Coupling Finances: What All Newlyweds Should Know

(NewsUSA) – Coupling finances.It’s a catchphrase that’s been described as perhaps the first "I do" for newlyweds, and it’s especially relevant as we head into wedding season. Because as much as you may think no two people have ever been more in love than you are – hey, look at the size of that engagement ring! – the truth is that it could be less than smooth sailing ahead if you’re not on the same page when it comes to financial matters."Couples have a very hard time talking about money," Joan Atwood, a Hofstra University professor of marriage and family therapy bemoaned on an NPR "Money Coach" segment on the issue. "I would say it’s the last taboo."Ready to break it? Read on.* Set common goals. You probably discussed this in a dreamy sort of way while dating. You know, a large house with a swimming pool … yearly vacations. But turning those reveries into reality requires habitually saving to pay for them and finance your later retirement years – not to mention deciding whether both partners contribute equally or based on salaries."The median ages for brides and grooms are 29 and 31, respectively, these days," said Andrew Peterson, a vice president at Fidelity Investments (fidelity.com). "So while people may come into a marriage with their own assets, they need to take some time after the wedding to sit down and start getting organized as a couple."* Be transparent. There’s no law that says you have to put all your cash into a joint savings account – some couples do, some don’t – but at the very least you’d be "less than truthful" by not divulging any outstanding debts. And then figuring out, together, how to pay them down.* Safely store your information. Quick: What’s your new spouse’s Social Security number? And what other vital information don’t you know if a sudden need arises?Exactly.To truly mark your financial coupling, you might consider using an online service like FidSafe.com that lets you store, access and share all your new family’s important records and documents anywhere via a web browser or iOS app.Not only is it free and simple to use with handy checklists, but even before it was officially introduced two years ago by Fidelity – Get it? "Fid Safe" – Barron’s magazine gave the service five stars for being what it called "the first cloud-based safe deposit box we’ve seen that’s secure enough to organize everything from financial statements, insurance policies, and real estate records to a will, IRA benefits, and even passwords.""With all the other things on their to-do lists, newlyweds typically don’t focus on all the important financial and other documents they need to begin married life on a solid footing," said Peterson. "This makes things easier for them from the start, as well as through the years as they have even more joint documents to retain – including those related to perhaps buying a house and having children."You get up to 5GB of storage, which leaves plenty of space left over once you download your new marriage license and the receipt for that engagement ring.* Investigate this option. Do you both get health insurance through your employer? Congrats. You may have just saved yourselves some money if it works out it’s less expensive for one of you to be on the other’s plan rather than pay for both. 

Yes, Homeowners, It’s Time to Prepare for Storm Season

(NewsUSA) – Sponsored by GAF – Here we go again?Five to nine hurricanes – with as many as four "major" ones boasting sustained winds of 111-plus mph – is what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just predicted for this year’s storm season. In other words, they’re calling for an "active" six months or so through the end of November.And while no one’s saying we’re in for a repeat of last season’s devastating triple whammy – yes, we do mean Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria – ask anyone still dealing with the havoc of having had their house battered in one of those storms if they don’t still wonder what more they could’ve done to be better prepared."It only takes one storm to devastate a community," said Acting FEMA Deputy Administrator Daniel Kaniewski.Read on for some of the best advice on readying for the next (inevitable) storm.* Check your insurance. The coups de grace for many of those hit hardest last year was discovering that they’d have to find a way to pay all or some of their rebuilding costs themselves. The reasons ranged from lack of flood insurance (only those with federally backed mortgages living in designated high-risk zones are required by law to buy it) to a local spike in the price of labor and materials."Hurricane Harvey (in Texas) showed that flooding can also damage properties outside the highest-risk zones," the Wall Street Journal noted, quoting a former New York insurance commissioner as saying that "even financially literate people" don’t understand that floods aren’t covered in the standard homeowners policy.* Clean your gutters. Even in perfect weather, Angie’s List says you’re looking at a possible "nightmare" if they’re so clogged with mounds of leaves, sticks, and other debris that it causes your roof to leak. And if you factor in a hurricane-strength rain, suddenly the very roofing system component meant to control the flow of all that water – thus protecting your roof, walls, foundation, and landscape from the aforementioned flooding – can be about as useful as spoiled milk."If you let gutter cleaning go by the wayside, it could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars," the website warned.* Make sure your roof is in good condition. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety actually built a test chamber where experts could simulate the effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters on full-scale one- and two-story homes. So when its president and CEO, Julie Rochman, tells CBSNews.com‘s "MoneyWatch" that "it all starts with the roof," you need to pay attention."The roof," she said, "is the largest potential opening on the house, and wind and water can do terrible things if they get through (it)."Ergo, now’s the time to have a professional roofing contractor check for (and fix) any signs of wear and tear like broken or missing shingles, fractured fiberglass mat, and loosening of the self-seal strip. These tell-tale signs, especially if they resulted from damage from hail, can be difficult to spot yourself. And if you do decide to replace your roof? "Consider shingles that have passed the UL2218, Class 4 impact test," advised Jason Joplin, program manager of CARE (the GAF Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence).Joplin especially likes the Timberline ArmorShield II line of shingles from GAF (gaf.com), North America’s largest roofing manufacturer. In addition to looking good, they’re made with SBS modified asphalt, which he described as "a rubber-like material for enhanced flexibility and durability during extreme weather conditions."An added bonus: Depending on where you live, shingles like these could help you qualify for significant discounts on your homeowner’s insurance.* Trim weak tree branches. Need we say more than people have actually died from trees and branches crashing into their houses? 

