June Croissette
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RE/MAX 440   June Croissette
440 South West End Blvd, RT 309  Quakertown, PA  18951
Office Phone: 215-538-4400    Phone: 215-538-4400 Ext. 1210  Fax: 267-354-6834  Cell: 215-872-4966
jcroissette@remax440.com

My Blog

Life Insurance Strengthens Your Financial Safety Net

October 22, 2014 4:35 am

(Family Features) Protecting your financial security is about more than having money in the bank now and in the near future. It’s also about long-term financial protection for your family. However, a significant share of Americans is putting their financial security at risk.

It’s estimated that one in three U.S. households have no life insurance at all, and for those that do, they only own, on average, enough to replace their household income for three and a half years, according to LIMRA, a leading life insurance research organization. What happens to your loved ones after that?

“Life insurance can help replace your salary, pay off a mortgage, cover childcare expenses or protect college dreams if you pass away prematurely,” says Cynthia Tidwell, president and CEO of Royal Neighbors of America. “Families need to be protected from the unexpected.”

Royal Neighbors debunks misconceptions about life insurance by suggesting several options to meet needs in various situations. One economical option to consider is term insurance for families. Term insurance provides coverage at a fixed premium amount for a specific time period. Think of it as “renting” life insurance for a set number of years. It is an affordable choice to protect income and meet family expenses such as paying the mortgage or other debts.

Another option is to consider life insurance as a necessity for expenses beyond a funeral. LIMRA’s 2011 “Trillion Dollar Baby” report recommends that while typical families average enough coverage for three years, adequate life insurance protection starts at twice that, from seven to 10 years.

A third option is to purchase life insurance for yourself or your children as early as possible, because the cost is generally cheaper the younger and healthier you are, Tidwell explains. She recommends purchasing permanent coverage (whole life insurance) because policies will build cash value.

Alternatively, families might look for economical term policies that can be converted to more permanent insurance no matter what happens to your health. Experts suggest buying term and investing the rest; however, most people who buy term don’t invest the rest.

Source: Royal Neighbors

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Prevent High Winter Utility Bills with Door and Window Maintenance

October 22, 2014 4:35 am

(BPT) - How much do you spend on utilities? Are you looking for ways to save? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a typical American household spends about $2,100 on energy bills each year. Most of that expense comes from a home's energy use during the winter heating season. A quick home checkup can help you can reduce these costs, prepare for winter and enjoy energy savings.

Properly installed and maintained windows and doors can help keep your home more comfortable year-round. Save on heating costs by preparing your windows and doors for winter with these tips:
  • Clear sills and moving parts of dirt and debris. Debris like sand, dirt or leaves can get caught in windowsills and moving parts of windows or doors. Clean these areas with a dry paintbrush to create a tighter seal and enhance window and door performance.
  • Check weather stripping. Re-attach or replace missing or worn weather stripping around windows and doors. Loose weather stripping can let cold air in during the winter and out in the summer, reducing energy efficiency.
  • Reapply caulk or sealant around windows and doors. Reseal areas around windows and doors that may have been exposed to heavy weather or extreme sunlight - creating breaks in caulk or sealant - to help reduce potential drafts and leaks.
  • Installing snap-in blinds or shades. Install snap-in blinds or shades to help insulate your home from cold outdoor temperatures.
  • Repair or replace damaged exterior surfaces. Cracked or deteriorated wood associated with water penetration may allow moisture or cold air to leak into your home. Look closely for signs of moisture leakage and replace damaged wood. Consult a professional to help correct any roof or drainage problems around your home.
  • Install storm doors. Storm doors add an extra layer of protection and help reduce air and moisture leakage.
  • Replace old windows and doors with energy-efficient ones. If you have single-pane glass, clear glass, or older windows or doors, you may be paying more to heat your home in the winter and cool it in the summer. Replace old windows with energy-efficient, double or triple-pane glass versions made with insulating argon, or install new durable fiberglass doors to help save money and energy year-round.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Housing Survey Reveals Trends in Neighbors, Public Transit and Disaster Preparedness

October 22, 2014 4:35 am

Among the findings of the 2013 American Housing Survey, roughly half of all American households report getting along with their next door neighbors and are willing to lend a helping hand if needed. The survey was recently released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The survey includes information about neighborhood social life, use of public transportation, and the extent to which American families are prepared for disaster:

