A Riddle for Our Times

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Sponsored by GAF – Like riddles?

Well then, here’s one for you: Which American company protects hometowns, downtowns, Sunday mornings, and Sunday afternoons?
Oh, and which of its products also saves and makes energy?

View the video here for the answer.

Making the Most of a Mudroom

(NewsUSA) – Mudrooms – transition spaces between the outdoors and the indoors that provide storage for footwear, wet clothes, sports gear, and other paraphernalia not wanted in the house – have grown in popularity as American homes have become bigger."While mudrooms are not a new amenity, they’ve moved up on the list of must-haves for today’s homeowner," says Linda Jovanovich of the American Hardwood Information Center, www.hardwoodinfo.com."As the amount of residential square-footage dedicated to mudrooms has grown, so has the attention paid to their design and aesthetics. Solid hardwood built-ins not only provide the customization needed in what are sometimes awkwardly configured spaces, but also create the opportunity to bring the warmth and character of natural wood to what is first and foremost a service room."Bob Near, renovation division director at Streeter & Associates, a Minneapolis-based home-building firm that installs myriad mudrooms, agrees: "For example, working with Peterssen/Keller Architecture and Eminent Interior Design, we recently completed a large mudroom with red-birch cabinetry, part of the makeover of a dated 1980s house. The client wanted a mid-century look, as if the room had been built in the 1960s, so its design is very clean." One wall is entirely floor-to-ceiling storage concealed behind plain slab doors; the other comprises a row of six locker-room-style open cubbies serviced by a single full-length bench."The client also asked for unstained wood rather than painted cabinetry, for reasons of durability and aesthetics," Near continues. "First, they felt a clear polyurethane varnish would hold up better than enamel paint to the wear and tear imposed by four active boys. And second, they wanted to give the somewhat austere space a more earthy, homey feel."Easily applied by hand, the oil-based satin finish had the added advantage of deepening the tone of the red birch without changing its color, an important consideration because the wood had been carefully selected for its not-too-pink, not-too-green hue.As a whole, the project could serve as a terrific checklist of best mudroom practices: With six cubbies, there’s one to assign to each member of the family, who’ll then have an easily accessed set of hooks on which to hang wet weather gear; a stretch of solid bench on which to sit and take off dirty boots and shoes that can then be quickly stored in the deep cubbies underneath; a handy drawer for smaller items that might otherwise get lost; and all delivered in a beautiful, red-birch package. Find a better example of flawless function married to fabulous form if you can.Visit www.hardwoodinfo.com for more about mudrooms and other applications and products using American hardwoods. 

Fix a Leak Week Reminds Us to Evaluate our Home Plumbing

(NewsUSA) – Plumbing leaks are rampant and such a problem that the Enironmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a Fix a Leak Week campaign in March to educate the public and save water. FloLogic, a smart leak control technology company, is participating in the effort with practical tips and smart home solutions for every homeowner.Plumbing leaks waste nearly one trillion gallons of water that enters U.S. households each year, or 12 percent of total water used in our homes, according to the Residential End Uses of Water Study, which evaluated 23,000 households. And leaks destroy property to the tune of more than $10 billion in insurance payouts annually.Fix a Leak Week runs March 18-24 and presents an opportunity for the EPA, local communities and industry to join a common effort to shut down water waste."Leaks aren’t top of mind for most homeowners because water is cheap and most water meters can’t register the small leaks that trickle down the drain," says Chuck DeSmet, founder of FloLogic, whose smart leak detection system can identify and automatically stop leaks that occur anywhere in a plumbing supply before they cause damage or waste. "Destructive leaks get addressed when they’re discovered, while leaks that simply waste water can persist for years, particularly if they’re undetected. But water destruction and waste are completely preventable."For the Fix a Leak Week campaign, and throughout the year, FloLogic urges everyone to observe practical steps to stop leaks, and to consider adding smart water control technology to their connected homes so all leaks are recognized as soon as they appear.Here are five water-saving tips for Fix a Leak Week from FloLogic:* Review the water bill: A family of four will typically use 12,000 gallons (16 centum cubic feet) per month. Usage in excess of this amount indicates a likely leak. But keep in mind that water meters can’t detect the small leaks, so even a normal water bill may not reveal a problem.* Inspect toilets: Worn-out flappers are a primary water waster. Listen for toilets that refill between flushes. Find slow leaks by dropping food coloring in tanks. If the bowl takes color without a flush, there’s a leak.* Check interior faucets:Drips from sink and tub faucets and showerheads are easy to spot, but often ignored. Repair or replace worn parts to curb water-wasting drips.* Look outside: Outside hose or irrigation system leaks often go unnoticed. Check for drips and moist ground during dry weather to find preventable leaks.* Get smart water control: A smart water valve, such as that offered from flologic.com will detect leaks beginning as small as a half-ounce of water per minute, and automatically shut them off. While the primary function of FloLogic is to prevent property damage, it has the added benefit of flagging hidden leaks to save natural resources, reduce water bills and qualify many homeowners for insurance discounts. 

