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Diane Minguez
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
 Phone: 267-575-6818
Office Phone: 215-362-2260
Cell: 267-575-6818
Fax: 267-354-6882 
dminguez@remax.net
Diane Minguez

My Blog

3 Important Finance Lessons for Your Teen

May 15, 2013 1:42 am

More high school students than ever will be collecting diplomas in the coming weeks, an increase attributed in part to new career-oriented schools that help students appreciate the link between learning and earning.

“After 40 years, we’re finally seeing significant improvements in high school graduation rates. The national average shot up from 72 percent in 2001 to 78 percent in 2010,” says retired business executive Cary Siegel, author of “Why Didn’t They Teach Me This in School? 99 Personal Money Management Principles to Live By.”

“While it’s wonderful to offer initiatives like career-prep schools, I worry these new high school and college graduates won’t have a clue about how to manage their paychecks.

“I wish I’d learned these things in school – I would’ve made fewer mistakes,” he says. “My main goal was to retire early enough to spend time with my kids while they were still young, and I was able to do that. It’s not because I’m rich; I’m not! It’s because I learned how to effectively manage my money.”

All high school and college grads should leave school armed with that knowledge, says the father of five teenagers ages 13 to 17.

Siegel offers three of his favorite tips:

Just say no to credit cards. (And don’t get one in college!) Credit card companies inundate college students with special offers. They want to hook you early on! But getting hooked on credit cards is as bad as getting hooked on drugs. The more you use them, the easier they are to use, and since you’re not required to pay off the balance each month, you can quickly spiral into debt. You pay for that debt, too. The average interest rate on student credit cards in April was 17.4 percent – which means for every dollar of debt you have, you’re charged almost 18 cents every month.

Know what your bills are and take action when they go up. It’s amazing how many people don’t know what they’re paying their service providers each month. (If you don’t know within $5 what each monthly bill is, you’re probably overpaying on many of them.) When your cable, Internet or cellphone company tells you it’s increasing its rates, call the company and ask to speak to a manager or someone in the retention department. Be polite and don’t raise your voice. Ask for detailed rationale for the increase; often, this will immediately stop the increase. If it doesn’t, stress how long you’ve been with the company and your excellent payment history.

Spend an hour a week learning about personal finance. Once you start, you’ll find you’re learning so much, you’ll spend more than an hour exploring. Some free resources include the Internet and the library. Look for a financially savvy individual, write up a list of questions, and ask if you can interview them. You may not have to look any further for this than your own family. Just one hour a week adds up to a lot of time over a few years: 52 hours your first year, and more than 200 hours during four years of college. “I’m fairly certain that is more time than 95 percent of other college students spend on learning personal money management,” Siegel says.

Source: www.carysiegel.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Top Five Summer Home Maintenance Tips

May 15, 2013 1:42 am

The warmer weather has us all heading outside to soak up the sun, but it’s also a good reminder to take care of some basic things around your house. With more than 400 locations in the U.S. and Canada, Pillar To Post offers their top five home maintenance tips for the warmer months:

Inspect air-conditioners: If you have central air, you’ll want to clean the exterior condenser unit and all of its components, removing debris and trimming back any plants that are growing near it. You should also rinse down the interior of the unit, straighten out bent fins and lubricate the motor. You’ll also want to clean or change the air filters, inspect the drain line for debris and make sure all hoses fit securely. You can do this all yourself with guidance from the unit’s owners’ manual or call in a professional. If you have window units, the job is a little bit easier. You simply have to install the units and clean the filters. This is also a good time to deep clean all the fans and ceiling fans in your home.

Mulch: Adding a layer of mulch to gardens and other non-grassy areas helps prevent weeds. It also helps the soil to hold moisture and nutrients during the warmer months, giving your plants a better chance of growing.

Inspect for leaks: Checking exterior hoses and faucets for leaks can lead to big savings. Even a small leak can cost big bucks. Many small leaks can be fixed with a piece of electrical tape. You’ll want to call in an expert for larger leaks.

Clean siding: Avoid streaks by applying the cleaner starting at the bottom and working your way up and rinsing from the top down. Cleaning your home’s siding yearly can help prevent mold, mildew and staining. Taking the time to keep your home’s siding clean will also keep it looking brand new, adding value to your home.

