June Croissette
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RE/MAX 440   June Croissette
440 South West End Blvd, RT 309  Quakertown, PA  18951
Office Phone: 215-538-4400    Phone: 215-538-4400 Ext. 1210  Fax: 267-354-6834  Cell: 215-872-4966
jcroissette@remax440.com

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Most Americans Not Saving More for Retirement

August 22, 2013 1:48 am

Only 18 percent of working Americans are saving more for retirement now than they were one year ago, according to a new Bankrate.com report. Seventeen percent are saving less and 54 percent are saving about the same amount.

Bankrate commissioned similar surveys in August 2011 and August 2012. This year's results are virtually identical to last year's. There has been some improvement since 2011, when 29 percent of working Americans were saving less for retirement than they were in 2010.

Employed Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 are the most likely of all age brackets to be saving less this year than last.

"This is troubling considering the availability of catch-up contributions for those 50 and up, as well as the higher 2013 contribution limits for all eligible IRA and 401(k) contributors," said Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate.com's senior financial analyst.

Upper-middle-income households are another trouble spot: 21 percent are saving less for retirement than they were last year and only 14 percent are saving more.

Overall, the Bankrate.com Financial Security Index is down for a second straight month, but at 100.5, it is clinging to a level above 100 that indicates improved financial security versus one year ago. The Index has been above 100 for six consecutive months.

Readings slipped on all five components in August (job security, net worth, debt, savings and overall financial situation). Four of the five, however, are still showing improvement over the past year. Savings remains the weak link, with those saying they're less comfortable outnumbering those that are more comfortable by a margin of nearly two-to-one. Consumers have voiced negative sentiment on savings in every month since polling began in Dec. 2010.

Following this month's disappointing unemployment report, job security among the highest-income households (annual income greater than $75,000) turned negative compared with one year ago.

Source: Bankrate, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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TripAdvisor Unleashes the Top 10 Pet-Friendly Properties in the U.S.

August 22, 2013 1:48 am

Popular travel website TripAdvisor, recently unveiled the results of its pet travel survey of more than 1,100 U.S. respondents, and the top 10 pet-friendly properties in America, according to TripAdvisor travelers. The number of U.S. respondents who plan to hit the road with their furry friends in the next 12 months (44 percent) is significantly down from the past year (71 percent). Fifty-one percent of respondents maintain that it's challenging to find animal-friendly accommodations; however, TripAdvisor has identified some deluxe digs for Fido and family.

Top 10 Pet-Friendly Properties in the U.S.:

1. Beachside Village Resort, Lauderdale by the Sea, Fla. – Average Nightly Rate: $205+ Pet owners visiting Florida's East Coast can enjoy a relaxing stay with their pooch in one of the premier hotel rooms, studios, or suites at this seaside property. Dedicated pet walkers are available upon request for pups in need of a promenade. "The pool area is great and you are right across the street from the beach. Best of all: It's small-dog friendly," commented a TripAdvisor traveler. The hotel welcomes pets weighing 35 pounds or less, and there is a fee of $25 per night for pets.

2. Olea Hotel, Glen Ellen, Calif. – Average Nightly Rate: $260+
Located in Sonoma County, travelers can enjoy the unique amenities at this small boutique hotel. Pets are welcome in the Hillside Queen Rooms and dogs will even receive a special welcome basket that includes treats, bowls and towels. A TripAdvisor traveler noted, "The inn keeper personally showed us to our room where we were welcomed with a cute little gift basket of treats for both us and our pup." There is a fee of $25 per night for pets.

3. Bardessono, Yountville, Calif. – Average Nightly Rate: $650+
Traveling pet owners visiting Napa Valley are invited to stay at this sustainable hotel that boasts organic cotton bed linens and handcrafted bath products. Pooches will be given plush dog beds and bowls to enjoy their supper. A TripAdvisor traveler said, "If you are looking for a small, upscale resort that pampers you (and your pet) do not miss the opportunity to stay here." There is a one-time fee of $150 for pets.

