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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
Fax: 267-354-6800
email: tom@tomskiffington.com
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Tom's Blog

Word of the Day

December 8, 2011 5:42 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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Work from Home? Get the Most Out of Your Job

December 8, 2011 5:42 pm

A recent article in the Kansas City Star cited evidence suggesting that more and more employees are seeking opportunities to work from home, while many managers and business owners are still reluctant.

According to the Star, middle managers are fearful that allowing employees to work from home will adversely affect productivity. According to Martha Jenkins, however, this does not necessarily have to be true. Jenkins and her company, Jenkins Coaching, offer practical advice to small business owners and contractors who work from home, helping them make the best use of their time.

Jenkins says that employees wishing to work from home can take certain steps to ensure productivity, and perhaps win over their bosses.

Jenkins has offered five tips to those seeking to make home-based employment work without a lapse in productivity..”

According to Jenkins, clear communication and well-understood expectations are essential for making home-based employment work.

1. Ensure you know what your employer’s expectations are: See to it that there are no unanswered questions about work hours, breaks, company equipment, and so forth.

2. Ensure that your results are communicated to your employer: Working long hours will not matter if your boss is not aware of what you accomplish.

3. Set up an effective work space: Make sure you have a work area that is free of distractions and is also comfortable and separate from the rest of your house.

4. Establish boundaries with your family and friends: Make sure they are aware of the demands of working from home.

5. Assess your progress on a regular basis: Record your achievements and mark your progress along the way, and make regular evaluations to your work habits.

Jenkins says working from home is ultimately successful when it is treated like a job. “In order to convince an employer you are serious about it, the bottom line is to behave in as professional a manner as possible.”
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Tips to Get Financially Fit In the New Year

December 8, 2011 5:42 pm

With 2012 just around the corner, SavvyMoney.com, a comprehensive resource for information, education and "do-it-yourself" tools for people coping with personal debt, is providing tips to help consumers reach a better financial future in the New Year. Written by industry expert and author Jean Chatzky, Director of Education for SavvyMoney.com, these tips are geared to consumers looking to set realistic, achievable financial goals.

Chatzky's five tips for getting financially fit in the New Year include:

1. Make a plan for the year. Determine your overarching goal and write it down, whether it is paying down debt, putting more in retirement savings, or paying for a vacation in cash. Then, set some benchmarks by breaking that goal down into manageable pieces. If you'd like to save $5,000 by the end of the year, recognize that that's $400 a month, $100 a week. If you focus on that weekly amount, you're more likely to get there. And in all cases, it will help to track your spending for the first month by saving your receipts and recording them regularly or using an online program. Once you do, it will be easier to cut back.

2. Automate - but pay attention. Most people benefit from a relatively hands off approach to their savings. Set it up so your employer pulls money out of every paycheck and deposits it in your 401(k), or allow your IRA provider to deduct a set amount from your checking account. That way, you don't have to make the decision to save. But that's where the automation should end. You need to look at those investments once in a while and see that you're on track. Make part of this year's resolution about rebalancing your investments, either right now or on your birthday.

3. Put a windfall to work. Right now through the first few months of the New Year are ripe for windfalls. You might receive an end-of-year bonus, raise, or a tax refund. The best thing you can do with this money is pretend you never received it. Funnel a bonus or tax refund directly into savings, without giving yourself a chance to spend it (if you're carrying credit card debt, use this cash to pay it off or make a solid dent in your balance). When you get a raise, bump up your retirement contribution to match the increase in salary - research shows that otherwise, you'll adjust spending to the new amount and hardly feel like you're earning more.

4. Spend smart. Start the year with a bill audit. Look over every bill that comes in this month, paying particular attention to the ones you pay automatically with a draft from your bank account or bill pay through your bank. You'll likely find you're paying for things you don't need or didn't even know you had - extra cell phone minutes, HBO when your favorite show is in the off-season, an equipment protection program from your satellite TV provider. Call your insurance providers and see if they're willing offer you a better rate. Then make a commitment to save money every day, by clipping coupons, shopping around for the best deals, using energy efficient light bulbs and making sure your doors and windows are sealed for winter to conserve electricity.