Inspect your crawlspace: Check for signs of termites and moisture. Even floors that appear dry can be damp. Dampness can cause damage to the entire house. If you have a dirt floor, installing a vapor barrier is recommended. If you have concrete, sealing it is ideal. This annual check is also a great time to check sewer lines, particularly beneath toilets and sinks, for evidence of leaks.

Source: Pillar To Post

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Timely Tips for Home Buying

May 14, 2013 1:40 am

Regardless of market conditions, a home is not only a place to live, but also a financial asset and a plan for the future. But is it the right time for you to buy? Here are a few general rules to consider:

- Steady employment. It's essential to have a reliable source of income.

- A solid credit score. A bad credit score will increase mortgage interest rates. Potential homeowners should clean up their credit report and ensure that long-term debts are paid before considering homeownership. And when selecting a house, a potential buyer should determine the qualities that best suit his or her situation.

- An affordable price. The total cost of a home should generally be less than 2.5 years' pay. Ensure that the down payment and monthly mortgage payments are manageable.

- Location, location, location. Where a home is located can change its value dramatically. Being in a district with good schools, for example, is important -- both for raising the family and for resale value. Also consider what's going on in the community. Are peace and quiet high priorities, for example? Then perhaps a rural or suburban environment would work best. By contrast, if a desire for high culture and a fast lifestyle is a factor, then an urban setting might be preferred.

- Size matters. Is the home big enough, and will it allow for future growth?

Finally, when buying the house …

- Get some help from the pros. Using a real estate agent and a home inspector is important in selecting a good home and making an appropriate bid.

- Make the right mortgage move. When selecting a mortgage, determine whether it's better to pay additional points: One portion of the interest paid at closing may lead to greater savings down the road. If the plan is to stay around for a while (i.e., more than five years), experts say it's usually better to take the points.

Follow these tips and make your home-owning dream a reality. Buying a home is truly a life milestone, and it can be a big step towards financial security. Finding a good house in a nice neighborhood could be the key to making a home investment pay off.

Source: ForeclosedHomes.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Itch Relief Basics

May 14, 2013 1:40 am

(Family Features) From bug bites and dry skin to poison ivy and chronic skin conditions, itching makes life very uncomfortable. And it’s an annoyance that gets under just about everyone’s skin.

Sixty-five percent of U.S. adults have suffered from some kind of itch in the past 12 months; and for 26 percent of those polled, the itch was bad enough to see a healthcare professional, according to a recent poll conducted online by Harris Interactive for TriCalm, a new anti-itch gel.

You know it when you feel it, but what exactly is an itch, and is there anything you can do about it?

Anatomy of an Itch
The skin is your largest organ, and the average body is covered by about 20 square feet of it. Because it’s so large and exposed, it comes in contact with a lot of potential irritants. Itching, known as pruritus, is a built-in defense mechanism against those irritants.

Sometimes the body’s immune system overreacts to an illness, producing an itchy rash. But for most non-illness related itching, here’s how it works:

—Stimuli — such as dust, pollen, bug venom or plant oils — land on your skin.
—When the irritant gets past the surface layer, skin receptors get irritated.
—The receptors send a signal to your brain.
—You start to itch.

The natural response to an itch is to remove the irritant — so the scratching begins. The scratching sensation interrupts the itching sensation because it tells your brain that the irritant is gone. While this may give some initial, immediate relief, scratching ends up irritating the nerve endings in that spot even more — and can open up the skin, exposing it to more irritants. And more itching.

Itch Treatments
It’s important to make sure you know the cause of the itching so you can take appropriate measures to stop it. There are some things you can do to help reduce itching and soothe irritated skin:

—Avoid scratching — Cover the area with bandages or dressings if you can’t stop scratching. If needed, trim your fingernails and wear gloves to bed.
—Apply cool, wet compresses.
—Apply a topical anti-itch cream or lotion to the affected area.
—Moisturize your skin with a high-quality cream at least twice a day.

Kids Get Itchy, Too
Itches make kids — and their parents — feel pretty bad.

—81 percent of parents are miserable when their kids are miserable from itch symptoms.
—62 percent said itching keeps their children up at night.
—68 percent indicated they’ve used creams to treat itch symptoms.
—75 percent said they worry about using steroid treatments on their children to treat itch.

When is an itch more than just an itch?
It’s obvious when an itch is caused by a bug bite or poison ivy. But what if you’re not sure what’s causing the itch?

