RE/MAX 440
Maureen Fitzgerald
731 W Skippack Pike
Blue Bell  PA 19422
 Phone: 215-643-3200 1824
Office Phone: 215-643-3200
Cell: 215-530-6438
Fax: 267-354-6880 
mfitzgerald@remaxcentralinc.com
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Maureen Fitzgerald

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5 Tips to Get a Handle on Debt

February 16, 2016 1:49 am

Be it a mortgage, student loan or unpaid credit card, the majority of households hold some form of debt. Not all debt is detrimental, but for the sake of your financial future, it pays to have a handle on it.

Better manage your debt with these tips, courtesy of American Consumer Credit Counseling, a national non-profit organization.

1. Determine exactly what you owe.
Do not live in denial and allow your debt to pile up. Write down every debt you have, as well as the amount you owe. With this information, create a plan on how to best go about paying off each debt.

2. Get organized.
Pull all those bills out of the drawer and get your finances in order. Organization will help motivate you to manage—and ideally, erase—debt.

3. Set up a calendar.
Create a calendar devoted to payments. Mark when each bill is due on your calendar and cross it off once it has been paid.

4. Look for ways to cut costs.
Carefully examine your bills to see if there are ways you can reduce them.

5. Reduce your spending.
Shrink your monthly spending to help you get out of debt at a faster rate. Review your credit card statements to see where your money has been going each month. Create a budget with a budgeting worksheet and stick to it each month. 

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Can Homeownership Status Affect Auto Insurance Rates?

February 16, 2016 1:49 am

Recently released research has shed light on a startling statistic: auto insurance costs for renters may be up to 50 percent higher than those for homeowners.

According to an analysis by the non-profit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), auto insurance premiums average 7 percent higher—about $112 per year—for a 30-year-old safe driver who rents a home instead of owning it. The CFA argues that weighing homeownership status when determining auto insurance rates disadvantages low- and moderate-income drivers—Federal Reserve Board data show the median income of renters is $27,800 and $63,400 for homeowners.

To conduct the analysis, the CFA solicited premiums for a basic policy from eight of the nation’s largest insurers, across 10 cities, for a 30-year-old, female motorist with a perfect driving record operating a 2005 Honda Civic. The CFA altered homeownership status during the test, discovering that premiums assigned to renters were significantly higher—even by double-digit percentages in some areas, like Baltimore, Md., Louisville, Ky., Newark N.J., and Tampa, Fla.

Notably, Geico was the only insurer tested that did not consider homeownership status in any city analyzed.

Consumer protection laws in California prohibit auto insurance companies from considering homeownership status or other socio-economic factors when setting premiums.  The CFA confirmed compliance through a separate analysis focused in Oakland, Calif.

Source: Consumer Federation of America

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Home Gone Green? You May Be Eligible for Tax Credits

February 16, 2016 1:49 am

Did you make your home more energy-efficient last year? You may be eligible for tax credits when you file your return, according to home energy evaluator Homeselfe.

"If you upgraded your home in 2015 by adding insulation—one of the most cost-effective upgrades you can make—you already know you are saving on your utility bills every month, plus you may be eligible for a tax credit on that investment," says Ameeta Jain, co-founder of Homeselfe. "Not taking advantage of that is throwing away your hard-earned cash.”

Jain explains that there are two types of major tax credits available to homeowners: the Residential Energy Efficient Property Tax Credit, which benefits those who have incorporated renewable energy features into their home, and the Nonbusiness Energy Property Tax Credit, which benefits those who have installed materials that meet the U.S. Department of Energy’s energy efficiency standards.

Homeowners who have invested in energy-efficient upgrades, such as fuel cells, geothermal heat pumps, small wind turbines, solar panels and solar-powered water heaters, may be eligible for the first credit. Homeowners who have invested in energy-efficient improvements like insulated roofing, windows and doors may be eligible for the latter.

Tax credits up to $500 are also available for some improvements, such as installing advanced, main air-circulating fans, a biomass stove, an energy-efficient HVAC system or water heater, insulation, or metal or asphalt roofing.

Source: Homeselfe

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Things Successful People Do Monday Mornings

February 15, 2016 1:49 am

Monday mornings—for most people, the beginning of a new work week—can be critical because they set the stage for the day and the week ahead.

“Most people are keenly aware of the typical Monday office dynamic,” suggests workplace expert Lynn Taylor, author of, ‘Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant.’ “This is a time to apply your best management skills to ensure the week ahead unfolds as smoothly as possible."

Among the top 10 things Taylor found successful people do zealously on Monday mornings:

Wake Up Early – Most successful people get a good night’s sleep on Sunday and wake up early on Monday morning.

Exercise – Working out gets your circulation going and helps you stay alert and ready to start the work day.