New AI Platform Protects Musicians’ Work

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Any music artist – regardless of his or her level of fame – will tell you that chief among their many concerns about the business is guarding against copyright infringement and protecting the work.
DigiTrax Entertainment, a leader in the use of artificial intelligence in the music industry, recognizes this and has found a way to harness the analytical power of AI to help protect musicians from copyright infringement.
The new DigiTrax product, Music Fact Reports, can act as a personal CSI lab for forensic musicology, according to Joseph Vangieri, CEO of DigiTrax Entertainment.
“We believe Music Fact Reports will be a major step forward for rights holders,” Mr. Vangieri says in a statement announcing the launch of Music Fact Reports.
The Music Fact Reports program helps individual musicians by saving them the hassle, time, and expense of hiring a professional forensic musicologist to conduct an analysis before deciding whether a copyright infringement case is worth pursuing with a lawyer.
The program also can be used by copyright lawyers to evaluate the strength of potential cases, and by publishers seeking to confirm the originality of a contracted musical work.
The Music Fact Reports program works on the power of artificial intelligence by extracting sequences from pieces of music and comparing them to other works using music theory-based algorithms.
“We are working towards a future in which analyzed sequences of data for all copyrighted pieces of music are stored in a database that can be accessed and searched to detect levels of extrinsic similarity instantly,” says DigiTrax Chief Technical Officer Marcus Matusiak in a statement announcing the Music Fact Reports launch.
The Music Fact Reports program is currently being used by attorney Richard Wolfe of Wolfe Law in Miami, Florida, to pursue a copyright-infringement case involving instrumental music.
“I think the technology is cutting-edge for purposes of identifying substantial similarity in two pieces of music in terms of rhythms, beats, and extrinsic similarity,” says Mr. Wolfe.
To promote the launch of the Music Fact Reports program and showcase its potential, DigiTrax engineers have developed Music Fact Reports for the top 10 copyright infringement cases of all time, Mr. Vangieri says.
Visit MusicFactReports.com for the reports on the Top 10 music-copyright-infringement cases, and for more information about how DigiTrax helps protect musicians.

Outdoor Spaces Offer Style And Comfort

(NewsUSA) – If you enjoy relaxing and entertaining on your porch or patio, you are not alone.Today’s homeowners love being outdoors, and design professionals are being tasked with creating extravagant outdoor living areas with all the creature comforts that are typically found indoors – a task they’re accomplishing with natural building materials such as cypress.Mark Tuck of the Southern Cypress Manufacturers Association, www.CypressInfo.org, says, "Cypress is a beautiful wood that looks exotic. More importantly, it is a durable wood that – when properly installed and maintained – provides long-lasting performance. It’s perfect for outdoor use!"Unlike other species that need to be pressure-treated with chemicals for outdoor use, cypress comes by its durability naturally. When growing, cypress trees produce cypressene in their heartwood. This preservative oil protects the wood from the elements, and it repels insects such as termites and carpenter bees that often feed on and nest in other species."Thanks to its natural characteristics," Tuck adds, "cypress has typically been used as siding or as an outdoor ceiling product. But more recently, design professionals are using it for a variety of other outdoor applications."Cypress for the Outdoor Floor"Outdoor rooms, peaceful spaces, and low-maintenance materials are the buzzwords I hear most from my clients," says Nancy Moore of The Porch Company in Nashville, Tennessee."I like to use cypress in spaces that are exposed to the elements. From my experience, it holds up well to blowing rain that may come in. I love its character, authenticity, longevity, and the fact that it is a renewable resource."Moore says that her clients prefer porch designs that flow from the inside to the outside, which includes the flooring."We typically use tongue-and-groove cypress for our porch floors because it makes the space feel like another room of the house – a room that just happens to have walls that breathe."The New Heart of the HomeThe heart of the home has long been the kitchen, right? So as today’s homeowners spend more time outside, creating a secondary kitchen outdoors is a top priority.When crafting cabinetry for outdoor kitchens, Rod Richardson of Associated Construction Group, Gonzales, Louisiana, relies on cypress, and for good reasons. "It offers value, appearance, and performance that lasts," Richardson says. "In my 20 years of building outdoor kitchens with cypress, I haven’t had a callback."There are many building materials available, but one has stood the test of time and that’s wood. It offers an appearance, feel, and even smell that you can’t re-create with man-made products. And when I show customers different cabinet materials – even different woods – they usually lean towards cypress."Incorporate cypress into your lavish outdoor space. See how at www.CypressInfo.org

