June 21, 2011 2:57 pm
You have your iPhone, your BlackBerry or your Android. You have your laptop or netbook with wifi. It's hard enough to unplug for the weekend, let alone an entire vacation, but for your own sanity and even that of your coworkers, you need to. There's no reason to take a vacation only to spend it working. The beach might be great, but think about how much better it would be if your phone was left in your hotel room.
Vacations are meant to help employees recharge so they can return to work re-energized and refocused. But if you're constantly checking in with the office, you won't get a real break. To help you unplug and look forward to your vacation, here are eight tips:
1. Plan ahead. Coordinate your vacation time with your co-workers, team and other executive staff to ensure that things run smoothly while you're out.
2. Designate your main point of contact and give them a detailed account of all your projects and work commitments along with your emergency contact information.
3. Try to leave the majority of your work-related hardware at home.
4. Inform your key accounts, vendors and clients when and how long you'll be out of the office.
5. If you have a lot of projects that will need attention while you're out, consider distributing your projects among your co-workers or team.
6. If you can't resist the temptation to check in, try to set up specific times or days you will be checking messages.
7. Leave your mobile devices in your room so you can concentrate on family and friends and not be tempted to check in during the day.
8. If you receive urgent voicemails or emails while you're out, ask your main point of contact to troubleshoot the issue.
Remember, your health is important and taking a vacation may be all the help you need.
June 21, 2011 2:57 pm
CredAbility, a national nonprofit credit counseling agency, has been selected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to accept applications from homeowners in 17 states for the new Emergency Homeowners' Loan Program (EHLP). This program will provide $1 billion to help an estimated 30,000 homeowners in 27 states and Puerto Rico avoid foreclosure.
To apply for funds, homeowners must contact a nonprofit credit counseling organization approved by HUD. CredAbility has received approval to take applications from homeowners in the following states: New York, Massachusetts, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, Washington, Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, Louisiana, Arkansas, West Virginia, Iowa, Kansas, Utah and New Mexico.
EHLP was created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. It is designed to complement the Hardest Hit Fund by helping homeowners who have fallen behind on mortgage payments due to unemployment or large medical expenses bring their mortgage loan current and make future mortgage payments. Homeowners who meet certain criteria can apply to receive mortgage assistance for two years or up to $50,000, whichever comes first.
To be eligible for the program, homeowners must meet the following conditions:
• Involuntary unemployment or underemployment caused by adverse economic conditions or a medical emergency or serious injury
• A minimum 15% reduction in income
• A minimum three months delinquent on mortgage payments and at risk of foreclosure as of June 1, 2011. Homeowners must have a letter from their mortgage company verifying these conditions.
• A reasonable likelihood to resume full monthly mortgage payments by the end of the program's second year
• Income must be less than 120% AMI (Area Median Income) or $75,000 or below
• Income will be evaluated along with the income of anyone else on the mortgage note. Only the income of the persons on the mortgage note will be used to determine eligibility.
Qualified homeowners will receive a zero-percent interest loan that covers the amount of mortgage payments past due on their primary residence. It will also pay 100% of the delinquent amount due to cover property taxes, mortgage and hazard insurance premiums, homeowner association fees and foreclosure-related fees. The loan does not have to be repaid, as long as the homeowner continues making mortgage payments on time for five years.
For more information, visit www.CredAbility.org or call 800.984.0979 to begin the qualification process. Applications will be available soon and will be accepted until July 22. After that date, applications will be reviewed by counseling agencies to determine which homeowners are eligible for the program. All homeowners who qualify will be notified before October 1.
June 21, 2011 2:57 pm
Seventeen local and state REALTOR® associations have been awarded over $60,000 through the Housing Opportunity Program Grants, a National Association of REALTORS® grant program. The funds will be used by the associations to promote and expand affordable housing opportunities in their communities.
“REALTORS® strive to preserve and expand housing opportunities for all Americans,” says NAR President Ron Phipps. “The Housing Opportunity grants program and its recipients are working hard to build communities across the country with affordable housing opportunities for families who might not otherwise be able to purchase a home in that area. Through these grants, homeownership can become an attainable dream for many hard working American families.”
