Monday, March 24, 2014

Seven Basic Principles for a Healthy Home

1. Keep your home dry. Check for external and internal leaks in roofing and plumbing. Moisture invites mold, which can cause serious problems. 2. Keep it clean. Clean surfaces frequently to control allergy-causing dust. 3. Keep it safe. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Have fire extinguishers available on each floor. 4. Keep it well-ventilated. Increase the amount of fresh air, which improves respiratory health. 5. Keep it pest free. Seal cracks and openings to keep the critters out and store all food securely. 6. Keep it contaminant free. Check for deteriorating lead-based paint in homes built before 1978. Have your home tested for radon. 7. Keep it well maintained. Routinely inspect your home and make repairs. Better to fix small problems before they become bigger ones.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Risky Investor Traps

You’re anxious to rebuild your nest egg but want to make sure you invest wisely. Here are some of the top products and practices you should avoid, according to the North American Securities Administrators Association: Foreign Exchange Trading Schemes. Beware of salesmen who claim to have algorithms or propriety software programs that allow them to beat the market. State regulators have found situations where there are no trades; the money is simply stolen. “Green” schemes. New energy-efficient technologies are popular, but be wary of those exploiting headlines related to the Gulf oil spill clean-up and “clean” innovations, such as wind energies or carbon credits. Oil & Gas schemes. These investments tend to be unsuitable for smaller investors who can’t afford the risk. While ventures can be legitimate, some promoters structure their “general partnerships” to avoid securities regulation. Affinity fraud. Scam artists like to prey on groups, such as church members and professional groups. Seek further information from an unbiased, independent source. Undisclosed conflicts of interest. Demand that anyone giving advice or recommendations disclose how they are compensated. Private or special deals. Although properly used by many legitimate issuers, private offerings have become an attractive option for con artists who steal money by promoting special deals. “Off the Books” deals. Be cautious if your broker offers an investment on the side instead of one sold through his or her employer. Unsolicited online pitches. Fraudulent investment scammers are now using social media (Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, YouTube) to solicit unsuspecting investors. Approach any unsolicited investment opportunity with suspicion. How do you avoid getting taken? Do your homework, be skeptical and only do business with licensed brokers and advisers. Check out any adviser before you invest at a site such as Report any suspicion of fraud to your state or provincial securities regulator.

Friday, March 7, 2014

5 Things To Never Carry

Do you even know all the things that are in your wallet or purse right now? Here are five items to look for and remove to limit your risk of identity theft if your wallet is lost or stolen: • Multiple credit cards. Carry just one card or possibly a debit card. Don’t carry specific credit cards (like a department store) or gift cards unless you’re going on a shopping trip. Thieves often use them without having to show identification. Good idea: Do a wallet inventory and photocopy all the cards you own so you can report their loss and replace them if necessary. • Your social security number. With this most important key to your identity and your name, thieves can do everything from opening new accounts to filing false tax returns. Good idea: Memorize your number. If you have a Medicare card, copy your card and black out the numbers except for the final four. • Your passport. If you’re going overseas you must travel with it, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep carrying it around. Good idea: Carry a photocopy and leave the original in your hotel lockbox. • Checks. Your checks show your bank routing and account numbers, and thieves often sign them and get away with it. Good idea: If you must carry checks, take just what you might need for that day. Also try online banking to pay your bills. • Password list. No one can remember all of them, I know. Good idea: Use an encrypted tool to store your password like the SplashID mobile app or for your computer.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What are some remodeling trends for 2014?

According to a poll of builders and developers for CBS Moneywatch by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the overall trend is to take on small projects while you wait to do the really big ones. Here are some specific trends to watch for if you’re remodeling or selling soon: • Updating bathrooms. It’s cheaper than doing a kitchen but you need to keep a close eye on your budget. • Warming up the house with earth tones and metallic features, such as aged bronze or distressed hardware. • Opening up rooms. More people are taking down interior walls and opening up spaces in older homes. • Going green. The focus is on energy-efficient upgrades. • Paying in cash. Instead of taking out a loan, people are picking and choosing what they can do with the cash they have. • Hiring good contractors. Asking questions and being more diligent about choosing quality contractors is on the rise. • Spending time outside. The trend is to fix up outdoor spaces with a deck and landscaping.