Surety Bond Producers Offer Sound Advice for Construction Firms

(NewsUSA) – Commercial construction is a competitive business, and to succeed, contractors need to find the best support and advice possible.One way for a construction contracting company to ensure access to critical relationships needed for sound business advice and for qualifying for surety credit is to partner with a professional surety bond producer, according to experts at the National Association of Surety Bond Producers (NASBP), the Bethesda, Md.-based association for surety bond producers.Most contractors know that surety bonds help establish their credentials, tangibly demonstrating their ability to perform through performance and payment bonds. However, they may not realize the full value of building a relationship with a bond producer."Bonding agents, called bond producers, guide companies through the process of achieving surety credit. Bond producers will act in many capacities – mentors, educators, advisors – with those construction firms to ensure that they mature and remain successful," says Robert Shaw, President of Skillings Shaw & Associates in Lewiston, Maine, and President of the NASBP.Bond producers can help contractors in a variety of ways, such as:- Review: Full-time, experienced bond producers are familiar with contract review, and can help construction businesses succeed by reviewing contracts and identifying difficult language that may place undue risk on these businesses, creating surety underwriting concerns.- Referrals: Bond producers know the key players in the coatruction environment, and they can introduce contractors to the right contacts, such as construction-oriented bankers, accountants, and attorneys, to help their businesses flourish.- Reflecting: Sometimes you just need someone to listen. A bond producer can give counsel and provide experienced and knowledgeable perspective to construction businesses, as well as strategic advice for how to expand and grow the business. But they also can be an ear for someone who needs to talk through challenging decisions to help avert problems before they happen.Construction businesses need to look for producers who have specialist expertise in surety bonding. "Not all insurance agents truly know the needs of construction businesses and surety; in fact, most do not," relays Shaw. "There can be a substantial difference in knowledge and ability between an agent who has never placed a bond or who only occasionally places a bond for a client and one who specializes in surety full-time," says Shaw.For more information about surety bonds and the benefits of an ongoing relationship with a bond producer, visit https://www.nasbp.org/guaranteed/home.

Gini’s “Blockchain with A Soul” Is Saving Capitalism

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – “Violent revolutions are inevitable when economic and political conditions become intolerable to the masses,” says Ferris Eanfar, CEO of the Gini Foundation. With the rapid rise in wealth inequality and the escalation of economic and social conflicts in recent years, it appears Mr. Eanfar’s predictions are coming true.
“Yes, sadly, this is what keeps the Gini team very busy,” says Eanfar, regarding the Gini Foundation, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, economic, technology and education platform. Gini’s mission is to protect human rights and prevent large-scale violence by creating a more equitable and sustainable cryptocurrency-based monetary system. According to sources familiar with the platform, compared to other cryptocurrencies, Gini is designed to work more safely and effectively in real-world commerce.
As a best-selling author and International Political Economy expert, cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence (AI) architect, financial services professional, and former U.S. Government Intelligence operative, Eanfar has a unique perspective. In his most recent book, “GINI: Capitalism, Cryptocurrencies & the Battle for Human Rights,” Eanfar provides refreshing answers to big questions about privacy, A.I., cryptocurrencies, taxes, economic freedom and other socioeconomic trends and technologies that are shaping the future of humanity.

Junior Achievement Reconnects With Alumni for Celebration

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – This year marks a milestone for Junior Achievement (JA), a non-government organization that prepares youth for future jobs by teaching them about entrepreneurship, money management, and career planning, as it celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Millions of students have benefitted from JA programs, and the organization wants to hear from them as part of the centennial celebration.
Notable JA alumni, known as “Achievers,” include Mark Cuban, computer entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, ABC News anchor Juju Chang, sportscaster James Brown, and America Online co-founder Steve Case.
Research has shown that students who completed JA programs reported more confidence in their money-management skills and were more likely to finish college and start a business than peers who did not participate in JA programs.
In honor of its centennial, JA wants to reconnect with more of its alumni and encourage them to share their experiences and success stories.
A new website, JA.org/ConnectAlumni, provides a forum for students who have been involved with JA to view photo and video archives, as well as share their memories of the organization and how it has impacted their lives. The site also offers opportunities to connect with fellow alumni with links to alumni groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.
JA programs, presented by corporate and community volunteers, are available for kindergarten through high school and reach more than 4.8 million students every year in 107 markets across the United States, plus 5.2 million students in 100 other countries.
The primary goal of the non-profit is to provide youth with the knowledge of the many possibilities available to them, be it going to college, learning a trade, or starting a business.
The programs help students learn the skills to make smart decisions about the future, so they can achieve economic success and financial security in a way that is suited to their interests and abilities.
As the JA website explains in its mission statement, the programs “ignite the spark in young people to experience and realize the opportunities and realities of work and life in the 21st century.”
Junior Achievement USA is a member of JA Worldwide.
Visit ja.org for more information about JA programs and opportunities to get involved.