NAR’s Housing Opportunity Program Grants was established in 2006. Individual grants of up to $5,000 are awarded twice per year, in April and October. Since the program’s inception, more than 150 grants totaling over $500,000 have been awarded.
The grants support a wide range of housing opportunity activities, including: housing symposia; home buyer education or housing fairs; counseling and financial literacy efforts; down payment or closing cost financial assistance programs; public opinion surveys; and REALTOR® affordable housing education.
For more information, visit www.realtor.org.
June 20, 2011 8:57 pm
For renters out on the prowl for a good house, apartment or condo, having a checklist before you hunt will save you loads of time and frustration. Having a checklist will narrow down your needs and wants while also guiding you toward asking the essential questions before signing a lease.
Outside the rental:
The first and most important question to ask is, "Do I feel safe in this neighborhood?" Research the area on the Internet and do a drive-by before meeting with the landlord or REALTOR®. If you visit during the day, try to think about how you'd feel late at night. If the area doesn't feel secure, you should not inquire any further.
Is the unit close to highways, public transportation or necessary amenities? Do you have to travel far for grocery stores, ATMs or gas? These are all important things you'll need to have close by and they definitely should weigh heavily in the decision-making process.
Is the building well kept? How the building is kept up on the outside (and in the hallways) is a good indicator of how the individual units will be cared for. What will happen if you need something replaced? The general care of the building will give you a good idea as to what you will likely experience later.
Inside the rental:
Once you finally view the apartment, examine its appearance and cleanliness. Look in closets and test out all lights and sinks. How is the water pressure? Do all of the windows open easily? Don't accept everything at face value. Test them out and make sure they work.
Ask questions about the walls or listen carefully. How much sound can be heard next door? Is the unit near a main road? Can you hear the traffic? These items may not be important as you're conducting a walk-through, but think about how you'll feel on a work night. All of these factors will become crucially important should you decide to live there.
Creating yourself a checklist of items to investigate before signing a lease will help you find the perfect places for you or your family. The more you learn now, the less chance you'll be in for surprises later.
Source: Relocation.com Blog
June 20, 2011 8:57 pm
According to a study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, how long you live depends a lot on where you live.
A wide variation was found comparing rates in U.S. countries. The life expectancy for men ranged from 65.9 to 81.1 years, while women's expectancy ranges were between 73.5 to 86 years. These numbers are behind other countries, such as Japan and Canada. In 2007, men's life expectancy was 75.6 years while women's expectancy was 80.8 years. These numbers were rated 37th in the world.
The location of where you live is also a factor. In the U.S., men live the longest in Fairfax County, Virginia, while women live the longest in Collier, Florida. Men and women live the shortest in Holmes County, Mississippi. Some counties in states like Arizona, Florida, Georgia and Virginia have had increases of more than five years of life expectancy since 1987.
The study suggests that these numbers cannot be described by the size of the nation, racial diversity or economics. Rather, they point to the high rates of obesity, tobacco use and other preventable risk factors that perpetually widen the gap between the U.S. and other countries.
Worldwide, men live the longest in Iceland (80.2 years), with Hong Kong, Switzerland, Australia and Japan finishing the top five. Woman live the longest in Japan (86.2 years) followed shortly by Hong Kong, France, Switzerland and Italy.
Data was studied from 3,138 counties, 10 cities and 197 countries and territories. For more information, visit http://www.healthmetricsandevaluation.org.
June 20, 2011 8:57 pm
In 2009, an estimated 423,773 children lived in foster care in the U.S., as case workers helped to reunite them with their families or primary caregivers. Recently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced nearly $15 million to help public housing authorities reunite foster children with their parents or prevent them from ever entering the foster care system.
HUD’s Family Unification Program (FUP) will make 1,931 Housing Choice Vouchers available for families whose inadequate housing is the primary factor in the separation or near separation from their children. In addition, FUP vouchers will provide stable housing for young adults (ages 18-21) who left or are aging out of the foster care system, preventing them from becoming homeless.