—Dry Skin — Itching that doesn’t come with obvious skin changes, like a rash, is most often due to dry skin, also known as xerosis. Dry skin usually results from environmental factors like hot or cold weather with low humidity, and washing or bathing too much.
—Skin Conditions — Eczema, psoriasis, scabies, hives, and chickenpox can cause itchy skin. The itching is usually accompanied by other symptoms such as bumps, blisters, and red, irritated skin.
—Internal Diseases — These include liver disease, kidney failure, thyroid problems, celiac disease and some cancers. Typically the itching affects the whole body, not just one area.
—Allergic Reactions and Irritations — An irritation can come from wearing wool, or coming in contact with soaps, chemicals or other substances. Sometimes the substance can cause an allergic reaction, such as poison ivy or some food allergens.
—Nerve Disorders — Multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus, pinched nerves and shingles are conditions that affect the nervous system, and thus can cause itching.
—Drugs — Some antibiotics, antifungal drugs or narcotic pain medications can cause rashes and itching.

It’s important to understand and treat the cause of itchy skin, so always seek medical advice before choosing a treatment.

Source: TriCalm

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Tips for Working with Professional Landscapers

May 14, 2013 1:40 am

If you're trying to sell your home this spring, working with a professional can boost your home's curb appeal and attract possible buyers to the door. As any landscaper would tell you, the condition of your lawn can have a big effect on the value of your home. If you plan on hiring some help, here are a few tips to help you get the biggest bang for your buck.

Talk to several landscapers before deciding to hire one. Scheduling consultations with multiple landscapers is important. Have them come survey your property and make recommendations on what needs to be done. Use them as consultants, helping you narrow down the work that needs to be done versus extra frills you would like to add to the process. For smaller tasks such as mowing, weeding, gardening or raking, you may want to consider hiring a local teenager or family member in order to save money.

Request estimates. Now that you know what it is you want to have done, request an estimate from at least three of the consultants you met with. Depending on the company, costs could range greatly and the differences could be thousands of dollars. For example, according to the Consumers' Checkbook, a tree-removal job could cost anywhere from $1,935 to $6,300 and lawn care could range from $229 to $805. Finding out what each company will charge you for the job is crucial to staying in budget.

Don't be hasty on saying 'yes.' If your landscaper suggests an add-on of any sort, think it through before OK-ing it. Sometimes your company might recommend various fertilizers, treatment or sprayings, but make sure there is a good reason and necessity for it. The more your landscaper provides, the higher your bill will be.

Quite possibly the most important step: Don't pay until the job is finished. If possible, pay nothing until the job is fully completed. If the landscaper requires a payment, do so with a credit card. If the job isn't finished to your satisfaction, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company. By not paying up front, you also have more leverage in terms of ensuring that the job is completed the way you want it. Keep this in mind while you're hiring professional help.

Hiring a professional landscaper can improve your curb appeal by leaps and bounds
. However, keep these tips in mind to make sure you get the most for your money.

Source: Chicago Tribune, Consumers' Checkbook

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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8 Tips toward Unplugging on Vacation

May 13, 2013 1:34 am

You have your iPhone, your BlackBerry or your Android. You have your laptop or netbook with WiFi. It's hard enough to unplug for the weekend, let alone an entire vacation, but for your own sanity and even that of your coworkers, you need to. There's no reason to take a vacation only to spend it working. The beach might be great, but think about how much better it would be if your phone was left in your hotel room.

Vacations are meant to help employees recharge so they can return to work re-energized and refocused. But if you're constantly checking in with the office, you won't get a real break. To help you unplug and look forward to your vacation, here are eight tips:

1. Plan ahead. Coordinate your vacation time with your co-workers, team and other executive staff to ensure that things run smoothly while you're out.
2. Designate your main point of contact and give them a detailed account of all your projects and work commitments along with your emergency contact information.
3. Try to leave the majority of your work-related hardware at home.
4. Inform your key accounts, vendors and clients when and how long you'll be out of the office.
5. If you have a lot of projects that will need attention while you're out, consider distributing your projects among your co-workers or team.
6. If you can't resist the temptation to check in, try to set up specific times or days you will be checking messages.
7. Leave your mobile devices in your room so you can concentrate on family and friends and not be tempted to check in during the day.
8. If you receive urgent voicemails or emails while you're out, ask your main point of contact to troubleshoot the issue.

