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5 Green Home Improvements That Really Pay Off

October 28, 2010 | Filed Under Uncategorized | Comments Off
By Money Crashers -Heather LevinWed Oct 27, 4:59 pm ET

You don’t need a $30,000 array of solar panels or a rooftop wind turbine to go green and save money on your utility bills. In fact, sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest impact on your home.

During a recession, home improvements that can help make your apartment energy efficient and therefore save money, are always more popular and economical than a kitchen remodel or pool addition. After all, small do-it-yourself improvements that immediately start paying you back become much more appealing when times are tight.

So among the many home improvement ideas out there, which are the cheapest and greenest that will pay off the most? Let’s take a look at some of the best money-saving options, most of which are affordable, DIY Projects

1. Seal Leaks

According to the National Resources Defense Council, the average American home has enough leaks to equal a 3 foot by 3 foot hole in the wall. That’s a lot of expensive air escaping every minute! The good news is that there are some inexpensive ways to seal leaks around your home to make it more energy efficient.

Caulk and spray foam usually costs less than $5 a container, and using it to seal cracks can save up to 20 percent on your monthly heating bill. Focus on windows and doors first. Also, it’s easiest to seal leaks on a cold, blustery day because you can use your hand to easily feel the drafts.

2. Add Insulation

Properly insulating your attic can save 10 percent to 30 percent off your monthly heating bill. How much insulation do you really need? This handy map put out by Energy Star shows you the R-values you’ll need, based on your specific location. Costs of insulating an attic vary widely, depending on what type of insulation you choose.

If you decide on blown cellulose, you’re going to spend around $175 to do it yourself or $630 if you pay a contractor (for an 800 square foot attic). For a cheaper alternative, consider using batt insulation, which is fairly easy and can usually be done for less than $100.

3. Install a Programmable Thermostat

The U.S. Department of Energy says most homeowners can save at least 10% on their monthly heating bill simply by turning down the thermostat 10-15 degrees for 8 hours a day. This is easy to do when you’re at work, and a programmable thermostat will bump the heat back up right before you get home. An average programmable thermostat costs around $70.

4. Seal Heating Ducts

Most homes lose 20 percent of their heat through leaks and poorly sealed connections in heating ductwork. Have you ever turned your heat on full blast only to feel like your house still isn’t warming up? If so, then you might have some leaky ductwork.

You can easily seal exposed ducts in your attic, basement, crawlspace, and garage with duct sealant (also called duct mastic). Taking the time to seal your ducts can pay off big-time in the long run.

5. Change Your Furnace’s Air Filter

Many people leave their furnace’s air filter in all winter long. But when filters become clogged with dirt and dust, your furnace has to expend more energy to force the air through. This, in turn, raises your electric bill.

Consumer Reports recommends changing your furnace filter once a month during the winter months. And some experts say that this can improve your furnace’s efficiency by up to 20 percent, even without some of the other methods you can utilize for energy efficient heating as well.

Last Word

Improving your home’s energy efficiency doesn’t have to cost a fortune. And since more people are starting to choose to stay in their homes instead of selling, these small improvements can make a big difference in your budget over the long run.

Do you have any additional home improvement tips

Heather Levin blogs about “saving money and going green” on The Greenest Dollar and is also a top contributor for the Money Crashers.

Gold-”Why the yellow metal may still be a good investment bet despite the high price levels.”

October 26, 2010 | Filed Under Investment | Comments Off

Sanjiv Arole, 10.26.10, 06:00 PM EDT   This article appears in the October 22 issue of Forbes India, a Forbes Media licensee.

Finally, gold went for its much anticipated and awaited date with the all-time high mark of $1,300 per ounce on September 24, 2010, albeit only for a fleeting moment. However, if you ask the Lalit Modis and Suresh Kalmadis of the world, whatever goes up, comes down (often) with a bang–the higher one goes, the harder can be the fall.

George Soros, the 79-year-old billionaire, calls gold’s spectacular nine-year bull rally the ultimate asset bubble. But, he has also helped drive up gold prices by doubling his bet on gold. He says that when interest rates are low, conditions are ripe for asset bubbles to develop, and they are developing at the moment. But, bubbles are good if you buy at the start rather than towards the end.

