Sunday, March 29, 2009

Real Estate Corner…

Q. We are considering remodeling to increase the value of our home before we put it on the market. What are the best options and the most attractive add-ons for home improvement before sale?

A. Use some basic math before you invest in a home that you are about to sell. The American Homeowner’s Foundation estimates the total cost of moving to be at least 10 percent of your home’s current value. If your projected remodeling costs go beyond that, it would make better sense to put your money in your new house and not your old one.

Even if you make a stunning transformation of your once tired-looking property, don’t expect to push your home’s value past 20 percent of its current selling price. If your neighborhood has varied property values, target your selling price just under the most expensive and best-looking home in your neighborhood. The adjacent “showcase” homes will quietly reinforce your potential asking price.

As a primary rule, be practical about your choice of upgrades. Don’t try to turn your 60’s or 70’s style home into Cape Cod mansion. Upgrade only the details that define the house’s original style. Make your home look like it has been well maintained. Be sure the lighting, plumbing fixtures, and hardwood floors are in top condition. Many buyers will see past any “quick fixes” and wonder what isn’t right with the rest of the house.

The best remodeling can be made to the kitchen because it usually suffers the most wear and tear. Sometimes a good-looking, highly functional kitchen will be your “deal maker.” Adding a bathroom can also add value to an older home. Design touches such as a skylight, glass block windows, and ceramic tile on the floor and walls make it even more attractive to buyers. Be sure to upgrade your existing bathroom with matching paint, tile, and fixtures. If you’d like a copy of my FREE consumer report, “Homeowners Guide To Moneymaking Fix-ups” just call me at 206-226-0565 and I’ll send one over.

New Prostate Cancer Therapy

Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) has been used to treat many types of cancer, but a new study now shows that it may be effective for prostate cancer too. First, a patient is given an injection of a photosensitive drug. Then, the patient waits three days for the drug to migrate to the tumor. Finally, doctors shine light on the tumor to activate the photosensitive drug, which destroys the tumor.

When the process is refined, researchers believe PDT will destroy prostate cancer with fewer complications than traditional treatments.

Want To Stay Healthy and Slim?

A new study from Harvard University indicates that people who eat breakfast daily may be less likely to succumb to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Why? Eating breakfast regularly helps control your appetite throughout the day, which means you’re less likely to overeat later. A good breakfast also helps regulate your body’s blood sugar.

A study of 2,700 adults who reported eating breakfast every day had a 35 to 50 percent reduced chance of becoming obese, or developing insulin resistance syndrome. This syndrome is a precursor to diabetes in which the body experiences a loss of sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is key to regulating blood sugar.

What you eat is just as important as making sure you eat breakfast. Refined grain cereals and bacon and eggs had no effect on reducing the risk of obesity and diabetes. The best breakfast food is a whole grain cereal, especially oatmeal. A study reported in The Journal of Family Practice concluded that oat cereals work so well at lowering blood pressure, people who are taking hypertension medication can actually lower their dosage if they eat an oatmeal breakfast every day. Other studies have shown that oatmeal will lower cholesterol if it is eaten on a daily basis.

Don’t Throw Away Your Coffee Grounds

Did you know there are many uses for your Java besides drinking it? Both the grounds and the liquid can help you around the house.

Use coffee grounds in your garden or flower pots for composting. As the grounds decompose, they add much needed nitrogen for your plants. Plus, they increase the acidity of your soil. Adding water to grounds makes a great liquid fertilizer, and you can even feed it to your friendly garden earthworms.

You can also use coffee grounds as pest control. Spread some of the grounds around ants and their mounds. Caffeine appears to be a deadly poison for the little critters. Plus coffee is much less harsh and expensive than chemicals.

Save On Auto Insurance…

A Simple Way to Save BIG

Sometimes the simplest things are the most effective. That’s certainly true with minimizing your cost of auto insurance. Here’s a quick way to almost instantly save 10 to 30 percent on your auto premiums.

Simply take a close look at your deductibles. By increasing discretionary deductibles, such as comprehensive or collision, you can save you a bundle on your insurance premium. This is especially true if you have a good driving record. So check your policy and call your agent – it’ll be time well spent!