Remember, your health is important and taking a vacation may be all the help you need.

Source: CareerCast.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Energy-and Water-Saving Tips for Your Apartment or Condo

May 13, 2013 1:34 am

Energy costs and growing concerns about the environment are prompting many homeowners to try to reduce the amount of energy and water they use. Cutting down on your energy use can also help you save money, whether you pay your utility bills directly or through your rent or condominium fees. If you live in an apartment or condo, the following tips can help you save energy and water, and make your home more comfortable:

• Seal any cracks or holes in your walls, ceiling, floors, windows and doors to keep drafts out, and keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
• Take advantage of natural heat from the sun by opening your curtains and blinds on sunny winter days, and closing them at night to keep the heat inside. Watch for any water that may form on the windows and wipe it up to prevent damage and mold growth. In the summer, keep your curtains and blinds closed during the day. If security isn't an issue, try opening windows in the evening and early morning to let the cool air in, and then closing them during the day to keep the heat out.
• Make sure the exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathrooms are clean, dust-free and working efficiently. Keep your refrigerator working efficiently by cleaning the evaporator coils once a year and ensuring the door firmly seals shut.
• Fix leaky faucets and toilets, and consider installing low-flow showerheads and low-flush toilets.
• Use fluorescent tubes or compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in your home. CFLs are 75 to 80 percent more efficient than incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. Make sure you dispose of them properly as they contain small amounts of mercury that can be harmful to the environment.
• If you're purchasing appliances or electronic equipment, check the EnerGuide label on large appliances or the ENERGY STAR® ratings for electronics, home office products and small appliances. If you're purchasing a new washer, consider a front-loading model. Front-loading washers use up to 40 per cent less water and 60 per cent less energy than top-loading machines.
• If you're buying an air conditioner, look for a model with an energy efficiency rating (EER) of at least 11 and an ENERGY STAR® symbol on the label. Clean the filters every month and set your thermostat higher or off when you're not home.
• Turn off lights, appliances and electrical equipment when you're not using them. Take the stairs if you live near the ground floor. Try to run only full loads when washing clothes or using the dishwasher.
• Remember: always consult with your building manager or landlord before undertaking any maintenance, repairs or improvements to your unit. For major repairs, you may also want to hire a contractor or other qualified professional.

Source: CMHC

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Keep Decks Looking New with Proper Maintenance

May 13, 2013 1:34 am

A deck is a great investment. It increases your home’s usable living space at a fraction of the cost of adding an inside room. Remodeling magazine estimates a properly maintained deck will return about 77 percent of its original cost. But no one wants to buy a home where they are going to immediately incur costly deck repairs. Courtesy of Pillar To Post, here are a few tips for caring for decks:

• Deep Clean: This is best done on a cloudy day before the weather gets too hot. Start by sweeping the deck and removing debris that’s trapped between the deck boards. A putty knife is great for this. You can attach it to a pipe or dowel rod so that you don’t have to bend over the entire time. Then, wash wood decks and all railings with a standard deck cleaner. You can also mix bleach and water at a ratio of one-to-one. If you have composite deck, make sure you use a cleaner specifically formulated for composite material.

Seal the deck: This should be done 48 hours after the deep clean. You can test if your deck needs sealing by splashing some water on it. The water should bead up. If it soaks into the deck, you need to reseal it. Most decks will need to be resealed annually.

Inspect and Repair: In the warm, dry summer months, inspect the deck for signs of rot. This is easily done by poking a flat-blade screwdriver into areas that look worn. If you can push the screwdriver more than a quarter-inch into the deck, you should repair it. Small areas, anything about an inch or smaller, can be chiseled out and treated with wood preservative. If the rot covers a larger area, you should consult a professional to evaluate the deck and recommend repairs. Also, you’ll want to tighten any screws that are loose on the railing and add galvanized lag screws to posts that need extra support.

Preventive measures: Before winter comes, secure or replace loose and missing nails. Trimming back bushes near the deck will prevent mold, moss and rot. Moving planters, chairs, tables and other items that are on the deck will prevent the deck from becoming discolored.

