Recent General Posts

Should you Clean your Air Ducts?

4/24/2017 (Permalink)

It’s that time of year where everyone wonders if they should get their air ducts cleaned. Dirty air ducts usually spread dust, dirt, and mold around your property. This can lead to poor indoor air quality.

While it is normal to have some dust and pollen in your air ducts, you might want to consider getting your ducts cleaned if the following is true:

1. There is mold growing inside of the air ducts

It is not always easy to see if mold is present. If your service provider says that mold is growing, ask him to show you where it is. If you do have mold in your air ducts, please note that it is impossible to completely get rid of mold.

2. Your ducts are infested with vermin

Do you have unwanted guests living in your air ducts? If so, you should call an expert to get them out as quickly as possible in order to prevent the problem from getting worse.

3. Your ducts are clogged with debris and dust

If your air ducts are clogged, you should call a professional to clean out your ducts. A clog can contribute to poor air quality.

If you have experienced any of the above issues, make sure you find out what caused the issue because it is likely that it will happen again.

If you believe your ventilation system falls into one of these three categories, call SERVPRO! The experts at SERVPRO will inspect your ductwork and HVAC system, give recommendations about the best way to address poor air quality, and fix your problem.

How To (and how NOT to) Spend Your Tax Refund

2/17/2016 (Permalink)

(From Staff Editors of "The Fiscal Times" on Yahoo!)

Getting a tax refund can feel like winning a small lottery. And it’s tempting to blow the windfall. But hold tight: There are smarter ways to use your mad money than putting a down payment on a Harley or jetting to Aruba for the weekend, and they will put you a step closer to financial security.

Last year the IRS issued more than 77 million tax refunds averaging about $2,800, the agency said. That’s not pocket change. For many people, that’s bigger than a paycheck. So think before you splurge.

“Have a plan for the funds before they arrive and implement the plan as soon as you receive your check,” says Michael Busch, president of Vogel Financial Advisors in Dallas. “It’s dangerous to let the money sit in your checking account—it might get spent.”

Here’s are some do’s and don’ts from financial experts.

1. Fund your golden years. Use the refund to beef up your IRA or Roth IRA, says James Guarino, tax partner at Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico in Wakefield, Massachusetts. This only works as long as you have enough earned income for the year to meet contribution requirements.

Or consider increasing your contributions to your 401(k), says Busch. You can’t deposit the refund directly into the 401(k), but you can increase the amount that is taken from your paycheck for the rest of the year. The refund will offset your reduced take-home pay. It’s a double win, too. “Not only will you get the refund into your 401(k) account this way, but you will also lower your tax bill because the increased 401(k) salary deferrals will reduce your taxable wages,” Busch says.

2. Put a dent in your debt. Eliminate that credit card balance once and for all with your tax refund. If you don’t have enough money to cover all of your outstanding balances, start with the one that has the highest interest rate and move down the rate ladder, says Chris Hardy, CEO at Paramount Investment Advisors in Suwanee, Georgia. In certain cases, interest you pay on student loan debt can be deducted from your taxable income (for the following year) up to $2,500, Hardy notes.

3. Save for a rainy day. If you don’t have an emergency fund or have a very small one, use the tax refund to increase your peace of mind. The rule of thumb is to be able to cover at least three months to six months of expenses. Keep it in a savings account or other account that can be accessed quickly.

“You never know when you need cash and since you have a nice inflow, now is a good place to start,” says Neil Waxman, managing director Capital Advisors in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

4. Pay down your mortgage. Use your refund to make an extra principal payment on your mortgage, Busch recommends. “A $1,000 extra principal payment at the beginning of a 30-year, $100,000 mortgage at 6 percent will save you nearly $5,000,” he says. “If your interest rate is higher, the savings will be even greater.”

5. Fund a child’s education. A tax refund is a great opportunity to start or increase your child’s or grandchild’s college savings fund, says Busch. You can use the refund to open a Coverdell IRA or a 529 college savings plan. If used for education expenses, the earnings on these funds grow tax-free.

“And the return on this kind of investment—a college education for your children—can’t be measured,” says Busch. “It’s priceless.”

6. Give it away. Pass along your good fortune by donating your tax refund to your favorite charity. This is also a smart tax move, because you get an extra income tax deduction for the following year.

7. Invest it. Make that tax refund work hard for you by investing the money in a non-retirement brokerage account. Then, watch that tax refund grow over time, increasing your overall net worth. “If you put away $2,700 a year for 10 years at a modest 5 percent return, you will have over $32,416,” says Vickie Adams, a certified financial planner in San Pedro, California.