Save Money with Your Dry Cleaner

How to Stay Healthy and Save

Does it seem unusual to see an article about dry cleaners? Perhaps. But dry cleaners are one of the most complaint-ridden businesses in the United States, according to the Better Business Bureau. At the top of the complaint list are lost items and damaged garments.

Worse yet, some of the chemicals dry cleaners use can be downright dangerous! Clearly, there are reputable dry cleaners, but next time you drop off your items, here are a few tips for protecting yourself as a consumer.

 Always Ask For A Receipt. When you drop off an item to the cleaner, ask for a receipt indicating what you had cleaned. It’s helpful to include the size, color, and brand name if possible. When a dry cleaner acknowledges they lost a garment, they are supposed to pay the full price of a replacement. A detailed claim ticket will be your best argument.

 What To Do About Damaged Clothing? Damaged clothing is a different story. Dry cleaners refer to the Fair Claims Guide published by International Fabricare Institute to assess the depreciated value of damaged garments. One-year-old cotton suits, skirts, shirts in average condition get just 40 percent of their original price. A 5-year-old wool blazer will get you 15 percent of the actual cost. If they ruin an item classified as an heirloom (such as an antique Persian rug) demand fair market value for its replacement.

 PERC Is A Toxic Chemical. Most dry cleaners use PERC (prechloroethylene) a probable human carcinogen, to clean your clothes. The National Institute for Occupational Safety found that dry cleaning industry workers were 25 percent more likely to die from cancer than the general population. Remember, this chemical is on your garments. Take the plastic bags off, and air out your garments before wearing.

 Watch Out For “Meet Or Beat” Gimmicks. The BBB warns that dry cleaners are notorious for “bait and switch” advertising, where the dry cleaner claims he will match or beat a competitor’s price. The catch is you will have to walk in with the competing dry cleaner’s price list to qualify for the discount.

 Watch Out For The “Special Handling” Charge. Women are often charged more than men for dry cleaning similar items. Women’s shirts are a common item of contention that dry cleaners claim need “special handling” for a variety of reasons. Ask up-front if any women’s clothing needs “hand-cleaning” and how much you will be charged for the work.

 Ask Your BBB For Help If You Have A Problem. You may also go to Small Claims Court if you have a grievance against a dry cleaner. There is no guarantee small claims will get you a settlement, but sometimes the threat of action is enough to settle a dispute.

Taking a few small actions and asking the right questions of your dry cleaner can save you considerable money and headaches in the long run.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Birth of the Toothbrush??

Here’s more information than you probably ever wanted to know about your toothbrush. Did you know that dental hygiene dates back to 3000 B.C. when ancient Egyptians would gnaw on “chew sticks” after meals? It’s true. The twigs had frayed ends that helped clean their teeth.

The Chinese invented the first toothbrush in 1498, attaching Siberian wild boar bristles to handles made of bone or bamboo. In 1780, William Addis of Clerkenwald, England, mass-produced the first toothbrush by attaching cow tail hairs to the end of a whittled cow thighbone. Addis' descendants continued to manufacture toothbrushes at a factory in Hertford, England until 1993, long after plastic handles and nylon bristles replaced the cow hairs and bones.

Don’t Go Swimming Unless...

That cool, shady pond or mountain stream might look inviting for a refreshing swim, but it can harbor parasites and bacteria that can make you ill. Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) can affect your skin, eyes, ears, and possibly trigger the deadly brain infection—primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM).

Avoidance is the key, but when in doubt take these precautions before making a splash:
1. Stay away from warm and muddy water. The amoeba Naegleria fowleri thrives in water 86 degrees or warmer and at the bottom of fresh lakes, ponds and streams.
2. Wear nose plugs. Many parasites and bacteria will enter your body through your nostrils.
3. Always keep your mouth shut. Avoid swallowing water while swimming.
4. Don’t swim if you have an open wound.
5. Don’t swim or wade in marshy areas. You can pick up an annoying parasite that causes swimmer’s itch – a condition characterized by itching, burning, and rash lasting up to a week.
Thoroughly dry your ears to protect against swimmer’s ear – a painful bacterial infection.
Avoid ocean beach water after heavy rains. Overflow from storm drains routinely runs into the ocean, carrying sewage, animal waste, and human garbage.

