Thursday, January 29, 2015

Five Steps to an Early Retirement

Early retirement is an ambitious and worthwhile goal – and despite the doom and gloom in and around financial markets since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), early retirement is possible. All you need is a well thought out plan and some clearly defined action steps to set you on the road – and then it’s just a matter of following your course and staying focused until your goals are reached. Below are five steps to planning your early retirement – why not get started today?

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Be Clear About Your Goals

Take some time to get very, very clear about what you want to do in your retirement. And how early is ‘early’? Are you thinking of travelling? Starting a business? Just doing up your home, or alternatively upsizing or downsizing at all? Think carefully about these questions, as your answers will inform your plan and how you go about executing your roadmap to early retirement. Once you know where you’re going, you can work out the best way to get there.

Take Stock Of Where You Are Now

Work out how you’re currently tracking in terms of wealth and finances. Then you can see how far you’ve got to go in order to meet your goal of early retirement. Aim to establish a few milestones along the way as well. Working towards early retirement isn’t always easy and it’s a good idea to have a few smaller goals in place in order to keep your motivation high.

Make A Plan

Map out a plan of action to get you from where you are now, to where you want to go (i.e. your early retirement, or ‘destination point’). This plan will likely involve a budget, possibly some plan around investing and/or accumulation or divestment of assets; something to do with wealth building and debt reduction in any case. Your plan will be unique to you and your personal set of circumstances and opportunities. You should also ensure it takes into account your personal level of risk tolerance.

Consult An Expert

As most people are not financial experts, it’s a good idea to discuss your goal of early retirement with those who have a good track record in such matters. This should include your accountant, possibly a financial planner and, if contracts are involved, you should also consider adding a legal expert to your ‘early retirement brains trust planning team’. Another option is to enlist the aid of budgeting experts such as Positive Solutions Finance , who are experienced in money management and planning.

Stay Flexible

Knowing where you want to go, how you intend to get there, and following this plan are all great steps to early retirement. However, personal situations – and financial markets – are not static. It’s important to adjust your strategy to take into account any changes to your circumstances, or those around you.
Planning your early retirement doesn’t have to be a headache. With a little forethought and some expert advice and assistance, you might find it can actually be fun – although not as much fun as early retirement.
Got any tips for those who would like to retire early? Share your insights via the comments box below.

7 Incredibly Simple Ways to Make Your House a Home

Moving into a new house or condo is often a fairly disorienting process for most people. The new surroundings are typically sterile and devoid of personality, which makes it hard to love the space. Turning a mere house into a real home takes time and a little forethought. If you'd like to jump-start the process, these quick tips provided should prove helpful.

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Spice Up the Color Palette
For practical reasons, most houses boast muted beige or gray tones in spades to avoid putting off potential buyers. Once you've moved in, you can remake the new house in your own image using your preferred colors. Even if you like understated shades, repainting the walls to reflect your own tastes is the easiest way to put your stamp on the place.

Lay Down a Few Throw Rugs
One of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to make any house more inviting is by slapping down some unique rugs. Avoid mass-produced items purchased from big-box stores like Bed Bath & Beyond. Instead, head to a local second-hand store and find a few broken-in rugs with some history and personality that jive with your home's interior theme.

Buy Some Vintage Furniture
If you want your home to look lived in and inviting, nothing beats antique furniture. You'd be surprised at what you can find at restored furniture stores in your area and online. Desks, tables, couches and chairs with a few miles on them always add a touch of class and make any home feel a lot warmer.

Display Some Mementos
In many ways, a home is like a trophy case or a scrapbook for your personal experiences and interests. Mount souvenirs that you've acquired on your various travels on the walls in high-traffic areas. They'll act as conversation starters when you have company. If you need to flesh out your tchotchke collection, you can always hit up eBay to buy portraits and sculptures.

Add Custom Storage Gear
Unless you live in a palatial estate where square footage isn't an issue, making the most of interior space is a top priority. You can use your chosen storage solutions to add flair to your home by installing unique hooks, storage cubbies and box benches. You'll bump up the utility factor and beautify the house at the same time.

Green Up with Houseplants
Humans are hardwired to gravitate towards nature. In fact, many studies have shown that caring for houseplants can actually improve physical and mental health. Positioning a few tropical cacti, Norfolk Island pines or Chinese evergreens around the house will really liven up the new digs. In addition, they can actually improve indoor air quality over time.

