A Simple Test to See If You’re Up to Installing Your Own Roof

(NewsUSA) – Sponsored by GAF – Think you’re up to tackling the fourth most dangerous job in America? Well, that’s what you’d be doing if you decide to install your own new roof.According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even police officers have less chance of dying on the job than professional roofers do. And yet countless do-it-yourselfers risk life and limb every year to try to save some bucks and/or prove they know their way around a pneumatic nail gun."There’s no better way to meet an orthopedic surgeon – or an undertaker – than by spending an extended amount of time on your roof," cautions PopularMechanics.com. "One small slip or misstep, and it’s a long way down."With that caveat in mind, here are three questions to ask yourself before committing:* Are you comfortable with heights?You may have had a great time going hot-air ballooning with friends, but it’s an entirely different thing being up 40 feet on a roof knowing that – even after you’ve ripped out all the old roofing and checked for damage – you still have to install things like leak barrier and roof deck protection before you can even think about nailing on new shingles.Again, all while 40 feet off the ground.And all while wearing rubber-soled boots to (hopefully) keep you from tripping on a slick spot, safety glasses to (hopefully) keep you from injuring an eye with an errantly hammered nail, and a harness to (hopefully) keep you from plummeting to the ground when working on a steeply pitched roof. * Are you as strong as you think?You’d better hope so because you’ll be lugging what feels like tons of roofing material and equipment up a ladder.The equipment alone includes (but isn’t limited to): an air compressor, a circular saw, a hack saw, an electric drill, a saw horse, a roofing shovel, a claw hammer, a framing hammer, a chisel, and the aforementioned pneumatic nail gun, which has been described as "basically a weapon."And that ladder? Not only will you need to position it exactly right for safety reasons (extending it 36 inches above the landing or roof eave), but there’s a potentially life-or-death reason why it should be made of a particular material."It’s crucial to use a non-conductive ladder made of wood or fiberglass when working near wires to avoid electrocution," advises Jason Joplin, program manager of the GAF Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence (CARE). "Far too many roofers have died because they were using metal ladders."* Do you already have the necessary tools?Remember, that was just a partial list you just read. And as Angie’s List says, "If you have to go out and buy a power saw but don’t plan to use it in the future, it’s probably not a good investment."Having second thoughts? GAF (gaf.com), North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, has made it easy to find the most reputable and adequately insured professionals in your area by searching its website’s GAF Master Elite Contractor database.Oh, and for those wondering, the top three most dangerous jobs are loggers, fishing workers, and aircraft pilots. Cops, incredibly, didn’t even make the top ten. 

How to Defeat A Clog

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7 Steps to Get Financially Fit in 2018

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – As 2017 draws to a close, you may be thinking about next year’s resolutions. While many of us vow to get to the gym, you may want to consider getting fit in your personal finances before 2018 even begins.
Here are seven money moves to make before the clock hits midnight that will start your year on the right foot.
* Declutter and sell: Have an aunt that gives you an ugly sweater every holiday? Consider selling your unwanted clothes, gift cards, electronics, and the like, online. Sites such as Raise, thredUP, and Ebay are great places to sell your unwanted items and earn extra cash.
* Start investing: Investing doesn’t have to be scary. And you can start small (such as taking the extra cash you earned from selling your unwanted items!). The easiest way to start investing is to make sure you are enrolled in your employers’ retirement savings plan. You can also use apps such as Stash, Robinhood, or Acorns to begin.
* Check your credit report: Planning on making any big purchases in 2018? Your credit report contains information about the status of your credit accounts and your bill-paying history. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends checking your report at least once a year, and check again before applying for loans for big purchases such as cars or a home. Keep in mind that if your credit is frozen, you can anticipate a $20-$30 charge to unfreeze your credit so a report can be run.
* Make a plan to ditch your debt: Evaluate all the different loans and any credit card debt that you’ve accrued and consider combining them into a single loan with one easy payment. A loan with LendingClub transfers all your different debts into one place, and with a much lower interest rate.
“Managing one payment is a lot easier,” says Alia Dudum, consumer debt expert for LendingClub.
“With lower interest rates on your debt through loan consolidation, you’re setting 2018 up as your best year yet.”
* Create a budget: Ah, the dreaded “B” word. To avoid taking on even more debt in 2018, make a budget to plan your spending. Think about your net income, allocate 10 percent of your paycheck to your savings, itemize necessary expenses, and then you an use what’s leftover for vacations, shopping, and eating out.
* Take a money minute: Get into the habit of scheduling time to look at your spending and checking in on your financial goals. Put an alert on your calendar to check it once a week. You should also make this a family affair by scheduling meetings with your spouse, parents and children to talk about your financial status and your financial goals.
* Reward yourself: If your downfall is spending and racking up credit card debt, for example, allocate a small amount of money to treat yourself to something small once you have reached a specific financial goal, such as paying off that one credit card, not eating out every day, or sticking to your budget.
LendingClub is a smarter way to take your debt head-on in 2018. For more ideas on how to make 2018 a prosperous year, visit www.lendingclub.com to connect with experts who can help.