“It’s heartbreaking to realize that thousands of children live in foster care or are forced to live with other families simply because their parents can’t afford a home,” says HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “The funding provided today will keep thousands of families together under one roof.”
This funding allows local public housing authorities to work closely with local child welfare agencies to identify families with children in foster care or who are at risk of being placed in foster care and youth at risk of homelessness. These vouchers, like HUD’s Housing Choice Vouchers, allow families and youths to rent housing from private landlords and generally pay 30% of their monthly income towards rent and utilities.
According to the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, it costs the federal government approximately $56,892 annually per family to place children into foster care. Yet the cost to provide housing and supportive services to one family averages less than $14,000 annually. Through this investment in FUP to reunify families who are separated due to housing problems, HUD will reunite nearly 3,500 children with their parents, thus saving $74 million in annual foster care expenditures. Cost savings are also considerable for young people aging out of foster care. The average annual cost of a FUP voucher for young adults is $5,600—a tenth of the estimated costs associated with undesirable outcomes such as homelessness, incarceration, and residential treatment.
For more information, visit www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov.
June 17, 2011 8:57 pm
The month of June has brought warm temperatures all over the country. While you may be tempted to crank up the A/C, remember that you won't be nearly as excited to see that electric bill next month. To save some money and energy, here are six tips that might just help.
1. Avoid heat build-up in your home – The best way to keep your home cool is to keep the heat out. This can be done by closing the drapes on windows facing the sun (east-facing windows in the morning and west-facing windows in the afternoon). You should also try to avoid heat-generating activities, such as cooking, on hot days or during the hottest part of the day. If you are cooking, use your range fan to vent the hot air out of your house. By reducing the amount of heat in your home, you will have to use less energy to cool it.
2. Use ventilation and circulation to cool your home – Instead of automatically turning on the air conditioner on hot days, try cooling your home with window and ceiling fans. Circulating air can make your home feel cool and comfortable in a much more efficient way than air conditioning. There is also the option of a whole house fan (a large ventilating fan installed in the attic that expels hot air out of your home) which can circulate air throughout your entire home.
3. Keep air conditioning efficient and to a minimum – When you do have to use air conditioning, there are ways to make it more efficient. First of all, turn up the temperature setting on your air conditioner by a couple of degrees. Most people keep the temperature setting lower than it needs to be, hence using more energy than is needed to keep your home cool. It is recommended that you keep the temperature at about 25° C (77° F). Also, remember to turn off your air conditioner once your home has reached a comfortable temperature. By coupling minimum air conditioning with reducing the amount of heat entering your home, you can keep it cool without using excess energy. It isn’t recommended that you leave your air conditioner on when you leave your house, but if you’re going to do so, turn the temperature setting up a few more degrees to about 28° C (82° F) while you’re gone. Also, remember to turn off your air conditioner if you’re going to be away from your home for more than a day. It is also important to make sure your cooling vents aren’t blocked so that the energy being used is going towards actually cooling your home and not being wasted. Furthermore, keep rooms that don't need cooling, such as closets, closed off when the air conditioner is running.
4. Make sure your home isn’t losing cool air – By weather-stripping and caulking around windows, doors and electrical outlets on outer walls, you can prevent losing cool air from your home and prevent hot air from getting in. Improve your home’s insulation on outer walls, again to keep cool air in, and hot air out. You should also consider installing storm doors for the same reasons if your home doesn’t already have them. If you have a fireplace, keep the flue closed. This provides an extra barrier against the escape of cool air. All of these options will make cooling your home more efficient and will save you money on your energy bill.
5. Select energy-efficient cooling systems – If you’re in the market for a new cooling system, there are many new technologies that are much more efficient than older versions. As with other appliances, you should look for the Energy Star logo and compare the amount of electricity each uses.
6. Use the coolest parts of your home – On hot days, parts of your house will naturally stay cooler than others. For example, if you have a basement it will remain cool even during the hottest part of the day (this is because the cool air in your home will sink down to your basement). One way you can reduce the amount of energy used to cool your home is to do more in cooler areas of your home. This way, you won't have to use energy to stay cool.