Neighborhood Social Life
  • More than three-quarters of households report talking to their neighbor within the past month (82.4 percent).
  • Over half of households strongly agree they get along with their neighbors (50.7 percent).
  • Nearly half are very willing to help their neighbors (49.7 percent).
Public Transportation/Biking/Walking
  • Twenty million households use some form of public transportation, primarily local buses.
  • More than 40 percent (40.2 percent) of households report biking or walking to nearby destinations such as entertainment, grocery stores, shopping centers, work, school and places of worship.
  • Sixty-four million households report sidewalks in their neighborhood.
  • Less than 15 percent of households report their neighborhoods have dedicated bike lanes (14.5 percent).
Disaster Preparedness
  • Over 75 percent of households claim to have enough non-perishable food to sustain family members for three days (83.7 percent).
  • Thirty-eight percent of 2-or-more-person households have an agreed-upon meeting location in the event of an emergency.
  • More than 56 million households have a pet, with 15.2 million requiring help evacuating their pets in the event of an emergency.
  • Over one-fifth of households do not have sufficient funds ($2000) in the event of an emergency evacuation (27.7 percent).
Source: HUD

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Why Replace It When You Can Paint It

October 21, 2014 4:35 am

I recently became acquainted with Lisa Kaplan Gordon, a builder of luxury homes in McLean, VA. She has published a wonderful guide to help evaluate whether homeowners can refresh certain areas or furnishings with a new coat of paint.

In this first of several segments, we'll look at a couple of unconventional areas where a few cans of paint can save consumers hundreds if their alternative is replacing the item.

First, let's consider appliances.

Gordon says use indoor appliance paint to change colors, or a liquid stainless steel application to give your appliance a stainless steel look. Use a roller for small touch-ups; and two or three thin coats of spray paint for total appliance coverage.

To prep:

1. Clean appliance exteriors with a heavy-duty cleaning solution and, if needed, a scrubbing pad.

2. Remove handles and hardware; place painters tape over trim and logos.

3. Sand the exterior.

Then:

Be sure the front of your appliance is metal, not plastic. Plastic exteriors will require priming.

If spray-painting, haul the appliance outdoors to avoid getting paint on cabinets and floors.

If painting indoors, open windows to promote ventilation.

For the stainless look, apply Liquid Stainless Steel with a brush.

Gordon also loves the idea of covering stains and reviving carpets with upholstery paint. Her source, Kathie Smula of Spray It New upholstery paint says carpets with a short pile are the best candidates for painting; unfortunately, long-pile carpets become hard and matted when painted.

To prep:

1. Thoroughly clean the carpet. You don’t have to steam clean, but scrub the worst stains and vacuum so dirt doesn’t mix with paint.

2. Skip priming and just spray paint two or three coats, depending on how deep you want the color. Make sure it’s dry to the touch before spraying another coat.

Then:

Don’t confuse upholstery paint for carpets, with fabric paint, which is good for T-shirts.

If you get paint clumps, loosen the area with a bristle brush and dab up excess paint.

Six cans of spray paint will cover an 8-foot-by-10-foot carpet with at least two coats.

In future segments we'll touch base with Gordon on other ways to touch-up with paint versus replacing!

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Clear Up Cluttered Kitchen Countertops

October 21, 2014 4:35 am

While homebuyers seek ample kitchen counter space when searching for a home, surface area tends to fill up quickly as homeowners settle in to their new digs. Reclaim your countertops in time for the holidays with these clutter-busting tricks.

Designate an area for paper.
Adopt a storage solution for mail or loose papers, such as a kitchen desk, tray or basket. Set up your paper station away from cook tops, sinks and other food preparation areas where they can get damaged.

Reserve counters for essentials only. Keep counters clear by stowing away appliances and tools your family does not use on a regular basis. A good rule of thumb is to store items that have not been used in over a month.

Arrange items according to function. Group items similarly to stay organized and avoid cluttering other areas of your kitchen. For instance, keep your coffee maker, coffee, cups and filters confined to one section of your countertop.

Cut down on food storage containers. To remove Tupperware from countertops, reduce the amount you own to only those that fit within each other. This will make them easier to store, freeing up even more space on your kitchen counter.

Source: Consumer Reports

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Is Your Car Ready for Winter?

October 21, 2014 4:35 am

Consumers have leveraged the changing of the clocks to remember important but infrequent tasks like replacing smoke alarm batteries. AAA suggests motorists also use this event, taking place at 2:00 a.m. on November 2, as a reminder to check their vehicle for winter readiness.

"The end of daylight savings time means that winter weather is on the way, which can be rough on your car," says AAA's director of Automotive Engineering, Greg Brannon. "This is a good time to have vehicle systems checked and perform important maintenance to ensure your car is in peak condition."

