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Peter Cerruti
440 South West End Blvd, RT 309
Quakertown  PA 18951
 Phone: 215-429-7273
Office Phone: 215-538-4400
Fax: 267-354-6992 
petecerruti@yahoo.com
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Peter Cerruti

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How to Budget for Baby

July 29, 2013 8:40 am

Is the buzz about the royal baby giving you some serious baby fever? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost to raise a child until the age of 18 is $234,900 — a number large enough to make anyone feel as though they would have to be royalty in order to afford a baby.

Luckily, for those considering parenthood for the first time, there are steps you can take beforehand to help ensure you are financially prepared for that bundle of joy. The financial experts at Money Management International (MMI), a nonprofit credit counseling agency, offer the following five tips:

Take control of your debt — now. If you have credit card debt, now is the time to create a solid debt repayment plan. You'll be surprised at the amount of money you can save once those monthly payments are out of the picture. To explore debt repayment options that offer a reasonable payoff time and the potential for lower interest rates, call a nonprofit credit counselor and register for a free debt and budget counseling session.

Explore your health coverage options. Checkups alone for baby can cost more than $100 per visit. You may also want to explore adding long-term disability and life insurance coverage to your existing healthcare plan. Consider reviewing your maternity or paternity leave policies at your workplace.

Know your options. Daycare is one of the largest added expenses that a new baby brings. Considering your childcare options is an important first step. According to a recent study by ChildCare Aware of America, childcare costs for an infant can average more than $300 per week.

Practice living on a "baby budget." If you are planning to live on one salary, start now. This will give you an opportunity to make the necessary lifestyle changes and cutbacks before your bundle of joy arrives, making for a much easier financial transition.

Get tips from the experts — other moms! No one can give you better advice than people who have been through the experience themselves. So ask your friends and family to share their advice or find a local or online support group for parents.

Source: Money Management International

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Despite Changes to Flood Insurance Program, Still Opportunities to Save on Premiums

July 28, 2013 8:40 am

When Congress mandated changes last year to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), before Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast, it meant flood insurance premiums for many homeowners in flood zones would rise. According to Smart Vent Products, Inc., that's because for the first time, rates will reflect such factors as actual flood risk and major improvements to the property, while discounts will be phased out for non-primary residences and cases of repeat claims on the same property, among others. Some may see rates jump by 25 percent starting Oct. 1, 2013.

But even as affected homeowners face a potentially large hit to their wallets, opportunities to save significant money on premiums by meeting various criteria still exist. Under the NFIP reforms, the more you can do to reduce risk, the more you can reduce premiums.

"The best thing homeowners can do is to sit down with a Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM) and discuss your particular situation," says Brian Shaw of Smart Vent. "A CFM can provide you with retrofitting solutions you can take to your agent and see what the reduction in premium will be."

For example, by raising the home above the minimum required elevation standards or dry- or wet-proofing a non-residential building, owners can mitigate potential damage and therefore lower their premiums. Adding flood vents to foundations or installing breakaway walls are other ways to sharply reduce premiums.

In fact, Shaw notes, by coming into compliance with NFIP recommendations, owners can realize savings of up to 83 percent.

In a typical example, one New Orleans homeowner was paying $1,600 annually for flood insurance, post-Katrina. After discussion with his insurance agent, and consulting a Certified Floodplain Manager, he made modifications including installing automatic flood vents, which sent his premium plummeting to approximately $300 per year. His insurance company even sent him $1,300 back from the current year's premium.

FEMA is also in the process of reviewing flood zone designations, and revising them as needed, in some cases removing homes from so-called "V-Zones."

"Several thousand properties in four New Jersey counties were redesignated in June, so you and your insurer should be familiar with the latest flood zone maps before making any costly decisions," Shaw adds.

Source: Smart Vent Products, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Best Summer Home Improvement Projects for Kids

July 28, 2013 8:40 am

Remodeling expert Dan Fritschen wanted a practical, inexpensive way to keep his 12-year-old daughter engaged this summer. So he encouraged her to install a wireless alarm system in their home, a project she was able to complete within a few hours.

