Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS
 
Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS

Jeff's Blog

Tips to Support a Healthy Lifestyle

January 8, 2014 5:00 am

(Family Features) If the decadent dishes and busy schedules of the holiday season have set back your efforts towards a healthy lifestyle, fear not. With the right plan in place, it’s easy to get back on track, re-energized and refocused for the year ahead.

Shorter days and colder weather may seem to heighten the desire to indulge in comfort foods, just as much as it can lessen the motivation to take part in physical activity, like hitting the gym or taking an afternoon stroll.

Health expert, author and registered dietitian, Patricia Bannan, shares a few simple changes to help re-charge your routine and get excited, no matter what the thermometer reads outside:

Set realistic expectations
If you haven’t been running in months and plan to jump on the treadmill tomorrow, it’s important to take your new workout in stride. Having high aspirations for your health is a wonderful thing, but there’s nothing wrong with starting small. Setting achievable goals – such as jogging or walking for a certain amount of time each day – will help to keep you working toward the goal of running a10K in the long term.

Buddy up
By now you’ve likely commiserated with friends about the lapse in your health and wellness goals. This is the perfect opportunity to ask someone to partner up in your healthy pursuits. Ask friends, family, neighbors or co-workers if they are interested in joining a gym, taking a boot-camp class, or participating in a healthy cooking course.

Supply your body with quality nutrition
Beyond getting in your required fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains through a balanced diet, taking a high-quality supplement can help bridge any nutrient gaps and help you get what your body may be lacking. Bannan recommends Adult Gummies Energy B12 from Nature Made®. Vitamin B12 supports cellular energy production by helping the body convert food into energy, and gummies offer an enjoyable way to take your vitamins.

Swap out ingredients
Healthier alternatives exist for all of your favorite dishes. If you crave a hearty bowl of chili, switch out ground beef for a leaner variety of ground turkey. Use whole-grain pasta in your favorite Italian dishes or whole-grain breads for sandwiches. These changes are small, but can have a big impact on your overall nutrition when put into practice.

Source: www.naturemade.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Low-Cost Home Projects Can Help Save Energy and Money This Winter

January 8, 2014 5:00 am

Falling winter temperatures typically raise home-heating costs—along with concerns over the impact of increased energy use on the environment. Plastics Make it Possible® offers some tips on low-cost, do-it-yourself projects to help cut down on wasted energy this winter—and all year round.

Many homes have areas that are not sealed adequately, which leads to warm air flowing out and cold air sneaking in. Taking a few moments to help inhibit leaks in these places can provide a quick and easy return on time and money invested. Here are some examples:

Attic: In the attic, the first step is to check to see if there is any missing or damaged insulation that can be readily replaced. Placing sheets of foam polystyrene plastic on top of existing insulation can be an uncomplicated way to help block unwanted airflow. If the attic door or entry hatch is not well sealed, some plastic foam weather stripping can be installed around the perimeter to help keep cold air in the attic and warm air in the living space.

Fireplace: Although designed to heat a room, the fireplace often allows cold air to enter a house. Even when the chimney flue is closed, cold air can seep in and chill the room. An innovative product known as a "chimney pillow," "fireplace plug," or "chimney balloon" can help. A tough, durable plastic bag inflates to fit snugly inside the chimney, forming a plug that can dramatically reduce airflow while the fireplace isn't in operation. After installation, the pillow's inflation tube hangs down into the fireplace as a reminder to remove it before lighting a fire.

Windows and Doors: Adding plastic caulks (such as silicone) around window and door frames—both indoors and outdoors—can help close gaps where warm air escapes. There also is a wide variety of weather stripping—most are made with plastic foam that helps trap air to provide a barrier between indoors and out. For significant gaps, a polyurethane plastic foam sealant expands to fill cracks—it's usually sold in a can with a flexible tube applicator that makes it easy to use. And plastic window film can be applied directly to the glass windowpane, helping to insulate the window while still providing a clear view.