Harsh winter conditions make your vehicle work harder, particularly the charging and starting system, headlights, tires and windshield wipers. AAA recommends that motorists:
  • Clean any corrosion from battery posts and cable connections and wash all surfaces with battery terminal cleaner or a solution of baking soda and water. Have the battery checked by a professional to ensure it is strong enough to face cold weather.
  • Have any engine drivability problems corrected at a good repair shop. Symptoms like hard starts, rough idling, stalling or diminished power could signal a problem that would be exacerbated by cold weather.
  • Replace worn windshield-wiper blades. If your climate is harsh, purchase one-piece beam-type or rubber-clad "winter" blades to fight snow and ice build-up. Use cold-weather windshield washer solvent and carry an ice-scraper.
  • Inspect all lights and bulbs and replace burned out bulbs. Clean road grime or clouding from all lenses.
  • Have your mechanic check the exhaust system for leaks and look for any holes in the trunk and floorboards.
  • Examine tires for tread depth, uneven wearing and cupping. Check tire pressures once a month when tires are cold before driving for any distance. In extreme climates, a set of winter snow tires may be a wise investment.
Sourc

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The Top 5 Most Haunted Destinations in America

October 20, 2014 4:35 am

Every town has a ghost story, but some destinations embrace their haunted pasts in a way that attracts an influx of tourism during the Halloween season. The travel experts at Hotels.com® have named the five best Halloween travel destinations stemming from spooky literature, film and folklore.
  • Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.: Home of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" author Washington Irving, this quaint Hudson River Valley town one hour north of Manhattan transforms into a festive Halloween celebration in October. Visitors can tour Irving's Sunnyside estate, hear live readings of the short story and visit the famous Sleepy Hollow Cemetery that served as its setting.
  • Salem, Mass.: Infamous for the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century, this city outside of Boston draws visitors year round with various tours, museums and a thriving witchcraft culture. The festivities are amplified in October, when the annual Haunted Happenings celebration offers a variety of attractions, including haunted houses, theatre performances, films and parades.
  • New Orleans, La.: While most tourists visit New Orleans for its nightlife and music scene, the city is also renowned for its vampire folklore, which has inspired a number of novels and films. In addition to various vampire walking tours that are offered around the French Quarter year round, New Orleans also hosts several vampire-themed events around Halloween, including masquerade balls, cocktail parties and book signings.
  • Estes Park, Colo.: Located at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is famous for being home to The Stanley Hotel, which inspired one of the most popular modern horror novels of our time. The hotel offers haunted tours to the public and hosts a number of Halloween events, including a masquerade ball and a murder mystery dinner. Visitors can also try the Redrum Ale at Estes Park Brewery or get dressed up for the Estes Park Community Trick-or-Treat event downtown.
  • Charleston, S.C.: In addition to being South Carolina's oldest city and having a rich haunted history, Charleston also has connections to Edgar Allan Poe. Bulldog Tours offers a private tour of locations that purportedly inspired Poe's work, including the Unitarian Churchyard that is said to be haunted by the subject of his last completed poem – Annabel Lee. Nearby Sullivan's Island, where Poe was stationed in the military, is home to the Edgar Allan Poe Library and Poe's Tavern, where diners can order from an extensive themed menu.
Source: Hotels.com

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How to Make Your Home Safe for Trick-or-Treaters

October 20, 2014 4:35 am

If you’re expecting trick-or-treaters at your home this Halloween, take time to rid your yard of any potential hazards that can compromise a child’s safety. Follow these steps for a fun and safe Halloween in your neighborhood. The costumed crowd, and their parents or guardians, will thank you.

Secure your entryway. Before trick-or-treaters come bounding up your doorstep, look for trip hazards like loose pavers or extension cords. Guide children around these dangers with markers, or restrict access completely.

Avoid using flammable materials in your décor. According to FEMA, more fires occur on Halloween night. Swap out the candles in your jack-o’-lanterns for LED alternatives, and be cautious when using seasonal flammable décor, like hay or dried cornstalks, which can easily catch fire if too close to heat sources.

Light up the night. Aside from keeping all porch lights on, consider turning the lights on in rooms that have windows facing the street. If you have a longer walkway, add tea lights or glow sticks to light the path.

Contain your pet.
Costumes can sometimes spook dogs, even those who are normally well behaved around strangers. Set your pooch up with a comfortable space inside and away from the front door.