Eat a Good Breakfast – Eating a healthy morning meal gives you the energy to work without staring at the clock waiting for lunch hour.

Plan to Arrive Early – Getting an early start can help you avoid a bad Monday commute and give you some wiggle room for the unexpected at work.

Clear the Desk and Desktop – Hopefully, you did this on Friday afternoon. In any case, organize and prioritize your files. Put aside unimportant paperwork and keep critical files easily accessible.

Carve Out Time for the Unexpected – Try to build in an hour or two on Monday to handle unexpected tasks or requests.

Greet the Team and the Boss – Doing so every morning helps keep morale up, but it’s especially important on Monday when almost everyone can use a lift.

Update To-Do Lists and Goals – Get yourself current on tasks and priorities. Set your goals for the week, knowing that tasks not accomplished can probably be put off until next week.

Visualize the Week’s Successes – Taking a moment to do this can fill you with energy and a desire to get the week started.

Tackle the Tough Challenges First - The least desirable but critical projects are easy to put off, but your energy is stronger in the morning, so that's the ideal time to confront the most difficult tasks.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Household Items to Toss, Now

February 15, 2016 1:49 am

The snows may not be fully melted, but the first signs of spring are closing in—and with them comes the impulse to clean and de-clutter in the annual rite we call spring cleaning.

But while some items get tossed without a second thought, consumer blogger Jacob Hurwith urges us to dig deeper, suggesting 10 things we really need to get rid of:

Old Shoes– It may be comforting to see those 27 pairs of shoes in your closet, but deep down you know that at least half of them will never be worn again. They have no purpose or sentimental value. Pitch them.

Unmatched and Outgrown Clothing – If there are odd gloves or socks cluttering the drawers, give up hope that mates will appear. Pitch them, and give your kids’ outgrown clothes to charity or to a family with younger kids.

Wire Coat Hangers– If you’ve amassed a collection from the dry cleaners, take them back to the store. It will make room in your closets for plastic or wooden hangers that really do keep clothes looking presentable.

Old Tupperware – Plastic Tupperware can break down after years of use in microwave or dishwasher, releasing chemicals into your food. Replace them with glass containers or inexpensive disposable plastic to be thrown away after a couple of runs through the dishwasher.

Old Pillows – Pillows older than two years have probably lost their oomph and purpose. Test yours by folding them in half. If they pretty much stay folded, it’s time to replace them with new ones – and well-used mattresses should be replaced after seven or eight years.

Dated Technology – We all have those old cords lying in the back of the closet, a dated printer we hope works again or a computer that barely runs. It’s time to get rid of them. Tip: Try bringing old tech to an electronics store in town. You may get a credit.

Old Makeup – Makeup, like food, can expire or lose potency. Cream products typically expire within six months to a year after purchase, dermatologists tell us, and mascara often only lasts three months before becoming a bacteria threat.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Don't Get Chilled by Winter Repair, Maintenance Scams

February 15, 2016 1:49 am

Into every property-owner's life some harsh weather may fall. So when winter weather crosses the line, don't compound the annoyance by getting scammed or burned by unscrupulous responders disguised as timely do-gooders.

Connecticut's Consumer Protection Commissioner recently released a raft of great tips and advice applicable to home and property owners anywhere a weather-related incident may occur.

Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris says, "A serious storm or natural disaster could require quick home repairs that you weren’t expecting, but it’s important to act, and not react. Hiring unqualified, unregistered, unverified workers could put you and your home in a deeper mess."

Commissioner Harris says snow removal is not considered home improvement work - even removal of snow from roofs. But it’s best to have someone who is qualified in roof work to remove snow from roofs; someone unfamiliar with certain types of roofs could cause damage and void the warranty. If your roof is damaged and needs repair, hire a registered home improvement contractor; roof repair may even be covered under local, county or state protections.

When hiring anyone to clear snow and ice from your driveways and walkways, Commissioner Harris says be sure to negotiate the price upfront and know the scope of the work. And anytime there is damage to your property, notify your insurance carrier as soon as possible.

Don’t hire home repair contractors who go door-to-door, who call, or who post notices on bulletin boards or telephone poles or online, such as Craigslist, before checking them out thoroughly.

You should NEVER pay in advance for any work, especially in an emergency situation. Depending on the length of the job, you may need to pay some upfront, some half-way through the job, and the final payment once the job is complete to your satisfaction. Payment should be made by credit card or check, rather than cash.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Valentine’s Day: A Dozen Fun Facts

February 12, 2016 1:43 am

All in the name of love! Valentine’s Day celebrants shelled out nearly $19 billion on outings and gifts last year, and that number shows no signs of dwindling this time around. The big bucks will be spent in three categories:

Candy
What New Year’s resolution? Fifty percent of Americans will buy candy for a loved one, spending a sweet $1.7 million total on the tell-tale, heart-shaped boxes.