So, where is the yellow metal headed and can investors still invest in gold? Jeffrey Nichols, managing director, American Precious Metals Advisors says, “I believe, before long, we will see gold hit $1,500 an ounce.” Philip Klapwijk, the chairman of GFMS, the London-based independent metals research consultancy, too says that gold prices are likely to touch $1,300 an ounce before the end of this calendar year.

Why are these analysts so bullish? There are many reasons. “The metal certainly lived up to its reputation as a safe haven in troubled times. Just look at the explosion in investor interest that followed the sovereign debt crisis unfurling in Europe,” says Klapwijk.

Other factors included a shaky outlook for the industrialized world’s economies, low interest rates and the still feared threat of inflation. One traditional driver of gold strength, U.S. dollar weakness, proved conspicuously contrary, as U.S. dollar also benefitted from a flight to quality and so frequently strengthened in line with gold. The key to the ongoing price strength was the extraordinary monetary and fiscal policies from developed economies in the wake of sluggish or no growth, the spectre of a double-dip recession and job losses.

Will those factors remain? The current bull run in gold dates back to 2001 and was initially fuelled by the Central bank agreement on restricting gold sales to 2,000 tons in 5 years from 1999 followed by de-hedging. De-hedging was triggered when shareholders of gold mining companies forced a CEO of a North American mining company out of his job for they perceived that hedging in gold was the main reason for the low gold prices then.

Since then other factors have kept prices high. The on-going economic crisis in the West, the loss of faith in currencies such as the dollar, the fears of double-dip recession, inflation, etc. have all contributed to the gold rally.

Geo-political crisis in Iran, Iraq and North Korea, and the Af-Pak unrest based on terrorism and the Israel-Palestine standoff have all helped the gold price higher. Many of these factors remain.

The Indian market has adapted to the higher gold price consistently over the last few years. It has been observed that a resistance level at the start of the year severely impacts gold demand, as it did in the first quarter of 2009 when gold price crossed Rs.15,000 per 10 grams. That saw a huge quantity of scrap being generated and India exported more gold than its imports. However, before the year-end, that same level became the support level for gold. Currently, Rs.17,000 levels would see a surge in gold demand.

Yes, gold is definitely a good buy even at these levels given the increased demand for investment gold as compared to jewelry even in India. However, while the increase of gold in one’s portfolio is warranted, some basic precautions must be taken. There will be correction in the gold price once the global economic crisis blows over.

The author is an independent bullion analyst.

This article appears in the October 22 issue of Forbes India, a Forbes Media licensee.

Housing Still Hamstrung, Consumers Not As Confident As Expected

October 26, 2010 | Filed Under Finance, Real Estate | Comments Off

by Heather Struck, 10.26.10, 02:10 PM EDT   Reported on

September housing prices betray continued weakness and consumers stay cautious in October.

Data that point to slower growth in housing prices and still middling consumer confidence failed to inspire stock investors on Tuesday. Analysts say that without a real change in unemployment, the consumer economy will continue to sag.

The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index showed slowing growth in home prices for August, after consistent gains since April of 2009. Annual appreciation rates decreased in all but three of the 20 metropolitan statistical areas. The 10-city composite was up 2.6% and the 20-city composite was up 1.7% from August, 2009, slower growth on both composites than was reported in July. Twelve of the 20 MSAs posted a negative annual growth rate in August, with Detroit and Miami turning negative since July.

The hard-hit Las Vegas area saw improvement from July, with -4.5% growth from last year, as well as Charlotte, N.C., and Cleveland, Ohio, which improved from July with year over year growth rates of -3.4% and -0.4% respectively. San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, all with growth rates above 5% from last year, have all declined since July by 0.3%, 0.4% and 0.6% respectively.

The S&P’s Index chairman David Blitzer called it a “disappointing report.”

The Federal Housing Finance Agency had slightly better news, with a narrower decline between July and August in its house price index. The agency revised the decline in U.S. house prices to 0.5% from 0.7%, and it reported a 2.4% decline in house prices for the twelve months ending in August. Home prices remain 13.6% below April’s 2007 peak.

