RE/MAX 440
Michael Gillis

Michael Gillis
701 W. Market Street  Perkasie  PA 18944
Phone:  215-469-0213
Office:  215-453-7653
Fax:  267-354-6911

My Blog

Feds Announce Radon Awareness Week

October 16, 2012 6:26 am

October 15-21 is Federal Radon Action Week according to The Surgeon General. Health agencies throughout the United States have joined forces to promote awareness of the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. The American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control and National Cancer Institute all agree that radon is a national health problem and encourage radon testing during the October awareness drive.

Radon is a naturally-occurring, invisible and odorless radioactive gas. One in 15 American homes contains high levels of radon. Millions of Americans are unknowingly exposed to this dangerous gas. In fact, a recent study by Harvard University ranks radon as America’s No. 1 in-home hazard. By taking simple steps to test your home for radon and fix if necessary, this health hazard can be avoided.

Radon gas is not isolated to certain geographical areas or home types. Radon problems have been detected in homes in every county of the U.S. It caused more American fatalities last year than carbon monoxide, fires, and handguns combined. If a home hasn't been tested for radon in the past two years, EPA and the Surgeon General urge you to take action. Contact your state radon office for information on locating qualified test kits or qualified radon testers.

The federal commitment made by EPA, the General Services Administration, and the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, and Veterans Affairs will focus efforts on radon reduction and mitigation in homes, especially those of low-income families, many of whom do not have the resources to make the simple fixes necessary to protect their homes and loved ones.

Learn more about the Federal Radon Action Plan at www.RadonPlan.org.

Learn more at www.RadonWeek.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

11 Ways to Green Your Fall

October 15, 2012 6:26 am

The days are getting cooler; the nights are getting longer, and Mother Nature is changing her colors yet again. While some are battening down the hatches for a long winter, others are simply appreciating the relief from summer temperatures. Either way, fall is the perfect time of year to enjoy the great outdoors and add a few more green activities to your life. Here are a few simple ways to green the season:

1. Open your windows. Fall is the perfect time of year to turn off the thermostat and open the windows. You may have been cranking the AC all summer, costing you hundreds of dollars on your electric bill and burning loads of energy. But you’ll enjoy a much lower bill and a nice downsize in your eco footprint by just opening the windows. Opening the windows also helps air out your home before winter.

2. Prepare a local menu for Thanksgiving. It’s never too early to start preparing for your biggest culinary feat of the year. There’s nothing like a beautifully prepared Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. Increase that feeling of community even more by preparing a local menu this Thanksgiving. Think outside the box and choose menu items that are locally-grown and in season in your area. You may even discover a new holiday favorite. If you’re a little intimidated at the thought of preparing an all-local meal, head down to your local farmers’ market and ask around. Find out what is in season and plan your meal from there. You can also ask your butcher for locally-farmed organic meats. Look for seasonal fall produce to create a scrumptious pie or warm casserole.

3. Attend a local festival. Whether it’s a pumpkin festival or a pie contest, Fall is the crispiest season for local fairs and festivals. Attending a festival in your area is a great excuse to get outside with your family and friends while supporting local vendors and artisans. Check out your town or municipality’s website for a full list of events in your area. If you’re feeling ambitious, join in on the fun. Enter your recipe in a local bake-off or your unusually large tomato in a town agricultural fair.

4. Choose an organic fertilizer. Fall is the best time to fertilize your lawn, according to The Lawn Institute, and choosing an organic fertilizer is better for your lawn and the planet. Some of the best fertilizers you can use are those you’ve made yourself from recycled leaves and lawn clippings. A four-inch layer of lawn clippings and leaves around plants allows you to fertilize much less and helps keep roots cool. This top layer also locks in water, reducing the need to water your foliage. Leaves and lawn clippings can also be easily composted and reused as fertilizer anywhere in your yard.

5. Use the whole gourd. Whether it’s a pumpkin carved for Halloween or a basket of squash as a Thanksgiving centerpiece, Fall is the season of the gourd. Many times these forgotten fruits are tossed in the trash after they’ve exhausted their ornamental usefulness, but they have a variety of other fun seasonal uses outside of decor. Try doing it differently this year, and use the whole thing. Toast up some pumpkin seeds for a tasty Fall treat; try out a new pumpkin pie recipe; choose edible squash for your centerpieces, and make them into a tasty soup the next day.

