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

Electronic Cigarette Considered Safer Way to Quit Smoking by Most Americans

July 27, 2012 2:42 am

Electronic cigarettes have been making a lot of headlines recently. In the United States, e-cigarettes are grabbing a lot of popularity among smokers who want to quit the habit of tobacco smoking.

A new study in the American Journal of Public Health reports that about 40 percent of individuals had heard of e-cigarettes, and awareness was highest among smokers. A majority of Americans consider electronic cigarettes to be effective for quitting smoking and a healthier, safer way of smoking.

Electronic cigarettes go by many names including e-cigarettes, electric cigarettes, smokeless cigarettes and vapor cigarettes. They are available in a variety of flavors and nicotine strengths and can be purchased on the Internet and in stores.

Jennifer Pearson, Ph.D., MPH and research investor at Legacy, an antismoking group in Washington, D.C. says, “We don't have data to say about long-term effects of e-cigarettes, but they are probably less harmful than combustible cigarettes.”

E-cigarettes resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes in many ways. They have a cartridge containing liquid nicotine, a vaporizer that vaporizes the liquid nicotine into vapor upon inhalation, an indicator light to give smokers a more real feel, and finally the mouthpiece. The cartridges can be purchased again in case the cartridge runs out of liquid.

Findings from recent studies of vapor cigarettes suggest that smokers are using them as smoking cessation tools. Also, many harm-reduction advocates say that the main selling point of vapor cigarettes is that they only contain nicotine sans the harmful carcinogenic products that are found in tobacco cigarettes. This suggests that they may be a safer cigarette.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Five Quick Travel Safety Tips

July 27, 2012 2:42 am

Whether heading to the 2012 Olympic Games in London or escaping for a weekend getaway, vacationers should remember to take steps to protect their money, luggage and other valuables. Here are a few reminders you should take notice of in order to prevent thieves from ruining your vacation:

-Avoid bringing large amounts of cash. Carry one or two credit cards and use travelers checks when possible.
-Don’t bring valuable or irreplaceable jewelry, electronics or collectibles.
-Make sure each piece of luggage is labeled inside and out with your name, address and telephone number. This goes for carry-on luggage, too.
-Keep cash, credit cards, passports and airline tickets in the hotel safe. And keep your hotel door locked at all times.
-If you have to carry cash or credit cards, don’t keep them in handbags or outside pockets that are easy for thieves to access. Inside pockets and shoulder bags across the chest are safest.

It's also a good idea to leave a copy of your itinerary with a family member or friend who can contact you in the event of an emergency.

Here are a few other travel reminders from the website:

-Remember to bring a photo identification card and updated passport if you’re traveling outside of the United States.
-Contact your doctor to see whether you need any immunizations before you travel to a foreign country.
-Don’t forget to bring any prescription medications you may need. Keep them in their original, labeled containers and carry copies of your prescriptions, including the generic names.
-If you’re traveling by air, review the Transportation Security Administration’s list of prohibited items to bring on airplanes.

By using these simple safety tips, you can help protect yourself and your belongings, making your vacation more enjoyable for everyone.

Source: Amica Insurance

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Drop Those Costs! Air Conditioning Energy Efficiency Plan That Can Save You Money

July 27, 2012 2:42 am

Staying cool costs money. In the summer, air conditioning is the big energy ticket item. In fact, the Alliance to Save Energy says that the average 2012 residential household energy bill will run around $2,200. They also say that simple changes can ease the strain and keep your home more comfortable at the same time.

The following American Cooling and Heating Six-Point Energy Star Efficiency plan can help you ease the burden on your A/C system, your pocketbook and your family’s comfort demands:

1) Air Filters
When things appear to be functioning correctly, homeowners forget the importance of changing their HVAC air filter. Dirty filters reduce air flow, force your system to work harder and result in wasted energy. Change the HVAC filter once a month. It will reduce cooling expenses and prevent the buildup of dust and dirt, which may even eliminate the future need for a service call.

2) HVAC System Tune Up

What would it cost to repair your automobile if you never changed the oil until the engine seized up? Although special circumstances such as landscaping-related dust and debris may prompt a need for a special maintenance call, once a year is typically sufficient for a home HVAC system. Spend a little to save bunches.

3) Programmable Thermostat
Not all home air conditioning systems have an installed programmable thermostat. Yet when correctly installed and properly used, a programmable thermostat can reduce your yearly energy costs by as much as $190.

4) Leaking Duct System
Low air pressure moving through your home may be the result of an improperly sealed heating and cooling duct system. As much as 20 percent of your cooling and heating cost may be coming to rest in the crawlspace beneath your home or in your attic.