A third component to Tuesday’s data releases was the Consumer Confidence Index measured by the Conference Board, a private research group. The index increased to 50.2 from 48.6 in September. The survey polled 5,000 American households before October 19. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a reading of 49.2

Confidence on jobs fell in October, according to the index. Survey respondents claiming jobs are “hard to get” in the survey rose to 46.1 percent from 45.8 percent, while those stating jobs are “plentiful” fell to the year’s low at 3.5 percent from 3.8 percent in September. The percentage anticipating more jobs declined to 14.1 percent from 14.5 percent. The index did reveal that those expecting an improvement in business conditions over the next six months rose to 16 percent from 15 percent.

Michelle Girard, an analyst at RBS, said the confidence index reinforces that economic conditions are basically steady.”The

good news is that, despite relatively sour moods, consumers are still willing to spend at a moderate pace,” she wrote in a note after the Conference Board’s report. “The data suggest that consumers see and feel little change in economic conditions

The unemployment level was last reported at 9.6% in September by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A season of generally better-than-expected earnings has had mixed results on the street, boosting consumer stocks like Verizon ( VZ news people ) and Google ( GOOG news people ) after good reports, and causing others to decline. The way the remainder of the current earnings season will affect consumers will be clearer next month.

“If earnings boost stocks, that could help confidence, but the most important thing is jobs,” said Girard.

20 Ways to Stay Motivated During Your Job Search

October 23, 2010 | Filed Under Uncategorized | Comments Off

The longer you look for a job, the tougher it becomes. Who could blame you for feeling despondent, discouraged, depressed—even bitter? Some days you may not even feel like getting out of bed.

Unfortunately, not only is depression, well, depressing, it also makes it harder to get out there and look. And the less you get out and look, the less likely a job offer will come your way. Even worse, prospective employers tend to be turned off by negativity. It’s the most dastardly kind of Catch-22.

What all this means is that a major part of anyone’s job hunt is staying motivated. We all have our ways of keeping on keeping on, but here are some time-tested suggestions to prevent your search from getting you down:

1. Join a job-search group. It’s a reason to get out of the house and a venue to vent. You may even get some great feedback on your presentation, resume, cover letter, etc.

2. Socialize with employed friends. It’s a reminder that jobs do exist. Besides, these are the folks most likely to know about available positions and upcoming openings.

3. Limit your exposure to the news. Yes, you do need to know what’s going on in the world, but you don’t need to wallow in the latest dismal job-market reports.

4. Invigorate yourself through hobbies or sports. These can be activities you already love or, better yet, something new and exciting.

[See 21 Secrets to Getting the Job.]

5. Avoid “glass-is-half-empty” folks. Everyone knows people like this. Minimize your exposure to them as much as you can.

6. Hang out with people who make you feel good about yourself. Find and stick with friends and family who respect you, who like you for who you are, and who are positive and upbeat.

7. Expand your network every single day. The growth of your professional network is a better way to measure progress than how many interviews you have each week.

8. Expose yourself to media that inspire you. Choose books, blogs, magazines, movies, and TV that uplift you and make you feel the world is a wonderful place.

9. Read biographies of successful people. It can help enormously to realize that every successful person encountered failures and setbacks along the way. Every single one.

10. Try new (to you) job-search techniques. Go for an informational interview or switch your resume from chronological to functional. A different approach may breathe new life into your hunt.

11. Get a mentor. If you have a mentor, get a second one. You’re allowed to have as many as you want or need. Mentors offer perspective, advice, and encouragement.

[See 25 Qualities Job Interviewers Look For.]

12. Ask a friend to be your “negativity cop.” This is the person who will let you know when you’re projecting negativity.

13. Find someone to report your progress to. This can be a friend or job-search group or mentor. You’ll be more likely to keep on task if you are accountable to someone.

14. Spend time with a child. If not yours, someone else’s. Children are great big-picture people. They often have a way of reminding us what’s important in life.

