RE/MAX 440
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

Do You Know Your Generator Safety?

January 26, 2017 12:39 am

Many homeowners have a backup generator in case of power outages. If you’re the proud owner of a genny, or are considering making a new purchase, Gilmore offers tips on how to practice safe generator use during power outages.

Buy the right generator. Make sure to get a generator rated for the amount of power you need. Pay attention to the electrical loads shown on labels of lighting, appliances, and your equipment that you plan on hooking up to the generator.

Hire an electrician to set up a generator safely. Hooking up a generator to the home can be challenging. Consider calling a professional that can set-up the appropriate equipment in the appropriate place at your home.

Beware of generator hazards. The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic exhaust, electrocution, and fire. Never use a generator inside a house.

Install battery-operated CO alarms or plugins. If CO gas enters your home and poses a serious health risk, the alarms will sound to alert you.

Never use portable generators indoors. This includes an indoor garage, carport, basement, crawlspace, or any other partially enclosed areas of the home. Opening doors and windows will not prevent CO buildup inside of a home. The CO from generators can lead to death.

Keep generators away from openings. If you want to keep your windows open during a power outage, be sure to place portable generators at least ten feet away from windows, vents, and doors to prevent CO entering the home.

Let the generator cool down before refueling. If gas spills on a hot generator it could potentially ignite and cause a fire.

Plug appliances directly into the generator. Never try to power all appliances from a small extension cord that runs from the generator. If you use an extension cord, make use of a heavy duty, outdoor-related cord that is (in watts or amps) equal to the connected appliances.

Do not plug the generator into a wall outlet. A hazard known as "backfeeding" can occur. It presents extremely dangerous electrocution risks to any nearby utility workers and neighbors on the same transformer.

Source: www.gilmoreair.com.

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Sleep Tips for the Boss

January 25, 2017 12:36 am

Running a company or managing a fleet of employees is no easy task. Whether you’re up late working, or up late thinking about work, compromising your sleep is no way to be an effective leader.

To help combat work-related stress, Robert Half Finance & Accounting offers five tips for CFOs to mitigate work challenges and rest easier:  

Address issues as they arise. Workplace conflicts only get worse when ignored and avoided.

Set goals and timelines. Make the results you need to see from your staff clear, with deadlines and expected outcomes.

Recognize your team. Different people respond to varied motivational techniques, but everyone likes to hear when they're doing a good job. Don't hold back on genuine praise.

Evaluate your hiring strategy. In addition to having the necessary skill sets and fitting in with the corporate culture, great employees share a few qualities, including a can-do attitude, right-sized ego and sense of humor. Periodically refresh your recruiting plan to ensure you're attracting the right people.

Drive employee acquisition and retention. Finding skilled professionals when you need them can be stressful. But if you nurture a talent pipeline year-round, you'll be better equipped for the future.

Source: roberthalf.com/finance

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Are You Being Threatened by Collection Callers?

January 25, 2017 12:36 am

There's few things more embarrassing and troubling than a collection call. I recently learned an increasing number of those receiving collection calls are being bullied and intimidated by agents on the other end of the line.

In mid-January, a first of its kind Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) survey revealed  more than one-in-four consumers contacted by debt collection agencies felt threatened, and one in seven were sued in state court.

Shockingly - the CFPB found the about 75 percent of those sued do not go to their hearing, - generally making them responsible for the debt.

Melissa Stegman, Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) Senior Policy Counsel recognized that an overwhelming majority of those in debt and being pursued by collectors are not in debt by choice, but due to unexpected job loss or serious illness.

Debt collectors generate more complaints to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), CFPB, and many state Attorneys General than any other industry. And sadly, Stegman says, communities of color, lower-wealth families, service members, and older Americans are more likely to be harmed by these unscrupulous collection practices.  