Create Your Own Cash Safety Net

Even in the most stable of times (great economy, good health, and a steady job) it’s wise to create a cash safety net. Your emergency fund should cover at least six month’s of living expenses. Living expenses include rent or mortgage, debt and car payments, medications, groceries and any other fixed expenses you incur each month. You can get an excellent estimate of your living expenses by keeping a simple budget in a personal finance computer program such as “Quicken” by Intuit.

Your emergency fund should be liquid and immediately accessible. Keep the money in a CD, savings account, or money market account (if you want higher interest). It is not for impulse buying or vacations. You can target the money for emergency car repairs, medical bills, or a short spell of unemployment, but remember to make repayment a top priority.

Look for a bank account with zero maintenance fees. Many banks will eliminate maintenance fees if you maintain a set minimum balance. You can also avoid bank charges by linking a checking account to a savings account or interest-bearing checking account.

Can Optimism Make You Healthy?

In a study of first year law students at the University of California at
Los Angeles, psychologists discovered students with positive attitudes and expectations had stronger immune systems and overall good health. Researchers drew blood from “declared optimists” and a control group. They then measured levels of key immune cells at the beginning of the semester. At that time there was no difference, but well into the stress-filled semester the optimists showed significantly higher levels of key immune cell activity than their less-than-positive counterparts. Keep smiling—you’ll live longer!

Banish Headaches Now!!

Do you suffer from chronic headaches? Headache pain is one of the top ten reasons for absenteeism in the workplace and schools. The migraine headache strikes 18 percent of women, 6 percent of men and (surprisingly) 8 percent of children. Migraines are throbbing headaches that affect only one side of the head and can be accompanied by vision complications, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. The duration of a migraine can last from a few hours to a few days.

A variety of foods, the body’s own hormones, and environmental stimuli can trigger migraines. Migraine sufferers should avoid beer, red wine, monosodium glutamate (used liberally in Chinese foods), certain cheeses, yogurt, and smoked fish. Sodium nitrate, found in bacon, cold cuts, and hot dogs is also a known cause. Caffeine and chocolate also may be connected with migraines.

Fluctuations in hormones can cause migraines. It can affect men, but it especially affects women during their monthly cycle – possibly due to fluctuations in estrogen and serotonin levels in the body. Sixty percent of female migraine sufferers have them in relation to their monthly cycle.

People on long-term prescription medications or painkillers like aspirin and acetaminophen can experience a “boomerang” effect when medications are stopped. The body may go into withdrawal, triggering a massive migraine. A magnesium deficiency may also trigger migraines, and has been correlated to the migraine-like symptoms of early fibromyalgia.

Can anything be done for sufferers of migraine headaches? The answer is yes. There are new prescription medications for treatment of migraines, but simpler natural solutions may effectively eliminate or lessen migraine suffering with less cost and side effects. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Watch what you eat. Keep a food diary, and notice the effects of the food listed above. If symptoms appear up to 18 hours after eating, avoid the food.

2. Try the herb “feverfew.” This potent herb reduces the release of serotonin and the production of an inflammatory substance known as prostaglandins. Both of these events in the body are associated with migraines. Taken regularly, it has been shown to prevent future attacks.
3. Take 800 mg. of L-carnitine a day. The amino acid L-carnitine decreases the sensitivity of the body’s nervous system to fluctuating oxygen levels, one of the key migraine triggers.
4. Take a calcium and magnesium supplement daily. These two minerals work in tandem to reduce the duration and severity of migraine attacks.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What Does Your Phone Number Spell?

Are you trying to come up with a clever 800 number? Here’s a clever calculator that can tell you what telephone numbers are associated with a word. And it can tell you what your phone number spells. Go to

Fire Protection For Your Home!

Many homeowners are aware of fire safety precautions for the inside of the home, but how often to you think of the exterior of your home? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests clearing a 30-foot radius around your house by removing vegetation which could provide a path for fire to reach your home.

Additionally, if you have paints or other highly flammable materials, be sure they are properly stored in a safe location away from your home.

Finally, FEMA suggests that you look into replacing your roof with a material that is more resistant to fire than asphalt or wood shingles. A small amount of time and money may prevent the spread of exterior fire and successfully protect your family and cherished belongings.

Cure Snoring In 7 EASY Steps!