Switches, Outlets, and Ducts: Electrical switches and outlets are less obvious areas where energy can be wasted. Placing pre-cut, inexpensive plastic foam insulation sheets behind switch and outlet plate covers can help prevent air sneaking in and out. A home's unheated areas (basement, attic, garage, outdoors) also should be checked for leaks in heating ducts, which can be a hidden culprit for air loss. These leaks can be quickly sealed with plastic caulks or polyurethane foam sealants, which are designed to fill cracks and crevices while resisting moisture and mildew.

For more information, visit plasticsmakeitpossible.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Your Will: The Overlooked Bucket-list Item

January 7, 2014 5:00 am

Of the trendy terms to come around in the past decade, “bucket list” remains among the most useful, says retirement planning expert Jeff Gorton.

“As a neologism, I hope it endures because it reminds us of how precious our time is – and that it’s important to plan wisely,” says Gorton, a veteran Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner™, and head of Gorton Financial Group (www.gortonfinancialgroup.com).

“Unfortunately, after some have listed their items and even checked a few things off, they forget about one important item that really counts after they’ve ‘kicked the bucket’ – their will.”

Only about 40 percent of adults in America have a will, which is probably due to people not wanting to be reminded of their own mortality and that life will go on without them, he says.

“But what’s the alternative? If you die without one, the state decides what becomes of your property, without regard to your priorities,” says Gorton, who also advocates his clients make use of a written income plan (WIP), a living document that helps organize financial priorities. “Why not enjoy the fact that a will is an instrument of power? You get to decide who gets what.”

Since so many adults don’t have a will, many don’t understand how they work. Gorton breaks down wills into four basic parts:

Executors — Most wills begin by naming an executor, the person responsible for carrying out the wishes outlined in the will. Duties include assessing the value of the estate, gathering the assets, paying inheritance tax and other debts if necessary, and distributing assets among beneficiaries. It is recommended that you name at least two executors in case your first choice is unable to fulfill the obligation.

Guardians — A will allows you to designate a guardian for your minor children. Whomever you appoint, you will want to make sure beforehand that the individual is able and willing to assume the responsibility. For many people, this is the most important part of a will since, if you die without naming a guardian, the court will decide who takes care of your children.

Gifts — This section enables you to identify people or organizations to whom you wish to give gifts of money or specific possessions, such as family heirlooms or a car. You can also specify conditional gifts, such as a sum of money to a young daughter, but only when she reaches a certain age.

Estate — Your estate encompasses everything you own, including real property, financial investments, cash and personal possessions. Once you have identified specific gifts you would like to distribute, you can apportion the rest of your estate 
in equal shares among your heirs, or you can split it into percentages. For example, you may decide to give 45 percent each to two children and the remaining 10 percent to a sibling.

“You’re not legally required to have a professional write a will for you, but I highly recommend you get certified help because these documents are often contested by people who are unhappy with the decisions you made,” he says. “After working a lifetime for your assets, you deserve to have them go where you want after you’re gone, and your family will be grateful to you for not leaving them with the headache of trying to sort out your estate.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Favor In-Flight Phone Access? Depends On How Old You Are

January 7, 2014 5:00 am

While 79 percent of travelers over the age of 30 are opposed to in-flight cell phone usage (now under consideration by the Federal Aviation Administration, younger travelers, 18-30 year olds, favor the new perk by 52 percent, according to a recent study.

Some 300 travelers in total were surveyed by The GO Group, LLC, an international ground transportation service provider. Of those, 33 were under 30, while the remainder were older.

Of those who added comments to the survey, most older travelers noted they would be fine if fellow passengers texted or engaged in other online activities, but not talking.

Comments one traveler: "listening to someone else's over-amped conversations in a confined area that I can't escape from - not my idea of a relaxing flight."

"Regardless of the FAA's decision, airlines need to review cell phone usage not only as a safety matter, but at how it will affect noise levels and passenger comfort," says John McCarthy, president of The GO Group.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Five Tips to Save Time in the Kitchen

January 7, 2014 5:00 am

Five to ten minutes may not seem like much, but when cooking a weeknight meal, almost half of Consumer Reports subscribers said they wished they could get those minutes back. The average difference between actual time spent and what respondents desired: eight minutes.

With that goal in mind, Consumer Reports experts set out to create the ultimate time-saving kitchen feature with top time-saving countertop appliances and expert tips from chefs, designers, organizer and others.