CRL recently found that debt collectors frequently use state court to pursue Colorado residents, even when debt wasn't owed or where they lacked information to support a lawsuit. And 71 percent of these cases brought by four large debt buyers ended in a default judgment, meaning the consumer did not respond to the lawsuits and were legally stuck with the bill.

Lisa Stifler, CRL Deputy Director of State Policy said in a release that she has seen debt collectors lawsuits in state courts filed against the wrong person or for a debt not owed.

The CFPB also released a study of potential risks in the online debt marketplace, where consumer debts and personal information are for sale. This study found that most debts sold are at least five years old and 75 percent of those debts had previously been collected TWO or MORE times.

Review the entire CFPB study at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_Debt-Collection-Survey-Report.pdf

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Can You Master the Art of Multitasking?

January 25, 2017 12:36 am

We’ve all done it: Finished an email while watching TV, doing chores while catching up with family on the phone. Multitasking can be an effective way to plow through your to-do list. Nearly 2 in 5 Americans (38 percent) feel they don't have enough time to complete household tasks, according to a recent Moen survey, conducted online by Harris Poll among more than 2,000 U.S. Adults. Below, Moen tells us how to multitask effectively.

Practice Prioritizing
More than half of Americans (59 percent) wish they could manage their time better throughout the day. Step one – learn how to prioritize. Determine the most important items on your list, then create a schedule that pairs complementary elements together. For example, while laundry is in the washer, use that time to vacuum, dust and mop. By the time you switch your clothes to the dryer, all your chores will be complete.

Use Your Mind and Body
While at home, nearly three quarters of Americans (71 percent) stated they usually multitask while watching TV and two thirds (67 percent) say they do so while cleaning.  By combining a physical task, like cleaning, with a mental one, such as making phone calls, you easily can check items off your list. Loading the dishwasher can be a tedious job, so why not make it an efficient chore by turning on your speaker phone and letting the conversation flow as you pre-rinse and load? Or, maximize time in the shower to make mental checklists or contemplate a challenge you're facing at the office.

Tap Into Technology
We live in the digital age, so it's no surprise that nearly three in five Americans (58 percent) use technology to multitask at home. Whether we're answering emails on our smartphones while stirring spaghetti sauce, or tapping away on our laptops during family movie night, tech tools make tackling several tasks at once super simple.

Don't let a busy schedule get the best of you. With a little effort, you can multitask your way to a completely crossed off to-do list.

Source: MOEN
 

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Tax Tips For Personal Injury Settlements

January 24, 2017 12:30 am

Like it or not, tax season is just around the bend. If you received a personal injury settlement or award this past year, it is important that you understand all the tax ramifications before filing your tax returns. Read the following helpful tips from Zanes Law.

Money for Pain and Suffering

The best way to look at the money that you are being paid for "pain and suffering" is that this is the actual money being paid to you for your physical injury.  Currently, according to the IRS compensation that a person is paid for physical injury is federal-income-tax-free. Compensation for emotional distress is also tax-free because it is considered to be part of your physical/personal injury.

Money for Medical Expenses

Money paid to you in order to cover your medical expenses is tax-free too. However, if you claim a tax deduction for accident related medical expenses and you are later reimbursed for those same medical expenses as part of your case, you must "recapture" that amount and will have to pay tax on it because you previously benefited from the deduction that you took.  If your settlement or award does not specifically allocate an amount for medical expenses and you previously took a tax deduction for your accident related medical expenses, the award or settlement is automatically considered to be a reimbursement for such expenses up to the amount of those expenses.  So the key here is the tax deduction.

Reimbursement for Lost Wages

Oddly enough, amounts paid for lost wages are federal-income-tax-free, even though the wages would have been taxable if you had received them.

What About Attorney's Fees?

You cannot deduct attorney fees incurred to collect a tax-free award or settlement for physical injury or sickness. In other words, no deductions are allowed for fees in order to collect tax-free compensation.

