RE/MAX 440
Joanne Stahl
4550 W. Tilghman Street
Allentown  PA 18104
 Phone: 610-398-8111 1426
Office Phone: 610-398-8111
Cell: 610-392-6547
Fax: 267-354-6236 
jstahl@remaxcentralinc.com
Joanne Stahl

My Blog

Add Family Fun to Chores

September 26, 2017 1:35 am

(Family Features)—When school is in session and just getting out the door is an accomplishment, having go-to routines can help make ordinary activities more exciting for the entire family. However, if you encounter resistance to everyday household tasks, you may just need a simple revamp to make activities more entertaining and engaging.

Refresh your family routines with these ideas designed to create more willing participants:

Trash Duty

No one likes taking out the trash, but with a nudge, even little helpers can find fun in this mundane chore. Ask for help sorting materials in the recycle bin for an educational chance to throw things without getting into trouble—or try timing how long it takes to gather trash from the bedrooms or bathrooms, and set a goal to break that record next week.

Personal Care

Getting kids to brush not once, but twice a day can be an onerous endeavor, but making the activity silly may be just the answer. The "Silly Brushing Song" is a fun, interactive music video and tool for parents that Tom's of Maine created in partnership with children's singer and songwriter Laurie Berkner to help get kids brushing for a full two minutes, twice a day, as recommended by the American Dental Association.

Yard Work

Tools made for pint-sized helpers can make all the difference in getting junior gardeners on board—and so can setting small, attainable goals so they can celebrate a sense of accomplishment. Try designating a flower bed to get rid of leaves or a section of the yard that needs sticks removed. Be sure to demonstrate proper techniques and give frequent praise for a job well done.

Clean-Up Time

It's no secret that kids can destroy a room in minutes, especially when it's a room filled with their favorite toys. When it comes to cleaning up, all that mess can be overwhelming. Look for ways to make the chore more manageable, such as picking up all the cars and trucks first, then the building blocks next, etc. Sing songs while you work to help make the time go faster.

Pet Care

For many households, pets are not only beloved members of the family—they're living, breathing lessons in responsibility. Once the novelty of a new animal wears off, however, so can the excitement of feeding and walking. A simple sticker chart can be a hands-on and effective way to remind kids that this is a chore that needs to be completed every single day. Plus, pet care can be a fun way to introduce children to the importance of responsibilities and becoming a "big kid." For added fun, make your own stickers using funny photos of your family pets.

Source: Tom's of Maine

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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It's Not a Bug; It's Stress

September 25, 2017 12:59 am

If concerning aches, pains or other physical ailments have you on your way to the doctor for tests, be sure not to rule out stress. While it's easy to recognize the emotional effects of stress, you may be unaware that stress takes a physical toll, as well. The mind/body connection runs deep and stress will start to present itself in a variety of ways. Here are five physical symptoms that may actually be caused by stress, according to Self magazine.

1. Exhaustion – Our brains produce the hormone cortisol to give us short boosts of energy to get us through stressful situations. Feeling stressed for an extended period, however, releases too much cortisol, which can cause us to feel wiped out.

2. Gastro Pains – The excess production of cortisol along with epinephrine during stress can wreak havoc on your gastrointestinal system and cause cramps. Stress also exacerbates the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

3. Chest Pain – When you feel anxious or stressed, neurotransmitters are activated through your sympathetic nervous system, which can create a feeling of tightness in your chest. This leads many to fear they're having a heart attack, but chances are, your heart is just fine. Stress can also intensify heartburn, which can also mimic a heart attack.

4. Hair Loss – Everyone loses about 80 hairs or so a day, but increased cortisol due to stress puts your body in an inflammatory state, which means nutrients that usually go to your hair follicles go to other parts of your body instead. This can cause follicles to slow or stop production. Talk to your dermatologist about special shampoos and supplements.

5. Skin Issues – Skin rashes like psoriasis or eczema are intensified during stress. Similarly, the inflammatory state caused by stress also often leads to skin blemishes, such as acne.

While your doctor can offer medications and supplements to treat the above symptoms, remember that the ultimate cure is getting to the root of the problem and relieving the stress.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Reasons Your Travel Insurance Claim May Be Denied

September 25, 2017 12:59 am

Travel is a fun and exciting hobby; however, when something puts a wrench in your travel plans, it can quickly morph into a stressful and expensive nightmare.

Misunderstanding a travel insurance policy can lead to an automatic denial when it's time to file a claim. Below, Squaremouth explains three common reasons travel insurance claims are denied, and how to give yourself the best chance of getting your claim approved.