5) Upgrade to a New Energy-Efficient HVAC System
Old systems cost more to operate than the modern energy-efficient products available today. A new energy-efficient home HVAC system can reduce your yearly energy bill by as much as $200. If your system is older than ten years or if it is not keeping your home livable and comfortable, perhaps you should have it evaluated by a quality HVAC contractor.

6) Proper Installation
Perhaps a new system is the only answer to your home cooling complication. If so, seek the best in performance, energy efficiency and installation services. Improper HVAC installation can reduce your energy efficiency by as much as 30 percent, not to mention the excess wear and tear on your equipment.

Source: American Cooling and Heating

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Top 10 European Destinations

July 26, 2012 2:42 am

Thinking of a European getaway? has announced its list of the top ten cities to visit in Europe. Travelers looking to experience the splendor of Europe should do a little comparison shopping before booking flights, in order to experience everything Europe has to offer. Start with these destinations.

1. Rome, Italy
Located in the central-western part of the country, the Italian capital is often referred to as the "birthplace of western civilization." Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Rome is home to the Pope, St. Peter's Basilica, the Colosseum and the Vatican Museum.

2. Dublin, Ireland
Hugely popular with tourists across the world, visitors can take a stroll down the River Liffey, or sample the famous Irish craic whilst enjoying a pint of Guinness in Temple Bar. Don't miss the statue of Molly Malone on Grafton Street or the Ha'penny Bridge over the Liffey, which remains Dublin's most recognizable landmark.

3. Paris, France
Known best for its romance and iconic landmarks, the French capital is perhaps the most majestic city in the world. From the Eiffel Tower, to the Champs-Elysees and Sacre Coeur, the sights and sounds of this great city are simply endless.

4. London, England
With its pomp and pageantry, London has a place on any highlight list. Explore the countless museums and art galleries or take a short trip down The Mall and try to spot the Queen in Buckingham Palace.

5. Venice, Italy
A simply fascinating city with beauty and elegance to be found on every corner. Explore the many waterways and the Grand Canal before taking a walk over the famous Rialto Bridge and on to St. Mark's Basilica, not forgetting to set aside some time for a world famous Gondola ride.

6. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is one of the most visited cities on the planet and it's easy to understand why. A warm year-round climate combined with fantastic beaches, sensational sporting action and a rich cultural heritage make Barcelona a must-see city.

7. Amsterdam, Holland
Amsterdam is one of the most eye-catching and alluring cities in Europe. With a picturesque canal, an abundance of museums and a thriving nightlife, Amsterdam can cater to everyone's tastes.

8. Prague, Czech Republic
The Czech Capital has seen immense changes throughout its history but has stood the test of time and is now one of Europe's most flourishing cities. Not to be missed are the Old Town Square, Prague Castle and the Lennon Wall.

9. St. Petersburg, Russia
Previously known as Petrograd and then Leningrad, St. Petersburg is the most Western city in Russia. It may not be its nation's capital city, but it is home to more than 200 museums, of which The Hermitage is one of the largest in the world.

10. Vienna, Austria
The Austrian capital is awash with cultural highlights and rich decadence. But with the stunning Alps just moments away and historical settlements to be discovered throughout, Austria has much to offer.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tips to Avoid Oral Cancer

July 26, 2012 2:42 am

The American Dental Association (ADA) asked practices around the country to participate in helping address the issue of oral cancer. Here are a few tips every family should take into consideration in order to avoid oral cancer.

Get screened.

Early detection of oral cancer can save lives. Everyone is urged to get screened for oral cancer. There are more than 35,000 new oral cancer cases every year and this is the fifth year in a row that the number has increased. The mortality rate for oral cancer is higher than that of skin or cervical cancer, yet many people are more aware of the risks involved with those diseases.

If you are at risk for the Human papillomavirus 16 (HPV-16), get screened. In the past, oral cancer was primarily found in patients who smoked or chewed tobacco, or among those who drank heavily (over 30 drinks a day). Now it's seen in more and more younger patients, generally caused by a jump in HPV-16 cases.

Ask about your oral care professional’s screening process.

Only trained professionals can detect the early warning signs of oral cancer. Find a hygienist who is trained in visual and tactile identification of oral pathology. The oral cancer screening process should inspect the patient’s tongue, lips, palette, neck, throat and entire mouth for any abnormal signs that may point to cancer. During the screening, the hygienist should look for swelling, ulcerations, lumps, nodules, sores, white or red spots, and any unusual marks, which could possibly indicate cancer.