Are Fewer New Year’s Financial Resolutions A Worrisome Sign of Inertia?

(NewsUSA) – Blame it on things being too good?As America enters the ninth year of a bull stock market, the number of people making year-end financial resolutions is at an all-time low, according to the ninth annual "Fidelity Investments New Year Financial Resolutions Study." And its authors say that’s because so many "are feeling better about their personal financial situation and are generally optimistic about what 2018 will bring."In fact, only a paltry 27 percent of respondents said they intended to make a financial resolution this year. That’s down 16 percent from the high of 43 percent who answered similarly heading into 2014, and – here’s the study’s main red flag – could actually signal a worrisome sense of "inertia" settling in."Now is not the time to take one’s foot off the pedal, because good financial times can represent the best opportunities to help achieve your goals and establish saving and investment habits that can get one through good times and bad," warned Ken Hevert, Fidelity’s senior vice president of retirement.So what were this year’s top three vows?The same as last year’s: save more, reduce debt, and spend less. Where that starts getting interesting, though, is that when you look at those respondents who ended 2017 feeling better about their finances – and they were at a record high – a whopping 66 percent singled out being able to "save more" as a major factor.Dig down to Millennials – who recently surpassed Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation – and it turns out they’re the most euphoric demo of all. Not only did 78 percent of those surveyed report that higher savings had improved their finances, but 90 percent believe they’ll be even better off in 2018.That’s not to imply that all is "Happy Days Are Here Again." (Note to Millennials: That’s the title of a song associated with both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Barbra Streisand, whom you may have heard referred to as "Babs" by some of your parents.)Fifty-seven percent of all respondents cited "unexpected expenses" as one of their top concerns for 2018, and a large chunk of them were so spooked by all the natural disasters we’ve been experiencing that they’re planning on increasing their emergency funds.Which brings us to the big question anyone who’s ever made any kind of resolution grapples with: How to maintain your momentum past January?As far as your finances go, know that two of the best strategies that worked for the study’s respondents were:* Breaking a goal into smaller, more attainable targets.* Rewarding yourself for hitting milestones along the way.More in-depth tips from Fidelity, titled "3 Ways to Succeed at New Year’s Resolutions," is available at fidelity.com/resolutions. And for those who really want a financial reality check, including tax guidance, there’s "Savvy Money Moves to Make Before Year-End" and "Five Things to Review Annually."Fidelity’s Hevert even has a piece of advice for those who disdain financial resolutions entirely: "Make saving and investing a permanent habit, not just a once-a-year vow." 

Contemporary Style – What It Is And Tips for Your Home

(NewsUSA) – Contemporary style and design are everywhere and can be a foundation for many new homes built today.But what exactly does that mean and how can it be incorporated into existing homes?"Contemporary style is really about reduction – reducing things to their essence and having really clean lines and uncluttered spaces," says Alan Pickett, Pella Corporation’s resident architect.Current contemporary design offers a softer take on modern – it has the same simple, clean lines, but with decoration that is naturally minimalistic. Light, color, and fabrics all play a part in gaining a contemporary look for your home.Today’s contemporary-style dwellings will have asymmetrical shapes, windows with minimal trim in a contrasting or dark color, and a lot of glass and other textures.The following tips from Iowa-based Pella Windows can help you find just the right design to accent your home:* Add neutrals with color – One clear sign of contemporary design is neutral tones, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring.Shades of gray and blue are particularly prevalent in contemporary style, and white and taupe color palettes allow for simple, bold colors to take center stage as in favorite wall photos or a definitive area rug.*Let the light in – Light and shadow in a space are key to contemporary style and are much less about decoration. Not only do the light fixtures need to have straight lines and sleek metallic finishes, but even the windows in your home can outline its contemporary design. Windows with a vast expanse of glass and thin frames, such as Pella’s Architect Series Contemporary line of wood windows, can engulf a room in light and be the foundation for achieving contemporary style.* Use textiles – In reducing things to the essence, silk, wool, linen and cotton – all natural fabrics – are typically used to highlight the clean lines of contemporary design.This also means having furniture with less ornamentation and using natural materials such as wood with less grain. The natural textiles also offer the option of adding bold color into a minimalist space.* Mix it up – Most homes today are going to have some existing traditional elements – such as crown molding – but don’t let that stand in your way. Paint the existing design features in the previously mentioned neutral colors – shades of gray and blue, white and taupe. Then add an accent color and some contemporary furniture that will pull the traditional and contemporary vision together.You can find more contemporary trend tips at Pella.com.

Post-Hurricanes Harvey and Irma – How to Prepare For the Next Storm

(NewsUSA) – Sponsored by GAF – When did you ever think you’d see much of Houston submerged under several feet of floodwaters? Or more than 6 million Floridians ordered to evacuate in anticipation of a storm that would ultimately prove so monstrous that seemingly anything that wasn’t nailed down might turn into what locals called "dangerous flying projectiles?"But both those things just happened as first Hurricane Harvey and then Hurricane Irma laid a path of death and destruction that boggled the mind."Such a vicious one-two punch hasn’t hit the U.S. in over a century," National Geographic reported.And with the official end of hurricane season not until November 30, homeowners can’t be blamed for wondering what to do, proactively, to increase their odds of beating future challenges from Mother Nature. Read on for some ideas.* 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. Factor in a hurricane-strength rainstorm, though, and the very roofing system component meant to control the flow of all that water -; thereby protecting your roof, walls, foundation, and landscape from flooding -; can be about as useful as a virus-infected laptop."If you let gutter cleaning go by the wayside, it could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars," the website warns.* Trim weak tree branches. One of the many tragedies in Texas involved a 60-year-old woman who died when a tree crashed on her home while she slept.That’s the extreme end of what can happen.Far more common is wondering how you’ll rebuild after the battering your house just took from a fallen branch. And as the New York Times reports, "Tragedy’s hand may be unpredictable, but the road to recovery is forged in the language of your homeowner insurance policy, words that will determine how — and if — you will be made whole again."* Make sure your roof is in good condition. If you haven’t done so already, 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. And since manufacturer’s warranties typically don’t cover roof damage caused by disasters like hurricanes, you’ll also want to review both your own warranty and home insurance policy to fully understand the coverage and any restrictions."If you are going to replace your roof, consider shingles that have passed the UL2218, Class 4 impact test, the toughest in the industry," says 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 describes as "a rubber-like material for enhanced flexibility and durability during extreme weather conditions."Added bonus: Depending on where you live, shingles that pass UL2218, Class 4 impact tests may also qualify for significant discounts on that homeowners insurance of yours.* Reinforce windows. Four words say it all: flying shards of glass.You don’t want them. Which is why the Federal Emergency Management Agency – in describing windows as "particularly vulnerable" – recommends springing for either impact-resistant glazing or permanent storm shutters. (A grief-saving tip from FEMA: "Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.) 

Back To School Means Early-Morning-Wake-Up Call

(NewsUSA) – It’s that time of year again — back to school.Kids may not be happy, but moms are most likely thrilled to get organized, prepared and back into a routine.It can be difficult to put a schedule in place after a summer of sleeping in, staying up late, hanging out at the pool, and just relaxing.If this sounds like you and your family, here are some great tips to get you started:* Breakfast is essential. During the summer, both moms and kids experience inconsistency. To help get everyone back in a routine, work on a consistent breakfast time. Remind kids that if they don’t eat, lunchtime at school will feel an eternity away. Quick and easy options for the most important meal of the day include cereal and milk or apples or bananas with nut butter. If you’re looking for diversity, Malt-O-Meal brand cereals come in more than 30 varieties — something for every taste bud in the family.* Order the school supplies online. Who has time to run all over town, stopping at four different stores for items on the list? Order what you can online and save time and money. Many stores offer back-to-school sales and everything will be delivered to your door.* Over the weekend, get groceries and meal prep done for the week. You can help yourself by chopping up produce, making soups and casseroles to freeze, and assigning portions to containers.* Reevaluate what your kids can do or contribute to. Kids are perfectly capable of helping out: based on their age, they can make their own lunch and snacks for school, put laundry away and take out the trash and recycling.Sometimes, there are good lessons to learn, too. For example, the Malt-O-Meal cereal bags from breakfast can be recycled through a free program in partnership with TerraCycle, a New Jersey-based recycling company. Through the Malt-O-Meal Cereal Bag Recycling Program, you can ensure that none of it ends up in the landfill. And the bonus? It’s a great way for kids to get involved.So think about what your kids and family can do to help you during this school year. They are able to do more than you think. Be organized, plan ahead and get that school routine in place so the rest of the year is a breeze. 

Study Suggests Today’s US Students Are Less Efficient Readers

(NewsUSA) – Do today’s students perform better than their peers in 1960? Given the advances in education and technology, it would be natural to assume that the answer is a resounding "yes." But, when it comes to reading efficiency, new research suggests that that’s not the case.The research, published by the International Literacy Association, compares the comprehension-based silent reading efficiency of US students (grades 2-12) in 2011 with data collected in 1960.A key finding was that students fall further behind as they advance through the grades, wrote Alexandra Spichtig, Ph.D., Chief Research Officer of Reading Plus, and first author of the study.The study showed that today’s second-grade students are comparable to their peers of 50 years ago, but that by the end of high school, students’ comprehension-based silent reading rates average 19 percent slower than the rates of their 1960 peers."What we know — and the data underscore this — is that for many students, the progression to efficient silent reading does not develop naturally. Many students need structured silent reading instruction," explains Mark Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of Reading Plus, a web-based silent reading program for schools.Some of the benefits of implementing silent reading instruction at home or in school are:* Expanded vocabulary* Improved comprehension* Increased efficiency* Enhanced reading enjoyment* Improved writing skillsExperts agree that without extensive silent reading practice in the classroom or at home, students will continue to struggle and literacy rates will continue to fall short or fall behind."Effective reading instruction must integrate fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension practice tailored to meet each student’s unique needs. This study demonstrates that as long as structured silent reading practice is neglected in this country, the literacy problem is likely to continue," Taylor adds.While researchers can’t pinpoint reasons for the decline in silent reading efficiency from that of 50 years ago, it stands to reason that those students who engage in structured silent reading practice become more efficient readers and take with them a love of books that lasts far past their high school graduation.For more information, please visit www.readingplus.com