You Were Inconvenienced, Not Interrupted

Some travelers think their insurance will pay out because their trip didn't go as smoothly as they planned; however, in order for a traveler to be covered by their travel insurance, their trip must be cancelled, cut short, or delayed by a circumstance listed in their policy. If the reason is listed, they can be refunded for out-of-pocket trip payments, as well as additional expenses incurred.

Travel Insurance Claim Tip: Don't assume you're automatically covered if anything goes wrong. If you have specific concerns, make sure they are covered by your policy. If you are worried about something that your policy does not cover, you may be able to cancel the policy for a full or partial refund.

You Bought the Policy Without Knowing You Were Ineligible

Travel insurance only covers unforeseen events; however, many travelers think they can buy travel insurance after they become sick. If a traveler is already sick when they buy their policy, any claim related to that same illness will not be covered.

Travel Insurance Claim Tip: Some policies have the Pre-Existing Condition option, which can refund a traveler if their trip is impacted by an existing sickness or injury. To get this coverage, you usually must buy a policy within 14-30 days of making your first trip payment; however, even with this coverage, you must be medically able to travel when you buy a policy.

You Forgot to Keep Your Receipts

In order to be refunded, travelers typically need to provide proof of the expenses they incurred. Receipts are required to authenticate a claim, whether it's for a cancellation, delay, or medical emergency.

"We ask for receipts to prove the traveler made the payments they say they made, and to verify what happened," says Squaremouth Claims Director Brandi Morse. "Keeping your original receipts can speed up the process and improve your chances of getting your claim approved."

Travel Insurance Claim Tip: Ask for receipts to document any expenses incurred. If you forget, or if receipts are not available, your bank or credit card statement will usually prove you made the payments you are claiming for.

Source: Squaremouth

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-to Save Money While Shopping

September 25, 2017 12:59 am

(Family Features)—There's shopping for pleasure, then there's shopping for purpose. The latter is never quite as fun, but taking a practical approach to buying household necessities can help save money so there's more to spend on the shopping you enjoy most.

Tackle your household shopping with these cost-conscious tips from the experts at Scott Brand:

Keep a list. Knowing which groceries and supplies you have on-hand before heading to the store makes it easier to avoid overspending. Try an app on your smartphone to maintain a running shopping list. Look for one that includes sharing features so others in the household can let you know when they use the last of something that needs replaced.

Pull in price-cutting resources. Start by looking at store ads before heading out to shop so you know where to find the best deals. Plan your week's meals around sale items for an extra bang. Be sure to clip coupons from the local paper and print more coupons online. Also remember to do price comparisons at online shopping sites, especially those with subscription services that deliver items on a regular schedule with a steep discount.

Shop for value. Instead of simply purchasing the cheapest product, do your research to know which product offers the best value. Determining which products will meet your family's needs in terms of performance and long-lasting value at the lowest price can help you save in the long run.

Know when bulk spending is better. While it will likely make a larger dent on your wallet at the store, buying in bulk can provide long-term financial gain. Because you're buying in quantity, you'll likely be purchasing products that will last longer to help delay a return trip to the store. One way to minimize the "ouch" of the upfront expense: stagger your bulk-buying so you're restocking items over time, rather than all at once.

Avoid impulses. Especially when you're shopping with family members, it's easy to watch the shopping cart grow full with each "bargain" item at the end of the aisle. Unfortunately, these impulse buys can add up quickly. Instead, invite the whole family to help build a reasonable list and then help keep each other accountable to it. If you make it all the way to the register, reward yourselves with a small snack or treat from the check-out aisle.

Source: ScottBrand.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Bank Card Defaults Drop, Mortgage Defaults Tick Up - What Does it Mean?

September 21, 2017 2:41 am

In some good news for the economic outlook, the bank card default rate recently experienced its biggest drop in 12 months this past July, down 18 basis points to .86 percent, according to the S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian data. Meanwhile, auto loan defaults increased by four basis points, and the first mortgage default rate increased two basis points from June.

However, it’s important to look at the big picture. Though the National bank card default rate experienced its biggest drop in 12 months, it is still high. The bank card default rate set a recent low at 2.49 percent in December 2015. Since then, it moved irregularly upward before the July drop; it is now 3.31 percent. The composite, auto, and first mortgage default series are all close to their levels in July 2016.     

“Default rates for autos and first mortgage loans are at their lowest points in the last ten years, while bank card defaults remain modest,” explains David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Consumers’ use of credit is growing and the level of consumer credit outstanding is at an all-time high. In the year ending June 2017, consumer credit outstanding rose 5.7 percent, outpacing most spending categories across the economy. However, retail sales excluding autos as well as auto sales are down slightly since April, while home sales are little changed in recent months.