Five Tips to Save Eight Minutes or More in the Kitchen

1. Design for efficiency. The work triangle – connecting the sink, fridge, and cooktop – is still the baseline for maximum efficiency. But in two-cook kitchens, it often makes sense to have a second triangle, possibly designated around an island counter with a prep sink.

2. Think ahead. One of the top cooking gripes in Consumer Reports' survey was that it takes too much time to plan. A slow cooker is handy for make-ahead meals. The $250 All-Clad 99005 slow cooker turned out tasty spareribs in tests, and its nonstick interior helps with cleanup.

3. Minimize maintenance. Some materials and finishes are harder to care for than others. Stainless-steel appliances remain popular, but if fingerprints are a concern, a newer, smudge-resistant finish such as GE's Slate may be a consideration. As for flooring, vinyl held up best in Consumer Reports tests against scratches and dents.

4. Contain the clutter. In the kitchen, try to put things close at hand. For example, dishes and flatware should be kept in a cabinet next to the dishwasher; cutting boards and sharp knives belong near food-prep counter. Creating a separate landing spot, ideally just off the kitchen or along its perimeter, for mail, school papers and the like will help keep counters clear.

5. Make it a family affair. Look for ways to enlist other members of the household. If kids are present, designate a lower cabinet for everyday dishes or flatware, allowing young ones to help set the table.

Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Easy Tips for a Deliciously Balanced Eating Routine

January 6, 2014 5:00 am

(Family Features) Sometimes even the smallest changes can offer big results to your overall well-being.

When maintaining or pursuing a healthful eating routine, adopting a balanced approach is essential for success. Rather than restricting yourself, strive instead to make small steps toward a healthier lifestyle. A few simple changes to your daily routine can eventually turn into lasting habits that are far more enjoyable and easier to maintain.

As an expert on the positive impact of small changes, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Keri Gans offers these helpful tips:

Create a healthy eating schedule

Food is fuel. In order to keep energized throughout the day it is important not to skip meals. Grab a midday snack to help you overcome that all too familiar late afternoon slump.

Eat the right kinds of fats

A little healthy yet tasty fat, such as 1/4 of an avocado or a handful of almonds, can go a long way. It can provide flavor, satiety and be good for your body, especially your heart.

Share food and good times with advance planning

To help ensure healthier choices are made when dining out, be sure to grab a quick, tasty snack to tide you over before your meal. Some great snacking options include pear slices, a low-sugar granola bar or 1/4 cup of roasted edamame. The less hungry you are, the easier it is to stay on track.

Enjoy the foods you are craving

Want that slice of pizza or piece of chocolate? Go for it. To maintain a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle, try and eat well the majority of time, but make sure you leave room for some of your favorite indulgences. If you don’t allow yourself to enjoy these foods on occasion, you might always be craving them, which can lead to overeating.

Source: Laughing Cow

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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2014 Pest Threats

January 6, 2014 5:00 am

Pests have long been a threat to the quality of life we all enjoy.  Their ability to transmit disease, spread bacteria and cause significant damage to property presents a real challenge for families and homeowners.  To help prepare homeowners for 2014, Arrow Exterminators has prepared the top five pests most likely to cause problems this year.  

Ants: Ants continue to be one of the most common pests that invade homes. With over 700 species in the U.S. alone and all requiring different methods of treatment, ants are also one of the most difficult for homeowners to control without professional assistance.  If ants are spotted in the home, contact a licensed pest professional immediately to prevent an infestation.

Fleas: Flea populations are booming in households across the U.S. and not just in homes with pets. Fleas, a lot like bed bugs, have become increasingly resistant to common treatment methods allowing the breeding cycle to continue. Always on the lookout for a warm-blooded host to attack, family pets and humans are the perfect candidates. To help reduce the chances of fleas infesting the home, vacuum often and bathe furry friends frequently.  

Termites: In some areas, it's not about if a home will encounter termites, but when.  Termites continue to be one of the most significant threats to property causing nearly $5 billion in property damage annually and the damage is rarely covered by homeowners insurance.  "Termite infestations continue to create huge financial issues for homeowners," said Shay Runion, Arrow pest expert. "To safeguard their property, homeowners should make sure they have a 24/7/365 termite protection plan for their home and have it inspected annually by a licensed pest professional."  