Source: Zillow

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Safely Operate Your Portable Generator

October 20, 2014 4:35 am

(Family Features) In a variety of situations, portable generators can supply temporary or remote electric power. From emergencies to recreational and construction activities, portable generators become a welcome addition to any instance when power is needed. For outdoor events such as tailgating, hunting and camping, an inverter generator is a quiet, reliable option. These temporary power sources can be used to power televisions, radios, small appliances, fans and space heaters. However, it is important for operators to understand that there are risks involved when operating a portable generator.

"Portable generators are helpful in various situations, but the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by their improper use are very real," said Joe Harding, representative for Portable Generator Manufacturers' Association (PGMA).

Before using one of these helpful devices at your next event, there are a few things to remember in order to keep friends and family safe.

  • Do not run portable generators inside homes, garages, basements, crawlspaces, sheds or other partially-enclosed spaces, even if using fans or opening doors and windows. Carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these spaces and linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.
  • Only operate a portable generator outside, far away from windows, doors and vents to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide gas accumulating and potentially being drawn toward occupied spaces.
  • Install battery-operated carbon monoxide alarms or plug-in alarms with battery backup according to the manufacturer's instructions. Smoke alarms cannot detect carbon monoxide gas.
  • Always place your portable generator downwind and point the engine exhaust away from occupied spaces.
  • The symptoms of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning can be similar to those caused by other illness such as cold, flu or food poisoning. If you suspect you or a family member are experiencing any of these symptoms due to carbon monoxide poisoning, get outside to fresh air immediately and call 911 for emergency medical attention.
  • Always refer to the generator owner's manual for further information about safe operation and potential hazards.
Regardless of the events requiring the use of portable generators, safety precautions should be considered in order to reduce risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Source: PGMA

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7 Cardinal Rules to Retirement Planning

October 17, 2014 4:35 am

An onslaught of retiring baby boomers; the uncertain duration of Social Security funding; difficulty with workplace retirement accounts like 401(k)s—even if these factors were stronger than they are now, you’d still have a heavy burden in managing your finances during retirement, says financial planner Carl Edwards.

“Financial planning for retirement has always been a daunting prospect; the current landscape simply makes your preparation that much more crucial in using your assets well,” says Edwards, a highly credentialed consultant and owner of C.E. Wealth Group, (http://www.cewealth.com).

“Many advisors and clients rely too much on single product lines. This misuse often gives products and the financial industry in general a bad name. Advisors who are restricted in the types of financial products they can offer or understand may not provide the best advice. Independent and credentialed planners, on the other hand, don’t have their hands tied in what they can offer clients and may provide better advice.”

Edwards reviews seven essential points that everyone should know regarding retirement planning.

• Avoid trying to time the market. Markets often move in cycles and some investors believe that they can boost their investment returns by buying at the bottom and selling at the top. The problem is that investors are terrible at correctly predicting market movements and multiple studies have shown that market timers usually end up with significantly smaller retirement savings than buy-and-hold investors. While it can be stressful to see your portfolio plummet during a market correction, it’s important to stay calm and focus on your long-term strategy.

• Use risk-appropriate financial vehicles. Retiring can be a risky business. The days of relying on employer-provided pension plans are largely over and retirees now have to deal with risks including investment, inflation, healthcare, longevity and others. Though the total elimination of risk isn’t possible, we can manage many of them through competent retirement planning and a clear understanding of factors like your goals, time horizon and financial circumstances.

• Invest in the most tax-efficient manner. Taxes can take a big bite out of investment returns, which is why we stress tax-efficient planning with our clients. While taxes are just one piece of the overall financial puzzle, it’s important to structure your investments so that you are able to keep what you earn.

• Complete a cash flow analysis.
Retirement will involve major changes to your finances. Sources and timing of income will change and financial priorities may shift as you start generating income from retirement savings. A cash flow analysis will identify spending patterns and help ensure that you have enough income to support your retirement lifestyle.

• Guarantee your required income. For many retirees, having income that is not subject to market fluctuations is an important part of their retirement plan. Many will have at least some level of guaranteed income from Social Security or defined benefit pension plans. However, if you are worried that your expenses exceed your guaranteed income, a financial advisor can help you explore options for additional streams of income for life. Guarantees are subject to the paying ability of the income provider.

• Utilize longevity planning.
Today’s retirees are living longer than ever and many worry about outliving their assets. Longevity planning is about preparing for a happy, comfortable and independent retirement and can help ensure that your wealth lasts as long as you need it to.

• Consider the effects of inflation.
Inflation is one of the biggest issues facing retirees because they are disproportionately affected by rising prices. Escalating food, fuel and medical costs can devastate a retirement portfolio unless these costs have been factored into your planning. Positioning your retirement portfolio to fight inflation is critical to ensuring adequate income in retirement.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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