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Volume 3 Issue 8____________________________________________________________________August 2006

Fall Preparation

The last thing you may be thinking about is getting your home ready for the harsh weather of winter. By doing these chores while the weather is nice will prevent you from having problems that you will have to deal with in colder temperatures. This may also prevent you from having to spend a lot of money on major repairs.

Start outside. As the leaves begin to fall you will want to keep your gutters and downspouts cleaned out. Any buildup can lead to serious leaks. You will want to inspect your roof for any missing or loose shingles that can lead to leaks.

If you have a chimney and are planning on using it during the winter than it is imperative that you make sure that it is clean and clear of debris. A dirty chimney can be dangerous and lead to fire danger.

Go around and search for leaks around any doors or windows. Replace any weather stripping or caulk up any gaps to prevent costly drafts. You also want to find any places that bugs or rodents may be able to enter. Once the cold weather arrives bugs and rodents search for warmer places.

Prepare your lawn for winter by fertilizing and seeding your yard. This will keep your yard healthy over winter and give you a jump start on spring. Prune any tree branches that are not healthy or are near power lines or windows. Heavy snow can cause the branches to snap leading to more problems.

Inside you will want to inspect your heating system. Start by replacing your furnace filter. You may also want to contact your heating utility provider to send out a technician to do an annual inspection. There is a small charge for this service but it is worth it to know that your unit is running effectively. Also take an attachment and vacuum out your vents and registers to keep them clear of debris.

If you have a sump pump it is a good idea to make sure it is running properly. If you were to get a lot of snow in the winter you will want to make sure your pump is working for the spring thaw.

Before the season’s first frost you will want to shutoff the water supply to your exterior faucets. Make sure you round up your hoses and store them in a dry place away from the cold. This can be an overlooked chore and one that can lead to a lot of problems. Frozen pipes can burst causing flooding and major repairs and cleanup.

Cracks in your driveway or sidewalks will only get worse over the winter. If you have serious cracks you may want to replace them now to avoid major repairs in the spring.

We may be a couple months away from the freezing temperatures, but it is a good idea to take care of these issues now so you don’t have to patch a leak in freezing weather. Or even worse, having to hire someone to make the repairs for you.


 

   
 
 

Even though the summer may be over soon you may still have an infestation of insects. This can become even more of a problem when the temperatures cool and the bugs want to make their way inside. Here are a few ways to treat this problem without having to buy expensive and harmful chemical treatments.

Ants can be a very annoying problem once they have penetrated your home. The best way to avoid an ant problem is to get rid of any temptations that will attract them. Keep sugars and sweets in airtight containers. Ants are also attracted to grease and fats, so you don’t want to keep any dirty pots or pans in the sink. Wipe down counters and floors with a mixture of vinegar and water to eliminate any tempting odors. You can also use any type of citrus or mint to deter ants.

You also want to find the source of these ants. Inspect your yard for any anthills. If you find one, boil at least a gallon of water and pour directly into the entrance of the anthill. You may have to do this a couple of times. A mixture with vinegar may also work.

Here is a simple flytrap that is more discreet than the sticky paper that dangles from the ceiling. You need a jar and you can use a lid or even some tin foil to cover. Poke holes just big enough for a fly to get in and put some bait in the jar. Bait can be some sugar water or a piece of raw meat. The fly will be attracted and fly into the jar but will not be able to find their way out, leaving them trapped.

Spiders are annoying and some can cause nasty bites. Prevention is key to avoiding spiders. Spiders like musty, dark, places like cardboard storage boxes, dirty clothes, and garbage. So keep boxes in storage or use containers that you can seal to store items. Keep dirty clothes in a hamper and shake out any clothes that might have been sitting in the corner for a while.

Another item that many people have begun to use but that does not have any scientific reason to why it works is a hedge ball or horse apple. Hedge balls are a fruit that are placed on counters or other areas where spiders have been seen. They really do not have any other purposes because eating the fruit will make many people nauseas. You can generally find hedge balls in the produce department for a cheap price. People swear by them and for the cost it may be worth it to see if it works at your house.

