RE/MAX 440
Howard C Schaeffer
howardschaeffer@remax.net
Howard C Schaeffer
4789 Route 309
Center Valley  PA 18034
PH: 610-791-4400
O: 610-791-4400
C: 610-554-7759
F: 267-354-6233 
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Seven Ways to Protect Against Identity Theft

October 24, 2014 4:35 am

Identity theft is a fast-growing problem, with multiple, large companies being victimized by major data breaches in the past year – and the pace is accelerating. More than 200 million data records were stolen in just the first quarter of 2014, according to research by SafeNet. One in three people who are victims of data breaches will quickly become victims of fraud, found Javelin Strategy and Research.

"Data breaches continue to be a pervasive problem in the digital age, and we expect that trend to continue," said Scott Mitic, Senior Vice President at Equifax. "Our tendency to share personal information online leaves that information vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves."

Whether viewing this information via computer, tablet or smartphone, your use of modern-day technologies increases your risk for identity theft. Equifax advises consumers to protect themselves by following these tips.
  • Make sure your security software is updated on both your computer and smartphone. Free solutions are available from reputable sources.
  • Keep your phone locked with an access code. Turn off Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
  • Download the latest software updates for your device to fix security holes.
  • Be on the lookout for email scams.
  • Keep your social media accounts private and don't share common identifying information like your mother's maiden name or your birth date.
  • Use unique and complex passwords.
  • After a data breach, change your passwords, place a fraud alert with the credit reporting agencies, close affected accounts and monitor your credit report.
"As we go about our daily lives, it can be easy to forget how the technology we use every day can makes us the target of identity thieves," said Mitic. "But by arming yourself with knowledge and the right techniques, you can help protect your personal information."

Source: Equifax Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Estate Planning: Digital Rights Explained

October 24, 2014 4:35 am

Unlike Vegas, what happens online goes everywhere and stays there forever. The permanence of our online lives poses a few, often unconsidered challenges for estate planning, especially regarding our social media identity and money invested in digital books or music.

For instance, that moment when a social media post tells you "Bob 'likes' Palatial Pizza" – even though Bob passed away over two years ago. While awkward, is anything at risk? And are there options for a family or friend to take the site down?

What's at risk?
"Every social networking site has its own policies regarding giving a friend or family access to update or take down a site," says Sarah White, an attorney in Marietta, Georgia and part of the Attorney Network for ARAG®, a leader in legal insurance. Choosing to leave a site up puts everyone at risk for some potential drama caused by people (known as trolls in the online world) who may leave insulting or inflammatory comments.

For many families, however, leaving the account open is a good choice. "It's a way to let people know of the passing and to offer a place for people to share thoughts, feelings and memories," says White.

Can I plan ahead?

If you'd like to be more proactive about how your social media identity is managed, check your state law. "Some states allow you to name someone who can take control of, handle and terminate your digital accounts at death," says White. "These new laws override any policy the social networking site may have."

To designate someone as the caretaker of your digital accounts, create a list of your user names and passwords and keep it with your will and final instructions.

What happens to my iTunes and Kindle books?
"The problem with allocating the digital books and songs you think you own is that you don't really own them," says White. "What you own is a license to use the digital files. Specifically, Amazon and Apple grant nontransferable rights to use Kindle books or to listen to songs on iTunes, but you can't pass them to a child or spouse."

Estate planning laws in many states haven't caught up to technology yet. As people spend more money on digital content, the law will soon catch up to technology, enabling that content to be passed on like other property.

Source: ARAG

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fix Five Sources of Energy Waste for Less Than 20 Bucks

October 24, 2014 4:35 am

With cold weather slated for the months ahead, homeowners everywhere are seeking ways to cut down on energy costs. Black Hills Energy recommends homeowners implement cost-effective fixes – many costing less than $20 – to eliminate sources of energy waste.

“Nearly half of all energy use during the colder weather months is dedicated to heating homes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Jill Linck, Energy Services Division for Black Hills Energy. “We want to arm consumers with simple ways to increase heating efficiency in their homes, as well as to check other, less obvious sources of energy waste, including appliance use.”