New Job Benefits Could Provide Employees Relief from Student Debt

When joining a new company, there are often perks to consider: a company car, maybe a 401(k) plan.

With Millennials now making up the lion’s share of the workforce, a number of companies are betting that helping to pay off student debt is the next game-changer when it comes to attracting and retaining the best and the brightest.

It’s not a bad wager. Total education debt stood at a staggering $1.52 trillion at the end of March. And while the perk is by no means reserved only for millennials, it’s not lost on anyone that the average student loan borrower will have graduated this year saddled with more than $37,000 in debt.

Artificial Intelligence Platform Music to Producers’ Ears

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere, and more markets recognize AI’s potential to help businesses achieve greater results in less time. The music industry in particular is embracing how AI can help increase productivity and foster creativity.
DigiTrax Entertainment is one company on the forefront of the AI in music movement, using AI and machine learning to analyze and create new music.
The DigiTrax flagship program, Music Builder, has proven so popular that company leaders will participate in the highly exclusive National Association of Music Merchandiser trade show in Nashville, TN this summer after winning the semifinal round of the 2018 InnoSTARS Competition in Atlanta.
“We are thrilled that the discerning panel of judges at InnoSTARS agreed that our artificial intelligence music technology represents a paradigm shift in the way we create and enjoy music,” says Joseph Vangieri, CEO of DigiTrax.
“We understand the underlying technology that drives the music industry,” Vangieri says.
“We have an expert AI system for music creation, and we recognized the incredible potential for the 15-billion-dollar music production industry,” he explains. DigiTrax boasts a music catalog of more than 15,000 songs, and delivers music to major distribution platforms including YouTube, Google Play, and iTunes, as well as third-party software partners such as Yamaha Music Soft.
The ultimate goal for DigiTrax is to change the music industry in the way that CGI (computer-generated imagery) changed the movie industry, says Vangieri.
Challenges facing the music production industry are time, money, and the need for an extensive production team that could include composers, arrangers, and musicians.
The Music Builder program addresses all three of these challenges, and allows users to create more musical content in less time without the need for specialized staff.
The music professionals at DigiTrax are experts in producing, licensing, marketing and distributing music. In addition, their AI technology allows them to offer a service for musicians to quickly and easily compare songs if they suspect their original work has been copied by someone else.
“We believe our AI Platform, The Music Builder, will impact almost every area of music, and our seven granted patents will help protect our intellectual property,” Vangieri emphasizes.
Visit themusicbuilder.com for more information about how DigiTrax plans to turn the music industry on its ears.

