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.  

Storm Doors: Advantages and Tips for Your Home

(NewsUSA) – The versatility of a storm door to transform your home and your comfort level, between the warm and cold months throughout the year, earns it a spot on most homeowners’ project lists.Each season brings out something new from a storm door, and yet many consumers struggle with the benefits of and tips for buying a storm door. Advantages * A Warm Welcome. Setting the tone of your home with the entryway is essential. Storm doors create a better first impression for guests and make your home feel warm and inviting. With the entry door open, natural light can create a bright and welcoming space for you and your guests.* Better Air Circulation. This is one of the transformative features of a storm door. In the warmer months, it can become a screen door. Many storm doors feature either full- or half-glass panels that can be switched out with a screen at any time. Some doors, such as the Rolscreen Storm Door from Pella, feature hidden screens that are simply pulled into place when needed.* Exterior Door Protection. A storm door can help protect your front entry door from rain, ice, and snow. And it can help protect your entry door investment and maintain curb appeal.* Improved Energy Efficiency.Storm doors can help reduce energy loss by providing a buffer against summer heat and winter cold. With a storm door, the other systems in the home, such as the heater or air conditioner, don’t need to work as hard. Tips * Sizes & Configurations. Ensure that you are getting the right size by measuring the opening for the storm door — between the door jambs, not the door itself. Most screen doors come in standard door widths of 30, 32, 34, and 36 inches and may be hinged on either side. But some can be specially designed to open to the right or left. Be attentive of the way the entry door opens.* Designs. Want to see the whole entry door? Want a retractable screen or a screen that is removed every winter? With updated hardware styles, beautiful glass designs, including Low-E options, retractable screens and assorted colors to choose from, you can keep the architectural aesthetic as well as your functional goals in mind when shopping. 

A Decade Later, Economic Crisis Still Hitting Middle-Income Boomers

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Ten years after the U.S. financial crisis of 2007, a survey from the Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement found that middle-income boomers feel less than secure about their financial future, with almost 100 percent surveyed saying the economy has not fully recovered, and 65 percent believing they have not personally benefitted at all from any recovery.

Prior to the economic crash, many baby boomers had a clear vision of their retirement, but now say in all likelihood they will not be as financially independent as they once thought. Fortunately, resources from organizations such as Bankers Life can help middle-income boomers better plan for retirement with useful tips and how-to’s, because no one should have to choose between having to pay for long-term care and buying groceries.

Ladder Safety Should Be Tops for Home Improvers

Five words or less(NewsUSA) -As the warm weather of spring and summer arrives, ambitious and well-intentioned homeowners embark on cleaning, maintenance, and improvement projects that often involve roofs, gutters, and ladders. However, working on a ladder can be dangerous.
Consider this: every year, approximately 164,000 people visit emergency rooms in the United States because of ladder accidents, according to data from the World Health Organization.
Underscoring the fact that lack of knowledge about ladder safety is a growing problem are recent survey results published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine which found that the number of ladder-related injuries in the United States has increased by more than 50 percent in 15 years.
Professionals and nonprofessionals alike can benefit by keeping some safety tips in mind, courtesy of the Consumer Product Safety Commission:
-Stand firm. When positioning a ladder anywhere around your home, be sure to place it level on firm ground.
-Have a partner, but go solo. When climbing a ladder, have another person with you to hold the lower end for extra safety and support. However, only one person at a time should be on a ladder so it doesn’t become top-heavy and fall over.
-Don’t go to the top. Never stand on the top rung of a ladder, and don’t reach from a ladder. Instead, climb down and move the ladder to the location of your choice.
-Watch for doors. Never place a ladder near a door that can be opened; an unexpected exit could lead to a ladder accident.
-Be shoe smart. Wear shoes with clean, dry soles when working on ladders. Avoid sandals or flip flops.
Most importantly, don’t forget the rule of three: According to the American Ladder Institute, the “Three Points of Contact” rule means keeping either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand in contact with the steps, rungs, or side rails of a ladder at all times to reduce chances of a slip or fall.
Gutter cleaning and maintenance are among the highest risk activities for ladder injuries. One option to reduce the risk is to install rain dispersal gutters that don’t require routine cleaning.
Products such as the Rainhandler Rain Dispersal system are engineered to keep leaves and debris out of gutters.
Visit www.rainhandler.com for more information about how the right gutter management can simplify home maintenance.

