Cheryl A. Snyder
Phone:  610-346-7908Office:  215-538-4400
Email:  csnyder@remax440.comCell:  215-801-0583Fax:  267-354-6905
Cheryl A. Snyder
Cheryl A. Snyder

Cheryl's Blog

Guide Book: 25 Tips for Financial Stability

February 5, 2016 1:34 am

Here’s a statistic: more than 90 percent of Americans prefer to have financial stability over upward mobility in income.

To achieve that stability, a realistic financial plan is in order, says Steve Trumble, president and CEO of non-profit American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC).

“For the past 25 years we have helped tens of thousands of individuals by providing credit counseling and other financial education resources, “says Trumble. “We hear from so many consumers who are facing a variety of financial challenges, and who are looking for ways to improve their lives financially. We have created a list of our top financial suggestions as a guide to help consumers get on the right track.”

Trumble’s guide lays out 25 money-smart tips:

1. Create a budget. Know your budget, make it non-negotiable, and then save enough to afford that budget. 

2. Set financial goals early. Start each New Year by setting your financial goals and give those goals a purpose. Write these goals down and review them throughout the year to track your progress. 

3. Reduce energy costs. Assess your home’s insulation and seal any holes to reduce your heating and cooling costs through the winter and summer months. 

4. Plan for the future. Review your budget and make sure your money will last as you plan for retirement. If you have access to a 401(k) through work, then set it up to automatically deduct a percentage from each pay check. 

5. Pay off debt. Review your outstanding debts and try to get any and all credit cards and loans paid off as quickly as possible. 

6. Practice smart spending. Cut back on unnecessary spending and find better alternatives to get the most value out of your money. 

7. Avoid online scams. Ticketing websites are easy ways to buy and sell, but be aware of possible fraud. Never wire money in advance and try to meet in person to exchange purchase for cash. 

8. Improve financial literacy. Make sure you understand the basic concepts of saving and investing in order to build wealth over time. 

9. Cook more meals at home. Plan out your meals for the week to minimize waste. Cooking at home and cooking freezer-friendly meals are some of the best ways to trim back on food cost. 

10. Create a rainy day fund. Set aside a small rainy day fund to prepare for unexpected car repairs or broken appliances. This fund can also be used for last-minute traveling should you need to visit a sick relative or attend an event out of town. 

11. Compare credit cards for best perks. Make sure you have the best credit card that fulfills all of your needs. Compare the pros and cons of each card before making your decision, paying attention to extra perks. 

12. Start using coupons. Coupons are great money savers that can cut your bill by a significant amount. 

13. Utilize workplace benefits. Make sure you know about all retirement accounts, flexible spending accounts and wellness support that may be available to you through your workplace.

14. Prioritize expenses. Determine what your essential expenses are, such as rent, food, car payments, gas and utilities. Add up these expenses and then subtract from your budget to see what your discretionary spending can be on a monthly basis.

15. Activate password protection on mobile devices. Mobile devices contain a lot of important information, such as access to bank accounts and email, which is why it is imperative to add a password. 

16. Prepare for potential disasters. Starting an emergency fund is imperative. You never know when a financial disaster could strike and it is important to be as prepared as possible. Take a look at your budget and come up with a plan to save for at least 6-9 months of expenses. 

17. Shop for deals. Do your research before heading to the stores. Study advertisements and compare prices at several different stores to ensure you are getting the best deal.

18. Consider paying in cash. Consumers tend to spend less money when it involves using cash over swiping a credit card. Watching the cash leave your hand can reduce your chances of overspending.

19. Protect against identity theft. Be sure to look over your monthly statement for unfamiliar charges on your credit card to make sure identity theft has not taken place.

20. Check your credit score. It is easy to check your credit score for free once a year through a variety of commercial websites. 

21. Improve your credit score. Earn a better interest rate by improving your credit score. Start by paying off debt and making all payments on time. 

22. Cut unnecessary spending. Take a look at your discretionary expenses and decipher between personal wants and needs. Cut back by reducing the number of personal services you pay for such as manicures or takeout. 

23. Use money-saving apps. Apps can help you track your spending to ensure you are sticking to your budget. 

24. Consider alternative modes of transportation. Save on gas and parking by utilizing public transportation or carpooling. 

25. Treat yourself every so often! Keep yourself on track by occasionally spending money on something that may not be a necessity. 

Source: ACCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Homeowners to Spend More on Maintenance, Improvements

February 5, 2016 1:34 am

Bolstered by a renewed confidence in the economy, homeowners are planning to invest in their homes more so this year than those past, spending on everything from home maintenance services to home repairs and improvements. In fact, a recent survey conducted by Angie’s List (www.angieslist.com) reveals 80 percent of homeowners expect to spend as much or more this year compared to last year.