Visit the dentist.

It’s important to visit the dentist and/or the ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) regularly to be screened for oral cancer, so you can be sure about your oral health. It is recommended that patients receive an oral cancer exam at each dental visit. Oral cancer screenings are performed only by ear, nose and throat doctors (ENT), oral surgeons and dentists. Just like patients visit the dermatologist for a skin cancer screening or women get screened for breast cancer, it’s imperative that more patients visit a dentist, ENT or oral surgeon on an annual basis for an oral cancer exam. Dentists are well-positioned to perform oral cancer screenings because patients typically visit their dentists on a semi-annual basis but rarely visit an ENT or oral surgeon.

Source: The Blende Dental Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.


The Wrong Sun Hat Can Leave Heads Fit to Be Fried

July 26, 2012 2:42 am

Every head needs sun protection. In fact, the simple act of wearing a hat can dramatically reduce the chances of skin cancer and premature aging by shading the face, scalp, ears and neck. These areas are also a common place for skin cancer to occur.

For those who have the desire for sun protection but just cannot find a hat that fits, here are four tips to help when making a selection:

• Protect the scalp by selecting a hat, not a visor, that will cover the entire head. The scalp is susceptible to sun damage; especially a bald head or thinning hair. If a sun visor is worn, pull the hair back so that the scalp is not showing.
• Start by choosing a comfortable hat with a brim of at least three inches. Rule of thumb: the bigger the brim, the better the protection. Also, a brim that is angled downward will provide even more hours of sun protection.
• Do not rely on a baseball cap to protect against dangerous UV (ultraviolet) rays. A baseball cap shades your forehead and a small portion of the face, but the small brim leaves the neck, ears and most of the face exposed.
• A hat that is made from tightly woven fabrics, such as canvas, offers the best protection. In contrast, the holes in a straw hat will allow UV rays to come through and any protection may be minimal. Regarding color choice, go darker. Darker colors tend to offer better protection by absorbing UV rays. Hats that come with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) tag have been rated and the tag will state the degree of sun protection the hat provides.

Be mindful of the power of the sun. One good habit to get into is to avoid excessive UVB exposure between the peak hours of 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. and seek shade when possible.

No one product will give complete protection. For maximum protection, combine a wide-brimmed sun hat with sunscreen and sunglasses. Also, cover up exposed skin by wearing UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) clothing. This is clothing that has been certified to protect against UV rays. This is accomplished through a tight fabric weave or a sun protection additive.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


When Traveling, Don't Leave Home without These Top Gluten-Free Items

July 25, 2012 2:42 am

Savvy gluten-free travelers always carry crackers, dried fruit, and nuts in case gluten-free food isn’t available, but Carol Fenster, an expert in gluten-free living and author of “Gluten-Free 101,” carries additional items to make sure she has safe food while en route and at her destination.

Fenster, whose travels have taken her around the world, despite her gluten-free lifestyle, selects these items so that they pass airport-security screenings, are non-perishable, and are substantial enough to make a light meal, if necessary. “There’s nothing worse than being away from home and hungry,” says Fenster. “Whether traveling for business or pleasure, with these items in a purse or carry-on, gluten-free travelers are always prepared for airport delays, long plane rides, or destinations that lack gluten-free options.”

Nut Butters
Bring individual-serving packets of nut butters. Tear one end open and squeeze the packet to distribute the nut butter on apples, carrots, or gluten-free crackers with no need for a knife.

Beef Jerky
Fenster chooses gluten-free versions and carries a few sticks in a plastic, resealable bag. Chewy, filling, yet non-perishable, they can make a small, but high-protein meal.

Never forget a few individual-serving packets of gluten-free rolled oats, in plain or flavored versions. Pour into a paper cup designed for hot beverages, add hot water, and let stand (covered) for a few minutes to reconstitute the oats. Some airport concessions serve ready-to-reconstitute paper cups of oatmeal, but Fenster cautions that these may not be made with gluten-free oats.

Whether home-made or store-bought, granola can be eaten as trail mix (just add nuts and candy bits), as a breakfast cereal, or sprinkled on yogurt. Always verify that it is made with gluten-free oats. Carry a small bag to eat en route, with additional bags in your suitcase to eat throughout the trip.

Packing a couple of gluten-free bread slices into a child’s sandwich box can also be handy. The rigid sides protect the bread from being crushed as well as keep it fresh longer. The bread can be toasted, used in sandwiches, or eaten with nut butter. If possible, buy a loaf of gluten-free bread at your final destination and keep a couple of slices on you at all times.

