Tuesday, October 30, 2012

12 Money Savings Tips for Halloween


Many venues, family and friends have planned Halloween parties or plan to attend events to celebrate Halloween.  Every year kids and adults celebrate Halloween either by trick or treating or attending Halloween parties or both. Companies advertise sales to lure customers into stores to purchase candy, costumes or other items for Halloween. Don’t get carried away with the sales and spend more money than you have or need to.

There are several ways to celebrate Halloween by decorating pumpkins, making pumpkin pie, buying candy for trick-or-treaters, jack-o-lanterns, decorations, bobbing for apples, and more. Due to Hurricane Sandy some may not be able to celebrate this year.  If you are lucky enough to attend an event or assist with trick-or-treating here are some 12 money savings tips for Halloween.

  1. Buy decorations during store sales. You can save anywhere from 20-70% off the original price.
  2. Make your own decorations, costumes, drinks or candy.
  3. Visit local vendors and haggle to good a good deal.
  4. Visit the dollar store to buy decorations.
  5. Shop online to find coupons, compare prices and find discounts such as Amazon.
  6. Use a shopping list and stick to it.
  7. Use coupons to save money on food, decorations and costumes.
  8. Open candy bags one-at-a-time.  If you have any unopened bags of candy left after a week return it to the store to get a refund.
  9. Save decorations and costumes in good condition for next year.
  10. Swap costumes with family members or friends or use hand-me-down costumes from family members and friends.
  11. Shop at discounts stores instead or larger stores to get discounts on costumes and decorations such as Walgreens, Wal-Mart or Target.
  12. If you are having a party ask guests to bring a dish and use paper products.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Last Minute Hurricane Safety Tips


The hurricane season expands from June 1 to November 30; however the peak months for hurricanes are August and September.  A hurricane watch means that a hurricane is possible within 36 hours.  A hurricane warning means that a hurricane is expected within 24 hours or less. 

Hurricanes are tropical storms that consist of water and warm air from the tropics.  As the warm air increases, it cools, and the moisture condenses to clouds and rain drops.  When a hurricane reaches land it loses the warm air moisture which feeds the storm. Hurricanes weaken rapidly over land due to the quick loss of water.

As this cycle continues, more warm moist air is drawn into the developing storm and more heat is transferred from the surface of the ocean to the atmosphere. This ongoing heat exchange forms a wind pattern that spirals around the eye.

Converging winds near the surface of the water collide, pushing more water vapor up which increases the circulation of warm air, and accelerates the speed of the wind. Simultaneously, strong winds blowing steadily at higher altitudes pull the rising warm air away from the storm’s center and send the warm air swirling into the hurricane’s cyclone.

As high-pressure air is pulled into the low-pressure center of the storm, the speed of the wind continues to increase.  The storm can expand to a tropical storm or hurricane.  Hurricanes have wind speeds greater than 74 – 95 mph while tropical storms have wind speeds from 39 – 73 mph.

Hurricane intensity is based upon the highest sustained wind speed the hurricane is producing. Hurricanes are rated from Category 1 – Category 5 based on the amount of damage each category may produce.  Category 1 may result in fallen tree branches, blowing debris, damage to mobile homes and power outages vs. a Category 2 which may result in fallen tree branches, damage to mobile homes, fallen trees, power outages and wind speed 96 – 110 mph. Check you electric company’s website for frequent updates.  Here are 29 tips to help you survive a hurricane.

  1. If your car is parked under or near a tree move it.
  2. Move all trash cans, furniture and anything that can fly away to a closed area such as your garage or basement. You can also tie down furniture to something sturdy such as a deck. If you are not sure if something will fly away bring it inside.
  3. Keep flashlights, batteries, candles, lanterns and portable devices nearby so if the power goes out they will be easily accessible.
  4. Use candles and lanterns with caution; don’t fall asleep with them on.  Keep papers, bags, clothing and anything flammable out of reach.
  5. Use generators with caution. Visit your electricity company’s website to get safety tips on how to use your generator.
  6. Limit your use of the refrigerator if your power goes out.  Food can stay cold for up to 4 hours.
  7. If you don’t have bottled water, boil tap water or use your faucet filter and store in large containers in your refrigerator.
  8. If you have electric heat gather blankets to make them easily accessible if your power goes out.
  9. Don’t suddenly become an adventurer and decide to take pictures or follow the storm to fulfill a midlife crisis, to get on television or get your picture taken for your 30 seconds of fame.  Stay indoors and remain safe.
  10. Ensure all doors and windows are securely locked.
  11. Seal up any leaks or drafts in windows or doors.
  12. Check sump pumps, gutters and drains to make sure they are clear of debris.
  13. Check sump pumps and your basement every few hours to ensure water hasn’t backed up in your home.
  14. Immediately report power outages and any down power lines.
  15. Keep emergency service numbers easily accessible.
  16. Plug computers, printers, and large appliances into surge protectors.
  17. Ensure cordless phone batteries are fully charged.
  18. Ensure you cell phones are fully charged at all times.  Send text messages instead of talking on your cell phone during the storm to save your battery power.
  19. Unplug all electronic devices if your power goes out to prevent an overload on circuits.
  20. If you keep your pets outside bring them inside for safety.
  21. Gather mops, towels and buckets so they will be easily accessible if your home starts to flood to help you remove some of the water until you are able to get a plumber to solve the problem.
  22. If were not able to buy ice or dry ice use your ice maker or ice trays to make ice which you can use to keep food cold if the power goes out.
  23. If you have a cooler make it easily accessible so if you power goes out you can fill it with ice to keep food cold.
  24. Listen to weather conditions updates on your local news or radio shows.
  25.  When power is restored turn on appliances and electric devices one at a time.
  26. Identify a list of temporary shelters that are in your neighborhood in the event you need to use them.
  27. Evacuate immediately if you are told to do so.
  28. Confirm if it safe to drink tap water.
  29. Don’t move or touch down wires or trees.  This is especially important if any of your property is damaged.  If weather conditions are safe take pictures and provide to your insurance company.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Why Everyone Needs a Financial Advisor


If doesn’t matter if you make $20,000 or $2,000,000 a year, everyone needs help with managing their money and meeting their financial goals.  You can use self-help resources such as books, television shows, seminars or courses but you may reach a point where you need additional help, that’s when a financial advisor comes in handy. 

If you do not have a financial advisor you should consider hiring one as your income increases, lifestyle changes occur such as marriage and children and assets increase such as purchasing a home, investment property or starting a business.

Financial advisors help clients reach their financial goals including retirement, paying for college education or starting a business.  Some financial advisors can also assist with creating a budget or spending plan, paying down debt, choosing investments, managing their finances, taxes, savings and wealth management.

There are 2 types of financial advisors:  fee-only and commission-based.  Fee-only advisors charge a fee for their services usually $150-$300 an hour or per session or may charge a fee based on the annual percentage of assets that are managed. Fees should be disclosed up-front. Fee-only advisors offer unbiased advice because they are not motivated or required to sell products and services to get paid.

Commission-based advisors receive a commission by fund companies or brokerages for the sale of financial products and services and receive a percentage of the total amount clients invest in specific products.  Commission-based advisers receive a percentage of the total number of transactions a client makes and may charge 0.5% - 2% of the assets they manage for each client.

A financial advisor can:  help you generate more money for you and your family, help you to be better prepared for changes in your life (death, illness, layoff, children, etc.), provide protection against mistakes and unexpected circumstances (death, illness), provide stability and peace of mind by ensuring your financial goals are met, save time, provide guidance on retirement and investment options, decrease your tax liability, determine insurance needs, minimize taxes, analyze risks, and develop a plan to manage your business finances. Here are 16 reasons to hire a financial advisor:

  1. If you have $300,000 or more in investments.
  2. You have a lump sum of money to invest.
  3. You want to retire early, start a business or do volunteer work in another country.
  4. You want to setup investments accounts to fund college education or other expenses for family members. However, you should contact an estate attorney to setup trusts of similar types of accounts.
  5. You want to learn how to track spending.
  6. You need help to create and meet financial goals.
  7. You want to plan for retirement.
  8. You want to address credit issues.
  9. You want to develop good spending habits.
  10. You want to organize your finances.
  11. Getting married or getting a divorce.
  12. You experience a financial crisis.
  13. You buy or sell a home or investment property.
  14. Death of a spouse.
  15. You want to donate a large sum to charity.
  16. You want to analyze your insurance needs.