Source: http://zaneslaw.com/  

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Brush up on Your Winter HVAC Performance Tips

January 24, 2017 12:30 am

The winter is the worst time to have your HVAC system fail. To keep everything running smoothly, follow the following five tips courtesy of Winstar Home Services.

Clean your home
Your home is a reflection of your ductwork, as dirt and debris in your air filter comes from dirt and debris in your home. Removing all dust, dirt and debris will help your air filters work more efficiently.

Change your air filter
A dirty filter can slow down airflow, causing your system to work harder to keep your home warm (which also means wasted energy and a higher utility bill). A clean filter will prevent dirt and debris from building up in the system, which helps limit expensive maintenance and avoid early system failure

Clean your outdoor HVAC unit
Take a few minutes to inspect the area around your outdoor unit. Leaves, shrubs and grass cuttings can build up on the outside of your HVAC unit, decreasing the system capacity and reducing airflow.

As a general rule, keep trees, shrubs and other outdoor elements at least two feet away from the unit so it is free to pull in air.

Seal any gaps in your home and ductwork
Inspect both the interior and exterior of your home's windows, air ducts, and exterior doors for any cracks or gaps and seal any exposures. Even a small gap can lead to warm air escaping your home, which translates into more wasted energy.

Examine your thermostat
Check to make sure your thermostat is working properly and keeping your home at the right temperature. If you still have an older mechanical thermostat, it is recommended to upgrade to digital, programmable model, as switching to a programmable thermostat can save you upwards of $200 a year.

Some new models even allow for remote operation via a cell phone, which are perfect for extremely low temperature days, since you can save energy by setting the temperature lower during the day (when your family is out of the home) and then changing it to a higher temperature before heading home.

Source: Winstar Home Services

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Creating your Get-out-of-Debt Plan

January 19, 2017 1:09 am

Consumer confidence is on the rise, which is great for our economy, but may mean more debt for many over-enthusiastic buyers. A recent poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®) revealed that 80 percent of respondents have placed debt repayment at the top of their goal list this year. That’s encouraging news, but the question is where to start?

The NFCC offers these strategies for taking on the daunting task of paying down debt:

- Knowledge is power when it comes to managing debt, so start by examining every detail related to each debt: balances, transactions, interest, fees, terms and conditions. Don’t leave any stone unturned, and be sure to ask questions along the way. This will empower you to put the right plan in place.

- Pick up the pace. High interest rates and lengthy repayment schedules are a costly combination, so make plans to accelerate the payoff of balances so they cost less over time. The key is to pay more than the minimum whenever possible.

- There is always a way.  If there is no extra money to be found for paying down debt faster, reach out to trusted sources who can help you uncover some solutions. Start with the lender to see what programs they may offer, but also work with a nonprofit credit counseling agency to help you brainstorm possibilities for affordably managing your debt. These experts will have ideas that you never thought of, so take advantage of their services.

Remember, repaying debt can be a very long process, especially when it involves a mortgage or auto loan, so devising a plan and quickly putting that plan into action is essential. Before long, you’ll begin to make progress and take back control of your finances.

Source: NFCC

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3 Steps to Protect Yourself from Medicare Fraud

January 19, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--Every day, Medicare fraud affects people with Medicare and their families across the U.S. – regardless of background – robbing them of hard-earned money and peace of mind.

Scammers know the ins and outs of the Medicare system and their attempts can be well thought-out enough that it's not always easy to know when and where fraud is occurring. By remembering some simple but effective tips, you can protect yourself against scams, including identity theft and prescription drug fraud. Remembering to protect, detect and report fraud helps everyone, including you.

Protect
Protecting your personal information is your best line of defense against health care fraud. Treat Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security numbers like credit card numbers. Never give them to a stranger and don't carry your cards unless you need them for appointments. Medicare doesn't call or visit to sell you anything. Outside of a trusted health care setting, never give this information to anyone who asks for it.