Fenster, the author of ten gluten-free cookbooks, says that these foods may be purchased in natural food stores as well as some supermarkets.

“Travel can be safe and enjoyable when gluten-free travelers are prepared with safe food that transports well, especially for those times when food choices are limited,” says Fenster.

Source: Carol Fenster, author

Published with permission from RISMedia.


iPhone 5 Users Will Have to Take Care to Avoid Water Damage

July 25, 2012 2:42 am

Reports suggesting that the up-and-coming iPhone 5 will be waterproof are probably wide of the mark, following recent revelations about a patent Apple has secured that allows the company to detect water damage in its gadgets.

According to, the new patent could actually be bad news for Apple fans. The new patent – 8,210,032 – is not some kind of revolutionary new water-proofing measure, but rather a new innovation that allows Apple technicians to determine if one of its products was damaged due to being submerged in water, reports

Dan Lim, editor of, explained what the new patent will likely mean to consumers:
“There have been claims that the iPhone 5 will be water proof. We believe that this is unlikely to be the case, as the new patent just secured by Apple has nothing to do with this.

“The patent has actually been designed to help Apple assess the reasons behind the malfunctioning of any of its products. Water exposure is one of the main reasons that its devices malfunction, hence verification of this is important for purposes such as assessing warranty claims.” explained that the new water-detection mechanism involves using materials that react permanently when exposed to water. These materials will be incorporated inside all new Apple devices, giving inspectors a visual indicator of water damage to any product.

The patent states that the water detection device will be easily accessible to technicians. This is important because up until now, Apple has had no easy way of disputing consumer claims that their broken devices have not been exposed to water – something that the iPhone warranties do not cover. If, as expected, the iPhone 5 turns out not to be waterproof, consumers should take extra special care to ensure that their device does not become exposed to water.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Three Stages to Get Out of Debt

July 25, 2012 2:42 am

As unemployment starts to decrease and residential construction increases, people throughout the U.S. are breathing a collective sigh of relief. But for many, the road to economic recovery is still an intangible destination, blocked by a mountain of debt that has accumulated over the last several years. Many consumers are faced with this mountain of bills and are uncertain if they will ever get back on financially solid ground.

Thankfully, there are some steps that you can take to help get yourself back in the black. The steps you take can change depending upon your situation, so here are a couple of common scenarios to help you determine where to start:

1. Building a Better Budget
When creating a budget, you’re essentially creating a snapshot of your income and expenses with the goal of having more income than expenses each month. In order for a budget to be successful, you’ll want to take into account all sources of income as well as every expense – even if they come at just a quarterly or annual interval.

One way to get a handle on your expenses is to collect all of your receipts and bills over the month. If you have seasonal expenses (like vacations, back-to-school shopping, presents and taxes), you’ll want to remember to include those in your budget, too. Now you’ll be equipped to brainstorm ways to cut back on your spending. If transportation has gotten expensive, look into carpooling with a work buddy or take public transportation. If you’ve started spending a lot at restaurants, it’s time to cultivate your cooking skills. Create a plan that will shave off enough charges that you’ll have enough left over each month to start building your emergency savings and paying down your existing debt.

2. You Can’t Pay Your Bills
If you find yourself having to choose between two bills at the end of the month, there are a couple of exercises you can complete to help decrease the stress.

There are a couple of different things to keep in mind when prioritizing – protecting your assets (savings accounts and personal property), protecting your wages and protecting your essential services (think medical and utilities). After covering the priorities, you’ll then be able to focus on credit cards and other unsecured debts.

Be up front with your creditors if you won’t be able to make your payments. Many will work with you to create a modified payment plan that will keep you paying down your debt without overwhelming your budget. Taking a proactive approach will often garner much better results than waiting for a collector to call.

Before you contact your creditors, take some time to review your rights, as outlined by The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The Act outlines when and how a debt collector may contact you to help prevent harassment. Keep in mind that while creditors have limitations on their communications, this does not cancel your debt.

3. When You Just Can’t Do It Yourself
Below is a breakdown of credit counseling and two of the tactics they may present to you:

• Credit Counseling. These services will often sit down with you to review your budget and your existing creditors. They will then contact your creditors on your behalf to negotiate payment plans. You’ll want to research the credit counseling agency before you agree to service; some have hidden fees and poor reputations.

