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Janine VanLuvanee
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie  PA 18944
 Phone: 267-259-2810
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Cell: 267-259-2810
Fax: 267-354-6259 
jvanluvanee@remax440.com
Janine VanLuvanee

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3 Money-Smart Tips for Millennials

March 11, 2016 12:25 am

From witnessing the plight of their parents to navigating a barren employment landscape, most millennials experienced the effects of the economic downturn in one form or another. As a result, they’re cognizant of the importance of monetary well-being, yet unsure how to best manage their finances.

In reality, there are many routes to take on the path to a secure financial future. The specialists at Northwestern Mutual recommend starting with the following money-wise tasks:

1. Set goals. Currently, just over half of millennials have set financial goals. If you haven’t yet defined your goals, take time to create money milestones that align with your future plans. Ask yourself where you want to be at this time next year. If you’ve already set goals, now is a good time to review your plan, assess how you're doing and make updates if needed.

2. Review your 401(k). Approximately three-quarters of millennials expect to work past age 65 because Social Security won't take care of their needs. This finding stresses the importance of a strong 401(k). Are you contributing to your employer's plan? Can you afford to contribute more? Spending even a few minutes analyzing your retirement savings can pay off big down the road.

3. Meet with a financial professional. About one in three millennials say a lack of planning is their greatest obstacle to achieving financial security. The best way to make sure you're making the most of your money is to create a plan with a financial professional.

Says Emily Holbrook, young personal market director for Northwestern Mutual: "Regardless of where millennials are on their financial journeys, completing even one small task today can have a big impact on their financial futures.”

Source: Northwestern Mutual

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Top 10 Downtowns of 2016

March 11, 2016 12:25 am

Things will be great when you’re downtown!

Livability.com recently released its ranking of the top 10 best downtowns across America, underscoring resurgence in downtowns in mid- and small-size towns. The downtowns included in the ranking offer expanded housing options, diversity and around-the-clock entertainment.

“Having a great downtown is about more than just great stores and great restaurants,” says Matt Carmichael, editor of Livability.com.  “A great downtown needs people. Great cities need great spaces to gather. These cities and towns are wonderful places to get out and engage with your friends, family and other residents.”

The ranking is as follows:

1. Alexandria, Va.
2. Santa Monica, Calif.
3. Greenville, S.C.
4. Bellevue, Wash.
5. Pittsburgh, Pa.
6. Boise, Idaho
7. Tempe, Ariz.
8. Plano, Texas
9. Colorado Springs, Colo.
10. Evanston, Ill.

To determine the ranking, Livability.com evaluated data from various sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the mapping platform Esri, to pinpoint areas experiencing an influx in population, new development and low vacancy rates. Livability.com also factored in Walk Score and affordability, among other indicators, and included a population parameter to identify downtowns that extend beyond Main Street.

Source: Livability.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Mortgage Rates Favorable for Spring Homebuyers

March 11, 2016 12:25 am

Buyers in the market for a home this spring can expect lower mortgage rates across the board.

According to the Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) stands at 3.68 percent, and the 15-year FRM stands at 2.96 percent.

“The 10-year Treasury yield ended the survey week exactly where it started; however the solid February employment report boosted the yield noticeably on Friday and Monday,” explains Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Our mortgage rate survey captured the impact of this temporary increase in yield, and the 30-year mortgage rate rose 4 basis points to 3.68 percent. This marks the second increase this year. Nonetheless, the mortgage rate remains 33 basis points lower than its end-of-2015 level.”

The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) stands at 2.92 percent, according to the survey.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Consumer Protection Week: IRS Scam Warning

March 10, 2016 1:25 am

Around this time every year, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) National Consumer Financial Protection Week (consumerfinance.gov/ncpw) promotes heightened awareness of consumer rights.

According to the IRS—one of the agencies observing the week this year—one of the most recent and widespread issues affecting consumers are phishing and malware incidents. The IRS has seen an approximate 400 percent surge in these cases so far this tax season.

Consumers affected by this issue reported receiving emails designed to trick them into thinking they are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies.  The phishing scheme asked them about a wide range of topics, including requesting information related to refunds and filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.

Variations of these scams have also been reported via text messages. When people click on these email links, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as IRS.gov. The sites ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information. The sites also may carry malware, which can infect computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.

The IRS urges people not to click on these links. Instead, send the email to phishing@irs.gov.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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When It Comes to Home Security, Safety Tops Convenience

March 10, 2016 1:25 am

Many homeowners purchase home security systems to ensure peace of mind for themselves and their loved ones—and for most, that preference goes beyond smart home-enabled security advancements, according to a recent survey by LivSecure and The Harris Poll.

"Smart home technology is popular, but the survey shows that homeowners want more than a 'smart thing' when it comes to protecting their home and family,” says Amy Kothari, president and CEO of My Alarm Center. “Homeowners want assurances that help will arrive when their family needs it, and professional monitoring alerts first responders in case of an emergency.”

Survey results show 93 percent of homeowners want the authorities to be alerted by their security system in the event of an emergency, and 63 percent do not consider self-monitored systems as safe as professionally monitored alternatives.

Not all homeowners object to smart home-enabled security, however. The survey found 81 percent of homeowners assign importance to remote monitoring systems, whether through their mobile device, tablet or computer, and 72 percent would like their security system to control other home functions, such as lighting and temperature.

Additionally, survey results show that DIY, or self-installed, security systems are growing in popularity: 49 percent of homeowners are open to installing security systems on their own.

Source: LivSecure

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Spring Forward: Remember to Test Smoke Alarms, Carbon Monoxide Detectors

March 10, 2016 1:25 am

Daylight Saving Time begins this weekend, historically serving as a reminder for homeowners to test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Most homeowners, however, neglect this important, potentially life-saving task.

According to a recent survey by Mister Sparky® electricians, just over 40 percent of homeowners test their smoke alarms each month; nearly 35 percent don’t conduct monthly tests, nor replace alarms every 10 years, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). What’s more, one-third of homeowners do not have a working carbon monoxide detector.

The NFPA advises homeowners install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors outside of each bedroom or sleeping area, interconnecting them so that when one sounds, they all sound. If you need assistance installing alarms or detectors in your home, contact a licensed electrical professional.

Source: Mister Sparky®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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12 Tips to Protect Mobile Device Data

March 9, 2016 1:19 am

Cyber criminals are targeting mobile devices in growing numbers. To protect the sensitive data on your devices, it’s important to remain vigilant, even if your financial institution implements preventative measures on your behalf.

“Banks use sophisticated safeguards to protect customer information, and it’s important for consumers to take certain safety measures too,” says Doug Johnson, senior vice president of Payments and Cybersecurity Policy at the American Bankers Association (ABA). “Remember that your smartphone or tablet is like a little computer, and any device used to connect to the Internet needs to be protected.”

Johnson recommends the following 12 steps to ensure your data remain out of the hands of cyber criminals:

1. Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen.

2. Log out completely when you finish a mobile banking session.

3. Protect your phone from viruses and malicious software (malware) by installing mobile security software. 

4. Use caution when downloading apps. Apps can contain malware, worms and viruses. Beware of apps that ask for unnecessary “permissions.”

5. Download the updates for your phone and mobile apps.

6. Avoid storing sensitive information, like passwords or a Social Security number, on your mobile device.

7. Tell your financial institution immediately if you change your phone number or lose your mobile device.

8. Be aware of “shoulder surfers.” The most basic form of information theft is observation. Be aware of your surroundings, especially when typing sensitive information.

9. Wipe your mobile device before you donate, sell or trade it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.

10. Beware of mobile phishing. Avoid opening links and attachments in emails and texts, especially from senders you don’t know. And be wary of ads (not from your security provider) claiming that your device is infected.

11. Watch out for public Wi-Fi. Public connections aren't very secure, so don’t perform banking transactions on a public network. If you need to access your account, try disabling the Wi-Fi and switching to your mobile network. 

12. Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. 

Source: ABA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Your Property: New Safety Measures Proposed for Herbicides

March 9, 2016 1:19 am

Herbicides—more commonly known as weed killers—are applied to landscapes to eliminate unwanted plants, such as crabgrass and dandelions.

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is proposing steps to prevent poisoning from one of the most widely-used herbicides, paraquat, which has caused several incidents of injury and death.

“We are taking tough steps to prevent people from accidentally drinking paraquat and to ensure these tragic deaths become a thing of the past,” says Jim Jones, assistant administrator for the EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “We are also putting safety measures in place to prevent worker injuries from exposure to this pesticide.”

The EPA is proposing:

• New closed-system packaging designed to make it impossible to transfer or remove the pesticide except directly into the proper application equipment;

• Special training for certified applicators who use paraquat to emphasize that the chemical must not be transferred to or stored in improper containers;

• Changes to the pesticide label and warning materials to highlight the toxicity and risks associated with paraquat;

• Prohibiting application from hand-held and backpack equipment; and

• Restricting the use to certified pesticide applicators only.

Since 2000, there have been 17 fatalities (three involving children) caused by accidental ingestion of paraquat.

Source: EPA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Shopping for a Loan? Exercise Caution with Peer-to-Peer Lenders

March 9, 2016 1:19 am

Marketplace lending—often referred to as “peer-to-peer” or “platform” lending—is a relatively new kind of online lending. Marketplace lenders may provide mortgages, auto loans, installment loans, student loans or other financial products to consumers, generally marketing both new loans and loans that can be used to refinance or consolidate existing debt. Marketplace lenders use an online interface to connect consumers or businesses seeking to borrow money with investors willing to buy or invest in the loan. Generally, the marketplace lending platform handles all underwriting and customer service interactions with the borrower. Once a loan is originated, the company generally makes arrangements to transfer ownership to the investors while it continues to service the loan.

Unfortunately, many have had problems with loans offered by online marketplace lenders. If you’re considering this type of lender, keep in mind the following guidelines from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

• Remember important consumer protections apply. Marketplace lenders are required to follow federal and state consumer financial protection laws.

• Be careful about refinancing certain types of debt. While some marketplace lenders may advertise lower interest rates, in some cases, you could lose important loan-specific protections by refinancing an existing debt. Specifically, know that you may sign away certain federal benefits, such as income-driven repayment for federal student loans or service member benefits related to debt incurred prior to entering active duty.

• Assess income and spending. Before taking out a loan, evaluate how much you can afford and really need to borrow. Understand the total cost of the loan, as well as what the total cost will be each month.

• Check credit reports. Check your credit report to make sure there are no errors that could keep you from getting credit or getting the best available terms on a loan. Be sure the information in the report is accurate and up to date.

• Shop around. If you’re considering interest rates offered by multiple lenders or brokers, you may see substantial differences in the rates. Compare the costs and terms of loans to find the deal that is best for you.

The CFPB is accepting complaints from consumers regarding online marketplace lenders. Because marketplace lenders offer several types of consumer loans, those submitting a complaint should select among the different complaint categories for products and services that best apply to their situation. The CFPB will then forward complaints to the marketplace lender and works to get a response—generally within 15 days.

To submit a complaint, you may:

1. Visit www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint.
2. Call the toll-free phone number at 1-855-411-CFPB (2372) or TTY/TDD phone number at 1-855-729-CFPB (2372).
3. Fax the CFPB at 1-855-237-2392.
4. Mail a letter to: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, P.O. Box 4503, Iowa City, Iowa 52244

You will be given a tracking number after submitting a complaint, and can check its status by logging on to the CFPB website (www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint).

“When consumers shop for a loan online we want them to be informed and to understand what they are signing up for,” says CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “All lenders, from online startups to large banks, must follow consumer financial protection laws. By accepting these consumer complaints, we are giving people a greater voice in these markets and a place to turn to when they encounter problems.”

Source: CFPB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tax Tips: Credits and Deductions for Every Life Stage

March 8, 2016 1:13 am

Each year, millions of taxpayers over-pay by overlooking credits and missing deductions. Don’t let a knowledge gap prohibit you from receiving the maximum refund!

"Major life changes affect the eligibility for specific credits and deductions,” says Mark Steber, chief tax officer of Jackson Hewitt®. “Without help, it's easy to miss them.”

The most overlooked credits and deductions, based on life stage, are:

Students

The American Opportunity Deduction and Lifetime Learning Credits are worth up to $2,500 and are available for students attending a qualified college or trade school, based on enrollment status, tuition and fees paid, adjusted gross income and filing status. 

Single Parents

Filing as 'Head of Household' offers a higher standard deduction and a lower tax rate than filing 'Single.' This is available for single or unmarried taxpayers who pay for more than half of the cost of maintaining a home and have a qualifying dependent.

Newlyweds

Couples who were married last year can file a joint return, which is generally more advantageous. Those who were married at a place of worship or historical site may be able to donate an offering and claim it as a charitable contribution. Brides may even write off the fair market value of their wedding gown if they donate it.

Homeowners

Don't wait until mortgage interest and real estate taxes are bigger than the standard deduction to itemize deductions. These items, and more, can be itemized:  energy-saving upgrades (like energy-efficient windows or insulation) could be eligible for a tax credit up to $500, and tax preparation fees may be deductable on Schedule A.

Families

Families may miss a host of credits, including the Child Tax Credit (a credit of up to $1,000 per child under the age of 17); the Earned Income Tax Credit (one of the largest federal tax credits, worth up to $6,242 based on income and number of dependents); and the Child and Dependent Care Credit (a credit of up to $2,100 to assist with the cost of daycare for dependents [children under 13 and elderly family members requiring care] while an individual works).

Pre-Retirees

Don't miss the Saver's Credit of up to $1,000 per person for contributing to a pension plan or 401(k). Many people contribute to these accounts, but then forget to claim this credit.  People who turned 65 by the end of the tax year are also entitled to a higher standard deduction; however, they should still review expenses during the tax year to determine if itemizing deductions would be more beneficial than taking the standard deduction. 

Source: Jackson Hewitt®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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