Surety Bond Producers Offer Sound Advice for Construction Firms

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

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

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

Junior Achievement Reconnects With Alumni for Celebration

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

Why a Roth IRA May Be Ideally Suited for Millennials

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

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

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

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

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

Feature-Rich Dog Parks Are Coming to Towns Across America

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

Which Home Upgrades Are Worth It and Which Aren’t

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

Move Over Meat – Vegetables are taking center stage on your plate

(NewsUSA) – Historically, American dinner plates have featured meat as its mainstay/star, with vegetables as tepid, secondary supporting players. Now, the balance of power on the plate is shifting as fresh, homegrown vegetables take center stage.Recent "food trend" studies show that more people are making vegetables the main course of their meals. Although the interest in healthy eating extends to all age groups, millennials seem to be driving this healthful food trend. Data from the NPD Group suggests that people younger than 40 are eating 52 percent more fresh vegetables compared with young adults 10 years ago, and that preference is likely to continue as they age.In support of this trend, professional chefs, bloggers, restaurants and home cooks are embracing the flavors of a vast variety of vegetables, from common to exotic. Episodes of the popular "Iron Chef" television show feature vegetable-centric meals and a recent article in New York magazine noted, "Simply put, the once-meat-obsessed populace is realizing that vegetables actually taste good. Especially when fresh, in season, and carefully prepared."You’ll see that many restaurants now offer vegetable-based entrees that have inspired home cooks to explore the healthy and delicious potential of making fresh vegetables a main course.Some reasons driving the shift in popularity of vegetables over meat include:- Vine-Ripened, great taste. Homegrown vegetables have a home field advantage when it comes to flavor because they stay on the vine to fully ripen and are harvested just before eating. Store bought veggies are often harvested before they’re fully ripe, so they don’t spoil on the journey to the store. Once picked from the vine, sugars begin to turn to starch-and that homegrown sweetness dissipates.- Good health. Everyone knows that vegetables are good for you, but research backs it up. In a study of over 130,000, in the Journal of American Medical Association Internal Medicine, consumption of plant protein is associated with longer life compared with animal protein consumption.- Good stewardship. Eating more vegetables and less meat can have a positive effect on the environment. Data from the University of Oxford, England, suggests that eating more vegetables could have a greater impact on reducing one’s carbon footprint than giving up a car!As vegetables grow in popularity and push meat from the center of the plate, more people are interested not only in eating more vegetables, but eating locally grown vegetables – hey, what’s more local than growing your own veggies at home? Growing vegetables at home is convenient, satisfying, a money-saver in the produce aisle, and they’ll taste better, too!Fortunately for the home gardener, professional growers make it easy to grow nutritious and delicious vegetables at home. Bonnie Plants, for example, is a greenhouse grower offering more than 250 varieties of vegetable, herb, and fruit plants, ranging from traditional favorites to new and different choices. Some easy-to-grow options for your veggie main course include hearty tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and zucchini.Bonnie Plants operates more than 70 greenhouse facilities in 48 states and trucks fresh plants from greenhouses to retailers near you, so they’re ready for planting upon purchase, and you’ll harvest six weeks sooner than if you grow from seed. Plus, the plants are grown a truck-ride away from the retailers that sell them. Don’t worry if you have little outdoor space, patio-ready caged varieties and combo pots are available as great options for small spaces.Curious home gardeners interested in healthy eating can enjoy experimenting with vegetables to replace meat. For a new take on burgers, try substituting squash. Veggie burgers, like their meat-based counterparts, can be made in advance, frozen in patties, and pulled out for easy reheating as a healthy burger choice on a busy night. Try putting a new spin on salad, substituting Swiss chard for a fresh, peppy taste in lieu of such standbys as lettuce, spinach, and arugula.Time to season your homegrown veggies? Bonnie Plants also offers herb plants, so fresh seasoning is only a snip away with a quick trip to your garden plot or pot.Visit bonnieplants.com for more information on varieties along with planting tips, tending, troubleshooting, harvesting, and a plethora of delicious recipes to try!

