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Gail Ruth

Gail Ruth
4550 W. Tilghman Street  Allentown  PA 18104
Phone:  610-398-8111
Office:  610-398-8111
Cell:  610-390-5434
Fax:  267-354-6263

My Blog

8 Tips to Protect Your Identity

November 14, 2016 12:33 am


Identity theft is more than just someone tapping into your bank account. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 17.6 million U.S. residents experienced the misuse of their personal information in 2014, up from 16.6 million victims in 2012. 
 
“Fraudsters can use your personal information to conduct a variety of illegitimate transactions, such as opening bogus accounts, filing tax returns and getting access to medical care,” says Doug Johnson, American Bankers Association’s (ABA) senior vice president of Payments and Cybersecurity Policy. “As a result, consumers are urged to safeguard their personal information before it gets into the wrong hands.”

ABA offers the following tips to help consumers protect themselves from becoming a victim of identity theft:

Don’t share your secrets. Don’t provide your Social Security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. Protect your PINs and passwords and do not share them with anyone. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically. Do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites.

Shred sensitive papers. Shred receipts, banks statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.

Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen. Also, don’t mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.

Use online banking to protect yourself. Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.

Monitor your credit report. Order a free copy of your credit report every four months from one of the three credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.

Protect your computer. Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.

Protect your mobile device. Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen. Use caution when downloading apps, as they may contain malware and avoid opening links and attachments – especially for senders you don’t know.

Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. 

Source: American Bankers Association (ABA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Rules to Simplify Your Holiday Entertaining

November 14, 2016 12:33 am


(Family Features)—The hustle and bustle of the holiday season may feel overwhelming at times, and for hosts throwing holiday parties, sticking to formal cooking and dining traditions can be time-consuming and stressful. In the season dedicated to spending time with family and friends, experimenting with simple entertaining ideas and informal settings can allow for more time to enjoy the party with your guests.

To simplify your festive soiree, try these insider tips from Macy's Culinary Council, the national culinary authority featuring some of the nation's leading chefs from across the country.

Simple Satisfaction
Sometimes less can be more, even when trying to impress guests. Chef Nancy Silverton suggests using quality ingredients like flavorful lettuces or vegetables. There is no need to mask them with fancy sauces; the ingredients can speak for themselves. A simple drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, squeeze of lemon and some sea salt is enough to dress up a dish that guests will deem delicious.

Less of a Mess 
Complicated cooking methods that require too much cookware and gadgets can keep hosts in the kitchen instead of socializing with guests. Chef Rick Bayless says his focus is on simplicity and ease in the kitchen, such as using the least amount of pots and pans possible to accomplish the same goal. Try a one-pot dish in a slow cooker to reduce kitchen clutter and ensure easier clean-up.

Comfort Is Key
A less formal seating arrangement encourages relaxation and comfortable dining for all. When entertaining, Chef Johnny Iuzzini places chairs and stools throughout his home for guests to enjoy as they please rather than structuring how and where they sit and eat. Place appetizers on the coffee table or create a buffet-style spread on your dinner table. This informal layout allows for a laid-back atmosphere where hosts can easily mingle with guests.
 
Source: Macys
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Would You Sell Part of Your Home to Investors?

November 14, 2016 12:33 am


We bring you important points in housing each week—and this week (literally!) is no exception.

A new startup, Point (Point.com), aims to make homeowners free of debt and able to unlock the wealth in their home—but to do that, a homeowner must sell a portion of the equity in his or her home to Point’s investors.

How does it work? A homeowner provides some basic information about their home and household finances. Point instantly assigns homeowners pre-approval or denial based on the information they provide.

If pre-approved, Point provides a provisional offer based on the data provided—that offer is typically for between 5 percent and 10 percent of the home’s current value. To be eligible for Point, the owner(s) need to retain at least 20 percent of the equity in their home after Point's investment. The homeowner then completes a full application and provides documentation for the Point underwriting team. 

Within approximately a week, Point will schedule a home valuation visit, which the homeowner covers— generally between $500 and $700. Once the valuation is complete, Point will share the appraiser's report with the homeowner.

If the valuation is deemed acceptable by the homeowner, Point will finalize the offer following the appraisal and receipt of all supporting application documents, and call the homeowner to meet with a notary to sign the Point Homeowner Agreement.

Point then files a Deed of Trust and Memorandum of Option on the property in the county recorder's office. Once filings have been confirmed, Point transfers the offer funds (with less than 3 percent escrow and processing fees) electronically to the homeowner’s bank account.

If the homeowner sells his or her home within the agreed-upon terms, then Point will be automatically paid from escrow. If the homeowner does not sell his or her home, he or she can buy back Point’s stake at any time during the term, at the then-current appraised property value. 

Would you sell part of your home to investors?
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Protect Your Mobile Device from Hackers

November 11, 2016 12:33 am


By now, the smartphone acts as an extension of a limb—everyone from teens to geriatrics walks around with that familiar head tilt eyes on the screen. And while technology has made everything from banking to shopping much easier, it has also made things much easier for hackers.