Put in New Windows
As Retro Teck Window explains, a new window can open up your home, making it brighter and imminently more welcoming. From bay windows to casements, adding a new window is an affordable way to truly make your house a home.

Looking at the Big Picture
Turning a house into a home requires attention to detail and a fair amount of planning. Whether you're shooting for a cohesive theme or more of an eclectic look, each of the elements outlined above contribute something to the total equation. Use them as you see fit to make your home stand out from the residential crowd.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How to Transfer Your Schooling Skills to a Resume

Every year thousands of college students graduate and are eager to join the work force, only to discover an unfortunate reality. While a college degree is often required for many of today’s jobs, lacking practical work experience can leave a young graduate’s resume looking paper thin. It is essential for college graduates to market the skills they have learned in school effectively in order to stand out to prospective employers.

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Be Practical

Employers today often require relevant experience for entry-level work. Though this sounds like a difficult conundrum, an effectively written resume can overcome this obstacle. To best market your skills, frame what you have learned in college in a practical application. For example, a graduate with a University of Florida business administration online degree might say he or she “implemented marketing strategies to attract new customers to the campus bookstore.” This provides a level of context to your skills and abilities, which in turn improves your marketability to potential employers immensely.

Put Education First

Though veterans of the work force often list their academic accomplishments at the end of a resume, a recent college graduate should list it proudly at the top. Be sure to include your school, your major, and the degree you have earned, as well as your grade point average if it is higher than 3.0. If you are applying for a job specific in scope, it may also be helpful to list specific courses you have taken that are relevant to your career objective, and demonstrate your proficiency in the field.

Be Concise

In today’s ultra-competitive job market, employers are often inundated with dozens of applications for few open positions. A new college graduate needs to remember that unlike term papers, resumes should be short and to the point. Creating a visually appealing resume, while avoiding lengthiness
will help accentuate the most important elements of your education while also keeping the potential employer engaged. An ideal resume should maintain font size no smaller than 11 or 12 point and should use a traditional font like Times New Roman or Arial. Don’t add unnecessary points, and stick to what that specific employer might be interested in. 

Employing these methods can help make a resume light on practical work experience impressive to employers. When simply earning a degree is not enough to land your dream job, constructing an articulate resume highlighting your skills in the most efficient manner possible can make all the difference on today's job market.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

5 Ways to Keep a Clean Home without Spending a Fortune

Maintaining a clean home each day without spending a fortune can quickly become overwhelming without the proper planning and supplies. Using a few tips and tricks can ensure your home remains bacteria-free and an enjoyable living space for both you and your guests.

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Clean Up and Sweep Daily

Cleaning each room by picking up clutter and sweeping or vacuuming daily is a way to avoid deep-cleaning needs less often. Simply taking the time to wipe counters, toilets and other surrounding appliances rids larger messes that require more time to clean entirely. Invest in cleaning wipes and sweeping products that allow you to quickly sweep and mop with minimal effort, keeping spills at bay while allowing you to ensure your home is clean and safe for children and pets at all times.

Rid Clutter and Excess Items

Rid the clutter from your home and living areas to create a more serene and enjoyable living environment. Throw out unused magazines, newspapers and junk that no longer serve any use to the individuals in your household. Have children keep toys and belongings in their own rooms using organizers and dressers to keep items out of sight.

You can also consider an affordable option of investing in a storage unit to keep goods and belongings out of sight and out of the home. Using a storage unit is a way to create minimal look and appearance in any home, regardless of the size of your household.

Invest in Organizers

Take time to invest in organizers around the home to keep your belongings from view while allowing you to retain your items and furniture. Using baskets and shelving units are ideal solutions to keep from adding up clutter on end and coffee tables. Organizers are also perfect solutions to implement within closets, keeping clothing and other personal belongings including shoes from piling up and taking up even more space throughout the home.

Hire a Professional Cleaning Company

Consider the option of hiring a professional cleaning company to help with keeping your home nice and clean if you are busy with work and family life during your free time. Using professional cleaning services is not only a way for you to save time when cleaning your home but it is also a way to rid the stress of maintaining the cleanliness of your household. Whether you are looking for a weekly cleaning service or if you are simply looking for a one-time deep-cleaning of the home, there are various services and packages to choose from when you opt to work with professionals who specialize in home-cleaning and management for a living.

Buy Cleaning Supplies and Necessities in Bulk

Buying cleaning supplies in bulk has many advantages. Not only are getting more product for your money, but purchasing more at once saves you valuable time and also saves on gas and other related expenses.