Shen Yun Dancers Make Magic This Spring

Five words or less(NewsUSA) – Shen Yun, or the “beauty of divine beings dancing,” has been enchanting audiences worldwide since 2006.
Ancient artistic techniques merge with present-day skill, talent, and energy as the Shen Yun Performing Arts company continues its tradition of unique, renowned performances this spring with a whole new selection of songs, dances, and musical scores celebrating 5,000 years of ancient Chinese culture.
Extolled by audiences as “the experience of a lifetime,” a Shen Yun performance showcases the values, virtues, spirituality, and creativity that once flourished in the Middle Kingdom (aka China), which the ancients preferred to call Shen Zhou, “the Land of the Divine.”
The performers combine long-ago legends and traditional music and dance with modern-day heroic tales, high-tech backdrops, elaborate costumes, and a live orchestra for a stirring, cross-cultural experience designed to inspire hope and joy. In each piece, elements of Eastern philosophy combine with universal themes of harmony and peace.
Shen Yun performers embrace the traditional Chinese idea that artists must cultivate inner goodness in order to create true art, and this positive attitude shines through each performance. Sadly, the traditional Chinese culture displayed by Shen Yun cannot be presented in today’s China, where it is viewed as a threat by the current Communist regime.
Shen Yun began its 2019 tour at Lincoln Center in New York last month, and will proceed with performances in Philadelphia, Chicago, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and more than 50 other U.S. cities with another stint at the Lincoln Center in March.
Shen Yun Performing Arts is a nonprofit organization, based in New York and dedicated to reviving ancient Chinese culture. The organization has grown to include six companies, and the 2019 schedule includes shows at 120 of the world’s top venues, with an estimated audience of 1.3 million individuals.
The San Francisco Chronicle described a Shen Yun performance as “a visually dazzling tour of … Chinese history and culture.”
Others have been similarly complimentary, as they witness this unique portrayal of the impact of the divine on Chinese civilization and a culture that embraces living in harmony with nature and with the universe.
Visit shenyun.com or the company’s YouTube page www.youtube.com/shenyun for more information and a taste of the Shen Yun magic.
For Shen Yun 2019 tour schedule and tickets, visit: www.shenyun.com/tickets.

Sensory Loss Can Bring Increased Risk of Isolation, Depression

(NewsUSA) – According to a study by The University of Chicago, nearly 94 percent of older adults in the United States are living with at least one diminished sense. While many seniors experience hearing or vision loss, senses such as taste, touch and smell can also be affected.Diminished senses are commonly regarded as minor annoyances, but they have also been linked to serious and long-lasting problems for older adults, including loneliness and feelings of social isolation. Researchers at the University of British Columbia examined the impact of undiagnosed or untreated hearing issues in seniors ages 60 to 69 and found that for every 10 decibel drop in hearing sensitivity, the odds of social isolation increase by 52 percent.Left undetected, the loss of senses can result in feelings of depression and diminished quality of life for older adults. That’s why Home Instead Senior Care encourages families to be mindful of signs that an older adult is experiencing diminished senses, including:* Hearing: Signs of hearing loss can include difficulty following conversations, increased exhaustion following social interactions, trouble maintaining balance, feeling as if there is a buildup of wax or fluid in the ears, or continually increasing volume on television and radio programs.* Sight: Visual impairment affects almost 3 million older adults in the United States. Warning signs may include hesitance with stairs, blurry or discolored vision, difficulty identifying familiar faces or objects, and loss of interest in reading mail, newspapers or books.* Touch: Weakened sensitivity to touch can also pose a hazard to seniors. A decreased reaction time to very hot or very cold surfaces can be a sign that the sense of touch is beginning to decline, and can lead to accidental injuries.* Taste/Smell: Additionally, a diminished sense of taste and smell can also occur as we age. According to The University of Chicago, 74 percent of aging adults will suffer from impairment to the sense of taste, which works simultaneously with the sense of smell. Individuals may experience lack of appetite, loss of interest in food altogether, or complete loss of taste or smell.Home Instead Senior Care provides specialized training for its CAREGiversSM to help them better understand the aging process, identify the signs of sensory loss and deliver the best care for seniors experiencing the impacts of sensory loss, such as loneliness and isolation. If you are interested in receiving more information about sensory loss or looking for support for an aging loved one, you can find additional resources at caregiverstress.com or find a Home Instead office near you at www.homeinstead.com/state