"A majority of our members are gearing up to invest in their homes at the same or greater level than last year," says Angie's List Founder Angie Hicks. "We found even greater optimism among service companies, with many of them saying they're already booking more jobs than at this time last year and expect to have a great 2016.”

According to the survey, over 90 percent of service companies expect homeowners to spend as much or more this year compared to last year.

Notably, millennials are behaving against type when it comes to caring for their homes. This year, they plan to spend as much or more than older generations.

“Our data show that this age group is just as responsible as any other homeowner,” Hicks says.

The most common expenditures for homeowners this year? Virtually every generation cited in the survey plans to spend on chore services (i.e., house cleaning and yard work) and for clutter-cutting, organizational solutions around the home.

Source: Angie’s List

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Who's Got Spirit? Football Fans!

February 4, 2016 1:34 am

Don’t expect anything less from football fans come Super Bowl 50. Recent controversy surrounding the health of football players hasn’t dampened fan ardor for the sport, recently named “America’s Favorite Sport” by The Harris Poll®. In fact, more than a third of Americans in the poll picked professional football as their favorite sport, well beyond the 15 percent who favored baseball.

Yet, as with all things competitive, there are some who are obsessed and some who couldn’t care less. Poll findings show.

• Adults with household incomes of $75,000 to less than $100,000 are especially likely to favor pro football, but those in $100,000-plus range don’t share a similar love of the game.

• Pro baseball gets the most love among Easterners and post-grads, and the least love among millennials, households with children, and households with less than $35,000 in income.

• Gen Xers and post-grads are the biggest fans of college football. The college football craze resonates less with Easterners and those with household incomes between $35,000 and less than $50,000.

The poll, which was conducted in December 2015, surveyed 2,252 adults across the United States, 1,510 of which were fans of at least one sport.

Source: The Harris Poll®

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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10 Dos and Don’ts for Disaster Preparedness at Home

February 4, 2016 1:34 am

Disaster preparedness is just one of many tasks on the homeowner docket, but it’s also one of the most important. No matter how frequently (or infrequently) storms occur in your area, preparation is vital, say the experts at ServiceMaster Restore. What can you do to ensure your property is protected before and after a storm?

Dos for Now:

• Review your insurance policy closely and pay attention to specifics on what is and is not covered under the agreement.

• Clear rain gutters, repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on the house or other structures on the property.

• Keep gutters and downspouts free of debris and make sure water is flowing several feet away from the foundation.

• Check for cracks or small holes in the foundation where water can seep in. Even a few inches of water from melted snow or excessive rain can cause interior water damage to carpet, drywall, wood floors and even your home’s structure.

• Cover exposed outdoor water faucets. Use a cover available at any hardware store to insulate and protect them.

• Make sure you know how to shut off all water valves in the event a frozen pipe bursts. Leave cabinet doors under sinks open to help circulate air and prevent frozen pipes during extreme temperatures.

• Set your thermostat to a consistent temperature day and night.

Don’ts for Later:

• Don't use a household vacuum to remove water, and don't use electrical appliances while on wet carpet or wet floors.

• Don't go into rooms with standing water if the electricity is still on. Turn the main switches in the circuit breaker box to the off position.

• Don't lift tacked-down carpet, as lifting carpet incorrectly can promote shrinkage and result in more costly expenses.

Source: ServiceMaster Restore

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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3 Staging Tricks for the Room Buyers Secretly Love

February 4, 2016 1:34 am

Did you know the living room is the room that most positively impacts buyers when staged? Staging this room is key to a speedy sale because it detracts buyers from perceived flaws of the home. Living room design is much less complex than that of a kitchen or bathroom, so you don’t have to spend big on staging to see results.

One inexpensive way to stage is to switch up the color scheme of the room. To better suit buyer preferences, use neutral-toned items you already own to create a cohesive palette throughout the room—décor magazines employ this visual effect to please reader eyes. Shelve books with similarly-colored spines in a bookcase, place decorative pillows in coordinating (not matching) shades on sofas and side chairs, and tuck children’s toys into ornamental boxes that reflect the overall color theme.

Another cost-effective way to stage the living room is to update the window treatments. Steer clear of high-end materials, which are not only expensive, but also may not suit your tastes once you move into your new home. One budget-friendly trick is to hang shower curtains (that’s right!) in place of standard drapery, which are durable and come in an array of patterns and colors. Ones with large, pre-cut holes in upscale finishes (think wood) can be threaded through your existing curtain rods, saving you even more money.

Glass accents are another more-for-your-dollar feature that buyers often respond to. Instead of shelling out for glass furniture, pepper smaller glass accents sparingly throughout the space, on coffee or end tables, bookcases or mantels. These touches of sparkle will draw the eye and add a hint of luxury, which could boost perceived value on the part of the buyer.