4. Inn of the Five Graces, Santa Fe, New Mexico – Average Nightly Rate: $650+
Located in one of Santa Fe's most historic neighborhoods, this former adobe building is now a spectacular hotel adorned with exotic antiques, rugs, textiles and architectural elements. Guests traveling with pets 50 pounds or less are welcome to stay in one of five perfectly appointed rooms. A TripAdvisor traveler noted, "Waiting in the suite were treats and stuffed animals for the animals!" There is a fee of $75 per night for pets.

5. Five Pine Lodge & Spa, Sisters, Ore. – Average Nightly Rate: $235+
Travelers can hunker down in one of three pet-friendly cabins that provide plush beds, soaking tubs and private balconies, while nearby hiking trails offer plenty of outdoor fun for four-legged friends. A TripAdvisor traveler said, "The pet-friendly cabins are at the edge of the property, just steps away from the bordering forest, so very easy to take them out for walks." There is a fee of $25 per night for pets.

6. The Grand Del Mar, San Diego, Calif. – Average Nightly Rate: $595+
Luxury awaits man and his best friend at this Mediterranean estate. Travelers can relax in the pristine guestrooms where four-legged friends will find their own amenities, including beds, bowls and toys. A TripAdvisor traveler commented, "We had our dog, and the grounds are very green and lush and it was a perfect place to let him roam outside." The hotel welcomes pets weighing 25 pounds or less, with a one-time $100 fee.

7. Sunglow Ranch – Arizona Guest Ranch and Resort, Pearce, Ariz. – Average Nightly Rate: $299+
Situated on 475 acres, pets will have plenty of space to play at this western-style ranch. Traveling pet owners can enjoy a leisurely stroll on the property's three-mile trail and later unwind in the "Hummingbird" and "Coyote" casitas that welcome pets weighing 25 pounds or less. "It was a pleasure to stay in a place where the accommodations are incredibly beautiful and still dog-friendly," said a TripAdvisor traveler. There is a fee of $25 per night for pets.

8. Allison Inn & Spa, Newberg, Ore. – Average Nightly Rate: $330+
Located in Willamette Valley, those with wagging tails in tow can relax in this luxurious hotel. Animals are welcome in terrace-level rooms where pooches will be pampered with tasty treats and kibble. One TripAdvisor traveler said, "Brought the dogs and went wine tasting. The staff took care of all dinner bookings, the dogs had wonderful stew, free room service and the spa was great." There is a one-time fee of $50 for pets.

9. Low-Key Hideaway, Cedar Key, Fla. – Average Nightly Rate: $90+
Nestled in a tranquil island oasis on the Gulf Coast, animal lovers can enjoy the company of their furry friends at this property. Up to two well-behaved pets are invited to accompany travelers to this adult-only retreat. One TripAdvisor traveler commented, "The rooms have a back door that goes directly out to a grassy area with a gorgeous, unobstructed view, so while your dog sniffs around, you can soak up the sights." There is a fee of $10 per night for pets.

10. The Oxford Hotel, Bend, Ore. – Average Nightly Rate: $299+
This boutique hotel strives to provide a memorable stay for travelers and pets alike. Included in the animal-friendly amenities are a bed, travel-size dog bowls, pet salve, organic dog treats, and a map of nearby parks and trails. "One of the best and pet-friendly," noted a TripAdvisor traveler. There is a one-time fee of $55 for the pet package.

Source: TripAdvisor

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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More Comprehensive Listing Info Now Available on realtor.com

August 22, 2013 1:48 am

Realtor.com®, operated by Move, Inc., recently announced the release of increased property listing information, which now includes new-home plans and communities on the realtor.com® website and mobile Web offerings, using content sourced from Move, Inc.'s joint venture partner Builders Digital Experience (BDX).

