Take Preventive Steps to Avoid Frozen Pipes

(NewsUSA) – Winter is officially upon us and that means many homeowners will be paying a hefty price for not protecting their property against frozen pipes.According to the Insurance Industry Institute, water damage and freezing is the second most common home insurance claim filed, with the average claim totaling $8,861. In fact, frozen pipes are a significant contributor to the more than $10 billion in annual insurance claims paid out due to plumbing leaks.Water’s power in both liquid and solid states can wreak havoc on the unprepared home, says Chuck DeSmet, founder of FloLogic, a plumbing leak detection auto water shutoff device."Water can unleash a double whammy where freezing causes a breakage and thawing causes destructive flood," DeSmet says."Water damage from frozen pipes not only destroys irreplaceable property, it can uproot families from their homes and cost them for years to come in higher insurance premiums."But frozen pipes and water leak damage are completely avoidable when homeowners follow some practical guidance, and with the help of technology designed to detect and arrest leaks automatically.Here’s a practical guide for avoiding frozen pipe damage this season:* Turn up the heat. Whether home or not, keep thermostats in the 55-60-degree range, or higher, to ensure pipes in basements and crawl spaces don’t freeze up. For extreme cold protection, opening sink cabinets is advised to expose pipes to additional warmth.* Insulate. Pipe insulation wraps will increase resistance to freezing ambient temperatures, while insulating structure cracks and openings will help keep the environment surrounding your pipes at a safe temperature. To avoid exposure to deep freezes, a UL-listed heat tape or cable wrapped around pipes will electronically generate warmth to prevent freezing.* Inspect and update. Be sure outdoor hoses are removed from spigots. Periodically replace supply hoses to washers and toilets – a primary cause of water leaks beyond frozen pipes.* Let it trickle. When temperatures are especially frigid on homes with exposure, leave faucets open to a steady drip or trickle. The constant flow will help prevent freezing, but also wastes water.* Install leak control technology. Leak detecting smart water valves, like the one offered by FloLogic (www.flologic.com) will flag a broken pipe leak anywhere in a plumbing supply and automatically shut off the water before the ice dam completely melts. FloLogic qualifies many for insurance discounts, since it virtually eliminates the risk of catastrophic water damage year-round.* Shut it down. If you don’t have a leak detection auto shutoff device, the most prudent protection when you’re away is shutting off the water supply and draining pipes. Even a small two drips-per-second leak from a cracked pipe will produce 77 gallons in a week – enough to cause costly damage.With greater knowledge and adoption of leak control technologies, reduced damage from frozen and broken pipes stands to benefit everyone, according to DeSmet."When insurance companies pay to repair leak damage, it indirectly costs every policy holder," DeSmet says. "Simple preventive measures and leak control technologies will help spare us all."For more information, visit http://www.flologic.com

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.) 

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.

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.