Is A Debt-Free Life Possible?

(NewsUSA) – Leslie Balfaqih couldn’t believe how much money she and her husband wasted every month. "Our financial life was a mess," Leslie says from her home in Florida."To say we were disorganized is putting it mildly."Like so many Americans, they didn’t have a plan for their money.The problem is often not how much money a family makes, but that they have no idea what they’re spending it on. Seventy-eight percent of full-time workers say they live paycheck to paycheck, according to a recent report from CareerBuilder. Worse, most feel it will always be that way. But it doesn’t have to be.Financial experts agree that the best way to break the vicious cycle of scrambling to make ends meet is by having a written budget and sticking to it. Leslie heard about a website, EveryDollar.com and the EveryDollar budgeting app that makes it simple to create a budget, manage money, and track spending. They signed up, set up their budget, and they’ve stuck to it for years. "We paid off $165,000 in debt since we got started. Now we’re in a position to be completely debt-free, including our house and rental property, in the next three years."The "B" word has gotten a bad rap. Budgeting sounds hard. It sounds restricting. Frankly, it sounds boring. But people who’ve made budgeting the center of their financial behavior have discovered quite the opposite. The technology behind apps like EveryDollar make budgeting easy. Rather than feeling restricted, they say it feels as if they have permission to spend – just not permission to waste.Sierra Schmidt was surprised by how much having a budget changed her attitude. She’s a single mother in Spokane, Washington, whose bills include daycare, rent, and student loans. "I felt so far behind every month, and things seemed hopeless," she says."Now, I keep track of every dollar, and the numbers are right in front of me. I’m getting ahead instead of falling behind. Every month I feel more confident that I can wipe out the debt that’s been so stressful."Sierra and Leslie empowered themselves to take control of their money. You can too. Creating a budget and sticking to it could change your life and help you take control of your money in the new year.EveryDollar is a free budget app that allows users to create customized monthly budgets, and seamlessly track expenses, income and savings from the convenience of their computer and phone. It’s available for both iOS and Android devices. EveryDollar launched in March 2015 and now has more than three million users.Learn more by visiting www.everydollar.com

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

Pain Sufferers May Not Find The Relief

Perhaps it’s because of the horrific news of opioid abuse recently, but it seems as if Americans are more seriously considering whether or not to take any kind of prescription medicine to relieve pain, according to a new study.

In fact, 78 percent of those surveyed in a joint effort by Gallup and Palmer College of Chiropractic said they’d “prefer to try other ways to address their physical pain before they take pain medication.”

Give Expectant Parents a Once-in-a-Lifetime Gift This Holiday Season

(NewsUSA) – While the latest gadget, toy or jewelry still has its place on holiday wish lists, there is a desire among Americans, especially millennials, to receive gifts better aligned with their values.According to a recent *on-line survey among approximately 2,200 US adults, 79 percent said they want the gifts they give to their family this holiday season to better reflect with their values.In fact, 54 percent of millennials surveyed said they would like to give or receive gifts that represent more than material value. The survey went on to ask if costs were the same and they could choose from experience gifts, gifts to protect their health or donation to charity, Americans would rank experience gifts the highest, those that could help protect their health, second, and donations to charity, third.Cord blood banking – a process whereby blood left in a newborn’s umbilical cord that contains valuable, pristine cord blood stem cells, is collected at birth and stored for potential future use – is one such health-related gift that may resonate with millennials as they start to plan for families. After learning more about cord blood banking, 68 percent surveyed say that they’d likely recommend it to expecting parents."The moment of birth presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture and preserve a newborn’s stem cell-rich cord blood, but 95 percent of valuable cord blood is discarded. Expecting parents should understand that cord blood stem cells have the potential to help treat many diseases. Arming parents with information about the value of cord blood can help them make the right decision for their family," says Frances Verter, founder and director of the non-profit Parent’s Guide to Cord Blood Foundation.Cord blood stem cells have already been used in more than 40,000 donor transplants worldwide to reconstitute healthy blood and immune systems. Cord blood is currently being investigated for its potential use in regenerative medicine to treat brain injury, hearing loss, autism and congenital heart defects.Heather Brown, vice president of Scientific and Medical Affairs for Cord Blood Registry, the largest and oldest family cord blood bank with over 700,000 units stored, explains, "Preserving a baby’s newborn stem cells may give that child access to his or her own cells for potential future regenerative medicine uses and your baby isn’t the only one who may benefit. Depending on different factors, preserved newborn stem cells can potentially be used by siblings and parents."With research evolving, a gift of cord blood banking may be the perfect gift this holiday season.To learn more, visit www.cordblood.com.*This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of AMAG Pharmaceuticals from November 28-30, 2017 among 2,196 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact media@amagpharma.com