Realtor.com® users can now view over 44,000 new-home plans from thousands of new-home communities sourced from BDX as part of realtor.com®'s website search results. They can also conduct specific searches for new homes in the recently launched "New Homes & Communities" section of realtor.com®. New-home plans are included alongside resale listings on the main search results page, as well as the area map display.

The addition of new-homes communities and plans is the first enhancement to launch after the historic July 24 National Association of REALTORS® board of directors meeting, where the board recommended that the REALTORS® Information Network (RIN) modify its agreement for the operation of realtor.com® with Real Select, a Move, Inc. subsidiary.

"Consumers have always depended on realtor.com® for the best listing accuracy, and we are very proud to roll out new features that will increase the breadth and depth of realtor.com®'s listing content. By providing consumers with all their real estate options in one place – new homes, resale homes and rentals – realtor.com® is able to garner the attention of new consumers, as well as enhance its reputation as the online and mobile destination for all things real estate," said Errol Samuelson, chief strategy officer at Move, Inc.

Comprehensive and accurate listings, as well as industry expertise, are essential components of the home-buying process. To ensure that potential homebuyers and sellers understand the value of REALTORS® in their local markets, realtor.com® is launching ad campaigns within the new-homes experience and featuring a series of educational articles that underscore the importance of REALTOR® representation.

BDX is a leading provider of digital marketing solutions for home builders. The company operates NewHomeSource.com and Move.com New Homes, which are the two leading new home destinations on the Internet. For BDX builders, the new realtor.com® experience creates a tremendous opportunity to increase exposure of their properties.

Source: realtor.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Rethink the Way You Pay

August 21, 2013 1:45 am

(Family Features) Today’s consumers are finding new ways to get the goods and services they want for their lifestyles. Using savvy, money-saving tactics, these shoppers are getting more for less, eliminating services they don’t need and using comparative shopping.

These new power consumers challenging the trend of “more is more” are confidently declaring “half is more” when it comes to paying for what they want. Here are some tips to help adopt better spending habits while searching for the perfect deal.

Cut Insurance Costs: No longer subjected to cookie-cutter insurance policies of old, more versatile options exist today, allowing you to name exactly what you need. The insurance industry is a prime example where you can carefully determine exact needs and price comparative shop for the best provider. Many online tools exist that will provide side-by-side pricing of insurers for your consideration.

Switch to a No-Contract Wireless Phone Plan: Today’s consumers want lower cost wireless phone services, but don’t want the long-term contract commitments that come with postpaid wireless service providers. Many are making the shift away from traditional postpaid contracts and instead are utilizing reliable no-contract wireless service providers. Making such adjustments can save up to half on your wireless phone bill (compared to a similar plan with a postpaid wireless service provider) while maintaining unlimited and nationwide service.

Test Before You Buy: Have you ever bought a new product, such as cosmetics or skin care items, only to realize you don’t like it? That’s money wasted. Today, there are new online services that send you test size samples of products before you buy, ultimately saving you money by trying the products first.

Save on Gas: Take advantage of your local grocery store’s gas rewards program. Many stores offer discounts on gas if you buy from their service station or participating gas stations in the area. It’s as simple as signing up for the program and then earning points or money toward gas while you shop for other everyday needs.

Scale Back on Entertainment Spending: An evolution has occurred in the movie and music industry that can save you a considerable amount of money. Instead of purchasing individual DVDs, Blu-rays or CDs, consider taking advantage of digital services, such as Netflix or Hulu, that provide access to thousands of movies at a relatively low monthly rate. In addition, downloading music to your phone, instead of streaming, won’t use up your data allotment.

Shop Discount Websites: Subscribing to discounted apparel and home decor websites’ lists can keep you from overpaying at retail stores. From throw pillows to watches, sites like Gilt, Hautelook and Fab.com provide some of the trendiest designer items for less. Some sites also have timed sales for specific items, and taking 15 minutes to browse can equate to hundreds in savings.

Source: Cricket

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fall Car Care: Keep Your Car Running Longer

August 21, 2013 1:45 am

As the weather turns, it’s important to take care of your car to ensure you’re getting the most out of your miles. Below are some key tips for consumers to keep their vehicles running longer and to encourage safe seasonal driving.