5. Earn more. If you're truly not going overboard with the discretionary spending and you still can't get ahead, you may not be earning enough money to support yourself. If you haven't gotten a raise in a while, it's okay to ask for one now, but approach the situation lightly in this still-shaky economy. Go to your boss's office prepared with ammunition - lay out how you save (or earn) the company money and how much competitors are paying people in your position. If you work for yourself, the New Year is the perfect time to raise your rates slightly.

For more information, visit http://www.savvymoney.com.
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Question of the Day

December 8, 2011 5:42 pm

Q: What should I weigh before considering an addition to my home?

A: Thoroughly assess your space. You may find you have the room you need, particularly if there is unused or under utilized areas in your home. Perhaps a garage, attic, side porch, or basement can be converted to fit the use you have in mind. Or, maybe, a small area can be carved from a larger area like a kitchen or living room to create a powder room. These improvements are certainly cheaper than a major construction job.
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Top 5 Tax Moves to Make by December 31

December 7, 2011 5:40 pm

As December begins and the holiday season and spirit of giving move into full swing, why not make a few tax moves now that could give you added savings when you file your 2011 tax return?

"There is still time for a final push to claim several tax benefits before 2011 winds to a close," said Mark Steber, chief tax officer, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. "In fact, many taxpayers will be doing things like giving to charities and pre-paying January tuition, but the key is knowing how these and other common expenses may count as tax deductions if you qualify."

Steber notes the five key considerations taxpayers should be thinking of before December 31 to reduce taxable income and increase deductions or credits to claim:

1. Save more for retirement – By increasing retirement plan contributions, you can reduce your income for tax purposes. Taxpayers can contribute up to $16,500 to a 401(k), 403(b) or Federal Government Thrift Savings Plan; those over age 50 can contribute an additional $5,500.
2. Prepay January payments in December – Taking care of your January mortgage payment, 4th quarter state tax estimate, or winter semester tuition now lets you claim these payments on your 2011 tax return.
3. Get to the doctor! – If you are holding off on a major medical procedure until after the holidays, stop procrastinating and make an appointment now to increase your 2011 medical expense deductions.
4. Give to charity – Giving cash and non-cash donations to charity can give back on your taxes. And volunteering time counts too, which means the more than 80,000 volunteers who lent a helping hand to the Joplin, Mo. tornado victims may be able to deduct their out-of-pocket expenses on a tax return.
5. Save energy, save $500 on your taxes – If you are planning to buy an energy saving hot water heater or install energy efficient windows or insulation to your home, do it now. Up to $500 in credit may be available for making energy-related home improvements.

Source: www.jacksonhewittonline.com.
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Homeowners: Prevent Ice Dam Damage This Winter

December 7, 2011 5:40 pm

Ice dams can cause serious trouble for homeowners, wreaking havoc on roofs, ceilings and basements. By preparing before the winter storm onslaught, homeowner’s can save their time, money, and sanity. 

"Icicles hanging from the edge of a roof are often the result of an ice dam," notes Paul Quinn, Farmers Insurance Assistant Vice President of Claims Communications. "These ice dams form when water from melting snow runs down the roof and re-freezes as the air temperature dips, or when warm air from inside your home leaks into your attic, and that can cause significant damage to your home." 

Quinn says the meltwater that refreezes on the roof's edge, creates a band of ice along an eve and before long it acts as a dam, holding back a pool of water that can eventually back up under the shingles, seep inside, and soak into the walls and ceilings—"and the homeowner realizes the beautiful snowfall has turned into an ugly mess. 

"If you have an ice dam, you can hire an ice dam removal service, but if you try it yourself, please be careful and do not climb up on the roof to remove the snow or ice dams. That should be done by professionals," Quinn adds. 

"Be prepared this winter. Don't find yourself worrying all winter that your home is going to be damaged from the snow when it can be prevented," Quinn concludes. 

Source: www.farmers.com
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End Your Wallet Woes: Holiday Personal Finance Tips

December 7, 2011 5:40 pm

Holiday season can be stressful for consumers, especially if the prospect of buying gifts will add to an already burdensome debt load.