Why a Roth IRA May Be Ideally Suited for Millennials

(NewsUSA) – When it comes to saving, a Roth IRA may be a Millennial’s best friend.Unlike traditional IRAs or even workplace 401(k) plans, Roth money is tax-free in retirement. And even as the account ideally grows fatter over the years -helped in part by a wondrous thing called compound interest – the original contributions can be withdrawn at any time, for any reason, with no taxes or penalties assessed.That’s right, any time. For any reason."Roth contributions are made with after-tax dollars, but those in their 20s or 30s are probably in a lower tax bracket now than they will be later in life when their salaries are higher," explains Melissa Ridolfi, vice president for retirement and college leadership at Fidelity Investments. "So not only would they likely be minimizing their lifetime tax bill, but they’d also have tremendous flexibility."In fact, it’s the flexibility of Roth IRAs over the shorter term – and what that means for two of Millennials’ most pressing issues – that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves:* Buying a home. The homeownership rate among Millennials, age 25 to 34, is about 8 percent lower than that of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers at the same point in their lives, according to CNBC. And you know what being stuck renting an often exorbitantly priced apartment does for wealth accrual: bupkis. Or, as Tamara Sims, a research scientist at the Stanford Center on Longevity, more delicately told the network: "Buying a home at age 50 or 60 isn’t going to do you much good in funding a 30-year retirement."Now, remember what we said about original Roth contributions being tax- and penalty-free? With rare exceptions – and this is one of them – that doesn’t apply to any investment gains withdrawn before age 59?. Yes, thanks to this carve-out, first-time homebuyers (as well as those who haven’t owned a home for at least two years) may also be able to withdraw up to $10,000 of those gains and still not pay any tax or penalty as long as they’ve held the account for at least five years.* Education. And why aren’t as many Millennials buying homes? One of the biggest reasons: crushing student-loan debt.In another of those Millennial-friendly exceptions, Roth money can be tapped to pay for qualified educational expenses like college or graduate school for yourself, your spouse, or your children. Unlike with homes, though, you’ll only beat the penalty – not the tax – on any earnings you withdraw when following the same five-year rule.There’s evidence that Millennials are getting the message about Roths.Fidelity, which has tools and scenarios to help pick which IRA is right for you – as well as advice on specifically saving in a Roth during your 20s and 30s – says 80 percent of Millennials’ contribution dollars at the firm are going into Roths.As for 2019, know that the income cutoff for Roth eligibility (based on your modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI) has been increased over last year to $137,000 from $135,000 for single filers and $203,000 from $199,000 for joint filers. Also raised: the annual contribution limit for both Roth and traditional IRAs (to $6,000 from $5,500, with an additional catch-up of $1,000 for those 50 and older)."One of the great things about being a Millennial," says Ridolfi, "is that they have time and the power of compound interest on their side." 

Feeling Empowered: Women Ready to Put Their Money to Work for Them

Lately, it has become clear to more women that they need to do more with their money to help it grow for the future.

For decades, we’ve been hearing about an “investment gap” between males and females. And while it still exists, a whopping 72 percent of women in a new survey by Fidelity Investments say that they’re ready to make bolder moves in the coming months – including investing more of their savings.

“Women tend to be the CFO of their household,” says Kathy Murphy, president of personal investing at Fidelity. “They tend to pay the bills, they tend to make 80 percent of the purchasing decisions. This (investing) can be part of it.”