15. Get some exercise. Exercise produces those wonderful little pepper-uppers, endorphins. It’s a cheap, and legal, high.

16. Eat healthy. Cook good meals from scratch. It’s not only better for your body and mind, it’s cheaper, too.

17. Set a challenging goal. Whether it’s to run a marathon or clean out the garage, a challenge successfully met boosts your mood. You will project more confidence as a result.

[For more workplace advice, visit U.S. News Careers.]

18. Learn something new. It can be related to your work or something for fun. Learning new things stretches your brain and brightens your outlook.

19. Help others. Volunteering is always an amazing upper. And who knows, you might make some great new contacts.

20. Designate one day a week when you won’t think about your job hunt. Take a break. Clear your head. Rest. Relax. Reenergize.

Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press.

Reverse Mortgage

October 21, 2010 | Filed Under Finance, Real Estate | Comments Off

Reverse Mortgage is something, which can enable an individual to withdraw the money from the bank in lump sum. There are several banks out there where one can apply for the same. But before jumping into any decision about the Mortgage one should make sure that the place is safe and reputed.

To apply for Reverse Mortgage one must fulfill certain conditions. One needs to fill in an application form with information like age of the borrower, interest rate, and loan fees etc. People can apply for the same not only by visiting the banks, one can also log on to online sites and apply for the same.

This type of Mortgage is lucrative and will not affect the borrower’s ability to collect social security and pension benefits. People can take Reverse Mortgage loans to pay for home repairs, taxes, insurance payments, medical bills etc. this Mortgage is of different types.

Before applying one needs to do a lot of home work i.e. research work, that can include talking to a financial experts, going through bank literatures etc. One needs to be careful and clear about the terms and conditions involved in Reverse Mortgage as any kind of carelessness can lead to problem.

Reverse Mortgage loan enables the people to take loan from lenders in lump sum without much difficulty. The good thing about this mortgage is that the borrower still remains the owner of the house just like he was when he had a forward mortgage. Before making any decisions one should always do proper research work about the bank, the loan types, rate of Interest

Before making any decision about Reverse Mortgage it is very important on the part of the borrower to be well aware of his ability to pay back the amount he has borrowed. People can apply for the same for education, home, car and other purposes. Loan is something which people have to payback that too within fixed period of time.

People should always apply for the Reverse Mortgage loans from good and safe banks! Thus one should always browse around to find the best place. One can find out about such financial programs not only by visiting various banks, but also by taking the help of Internet. Apart from one can also take the help of Mortgage lenders or even the Brokers as they can provide details about such financial programs!

People with bad financial history may not be eligible for getting Reverse Mortgage loan however good places can be an exception. After choosing the right bank and the loan one needs fill in the registration form offered by the banks. People need to show documents and papers, and fulfill certain criteria to borrow the money. One could payback the amount either together or in installments. Good places do not want your home but need the repayment!

Author Bio
Jim is writer of many mortgage and loan related topics. This article of has been written by Jim.Great Mortgage Services

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Tips on Following Up After You Send a Resume

October 10, 2010 | Filed Under Uncategorized | Comments Off

By Lindsay Olson

Posted: October 7, 2010

One of the most frequent questions I get from job seekers is about follow-up timing after submitting a resume. Who do I contact and how long should I wait?

The answer depends on how you were introduced to the company. If you respond to a job posting

online, it’s important to remember that some ads generate hundreds of responses a day. Many companies have tools to automate processing your application into their applicant tracking systems. A real person may not be looking at the responses sent and many times, the hiring manager isn’t even involved at this stage.

The best way to make sure your resume gains the attention it deserves is to tweak it to fit the job description. It sounds like obvious advice, but job seekers often don’t do it. Integrate the keywords that a recruiter might use to find a qualified candidate in their database. Your goal is to make sure your resume will be found and put on the short-list. If you have done this and haven’t heard back, give it a week and follow-up.

The best-case scenario is when you know someone within the company. An internal recommendation almost always holds more weight (as long as you are qualified). If your contact presents your resume to the hiring manager or the HR department directly, your chances getting an interview improve immensely. Ask your contact to let you know when your resume has been received, and follow-up directly with the hiring contact in a day or two by phone or E-mail.