Here are some outdoor tips to keep rodents and bugs away. Make sure you keep grass clippings, firewood, or compost away from the house. Keep bushes, weeds, and grass trimmed away from the house. These are all habitats for bugs and rodents and it is only natural that they migrate to warmer places when the weather gets colder. It is a lot easier for them if they don’t have to travel that far.

Some of these techniques may or may not work for you but it definitely beats having to use chemicals or fumigations that are not only unsafe but are usually a lot more expensive.

 

 

 

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A Super Savings Account

In the last couple of months we have been introducing some investment plans to help you save for the future. Certificates of deposit (CDs) are another savings plan with little risk and a good return.

Certificates of Deposit are a good form of investing as long as you know that you are not going to need the money before the time period has ended. You give the bank a certain amount of money for an agreed upon amount of time. The time frame usually starts with at least 3 months and can be longer than 2 years. The bank agrees to give you a larger interest rate than what you would receive from a regular savings account.

If you need to break this contract before it matures you will have to pay penalty fees. The fees are different and based on length of time, interest rate, and other factors that were previously agreed upon.

CDs are a zero-risk investment and are also insured by your bank or credit union the same way your savings are. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures banks while the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) insures credit unions.

Many institutions offer fixed rates for CDs. Generally, you will get higher interest rates for your willingness to invest more money and agreeing to longer termed contracts. Sometimes smaller banks will offer higher interest rates to attract customers.

Your institution will notify you by mail or electronically shortly before the CD matures. Once the CD matures you have some options on how you want to handle the money and accrued interest. You can withdraw the principal amount along with the interest. They will also transfer this amount into a checking or savings account for you if you request it.

You can also roll the total amount over into another CD. It is common for a bank to automatically roll it over into another CD if they have not heard anything from you. Even if you want it to rollover you should notify the bank so you know that you are going to get the best interest rate. Some banks may automatically roll it over but with a lower interest rate than what the current market rate is.

Before you purchase a CD the bank is required to provide you with the terms of the agreement. This is called a “Truth in Savings” booklet. You can have the bank mail it to you, or you can download it online, or go into the bank to get one. It is important to go over this thoroughly as it will state any conditions, limitations, or obligations required by you and the institution.

There are also CDs that are a combination with an IRA. These can be beneficial for tax purposes and can be discussed with your personal banker if they feel that this would be a choice for you.

There are some limits when it comes to CD accounts. The FDIC insures accounts up to $100,000. Many banks have a minimum of $1,000 deposit to start a CD account, though this differentiates between banking institutions.

There are different types of CDs that a banker can discuss with you. There is the traditional which is what we have introduced in this article, there is also the bump-up, liquid, zero-coupon, callable, brokerage, and high-yield. Again, a personal banker can explain these in more detail and determine if one of these other versions may benefit you more than a traditional CD.

CDs are a great low-risk investment and a good way for your money to grow. Even though it is similar to a savings account it cannot be trusted as one because of the penalties. It is a good idea to still have a healthy savings account to be there for you in case of any emergencies. If you have any questions or are interested in CD investments set up an appointment to speak with someone from your bank.

RESOURCES

www.bankrate.com - a great online resource that can answer many of your banking questions.

www.moneycentral.com - MSN’s website that has many advice and strategy articles written by acclaimed financial experts.

 

 

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Getting Prepared

Nobody likes divorce, but unfortunately it is a major life change that has a significant effect on your finances, and it happens to many people. There are things that should be done in order to protect your finances.

There is obviously going to be some expenses that you will have to come up with. The major one is hiring a lawyer. It is generally a good idea to hire a lawyer to handle all the paperwork. This is especially so if you have children or assets. Even if you have previously discussed arrangements with your spouse a lawyer will make sure everything is legitimate.

It is in the interest of both parties to try and work out the terms of the divorce on their own. The more contested the divorce, the more work the lawyers are going to have to do, which in turn means more expenses coming out of your pocket to pay them. If you and your spouse have reached an agreement and have the details figured out then all a lawyer has to do is review it to make sure everything is legitimate. Do not feel pressured by a lawyer who wants to pursue more than agreed upon. You don’t need to use a lawyer to try and get revenge and take everything away from the other person.