As cold weather approaches, the following items should be inspected by a professional:

• Battery cables and terminals (make sure they're not corroded)
• Levels of anti-freeze, oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid, automatic transmission fluid and windshield washer fluid
• All belts and hoses (make sure they are free of cracks and defects)
• Air filters
• Condition of windshield wipers
• Lights and turn signals
• Tire treads

Taking care of tires becomes even more important as winter weather rolls in. Stopping on wet roads can take up to four times the normal stopping distance. With a worn tread, tires may hydroplane, skimming over the surface with little or no traction. There are a few steps you can take to ensure your tires are in good shape:

Use the penny test to inspect your car's tire treads:

• Insert a penny into the tread, Lincoln's head down.
• If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, the tread is worn and the tire probably needs to be replaced.
• Also, take a good look at your tires. Are there signs of uneven tread wear? That could indicate under-inflation, unbalanced tires or misaligned wheels.
• Rotate your tires according to the schedule in your vehicle's maintenance guide — usually about every 5,000 miles.

In addition, the Car Care Council revealed the following statistics about consumer auto care in a recent study, showing many cars on the road need a checkup:

• 54 percent of cars have low tire pressure.
• 38 percent of cars have low or dirty engine oil.
• 28 percent of cars have inadequate cooling protection.
• 19 percent of cars need new belts.

Source: www.firestonecompleteautocare.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fall Semester: A Time for Parents to Discuss the Risks of College Drinking

August 21, 2013 1:45 am

As college students arrive on campus this fall, it's a time of new experiences, new friendships, and making memories that will last a lifetime. Unfortunately for many, it is also a time of excessive drinking and dealing with its aftermath - vandalism, violence, sexual aggression and even death.

According to research summarized in a College Task Force report to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the consequences of excessive drinking by college students are more significant, more destructive, and more costly than many parents realize. And these consequences affect students whether or not they drink.

Statistics from this report indicate that drinking by college students aged 18 to 24 contributes to an estimated 1,825 student deaths, 599,000 injuries, 696,000 assaults by another student who has been drinking, and 97,000 cases of sexual assault or date rape each year.

Early Weeks Are Critical
As the fall semester begins, parents can use this time to help prepare their college-aged sons and daughters by talking with them about the consequences of excessive drinking.

Some first-year students who live on campus may be at particular risk. During high school, students who plan to go to college tend to drink less than their non-college-bound classmates. However, during subsequent years, the heavy drinking rates of college students surpass those of their non-college peers.

This rapid increase in heavy drinking over a relatively short period of time can contribute to serious difficulties with the transition to college. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the first six weeks of the first semester are critical to academic success. Because many students initiate heavy drinking during this time, the potential exists for excessive alcohol consumption to interfere with successful adaptation to campus life. The transition to college is often difficult and about one-third of first-year students fail to enroll for their second year.

Parents Can Help
During these crucial early weeks, parents can do a variety of things to stay involved. They can inquire about campus alcohol policies, call their sons and daughters frequently, and ask about roommates and living arrangements.

They should also discuss the penalties for underage drinking, and how alcohol use can lead to date rape, violence, and academic failure.

Resources Are Available

For parents who want to discuss the consequences of college drinking, a variety of helpful resources are available from NIAAA at the Task Force's award-winning website, www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov.

Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Money Saving Tips to Help You Stock Up

August 20, 2013 1:45 am

(BPT)—As summer winds down, many are heading into a busy buying season with Labor Day soirees and preparing for back-to-school. With the average family expected to spend an average of $634.78 on back-to-school shopping this year, according to the National Retail Federation, consumers are seeking cost saving strategies to ensure they are getting the most bang for the buck.

With more access to information thanks to online resources and smartphones, the power is in purchasers' hands. In fact, the National Retail Federation forecast revealed that approximately 36 percent of shoppers will do more comparative shopping online for back-to-school 2013.

Other ways people are cashing in on the savings is going back to the tried and true - bulk shopping. Expert couponer, Kelly Snyder, of Kansas City Mamas says volume buying and storing goods correctly has made a positive impact on her family's finances. However, one important thing to keep in mind is what to do with all those purchases you bring home.

"The right storage is essential when purchasing in bulk," says Snyder. "Make sure you have enough storage space and invest in products and appliances that keep you organized and help preserve the integrity of your purchases."

Snyder points to refrigerators as a key investment piece for savvy shoppers who want to store large amounts of perishables. Snyder along with fellow top savings bloggers Briana Carter, of Bargain Briana, and Lauren Ortiz of Saving Addiction, offer their top tips to help shoppers best navigate through the sea of savings.

• Don't bypass a budget. Know how much you've spent in order to see your savings. By keeping a monthly budget, you'll never pay too much.

• Don't create a storage war. Being organized will help keep track of what you have and prevent wasting food or needless purchases. For perishables, dedicate one shelf each in your refrigerator for beverages, produce and leftovers. A large refrigerator with large freezer capacity, allows you to stock up on items on sale.

• Get rewarded for loyalty. Join loyalty programs of establishments you frequent the most. Eventually your purchasing power will return major perks. For example, Shop Your Way, a free membership and shopping community, allows Kmart and Sears customers to earn points for their purchases to redeem online or in store. In addition, members get alerts on special offerings, personalized deals, product reviews, events and sweepstakes for even more savings.

• Tracking gets you a treat. Create a price book to record costs for items over a six-week period. Make a purchase only when prices hit their low. You'll optimize savings and often won't need a coupon.

• Increase your buying IQ with a smartphone. Download money-saving and grocery coupon apps like SavingStar and Coupons.com, as well as apps for rewards programs like Shop Your Way.

• Remember coupons are king. While many still enjoy clipping paper coupons, downloadable eCoupons are more popular than ever. Now, eCoupons are more sophisticated by pushing savings based on style and shopping habits like those from ShopYourWay.com. Sears is the first retailer to offer eCoupons that are redeemable in-store, online and from a mobile device. This will not only save money, but save time too.

• Go generic or store brands. It's always better to go with a store brand if you don't have a coupon for a name-brand item. While these versions are cheaper, they often offer similar quality.

• Serve what's on sale. Buying sale items in bulk allows you to pre-cook meals in one day to be served over the week.

Sources: ShopYourWay.com, Kenmore.com, Cookmore.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Americans Not Deterred by Rising Mortgage Interest Rates

August 20, 2013 1:45 am

Consumer attitudes toward the housing market are increasingly positive despite the recent rise in mortgage interest rates, according to results from Fannie Mae's July 2013 National Housing Survey. The share of respondents who believe interest rates will go up over the next year increased another 5 percentage points to 62 percent, the highest level in the survey's three-year history. Consumers also expect home prices to climb 3.9 percent on average over the next 12 months, holding steady from the May and June survey results. At the same time, the share of respondents who say it is a good time to buy a house increased to 74 percent, while the share who say it's a good time to sell a house increased to 40 percent, matching the survey high.

"Consumers have taken the interest rate rise in stride. Expectations for continued improvement in housing persist, and sentiment toward the current buying and selling environment is back on track from its dip last month," said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. "These results are consistent with our own analysis of previous housing cycles, which finds that interest rates and home prices are not strongly correlated."

Findings:

Homeownership and Renting

• At 3.9 percent, the average 12-month home price change expectation increased slightly to match May 2013's survey high.
• The share of people who say home prices will go up in the next 12 months fell four percentage points from June's survey high to 53 percent, while those who say home prices will go down reached a survey low of 6 percent.
• The share of respondents who say mortgage rates will go up in the next 12 months jumped five percentage points to 62 percent, the highest level since the survey's inception.
• The share who says it is a good time to buy a house increased slightly to 74 percent, and those who say it is a good time to sell a house increased four percentage points to 40 percent.
• The average 12-month rental price expectation fell to 4.2 percent, a 0.4 percent decrease from last month.
• Fifty-four percent of those surveyed say home rental prices will go up in the next 12 months, a two percentage point decrease from June's survey high.
• Forty-five percent of respondents think it would be easy for them to get a home mortgage today, a 2 percentage point decrease from last month.
• The share of respondents who said they would buy if they were going to move decreased slightly to 64 percent.

The Economy and Household Finances


• At 40 percent, the share of respondents who say the economy is on the right track increased two percentage points from June.
• The share of people who expect their personal financial situation to get better over the next 12 months fell three percentage points to 43 percent.
• The share of respondents who say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago remained steady at the survey high of 26 percent.
• At 30 percent, the share of respondents who say their household expenses are significantly higher than they were 12 months ago fell six percentage points from last month.

Source: Fannie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Back to School Season Is Busiest Time for Families

August 20, 2013 1:45 am

With the lazy days of summer quickly dwindling, families everywhere are in “Back to School" mode. Getting back into a routine that can include everything from carpooling, packing lunches and attending an endless schedule of soccer games, ballet classes and play-dates galore, it's no wonder 61 percent of parents report that back-to-school season is the busiest time of year for their families. The results are part of a national survey of more than 5,000 parents of school-aged children.

The majority of parents (77 percent) reported that between all members of their families, they have three or more activities/events per week, on average, once school starts. Other results from the survey include:

• 80 percent of respondents said once school starts, they will be planning more meals and attending more sporting events for their kids.

• 57 percent of parents said they try to have one meal together each day as a family to help balance their schedules.

Macaroni Kid provides these tips for parents this Back to School season:

• Do a run through. Are your kids starting a new school or a new routine? Do a run through. Wake up at "school time," brush teeth, get dressed, pack lunch, have a school-appropriate breakfast and maybe even drive or walk to school. Then, take those packed lunches and head to the park for a final summer break picnic.

• Plan the menus. Give your kids several options in each category and let them weigh in on what they'd like to find in their lunchboxes. You won't have to guess each morning and they are far more likely to eat it if they've had a hand in selecting it.

• Clean your closets. Nothing gets you and the kids ready for smooth mornings like purged, well-organized closets.

Source: Balance Bar

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5 Home Security and Safety Tips for Seniors

August 19, 2013 1:45 am

Americans who reach age 65 are living an average of 18.5 more years—a four-year increase from 1960—according to a recent federal Aging Forum report. Friends and family can’t always stay with individuals who remain at home and require caregiver help, so home security is of high concern for this growing segment of the population. Consider these tips to help keep seniors secure at home:

1. Light the outdoors: Motion-activated outdoor lights can discourage potential intruders and alert seniors to potential emergencies. Standard, constant lights should also be installed at home exits like porches and garage doors, and turned on each night.

2. Install a security system: Many home alarm systems offer remote access through key chains that allow seniors who have trouble moving around to arm or disable a system from any room in their homes. Make sure the chosen system covers burglary, fire and medical emergencies. Some providers also offer personal emergency monitoring systems that seniors can use to alert medical professionals in case of an emergency like a fall.

3. Check IDs: Scam artists may promise money and prizes in exchange for payment or personal information like a Social Security number. Ask for identification from anyone that comes to the door. Checking with the affiliated business before letting a service or delivery person in is also a good idea. The website Snopes keeps track of circulating scams and hoaxes. Police should be alerted to any suspicious individuals and activity.

4. Use locks on a regular basis: Existing locks on all entrances and exits of a home are useless if they aren’t routinely used. Make a habit of keeping them locked and replace any in poor shape. Locks should be accessible to seniors from the inside in case of an emergency.

5. Schedule routine check-ins: Whether it’s with a hired caregiver or a loved one, seniors should check-in at least once a day in person or via phone to ensure that all is well.

Source: www.securitychoice.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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