6. Tailgate like an eco-fan. With playoff baseball and the long-awaited football season, Sunday means “tailgate” for many Americans once the leaves begin to change. But don’t forget the planet during your celebration. To shrink your tailgate’s footprint, try setting up a waste station in the back of your car or truck, with bins for waste and recycling. For added bonus points, set up a bin for compost, too. To make sure everything stays clean, line the bin of your choice with a garbage bag and use non-toxic tape to adhere the bag to the outside of the bin. This will prevent the bag from slipping into the bin and that unhappy surprise in the back of your car. Also, try bringing all your tailgate goodies in reusable containers and switching to compostable cups and dinnerware.

7. Get crafty with decorations. Stores fill their shelves with seasonal decorations for Halloween and Thanksgiving, but why pay more for decor items when you can make them yourself? You can get the same holiday fun out of homemade decorations while using leftover supplies you have around the house. Try cutting up and painting some cardboard boxes for spooky Halloween lawn ornaments or wall-hangings. Take a stroll in the park and pick up some pinecones for the Thanksgiving table. DIY decorations will add some personality to your home decor, and getting the kids involved is a great holiday memory-maker.

8. Get outside. In some areas of the country, the days of warm weather are surely numbered. So, soak up the great outdoors while there’s still time, and do some of your fall entertaining outside. Throwing parties outside isn’t just fun. It saves on energy, too. Instead of setting the thermostat to the perfect level and turning on the lights in every room, you can make use of the perfect lighting and seasonable Fall temperatures right in your own back yard. Make the most of the season by throwing your weekly dinner party on the deck or planning one last cookout for the season.

For more information, visit www.earth911.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Move to Improve Arthritis

October 15, 2012 6:26 am

More Americans are walking, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While the news is a step in the right direction, the report also highlights a need for many more Americans to join the movement.

Importance of Movement
According to the CDC report, the number of Americans who walk at least 10 minutes at a time one or more days a week increased from 55.7 percent in 2005 to 62 percent in 2010 – a jump of about 6 percent. Among people with arthritis, the increase was about 4 percent.

While Americans are moving more than in years past, the CDC report also revealed fewer than half of all Americans are getting the government-recommended 2.5 hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity like brisk walking to improve their health. Movement is especially important for people with arthritis and is one of the many ways to fight off arthritis. Walking, biking, swimming or even tennis can help reduce risk and improve pain.

Move to Improve
The Arthritis Foundation is taking steps to increase walking and physical activity to limit the effects of arthritis. As the nation’s leading cause of disability, arthritis affects one in five adults in the United States – more than 20 percent of the adult population. High rates of arthritis among people with other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, make physical activity an even more important way to manage disease.

The Arthritis Foundation is calling on the nation to:
• Get Moving —The Arthritis Foundation’s Walk With Ease exercise program is a great resource to start moving. It’s safe, easy and motivating. And researchers have found that Walk With Ease can reduce pain, increase balance and strength, and improve overall health.
• Jingle With Us — Register for Jingle Bell Run/Walk Participation helps raise awareness and funds to fight arthritis.
• Wave With the World — If you’ve been touched by arthritis, join 50,000 people from 70 countries around the world waving in support of people with arthritis. Upload a photo at www.worldarthritisday.org/waving and post the photo on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using #WorldArthritisDay. Be sure to include a personal message about how arthritis affects you or someone important to you.

Source: Arthritis Foundation

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

5 Financial Strategies to Help Victims of Domestic Abuse

October 15, 2012 6:26 am

Financial security and access to resources is the number one predictor of whether domestic violence victims will stay in or leave an abusive relationship. And insurance is an important component of financial planning that helps survivors prepare for a better life. To mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month, here are a few financial strategies for anyone who is leaving or has left an abusive situation.

1. Secure Your Financial Records
These documents include your birth certificate, driver's license, passport, bank account and credit card information, insurance policies, etc. Keep these documents with a trusted family member or friend, or obtain a bank safety deposit box. Also, set up a P.O. Box to conceal all of your important mail from your abuser. This is essential to prevent identity theft or damage to your credit. Change your ATM and debit card PIN codes, as well as your online banking and email passwords. It is particularly important to close any joint banking or credit card accounts before you leave, in case your partner racks up charges. Remember that as long as there is an outstanding balance on a joint account, both parties are responsible for payment. You can also contact the Social Security Administration if you need to obtain a new Social Security number (SSN).