The Latest Job Benefit Helps Employees Pay Off Student Debt

(NewsUSA) – What perk would most entice you to accept one job offer over another?A company car? (How Boomer-like of you.) A 401(k) plan? (Pretty common these days.)With Millennials now comprising the largest share of the workforce, a growing number of companies are betting that offering to help pay off student debt is the next game-changer when it comes to attracting and retaining the best and brightest.It’s not a bad wager. Total education debt stood at a staggering $1.52 trillion at the end of March. And while the perk is by no means reserved only for Millennials – hey, even 4 percent of those 45 and older are still in the hole, according to the Pew Research Center – it’s not lost on anyone that the average student loan borrower will have graduated this year saddled with more than $37,000 in debt."It stood at about $600 billion 10 years ago," MarketWatch.com reported.One of the companies facilitating the new benefit is the same one – Fidelity Investments – that already handles millions of workers’ 401(k) plans. Businesses enrolled in its Student Debt Employer Contribution program are able to make after-tax contributions on their employees’ outstanding student loans, setting their own parameters as to "who" and "how much" with the help of a modeling tool for estimating their potential recruitment and retention cost savings."This is a new and relevant benefit that gives companies a competitive advantage to hire top talent," said Asha Srikantiah, vice president of emerging products at Fidelity (fidelity.com), noting that the average contribution for most companies is about $100 a month, although it can be as high as $800 monthly in some cases. "It also enables employees to pay off their debt faster, which in turn allows them to focus on other priorities – including buying a home, raising a family, and saving for retirement."Among the "early adopters" Fidelity says it’s teaming up with to offer the benefit: tech giant Hewlett Packard Enterprise; the rail industry’s New York Air Brake; financial firms Millennium Trust and OCC (The Options Clearing Corporation); and Ariel Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of separable reciprocating gas compressors used in the global natural gas business.In fact, more than just being a "facilitator" for others, Fidelity helped trail blaze this brave new world by having begun offering its own employees a student debt program back in 2016. To date, more than 8,900 of its workers have received the benefit, paid directly to their loan service provider, with some pretty impressive numbers to show for it: a total of $22.5 million in savings on principal and interest, and 34,625 years of loan payments shaved off.The company is also taking what it calls "a holistic approach" to the student debt issue by offering open access to its website’s Pre-College Planning Resources, which can help avoid the pitfalls of incurring too much debt, and its Student Debt Tool that lets individuals view all their student loans and repayment options in one place.A deal recently inked with student debt refinancing platform Credible.com now also integrates student debt refinancing into the Student Debt Tool, allowing employees enrolled in the program to receive actual pre-qualified rates from more than 10 refinancing lenders without affecting their credit scores."The idea is to help more Americans take control of their debt so they can better save and invest for the futures," said Stephen Dash, Credible’s founder and CEO. 

Scuba Therapy Helps Veterans Heal

(NewsUSA) – Many of America’s military veterans struggle with injuries and disabilities.Scuba diving might not be the first therapy that comes to mind to help these individuals, but data support the value of scuba diving for improving the physical and mental health of people suffering from conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and chronic pain.Diveheart, a nonprofit organization founded in 2001, provides adaptive scuba training to volunteer divers and instructors, and offers unique opportunities in zero gravity to veterans and others with a variety of disabilities. The Diveheart motto, "Imagine the Possibilities," reflects the positive attitude of the organization and the hope and healing it offers.A subset of the organization, Diveheart Military Wounded focuses specifically on introducing veterans with physical and mental disabilities to the benefits of scuba therapy.On the physical side, scientific research and the personal experiences of veterans show that water pressure and the feeling of weightlessness can relieve physical and mental tension as well as chronic pain."The weightlessness kind of helps my body release itself," says Coast Guard veteran Kevin Cozzie in an interview with the Daily Herald, a publication based in suburban Chicago. "I can feel it when I get out of the water."Ian James Brown, an Air Force veteran who was injured in the line of duty, returned to scuba diving after his injury through a Diveheart program."I discovered scuba again," he says in an interview on the Diveheart website, diveheart.org. "I was able to integrate skills I thought I had lost," such as the regulation of breathing and balance, he says. "It made me challenge myself a bit more."Mr. Brown, who suffers from chronic neurospinal pain but has chosen to forego medication, "felt this euphoric feeling," and realized that he was "living pain-free for the first time in 11 years," during an extended dive in Cozumel.The mental health benefits of scuba diving are as valuable as the physical. Veterans who have participated in Diveheart programs report that learning new skills, gaining confidence, and bonding with other veterans who have experienced similar challenges create a sense of community and empowerment.For many disabled veterans, scuba diving helps them realize the possibilities rather than focus on their limitations, according to Diveheart founder Jim Elliott.Diveheart relies on volunteers and donations to help provide adaptive diving and scuba therapy experiences at no cost to participants.Visit diveheart.org for more information about the way scuba diving can change veterans’ lives. 