June 17, 2011 8:57 pm
By Barbara Pronin
Do the colors in your home play well together? If not, you may have a missing link that will unify your living space and make even the smallest home look smoothly harmonious.
When redecorating, the goal is to create a flow from room to room that unifies the whole. Here are five tips for working with color:
Use a color thread – Give each room its own personality while ensuring a cohesive feeling by using a single hue as a theme that runs throughout. You can use this unifying color in the woodwork of each room—the baseboards, door and window frames and ceiling molding—or as a recurring color in the furniture and accessories in each room. You may want to limit your palette by using the same two or three colors in varying shades and intensities throughout the home.
Crosslink with color – In adjoining areas, such as the kitchen and family room, you can unify the look even when painting them different colors by using the same trim color throughout and/or by bringing touches of each area’s color into the other. You can further connect them by using flooring or area rugs that include both colors in each room.
Unify with white trim – Painting all of the trim the same shade of white is a sure way to create a sense of flow. Note that there are many shades of white. A sour cream white is one hue that contrasts crisply with bold colors while harmonizing with softer ones.
Use a limited palette – Open floor plans maximize the feeling of space without increasing square footage, but you can give each space its own personality by choosing subtle colors that work well together. Limit your use of color to two or three and use them in varying amounts in each room.
Play with light – Light changes the appearance of any color. Applying the same can of paint to two rooms will create a different look depending on how much natural light comes into each room. To achieve a feeling of continuity, choose two closely related shades of the same color and apply the lighter one to the sunnier space. This works well for L-shaped rooms, where one area is brighter than the other.
June 17, 2011 8:57 pm
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded 10 public housing authorities nearly $34 million in grants recently that will be used as seed money to create early childhood education and adult training facilities for public housing residents.
"If America is to win the future, we need to out-educate the rest of the world,” says HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “This funding helps public housing agencies that want to provide these services but lacked the resources. This is an investment to make certain we connect affordable housing with quality education and training resources.”
HUD’s Capital Fund Education and Training Community Facilities (CFCF) Program provides funding to public housing authorities for the construction, rehabilitation, or purchase of facilities that will offer early childhood education, adult education and job training programs. It is designed primarily for public housing residents, but can be utilized by residents in the surrounding community.
The purpose of the facilities is to offer comprehensive, integrated education and employment services to help public housing residents achieve long-term economic self-sufficiency.
HUD required successful applicants to illustrate their ability to get firm financial commitments of at least 5% to leverage the HUD grant. The applicants were also required to identify at least one education and/or training supportive service provider, such as a community college, that would partner with the housing authority to provide education and employment services at the facility. All of the grantees surpassed this requirement by forming partnerships with many local organizations in the community.
For more information, visit www.hud.gov.
June 16, 2011 8:57 pm
The summer is less than a week away and with it comes weeds, bugs and, of course, more time needed to tend to your lawn. Here, learn how you can make the most of the season with these summer lawn care tips:
1. Proper watering and water conservation is important at any time of year, but particularly when heat and a lack of rain lead to water deficits and drought.
2. Evaluate your lawn regularly for signs of irregular color and texture. These can be signs of damage that may result from pests or disease.
3. Proper year-round lawn care keeps a lawn healthy and prevents weeds, disease and pests. But sometimes, insects you may not notice can travel from the yard to your home. To stop them, hire pest control to keep the bugs on the outside. You can also reduce their outside presence by treating the lawn for insects such as fleas and ticks, and fire ants.
4. While lawns are generally the focal point of most yards, don’t forget about trees and shrubs. Well-maintained landscaping adds dimensionality to a home and increases its value.
5. In the heat of the summer, you may be tempted to mow your lawn in shorts and flip flops, but remember, you need to stay safe: wear long pants and closed-toed shoes.
6. Also, no matter what outdoor activity you’re enjoying, be sure to stay hydrated with plenty of water.
7. The essentials of good summer lawn care are watering, fertilizing and proper mowing. However, sometimes an underlying problem (such as bare spots or severely damaged turf) requires additional measures.
Follow these tips and take care of your lawn so that you can enjoy countless hours of outdoor fun and relaxation throughout the entire summer.