing your next piece of furniture.

Source: http://www.csl-sofas.co.uk
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Word of the Day

August 29, 2012 5:18 pm

Reserve account. An account for money collected each month by a lender to pay for property taxes and property insurance as they come due.
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Q: How Does a Lease Option Work?

August 29, 2012 5:18 pm

A: A landlord agrees to give a renter an exclusive option to purchase the property. The option price is usually determined at the outset, but not always, and the agreement states when the purchase should take place – whether, say, six months, or a year or two down the road.

A portion of the rent is used to make the future down payment. Most lenders will accept the down payment if the rental payments exceed the market rent and a valid lease-purchase agreement is in effect.

Before you opt to do a lease option, find out as much as possible about how they work. Talk to real estate agents, read published materials, and, in the end, have an attorney review any paperwork before you and the tenant sign on the dotted line.
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20 (Painless) Ways to Cut 500 Calories a Day

August 28, 2012 7:16 pm

Fitness gurus say a 150-pound woman can drop about a pound of day by cutting 500 calories out of her daily diet. While this greatly depends on what you’re already eating, and your activity level, it could mean shedding weight relatively painlessly—if you do it right.

Shaun Chavis, writing for Health.com, suggests 16 simple ways to trim back calories.

Tap your feet – Fidgeters burn up to 300 calories daily just from restless movement. Walk around while on the phone. Tap out a tune with your feet under your desk.
Limit the nuts – They’re heart healthy but packed with calories. Best if you must: pistachios at 159 calories in two handfuls.
Eat at the table – Researchers say people who eat in front of the TV consume up to 288 calories more than those who watch their plates.
Watch your salad toppings – Salads are low-cal, but not if you pile on the cheese, nuts, croutons, and full-fat dressing.
Use smaller plates – The larger your plate, the more food you are likely to pile on it. Swap the 12-inch plate for a 10-incher or less.
Count out chips and crackers – Eating from a bag or box makes tracking calories next to impossible.
Serve to the plate – Serving food family-style makes it too easy to reach for seconds.
Skinny up mixed drinks – Mix your wine with seltzer, tonic water or sugar-free soda.
Watch the pasta – One cup is just 220 calories. But restaurant portions are triple that and loaded with heavy sauces.
Leave a little – Leave as much as 25 percent on your plate. Save it for lunch the next day.
Eat mini-desserts – If you can’t resist, ask for a half-portion.
Skip the oil – Cook with stock or non-fat spray instead.
Sleep enough – Research shows people short on sleep nosh more during the day.
Dine in – There are fewer calories in most home-cooked fare than in restaurant food.
Choose sugar-free sips – Pass on any sugared tea, coffee or soda.
Be mindful – Put down your fork as soon as you feel full.
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For Your Student: Handle Credit Wisely

August 28, 2012 7:16 pm

Students are heading back to school, and many are armed with their first ever credit card. While they may start off with the best of intentions, occasional splurges can turn into regular spender-benders as they dine out and shop for the latest fashions and electronics. Talk to your student about smart spending before a few big purchases—flat screen TV for the dorm, anyone?— make a major mark on their credit.

“As college students work toward their professional goals by obtaining educational degrees, we urge them to also consider their financial future and the role that credit plays in helping them achieve their personal and professional goals,” says Jeff Gerhart, chairman of ICBA and of Bank of Newman Grove, Neb. “The fact is that no one may ever need to see your transcript after you leave school, but your credit report will be with you for the rest of your life.”

New rules governing credit cards aimed specifically at protecting students went into effect in 2010. According to these rules, credit card companies are prohibited from issuing cards to anyone under the age of 18, and those under 21 need either an adult co-signer or proof of income. Educational institutions must disclose any agreements they have with credit card companies that market to students, and credit card companies may no longer entice students with free gifts. All other provisions in the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act that cover consumers—such as advance notice of changes, more time to make payments and terms that are easier to understand—apply to students as well.

Even with these safeguards, the best protection against getting deeply in debt is knowing the pitfalls and how to avoid them. ICBA offers the following tips to help students use credit cards wisely:

• Set up and follow a budget that includes paying off a credit card balance. “Maxing out” or charging up to your card’s credit limit can make sticking to your budget more difficult.
• Remember that cash advances, unlike purchases, generally have finance charges that apply immediately.
• Pay on time, every time. Whenever possible, pay more than the minimum payment owed (for example, 150 percent of the minimum) to pay off the balance faster and save on finance charges.
• Keep records of your account number, expiration date and the phone number of your card issuer in a safe place.
• Keep your account information confidential.
• Never give out your credit card number, card verification number (which appears on or near the signature panel) or expiration date over the phone, unless you initiated the call and know who you’re dealing with.
• Elect to receive your statement information online. Many sites offer an alert for unusual transactions and reminders of when your bill is due.
• Consider making your credit card payment online to ensure it is received by the monthly due date.
• Routinely access your account information online to track your spending and to quickly identify fraudulent transactions. If you see a transaction that is not yours, notify your card issuer immediately.
• If there’s an error on your account, report it immediately by notifying your card issuer. Look for complete instructions on your monthly statement or your bank’s website and follow them carefully to protect your rights.
• Keep a copy of your sales receipts so you can compare what you bought with the charges on your bill.
• When making online transactions, be sure the site is secure. Don’t let others see you enter card information.
• Don’t lend your credit card to anyone, not even a friend. Ever.
• If you move, notify your card issuer immediately.
• If you encounter financial difficulties, contact your card issuer as soon as possible.

Source: www.icba.org.
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