Is someone else keeping you awake at night? If your sleep partner is a snorer, chances are you need some tips to improve your sleep. Here are a few to help you through the night:

1. If your snorer is overweight, get him (or her) to lose weight.
2. Have your snorer roll sleeping on his/her back!
3. Put three tennis balls in a sock and attach it to the back of his/her nightshirt. This prevents the snorer from sleeping on his/her back.
4. Buy earplugs for you.
5. Try using nasal strips for your snorer. They work.
6. Go to bed earlier than your’ll be in a deeper sleep stage.
7. Get a white-noise generator to drown out the sound.

Usually, snoring is caused by allergies, congestion from colds, nasal blockages, a deviated septum, and even acid reflux. But snoring has also been linked to more serious medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or sleep apnea. If the snoring is severe, have your partner see a doctor to see what is causing the snoring.

Best Day For A Home Purchase Closing?

The best day to close on your new home...or refinance is the last day of the month. At a closing, borrowers pay mortgage interest to the end of the current month. By making the closing at the end of the month, you keep closing costs down. Make sure to ask for a no-cost, or low-cost mortgage with no junk fees.

When Romance And Finances Collide…

What To Do

When couples disagree about money, you can bet there’s going to be trouble. The good news is most money problems can be solved by simply talking.
You may want to begin by asking yourself, “What’s Your Money Personality”? According to Olivia Mellan, author of Money Harmony: Resolving Money Conflicts in Your Life and Relationship, most people fall into one or more loosely defined money personalities:
• Spenders are the shop until-you-drop consumers who gain pleasure from buying. They don’t budget, prioritize or save.
• Hoarders like strict budgets and prioritize everything. They see spending money on entertainment, vacations, and any extras as frivolous.
• Avoiders put off money management because it overwhelms them. Since they don’t like budgets or keeping records, they often forget to pay their bills.
• Amassers like to stockpile their money to feel safe and happy. The bigger the pile, the more secure they feel.

So what’s your money personality, and what’s your spouses? This may help you understand your partner’s relationship to money. When it comes to talking about money with your partner, here are four strategies to help you on the road to better communication:

1. Timing is everything. When it comes to talking about money, choose a time when people are feeling good.
2. Stay positive. Don’t accuse your partner. Focus on how the behavior is making you feel, and look for solutions.
3. Be specific. For example, “I’m feeling concerned about the money we’re spending on this vacation.”
4. Assume win-win situations are possible! Find your common ground where both of you can agree and each get most of what you want.

Once you and your spouse have identified your individual styles, set-aside time to define common objectives and find strategies that work around your differences, so you can meet those goals. If your tempers begin to heat-up, agree to meet at another time when both of you are calmer.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Avoid These Credit Card Tricks!

Here’s helpful advice to avoid fancy tricks played by some credit card companies. The most common “trick” is the Balance Transfer offers where the company offers you 0% (or a very low interest rate) on any balance you transfer from another credit card. Sounds great...but most of these offers require that you pay off the entire balance by the end of the introductory period. If you don’t, they can charge the standard interest rate on the entire balance...retroactively. Ouch!

Also watch out for the late fees, which have recently skyrocketed. Some people get hit with late fees on their electronic transfers...which can take 2-3 days to process. Make sure to read the notice inserts that arrive with your statements. Policy and rate changes can be made with as little as 15-days notice with some companies. For more information, go to

Six Top Job Networking Tips

Are you looking to enhance your career or make a job change that’ll get you on the road to success? Here are six surefire networking strategies:

1. Network frequently. Did you know that 48% of all jobs are obtained through referrals? It’s true. Networking is crucial to any job search.
2. Prepare a “20-second introduction” about you. Practice a mini introduction about you, your skills, and abilities…before attending a networking event.
3. Be open to everyone you meet. A chance meeting with a stranger on a plane, train, tennis court, or at a hotel conference, can pay off suddenly in a new job or a new business client. Talk to everyone you meet, hand out your business cards with your telephone number, address, and email address. Then, stay connected to those people!
4. Find out how you can contribute to a company that interests you. Do your homework and ask a lot of questions. Find out how you and your skills can best help the company.
5. Volunteer. Volunteering can help you build networking relationships, develop new skills, and give you a feeling of accomplishment.
6. Follow Up. Always send a thank you note to people who you meet and talk with at networking events. Thank them for their time and let them know about you and your skills and experience.

