Beat the Mid day Slump

9 Mid-Afternoon Tips to Get You through the Day
The mid-day slump. We’ve all had it – that sluggish, grumpy slowdown period around 3 or 4 p.m., when the caffeine has worn off, lunch is a memory, and all you want is to put your head down on your desk.

To kick-start your energy level and boost your productivity, take a few minutes to try some of these mid-day habits suggested by personal trainers:

  • Take a short walk – A little fresh air will do wonders, but if you can’t get outdoors, a jog up the stairs or a walk through the corridors may help get your adrenalin going.
  • Drink a glass of ice water – It will wake you up, boost your metabolism, and help you feel refreshed.
  • Have an energy-rich snack – Try a handful of nuts, a cup of yogurt, or apple slices with peanut butter. Avoid candy, which may give you a quick rush but leave you more bogged down than you were.
  • Make a list for the rest of the day – Listing chores and family or social plans through the evening can help to clear your head and get you focused.
  • Do some deep breathing – Just a few minutes of deep breathing exercise can help to clear your head and get you energized.
  • Clean out your email clutter – Cleaning out your inbox during a lull in the afternoon can help you to feel productive and organized and ready to finish out the day.
  • Read an inspirational quote – Don’t underestimate the power of words to jog you into action. Keep a book of quotes handy, or search online and find a quote that charms and motivates you.
  • Clean off your desk – A little filing, stacking, and sensible tossing may help to make you feel organized and in-charge.
  • Listen to some music – A few minutes spent listening to some energetic music may be all you need to clear your head.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

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Millennials and Personal Finance: New Technology, Old Challenges

Millennials and Personal Finance: New Technology, Old Challenges
Millennials have conflicted feelings about their personal finances; they are uncertain but lean toward optimism. This conclusion is in accordance with a recently released Experian report originating from a survey of more than 1,000 millennials, ages 19-34, about a variety of personal finance topics – from their future views, to loan status, to credit knowledge, to use of technology.

The survey follows a July 2015 report from Experian that analyzed credit bureau data and placed millennials last in generational credit score rankings.

Topline survey results include:

  • A surprising number lack knowledge about credit – or show apathy toward it
  • A majority have had their credit, loan or lease attempts impacted – positively or negatively – by credit scores
  • Millennials embrace technology and are quick to try new offerings – at the expense of loyalty

“Millennials are coming of financial age at a very unique time,” says Guy Abramo, President, Experian Consumer Services. “They’ve experienced a recession and the explosive advancement of personal technology. As a result, they’ve developed different views toward managing money, using credit and how they expect financial services to be delivered. The survey also showed that millennials will abandon loyalty for better products and services, which is something the entire financial services sector should consider; the pressure is on to keep innovating.”

Perception vs. Reality:

  • Millennials miss the mark when estimating their generation’s average credit score (654 [est.] vs. 625 [actual]), average debt $26,610 [est.] vs. $52,210 [actual], and average debt, excluding mortgage ($12,580 [est.] vs. $26,485 [actual]).

Current Debt:

  • Despite being associated most closely with student loan debt, credit card debt takes first position as the most common millennial debt (38%), followed closely by student loans (36%). Others, in descending order, are: auto loans (28%), home loans (20%), personal loans (17%) and “other” (14%).

Pushing the Edge of Personal Finance:

  • The majority of millennials (57%) use financial mobile apps to manage their finances
  • Millennials have, on average, three financial apps on their phones
  • Most (57%) millennials are willing to use alternative companies/services that innovate to better meet their needs
  • A significant number of millennials (39%) are familiar with “non-bank” lenders (e.g., Prosper, Lending Tree, Upstart) and 13% have already used such a service
  • Nearly half (47%) will likely use alternative lenders in the future, citing easier application process, not dependent solely on credit score, more accessible, faster review process and digital savvy

Loyalty to a Financial Brand Is a Tough Sell:

  • Many millennials (46%) look for new financial companies/services that better meet their needs
  • More than 3 out of 4 millennials will switch financial accounts if they find a better alternative
  • Most frequently mentioned reasons to switch include: better interest rates (47%), better reward programs (43%), better identity protection (32%) and better customer service (35%), among others

Credit Knowledge Deficit:

  • Most millennials feel confident of their credit knowledge (71%); however, 32% don’t know their credit scores and 67% have questions as to how their scores are created
  • Among those who check their reports less than every three months, reasons for not checking reports and scores include: not necessary (35%/37%), afraid it will hurt their scores (24%/22%), unsure how to check their credit reports/scores (19%/18%)
  • Millennials are very aware of how credit scores impact them; nearly 3 in 4 had a lending or leasing experience helped or hurt by their credit scores

Youthful Angst, but Optimism Prevails:

  • Despite most having a handle on their finances (73%), more than half feel that they are “going it alone” (59%) and that “the odds are stacked against them” (57%)
  • Top financial future concerns are supporting a family (30%), retirement savings (28%) and financial independence (25%)
  • Nearly 3 out of every 4 survey participants had their loan, credit or rental applications impacted – positively or negatively – by their credit scores
  • Despite the concerns, 83% of respondents says being debt-free is an attainable goal; 71% feel confident about their financial futures

View the full report here.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

Pros and Cons of Homeowner’s Association

5 Pros and 5 Cons of Homeowners’ Associations

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Across the U.S., homeowners’ associations are on the ascent. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 59 percent of newly constructed homes in 2014 were part of a homeowners’ association. That’s up from 46 percent in 2009.

So, what’s the draw of homeowners’ associations? By the same token, what are the drawbacks?

“A well-run and managed HOA can be a blessing, and a poorly managed HOA can be a curse,” says Bruce Ailion, a broker in Woodstock, Ga. Here, real estate agents and homeowners weigh in on the blessings and the curses of homeowners’ associations (HOAs).

Pro No. 1: Your neighborhood will look good.

Generally, an HOA establishes rules to ensure the neighborhood looks sharp, says Brad Pauly, real estate owner and broker in Austin, Texas. These include strict guidelines about keeping lawns manicured, restrictions on parking boats and other large vehicles on the street, and limitations on exterior paint colors.

“This type of oversight eliminates issues with one or two properties weighing down all property values due to an unpleasant exterior,” says John Lyons, a broker in Chicago.

Pro No. 2: You’ll enjoy access to amenities.

An HOA usually offers community amenities such as a pool, a fitness center, parks, children’s play areas and security gates, Pauly says.

Pro No. 3: Your maintenance costs will be shared.

HOA dues are earmarked for maintenance of shared spaces, according to Lyons. This includes community lawn care (but not for your own yard), community snow removal (but not for your own property) and upkeep of common areas like the pool or the fitness center.

Pro No. 4: You’ve got a built-in mediator.

Involved in a tiff with your neighbor over that big oak tree that’s losing limbs? You can settle some confrontations with your neighbors by taking your grievances to the HOA’s board or management company, Lyons says.

Pro No. 5: You can get to know your neighbors.

Gina Estrada, who lives in a gated HOA community in Clovis, Calif., says that if you’re elected to serve on the HOA board or are otherwise active in the association, you’ll become better acquainted with your neighbors. Heck, you might even make some new friends. “I believe we should know our surroundings, including the people in them,” Estrada says.

Con No. 1: You’ll fork over HOA dues.

When buying a home in a community with an HOA, you’ve got to add HOA dues to your budget. The dues vary, but typically run in the hundreds of dollars per month.

Con No. 2: Your hands will be (somewhat) tied.

If someone buys a home in an HOA community and wants to make changes to the property, such as the addition of an enclosed patio, it normally must be approved by the HOA’s board. “It’s possible that an HOA could prevent certain updates on a home,” Pauly says.

Con No. 3: You might be hampered by an HOA’s financial woes.

If an HOA is facing financial problems or is ensnared in a lawsuit, it could harm your ability to obtain a loan for a home and could hurt sale prices of homes in the community, Pauly says.

Con No. 4: You’ll lose some of your freedom.

When you live in a community governed by a HOA, you’ll have to follow its rules, even if you think they’re ridiculous, Lyons says.

“You do, however, have the option of petitioning the homeowners’ association to change any rule you don’t agree with. But if you lose, you will have to live with it,” Lyons says.

Con No. 5: You might be the victim of a “rogue” board member.

Estrada says her HOA elected a “rogue” homeowner to the board who decided to flaunt the rules and do whatever he wanted. For instance, Estrada says, the rogue board member thought the community needed speed bumps to slow down speeding drivers, so he had them installed. That move caused a neighborhood uproar. The process to take out the speed bumps and remove the rogue homeowner from the board cost several thousand dollars, including legal fees, she says.

“When there is one rogue homeowner, it can really mess things up,” Estrada says.

Problems also arise when homeowners stop attending HOA meetings, Estrada says, and it’s left to a small group of people to make decisions.

“The board of directors is made up of your neighbors. If you want to have a say in how things go, you have to serve on the board,” says Ailion.

5 Simple Steps to Prep Your Home For Winter

5 Simple Steps to Prep Your Home for Winter

By John Voket

Getting a well-maintained home ready for winter isn’t difficult, but it’s wise to start early. Our seasonal check-in with the Paint Quality Institute provides a few recommendations including the five most-simple projects homeowners should tackle as soon as possible.

The following pre-winter activities can help protect your home from the elements, make it more comfortable, and help prevent expensive repair bills next spring:

1. Touch up exterior paint.  Peeling or flaking paint can expose bare wood, subjecting it to moisture and possible rotting, so if you see bare spots, be sure to touch them up.  Scrape off any loose paint, sand the surface smooth, and prime the bare wood.  Then apply one or two coats of top quality 100% acrylic latex paint.  (Use leftover paint if you have it!)

2. Don’t ignore rust spots.  If iron doors, railings, or fences show signs of rust, correct the problems as soon as you can; otherwise, things will snowball over the winter.  Use a scraper and/or wire brush to remove the rust, rinse away any particles that remain, and prime the surfaces as soon as they are dry.  Complete the work by applying two thick coats of 100% acrylic latex paint.

3. Caulk cracks and gaps.  Any openings in your home’s exterior are not only energy sieves, but also serve as inviting entry points for insects and mice.  Deal with both concerns by sealing cracks, gaps, and open seams with a paintable top quality acrylic caulk.  Conceal the caulk by touching up with leftover paint.

4. Keep out the cold and moisture.  Storm windows and storm doors are essential defenses against wind, rain, snow, and cold air.  If you have storm windows and doors, put them up early; if you don’t have them, buy some. They will help pay for themselves through lower energy bills and tax credits.

5. Clean the gutters.  Keep a sound roof overhead by removing leaves, pine needles, and other debris from your rain gutters.  Otherwise, trapped water may form harmful “ice dams” that can damage roofing shingles and create leaks — problems you certainly won’t want to deal with when the weather is bad.

By handling these fall weather now, you’ll be able to rest easy and comfortably when Old Man Winter comes calling.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.