Setting up a wireless alarm system was the ideal project for his daughter Chrissy, who completed the job with the help of two other middle school students. They used an easy-to-install security system, watched a YouTube installation video, followed the instructions, added batteries, aligned the sensors, set up the control box, created passwords, and programmed the dialer to call when the alarm is tripped.

"Many kids can benefit from a bit of variety in the typical summer routine," said Fritschen, the creator of RemodelOrMove.com and author of five books on home remodeling. "Installing an alarm system is one example of something they can do that that offers many challenges and learning opportunities and is beneficial to their families."

Fritschen suggests several other simple projects for preteens:

Test your smoke detectors and other devices
Take a walkthrough of your home and point out important safety devices in kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms like smoke detectors, radon detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers. Test the devices and, based on your observations, have your child create a report to recommend those items that need to be improved or replaced. Children can learn budgeting lessons and financial discipline by creating a shopping list that compares brands, features and cost estimates. Shop for any new devices together and let the kids handle installation and putting in new batteries under your supervision using the instructions provided.

Replace a lockset or doorknob
If the doorknobs in your home are dated, why not let your son or daughter select, with your approval, and purchase a new one to replace the old? Standard spacing makes installing most interior locksets simple. An older child under an adult's supervision can use an electric screwdriver to do the job more effectively. Updating your door's hardware will not only enhance the appearance of your home, letting your child take the lead on installation will provide valuable do-it-yourself (DIY) experience.

Add solar landscape lighting
Solar patio lights that get their energy from the sun make your home safer, add ambiance and let you enjoy patios, gardens and decks at night. Planning and installing wireless lighting is a great project that children will enjoy. Everyone – including your neighbors – will appreciate the end result. You can make the project a teachable moment by giving kids a budget along with your objectives. Have them design an installation plan just like a real electrical contractor for you to approve.

"These projects have little room for error, and will provide children with knowledge that he or she can build something," said Fritschen. "Although your child may roll his or her eyes when you suggest these 'fun' projects, they are wonderful opportunities for kids to be responsible while creating value for the family."

Source: remodelormove.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Easy-to-Install Window Trim Options

July 28, 2013 8:40 am

On the “what’s in and what’s out” list for homeowners, naked window exteriors are definitely out. Easy-to-install decorative accents like mouldings, window crossheads and shutters are now trending for homeowners across the country.

“With so many options for enhancing window exteriors using lightweight polyurethane products, even the most novice do-it-yourselfer can change a window exterior from boring to beautiful in a short time,” says Niki Decker with Fypon. “If you can use a tape measure, a hammer and a caulk gun, you can transform your window exteriors!”

Options for homeowners to use include:

Crossheads – Decorative crossheads sit on the top of a window and add a regal look. They can be plain or detailed with keystones in the center to draw attention or detail trim along the length of the crosshead to suit traditional home styles. There are also crosshead arches and eyebrow crossheads that provide a softer, curved look when installed above a window.

Pediments – Stylish and eye-catching, pediments also sit above windows. From curved and peaked sunbursts to triangular peaked caps, acorn and rams head styles, pediments are the most dramatic way to draw attention to your window exteriors.

Pilasters – Not all window enhancements sit on top of the window unit. Usually intended to flank the sides of entry doors, pilasters can also be cut down to run vertically up the sides of windows. Pilasters can be smooth and plain, or have a “fluted” recessed design. They generally have plinths at the top and bottom to balance out the window design and add style to the window surround.

Mouldings - Perhaps the easiest way to surround a window is with flat or decorative trim and plinth blocks. This quick project requires no miter cuts because the plinth blocks are put in all four corners of the window exterior and butt up to straight cuts of smooth, paintable trim pieces. Many homeowners use this technique as a “starting point” and then add in other elements such as pediments and shutters to create their own personal window statement.