ACA International offers the following personal finance tips for consumers this holiday season. "Careful planning and active communication are important tools to effectively managing personal finances, particularly if a consumer is struggling to make payments on their current debt obligations or being contacted by a debt collector," said ACA Chief Executive Officer Patrick Morris.

• Plan and Budget: Holiday gift giving doesn't need to break the bank; after all, it's the thought that counts. Determine what you can reasonably afford, create a budget and plan for gifts, and stick to it. Keep in mind that purchases on credit will need to be repaid at some point in the future.
• Track your Spending: Keep tabs on how much you spend to help stay within the guidelines of your "holiday budget."
• Protect your Identity: Be careful about giving personal information including a credit or debit card number over the phone and online. Monitor your accounts and immediately report any suspicious or unauthorized purchases to your bank or credit card company. Consumers should monitor their credit and are entitled to a free credit report each year at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you believe your identity has been stolen, contact your local police department.
• Communicate with Creditors: Having trouble making payments on an existing debt? Contact the creditor to discuss alternative payment arrangements. It won't eliminate your debt but it can make things more manageable. Communication is particularly important if you are behind in payments to a creditor (e.g., credit card, loan, mortgage, medical) to avoid having the debt appear on credit reports.
• Communicate with the Debt Collector: In the event you hear from a debt collector, avoiding a letter or call won't make the debt disappear. The reason for the contact cannot be resolved without the ability to communicate; whether it's to pay an owed debt, verify an alleged debt or confirm that the debt collector has reached the wrong person.

Consumers have Rights: Consumers deserve to be treated respectfully and have rights under federal and state law. For more information about consumer rights in debt collection or to ask questions, visit www.askdoctordebt.org.

Source: www.acainternational.org.
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Save Your Pearly Whites; Celebrate Good Oral Health

December 7, 2011 5:40 pm

'Tis the season for giving, but remember to give yourself the most important gift of all this holiday season: a healthy smile! Maintaining good oral hygiene during the holiday season is more important than ever, advises the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).

"Holiday get-togethers tend to lead people to consume sugary treats and drink alcoholic beverages more than usual," says AGD spokesperson George Shepley, DDS, MAGD. "Additionally, with their busy schedules and increased stress levels, I've noticed that my patients' oral hygiene suffers. They forget the most basic of oral hygiene tasks that can counteract the effects of sugary snacks and drinks."

If all you want this holiday season is to keep your two front teeth, or all of your teeth for that matter, then check out Shepley's tips on how to save your smile.

Wine
Whether red or white, the high acidity levels in wine can eat away at a tooth's enamel. Tooth enamel is critical in the protection against decay and cavities. To avoid damage, refrain from swishing the wine around in your mouth, and drink water in between beverages to rinse the teeth of the acid. Cheers!

Sugary Treats
Bacteria in the mouth thrive on the sugars found in candy canes, chocolate, and gingerbread cookies, increasing the likelihood of developing cavities. If you are not able to brush and floss after munching on sweet treats, drink water or chew a piece of sugarless gum. This will boost saliva flow in the mouth and help wash away bacteria.

Stress
Holiday anxiety can cause people to grind or clench their teeth, causing jaw pain, headaches, and chipping. "Finding ways to alleviate your anxiety can help, but it's also important to see your dentist, who can recommend solutions like a custom night guard," advises Shepley. "Wearing one at night will prevent you from taking out the holiday stress on your teeth while you sleep."

Shepley encourages his patients to remember that the gift of oral health is one that keeps on giving all year long!

"A healthy smile should always be at the top of your wish list," says Shepley. "Brush and floss your teeth twice daily and schedule an appointment to see your general dentist at least twice a year."

For more information about oral health, visit www.KnowYourTeeth.com.
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Word of the Day

December 7, 2011 5:40 pm

Rent control. Government-imposed restrictions on the amount of rent a property owner can charge.
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Question of the Day

December 7, 2011 5:40 pm

Q: What is condo and co-op insurance?

A: This insurance protects your investment and personal belongings from most disasters. As an owner, you will need two insurance policies – your own to cover liability, living expenses, your belongings and structural improvements, and a master policy provided by the condo or co-op board. The master policy covers the common areas that you share with others in the building. It is paid for using the monthly condo fee that you and other owners pay.
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