2. Know Where You Stand Financially
Knowledge is power, and it is critical that you understand where you stand financially. That means knowing your main sources of income, bank account balances, property owned and debts owed. If your spouse or partner has had control of the family finances, do you know if your bills—including the premiums on your insurance policies—have been paid? A lapsed policy or unpaid credit-card bill could create financial problems down the road, so try to learn as much as possible about your financial position when you are leaving an abusive situation.

3. Build a Financial Safety Net
Once you have a good idea of your financial picture, you are in a better position to plan your exit. You know what assets and liabilities you are dealing with and can begin envisioning how your life will be on your own. Begin with estimating your income and expenses to see if the money you earn right now will allow you to meet your basic needs. Also, start a savings plan and create an emergency fund so you have a safety net if things get difficult financially once you leave.

4. Make Necessary Changes to Your Insurance Plans
Auto Insurance: If you plan to take a car with you when you leave your abuser, you will need to get separate auto insurance coverage immediately. And if you buy a new car, you should purchase a new auto policy before the car is registered .Make sure you are removed from any joint auto policies as that may protect you from possible liability if your former partner is involved in an accident and gets sued. Keep in mind that moving to a different area or to a different state, or changing from a secondary to a primary driver on a vehicle can affect your auto policy rates.

Life Insurance: Unfortunately, if a life insurance policy on your own life is payable to the abuser, and you do not own the policy, you cannot change the beneficiary. However, if you do own the policy, you have the right to change the beneficiary, and probably should. With group insurance through your employer or an association, you can also change the beneficiary. When your beneficiary is a child or an elderly parent who has or could develop cognitive difficulties, they most likely will be unable to file a death claim on their own. So you should be careful to designate a guardian whom you trust to file the claim and use the money to care for your beneficiary.

If you have children or other dependents who would be affected financially by your death, it is important to get your own life insurance as soon as possible. Opting for term life insurance, which provides protection for a specific period of time, typically offers the greatest amount of coverage for the lowest initial premium cost and can make buying enough coverage affordable.

5. Maintain Good Credit
Having a good credit report is going to be essential when it comes to starting your new life, as it can help you more easily rent an apartment, get a new credit card and get better rates on your insurance—it can even affect your ability to get a job. The best way to keep your credit intact is to start making changes as soon as you have reached the decision to leave your abuser. Take care of your current debts and avoid missing any payments. Alert creditors if there is a change of address so that bills will continue to be received from all joint accounts and no late fees are incurred. Remember, women who drop their husband's name and use their maiden name will not erase the credit history established under their married name, as it is tied to social security numbers, not names. Establish a new credit record under your own name, especially if all previous credit was held jointly with your spouse. In order to expedite this process, consider turning existing joint credit cards, gas cards and retail accounts into individual accounts. Doing this will mean not having to re-establish your credit should you file for a divorce.

Source: Insurance Information Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Survey Finds Bullying to Be the Most Important Issue Facing Teens Today

October 12, 2012 6:24 am

A new survey by Harlequin TEEN and the Jed Foundation's Love is Louder movement, finds that 70 percent of young women between 16 and 21 have been bullied, with many young women admitting the issue is more serious than adults think. The release of the survey coincides with National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month.

Key survey findings from the survey include:

• Bullying based on physical appearance is dominant; 75 percent of respondents say they are bullied about their overall looks, weight, clothing or hair.
• In general, 58 percent of respondents say emotional bullying – such as spreading rumors or being ignored – is the most hurtful form of bullying. Only 15 percent of respondents say physical bullying – hitting, pushing – is the worst form of bullying.
• Bullying appears to be a vicious cycle, as 38 percent of respondents who have been bullied have also bullied someone else; 86 percent of respondents who consider themselves to be bullies have also been victims of bullying.
• More than half (51 percent) of self-proclaimed bullies have witnessed at least one of their parents involved in bullying, compared to only 30 percent of those who say they have not bullied anyone.
• There appears to be a disconnect in teen bullying, as 69 percent of teens say they do not bully others, yet more than 30 percent engage in behaviors deemed as bullying, such as gossiping, name-calling and teasing.
• Nearly three quarters (69 percent) of respondents say the impact of bullying lasts a lifetime, while 27 percent believe the effects of bullying eventually wear off.
• While 62 percent of respondents talk to their parents regularly about important issues, only 50 percent have talked to their parents about bullying.
• After hearing about others' experiences overcoming bullying, 73 percent of teens believe bullying has the potential to be stopped.