“While total consumer credit is at an all-time high, revolving credit – principally bank card loans – is close to the same level as mid-2008 early in the recession and financial crisis. At that time, revolving credit accounted for 38.5 percent of credit balances compared to 26.5 percent today. The revolving credit share of the total has declined steadily since 2008. The share of non-revolving credit rose and total non-revolving climbed from 61.5 percent to 73.5 percent of total consumer credit usage. The largest components of non-revolving credit are auto loans and student loans. Auto loans currently are about 40 percent of non-revolving credit. Student loans are the largest factor in the growth of non-revolving credit since 2008. Currently, they represent about 51 percent of non-revolving credit outstanding and 37.6 percent of total consumer credit outstanding.”

So while the economy continues to show gradual improvement on a macro level, debt continues to be a blight in terms of full recovery. Meet with your financial advisor to review your personal credit and debt scenario to see how you may be able to make improvements to the overall picture.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Easy Ways to Make Better Food Choices

September 21, 2017 2:41 am

(Family Features)--Maintaining a healthy diet can be easier than you think if you make your eating habits a priority and know how to make smart food choices.

For the best results, choose foods from all five major food groups with help from these tips:

Fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and contain necessary fiber, vitamins and minerals. Rather than serving fruits with cream cheese or sugary sauces, opt for nut butters or organic honey, and toss raw, steamed, boiled or baked vegetables in olive oil, salt and pepper instead of buttery sauces.

Protein. Select low-fat, lean cuts of meat and season them with herbs, spices and low-sodium marinades. Baking, broiling, grilling and roasting are the healthiest preparation methods. Try swapping ground beef for a lean or extra-lean cut, or opt for ground chicken or turkey instead. Non-meat protein options such as dry beans, peas and lentils can even be swapped for meat in recipes such as lasagna or chili.

Dairy. Choose skim or non-dairy milk, like soy, rice or almond milk, and use low-fat or part-skim cheeses in recipes. Nonfat or Greek yogurt can replace sour cream in many recipes and options like sherbet and soft-serve frozen yogurt are lower in fat than ice cream.

Grains. Choose products that list whole grains as the first ingredient, as they are low in fat and high in fiber. Some easy swaps include whole-grain flour, pasta and rice, as well as bypassing doughnuts and pastries for English muffins or bagels and opting for unsalted pretzels instead of potato chips.

Fats, oils and sweets. Too many high-fat foods can add excess calories to your diet, which can lead to weight gain and obesity, or increase your risk for certain health issues. However, a small amount of heart-healthy fat is actually good for you. When it comes to sweets, fig bars and gingersnaps make for healthy alternatives to cookies. Also beware of calorie-laden condiments and opt for nonfat and light mayonnaise and salad dressings instead.

Source: Family Features, Nice!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Protect Your Credit From a Security Breach

September 21, 2017 2:41 am

Recently Equifax, one of our nation's three major credit reporting bureaus, announced that it had been breached. This means millions of consumer credit reports were made available to hackers, including their credit card numbers, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some cases, driver's license numbers. To help, Equifax has created a website ─ https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com ─ where consumers can check to see if their personal information may have been exposed.

In addition, below are additional steps that consumers should take.

Obtain your credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus ─ Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. All consumers are entitled to obtain a free copy of their credit report from each of these companies every 12 months. You can do this by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com, or by calling each of them by phone (Experian at 888-397-3742, TransUnion at 800-680-7289, and Equifax at 800-525-6285).

Consider placing a "credit freeze" on your credit reports with these companies. In most states, including Illinois, each credit bureau may charge you up to a $10 fee for a credit freeze. (Equifax announced on Sept. 12 that it will no longer charge $10 for a security freeze.) A credit freeze prevents lenders and others from accessing your credit information, making it much harder for someone to open a new account of any kind in your name ─ only your current creditors will be able to access your credit report. Also note that you can tell the credit bureaus to lift your credit freeze if you need to apply for new credit, which you can do for a particular credit application or temporarily for a chosen period of time. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won't prevent your creditors from reporting your payments on existing accounts to the credit bureaus.

Pay close attention to credit card and bank account statements for any unauthorized charges.

Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report files. This alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim, and they should take extra steps to verify that anyone seeking credit in your name is really you!

Consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service. Equifax is offering one free year of credit monitoring to all consumers, regardless of whether your personal information may have been stolen. You can find many other reputable companies that offer this type of service by conducting an Internet search for credit monitoring services.

Source: Equifax
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Here’s How You Can Afford Your Rent

September 20, 2017 5:17 am

If you’re like many Americans - in particular, millennials who are just starting out on their own - chances are high that your housing costs exceed what you can actually afford. According to federal guidelines, if you’re paying more than 30 percent of your pre-tax dollars on rent, you fall into the ranks of the cost-burdened. Here are some tips from RentHop to make rent more affordable and restore some balance to your wallet...and life.