In honor of Energy Awareness Month, the experts at Black Hills Energy recommend checking these energy consumers for cost-saving solutions.
  • Air leakage: Air leakage occurs when cold outside air enters and warm air escapes through cracks and openings, increasing the cost of keeping a home at a consistently comfortable temperature. Feel for leaks by floating your hand around the perimeters of doors and windows, electrical outlets, and even cable and telephone line entry points, then seal any problem spots using caulk and a $5 caulking gun. Adding weatherstripping to doors and windows is another low-cost way to keep the winter chill out and the warm air in.
  • Dirty air filters: Dirty furnace air filters can clog and cause higher resistance of air flow, particularly during high-usage months. Diligent cleaning of air filters each month for about $20 with filter spray and oil, and replacing them about every three months keeps warm, clean air flowing throughout a home.
  • Kitchen culprits: It’s hard to resist opening the oven door to check on baking cookies or a Thanksgiving turkey, but did you know the temperature inside an oven drops 25 degrees every time the door is opened while in use? This increases cook time and wastes energy. Instead, turn on the oven light for a peek inside. When using the stovetop, use the right sized pot or pan for each burner – for example, a six-inch pan atop an eight-inch burner wastes 40 percent of the burner’s energy.
  • Duct leaks from the furnace to the vent: HVAC ducts that leak conditioned air into unheated spaces can add hundreds of dollars a year to heating and cooling bills. Sealing seams with duct mastic means a furnace doesn’t have to work overtime to keep your family cozy. Duct mastic is available for under $15 per gallon, and can be applied with an inexpensive paint brush.
  • Thermostat control: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, adjusting a thermostat down 5 degrees to 10 degrees while you’re asleep or while you’re out of the house can help you save on heating and cooling bills. Utilize programmable thermostats for when you’re typically out of the house, too. A good rule of thumb is to keep the thermostat set to 68 degrees.
Source: Black Hills Energy

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Five Rules for Teen Drivers

October 23, 2014 4:35 am

Distracted driving has become a national epidemic, and teens are some of the worst offenders. Novice drivers have enough to focus on without added interruptions. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and DriveSafe Driving Schools encourage the parents of teen drivers to always set the rules before their teens hit the road.

"We want parents to know that even though their teens might be gaining some independence, the parents' job doesn't end there," said Ben Baron, DriveSafe's owner. "Teens are still kids. They still need rules and restrictions, and believe it or not, parents—they'll listen to you," he added.

Address the five most dangerous behaviors for teen drivers by setting these rules.
1. No drinking and driving.
2. Buckle up every trip, every time, in the front seat and in the back seat.
3. Put down the phone.
4. Follow all posted speed limits.
5. Do not drive around with more than one passenger at time.
Source: DriveSafe Driving Schools

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Six Pumpkin Carving Safety Tips

October 23, 2014 4:35 am

Jack-o’-lanterns are a Halloween staple. Many families share in the tradition of carving pumpkins, but many also experience injuries as a result. According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, hospitals treat four to five times more hand injuries in October than any other time of year.

Take precautions when carving your jack-o’-lantern by following these steps.

1. Prepare a first aid response. Before starting any pumpkin carving project, have a plan for responding to accidents quickly. If a cut occurs, apply pressure to the wound with a clean, dry cloth. If there are no signs of healing after 15 minutes, go to the emergency room.

2. Use a specialized carving kit. Most pumpkin carving kits come with tools that are not only safer for carvers to use, but more effective at sawing, poking and scooping jack-o’-lanterns.

3. Set aside enough time to get the job done. When carving a pumpkin, slower is better. Make sure you have time to pay careful attention to the task at hand.

4. Carve in clean, dry area. Slippery surfaces can lead to injury, especially when dealing with sharp objects. Keep your area and tools dry at all times.

5. Carve the pumpkin before gutting. To avoid injury, carve your design into the surface of the pumpkin before removing seeds and pulp. This will mitigate the chances of placing your hand inside the pumpkin when cutting later.

6. Have an adult do the carving for children. Do not let children younger than 14 carve pumpkins. Get kids involved by having them draw a face or pattern on the surface of the pumpkin, and have them clean out the inside with a spoon or their hands.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Max Out Cabinet Storage

October 23, 2014 4:35 am

(Family Features) Current trends in household lifestyles, such as first-time home buying or empty nesting, have left people with smaller spaces. Did you know that cabinets are an excellent solution to storage concerns? The experts at Welborn Cabinets suggest these cabinet organization tips to maximize your space.

Designate to conserve.
A crucial rule to always follow when trying to conserve space is to give every item its own location. Yes, this may seem like an effortless task; however, how many of your measuring cups or hair products are the exact way you had them when they were first organized? Take the extra time to conserve organization by storing them correctly, and you will be surprised how much time you will actually save when it comes to locating them.

Arrange according to use. Store items by how often you use them. Placing items that are used most in the front. This will save time because you will know exactly where to find them without the hassle of digging to the back of a cabinet.

Add shelving. To get the most out of your cabinets, use sliding shelves. Not only does this eliminate having to kneel and stretch to the back of the cabinet to reach that cake pan that fell behind everything else, but it gives you access to use every inch of space because with a simple pull, everything is brought to you. Wellborn Cabinet, Inc. provides storage solutions such as sliding shelves for maximization of space.

Pare down. Everyone has those dust-collecting items that have not been touched in years. It is time to decide what remains and what needs to be removed. De-cluttering is often associated with closet clean outs, but cabinets could use a clean out, too. For kitchen cabinets, consider donating nonperishable food items and remove those past their expiration date.

Source: Welborn Cabinet, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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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

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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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

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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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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