Detect
No matter how careful you are, you may be targeted for fraud. Always review your Medicare statements closely. Things to look for include charges for something you didn't purchase or receive, duplicate charges and charges for services not ordered by your doctor. Compare these documents to your personal records and receipts. Recording medical visits and procedures in a journal or on a calendar can help you keep track of what happened at each appointment and make it easier to spot inaccuracies.

Report
If you suspect you've been a target of fraud, report it. This can help you and others at risk for fraud. If you have questions about your Medicare statements, call your health care provider.

Source: SMPresource.org

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7 Ways to Add Functional Style to Your Closet

January 19, 2017 1:09 am

(Family Features)--If you're one of the 57 percent of those who believe having an organized closet would make finding what you want easier and faster, there's no time like the present to stop dreaming about having a beautiful and organized closet. Take charge and start the project now.

Shine the light. A trendy light fixture can add fun and bling while providing adequate lighting to illuminate all the treasures your closet has to offer. Diffused lighting is a good way to chase away shadows and ensure none of your favorite garments and accessories get left in the dark.

Organize by color. When you're ready to hang clothes in your newly designed space, sort garments by style; group dressy tops, casual pants and so on. Then take your organization another step further by hanging like colors together. The streamlined color palette is pleasing to the eye, but it also makes it easier to select the right combinations and avoid overlooking any options.

Hang clothes with care. Give your clothes some TLC and make the switch to high-quality hangers. Not only do uniform hangers make your closet appear more organized, they help keep your wardrobe in tip-top shape by preventing stretching. Slim velvet hangers are optimal for saving space, but if you have the room, a heavier wooden version is even better.

Add some special flair. It's not just the structure that affects the overall mood of your closet. One easy way to add some personal charm is with colorful and patterned fabric drawers. They provide a home to hide and consolidate more personal belongings and add pops of color and style to your shelves.

Make creative use of wall space. If you have some unused wall space, this is the perfect place for a dream board. A simple cork surface is all you need. Add pictures of your favorite outfits so you can remember pairings that made you feel great. You can also use the space for inspiration and add wish list items from magazines or photos of looks you'd like to try.

Dedicate a container for capturing rejects. Avoid hanging on to unwanted items by designating a container to capture clothing destined for donation. When the bin is full, transfer to a cardboard box and drop off at a local charitable organization. A similar approach can be used for items that need repair; when a few items have accumulated, either haul out the sewing machine or head to the nearest seamstress for professional assistance.

Don't forget the floor. While much is made about the wall space, the floor is an important element of your closet, too. For carpeted rooms a rug may be more ornamental, but if you have hardwood floors, an area rug can be a safety feature that keeps you from slipping in your hurry to get dressed and out the door.

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Your IRA Can Help You Invest in Real Estate

January 18, 2017 1:03 am

While we think of IRAs as strictly for retirement, they can actually play a role in building wealth before reaching our golden years.

According to Jason Craig at the Entrust Group, you can use your retirement dollars to invest in real estate—even if you don’t have the full cash amount. Craig offers these three strategies for funding a real estate purchase even with a small IRA:

Partner the IRA
You can partner a self-directed IRA or Real Estate IRA with other IRAs, investors’ money, or personal funds. If partnering with just one other source still doesn’t provide the amount needed, try partnering with a group. The IRA would own a fraction of the investment and share the profits and expenses with other investors in that same proportion, says Craig.

Leverage the IRA
Your IRA can actually take a non-recourse loan to complete a real estate transaction in a self-directed IRA.  A non-recourse loan is a loan in which you, as the IRA holder, are not personally liable for repayment nor guaranteeing the loan. Instead, the lender you work with will lend to your IRA, and will have no recourse against you or other assets in your IRA in the event of a default. According to Craig, the lender will only be able to recover the property and your equity in the property that has the loan.

Lend your IRA
You can also passively invest in real estate by providing capital from your IRA for a real estate transaction, says Craig. As the IRA owner, you determine the rate and terms of the loan to the investor, which is secured by the property.

Source: The Entrust Group

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