Try a different neighborhood. This may sound obvious, but moving to a new, more affordable location is often overlooked as an option. While you may be dead set on living in a certain neighborhood, do the math. If living elsewhere means saving hundreds of dollars a month, it might well be worth it. Find out what more affordable neighborhoods are still within reasonable commuting distances to your job or if flex work schedules may be an option.

Try a different apartment. In other words, downgrade. While you may love the high-end amenities and the extra closet space, are they really within your budget? Consider scaling down a bedroom or forgoing an on-site workout facility. Figure out what you can live without and you’ll be rewarded by a much-needed cushion in your bank account.

Get a roommate. If you don’t want to give up the extra space, the great location or the amenities, it may be time to find a roommate. The savings are obvious - reduce your costs by half or two thirds depending on how many roommates you take on. Just be sure to figure out in advance how you’ll handle non-fixed expenses like groceries.

Looks into rental assistance programs. If you’re really having trouble making ends meet and having a roof over your head is in jeopardy, look into rental assistance programs that may be available in your state. These programs have a mission to help low-income tenants and families keep their current housing through providing financial support. Such rental assistance programs can be given through the government, charity programs, local resources, non-profits, etc. Do your research on short- and long-term assistance programs where you’re living. If you qualify as a low – to moderate-income family, you could be eligible.

Talk to your landlord. Before you make any big changes, talk to your landlord. He or she may be willing to accept a late payment or two, or partial payments until you can get back on your feet or find a roommate. This is particularly true if you’re renting from a local individual as opposed to a large property management firm.

Renegotiate your lease. If your lease is up for renewal soon, use this opportunity to renegotiate with your landlord to at least maintain the same price you had been paying. If you’re in a spot where you know there isn’t a lot of interest, it will work in your favor.

Sublet. If you have an opportunity to move to a more affordable place before your lease is up, see if subletting your apartment is an option. Before you do, however, make sure it’s not forbidden in your lease agreement and that there are no other laws against subletting. Discuss it with your landlord to be safe.

So if you’re feeling squeezed by your monthly rent, don’t despair. Sit down with a calculator and consider the options above. There is always a solution.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Save Your Car From Prowlers

September 20, 2017 5:17 am

The thought of having your car broken into is chilling - yet many of us park our cars in unattended lots and on sketchy streets at regular intervals, often in our own neighborhoods.

The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll finds only about 1 in 5 respondents (19 percent) say they're extremely or very concerned about car prowls in their neighborhood. Instead, about half (48 percent) admit they're not very or not at all concerned about the threat of a car break-in. Among those surveyed, a majority of drivers say they regularly take basic precautions to prevent break-ins by locking doors and removing valuables. Just under half (45 percent) say they use an electronic alarm system to protect their car and belongings, as well.  

Beyond those simple steps, PEMCO recommends following these tips to keep valuable possessions safe from car prowlers:
- Never leave your car running unattended, even if you're just going away for a few seconds. If you do need to leave the vehicle, turn the car off, remove the keys and lock the doors so thieves don't have an easy target.

- If you park on the street, find a well-lighted area. Good lighting is even more critical if you're parking overnight, as thieves intent on ransacking cars often strike between 3 and 5 a.m.

- Don't leave anything in view, no matter what you think it may be worth. Even a few coats left innocently piled on the seat might look like they're hiding something worth stealing.

- If you have to leave items in the car, stash them in the trunk, and do it before you park so a prowler doesn't see you. If you don't have a trunk, put belongings out of sight on the floor or under the seat.
Source: www.pemco.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Renovating Your Bathroom? Think Safety First

September 20, 2017 5:17 am

A renovation can be a fun period where your wildest home-design ideas can be put into action. However, when planning out a brand new bathroom, it's important to keep safety in mind, especially if you have seniors or children living in your spaces. Moen notes that children younger than five account for more than half of all slips and falls in the bathroom.

Here are six tips from Moen to help make your bath safe and stylish:

Install grab bars. These bars can make or break a fall in the bathroom. The best places to install them are: 1) near the toilet, 2) along the showerhead wall and 3) on the back wall of the tub/shower.

Choose a dark grab bar. Darker finishes against a lighter wall allows those with impaired vision to easily find grab bars.

Love levers. Faucets with lever handles make turning the fixture on and off easier for everyone.

Go handheld. A handheld shower brings the water to you, which helps keep you safer and makes it easier to bathe children.

Shelf life. Keeping items (like shampoo) within reach on a shelf in your shower helps you avoid slips and falls.

Take a seat. Studies show that women are 72 percent more likely to be injured in the bath or shower than men. Add peace of mind with a shower seat to prevent slips during activities such as shaving legs.

Light it right. Consider three or four globe lights for a well-illuminated, safe bath.

Source: Moen

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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