These findings show that young women clearly understand that actions such as name-calling and spreading rumors can cause significant pain, but many do not believe their personal involvement in these behaviors can hurt others. For more information, visit http://www.jedfoundation.org/programs/love-is-louder.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Add Green to Your Halloween

October 12, 2012 6:24 am

Add a little "green" to your holiday by helping promote healthy, animal-friendly, and EEK-O-friendly Halloween events in your community. Having "Green Halloween" events and booths will show kids and adults how to apply the three Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – to Halloween activities. From swapping conventional candy for healthier treats, to participating in green costume contests and making animal crafts out of recycled products, Green Halloween demonstrates how there are a number of ways to make Halloween fun and eco-friendly.

Five tips to make your Halloween healthier and greener include:

• Always purchase new costumes? This year, swap! National Costume Swap Day™ is Saturday, October 13, so before heading to the big box store, look for a local costume swap.
• Prefer to hand out treasures? Empty your kids' pockets! Get inspired by the treasures they store—shiny rocks, feathers, sea shells. Stock up on these types of items and offer a choice.
• Looking for alternatives to conventional candy? Choose healthier treats that everyone from toddlers to teens will love, including snack bars, organic lollipops, fruit snacks or all natural gum.
• In the habit of buying new Halloween decor every year? Try exchanging old for new-to-you decor with friends and neighbors, or find decorations at your local Goodwill. Consider using edible items like pumpkins and other types of squash that can be turned into yummy soups and dishes after Halloween. Host a make-it-take-it decor party before the big day. Pull out every black, purple or orange item in your home and decorate with those. Search online for how to make decor out of items you'd normally toss.
• Used to giving out handfuls? Cut back by 25 percent. Kids won't notice the difference, but you'll save money.

For hundreds of other suggestions, visit www.GreenHalloween.org.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Myths about Consumer Debt Collection

October 12, 2012 6:24 am

Today, more than 30 million consumers have delinquent or defaulted accounts under collection, averaging $1,400 each. Here are a few dispelled myths concerning the reality of consumer debt collection:

Myth 1: Avoiding a debt collector makes the debt go away. Consumers who ask debt collectors to stop contact or choose not to respond to calls or letters often mistakenly believe it means their debt has been eliminated. Avoiding contact will not erase a debt. Instead, consumers should communicate with collectors to discuss the account, verify its accuracy and work on a plan for resolution. If consumers don't owe the debt, communicating with collectors can help put a stop to calls or letters.

Myth 2: Consumers don't have rights in the recovery of past due accounts. The collection of consumer debt is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the United States. Consumers have important rights under a number of federal and state laws. For more information about what to do if contacted by a debt collector please visit www.askdoctordebt.org.

Myth 3: All debt collectors are bad. Just as "all consumers" aren't the same, neither are all debt collectors. Most are committed to professionalism, training and customer service. By working with the right professional, you can start making payments or create a plan of action going forward.

Myth 4: It is boom time for debt collectors. It's no secret that consumers have struggled financially in the current economy. Despite an increase in defaults and delinquency, the inability of consumers to repay rightfully owed debts trickles down to those charged with their recovery.

Source: ACA International

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Protect Your Home This Fall

October 11, 2012 6:22 am

The change in seasons from summer to fall means several species of common household pests are crawling their way into homes across the country as the weather cools. The annual end-of-summer invasion poses many potential risks to homes that are not properly protected from the seasonal onslaught. Here are a few tips for homeowners looking to protect themselves from household pests that can do major damage to a home if left untreated.

• Eliminate yard clutter. Remove piles of wood and rotted stumps or logs from around your home to keep termites and carpenter ants at bay. When storing firewood, keep it at least 20 feet away from the home and five inches off the ground as a precautionary measure. Also, keep soil at least six inches away from structural wood to prevent decay.

• Get rid of standing water. Termites, carpenter ants and Powerpost beetles all thrive in moist conditions. Many pests use vegetation as a bridge from the ground into your home; so keep bushes, shrubs, vines and trees from touching the house. Wood mulch and plants should also be kept at least 18 inches away from the foundation to prevent rot.