Summer Snack Hacks: Three Creative Tips for Simple Summer Snacking

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – School’s out for the summer, which means family fun time and hungry kids home all day. From camp lunches to days by the pool — and all of those lazy days in between — kids have one thing on their minds: snacks. To assemble the perfect snack and keep kids satisfied and smiling throughout the warmer months, follow this simple guide.
* Involve Kids in the Kitchen: All those years of cooking for the kids will soon come to an end when you enlist them as mini-master sous chefs. Whether your kids are two or 10, they’ll love learning and creating their own concoctions. Fruit skewers made from fresh fruit and toothpicks or straws make for the perfect teaching opportunity. Have your kids rinse strawberries, grapes and any other desired fruit, and slide them onto a colorful straw. For a frozen treat to beat the summer heat, pop them in the freezer for a few minutes before watching your kids enjoy their own creative snack creations.
* Colorful Creations: Hungry kids are grumpy kids, and grumpy kids tend to be unhappy. The best way to keep your kids happy is to feed them well. A proper snack time means an array of options, and something for everyone. By presenting snacks in a creative way, kids will get to choose what they want to eat, providing an increased sense of individuality. Try separating dry snacks from fruit and veggie bites to present a colorful spread.
If you’re looking to add that mid-day protein boost for a sluggish kid, a great healthy option is Deli Snackers from Land O’Frost, a baked meat snack made from high-quality, oven-roasted meats. This convenient and flavorful choice offers more than 10 grams of nourishing protein per serving with less than 400 mg of sodium, making it the perfect treat to pair with crackers and cheese cubes to appeal to the pickiest eater.
* Tasty Twist: Instead of those sugar-loaded popsicles that often spark temper tantrums after the inevitable sugar crash, consider making DIY popsicles. These frozen treats will eliminate the added sugar, while still providing the juicy, refreshing dessert your kids crave. Pop your favorite juice and fruit mixture into a blender, freeze until solid and serve to the kids guilt-free.
With these simple tricks in mind, grab the kids and get ready for a summer filled with simple snacking. For coupons and more information about Land O’Frost, visit www.landofrost.com.

Esta prueba de huella para los neumU+00E1ticos, Easy Tire, sU+00F3lo cuesta un centavo

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Los neumU+00E1ticos pueden no ser la primera cosa que usted nota cuando mira un automU+00F3vil, sin embargo puede ser el elemento mU+00E1s importante para la seguridad y el funcionamiento de cualquier vehículo. Cuando lo piensa, ellos son la única parte de su auto que lo conecta a la carretera.
Mientras que los frenos paran sus ruedas, son sus neumU+00E1ticos los que detienen el auto, y ése es el porqué mantenerlos es absolutamente delicado. Afortunadamente, uno de los chequeos de neumU+00E1ticos mU+00E1s importantes no le costarU+00E1 mU+00E1s de un centavo!
Una vez al mes, o antes de dirigirse a un largo viaje por carretera, revise sus neumU+00E1ticos para verificar el desgaste y cualquier daño usando “la prueba del centavo”. SU+00F3lo tome un centavo y seleccione un punto en su neumU+00E1tico donde la banda de rodadura aparece mU+00E1s baja. Luego, manteniendo el cuerpo de Lincoln entre el pulgar y el índice, coloque la cabeza de Lincoln en uno de los surcos. Si cualquier parte de la cabeza de Abe Lincoln estU+00E1 cubierta por la banda de rodadura, usted estU+00E1 conduciendo con una cantidad legal y segura de la banda.
Sin embargo, si toda la cabeza de Lincoln es visible, es una señal de que es hora de conseguir neumU+00E1ticos nuevos.
“La tracciU+00F3n y la banda de rodadura estU+00E1n inextricablemente unidas. Las ranuras en su neumU+00E1tico son fundamentales para ayudar a levantar el agua y permitir que el neumU+00E1tico se agarre la carretera”, dice Sarah Robinson, experta en seguridad de Michelin. “Asegurarse de que estU+00E1 conduciendo con neumU+00E1ticos con una banda de rodadura adecuada puede ser la diferencia entre evitar un accidente y convertirse en parte de él”.
Si es hora de conseguir neumU+00E1ticos nuevos, considere estos dos factores en primer lugar:
1. Seguridad: La mayoría de los neumU+00E1ticos funcionan bien en situaciones cotidianas, pero en condiciones difíciles revelarU+00E1n sus diferencias. Elija neumU+00E1ticos que puedan funcionar bien en los peores tipos de clima o carreteras que encuentre. Por ejemplo, si usted vive en una regiU+00F3n con fuertes nevadas intensas e inviernos fríos, considere neumU+00E1ticos de invierno durante parte del año. La diferencia puede ser enorme.
2. Valor: Es importante recordar que no todos los neumU+00E1ticos son iguales. Los neumU+00E1ticos pueden parecer un gasto adicional al mantenimiento general del automU+00F3vil, pero invertir en neumU+00E1ticos de calidad conocidos por un rendimiento duradero, como Michelin Defender con su garantía de 80 000 millas, le ahorrarU+00E1 dinero con el tiempo a medida que sus neumU+00E1ticos no necesita ser reemplazados tan rU+00E1pidamente.
Para obtener mU+00E1s informaciU+00F3n, visite www.MichelinMan.com

How Ethanol Can Impact Your Engine

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – When consumers fill their tanks at the gas station, they will see signs reading “may contain 10 percent Ethanol. However, many don’t know what this means or how it can affect their engine performance. Ethanol-blended fuel has become standard in the United States, and the Environmental Protection Agency recently mandated an increase in the amount of ethanol added to fuel;, meaning, it is even more important that consumers understand the pros and cons of Ethanol.
Ethanol is a biofuel distilled from corn and sugar that has many benefits, including reducing greenhouse emissions and lowering the cost of fuel at the pump.
However, ethanol-blended fuel can also have negative side effects on your car, boat and small engines, such as lawnmowers and snowblowers, over time. Some signs that ethanol is affecting your engine’s performance include:
* Efficiency: Ethanol-blended fuel’s lower energy efficiency may reduce fuel economy of your engine.
* Stalling: Ethanol can cause engine stalling if the water in the ethanol separates from the gasoline and floods the engine. This problem is most likely in engines that sit unused for long periods of time.
* Corrosion: Ethanol can contribute to corrosion of fuel tanks and other components, and the risk is even greater with small engines with aluminum parts.
* Clogging: Ethanol can loosen debris in the fuel line that leads to clogs.
Fortunately, there are several easy things you can do to help protect your engine from ethanol-related side effects.
Treatment: Using a non-alcohol based fuel stabilizer and treatment product, such as STA-BIL 360 Performance, can help protect gas-powered engines. A stabilizer may be especially beneficial for engines that sit for long periods without starting. Stabilizers are designed to absorb the excess water that may be present if ethanol begins to separate from gasoline and protect the insides of the fuel tank and parts.
Turn it on: Start up your stored classic car, boat and seasonal equipment, such as lawn mowers or snow blowers a few times during the off-season months to make sure they are running smoothly.
Tank it up: Cars, lawn mowers, snow blowers, boats, and other gasoline-powered tools and vehicles should keep their tanks at 95 percent full with fuel, and add a fuel stabilizer if they are tosit unused for a long time. This strategy helps prevent condensation while allowing room for expansion in warmer weather.
Trust your source: Buy fuel from a reputable gas station. A station with a quick turnover of their products helps ensure that the gasoline is fresh.
Test the lines: Rubber fuel lines dating from before the mid-1980’s should be inspected. These lines may not be compatible with ethanol-blended fuel, and may need to be replaced.
For more information about protecting your engine, visit www.sta-bil.com.