Bear in mind these staging tricks can be applied in other rooms of your home, as well.

Remember: Whenever you plan to list, focus some attention on the living room—it could be the ticket to sealing the deal!

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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The Standard Retirement Age Is…Retiring?

February 3, 2016 1:34 am

Many on the road to retirement expect a flexible transition. A recently released report by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS) explored that vision, finding that “flexibility” has more meanings than one for retirees.

Over 60 percent of Americans cited in the report—and more than half of all workers globally—expect to retire at age 65 or later, or not at all. Why the delay? Common reasons in the report include enjoyment of work, keeping active and financial-related concerns.

“The concept of retirement is changing rapidly,” says Catherine Collinson, president of TCRS. “As people live longer and in good health, retirement is becoming a more active life stage, with more people looking for the opportunity to combine work and leisure. Many workers have retired the notion of fully retiring at age 60 or 65.

“Population aging is a global phenomenon,” Collinson continues. “The shift toward a proportionally smaller working-age population and larger older population is disrupting traditional employment models and the fundamental economics of government-sponsored social security systems around the world. A flexible retirement, which offers workers the ability to pursue their own personalized transition, can create opportunities to work longer, continue earning income, and stay active and involved in society.”

Source: TCRS

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Off-Grid, Solar-Powered Living Gaining Steam

February 3, 2016 1:34 am

There’s no doubt solar energy is having a moment. Recently conducted research shows solar panel adoption by homeowners has grown 2 percent in the last two years, and more than three times that percentage plan to purchase solar panels in the next year.

The move to solar isn’t solely motivated by a desire to conserve energy, says Tom Kerber, director of research for Parks Associates, which compiled the research report.

"Consumers are interested in taking an active role in the energy grid—40 percent of U.S. broadband households are very interested in the ability to store unused power and sell it back to the grid," says Kerber.

Harnessing solar energy, however, is just one piece of the puzzle.

"The future of solar is not to simply exist as a stand-alone energy generation island in the home, but rather to work as part of a broader integrated smart energy home,” says Dwain Kinghorn, chief strategy and innovation officer of Vivint Solar. “Solutions that enable homeowners to optimize their savings as well as let them better control how they consume power will quickly become a mainstream element of the residential solar experience.”

"The case for going solar is even stronger now that intelligent consumption monitoring and storage can be integrated with solar,” adds Ilen Zazueta-Hall, director of Product Management for Energy Management with Enphase. “Homeowners can have more control over their energy, and utilities will benefit from a system that can seamlessly adapt to the changing dynamics of the future grid.”

Source: Parks Associates

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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6 Landscape Design Trends to Bloom in 2016

February 3, 2016 1:34 am

Landscape design has reversed course over the seasons, as the indoors further move outward and the outdoors become an extension of household living. The trend, ever evolving, shows no signs of slowing down this year, either.

“The latest trends reflect the desire to bring the indoors out—to create comfortable landscapes that are both functional and beautiful,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), which recently released its annual forecast. “At the same time, we’re seeing a shift toward sustainable landscapes that reflect a renewed sense of mindfulness for the Earth and its ecosystems.”

The NALP forecast predicts the following trends will take root in landscapes in 2016.

1. Edible Landscapes – Fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables will add texture and color variety to landscapes in 2016, while also providing an endless supply of delicious ingredients.

2. Freshwater Features – Rain barrels, rain gardens and stone retaining walls will add dimension to lush landscapes this year, serving an important purpose of collecting, cleaning or stopping water. Other non-plant features, including sculptures or pottery, will also become focal points.

3. Fully-Customized Outdoor Living Spaces – Beyond the deck or patio, hardscapes will transform into full-service kitchens (think brick ovens and grills), living and dining rooms featuring fireplaces and fire pits, and canopy bedrooms. Themed spaces, such as yoga gardens or bocce fields, will help personalize these outdoor retreats.

4. Lighted, Tech-ed Out Landscapes – Naturally derivative of outdoor living, landscapes this year will see dramatic, boldly-colored lighting, twinkling accent lighting, backyard Wi-Fi and television installations.

5. Native Gardens – Landscapes this year will adopt the concept of “naturescaping”— selecting and growing native plants to attract birds, insects and wildlife. Naturescaping encourages the use of low-maintenance perennial native plants and innately manages water runoff.

6. Soothing Hues – Expect soft, nature-inspired pink and blue hues to bloom in gardens this year with heritage rose bushes, Catherine Woodbury daylilies, Angelique tulips, blue lace delphinium, French hydrangea and others.

Source: NALP

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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20 Ways to Spring Clean the Natural Way

February 2, 2016 1:34 am

(Family Features)—Spring cleaning on the agenda? Don’t break out the bleach—reach for vinegar, a non-toxic cleaning solution, instead. It’s less expensive than commercial products, and has much more use value.