Helpful Tips When Traveling Abroad

You’ve booked your flight, you’re almost ready to go...but don’t leave without first reading some important “must knows” when traveling abroad in Third World countries:

1. Drink only bottled water or canned beverages. Don’t use ice! Also, dry off the outside of wet bottles and cans before using them.
2. Always brush your teeth with bottled water.
3. Be very careful about buying food or drinks from street vendors.
4. Be careful eating the food and water on your return flight.
5. Make sure you have medical coverage (travel insurance) when you are in foreign counties. Check to see what coverage is available. For more information go to

Friday, March 13, 2009

Important News About Blood Pressure!!

Here’s important news about lowering your blood pressure! In a recent study that appears in the Journal of Hypertension, researchers evaluated 25 studies on the effects of dietary fiber and blood pressure.
They found that by adding fiber to the diet, there was a reduction in both systolic (the top number in a blood pressure reading) and diastolic (the bottom number) blood pressure in patients with high blood pressure.

Today, over 50 million Americans and 1 billion people around the world have high blood pressure, so this finding comes as BIG news!
Dietary fiber includes fruit, cereal, fiber pills, and vegetables. In the study, the fiber intake ranged from 3.8 grams per day to125 grams per day. So, if you’re concerned about lowering your blood pressure, you’ll want to add more fruits, veggies, and cereal to your diet, exercise daily, and watch your weight. You’ll be glad you did!

Interest Rates Affect You

Interest rates can have a huge impact on your finances, especially if you carry a lot of debt. Here’s some important information that can help you manage your money more successfully:
1. Credit cards. When the Federal Reserve raises rates, expect to pay more. It’s best to pay off your credit card debt, or switch to a card with a lower interest rate, Go to for credit card rates.
2. Home-equity line of credit. You can use your home-equity line of credit if you can pay off the amount you borrow within three years. If you’re unable to pay off the amount in three years, obtain a home-equity loan with a fixed rate. Go to for bank rates.
3. Mortgages. If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage you may pay more as rates go up. Financials advisors recommend an adjustable-rate loan with a five or seven-year fixed period.
4. Bonds. When rates go up, generally the yields on most bonds go up. For your protection, invest in funds that hold Treasury and high-quality corporate bonds.

Are You Disorganized?

Can’t find your keys? Missed an appointment? Still looking for that file you misplaced? Well, if you’re like thousands of people, searching for simple solutions to a big organization problems can be a problem!

There may be hope. Here are five quick tips to get (and stay) organized:

1. Keep an errand basket by the door for returning books, videotapes, dry-cleaning, etc.
2. De-clutter your junk drawer using plastic cutlery trays that come in a variety of sizes.
3. Keep a donation box in your laundry room or garage. Add unneeded clothing, books, toys, or small appliances and drop off monthly.
4. Do one small chore each day (dust, straighten one room, vacuum).
5. Have a key rack near the door with two sets of car and house keys. Remember the adage, a place for everything and everything in its place!

Kindness Is Good For You!

When was that last time you noticed you were grumpy, then, out of the blue, someone does or says something nice to you? Didn’t it make you feel better…even a lot better?

When you are kind to other people, it also makes you feel good about yourself. And it’s good for your health. Researchers have found positive people have fewer health problems. In his book, It’s a Meaningful Life, it Just Takes Practice, author Bo Lozoff writes about the importance of being kind and building a better community. That community encompasses family, friends, co-workers, and the people you meet in your daily life (the bank teller, cashier, the parking lot attendant).