Cards
Did you know Valentine’s Day card sales rank second to those of Christmas cards? Fifty percent of Americans will buy greeting cards this year, totaling upwards of 180 million. That’s a lot of time spent licking envelopes!

Flowers
Over 200 million roses are produced each year for Valentine’s Day. This year, one out of four Americans will buy flowers, with more than 40 percent of purchases being red roses.

Some Valentine’s Day shoppers also plan to splurge on jewelry—it’s the glitter things that count, after all! Fun facts: nearly 10 percent of all diamond jewelry is sold as Valentine’s gifts, and almost half of proposals happen on Valentine’s Day.

Some, still, are even spreading the love to their four-legged friends. About one in five Americans will buy a Valentine’s Day gift for their pet this year, proving that unconditional love goes both ways between pet owners and their beloved companions.

Source: FatWallet

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Replacing Windows? 3 Tips for the Kitchen and Bath

February 12, 2016 1:43 am

(BPT)—Dollar for dollar, one of the most valuable improvements you can make to your home is replacing the windows. New windows not only increase energy-efficiency, but also offer optimal natural lighting and ventilation.

The best rooms for new windows? Your kitchen and bathrooms, say the experts at Pella Windows and Doors. Before embarking on the project, they suggest these three tips:

1. Select a window material that fits your needs.

Kitchens and baths require windows that are easy to clean and can withstand moisture, so materials like vinyl or fiberglass are ideal. Fiberglass windows can withstand extreme heat and cold, are energy-efficient, and have the look of painted wood without the need for additional painting or staining.

2. Choose a window style with function in mind.

Kitchen windows are often placed above counters or sinks, and bathroom windows tend to be located above tubs, beside showers or above bathroom counters. The placement of these windows can sometimes make them hard to reach, so choosing a window style that's easy to open and close is a must. Sliding windows or casement windows—which crank open and close—are ideal for these hard-to-reach areas.

Ventilation is another key consideration in kitchens and bathrooms. A properly placed window can help decrease the amount of heat and moisture retained when cooking or showering. Awning windows, which can be pulled in or pushed out, are a good option, and perform best when placed close to the ceiling or above eye level.

3. Consider additional features and options.

If you want to maintain privacy while maximizing natural light in the bathroom, choose a window with obscure or opaque glass. Streamline the look and function of your kitchen or bath with between-the-glass cordless blinds or shades, which minimize allergens and eliminate clutter. Because these window coverings are tucked between the panes of glass, you won't have to worry about moisture or stains.

Source: Pella Windows and Doors

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In Tune: Households Happier with Music

February 12, 2016 1:43 am

If you’ve ever attended a concert, you know firsthand how powerful music can be. But what about the music you listen to at home?

Sonos explored the answer to that question in its recently released “Music Makes it Home” study. Listening to music out loud in the home, the report found, leads to stronger relationships, increased intimacy and quality time spent together, and happier families. Most strikingly, households that listen to music out loud spend an additional three hours and 13 minutes per week together than those that do not.

"The truth is, people may be sharing a home, but they aren't sharing much else. Music may be able to change that by bringing everyone back together," says Dr. Daniel J. Levitin, neuroscientist, musician and author of the international bestselling book, “This is Your Brain on Music.”

Households that listen to music out loud also experienced heightened feelings of happiness, notably while completing chores or cooking, according to the study.

Households included in the study ranged from roommates and spouses to multi-generational families and first-time cohabitating couples.

Source: Sonos®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Top Source of Workplace Stress? Unpredictability

February 11, 2016 1:43 am

It pays to prepare for the unexpected. “Unpredictability” was named the top source of work-related stress by 26 percent of respondents in a recently released CareerCast poll, with the most taxing occupations including enlisted military, firefighters, police officers, public relations executives and event coordinators.

"Life is filled with stressors—from worrying you're going to lose your job because the company lost a big account to having a sick child at home," says Kyle Kensing, online content editor for CareerCast. "Much of the pressure we feel occurs in the eight or so hours we spend at work and we asked our readers to sound off on their stress factors."

Other common factors influencing work-related stress levels include:

• Workplace Environment (21 percent)
• Deadlines (20 percent)
• Safety of Others (16 percent)

The least stressful aspect of the workplace is business travel, named a stressor by just 1 percent of poll respondents. Few people felt the following stressors contributed to work-related stress levels, as well:

• Potential for Promotion (3 percent)
• Personal Well-Being in Danger (5 percent)
• Length of Work Day/Week (7 percent)

If you find yourself one of the majority stressed over unpredictability at work, you may find reprieve as a hair stylist, medical records technician, jeweler or librarian—professions named least stressful, according to poll results.

Source: CareerCast

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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