Feature-Rich Dog Parks Are Coming to Towns Across America

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Lassie used to run free throughout the town, solving problems and rescuing kids in trouble.
Today, it is rare and often illegal to let a dog roam off-leash. Even large parks usually have leash laws. At the same time, dog ownership is growing.
According to the American Pet Products Association, there are over 60 million US households with at least one dog. And those dog owners are increasingly looking for places to let their dogs run and socialize off-leash.
Some communities have solved this by creating off-leash areas such as fenced-in parks where people can let Spot run free.
According to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, a good dog park has a few essential features. The basics are bags and trash cans for cleaning up after dogs, fresh drinking water, and shade for cooling down.
Ideally, dog parks would include separate entrance and exit gates, allowing everyone to comeand go with not only ease, but safety. And a dual-gate system would help eliminate dogs escaping through any open gate while another dog is entering or leaving through it.
While those are the basics, dog parks are popping up around the country with additional fun features to keep canines safe and happy.
Beau’s Dream Dog Park in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania has a tennis ball tree that launches balls for large dogs.
Pilgrim Dog Park in Provincetown, Massachusetts has pet-friendly sculptures designed by local artists that dogs can play on.
Catalyst Experiential is currently designing the Bucks County Dog Park, which will be one of the most feature-laden in the country. The entrance is designed to resemble the two halves of a large, broken dog biscuit. Once they pass through the “dog biscuit” entrance, dogs will find water features, an agility station, ample shade, and even dog-wash facilities inside their park. It’s like Disney for dogs!
The dog park is one of many projects that Catalyst Experiential is bringing to communities as a part of their vision to integrate community and communication.
The “broken dog biscuit” entrance to the park features two displays that will enable local government, schools, organizations and businesses to speak directly to the communities they serve, including announcing local events, issuing safety messages, and other timely communications.
A dog lover and owner himself, Catalyst Experiential CEO Thaddeus Bartkowski explains that “while dog ownership has increased, rules and regulations restricting the ability of dogs to run free has unfortunately been on the rise as well.”
“What we hope to create is a place where dogs can get the off-leash exercise they deserve to enhance quality of life for both the dogs and their owners,” he says.
For more information about Catalyst Experiential, reach out here.

Which Home Upgrades Are Worth It and Which Aren’t

(NewsUSA) – Sponsored by GAF – Mark your calendars.Come April, we’re looking at the start of peak home buying season – the four months that generally account for more than 40 percent of annual housing transactions. The reasons are pretty obvious: The weather is (cross your fingers) nicer, the holidays are a distant memory, and families with kids prefer to relocate before the start of a new school year.So if you’re eager to sell – or just want to make some changes to test reactions – now’s the time to save yourself some grief by learning which upgrades increase your house’s value in potential buyers’ eyes and which leave them stone cold.And while you’re at it, never forget the first rule of upgrades, according to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report for 2019: "Think like a real-estate broker." Read on to see why that includes focusing heavily on "curb appeal" and "first impressions."* Worth it: a new garage door. It ranked first on the magazine’s list of projects, with a 97.5 percent return on investment thanks in part to its relatively low cost. And for anyone who ever doubted that everything is pricier in New York City, that same high-tensile-strength steel door with windows costs $426 more there than the national average of $3,611.* Not worth it: upscale bathroom remodeling. Want an easy way to save $60,000 or so? Don’t – repeat, don’t – spend it on installing the whirlpool tub, heated towel bars, and stone countertops of your dreams.Why? Because they’re your dreams. And as Remodeling magazine notes, "Because of the vast differences in aesthetic tastes, one person’s elegant new bath will be viewed by a range of other prospective buyers as "tacky and outdated and in desperate need of a reset."* Worth it: a bigger rug. Going bigger is actually a trick some real estate moguls have been known to use. Since the living room is likely the first interior part of the house buyers will see – and, remember, first impressions matter – bet on them extrapolating from it to guesstimate the entire size of the house.Ergo, since the goal is to make the room seem more spacious …At least some buyers will judge the size of a room based on the size of the rug.A nice Oriental one perhaps? * Not worth it: a midrange backyard patio. It’s in the backyard, right? – emphasis on "back." Which explains why it only garnered a 55.2 percent return on investment.* Worth it: a new roof. "Buyers pay a premium for one already in place," Credit.com has observed.No kidding. In fact, given that it’s such a prominent part of the house, you might call the roof the ultimate curb enhancer: If buyers like what they see, you’re halfway home; if they don’t, they may look for even more things to hate and certainly won’t be quick to open their wallets.Or, as Remodeling magazine says about curb appeal: "The impact these impressions make is critical in setting the stage for what a buyer is willing to pay for a home."If your roof needs replacing, check out the best-selling Timberline roofing shingle line from GAF (gaf.com), North America’s largest roofing manufacturer. The shingles have the look of luxury at a very affordable price.And remember: Don’t be afraid to use a new roof as the "negotiating tool" with buyers that Credit.com says it is.* Not worth it: a major upscale kitchen remodel. Another of those "differences in aesthetic tastes" issues. Better off to stick to repainting the walls or resurfacing cabinets, if need be.