So as you go about your day, be kinder to your spouse, your kids, your co-workers, and wherever your travels take you. Then see if adding a little more kindness to your daily diet makes a difference in how you feel, how other people respond to you, and how others feel when you are kind to them. It’s a worthwhile experiment!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Create Healthy Money Stratagies for your Kids

We all want our kids to do well in life...and not make some of the mistakes we might have made. Here are seven important money strategies to teach your kids that will serve them well throughout their lives:
1) Don’t carry debt. Avoid credit card debt. It’s expensive money! In fact, about 30% of college graduates will enter the workforce with $10,000 to $25,000 in credit card debt and other loans.
2) Pay yourself first. Have your children open an investment account and regularly have them put away money for goals and emergencies.
3) Set up a budget and track your expenses. Help your children set up their own budget, and teach them how to track their income (from allowances, gifts, money earned) and expenses.
4) Don’t compare yourself with others. A friend may drive a fancy car and wear expensive clothing, but they actually may be deeply in debt.
5) Don’t trust anyone with your money. No one cares as much about your money as you do.
6) Invest in a Roth IRA, and/or a market index when you start earning money. To reach long-term goals investing is a must.
Money doesn’t buy happiness. Money can make life easier when you don’t have to struggle financially to make ends meet. But money can’t buy love or happiness.

Strong Healthy Bones…For Life!

Nearly 10 million Americans suffer from Osteoporosis. By 2020, half of all citizens over 50 will be at high risk for developing the condition. In a recent report, “Bone Health and Osteoporosis,” U. S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona outlines important measures you can take to maintain strong, healthy and happy bones for life.

One of the most common myths, he says, is that only women need to worry about bone health. Osteoporosis affects men and women of all races. By age 75, osteoporosis is as common in men as it is in women!

Are you at risk? The first symptom of osteoporosis is a bone fracture. Other risk factors include: low calcium/vitamin D intake, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, body weight less than 125 lbs, long-term steroid medication like prednisone or cortisone, eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, and early menopause.

How to maintain strong bones? First, while bone weakness is evident in older Americans, strong bones begin in childhood. Here are four steps you can take today to prevent osteoporosis and maintain strong, healthy bones:

1. Get the recommended amount of daily calcium by drinking milk and eating green leafy vegetables, soybeans, yogurt, and cheese. (1,000 mg of calcium per day).
2. Exercise 30 minutes per day for adults; 60 minutes a day for children. This can be walking, running, or any weight-baring exercise.
3. Get Vitamin D (200 IU), which is produced in the skin by exposure to the sun. It’s also found in fortified milk and cereals
4. Your doctor can order a bone density test (DEXA), which measures bone density at the spine, hip, and wrist where most fractures occur.

For more information on osteoporosis, call 1-866-718-BONE, or go to

Be a Smart Online Shopper

Surfing the web has become part of daily life for over 240 million people worldwide (and growing). But new practices by many web merchants, combined with foul play from a few unscrupulous web tyrants, have made cyberspace not only inconvenient, but potentially dangerous.

Many web merchants are trafficking your personal information to other vendors and institutions. When you log on to a merchant’s web site, a small packet of software (the notorious “cookie”) is placed on your computer’s hard drive to track every mouse click as you shop or move about.

Many shopping sites function poorly or not at all without the cookie. For example, book seller (and its cookie) enables the site to remember your name, make buying suggestions based on previous purchases, and streamline order and shipping information. This tracking appears as a convenience when shopping, but the very same information can be used by the wrong people to cause great harm. Here are a few suggestions to safeguard your personal information and shop safely when on-line.

1. Read the web merchant’s privacy policy. Make sure you’re routed to a secure site when ordering. Expect to share personal information to make a purchase, however, don’t consent to your personal information being shared, sold or exchanged. The web site should offer you a simple “one click” way to remove your personal information from all of its lists.
2. Give your purchase 10 to 14 days to be delivered. Part of a multi-item order may be “back-ordered” and won’t be delivered on schedule. If you need a gift, consider a gift certificate. It can be delivered immediately by e-mail or relatively quickly by regular postal service.
3. Obtain and save an order confirmation number. An order number or UPS tracking number is frequently required to locate your purchases during shipping. If there’s a problem with your order, the confirmation number is your first line of proof and legal protection.
4. Check out the return policies when you shop online. Due to the expenses of shipping and handling, many cyber-stores will charge 10% to 20% re-stocking fee for returned or exchanged items. Larger retail sites are more likely to take responsibility for returns and waive re-stocking fees.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Power of One Small Step…

Are you having trouble losing weight? Saving money? Or reaching some of your goals? Here’s an interesting approach to life: Instead of trying to achieve the “big goals” try something small. For one minute a day, try making a small change. Sound intriguing?