Shutters – Another popular way to draw attention to the sides of windows is to add a set of decorative shutters. Available in louvered and raised panel styles that are smooth and paintable, shutters provide the perfect way to carry an accent color throughout the exterior of your home. Or, timber shutters in board, plank and louvered styles can be stained to imitate the look of wood on a home without all the maintenance hassles of real wood.

Window Panels – To add depth to the look of a window, flat and raised panels can be added below the window unit and then enclosed entirely with trim. Window panels tend to fill in space between the bottom of the window and the ground, helping the windows gain more presence and focus on a home exterior.

Pot Shelves
– Available in both timber and stone styles, a pot shelf is placed below the bottom window sill. Oftentimes they’re used to balance out an entire window surround with a finished look.

Source: Fypon, LLC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Smoke and Spice Takes Summer Grilling to New Heights

July 28, 2013 8:40 am

(Family Features) This summer, think inside the box – the smoke box, that is – and turn your grill into a backyard smoker by adding wood chips to impart flavorful depth to meats, seafood and vegetables. Pairing the right spice with the right wood quickly turns an ordinary cookout into an extraordinarily tasty outdoor feast.

“When you combine different spices and seasonings with various types of wood, you can add distinctive layers of flavor to all kinds of grilled foods,” said Chef Kevan Vetter. “If you’re grilling fish – like salmon, for example – a great way to give the meal a unique, smoky flavor is to use pecan or mesquite wood chips. Then add a complementary seasoning.”

Serve up this spicy, smoky recipe for Five Pepper Salmon, which pairs perfectly with a grilled corn succotash.

Five Pepper Salmon
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 14 minutes
Makes: 6 servings

1 cup pecan or mesquite wood chips
4 teaspoons McCormick Grill Mates Fiery 5 Pepper Seasoning
4 teaspoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 pounds of salmon fillets
Olive oil

Soak wood chips in enough water to cover for 1 hour. Drain wood chips. Fill smoker box with wet wood chips. Place smoker box under grill rack on one side of grill. Close lid. Heat grill on high heat about 10 minutes until smoke appears from chips. Reduce heat to medium.

Mix seasoning and sugar in small bowl. Brush salmon lightly with oil. Rub generously with seasoning mixture.

Place salmon on grill. Close lid. Grill salmon 6 to 7 minutes per side or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Source: McCormick

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Innovative Green Renovations

July 28, 2013 8:40 am

Recycling, composting, collecting gray water—these are all ways you can save money and help the environment without leaving your property. However, if you are planning to sell, a few green renovations can go a long way in terms of appealing to buyers. Below are a few green insider tips on eco-friendly changes you can make to your home.

1. Recycled Roof Tiles
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, asphalt shingles represent up to 10 percent of residential jobsite waste. By using reclaimed clay or stone tiles, or slate, you can do your part to help keep tiling out of landfills, and save some cash while you’re at it.

2. Low-Energy Lighting
Electric lighting burns up to 25 percent of the average home energy budget. Adding low-energy light fixtures can have a large impact on your bills.

3. Lime Mortar
Using a lime mortar in brick or stone homes is a healthier choice than a cement-based mortar. Lime manufacturing produces less carbon dioxide, and it actually re-absorbs carbon dioxide, which lowers its carbon footprint even further.

4. Low Energy Appliances
Adding energy efficient appliances in your bathroom and kitchen packs a big appeal to buyers. A low energy toilet, shower, stove and refrigerator are all great choices.

5. Natural Flooring
Choose flooring from sustainable sources, like bamboo, which is classified as a renewable source. Bamboo supplies can be produced quickly and efficiently, which is why it’s a great flooring choice, and delivers less of an impact than wood, but still has a great look.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Planning for an American Dream Retirement

July 28, 2013 8:40 am

It’s no wonder baby boomers worry about outliving their retirement savings. One out of four 65-year-olds today can expect to live past 90, and if they’re married, one of every four will live even longer.

With 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day, it’s a big worry for 26 percent of the U.S. population.

“The biggest concern for boomers is living too long, or getting sick, and running out of money,” says Rao K. Garuda, an engineer-turned-independent financial planning advisor specializing in working with seniors, high net-worth business owners, and professionals.