“Cleaning with vinegar has always been an effective way to banish dirt and grime in kitchens, bathrooms, the garage and the outdoors,” says Mike Smith, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Mizkan Americas.

Vinegar is so versatile, in fact, that it can be used for virtually every job around the home. For example:

1. Clean off the blades of a well-worn can opener with an old toothbrush soaked with vinegar to help remove dirt and grease.
 
2. Clean your refrigerator’s ice and water dispenser by running vinegar through the system. Flush the vinegar out by running water through the system for 30-60 seconds.
 
3. Rid your dishwasher of mineral buildup by pouring half a cup of vinegar into the reservoir and running an empty cycle. You can also use vinegar in the dishwasher instead of glass cleaner to keep your glassware sparkling.
 
4. Renew sponges and dishrags by placing them in just enough water to cover them, then adding one-fourth cup of vinegar and letting them soak overnight.
 
5. Remove dark stains on an aluminum pot by boiling two cups of vinegar. For stained and smelly plastic food containers and lunchboxes, wipe them with a cloth dampened with vinegar.
 
6. To clean a grease-splattered oven door window, saturate it with vinegar. Keep the door open for 10-15 minutes before wiping with a sponge.
 
7. Deodorize the garbage disposal by pouring in half a cup of baking soda and half a cup of vinegar. Let sit for five minutes, and run hot water down the disposal.
 
8. Avoid using toxic chemicals where you store food. Wipe up spills in the fridge with vinegar.
 
9. Rid faucets of lime deposits by tying a plastic bag containing one-third to one-half cup of vinegar around it and leaving it there for two to three hours. Wipe down with a sponge and scrub any remaining deposits with an old toothbrush. The same approach can be used to remove buildup on a showerhead.
 
10. The fizzing combo of vinegar and baking soda can unclog and remove odor from a tub drain. Pour half a cup of baking soda in the drain, followed with two cups of hot vinegar. Immediately plug the drain with a rag to keep the bubbles contained for 10 minutes. Rinse by pouring a kettle of boiling hot water down the drain.
 
11. Spray shower doors with vinegar after you’ve squee-geed the glass—or before you turn on the water—to help release hard water deposits.
 
12. Clean shower door tracks by filling them with vinegar and letting it sit for a few hours. Pour hot water into the tracks and scrub away any remaining film with a toothbrush.
 
13. To make the toilet bowl sparkle, pour in a cup or more of vinegar and let it sit for several hours or overnight. Scrub well with the toilet brush and flush.
 
14. Remove old bathtub decals with vinegar heated in the microwave.
 
15. Remove coffee and tea stains on clothing by flushing the area with vinegar, rinsing and repeating. For wine stains, saturate the spot with vinegar and allow it to stand for several minutes. Wash as normal.
 
16. Restore yellowed clothing by soaking garments overnight in a solution of 12 parts warm water and one part vinegar. Wash them the following morning.
 
17. Soak new garments in a few cups of vinegar for 10-15 minutes before washing to stop dyes from running in the wash.
 
18. If frequent ironing has left your iron plate dirty, make a paste from one part vinegar and one part salt to scrub it clean.
 
19. Forgot you left wet laundry in the machine? Pour a few cups of vinegar in the machine and wash the clothes in hot water. Run a normal cycle with detergent to rinse the clothes.
 
20. Prevent lint from clinging to clothes by adding half a cup of vinegar to the wash cycle.

Source: Mizkan Americas

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Report: Tax Season Happens at Home

February 2, 2016 1:34 am

Home is where the heart is—and where the majority of Americans file their taxes, according to a recent report by GOBankingRates.com. Individuals cited in the report plan to file taxes from the comfort of home this year, many with the help of a digital preparation tool.

“Americans still use a wide variety of options to file, from mailing in self-prepared tax returns to paying an accountant to handle the task for them,” says Elyssa Kirkham, the GOBankingRates finance writer on the study.

Breaking down the filing habits based on findings from the report:

• 34.5 percent of taxpayers file with a digital preparation tool
• 28.5 percent of taxpayers file through an accountant
• 10.9 percent of taxpayers file with the help of a family member or friend
• 8.5 percent of taxpayers file with IRS forms
• 8.3 percent of taxpayers file through a brick and mortar company

“Taxpayers have plenty to consider when choosing a tax-filing method, from filing costs and time investments to the complexity of their returns and how quickly they hoping to get a refund,” Kirkham adds. “Each method has its pros and cons, and being aware of your needs as a taxpayer can help you decide which is most beneficial for your tax situation.”

Interestingly, a generational pattern emerged in the report findings. The older the tax filer, the more likely he or she is to have an accountant file his or her taxes—filers age 65 and older are twice as likely to file through an accountant compared to filers age 25 to 34.

Source: GOBankingRates.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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