To battle this, the American Bankers Association (ABA) is recommending 12 tips to help consumers safeguard their data and protect their mobile devices from fraudsters.

“Mobile usage has grown tremendously in recent years and consumers are using their phones to access and transmit very sensitive information,” says Doug Johnson, ABA’s senior vice president of payments and cybersecurity policy. “It’s extremely important that consumers avoid doing their banking and shopping on unsecure networks to limit their exposure to online threats."

ABA recommends that consumers take extra precaution to protect the data on their mobile device by doing the following:

• Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen.

• Log out completely when you finish a mobile banking session.

• Protect your phone from viruses and malicious software, or malware, just like you do for your computer by installing mobile security software.

• Download the updates for your phone and mobile apps.

• Use caution when downloading apps. Apps can contain malicious software, worms, and viruses. Beware of apps that ask for unnecessary “permissions.”

• Avoid storing sensitive information like passwords or a social security number on your mobile device.

• Tell your financial institution immediately if you change your phone number or lose your mobile device.

• Be aware of shoulder surfers. The most basic form of information theft is observation. Be aware of your surroundings especially when you’re punching in sensitive information.

• Wipe your mobile device before you donate, sell or trade it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.

• Beware of mobile phishing. Avoid opening links and attachments in emails and texts, especially from senders you don’t know. And be wary of ads (not from your security provider) claiming that your device is infected.

• Watch out for public Wi-Fi. Public connections aren't very secure, so don’t perform banking transactions on a public network. If you need to access your account, try disabling the Wi-Fi and switching to your mobile network. 

• Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.

Source: American Bankers Association (ABA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Heat Your Home More Efficiently

November 11, 2016 12:33 am


Cold weather months come with the added expense of heating your home. Whether you heat your space to the point you can parade around in a bathing suit or pile on sweaters and socks as your thermostat stays low, you can glean some tips for using natural gas more efficiently.

1. Seal off unused rooms by closing the registers and keeping the doors shut tightly.

2. Keep furniture away from heating registers.

3. Install a timer that kicks the heat on an hour or so before you will arrive home from work, and shuts if off when you leave.

4. Make sure a clean furnace filter is installed.

5. Wash only full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine.

6. Clean out the dryer lint trap before each load.

Source: www.MissouriGasEnergy.com
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Understanding Bankruptcy: What You Should Know

November 10, 2016 12:48 am


While most Americans hope they never need to file for bankruptcy, many don't know exactly what bankruptcy is. Bankruptcy is a proceeding in a federal court in which an insolvent debtor's assets are liquidated and the debtor is relieved of further liability.

Medical expenses continue to be the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. According to the United States Courts, bankruptcy filings fell 6.9 percent (819,159) in June 2016 compared to the number of filings in June 2015 (879,736). This number of bankruptcy filings has not been this low since December 2007.

Read on to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of filing for bankruptcy, courtesy of American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC).

Advantages
One of the most important advantages of filing for bankruptcy is that consumers can obtain a fresh financial start. If you are eligible for Chapter 7 most of your unsecured debts may be forgiven or discharged. A secured debt is one which the creditor is entitled to collect by seizing and selling certain assets if payments are missed, such as a home mortgage or car loan. You may be able to keep (that is, exempt) many of your assets, although state laws vary widely in defining which assets you may keep. Collection efforts must stop as soon as you file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

Disadvantages
A bankruptcy can remain on your credit record for 7-10 years and can affect your future finances and ability to borrow funds. A bankruptcy may impede your chances of getting a mortgage or car loan for some time. Not all debt will be discharged. Examples of debt that cannot be discharged include child support, alimony, some student loans, divorce settlements and some income taxes. You should check with an attorney on the specific categories of debt that will be allowed for discharge.

Source: American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Knowing Your Role as a Financial Caregiver

November 10, 2016 12:48 am


Over 90 million Americans care for a loved one living with a disability, disease or experiencing reduced financial capability as a result of aging, according to the Caregiver Action Network. In addition to doling out love and services, these caregivers play an important role in ensuring that all finances—from routine to complex—are managed wisely, helping their loved ones maintain the best quality of life possible.

ABA Foundation, through its Safe Banking for Seniors program, offers the following tips to help individuals understand their role as financial caregivers:

Learn the rights and restrictions that apply to your role. Financial caregivers, such as those with a power of attorney, trustees, and federal benefits fiduciaries, are fiduciaries with a duty to act and make decisions on their loved one’s behalf. Learn the legal responsibilities of your assigned authority in order to better execute your role.

Manage money and other assets wisely. Financial caregivers may be in charge of daily, unexpected and future expenses their loved one may incur. Especially if the beneficiary has a fixed income or limited finances, it is extremely important that caregivers minimize unnecessary costs and budget accordingly to ensure that all money is properly allocated.

Recognize danger signs. Seniors have become major targets for financial abuse and fraud. Make sure to stay alert to signs of scams or identity theft that may put your loved one’s assets in peril.