“The average 65-year-old retires today with $500,000 to $1 million in assets, and while that might sound like a lot to a 20-year-old, it isn’t,” Garuda says.

Even if you plan to continue some kind of work post-retirement – as many people do, whether because they must or because they enjoy it – it’s imperative to plan ahead for the day you can’t work, he says.

“Equally important, people deserve the freedom to make choices about how they’ll spend their last 20 or 30 years, especially if they’ve spent 45 years going to work every day. That’s part of the American Dream,” Garuda says. “And you don’t have to earn a fortune to save a fortune!”
Garuda shares four things everyone should know about preparing for retirement:

• Save first, then spend. Most people spend first, and then try to save what’s left, Garuda says. The secret is to make saving first your priority. “The people who save first will always be the people who are employing everyone else,” he says. The more you can save the better, but that will vary at different stages of your life. At the minimum, 10 percent is a good rule of thumb.

• Take advantage of tax-free savings. Taxes are the biggest expense anyone has. Besides federal, state, city and death taxes, there are 59 other different ways your money is taxed, Garuda says. “If you save $1, Uncle Sam will help you by waiting for his cut of that $1. With planning, you can put him on hold for about two generations,” he says. With tax-free compounding, a relatively small amount of money saved can yield huge returns years from now.

• Decide how you’ll manage risk. There is risk in everything, and Garuda warns that those who simply choose to ignore it, do so at their own peril. Others choose to “go broke safely” – they avoid risk to such an extent, they lose money. A good example is people putting all their savings in CDs that pay just 1 percent; since that’s lower than the rate of inflation, they’re losing money. In some cases, people transfer risk to someone else, for instance, when they buy homeowners insurance. Finally, they choose to manage their risk emotionally, psychologically and technically through asset allocation rebalancing and other tools that allow you the amount of risk you’re willing to assume while still providing opportunities for growth.

• Create tax-free income. “My favorite question to ask people is, ‘What have you done to create tax-free income?’” Garuda says. There are many ways to do this – Roth IRAs, life insurance, tax-free bonds, annuities – but most involve working with a knowledgeable financial planner. “An indexed life insurance policy is a great one; it protects your money while offering a lot of benefits. But it’s like a Swiss army knife – there are a lot of ways to use it, and most people don’t know how to use it properly,” Garuda says.

Source: www.aca-incorp.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Ant Prevention

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

(Family Features) Of all the pests that can take up residence in your home this summer, ants are among the most common, and they don’t discriminate.

“Treat ants proactively, even if you only see one or two,” advises Jason Cameron, licensed contractor and host of DIY Network’s “Desperate Landscapes.” Cameron’s long experience in home remodeling and carpentry makes him an expert on how to detect and discover entry points for potentially destructive ants to enter the home. “Taking preventative measures will help you protect both the inside and outside of your home from these pesky insects.”

Here are a few of Cameron’s tips and tricks to help protect your home and outdoor spaces from ants:

Treat Using a Systematic Approach
Even if you only see a few, adopt a systematic approach to help treat the ants you see and even those you don’t. Start by treating the perimeter of your home using a product such as Raid Max Bug Barrier to defend against ants that want to enter your house. Next, use an instant-action product indoors to kill them on contact. Treat areas such as baseboards and entry points, as they are prime locations for ants to infiltrate homes. Finally, place baits in areas where you see individual ants or ones following a trail or path to protect against bigger problems in the future. Do not place ant baits in areas where sprays were used.

Clear Damp Areas
Ants love to build their colonies in moist areas, especially those in which organic mulch, leaves, weeds, branches and brush remnants collect. Places such as where rain gutters overflow are perfect environments for ants, so be sure to clean them out regularly. If you have an ant problem year after year, see if there is any wet debris up against your home and get rid of it. Use stone mulch and cut back weeds around the foundation.