Author Robert Maurer, “One Small Step Can Change Your Life,” says here’s how it works...instead of crash dieting, try taking one thing off your plate. Or, if can’t seem to find the time to exercise...walk one minute a day in front of the TV. Maurer’s clients reported that small steps led to big client lost 40 pounds with this approach.

Maurer says using small steps helps people overcome their fears and roadblocks. Small steps can reinforce and build good habits. Here are a few suggestions: Overspending? Take one item out of your cart before checking out. Feeling a little down? Take time to notice and cherish one small moment of joy a day. Craving fast food? Go ahead, but order the children’s meal.

Tips For Saving Fuel

Gasoline prices at the pump can take a toll on your pocketbook. Here are eight ways you can save the next time you “filler-up.”

1. Fill your gas tank in the morning or late evening when it is cool outside. It will help reduce fuel evaporation.
2. Service your vehicle regularly. A poorly tuned engine can increase fuel consumption by up to 50%.
3. Avoid excessive idling. Turn off the engine if you’re idling more than two minutes. Idling increases gas consumption by one gallon per hour.
5. Shop for the best price. When your fuel gauge is half-full start looking. Buying gas at wholesale clubs can save you up to 12 cents a gallon.
6. Park in the shade. You’re less likely to use your air conditioner if your car is cooler. When driving on the highway, keep your windows up to reduce air drag, which can reduce your gas mileage by10%.
7. Make sure your tires are inflated adequately. Under inflated tires can increase fuel consumption by 5%.
8. Avoid “fast starts.” They not only increase fuel consumption, but increase tire wear.

Get A Leaner Stomach

If you’re like most of us out there you’d like to lose a little around the middle. The easiest way to get rid of stomach fat is to reduce your carbohydrates. These are foods many of us love to consume: crackers, chips, white bread, cakes, cookies, candy, pizza.

But if you’re really serious about losing your belly, there are some easy ways to do it, and it doesn’t require medical intervention. First, start by eating lean meat (chicken, turkey, and seafood). Eliminate breads, pasta, rice, baked goods, candy and alcohol for two weeks, so you can train your body to live without the cravings. Limit fruits for the first two weeks, but you can eat lots of veggies.

At week three you can add a small serving of rice, pasta or bread two times a day. Continue to eliminate refined sugars from your diet. Next issue we’ll discuss where you go from here.

Never Use Plastic in the Microwave

Could using plastics in the microwave be dangerous to your health? The answer is “yes,” according to important news from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

There have been many stories circulating about the safety of microwaves, heating, plastics and food. Some have focused on dioxin, a known carcinogen. Dioxin occurs in our environment, primarily from the incineration of waste materials, according to Dr. Rolf Halden, at John Hopkins Bloomberg School. People are exposed to dioxin mostly from eating meat and fish rich in fat. But it may not be the sole offender.

There are other concerns we should consider, according to Halden. There’s a group of chemicals called “phthalates” that have been added to some plastics to make them flexible and less brittle. If you heat these plastics, it can increase the leaching of phthalates from the containers into your food.

Many scientific studies have shown that when you heat up an object, the chemicals are more likely to release into the environment. This is the same with plastics...and possibly the plastic packaging in some microwave meals.

Another chemical, diethylhexyl adipate (DEHA), is also used to make plastics more flexible. DEHA exposure can occur when eating certain foods wrapped in plastics. “It’s true that substances used to make plastics can leach into food,” says Edward Machuga, Ph.D., a consumer safety officer in the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “But the levels are low.”

What should you do? People should use heat resistant glass, Corning Ware or ceramic containers for heating food in the microwave. Don’t use foam or plastic carryout containers from restaurants or margarine tubs in the microwave, according to the FDA. And never use plastic storage bags, grocery bags, newspapers or aluminum foil in the microwave.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

5 Loan Scams

Avoid Like Poison…

Short on cash? Need a small loan to tide you over? You’re not alone. Every day thousands of people walk a financial tightrope, and need a short-term loan to bridge the gap between bill-day and pay-day. But some of these loans can actually lead to financial ruin. Don’t become a victim of unscrupulous loan scams. Here’s important information you should know about five loans programs to avoid:

Scam #1: Advance Fee Loans. There are companies that prey on people with poor credit history. And for a fee, they claim they can find a lender who will approve their loan. A “red flag” should go up any time you see a request for fees “up front” for an application, processing a loan, or appraisal or credit reports. Any fees should be part of the loan.