Related: The 8 Most Common Tax Mistakes That Can Cost You Hundreds

8. Buy something. Even financial planners think its O.K. to indulge in guilty pleasures every now and again. “I’ve never been one to tell a client what they shouldn’t do with their money,” says Taylor Schulte, president of Define Financial in San Diego. “It’s important to maintain balance in their lives, and if they think that making a material purchase or taking a family vacation is what would be best, I can respect that.”

Here’s a good way to figure out how to spend it smartly, according to Waxman. Write down all the things you want to save for and prioritize them by importance. These can be short term, like buying new clothes or furniture; medium term, such as a big vacation or down payment on a house; or long term, like retirement or college savings. “Save or spend according to that list, but try and at least fund all of them,” Waxman says.

Niv Persaud, managing director of Transition Planning and Guidance in Atlanta, recommends doing a little of everything above. “Follow the philosophy spend-save-share,” she says. For example, take 10 percent—that’s $280 of the average refund—and spend it on something frivolous. Save 80 percent or put that money toward a financial goal such as buying a new home, preparing for retirement or college or paying down debt. Give the remaining 10 percent to your favorite charity.

But don’t…

Experts also offered some of the ways you shouldn’t use your tax refund.Don’t spend indiscriminately without a plan, says Waxman. “Consumption isn’t bad as long as it’s measured and done after thinking about the alternatives,” he says. He also says to avoid investing in your buddy’s stock tip.

Don’t purchase high-cost mutual funds or expensive insurance products, says Hardy.

“Do not spend it without having agreement in your family,” says Angela Giboney, owner of AFG Financial in Mill Creek, Washington. “Do not use it as a down payment on a car.”

Last, don’t get a refund next year, says Bryan Lee, founder of Strategic Financial Planning in Plano, Texas. “Rather than giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan throughout the year,” he says, “they should change their withholding and use that money to invest throughout the year.”

The Oddity That Is Super Bowl Prop Bets

1/31/2016 (Permalink)

General The Oddity That Is Super Bowl Prop Bets Prop Bets for Even the Most Casual Fans
Super Bowl Prop Bets

Beyonce, Coldplay, Gatorade pop up in Super Bowl prop bets.

By Lori Kelly

Special to Outkick The Coverage from OddsShark.com 

Sportsbooks have released some of the exotic props for Super Bowl 50, involving everything from the musical acts performing to the color of the Gatorade that will be poured on the winning coach after the game. 

Beyonce and Coldplay will entertain the crowd and what could be a record television audience during the halftime show, and each of them have their own Super Bowl 50 props. Bettors can wager on what color Beyonce's shoes will be when she comes out on stage, with black a slight +150 favorite (bet $100 to win $150) over gold/brown (+250), white (+275), silver/grey (+475) and any other color (+700).

You can also bet on what song British band Coldplay will open with during their set. Their recent hit "Adventure of a Lifetime" from their latest album A Head Full of Dreams is the +200 favorite with "Fix You" the +350 second choice followed by "A Sky Full of Stars" (+450), "Viva La Vida" (+500), "Clocks" (+750), "Speed of Sound" (+900), "Paradise" (+1000) and the title track "Head Full of Dreams" (+1000). 

As well, you can wager on the annual Gatorade shower. Orange remains the favored color for the Super Bowl 50 Gatorade shower at +125 followed by Blue (+300), Clear (+400), Yellow (+400), Red (+600), Green (+1000) and Purple (+1000).

Blue has emerged as the second choice after New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was doused with that color of Gatorade last year following his team's 28-24 victory against the Seattle Seahawks. 

Some other interesting exotic props for Super Bowl 50 include how many times Archie Manning -- the father of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning -- will be shown during the television broadcast along with Broncos General Manager and former quarterback John Elway.

Manning's OVER/UNDER has been set at 1.5 with the UNDER favored at -140 (bet $140 to win $100) while Elway's number is 2.5 with the UNDER also favored at -140. 

Those who think Peyton will announce his retirement in the postgame interview after the Super Bowl can bet on that happening at +500. 

Chicago Bears head coach John Fox had the same job with both Denver and the Carolina Panthers previously before getting fired by each team, and you can wager on how many times his name will be mentioned during the TV broadcast with the O/U set at 1. 

And if you have a good feel for TV ratings, you can bet on how many viewers will be tuning into the big game on February 7, taking OVER or UNDER 117 million, or pick whether you think the Nielsen Rating will end up OVER or UNDER 48.5.

Homes Of Holiday Movies

12/11/2015 (Permalink)

General Homes Of Holiday Movies The Griswold House from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation".

Home Alone

“Buzz, your girlfriend…WOOF!”