Rodents: Mild temperatures have provided an abundant food source and the perfect breeding conditions for many types of rodents. The household intruders can transmit diseases, cause real damage inside a home and often bring with them other pests like fleas, ticks and mites. They also reproduce very quickly making them nearly impossible to control without the help of a professional.

Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes are a constant battle for everyone across the region for most of the year. While they are most known for the red, itchy welts they leave behind on their victims, mosquitoes can also transmit diseases such as West Nile Virus and Encephalitis. They only need very small amounts of stagnant water to breed and take just 7-10 days to develop from egg to adult.  

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Make a Healthy New Year's Resolution for Your Pets

January 3, 2014 4:57 am

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reminds pet owners that if they're planning to make a New Year's resolution for 2014 to lose weight, they should include pets in their plans, too.

It's estimated that between 25 and 40 percent of dogs and cats and 31 percent of people in this country are overweight. Studies have found that other domesticated animals, including horses, are also prone to obesity.

"Taking a dog for a walk is healthy for both the dog and the dog's owner. The companionship of a pet provides us with an extra incentive and inspiration to get out and work out," says Dr. Clark K. Fobian, president of the AVMA. "Just like humans, overweight dogs and cats are more likely to get a number of diseases and health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, skin conditions, liver disease, and joint problems. So putting yourself and your pet on a diet and exercise regimen will result in improved health for 2014 and perhaps a longer life for both you and your pet.”

AVMA's pet weight-loss tips:

• A visit to your veterinarian is the best way to determine if your pet is overweight, but there are things to look for to determine if you should make an immediate appointment for a puppy or kitty weigh-in. A dog should have a discernible waist without fat deposits, and ribs should be easy to feel while stroking a dog. In cats, if there is any rounding of the abdomen or bulging in the back, limbs, neck or face, you've got a fat cat.

• Feed your pets at least twice a day, and keep track of how much they eat (your veterinarian may ask). If the pet hasn't finished their food after about 20 minutes, take the bowl away to discourage overeating.

• Monitor the number and size of the treats you give. A large dog treat can be over 100 calories, while a small treat has as little as 10 calories. If you can't help but repeatedly treat your beloved pet (because they're so incredibly good), break the snacks in half or even thirds to cut the calories.

• Talk to your veterinarian about the best weight reduction plan for your overweight pet.

• To exercise a cat, engage them with a feather, string or laser pointer, and try to get them running after a toy as they swat at it. To exercise a dog, consider agility training, play time with other dogs, and chasing a ball or Frisbee. There is no better exercise for dogs, horses and humans than a brisk walk.

• Hypothyroidism is a risk factor for obesity in humans, dogs and cats, but it's much easier to diagnose in humans. If your dog or cat is obese without a clear cause, make a veterinary appointment.

• Finally, if your pet is a little on the pudgy side, and you think it might benefit from an increased exercise regimen, see a veterinarian first. No exercise program should begin without a veterinary checkup.

Source: www.avma.org

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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NFCC Warns Consumers about Financial Amnesia

January 3, 2014 4:57 am

The December poll hosted on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) website revealed that more than half of the respondents, 56 percent, predicted they would be in a better place financially at this time next year. This response rate tripled the next highest category, where 18 percent of respondents indicated their situation would remain about the same as it is this year.

“Financial optimism is a healthy sign, but it’s going to take more than hope, more than a New Year’s Resolution, to make financial success a reality,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “People need to guard against financial amnesia, the affliction of too quickly forgetting the financial mistakes and pain of the past. One way to do that is by having a financial plan. Although the future can’t be predicted, consumers can protect themselves from financial unknowns by making smart money decisions today.”

Financial control starts with financial awareness. New Year’s Resolutions typically involve getting out of debt, but the basic step of creating a spending plan is rarely on anyone’s list, as many people don’t want to face the financial facts. Continuing to ignore current spending patterns can prevent a person from identifying and addressing the very reason that debt reduction is not achieved.

NFCC encourages consumers to take the first step toward debt reduction by building a 2014 financial plan, including the following often forgotten or ignored areas. The result will be a comprehensive and realistic budget, moving the goal of debt reduction closer to becoming a reality.