You will want to make copies of any important documents during your marriage. It is one of the most important things that needs to be done and too often it is forgotten until it is too late. Anything that you can think of that may be significant to figuring out the financial situation is important to copy. Your lawyer will also request certain documents that will assist him.

Here is a list of some important items that you should make copies of:

401(k)’s
CDs
Checking Accounts
Wills
Insurance papers
Deeds
Credit card statements
Utility bills
Student loans
Premarital agreements
Bank Statements
Pay Stubs
Tax returns

(Make sure that you have account numbers for all accounts.)

Make sure to close any joint credit card accounts. You also don’t want to rack up charges on an old card to get revenge. Divorce is already emotionally draining, and causing more problems will only make matters worse. Besides, you are still responsible for any charges made on the card after the divorce, no matter who made the charges. If you need a credit card, than apply for one in your own name and use it responsibly. It is not a good idea to start off on your own with a bunch of new debt.

It is important to take inventory of any possessions that were shared or brought into the marriage. Things that have been agreed upon by you and your spouse should be duly noted so there is no confusion or arguments when it comes time to divide the belongings. Even if it was a verbal agreement you should notate it. Sometimes people may be influenced to change their mind or a certain item may be used as a bargaining chip for something else. By having everything agreed upon you can avoid this extra hassle.

Get a copy of your credit score. Go online to get your free annual credit report. You need to know where your credit stands because you may have to open up new accounts and lines of credit by yourself.

Another major concern is with the mortgage. Whoever decides to keep the house has to consider their options, as they will have a significant decrease in household income. It is not uncommon to have to downsize into a more affordable accommodations. It is not a wise decision to try and stretch your income to make a house payment.

If you project that you may have some difficulties making scheduled payments on some of your bills it is important to contact that creditor. They may have some programs that will assist you during this difficult time. Certain bills will be negotiated with the lawyer to determine who is responsible for them. It is important to pay attention though because if the responsible person neglects to pay the bill it could still have a negative effect on your credit.

Divorce is an unfortunate event and too often financial situations are influenced by the stressful emotions that come with the separation process. With a clear head and business like attitude, the financial circumstances can be handled in a professional manner and ease the transition into a new lifestyle. Next month we will continue with some tips and advice on starting over after the divorce is final.

 
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I'm sure that many of us are familiar with Murphy’s Law. Formally, it is things will go wrong in any given situation, if you give them a chance and is usually translated as, “Anything that can go wrong, will.” I am speculating that we have all encountered Murphy’s Law at one time or another and probably even more than once. Murphy’s Law can be applied in little doses or it can come as a major event.

I’m coming to a point where money is going to tighten up and my wife and I are having to watch our finances. We are going to have to account for extra expenses that come with an infant. So it comes as no surprise that we have run into a couple of other events that is going to eat up some of our finances. But there’s another old saying about a rainbow after a thunderstorm or something like that.

Anyways, it has come to my attention that I do not possess a very dedicated automobile. It has been limping along for some time now. It is also not a prime vehicle for a new baby. So we are “in the market” for a new vehicle. Not really great timing but important to take care of.

To counter Murphy’s Law we ran into a little luck along the way. We have a relative who was looking to sell their minivan. It is in nice condition and well maintained. They were grateful enough to allow us to make payments directly to them each month instead of having to finance it. So it was kind of a hard deal to pass up.

We still had to make sure that we could comfortably account for the money that would be going towards the van. After feeling like we could make the payments and also enjoying the idea of having a convenient vehicle that easily accommodates our new baby we decided to buy the van.

The next fun adventure requires two of my least favorite things; spending a lot of money and mouth pain. My latest trip to the dentist came with the news that I need some work done on a couple teeth. It is roughly $3,000 for repairs on 2 teeth. I discussed payment options and received insurance estimates with the dentist office. They were very kind and helpful and I find that most places will help you financially. They know it is important to take care of this and they by no means want to intenionally ruin your finances. Thankfully insurance will absorb some of the blow and once that is done I should be in the clear for a while.

Part of this was my fault by putting it off longer than I should have, until I had no choice. So, the timing of it really has nothing to do with Murphy but with the law of self-stubbornous.