Good news for “Home Alone” fans -- you can drive-by the famous McCallister family home at 671 Lincoln Avenue in Winnetta, Illinois. The 4,243-square-foot home is as large as it appeared in the film (4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and 9 rooms in total). The residence was purchased in 2012 for over $1.5 million, according to Zillow.

Miracle on 34th Street

Despite the addition of a second-story window, little Susan Walker's "dream home" from "Miracle on 34th Street" appears just as it did almost 70 years ago.

Located at 24 Derby Road in Port Washington, New York, the single-family home features 7 rooms.

The home featured in John Hughes' 1994 remake starring Mara Wilson, is located at 771 Washington Road in Lake Forest, Illinois, and it's more than quadruple the size of the home from the original film. The Illinois house was listed for sale on Zillow in July for a cool $3.4 million.

Elf

Walter Hobbs (James Caan), father to Buddy (Will Ferrell), resided in the Upper West Side of New York City in the movie. The apartment was located at 55 Central Park West, where scenes from the 1984 film "Ghostbusters" took place as well.

The 19-floor co-op building was used for exterior shots but interior shots of the apartment may have been a set.

A Christmas Story

Beware of the Bumpass' dogs.

Thanks to "A Christmas Story" super-fan Brian Jones of Jacksonville, Florida, Ralphie's home located at 3159 W. 11th Street in Cleveland, Ohio, has been well-preserved from the inside and out.

Jones, who purchased the house in December 2004, turned it into a tourist attraction complete with a museum and gift shop open to the public.

For the past five years, he has even held eBay auctions inviting people to come and stay in the house where Ralphie lived with his mom, dad and little brother Randy.

This year, the winning bid was $8,700. The winner will get to spend two nights in the three-story, 1940s-style home complete with four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a loft, a leg lamp in the window and an old fashioned radio to listen to "Little Orphan Annie."

Scrooged

The comedic take on the Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol" starring Bill Murray (Frank Cross), told the laugh-out-loud story of a self-absorbed television executive who's visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve night

"Scrooged" was largely filmed in New York City with interior (lobby) and exterior shots of the 38-story, 516-foot Seagram Building located at 375 Park Avenue in Manhattan.

Other notable Big Apple locations from the movie can be seen on 5th Avenue and the 45 Rd. Courthouse Sq. subway station in Long Island City.

The Family Stone

With 5 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms, the 3,554 square-foot home from the "The Family Stone" still appears large enough to house a semi-awkward Christmas gathering, just as it did for the 2005 holiday film.

Built in 1860, the colonial sits at 144 Riverside Avenue, Riverside, Connecticut, and was sold in January 2008 for $4.1 million, according to Zillow.

With no up-to-date interior shots of the home, it's a wonder if Sybil Stone's (Diane Keating) clutter-filled kitchen and worn-in, cozy living room remain as they were 10 years ago.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

Sad but true, the "Griswold House" from the classic Christmas comedy "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" sat in The Warner Bros. back lot. According to IMDB, the neighborhood where the Griswolds lived was the same as the one used on the 2009 television series "The Middle" (2009), which funny enough, featured Brian Doyle-Murray (Clark's boss Mr. Shirley) in a recurring role as the character Mr. Ehlert.

It's a Wonderful Life

George and Mary Bailey's “drafty old house" in the fictional town of "Bedford Falls" was also built as a residential set on the RKO Ranch in Encino, California, according to IMDB.

Mold Prevention Tips

11/21/2015 (Permalink)

WHY PREVENT MOLD?

Mold can also be harmful to your health, so mold prevention is very important. Mold uses tiny spores to reproduce, and inhaling those spores causes respiratory problems and other health problems, like headaches, depression and fatigue.

Mold is a type of fungus. In nature, mold eats dead plants and animals, serving an important purpose. Mold can grow indoors, however, where it does not serve a purpose but can destroy materials. It can damage materials in your home. It can ruin carpet, even walls. Preventing mold is important because if mold takes hold, you can spend a fortune replacing ruined items.

Mold prevention is also important because once it takes hold; it’s hard to get rid of it. If you see mold or notice a musty smell in your house, you have a mold problem and need to address it. If you don’t see or smell mold, you probably do not have a mold problem and you want to keep it that way. If you’re not sure if you have a mold problem, you can have a professional come in and conduct a test. Your homeowner’s insurance may even pay for it.

HOW DO I PREVENT MOLD?

Mold requires organic material and moisture in order to grow and thrive. There is usually plenty of organic material in homes and it’s almost impossible to get rid of it all, so the key to mold prevention is eliminating excess moisture. Water leaks, high humidity and condensation all provide moisture that allows mold to grow. If your roof leaks or water comes in around windows, fix it. If humidity is high, invest in a dehumidifier.