Knowing how to keep a clean home without spending a fortune on various services and supplies is a way to keep any type of atmosphere you create at all times. Whether you opt for professional cleaners, shop in bulk or get a bit more organized, there are plenty of ways to keep a clean home with minimal effort each day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

5 Neighborhood Traits to Look for When Relocating Your Family

You want a dream home, but what happens when that dream home is located in a sub-par neighborhood? Many people focus on a home's size, style and amenities, but not everyone focuses on the traits of the neighborhood it is located in. If you are planning to call a house your home for the long-term, it is important to live within a community that is both inviting and caters to families with children. Here are five traits you should never overlook on your mission to find the best property for your family to reside in.

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Quality Schools Are Essential

If your children will be attending public school, it is essential that you check to see what school your child will attend when living in a specific neighborhood. Do not just consider their grade-level now, but also consider their grade level in the future. You should check to see how the schools in the region compare to others in the area, and stay away from those with poor test scores or bad reputations.

Crime Rates in the Area

No neighborhood that you find will be 100% safe. Crime is everywhere, but some areas are more prone to crime than others. You should always take time to research the crime rates in the area and find out if they are on the rise or if they are falling. Check to see if there are a lot of burglaries, robberies, murders or other violent crime that could put your family more at-risk. Sometimes, extremely low rents and property listing prices could be a red flag to look out for.

Paved Sidewalks for Active Families

You may not think that sidewalks are that big of a deal, but you need to know what sidewalks say about a community before you count out their importance. Sidewalks are a feature that is planned into all active communities. It can also be a great indication that there are amenities nearby, that people can walk to local stores, that there are local parks, and that the developers kept safety in mind. Anyone with pets or children should value paved neighborhoods.

Convenient Location and Valued Amenities

Do you want to drive 15 minutes to get to a shopping center or grocery store? Do you mind an hour commute? Will there be activities nearby for the children? These are questions you need to ask. You should review the commute, and remember that you may not always be at the same job. You also need to consider if stores and establishments that you frequent are in close proximity to the neighborhood. Sites like Renters Guide can give you a snapshot of an area and its amenities.

Is the Neighborhood Close-knit and Will it Be in the Future?

Neighborhoods where families have settled for decades tend to be much more close-knit than newer ones. If you value this closeness, you should research the community's culture. It is all about how a place makes you feel. Drive by more than once to see if it is quiet, family-oriented, and if the neighbors communicate with one another. You should also find out if there are local plans that could affect the community in the future.

You should look for your dream neighborhood and not just your dream home. By considering the important factors that matter to you, you can find a home in the right area and make it your own.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

5 Ways to Prolong the Life of Your Home Plumbing

Your plumbing is one of the most important components in your home. You want to keep it working at all times, and you want to prolong its lifespan as long as possible. If you want to keep your plumbing in good shape for years to come, follow these five tips to take care of it and prevent it from breaking down.

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1. Don’t Flush the Wrong Things

One of the most common ways that people damage their plumbing is by flushing things they shouldn’t down their toilets. Don’t flush anything other than human waste and toilet paper down your toilet. You especially need to avoid flushing things like paper towels, sanitary napkins and baby wipes.

2. Fix Clogs Right Away

According to Always Plumbing & Heating, one of the most common ways that people damage their plumbing is by letting clogs fester for too long. If you have a clog that keeps coming back, you need to get professional help to get rid of it for good. Allowing clogs to remain puts unnecessary strain on your pipes that will cause them to wear out prematurely.

3. Take Care of Faucets

When it comes to the components of your home’s plumbing, nothing gets as much use as your faucets. You turn them on and off many times a day, and all of this use will wear them out quickly if they are not cared for properly. The most important key to taking care of your faucets is to give them regular cleaning. This will help to avoid corrosion from setting in.

4. Take Care of Your Garbage Disposal

One of the most common plumbing repairs is fixing a broken garbage disposal. Garbage disposals can quickly break if you do not operate them properly. Never put things like bones, glass, metal, oil, paper and coffee grounds down your garbage disposal. Also, make sure that you always have the water running down the drain when you are operating your disposal.

5. Fix Leaks

Leaks are one of the most common problems to affect plumbing systems. You need to inspect your home for leaks every few months. This inspection should include your pipes, all of your faucets and the appliances that use water. Catching leaks early will help to prevent them from becoming worse and doing more damage.