Road Trippin’! Summer Travel Means Hitting The Open Highway

(NewsUSA) – Ah, the familiar chant of "Are we there yet?" echoing from the back seat of a car. It’s a refrain that has stood the test of time and one that sends most parents cringing while taking a family road trip.As the summer of 2018 kicks off, consider this: 68 percent of Americans are likely to go on vacation, and 85 percent of them will travel by car, based on data from a recent online survey of approximately 1,500 adults.While aspects of a road trip may be daunting, a majority of these travelers acknowledge that getting there is half the fun: 24 percent strongly agree, and 45 percent somewhat agree that getting to a vacation spot is often as enjoyable as being there.If you’ve ever wondered what goes on inside the car during a road trip, read on.A survey conducted by NACS, a trade association representing the convenience-store industry, reveals that most passengers want to be social: just over 60 percent report that they enjoy talking with fellow passengers and almost 80 percent cite listening together to music, podcasts, or audio books as favorite activities.However, when it’s time to take a break, disagreements can arise, especially when it comes to meals and snacks. A convenience-store stop can be a simple solution.Today’s convenience stores offer more than just gas and restrooms. Many serve a range of hot-meal options such as pizza and burgers, as well as customizable sandwiches, coffee, drinks, and smoothies, so passengers and drivers of every age and taste can find something to satisfy them.The NACS survey results show that the top three reasons for breaks during summer road trips are to:* Use the bathroom (96 percent).* Get gas (95 percent).* Buy food or drinks (91 percent)."There’s only one place that can satisfy all three of the top reasons for stopping during a road trip: a convenience store," says Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives."From restrooms and fuel pumps to indulgent snacks and healthy options, you can stop once and make everyone happy. And that can certainly make a road trip more fun."However, regular breaks are an important part of road trips for safety as well as for practical reasons.Drivers need a quick and easy place to stand up and stretch, or to allow someone else to take the wheel. Kids get antsy and need to stretch, too – according to the NACS survey, approximately 45 percent of the in-car disagreements during road trips center on children fidgeting or arguing.Convenience stores provide all the services needed for long or short road-trip breaks in a safe, predictable environment.Many convenience stores offer easy access from major roads, so there’s no struggle or lost time navigating to an unknown spot without any sense of the services available. Convenience stores offer clean, well-lit rest stops for single drivers, groups of friends, older adults, and families with children.Visit convenience.org/more for additional information about what convenience stores offer and how they can help make summer road trips smooth, safe, and enjoyable. 

From Fantasy to Free-falling: Orlando’s New Summer Attractions

(NewsUSA) – It should come as no surprise that Florida remains a hot spot for summer travel – especially Orlando, home to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.While it’s true that families tend to flock to these familiar venues, (the city has been named one of Travelocity’s "Coolest Places to Go in 2018 for Families" and AAA’s "Top Domestic Summer Destination"), it is also so much more than the sum of these two theme parks.So if you’re considering a trip to Orlando, read on about how to score the best deals and some sights to see with the fam that you may not have known even existed. Attraction Tips & Deals The destination’s only official visitor center, operated by Visit Orlando, offers deals, discounted tickets, unbiased expert advice and Insta-worthy photo ops for guests. Movies & Fantasy Worlds Come to Life Universal Studios Florida will put guests right in the middle of the action with the new Fast & Furious – Supercharged ride, based on the popular film franchise, where an after-race party turns into a high-speed race to escape a criminal cartel.Disney’s Hollywood Studios opens Toy Story Land on June 30, featuring two new attractions. The rides, Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Sauchers, will take visitors right into Andy’s imagination as they join beloved characters on their adventures.Madame Tussauds Orlando’s "Justice League: A Call for Heroes," will give guests the "sidekick" experience to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, and Ben Affleck’s Batman.Legoland Florida Resort found its niche when it debuted "The Great Lego Race," on March 23.This thrill ride is the first virtual reality roller coaster experience designed for kids and features Lego minifigures, a rocket-powered surfboard, and an espresso-fueled scooter. Outdoor Adventures and Record-Setting Thrills SeaWorld Orlando debuts Infinity Falls this summer, a whitewater rapid-adventure raft ride through a lost jungle. The journey will send guests through fountains and waterfalls before dropping 40 feet – a world record for a river raft ride – into churning whitewater.The Orlando Starflyer is the world’s tallest swing ride, and opens on June 1. At 450-feet tall, the ride offers open-air views of the city for up to 24 guests at once, swinging them through the air at up to 60 miles an hour.Just in time for their 20th Anniversary, Fun Spot America opened HeadRush 360, a spinning and swinging new attraction that takes riders 40 feet in the air – upside down.And Orlando Watersports Complex is home to Central Florida’s first Aquapark, which features a modular series of inflatable, interlocking climbing obstacles, pathways and slides for hours of fun.For more information, visit VisitOrlando.com.