Source: www.pillartopostfranchise.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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New ‘Treat Obesity Seriously’ Effort Encourages Treatment of Obesity as a Serious Health Condition

May 10, 2013 1:30 am

With two out of three adults in the United States considered obese or overweight, obesity scientists and clinicians are asking that obesity be treated as a serious health condition, such as heart disease and cancer, to bring us closer to combating the epidemic. The Obesity Society (TOS), the leading professional society dedicated to better understanding, preventing and treating obesity, is launching the Treat Obesity Seriously campaign to encourage a shift in the way Americans look at the disease. The effort is aimed at educating policymakers on the need to recognize obesity as a serious condition and providing clinicians the tools to diagnose and treat obesity.

"Obesity is one of the most complex, chronic medical conditions," said Harvey Grill, PhD, TOS President. "Successful treatment often requires the support and guidance of professionals. Unfortunately, the way many people look at obesity in the U.S. is limiting the treatment approach, which often means lower standards of care, inconsistent communication of treatment options, and disjointed care coordination. Multidisciplinary care is necessary to treat obesity, particularly given the complex nature of the disease and its impact on both physical and mental health."

It is widely accepted that obesity puts individuals at risk for more than 30 health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Obesity also has a strong correlation to depression. However, evidence increasingly shows that it is harder for some people to take effective steps on their own to lose weight. For example, brain activity studies show that obese people get a smaller "reward" when eating than people of normal weight and each year more genetic factors are found to be associated with obesity.

As part of the effort, TOS is looking to policymakers to improve access for obesity treatment so those affected can get the same necessary medical care and treatment coverage that's available to all others who suffer from other chronic diseases. Some members of Congress are already working to improve access to weight-loss counseling and new prescription drugs for chronic weight management through Medicare. Legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.

In fact, a 5–10 percent weight loss alone can have significant benefits for a patients' health and new research shows that preventing obesity can have substantial long-term cost savings for the entire healthcare system.

"Obesity treatment is a smart strategy to improve public health and clinician engagement is an important factor," said Grill. "Patients are three times more likely to lose weight if their healthcare provider talks to them about the variety of options available for managing and treating the disease."

Through the newly launched campaign website, clinicians can sign up to receive the following tools by mail:

• BMI prescription pad: Clinicians can record and share information with patients about BMI and waist circumference, two of the primary measures of obesity. The pad also includes information about obesity-related risks and provides links to find out more information about the disease.
• Physician office poster, "Obesity is a serious disease": As they wait to see the doctor, patients can learn more about obesity, such as related health conditions and the significant impact moderate weight loss, as little as 5 percent, can have on these conditions.
• BMI wheel calculator: Technology is not necessary to determine BMI. This simple, circular paper tool allows for a quick calculation of BMI by matching height and weight.

Source: The Obesity Society

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Do It Yourself or Hire a Professional?

May 10, 2013 1:30 am

To celebrate National Home Remodeling Month in May, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers recommends that homeowners consider the safety risks, time delays and hidden costs before attempting do-it-yourself (DIY) home improvements.

According to the 2011 American Housing Survey (AHS) from the HUD/Census Bureau, home owner do-it-yourself (DIY) projects accounted for 37 percent of all home remodeling projects performed nationwide from 2010-2011 but only 18 percent of all remodeling spending. DIY home improvement projects tend to be smaller, require less technical training and expertise and cost less, with 50 percent of homeowners spending less than $950 on these projects. At the same time the median spending on professional remodeling projects is close to $4,000.

One of the most expensive remodeling projects is a kitchen addition, with half of these projects costing more than $27,000. Very few homeowners attempt or manage to add a kitchen on their own. The AHS data show that more than 80 percent of kitchen additions are done professionally. Replacing roofing is also largely outsourced to professional remodelers, 82 percent of these projects are completed by professionals. Homeowners also tend to hire professionals when it comes to home improvement projects that require technical training and, often, a professional license. Close to 90 percent of all remodeling projects that involve adding or replacing a HVAC system are done professionally. Almost two thirds of projects that replace internal water pipes, electrical system, major equipment and appliances are completed by professionals. Not only that homeowners might not have the right tools and knowledge to complete these projects, but many warranties become void by improper installation.

Homeowners are more adventurous and successful in finishing smaller projects. About half of all plumbing fixture replacements are completed with no professional help. More than half of all bedroom and recreation room renovations are completed by homeowners as well. These tend to be smaller projects, with half of them costing less than $1,500 and $1,600, respectively. Professional bedroom and recreation room renovations are bigger in scope with median spending of $5,000 and close to $7,000, respectively.

Source: NAHB Eye on Housing

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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