Make sure to follow these five tips to take care of your plumbing. Keeping your plumbing in good repair will extend its lifespan. This will save you a lot of money over the years.

Tips on how to avoid being scammed by your mechanic

Each year, over one-fourth of Americans report being dissatisfied with their repairs from a mechanic, with costs being the biggest source of satisfaction, followed by improper repairs. In fact, unnecessary car repair is consistently ranked among of highest causes of consumer complaints in the United States, and repair costs have been estimated to be in the tens of billions- even as high as $40 billion.

These expenses pile up on top of all the other costs of owning a car. Owning a car can cost an average of $9,122 for sedans (which comes out to 60.8 cents per mile over the vehicle’s lifespan) to $9,795 for a minivan (65.3 cents per mile) to $11,599 for an SUV (77.3 cents per mile). Maintenance costs increase the cost of owning a car even more; upkeep cost Americans an average of 4.97 cents per mile in 2013, equivalent to about $750 per year.

Interestingly, these hundreds of dollars of repairs stem from the same few areas of your car. Your engine, for example, is the most important part of your car, meaning it needs to be fixed more often (nearly 65,000 cases of engine repair have been reported in the U.S. since 1996). Your tires, similarly, last around 2-4 years, sometimes less if you drive on low-quality roads that damage your tires and dent your rims. Brakes also don’t last long and need regular changes, and newer cars with tire pressure monitoring systems may need constant checkups thanks to bugs in the technology.

Although these repairs are common, they aren’t typically the most expensive. For example, a blown motor can cost from $1,000 to $4,000 to fix, while a transmission replacement can cost between $1,800 and $3,500. Your car’s head gasket, a small but important part of your engine, can cost between $1,200 and $1,600, and your air conditioning compressor can cost between $200 and $600 to replace, not including any extra services that could be required.

While you can’t avoid enlisting the services of a mechanic for many crucial repairs, you can protect yourself from unnecessary repair costs. Keep an eye out for common scams, like a verbal estimate, using inferior parts, or charging for repairs covered by a warranty. You can avoid scams by getting mechanic recommendations from your trusted friends and family and checking out your mechanic with the local Better Business Bureau. Ask questions to get more information on parts, repairs, and costs, and ask for a written invoice that notes exactly what repairs were done and what parts were replaced. Pay after the repairs are completed for the agreed-upon repairs.

Remember, however, most mechanics are trustworthy, hard-working individuals. Pay it forward by recommending a mechanic you’ve had a positive experience with to others so that they receive more business than any disreputable mechanics.

Friday, January 02, 2015

6 Budget-Friendly Organization Ideas for Small Spaces

It seems as though we need more items than ever to accomplish our daily activities, but if you live in a small space, all those items can quickly become an organizational nightmare. Quantum Storage understands that getting organized is about more than having a place to put things; it is a state of mind that can lead to a harmonious, happy home. These 6 ideas will help you stay organized while keeping your budget happy, too.

1. Go Vertical
When you incorporate vertical storage in your design theme, you greatly increase your potential storage space. For example, toys can be hung in nets in the corner of a bedroom. In the kitchen, opt for magnetic spice containers and store them on the side of the fridge to clear up entire shelves in the cupboard.

2. Drawer Organizers
For small items in drawers, make or buy organizers so that you can keep things in their place. This gives you easier access and often frees up space as things find a place to belong. Cardboard can be repurposed into sturdy organizers in cupboards and drawers.

3. Double Duty Products
Whenever possible, make your furniture and other items have multiple uses. Swap that single use footstool or coffee table for a useful storage container with flair. Your ottoman can hold magazines, extra remotes and other unsightly items while the coffee table can become storage for extra blankets.

4. The One-Year Rule
Make note of when you use rarely used items. If it has been longer than a year, donate, sell or toss it. In the closet, you can turn your hangers backwards and at the end of a year, the ones still facing backwards can go to the donation pile.

5. Rent a Storage Unit
Seasonal items, such as snow skis or off season clothes can be stored safely away in a storage unit. If you only use an item once or twice a year, consider storing it off site so you can make better use of the space in your home.

6. A Place for Everything
Perhaps the most effective organization method is merciless decluttering. If you do not have a place for an item and cannot make a dedicated storage place for it, it may be time for that item to go.

Keeping your home organized will help keep the stress down and make your daily activities operate more smoothly. By taking a few steps to get organized and then staying vigilant in the battle against clutter, your home can again become your sanctuary.

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