Store Food Properly
To help protect the inside of your home from ants, store food in sealed containers, use dried goods in a timely manner and sweep up crumbs immediately. Even a small crumb on the floor is a large meal for an ant colony. Also, be sure to clean up after your pets. Many ant problems are the result of pet food bowls being left out with food remnants in them. Be sure to have an instant-action spray on hand, such as Raid Ant & Roach Killer, to kill bugs on contact. Be sure to read the label carefully when treating in and around food-prep areas.

Monitor Mounds
Outdoor mounds are nests that are underground. They are a big cue for a colony of ants, so when you see them, be sure to treat them right away with a pest control product.

Check Trees
Carpenter ants are the largest of all ant species and usually get into homes from nearby trees. Inspect trees on your property for nests and treat as needed. Most carpenter ant nests are found in decaying wood in trees with holes or imperfections. In fact, carpenter ants can hollow out the wood throughout your home, causing problems that can be costly to repair.

To learn more about how to keep bugs out of your home, visit www.RaidKillsBugs.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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June Existing-Home Sales Slip but Prices Continue to Roll at Double-Digit Rates

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

Existing-home sales declined in June but have stayed well above year-ago levels for the past two years, while the median price shows seven straight months of double-digit year-over-year increases, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, dipped 1.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.08 million in June from a downwardly revised 5.14 million in May, but are 15.2 percent higher than the 4.41 million-unit level in June 2012.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there is enough momentum in the market, even with higher interest rates. “Affordability conditions remain favorable in most of the country, and we’re still dealing with a large pent-up demand,” he said. “However, higher mortgage interest rates will bite into high-cost regions of California, Hawaii and the New York City metro area market.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.07 percent in June from 3.54 percent in May, and is the highest since October 2011 when it was also 4.07 percent; the rate was 3.68 percent in June 2012.

Total housing inventory at the end of June rose 1.9 percent to 2.19 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 5.2-month supply at the current sales pace, up from 5.0 months in May. Listed inventory remains 7.6 percent below a year ago, when there was a 6.4-month supply. “Inventory conditions will continue to broadly favor sellers and contribute to above-normal price growth,” Yun remarked.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $214,200 in June, up 13.5 percent from June 2012. This marks 16 consecutive months of year-over-year price increases, which last occurred from February 2005 to May 2006.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Half of America's 74 Million Cats are Not Receiving Regular Veterinary Care

July 24, 2013 6:04 am

A study conducted by Bayer HealthCare found that more than half of the nation's cats (52 percent) had not been taken to the veterinarian within the last year for needed checkups. Because the first two years of a cat's life equal 24 years of a human's life – with each successive year equivalent to four human years – annual examinations are essential to keeping cats healthy and preventing potentially serious disease problems.

Feline resistance single biggest obstacle to veterinary visits
According to the Feline Findings Study, 58 percent of owners report that their cats hate going to the veterinary clinic and, for 38 percent of them, just thinking about it was stressful. The study found that most cats fear being placed into a cat carrier and transported by car, so many owners simply opt not to put up with the hassle.

The Feline Five: five things cat owners can do to improve feline healthcare
"There are five easy steps owners can take right now to increase the likelihood their cats will be healthy," said Bayer's Dr. von Simson. "We call them the Feline Five."

1. Make the cat carrier a familiar, comfortable place.
Reduce feline resistance to the cat carrier by placing it near to where the cat rests with soft bedding, leave the door open and occasionally place treats in the carrier.

2. Familiarize your cat with your car.
Prepare your cat for the car ride to the clinic by taking her on rides in the carrier as you run normal errands.

3. Recognize the importance of regular check-ups.
Since the first two years of a cat's life equal 24 years of a human's life – with each successive year equivalent to four human years – your cat needs veterinary check-ups at least annually.

4. Realize that cats keep secrets, so you must be a cat detective.
Health problems often go undetected for a long time because cats hide signs of illness, so be attentive.

5. Know the signs of illness and injury.
 Signs include: changes in interactions, activity, sleeping habits, food and water consumption, grooming and/or vocalization; unexplained weight loss or gain; signs of stress; and/or bad breath.

Source: Bayer HealthCare LLC, Animal Health Division

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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