Keep careful records. When acting as a financial agent, proper documentation is not only encouraged but required. Make sure you keep well-organized financial records, including up-to date lists of assets and debts and a streamline of all financial transactions.

Stay informed. Monitor changes in financial status of the beneficiary and take appropriate action, as needed. Also, be sure to stay up to date on changes in the laws affecting seniors. 

Seek professional advice. Consult a banker or other professional advisors when you’re not sure what to do. 

Source: American Bankers Association (ABA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Where to Live If You Want to Build Wealth

November 10, 2016 12:48 am


If you're looking to live in a wealth-building area, then results from a new Bankrate survey may be a bit of a surprise: pack your bags and move to the San Francisco Bay area.

Yep. Despite having some of the highest rents in the country, the Bay Area is the best U.S. metropolitan area for building wealth. The Bankrate survey ranked 21 large metro areas in five categories: savable income, human capital, debt burden, homeownership and access to financial services. 

The nation’s highest savable income is a big part of San Francisco’s No. 1 overall ranking. The average Bay Area resident can sock away $16,657 per year, almost twice the national average, after subtracting local expenses from incomes. While it’s a very expensive place to live, there are plenty of high-paying jobs, so residents are able to keep their non-mortgage debts low (fifth lowest among the 21 markets) and their credit scores high (second highest).

Minneapolis/St. Paul is second-best overall (aided by the lowest average unemployment rate over the past five years), Washington, D.C. is third (only San Franciscans are able to save more), St. Louis is fourth (it offers the best access to financial services) and Detroit is fifth (it has the highest homeownership rate and the lowest non-mortgage debt burden).

“Different metro areas affect households’ abilities to amass wealth in different ways,” says Bankrate.com analyst Claes Bell, CFA. “In some metro areas, like San Francisco, homeownership can be prohibitively expensive, but higher-than-average salaries can help residents stash more money away in tax-advantaged retirement accounts. On the other hand, Minneapolis-area residents don’t earn as much, but the area’s affordable housing and recovering real estate market provide opportunities to build wealth over the long term through home equity.”

Source: Bankrate
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Best Paying Jobs for College Grads

November 8, 2016 1:03 am

The good news for recent college graduates is that with unemployment at a four-year low, there are plenty of jobs to be had. The bad news is that competition is stiff for the highest-paying positions.

Where are these coveted jobs, and how much do they pay? Employment counselors recommend several directions savvy degree-holders might take:

Purchasing Manager – Most companies hire purchasing professionals to acquire the goods and services they need to run their business. Candidates need to be personable as well as analytical, and a degree in business or economics is a plus. Annual starting salaries average $58,000.

Computer Hardware Engineer – Computer science majors can use their skills to design and modify computer parts that increase speed and efficiency. Starting salaries average $58,000 per year.

Biomedical Engineer – One of the fastest-growing fields today is biomedical engineering, which mixes medicine with biology, math, physics and chemistry to create equipment that solves medical problems. Median starting salary is $54,800.

Mathematicians – Mathematicians provide solutions for the problems businesses face, with numbers to back up their work. Starting salaries for people good at math average $56,400.

Sales Manager – These are the professionals who oversee a sales force, setting quotas, policies, and best practices, dividing the work into territories and monitoring goal achievement. Candidates with some sales background and a business management degree can expect starting salaries of $51,760.

Nuclear Engineer – While some nuclear engineers work in power plants, others explore uses for radiation and nuclear energy in medical and industrial applications. Qualified candidates will start at about $63,900.

Aerospace Engineer – Starting salaries for aerospace engineers, who design new developments for airplanes, spacecraft, and defense systems, are an average $59,400.

Petroleum Engineer – Hold onto your hats. Salaries for these math and science whizzes, who develop methods for extracting oil out of different areas, begin at an average of $93,000.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Decorators Share: Transitioning from Fall to Winter

November 8, 2016 1:03 am

Decorating for seasonal transitions—spring to summer, summer to fall—is a trick many decorators use to stretch the longevity of their designs. Decorating for the transition from fall to winter is no exception.

There are many transitional trends this fall and winter. Real or faux marble accents, such as coasters or cutting boards, and statement pieces, such as side tables and wallpaper, are on the incline, Decorilla.com reports.

Coziness is necessary in fall and winter, and accessories that evoke this feeling are in. According to PopSugar.com’s Kate McKenna, decorating for coziness this year involves a mix of bold patterns, glossy metallics, soft neutrals and matte blacks.

Those matte blacks could translate into a full-on monochromatic design, especially as the holiday season sets in, predict the experts at Harding Botanicals, a Massachusetts-based company.

Rose quartz, which was named this year’s color of the year by Pantone, is another trend that eases effortlessly from fall to winter. The experts at Harding suggest pairing it with champagne, pearl or silver shades.
Come the holidays, red and green continue to be popular, this year with accents of blue and white, DecoratorsWisdom.com reports.

Experiment with motifs like silver tree shapes, blue, silver or white snowflakes and snowmen, the website recommends—or, combine accents like silver candlesticks and vases with natural arrangements of greens and berries.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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