Four-Wheel Fans Care for Trails

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – A foursome of four-wheel drive clubs are the winners of the 2016 Outstanding Trails Program sponsored by BFGoodrich Tires, in partnership with 4 Wheel Parts, United Four Wheel Drive Associations, Blue Ribbon Coalition, and Off Road Business Association.
The clubs and their nominated trails are:
-Mile-Hi Jeep Club: Sidewinder Trail, Colorado
-Ohio River Four Wheelers: Daniel Boone Backcountry Byway, Kentucky
-Grand Mesa Jeep Club: 21 Road, Grand Junction, Colorado
-Piston’s Wild Motorsports Club: Hagen Creek Trail, Yacolt Burn State Forest, Washington
The Outstanding Trails program, now in its 11th year, was created to promote trail conservation and responsible off-road driving. The program invites off-road clubs from all over North America to nominate local trails that need maintenance or improvement. A panel of judges chooses the winning clubs and trails, which are selected based on unique features, terrain, and club support.
The four off-road clubs chosen each year receive grants of $4,000 each to use for local efforts to preserve and protect their hometown trails. In addition, representatives from BFGoodrich Tires will attend club events related to the winning trails in order to highlight each location’s unique features and educate four-wheel drive fans in responsible trail use.
“The saying goes, ‘where the rubber meets the road,’ and at BFGoodrich, not only do we take that to heart, but we also believe that where the rubber meets the trail is equally important, and that starts with the All-Terrain T/A KO2 tire,” says BFGoodrich’s Oscar Pereda. “In our first ten years of the Outstanding Trails program, we have helped to improve, repair, maintain, and protect nearly 50 trails in 17 states and two Canadian provinces.”
Each of the winning clubs has plans to improve and maintain their local trails. One in particular has taken conservation a step beyond the trail itself to include animals that live there. The Grand Mesa Jeep Club “has adopted the 21 Road Trail and other local trails and is committed to its protection and maintenance,” according to club president Jeff Bates. But the club has adopted not only the road, but also the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad (also known as the “21 Road Toad”), a threatened species in the area. “The club has committed to protecting the toad’s habitat in at least three areas along the trail with posts and cable,” Bates says.
Visit bfgoodrichtires.com for more information.

Which Home Upgrades Really Pay Off?

(NewsUSA) – Sponsored by GAF – If you don’t care about blowing tens of thousands of dollars on upgrades that add little or nothing to your house’s value, you might as well stop reading this and go Google "Pokemon Go" for updates on the latest weird mishaps to befall distracted players. But if you do care — and you’d especially better if you intend to ever sell — then Remodeling magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report for 2016 is must reading.Still there? Thought so.So let’s begin by acknowledging what’s perhaps the report’s biggest takeaway: All the academics and real-estate pros are right to "tout the value of projects that promote curb appeal." Read on to see why, and where else your money is or isn’t well spent.* Worth it: a new front door.You’re looking at returns on investment of 91.1 percent for a steel one and 82.3 percent for a more upscale (and expensive) fiberglass one. Of course, a fresh coat of paint on your existing door can help spiff things up too.* Not worth it: upscale bathroom remodeling.You may think everyone shares your dream of a huge bathroom with a whirlpool tub, heated towel bars, and stone countertops. Not so, warns Patsy O’Neill, a sales associate with Sotheby’s in Montclair, New Jersey: "You could spend $60,000 or so on it, and it still might not suit a buyer’s taste." Which helps explain why it has one of the worst returns on investment.* Worth it: fiberglass attic insulation.A huge win for greenies. The magazine finally agreed to add an energy-efficiency project, and it topped the list by recouping 116.9 percent of its cost.* Not worth it: composite deck addition.Another also-ran — and, no, Alaska didn’t skew the results. But be aware that sometimes even the seemingly coolest upgrades may simply be out of whack for a particular neighborhood. "You can turn your house into a palace, but the payoff will be small if it’s the only mansion on the block," Craig Webb, Remodeling’s editor-in-chief, tells Time.com.* Worth it: a new roof."Buyers pay a premium for one already in place," according to Credit.com. No kidding. A perennial Remodeling magazine A-lister, it’s the ultimate curb appeal enhancer when you consider that your roof is the first thing prospective buyers notice even before exiting their cars.And if yours looks like something out of "Twister"? "It’s a huge turn-off," says O’Neill, "and makes buyers predisposed to find even more things they don’t like." If your roof needs replacing, check out the Value Collection Lifetime Designer Shingles from GAF (gaf.com), North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, which have the look of luxury shingles 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.Watch the video here.* Not worth it: an upscale master suite.Those same "taste" issues aside, returns of only about half your investment make this yet another expensive miss.