In both cases, your follow-up should be concise, polite, and reiterate your interest in the position. Highlight how your qualifications make you a good fit. Be specific and don′t assume that the company will recognize your name or for which position you applied.

A few key points about following up:

  • Don’t re-send the same resume and cover letter multiple times for the same position. Sending the same E-mail over and over lessens your chance of getting an interview because it seems desperate and disorganized. Make it obvious that you are following up on a specific position for your application sent on a specific dates.
  • Keep a positive tone in your follow-up message. A job search can be frustrating, especially when you feel that you are qualified and don’t receive a response. A negative or an accusatory tone will kill your chance of getting a response as well as any future opportunities with the company.
  • It would be wonderful to hear back from every employer, but it’s not realistic. If you have followed up three times and have not heard back, it’s time to move on. Don’t take it personally.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and recruiter with Paradigm Staffing, a national search firm that specializes in placing public relations and communications professionals.

A Summary of the Fair Credit Reporting Act

October 10, 2010 | Filed Under Finance | Comments Off

This summary of the Fair Credit Reporting Act will explain what you can legally do if you want to repair your own credit report. No matter what you hear, you can dispute credit information on your credit report if you understand the legal rights you have under this law.

The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act was enacted by the United States Congress in 1971. In summary, it says that the credit bureaus must investigate a consumer dispute if they want to challenge credit information on his or her credit report.

It also states that credit bureaus are required to complete the investigation within a 30 day period. If the credit bureau finds that the disputed information is inaccurate or cannot be verified, they must promptly delete that information.

But there are some cases when a consumer dispute can be ignored by the credit bureaus. If you challenge a negative credit listing on the basis of things like health problems, divorce or job loss, the credit bureaus are entitled to ignore those kinds of disputes. The information you dispute must be either old or incorrect.

You must file a valid dispute where the credit bureaus can contact the creditor and confirm that the new information you gave them is accurate and can be verified. If the credit bureau does not receive verification from the creditor within 30 days, the Fair Credit Reporting Act says the credit bureau must promptly delete that credit listing.

Even though the process sounds simple, the credit bureaus make it more difficult than you can imagine. The credit bureaus don’t like the credit repair companies or anyone offering instruction on how to repair your own credit report. Why? Because it means more work for them.

The credit bureaus blast credit repair companies in the media and warn people against using credit repair services. The bureaus openly deny that any information can even be removed from your credit report.

It is reported that 79 percent of all credit reports contain some type of errors, and up to 25 percent of these errors could result in credit denials, hiked interest rates, and even lost employment opportunities.

If you have any amount of negative credit on your credit report it will cause the interest on all loans you apply for to be much higher. It will even become a barrier to your credit approval. That will cost you a fortune in unnecessary higher interest resulting in higher payments on anything you buy.

How you decide to address or dispute credit information is entirely up to you. But regardless of what you may hear in the news, thousands of people have restored their credit. You can choose to repair your own credit report or hire a professional service to do it for you.

The truth is you do not have to endure bad credit for seven to ten years if you want to challenge the accuracy of your credit report. This summary of the Fair Credit Reporting Act shows you it is possible for you to repair your own credit report and the sooner you start the better.

The Expiring Bush Tax Cuts: What’s the Fuss?

October 2, 2010 | Filed Under Tax Articles | Comments Off

Thought provoking question. “Should the Bush tax cuts be extended or should they be permitted to expire?”

by Steve Cook. Steve is an associate with a Phoenix, AZ-area law firm that specializes in taxation. He is also a bit of an economics, web design, and software engineering nerd.
Read Steve’s post at and tell me what you think.

US News &Report -Older Unemployed Remain Out of Work Longer

October 2, 2010 | Filed Under Uncategorized | Comments Off

An article written by Emily Brandon in US News & World Report takes a look at how the older unemployed are being affected by the economy.
“Things have been very tough for older job-seekers.  Duration of  unemployment for persons aged 55 and older has soared since the start of  the recession….”
Read the full article at