• The unexpected. It’s usually not the daily routine expenses that wreck people’s budgets, but the emergencies. Prepare for these by socking away 10 percent of each paycheck into a rainy-day fund. At the end of a year, it will total more than one month’s income, enough to cover most short-term emergencies.

• Long-term savings. Protect against serious set-backs such as job loss. Even though the unemployment numbers are improving, no one is immune to job loss. If the unthinkable happens, bridge money will be needed to help manage daily expenses and existing debt obligations. Without it, people frequently resort to living off of credit cards, often amassing an unmanageable amount of debt. Experts recommend having a minimum of six months income as a cushion. Since it takes quite a while to build up this amount of money, now is the time to start saving toward this goal.

• Known periodic expenses. Birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, vehicle tags, and quarterly insurance premiums are examples of expenses that occur at the same time each year. In spite of being able to anticipate these expenses, many people neglect to set aside the money necessary to satisfy such events.

• Household and vehicle maintenance. Things are going to break, and usually at the worst possible time. Without a plan to cover the expense, people are left with poor resolution choices: take money from a higher priority such as the rent or mortgage, thus compromising that category; charge the expense and add to an already burdensome debt load; borrow from family or friends, which is awkward and potentially puts the relationship at risk.

• Travel. Whether it is a family vacation, an out-of-town funeral or wedding, or sporting events for the kids, traveling costs money. Try to anticipate as many of these events as possible, and work the cost into the budget.

• Major purchases. Buying a home, purchasing a vehicle, remodeling the house or that long-awaited, state-of-the-art entertainment system, are examples of expenses that need to be considered and planned for.

• Charitable giving. Being generous is a virtue. However, being generous to a fault isn’t. Review previous giving patterns to estimate 2014 donations.

• Health insurance choices. Recent changes will potentially have a major impact on a spending plan. In addition to medical insurance, account for anticipated dental and prescription drug needs in the budget.

• Investing. Time is money’s best friend, particularly for those with a long time horizon. Regular, disciplined investing is a critical part of long-term wealth building.

• Debt reduction. Instead of allocating minimum monthly payments into the budget, set a date by which all current credit card debt will be eliminated. This step will free up money to go toward satisfying goals, such as saving or investing.

“The likelihood of being in a better financial place at this time next year starts with the decisions we make now,” continued Cunningham. “Although there are things outside of our control, planning today protects against tomorrow’s uncertainties.”

Consumers can learn more about managing their overall finances by visiting the Sharpen Your Financial Focus website, www.SharpenToday.org, or calling toll-free 855-3-SHARPEN (855-374-2773) to schedule an in-depth financial review with an NFCC Member Agency.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Planning To Rent Out Your Home during an Entertainment Event? Make Sure You're Properly Insured First

January 3, 2014 4:57 am

Homeowners looking to score a windfall by renting out their residence to Super Bowl ticket holders or fans of any other large renowned event should first contact their insurer, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

"Before renting out all or part of your home, tell your insurer about your plans to make sure you're covered if your property is damaged or if someone is injured," said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president, Public Affairs, and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I.

The Super Bowl is being held on Sunday, February 2, 2014, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., eight miles west of mid-town Manhattan. The market for properties near the Stadium is booming on peer-to-peer rental websites as New Jersey and New York homeowners angle to receive their own version of a playoff bonus with thousands traveling to the region for the NFL's championship game. Short-term rental prices for homes typically soar when the Super Bowl or other high-profile sporting events come to town.

Some insurance companies may allow policyholders to use their property as a rental for a one-time, special occasion like the Super Bowl, as long as the insurer is informed about it ahead of time. Other insurers, while allowing this type of arrangement, may insist on other criteria being met, such as the homeowner acquiring additional insurance coverage.

Keep in mind that there are some insurers who will consider any rental of your home to be a business venture, requiring the purchase of a business policy—specifically either a hotel or a bed and breakfast policy—because a standard homeowners insurance policy excludes losses arising from the operation of a business.

"Technological advances have allowed for the growth of the sharing economy," said Barry. "But, if you participate, it is your responsibility as a property owner to make sure you're adequately covered."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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