My point is there is definitely a better time to have to account for two major purchases than a month before your child is born. But calmly and cooly my wife and I examined our finances and budget to assure that we will be able to make all of our payments and accommodate for the extra baby expenses.

We may even have to dip into our savings a little. But that’s what it is there for and why it is important to have one. We are trying to avoid having to use any type of credit and believe that we can successfully do this.

So if you think that Murphy has been stalking you, just remember that you made it through the last time it happened and that you will probably get through it in the future.

I wish you all the best of luck and hope that Murphy will not find you for some time.

 

 
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Cell Phone Blues

Have you been hounded by your teenager to get them a cell phone?

If you already have a cell phone plan it may not hurt to inquire about an additional phone.

Many companies now have phones that have prepaid minutes. You pay a certain fee every month for a specific amount of minutes and once those minutes are up they are gone. You don’t have to worry about charging extra minutes that can turn a cell phone bill into a nightmare.

Cell phones can be a good way to stay in contact with your teen. Set up specific ground rules on use. This may also help them learn a little time management as well.

 
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Legend has it...

Along with the legend of Bigfoot or the myth of The Loch Ness Monster comes many money myths that may cause you to mismanage your finances. Here are some of those money myths that many of us come across everyday.

Myth: Bankruptcy wipes away all of your debts.

Fact: There are plenty of certain debts that will stick with you after you file. These include child support, alimony, and student loans. Many times any legal fees or debts owed due to a lawsuit are also not included in bankruptcy.

Myth: Your debt dies with you.

Fact: Many times creditors will come after the estate to collect their debts. Any money or property left to beneficiaries may be distributed to payoff debt before it is dispersed to any heirs. Creditors cannot come after anyone else to collect the debt unless they were a cosigner. If there were not enough money to cover the deceased person’s debt than the debt could be written off by the creditor.

Myth: You have to pay 20% down to buy a house.

Fact: There are many programs and lenders that allow you to put down as little as 5%. There are also programs out there where you don’t have to put any money down. Each individual’s situation will be different. If you do not pay at least 20% though you will have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI).

Myth: I can get a credit card and buy a bunch of nice things with it then file for bankruptcy.

Fact: It may be easy to think that someone could take advantage of bankruptcy and unfortunately there are people out there who try. But your finances and purchases are thoroughly examined when you file for bankruptcy. They will notice those major purchases and they may seize the items in order to help pay off your debts. Not only is it a bad idea, it is also illegal. You could be charged with fraud and open the door to a whole new world of problems.

To buy items you know you can’t afford with the intention of filing for bankruptcy is troubling, because no material item should be worth the bad mark that bankruptcy leaves. Bankruptcy should be reserved for those who are truly in need of its services.

Myth: My credit is good so I don’t have to order a credit report.

Fact: Even though you may have great credit doesn’t mean that someone has made a mistake or even worse, that someone has stolen your credit. It is good to take advantage of receiving a free copy of your credit report at least once a year. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to request a copy from one of three agencies. Then review your credit report to make sure that everything on it is accurate. This is the best way to insure that your great credit score will stay intact.

Here area a few fun ones.

Myth: You can float a check longer if you write it in red ink.

Fact: You can write your check in any color of ink and it will be processed the same. You don’t want to try and float checks anyway, as many checks are now electronically processed the same day.

Myth: If you don’t sign the back of your credit card you won’t be a victim of identity fraud.

Fact: Actually, the very opposite is true. If someone steals your credit card and it is unsigned all they have to do is sign the name in their own handwriting and then they can freely use it always matching the signature. It is important to sign the credit card in your own handwriting. You can also sign it with “See ID” which will prompt a cashier into asking to see a photo I.D. whenever you make a purchase.

Myth: The classic myth that money brings happiness.

Fact: Sure, more money can help you pay the bills and get you caught up but you still need proper money management skills. Many times people who come across more money think it is ok to spend more money. More money can sometimes mean more problems.

There are many stories that revolve around money and finances and with the power of the Internet, myths and rumors can be exchanged like a common cold. So if you come across something that you are skeptical about, it is probably a good idea to contact a professional to find out its legitimacy.

 
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