Summer’s End: The Perfect Time to Get Financially Organized

(NewsUSA) – Couldn’t find that birth certificate when you needed it? Or maybe it was your tax records for the last seven years that the IRS refused to believe really did get lost in a move?As you recall the initial panic — and subsequent fury if also forced to navigate some government bureaucracy for copies –think about whether it’s finally time to keep your promise about organizing your important financial and family documents. After all, it’s summer, and a person can only stand so much sun and sand while waiting to see which TV show from the new fall line-up gets cancelled first.And if you are going to get organized, you need to decide whether you’re ready to embrace the 21st century (in much the same way you did now-ubiquitous smartphones) or stick to the more "vintage" practice of paying for either a bank security box or a locked fireproof box kept in your closet.That said, know that even before Fidelity Investments officially introduced it a year ago, Barron’s magazine gave the free, online storage service FidSafe — Get it? "Fid Safe" — 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 beneficiaries, and even passwords."No, you don’t have to be a Fidelity customer to use it. However, your approach to getting things in order should be the same no matter how you store things:* Start by identifying the documents you need to keep, which can be a cleansing experience unto itself.* Separate them by category. While you might not need all 10 of the ones some experts suggest, adding things like "medical history" and "legal documents" to more obvious financial topics could be a good starting point.* Tell a trusted family member or friend where everything is. "Having an effective system in place cannot exist in a vacuum," notes Andrew Peterson, FidSafe’s vice president and product manager.Security-wise, FidSafe stands out because of its end-to-end encryption — meaning, your documents are scrambled both in transit, while uploading them, and on the site’s servers — as well as its log-in protections.That alone is pretty 21st century. You also get up to 5GB of storage, which is enough to handle a heck of a lot of material (including video of home upgrades, say, you want to memorialize for insurance purposes). And you can even add trusted contacts like family and advisors to share specific documents with.Of course, if you’re not interested in being able to access your information anywhere via a web browser or iOS app, there’s always that fireproof box in your closet.But then, unlike FidSafe, the box won’t automatically transfer your documents to a designee of your choice after your death so that loved ones are spared the trauma that FidSafe’s developer has been quoted saying he strove to prevent: "People shared stories like, ‘My dad died, and my mom doesn’t know where anything is,’ and vice versa." 

Avoiding Scammers: 5 Tips for Hiring a Roofing Contractor

(NewsUSA) – Sponsored by GAF – It’s the biggest con being played on homeowners, according to the Better Business Bureau’s new Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report.Some guy knocks on your door claiming to have extra roofing material left over from a nearby job, and offers to fix yours for bupkis.And you know what you get for bupkis, right?Invariably, the scammer — who especially loves showing up in areas recovering from major storms — takes the money and runs after doing little or no work."You always try to give people the benefit of the doubt," the Bureau’s Felicia Thompson told a local CBS TV station in Arizona. "Not everybody’s bad, but nowadays you just can’t do that."No, you can’t. And now that you’ve been forewarned about this particular swindle, read on to learn how to choose the right (reputable) contractor to repair or replace your own roof.* Make certain they’re insured. If there’s one thing that’s non-negotiable it’s that the contractor carry insurance for all employees and subcontractors — and provide a copy of their certificate for your inspection."Actually call the insurance carrier to confirm that they are valid," Angie’s List advises.* Run if they suggest this. Did the contractor vying for your business really just claim to be able to handle a storm-related repair, say, without you paying your required insurance deductible? There’s a name for that: insurance fraud, which you want no part of.* Run even faster if they suggest this. While it’s reasonable for contractors to request a modest down payment before work begins — call it "earnest money" — beware if the figure exceeds 20 percent of the bill’s projected total cost. Should they start talking 50 or even 75 percent, though. . ."The red flags of possible fraud are fluttering," the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud’s James Quiggle has warned.* Know your contractor. When it comes to peace of mind, hiring a contractor who’s a member of a reputable roofing manufacturer’s contractor program is helpful. But certification alone may not tell the whole story. GAF, North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, for example, is exceptionally strict about who it designates as its highest-ranking "Master Elite Contractors" — less than 2 percent of roofing contractors have qualified — and you can find one in your area through a quick search on the gaf.com website."We have a full vetting process we go through to determine whether they’re the right contractors to put in our program, like making sure they’re licensed and insured where required, and have a history of installing roofs in the local community," says Jim Slauson, GAF’s vice president of certification program and services.* Communication skills matter. A knowledgeable contractor will present a range of roofing shingle and accessory options by price, style and color. Balking at running through them with you is a bad sign.Oh, and about that Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report. Guess who’s "most susceptible," as the Bureau delicately put it, to home improvement scams in general? Men aged 55-64.Now you’re doubly forewarned.