• Debt Management Plans (DMPs). These plans allow you to make a deposit each month with your credit counseling agency so they can make payments on your behalf. This allows them to prioritize your debts. Before agreeing to a DMP, you’ll want to ensure that they are handling the debts in a manner that’s been agreed upon with your various creditors; otherwise, an account may go unpaid and be sent to collections.

• Debt Settlement Programs. Sometimes credit counselors will want to work with your creditors to negotiate a lesser payment to settle the debt. Depending upon how this is handled, it could be notated on your credit report and negatively affect your credit score.

If you do decide to seek out the help of a professional, the FTC recommends you start your search with the following sources: credit unions, military bases, housing authorities and branches of the U.S. Cooperative Extension Service. These institutions are typically consumer friendly and trustworthy.


Published with permission from RISMedia.


Make the Most of Family Time and Have Some Fun This Summer

July 24, 2012 2:40 am

In today's hurry-up world, many families are looking for ways to slow down a little and spend some quality time together, just having fun. The good news is that it doesn't have to cost a lot of money, and you don't have to go very far to have a great time.

Here are some ways your family can make the most of family time and have some serious fun.

Become day trippers. Feel like getting out of town, but don't want to go far? Try a family day trip.
-State parks - You can go on a hike or bike ride, have a picnic and enjoy the great outdoors on your own, or participate in events such as fishing tournaments, wildlife education, moonlight walks or star gazing talks.
-Nearby cities - Play tourist in a city that's close by, but you haven't been to before. Check out the local shops, museums, parks and restaurants - you may be surprised at how much there is to do. Be sure to ask any friends who have been to the area for suggestions regarding what to do with the family.

Have some homegrown fun. You don't have to go to one of the big theme parks in another state to have a great time.
-Carnivals and street fairs - Get in on some old-fashioned fun and make the most of these hometown celebrations. The kids will get a kick out of it - and you may feel like a kid again yourself.
-Local museums - Art, history, science, kid-themed and quirky - there are all kinds of museums just waiting to be explored. Keep an eye out for special exhibits and family events. Many museums have free days and no- or low-cost activities and classes you can all do together.
-Free movie screenings and concerts - Some parks and rec departments and shopping centers have family movie and music events. Take a picnic dinner, go early and enjoy some free family fun.
- Backyard camping - Pitch a tent or two and spend the night under the stars. Grill dinner, or make s'mores over the fire pit, and "rough it" together without ever leaving home.
-Geocaching - If you've always wanted to go on a treasure hunt, geocaching just might be for you. Geocaching involves using a GPS-enabled device and clues to navigate to a specific set of coordinates in order to locate hidden containers. Search online for geocaching near you.

Help your community. Serving together is a fun way to grow closer to each other and make a difference where you live.
-Charity events - Sign up to help with or participate in a charity race. From planning and organizing, to checking people in, setting up water stations and actually racing, there are plenty of ways you can help make a fundraising event a success.
-Urban and community gardens - Sowing, watering, weeding and harvesting - there's always something that needs to be done in a community garden. Even the littlest ones can have some fun doing something good for the community.
-Work days - Shelters, schools and churches often need a helping hand to keep their buildings clean and in good repair. Your family can pitch in to take care of the facilities that help so many people within the community.
-Make a difference in your neighborhood - and Bing have teamed up to inspire people to "do good" in their neighborhood by hosting various events across the country this summer. Visit to see if they'll be stopping by a neighborhood near you, or learn how you can participate online. Perfect for the teen in your life, these events don't require money, an adult, or a car to participate.

Be hometown foodies. Discover your inner "locovore" by exploring all the different ways to enjoy locally produced food.
-Farmers markets - From apples to zucchini, you can find just about any kind of fresh produce, as well as bread, honey, herbs and more. Take your time, try some samples and talk to the vendors about their goods. Bring home some fresh ingredients and experiment with new recipes.
-CSA - Community Supported Agriculture groups bring the local harvests to you. For a set fee, sometimes paid in full up front, sometimes paid weekly with pickup, you get a generous selection of whatever is in season. The options change each week, which means you get a tasty surprise.
-Restaurants - Try that new restaurant down the street, or the one you've driven by a few times but have never been to. It can be a culinary adventure and a great way to support the local economy.

A recent Bing survey found that:
-More than 90 percent of respondents are likely to seek the opinions or advice of friends and family as part of their decision-making process.
-More than 90 percent of respondents will even delay a decision in order to first get input from family and friends.
-More than 75 percent of respondents report they are likely to solicit opinions or advice from their online social networks - 44 percent get the most useful recommendations on travel and restaurants from Facebook and/or Twitter.

Source: Family Features

Published with permission from RISMedia.