If you experience flooding or a leak, you need to dry things out thoroughly. Use fans and a dehumidifier (or two), take up all carpet and remove all soaked objects until they can be dried. Some items may need to be discarded and replaced.

Make sure your home has adequate ventilation in areas like bathrooms, laundry rooms and attics. Energy efficient homes may hold moisture inside, in which case opening a window or turning on a fan when showering and cooking will help with mold prevention.

USE MATERIALS THAT PREVENT MOLD WHEN RENOVATING

You can purchase mold-resistant drywall or sheetrock, which are particularly useful in high-moisture areas like bathrooms and laundry rooms. Ask for mold-resistant products at your local home improvement store, or if you have a professional contractor handling your home renovations, ask him or her to use mold-resistant products whenever possible.

MONITOR INDOOR HUMIDITY

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping indoor humidity between 30 and 60 percent. Purchase a moisture meter at your local hardware store and use humidifiers or dehumidifiers if necessary to keep the humidity at the right level to prevent mold.

DIRECT GROUND WATER AWAY FROM YOUR HOME

Another key to mold prevention is directing ground water away from your home. If the ground slopes toward your home, you’re likely to have leaking in your basement or in a crawlspace, which will lead to the growth of mold.

KEEP YOUR GUTTERS CLEAN

Clogged gutters often lead to leaky roofs. Prevent mold by preventing leaks. Clean your gutters regularly and if you notice stains on your ceiling, check the gutters for clogs and check the roof right away for leaks. 

Sometimes It PAYS To Be Forgetful!

11/20/2015 (Permalink)

General Sometimes It PAYS To Be Forgetful! Bernard Bennick had two winning tickets for the "Bank a Million" Virginia Lottery game. (Photo: Virginia Lottery)

When Bernard Bennick couldn’t remember if he had purchased a ticket for the November 18th drawing of the Virginia Lottery’s 'Bank a Million' game, he ended up buying another one with identical numbers; both matched the numbers that were selected, giving him the top prize of $1 million twice for a win of $2 million.

(Source:  Virginia State Lottery)

Fudge Recipe

11/19/2015 (Permalink)

Microwave Chocolate Pumpkin Fudge. Yes, It Turns Out You Need This!
 Tess PanzerNovember 17, 2015

The holidays are all about sweet indulgences, and one of our favorites is fudge. We love, love, love a good, creamy, toothsome piece of fudge, and we’ve found a way to make it perfect for the holiday season — pumpkin!

Making fudge may seem a bit intimidating, but we assure you it’s really very simple. With no more than five ingredients and a microwave, you’ll be rollin’ in the sweet stuff in no time. Hurray!

Materials:

  • 4 cups White Chocolate Chips
  • 1/3 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 2/3 cup Pumpkin Purée, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Tools:

  • 9 x 9 in. Baking Dish
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Nonstick Cooking Spray

Related on Yahoo Makers: Pumpkin Cheesecake — No Baking Required

Instructions:

1. Line a 9 x 9 in. baking tin with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Combine white chocolate chips and peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 50 percent power for 1 minute, then stir.

3. Continue to microwave in 30-second increments at 50 percent power until chocolate is completely melted and the peanut butter is completely incorporated.

4. Add the pumpkin, spice, and vanilla, and stir to completely combine.

5. Quickly pour the mixture into the lined baking dish and refrigerate overnight.

6. Slice the fudge with a sharp knife and enjoy.

Barbie Ad

11/17/2015 (Permalink)

The World is Falling in Love With the Boy in the Moschino Barbie Commercial
 Jihan ForbesNovember 16, 2015

The commercial for the Moschino Barbie collection dropped about two weeks ago, but the spot is finally getting some buzz thanks to one particularly enthusiastic cast member. The actor is, according to the New York Post, the first little boy to be cast in a Barbie commercial.

“Moschino Barbie is so fierce,” our young mohawked prince exclaims, punctuating his enthusiasm with an equally fierce neck roll and hand gestures. The boy’s appearance comes at a time when society is moving away from gendering toys and clothing for children. Target, for example recently decided to remove gender-based signs in their toy aisle

This commercial is just another step forward in ending the stereotype that children’s toys are suitable for one gender as opposed to another. After all, the only real difference between a Barbie doll and an “action figure” is stylish clothing options – and who it’s been traditionally marketed to.

Most importantly, we hope the commercial will connect with little boys who actually enjoy playing with Barbie dolls, showing them that liking those things isn’t a bad thing, and that their playtime options shouldn’t be limited. Barbie is a fun toy and all kids should be able to play with her regardless of societal pressures. And it seems the world is ready for these changes, as the reaction to the video has been overwhelmingly positive

You stay fierce, Moschino Barbie boy.