Scam #2: Payday Loans. These short-term loans, ($100-$500) are issued against a borrower’s paycheck. The borrower postdates a check for an amount plus a fee. When the borrower is paid, the lender cashes the check. But here’s where it gets dicey: If the borrower can’t pay the loan back at the end of the loan period they hold the loan for another pay period, and tack on another fee. Fees can be as high as $20 per $100 loan.

Scam #3: Pawnshop Loans. These are short-term, quick cash loans
(average $75-$85), and are secured by personal collateral. Interest ranges from 2%-25% per month for 30-90 days. The collateral is sold if the interest and loan isn’t paid on time.
Scam #4: Title Loans. Your car’s title is used to secure these loans (generally 30 days). The amount is determined by your car’s value. Interest rates vary from state to state, and can go as high as 30% per year.

Scam #5: High Loan-To-Value Ratio Home Equity Loans. This loan is secured by the equity in your home; however, the danger is that you can end up paying more than your house is worth.

Before considering any of these loans, talk to your own bank about a loan. If your bank turns you down, find out why and if there’s anything you can do. You may be able to put up collateral to secure the loan, or get a co-signer to agree to assume some of the responsibility for the loan.

Migraine Sufferers Check This Out

Did you know that bacteria can trigger a migraine headache? About 50% of chronic migraine sufferers are infected with the ulcer-causing stomach bug Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).

Migraine sufferers who were treated with antibiotics reduced the frequency of migraine attacks. Among those who were also treated with supplements of the friendly bacterium Lactobacillus, 80% were headache free for one year. Lactobacillus has been shown to inhibit growth of the H. pilori bacteria.

If you suffer from chronic headaches, ask your physician if you should be tested for H. pilori – and if treatment with antibiotics and/or Lactobacillus is right for you.

Earnest Money Answers

Q. I am saving money to buy a home, but I’m not totally clear on what the term “earnest money” means. What is earnest money?

A. First, let me commend you on saving money for a home. Buying a house is probably the most important purchase you’ll make in your lifetime – and having cash available gives you more options with your purchase.

Earnest money is an important factor when you’re making an offer on a house. When you make an offer to purchase a house, the “earnest money” is the deposit that shows the buyer you are serious about the purchase. The money opens the escrow and can be applied to the buyers’ down payment or closing costs.

The earnest money amount is negotiable. It typically varies depending on the price of the house and strength of the market. Generally, it’s recommended that your earnest money deposit be about two percent of your offered price. And although earnest money is not required by law in most states, it’s standard practice in real estate transactions.

When the seller accepts your offer and earnest money, the property is taken off the market. In a hot real estate market, a large deposit may impress a seller enough so they will accept your offer instead of someone else’s. However, buyer beware…it can also put you at significant financial risk if for some reason the transaction runs into trouble not covered by a contingency in your purchase agreement.

The Standard Offer And Purchase Contract stipulates under what conditions your earnest money will be returned if the contract fails. If you are in the market for a home and need competent and caring representation, please call me at 206-226-0565.

Resume Tips

Finding a new job may be the first step to getting ahead and making more money. One of the biggest roadblocks to your success may be your resume. A resume is a tool to let a potential employer know why you’re the right person for the job. When you’re looking for a job, how you present yourself to a potential employer is critical.

Human resources recruiters receive thousands of resumes a year. Typically, they look for a reason to eliminate resumes up front. Here are 10 of the biggest mistakes people make on their resumes:
1. Typo’s, spelling errors, and poor grammar.
2. Missing information (contact information, dates, or inaccurate dates).
3. Lengthy resumes. (Limit to two pages.)
4. Unprofessional email addresses.
5. Poorly formatted. (Use a simple, clean design.)
6. Functional resumes as opposed to chronological resumes.
7. Long, wordy paragraphs. (Use bullet-points.)
8. Unqualified candidates. (Make sure you meet the qualifications.)
9. Personal info unrelated to the job.
10. Use of false or misleading information. Lying about education, dates of employment, or experience.)
For valuable information about job seeking tips and resumes, go to