How to Age with Optimism

(NewsUSA) – Having a "glass half full" approach to life has long been considered important for overall wellness. But evidence suggests that there may be truth in this folk wisdom.Humana recently surveyed 2,000 people aged 60 and over, and found that 87 percent of seniors who identify themselves as "most optimistic" reported their health as good to excellent. This is compared to 44 percent for those who said they’re "least optimistic."Also, the most optimistic people reported nine fewer physically unhealthy and seven fewer mentally unhealthy days per month than their least optimistic counterparts.Seniors who rated themselves as most optimistic also reported positively on other attributes linked to health, including sleep, confidence and overall happiness.* 91 percent of the most optimistic respondents reported feeling confident in the past week, while only 52 percent of the least optimistic respondents did, a difference of 39 percentage points.* 90 percent of the most optimistic respondents reported feeling happy in the past week, compared to 44 percent of the least optimistic respondents, a difference of 46 percentage points.* And only 31 percent of the most optimistic respondents reported getting a restless night’s sleep in the past week, while 62 percent of the least optimistic respondents did, another difference of 31 percentage points.Despite these impressive numbers, having an optimistic mindset is often easier said than done. The stresses of life, social stereotypes and one’s natural temperament can all impede approaching aging with optimism. Dr. Yolangel Hernandez Suarez, Humana vice president and chief medical officer for care delivery, has the following advice for anyone struggling to stay on the sunny side of life:1. Take ownership and recognize that your health is your own. To achieve your best health, you need to set personal goals – just for you.2. Engage with your doctor or other health care professional and build a trusting relationship.3. Find a higher purpose that makes you excited to get up in the morning. Humana’s survey found that the majority of respondents (86 percent) who identify as optimists also rank a sense of purpose as an important attribute for aging.4. Remain socially engaged, not isolated, and nurture close relationships. The importance of social engagement is recognized by the 71 percent of Humana survey respondents who identify as optimists and get together with friends or relatives either monthly or weekly. Further, 80 percent of optimists say maintaining an active social life is an important motivator to stay healthy.5. Stay active and remember that physical activity is important. Find something that’s right for you and that you like to do. Almost all of the most optimistic survey respondents (97 percent) say remaining physically active is a major motivator for retaining good health.6. Practice gratitude and make it a habit to look for and appreciate everything you’re thankful for in life."As a boomer myself, I know that the majority of the decisions about my own health take place outside of a doctor’s office," said Dr. Hernandez Suarez. "With the knowledge that optimism may be linked to health and well-being, I’m focused on making positive health decisions through all aspects of my life. Our goal at Humana is to empower everyone to approach health in the same way." 

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.

Creative Gift Giving Is Easier Than You Think

(NewsUSA) – It’s no secret that shopping for holiday gifts can be overwhelming.The answer to alleviating the stress of thoughtful gift giving comes in a cardboard box.Seriously.Subscription box services are popular options for a "gift that keeps on giving," providing a personalized experience delivered safely every month.In fact, in a survey conducted by the Paper and Packaging Board from August 2015 to November 2016, 82 percent of those surveyed agreed that they could rely on corrugated cardboard boxes to get their merchandise shipped and delivered safely. And 60 percent feel that products that come in paper-packaging tend to feel more premium.Innovations in box and packaging design allow these boxes to delight well past delivery with extended use and upcycling options.Find the perfect gift for your loved one this season with one of these favorites:* KiwiCo (Kiwico.com):For the Kid Who Is Going to Run the World.KiwiCo develops monthly STEAM educational hands-on projects and activities to spark curiosity and creativity in kids aged 0-16+.Each eco-friendly corrugated box is filled with interactive projects to fit a child’s respective age group. As your child or loved one grows, so do the boxes!* Loot Crate (LootCrate.com): For the Pop-Culture Obsessed.Loot Crate is a pop culture- themed subscription box featuring a changing monthly theme that covers all fandoms.These corrugated boxes hit every interest from video games to television and movies. Loot Crate offers an additional perk – the box is part of the monthly theme itself, which is to say, the box transforms into a "bonus" gift with some simple cuts and folds. You have to see it to believe it.* Graze (Graze.com) – For the Foodie.Graze is a subscription box that uses high-quality, nutritionist- approved ingredients to provide wholesome snacks. Graze uses responsibly resourced paper-based packaging to ensure that its products are safe and fresh for consumption.Foodies can subscribe for weekly, bi-weekly or monthly deliveries of personalized Graze boxes based on their custom-snack profile.*KitNipBox (KitNipBox.com): For the Cat Lover.KitNipBox is uniquely themed so cats (and their humans!) have something fresh, fun and new to look forward to each month. The design of the box, which can be recycled, is specifically made to fit 95 percent of cats, so they can play with the box and fit inside of it.Additionally, KitNipBox uses specially designed crinkling tissue paper in the boxes, so that the unwrapping experience is even more special for cats and their owners.* Cratejoy (Cratejoy.com):For Everyone.Cratejoy is the world’s premier subscription box website, providing a global marketplace of products.Cratejoy offers a vast selection of uniquely crafted corrugated boxes suited to virtually any hobby, interest or taste.Gifting a subscription box service is an easy yet thoughtful option for anyone on your shopping list! Unbox an experience that will last long past this holiday season. Find out more by visiting HowLifeUnfolds.comClick here to view video. 