• Seal gaps and cracks. Stink bugs, which are very prevalent this time of year, can easily pass through gaps and cracks in search of a warm place to rest. These pests are a smelly mess when they make it into the home. Inspect walls, windows, doors and the roof for places where pests could possibly enter the home. Seal any cracks or gaps with caulk or epoxy, and use steel wool or hardware cloth to block openings where wires, pipes and cables come into or out of exterior walls. Also be sure to ventilate attics and crawl spaces to ensure the venting system has a good airflow to prevent the buildup of moisture.

• Install and maintain screens on doors and windows. With the summer heat and humidity subsided, fall is the perfect time to open the windows and enjoy the fresh air. Torn or damaged holes in screens can allow a slew of pests easy access to your home. Replace old screens on doors and windows with fine mesh screening to prevent an invasion.

• Cover attic and crawlspace vents with mesh. Larger pests like raccoons, squirrels and mice can easily make themselves home in unprotected spaces. A warm dryer vent is a pest's ideal home as the weather gets chilly this fall, causing homeowners a huge headache. Placing a mesh barrier over points of entry, like vents, holes or large cracks, will keep both the animals, and the mites and fleas they carry, outside where they belong.

Homeowners are sure to save themselves time, money and frustration by taking the above steps to help protect their home from pests this fall. Prevention will make a home inhospitable to pests and will keep a seasonal intrusion from becoming an all-out pest invasion.

Source: Power Home Remodeling Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Little-Known Credit Card Perks

October 11, 2012 6:22 am

Many credit card users can be saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars by using their plastic and they may not even know it. Visiting your credit card's website is a good first step to finding out what benefits you may be missing out on, along with any rules and limitations you many need to know. Knowing these perks ahead of time can help you shop smarter and save big, especially during the holidays when you've got a full list of friends and family to buy for.

Here are three examples of credit-card benefits to look out for:

1. Extra product warranties. Some issuers automatically extend manufacturer warranties, usually up to a year - a great perk for expensive items that otherwise would be costly to replace. But it usually also applies to cheaper items that consumers may not know come with a warranty, such as eyeglasses or coffeemakers.

2. Coverage for damaged goods. A credit card with theft, damage, and loss coverage reimburses users for items purchased with it that are lost, stolen, or accidentally damaged within a stated time period, often 90 days. But some cards limit the number of times users can make a claim within a certain time period.

3. Rental-car coverage and travel insurance. Some credit-card issuers will cover any loss to a rental vehicle, up to certain limits. Some cards also offer trip cancellation, which covers losses if the user has to cancel plans, perhaps due to illness or injury. But check card issuers' rules about what doesn't qualify and how much can be recouped.

Source: ShopSmart

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags:

Dream Makers Program on Track to Help Record Number of Military Families

October 11, 2012 6:22 am

The Pentagon Federal Credit Union Foundation (PenFed Foundation), a nationally recognized nonprofit organization working to meet the unmet needs of military personnel and their families, has announced it is on track to give away a record number of grants through its Dream Makers program this year.

“Members of our nation’s military frequently move, living on bases around the country and overseas,” explained Kate Kohler, chief operating officer of the PenFed Foundation and a former Army captain. “When they are finally able to settle down, they often need a little help with purchasing their first home.”

Under the Dream Makers program, qualifying military personnel and veterans who are buying their first homes may receive a grant to cover a portion of their down payment and closing costs.

With interest rates at historic lows and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, the program has become more popular, going from 47 grants in 2009 to 51 in 2010 to a record high of 93 in 2011. Already this year, the PenFed Foundation has given away 84 grants, putting it on track to beat last year’s record.

Applying for a Dream Makers grant is easy and can even be done online. Grantees don’t need to be a Pentagon Federal Credit Union member to benefit from Dream Makers and the grant can be applied to a mortgage from any financial institution.

According to the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment, approximately 65 to 70 percent of service members live in private sector housing. This means that buying a home is one way that military members can make a significant investment during their service, which could help greatly benefit their financial security now and later on in life.

“With fewer service members heading overseas and longer station assignments, more of them are looking to buy a home,” said Kohler. “Through our Dream Makers program, the PenFed Foundation is planning on helping them make that part of the American dream come true.”

To learn more about the Dream Makers program and apply online, visit: http://www.penfedfoundation.org/dreammakers.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Tags: