Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tips for managing your credit while traveling

Tips%20for%20managing%20your%20credit%20while%20traveling When it comes to the excesses and indulgences of vacation, you might like to think that "what happens in Vegas (or wherever you travel) stays in Vegas." Unfortunately, poor spending and credit choices made on vacation definitely come home with you, so it's important to take steps to protect your credit - both before and while you travel.

If your spring and summer plans include vacation, keep these financial considerations in mind:

Prepping for your trip

Planning ahead is one of the best ways to save money on travel. Book air tickets, lodging reservations and rental cars well in advance; prices rarely go down as your travel date approaches. Booking in advance also allows you extra time to shop around for the best possible deals.

Comparison price everything - from airfare to attraction tickets - online. Remember to include Web coupon sites in your search, not just popular travel sites. Online review sites can also help you learn more about lodging and attraction options in far-away destinations.

Shopping around can also help you decide if you're traveling at the best time for you, or if you have some flexibility to travel when prices are lower.

While using a credit card to book online is a smart move - credit cards offer consumer protections that cash and debit cards don't - be sure to pay off the purchases right away. If you know you won't be able to pay off the travel costs immediately, review your credit standing. Consider how credit purchases for travel might impact your credit score. Websites like freecreditscore.com can help you understand the impact certain credit decisions may have on your overall finances. Freecreditscore.com has a patented Score Planner that lets you see how financial behaviors can affect your credit score.

Prepare for your travel plans by saving money toward that goal. Some banks have revived the tradition of a vacation club savings account, but you can set aside money in any interest-bearing account to fund your travel plans.

While traveling

If you planned ahead, booked in advance and did your homework to find the best deals on airfare and lodging, you've made a good start. It's important to continue making good financial choices while on the road. Take steps to protect your cash, credit and identity while traveling.

Some cash will likely be required on your trip. Never carry all your cash in one place; instead, split it up between multiple bags, or have a traveling companion carry some of your cash. When you arrive at your destination, store cash in the hotel safe and only take out what you think you will need for the day's activities.

When using your credit card on the road, never let it out of your sight. Be aware of "shoulder surfers" who may stand behind you in a ticket line and use a smartphone to snap a picture of your card. Carry just one card for use and store a backup in the hotel safe in case of emergencies. Leave unnecessary cards and identification - such as your Social Security card or wholesale club card - at home.

Never use a public Wi-Fi connection - such as the ones found in airports or hotels - to access your online financial accounts. Enterprising crooks have been known to use special devices to hack account information from unsuspecting travelers.

Once you're back home, take another look at your credit and keep a close eye on financial statements and credit accounts for a few months. Catching fraud early may help mitigate its financial impact.

Courtesy of BPT

How to get your offers accepted to buy properties

The biggest challenge facing most real estate investors is making acceptable offers, especially when buying properties is the basic foundation of real estate investing.

Unless you buy properties, you cannot make any money.

Here is how to make offers that get accepted.

The offer you make depends on the type of property you are buying.

1) Buying from motivated sellers

If you buy houses from motivated sellers, it is necessary to have the following pieces of information:

a) Market Value

Do your due diligence to find out conservatively how much the house would be worth in perfect condition. You must have this information before you can make any offer.

b) Mortgage balance

You must get this information before you can make an offer. A seller who is not willing to disclose this information is not motivated enough. Move on to a motivated seller.

The mortgage balance must allow you to buy the house and still leave you with a profit. It must allow you to make a profit and own it free and clear.

c) Repairs needed

It is possible to estimate repair costs with the information provided by the seller.

You must know how much you need to fix up the house before you can make an offer. Of course, I like to see the house and do my own repair estimates.

d) Asking price

If the owner is asking for too much money given the above 3 pieces of information, the dealmight never happen.

A good asking price must take into account the market value, mortgage balance and repairs. You can then make an offer based on the asking price. Make an offer if the mortgage balance allows you to make a profit.

Even though it is necessary to consider the seller's needs, no offer can be too low. If they are facing foreclosure, then they probably need some money to move, or their asking price might be just enough to get away from the property.

If the mortgage balance is too high compared to the value of the house, it does not make sense to make an offer. Move on to the next deal.

There is no bad offer, except the one you have not made. Always make the offers that make sense to you. You'll be surprised how many get accepted.

2) Buying foreclosed properties

The asking price and repairs are the only important considerations to make in this case. Banks selling these properties are willing to negotiate.

Most REOs are listed below market value. Depending on your exit strategy, if the numbers are close to making sense, by all means make an offer.

Lastly, remember to make your offer lower than the asking price.

by: Simon Macharia


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Top 5 super foods with a powerful health impact

(BPT) - The term appears on headlines and is splashed on food labels everywhere -"super foods" get people talking. But what really is a super food, and how do you cut through confusion to find the foods that truly have a powerful impact on your health and wellness?

"What are super foods? They are foods that have a very high or dense nutrient profile," says Sophie Uliano, New York Times best-selling author, passionate environmentalist and healthy living advocate. "Some super foods come from countries such as South America, in which case, it's important to make sure they are sustainably harvested and fair trade. Other super foods can be found in your local grocery store."

Some of the most powerful super foods may surprise you. Uliano's list of top super foods that pack a big serving of healthy goodness include:

1. Goji berries

Recommended frequency: every day

These little berries are a very rich source of antioxidants: flavonoids, polyphenols and carotenoids. They also contain vitamins C, E and A. They have a whopping amount of vitamin C - better than 500 times more than an orange. In addition, these tasty berries contain 19 amino acids, including eight essential amino acids. They are also anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.

"These berries are great for our long-term health. They have anti-aging benefits and help boost your immune system," says Uliano. "I recommend eating them in the same way as you would cranberries or raisins. You can add them to smoothies, oatmeal, granola, or even to make a salad a little more interesting."

2. Sardines

Recommended frequency: one can a week

If you've always avoided sardines, their nutritional profile should change your mind. Sardines contain B vitamins, phosphorus, potassium and iron. They are particularly rich in the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are also important for their anti-inflammatory effects.

"Canned sardines are just as healthy and rich in nutrients as fresh sardines," Uliano says. "If you dislike the taste and texture, try mashing them up with spicy mayo and eating as you would tuna salad. If you're still not sold, consider a high quality fish oil supplement from Nordic Naturals, which will give you a boost of the omega-3s your body needs to stay healthy and prevent disease."

3. Kale

Recommended frequency: every day

In addition to vitamin K, which is important for blood-clotting and healthy bones, kale is packed with vitamins A, C and E, calcium and fiber. The veggie also contains loads of carotenoids, which are great for eye health.

"Different kinds of kale include Curly Kale, Dino Kale, Premier Kale and Redbar Kale," explains Uliano. "I love to steam kale and drizzle with olive or toasted sesame oil and a little tamari sauce. I eat it warm or as a cold side in the summer. It's also great to eat raw, but make sure that you wash well and remove all of the tough stems before chopping it up."

4. Coconut oil

Recommended frequency: 1 to 3 tablespoons per day

Raw virgin coconut oil has a plethora of health benefits. It must, however, be raw, not hydrogenated. The lauric acid in coconut oil has been found to increase metabolism as well as fight bacteria and viruses. Coconut oil also has been shown to help lower cholesterol, stimulate the thyroid and is good for the brain.

"At room temperature, coconut oil will solidify, and when it's heated, it will liquefy," Uliano says. "My favorite ways to eat coconut oil include adding a tablespoon to smoothies or oatmeal, and using it in place of butter when baking. Coconut oil has a very high smoke point, so it is great for frying pancakes, or deep frying, too."

5. Maca

Recommended frequency: every day

Typically from Peru, maca is usually sold as a nutty powder, but it also comes in capsules. "It is an adaptogen, which means that it is a biological substance found in a plant, which helps the human body adapt to change and stress," says Uliano. "It has been used for more than 3,000 years in South America, and is also thought to be a libido enhancer."

Perfect for vegans, maca is also a rich source of vitamin B12, minerals, protein and amino acids. "I like to bake with it or use it in smoothies. I add one heaping tablespoon of maca to my smoothie daily," notes Uliano.

Courtesy of BPT

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lights, camera - applause! How to edit great videos at home

Lights%2C%20camera%20-%20applause%21 When you assemble family and friends to see the video of your latest vacation, do they groan or fall asleep before the end? Here's how to create an exciting video - right at home - that will make everyone sit up and watch.

"The basic concepts of how to edit video are simple," says Anthony Pires, academic director of digital filmmaking and video production at The Art Institute of Philadelphia. "First, move recorded video from the camera to your computer. Second, use a video editing program to pull out the scenes you want and rearrange them on a timeline. Then use the program to add transitions, effects, titles, narration, music and sound effects. Finally, save the edited content as a new video file."

Start with great video footage

It's essential that you get to know your video camera. Read the instructions and practice so you are comfortable with its operation and features. There's nothing worse than shooting your family at grandma's birthday party or your child's high school graduation, only to find that the camera was not recording.

Second, make a plan. Know beforehand what story you want to tell and plan the shots you will need.

Third, make sure the footage is interesting and tells the story. "Use a variety of shots," recommends Alex Buffalo, department chair of digital filmmaking and video production at The Art Institute of Tampa, a branch of Miami International University of Art & Design. "Start with a shot that establishes the location - a sign or recognizable landmark. Include close, medium and wide shots. Shoot from different angles and positions, such as high and low, or the front, side and back of the subject. Include some cutaway shots, such as others reacting to the activity in the main shot. And be sure to hold each shot for at least 10 seconds."

Other tips include minimizing the use of pan and zoom (and pan slowly if at all), getting the best natural sound possible (and don't narrate while you shoot) and keeping the camera as still as possible, using a tripod where you can.

"Check your plan during the shoot to make sure you get everything you'll need to tell your story," Buffalo adds.

Edit to tell your story

Once you have your footage, you're ready to edit. Video editing programs have become more sophisticated and more user friendly.
"Most computers come with a built-in video editing program," says Nadia Ramoutar, faculty member in digital filmmaking and video production at The Art Institute of Jacksonville, a branch of Miami International University of Art & Design. "Go ahead and start with whatever is provided. You'll often find Windows Movie Maker on PCs and iMovie on Macs. Both software programs are frequently included at no extra charge with your computer purchase and are easy to use. If you are not happy with the software that comes with your computer, consider purchasing PowerDirector 10 for the PC or Final Cut Pro X for the Mac. They are easier to use than the professional-grade programs we teach at The Art Institutes schools, but offer plenty of power for most home users."

The user's guide for your editing program can tell you how to move the video from your camera to the computer. Select your scenes using the program's cutting tool and arrange them in sequence on a timeline. Choose your transitions and any special effects from the library offered by your editing program. You'll also have the opportunity to create a title screen and titles for some of your shots or sections. Music can be selected and narration recorded. And if the waves crashing doesn't sound as crisp as you'd like it? Just add in a sound effect or two.

Once you've previewed and saved your video into its final form, you're ready to share it. Show your video story on the big screen TV in your home, send DVDs to family and friends or post it to YouTube - the choice is yours.To learn more about The Art Institutes schools, visit www.artinstitutes.edu.

Courtesy of BPT

Get your pool ready for safe family fun

As the weather starts to warm, you can't help but stare at your backyard pool, anxious to begin a new season of memories with friends and family. No matter the season, pool safety should always be top of mind where children are concerned. With safety barriers - or layers of protection - in place between the home and the pool, you can experience the pleasures of backyard swimming pools and feel confident that children, grandchildren and visitors will be safeguarded from pool accidents.

It's impossible to watch your children every second of every day. There are times when a parent or caregiver is distracted by answering the phone or door, household tasks or checking email. Unfortunately, accidents tend to happen very quickly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 14. The CDC reports that in most cases, the children involved were out of their parents' sight for less than five minutes.

The good news: Drowning can be prevented. Barriers help buy those few minutes needed to see where children are after you've momentarily lost sight of them.

Numerous studies have shown that an isolation fence separating the home from the pool can prevent 50 to 90 percent of all toddler drownings. Only an isolation fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate in proper working order will prevent children from getting into the water without your knowledge.

Liability can become an issue if a visitor is injured. Homeowners can improve the safety and security of their pools or spas with isolation fencing with self-closing, self-latching gate hardware by D&D Technologies (www.ddtechglobal.com).

Magnetically triggered latches like D&D's self-latching MagnaLatch have been shown to offer safe, reliable operation, latching even when locked in the open position. Pool gates must also be self-closing, and D&D's TruClose hinges feature a tension adjustable enclosed spring so gates need no hazardous external spring.

Rust-free gate hardware by D&D Technologies is available under the Stanley or National Hardware brand through select Lowe's stores or online at www.lowes.com and other hardware retailers.

If you have a pool, you have a responsibility to safeguard it. There is no substitute for vigilant supervision. But there are additional steps you can and should take to keep everyone safe - including these.

* Never prop a gate open for convenience or during pool parties. It's simply not worth the risk.

* Always ensure that doors from the home are locked, alarmed, or fitted with child-safety latching devices.

* Ensure that pet doors are secured or open into an area that is isolated from the pool.

* If the house forms one side of the barrier, doors leading into the pool area should be protected with alarms that produce a loud sound when the door is unexpectedly opened.

* Power safety covers that meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards can be very effective if closed whenever the pool is not in use. Manually operated covers tend to be left open; closing them frequently requires two adults.

* Ensure children in the home learn how to swim, and that adults know CPR. CPR can make the difference between full recovery and brain damage or death. If anyone else will be supervising kids in the pool, make sure they learn it, too. Impress upon babysitters that they must follow your safety rules.

* When children are in the pool, designate a "water watcher" to maintain uninterrupted supervision of children in the pool at all times.

* When not in use, keep toys and other objects out of the pool area, and don't use chlorine dispensers that look like animals or toys that will attract children.

With layers of protection between your home and your pool, you can give your family years of safer relaxation and enjoyment, and build some great family memories. For drowning prevention tips, visit www.ndpa.org or poolsafely.org. Take the pledge and tell others about the Simple Steps that Save Lives at www.ddtechglobal.com/pledge.

Courtesy of BPT

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dispelling 5 common myths about depression

(BPT) - There are more than 19 million adults in the United States living with depression and many more people could be suffering but are unaware that what they are feeling is depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. This common and treatable illness affects people from all walks of life and can significantly interfere with a person's behavior, physical health and interaction with others.

The more you know about depression, the more likely you are to be able to help yourself or help others. While great strides have been made in recent years to educate the public about depression and reduce stigma surrounding mental illness, many myths still remain about the condition.

* Myth - Depression is a character flaw. Depression is not a personal weakness and it should be viewed as any other medical condition. People who are depressed are often unable to function as they had in the past and struggle to accomplish everyday tasks. This is not because they are lazy or being dramatic, it is because depression is a serious health issue that should be recognized and treated as early as possible. Both young people and adults who are depressed need professional treatment.

* Myth - Only certain types of people have depression. Depression affects all ages, races and genders. Sometimes people believe that only certain types of people can be depressed. Even people who seem to have everything including a good job and healthy relationships can have depression. While statistics show that some groups, like older adults, are more likely to suffer from depression, anyone can struggle with the illness. It can run in families, but anyone, even those without a family history, can be depressed.

* Myth - Depression causes people to be violent. People who are depressed are no more likely to be violent or commit crimes than members of the general population. Although some people with depression do experience feelings of anger and sometimes have outbursts, the vast majority of people who have depression never harm anyone.

* Myth - Depression is not a big deal. If left untreated, depression can lead to extreme changes in your mood, thoughts, behaviors and bodily functions, and for some people suicidal thoughts. Almost everyone who dies by suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like "You'll be sorry when I'm dead," or "I can't see any way out" - no matter how casually or jokingly said - may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

* Myth - Depression will go away on its own. Positive thinking is not enough to cure depression. Some people who have mild depression can make lifestyle changes which can help alleviate symptoms of depression, but many others need to seek treatment to get better. A mental health professional can help them learn more positive ways to think about themselves, change behaviors, cope with problems, or handle relationships. A clinician can prescribe medications to help relieve the symptoms of depression. For many people, a combination of psychotherapy and medication is beneficial. Early detection is extremely important because 80 percent of people who receive some form of treatment for depression can learn to manage the condition and live a fulfilling life.

* Fact - Help is available. If you think you or someone you know might be struggling with depression, you are encouraged to visit HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org and take an online mental health screening. Online screenings are free, anonymous and available 24/7.

Although the screenings are not diagnostic, they do provide valuable insight helping to identify if you are exhibiting symptoms associated with depression and connecting you with appropriate treatment resources.

NOTE: If you or someone you know is in immediate danger because of thoughts of suicide, call 911 immediately. If there is no immediate danger but rather a need to talk to someone, call the national suicide prevention line at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255).

Courtesy of BPT