Hit Reset with a Kitchen Lighting Update

(NewsUSA) – Ready for a redo? Many homeowners resolve to kick-start a new year by making improvements to themselves as well as their home. When it comes to home renovations, the first place on which most people focus their attention is the kitchen.According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), popular trends in finish-outs and appliances are impacting kitchen lighting choices.In general, kitchen design is trending toward the contemporary side. Jeff Dross, corporate director of education and industry trends for Kichler Lighting, explains that homeowners with previously traditional taste are looking for more transitional products, while transitional homeowners are moving toward a soft contemporary décor.And many of those with existing soft contemporary furnishings are switching to a more austere contemporary solution.Countertops Impact Lighting: While granite is still used in entry- and mid-level homes, most highest-end countertops are now quartz-based, particularly with a matte finish, also sometimes called suede, honed or leathered. The matte-finish trend alleviates the tricky business of providing adequate illumination in kitchens without causing glare from glossy countertops that have been popular for the past decade.Dark Appliances Require More Light: The use of black stainless appliances is on the rise, which eliminates unsightly fingerprints, but creates the need for additional light in the surrounding space. "Black stainless has lower reflectance than white or stainless steel appliances, making the room appear darker," says Dross. "The trend toward more involved backsplash materials makes lighting even more important."Taller Ceilings Mean Taller Fixtures: Over the past 15 or so years, ceiling heights have become higher with 9 feet becoming the accepted minimum height. It is now common for North American homes to have ceilings 10 to 12 feet high. That means taller sconces and taller chandeliers are necessary to fill the additional space."In addition to taller ceilings, center islands are now substantially bigger than in the past," says Dross. "That means the tiny, mini-pendants that were all the rage a few years ago are disappearing. Kitchens demand larger, taller pendants."Before jumping into a kitchen renovation, it is best to design a lighting plan to make sure your fixtures are the right size and style for your new space. A professional lighting consultant at your local ALA-member showroom can work with you to develop a plan and provide the most-up-to-date lighting styles and technology. To find a list of nearby ALA showrooms, go online to americanlightingassoc.com

Health Trend to Watch in 2018 – Personalized Medicine

(NewsUSA) – When scientists first read the entire genetic code of a human being in 2003, the monumental achievement promised a new era in medicine.What diseases we get, and how we respond to drugs, depends in large part on our own individual genes. Knowing our own genetic code, therefore, makes it possible to design specific treatments that work best for each person – an approach known as personalized medicine.This personalized approach turns out to be especially important in cancer treatment. Tumors that seem to be of the same type can actually have very different underlying genetic mutations. And because many of today’s drugs are designed to target particular genetic vulnerabilities of cancer cells, a drug that is effective for some tumors will fail for others.Realizing the enormous promise of personalized medicine hasn’t been quick or easy. It has required major scientific and technological advances to prove the links between genetic variations and diseases, and to dramatically lower the costs of identifying and sequencing genes.But recent progress has been impressive. In the last few years, more than one-quarter of all new drugs approved by the FDA have been personalized medicines. And by 2020, the total market for targeted therapies and gene tests is expected to top $149 billion per year.One of the many companies that have been driving this rapid progress is Pittsburgh-based Helomics. The company has developed clinical tests for key genes and other biomarkers in a whole range of different cancers. Studies show that a personalized approach using Helomics’ ChemoFx test brings a 14-month improvement in overall survival in patients with gynecologic cancer. The BioSpeciFx test, for example, examines the genes that are active in cancer cells to reliably inform the patient’s tumor response to drugs.Helomics is also expanding its reach with a new technology it calls D-CHIP™ and a strategic collaboration with Skyline Medical (NASDAQ:SKLN), which markets an innovative system for collecting and disposing of fluids from patients. So more and more in 2018, your drugs will be personalized just for you. 

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."