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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

Maintaining a Healthy Lawn

July 9, 2012 4:52 am

While regular watering and mowing are standard for maintaining a healthy and attractive lawn, preventing lawn moss and algae is also critical. Moss and algae are harmful non-flowering plants that compete for space with healthy grass when it is on the verge of being in bad shape.

Removing shade helps to keep your lawn strong by providing natural nutrients. So, if you have any trees in your garden, cut branches that prevent the whole yard from receiving sunlight. Also, take down any umbrellas or lawn furniture that may block sunlight from reaching the lawn when they are not in use.

Drainage and aeration also help to solve the issues of compacted soil and too much moisture. You can spike the affected area to allow air in, break up the soil and eliminate excess moisture. You can also work to increase sunlight to the area, when possible, and improve growth of turfgrass. You should also avoid watering your lawn without spiking it first to allow for proper drainage.

Source: TruGreen

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5 Ways to be Ready for Whatever the Economy Brings

July 9, 2012 4:52 am

Regardless of how the economic landscape progresses in the coming months, there are certain steps consumers can take to safeguard their own financial well-being. Nonprofit firm InCharge Debt Solutions advises following these five steps:

1. Reduce your debt – Paying for debt instead of life's necessities (food, shelter, utilities) is counterproductive, particularly during a recession. Take steps to pay down your debt as much as possible before another downturn.

2. Create an emergency fund. Even if you only have a small amount of "extra" money every time you receive income, put as much as you can away.

3. Cut your expenses. It is amazing how many things you can save on when you really put your mind to it - cable, insurance, entertainment. There are always ways to cut back.

4. Be a better employee. Work harder, do more at work, become more visible and more valuable to your employer. Who knows, you may get a raise or a bonus!

5. Do a financial inventory – Have a certified professional evaluate your financial situation, budget, and spending habits, and develop a strategy to help you deal with whatever the economy throws at you.

Source: InCharge Debt Solutions

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How to Save on Power Bills this Summer

July 6, 2012 4:50 am

As we move into the dog days of summer, Georgia Power offers some helpful tips to stay cool and save on energy bills.

Keeping cool

  • During the summer, the air conditioner is usually the biggest user of electricity. For many homes, it accounts for more than half of the summer electric bill.
  • Set your thermostat at 78 degrees or higher and leave it there. For every degree below that setting, you'll use 3 percent to 4 percent more electricity.
  • Set the thermostat even higher when at work or away from home for long periods of time, but no more than five degrees higher.
  • Invest in a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts your home's temperature to your schedule so you're comfortable when at home and save energy while away.
  • Change or clean your air conditioner filter regularly to maximize the unit's cooling potential. Dirty filters restrict airflow and reduce efficiency.
  • Check your windows and doors for a tight fit. Apply weather stripping or caulking if needed.
  • Use fans whenever possible. Ceiling fans can make the air in a room feel 6 degrees cooler and allow you to save energy. However, remember to turn them off when you're not in the room.
Proper insulation
  • Increasing attic insulation can reduce heat loss/heat gain by up to 28 percent.
  • Insulation is measured in R-value, which is a measure of resistance to heat flow. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation value.
  • Experts recommend you use an R-value of R-30 or higher, depending on local energy codes, in ceiling areas.
In the kitchen
  • Try to use the range instead of the oven. Or better yet, turn on the microwave or use a pressure cooker. Both use less power than a standard electric range. 
  • Whenever possible, cook a lot of meals at the same time. This uses less energy than cooking each meal separately.
Using the refrigerator
  • Make sure your refrigerator door seals are airtight. Check them by closing a piece of paper in the door, half in and half out. If you can pull the paper out easily, you may need to make some adjustments or replace the seal.
  • Set the refrigerator thermostat between 35 and 38 degrees, and your freezer at zero degrees.
Clothes washer/dishwasher
  • Turn down your water-heater thermostat. A setting of 120 degrees is adequate for most homes and will save money and energy.
  • When using the dishwasher, turn off the drying cycle if you don't need the dishes right away.
  • Run the dishwasher, dryer and stove in the morning or after the sun goes down to avoid adding heat to your house during the hottest part of the day.
  • Wait until the dishwasher is full before running it. Partial loads use just as much water and power as a full load.
  • Dry clothes in consecutive loads so the dryer does not have to reheat every time. Always clean the lint filter after each load.
Source: Georgia Power

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Mid-Year Job Forecast Points to a Better Hiring Picture in Back Half of 2012

July 6, 2012 4:50 am

While the jobs recovery continues to lag that of previous recessions, the outlook for the back half of 2012 shows continued improvement over 2011, according to a survey from CareerBuilder. Forty-four percent of private sector employers reported they are planning to hire full-time, permanent staff from July 1 through December 31, 2012, an increase of nine percentage points over the same period last year. In last year's forecast, the number of companies planning to hire full-time, permanent employees (35 percent) increased seven percentage points over 2010. The nationwide survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive© from May 14, 2012 to June 4, 2012, included more than 2,000 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes.

"The rate of job creation has been slower than what we would have expected at this point in the recovery, but the market is stable," explains Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. "Two years ago, the hiring activity in the U.S. was driven primarily by large employers recruiting in metropolitan areas for a handful of industries or job functions. Today, we see job listings in all industries, market sizes and company sizes. The outlook for the remainder of the year is better than 2011, but it will follow the same pattern of steady progress rather than a surge in job growth. Employers will remain careful as they assess barriers and opportunities for growth in the economy and their own businesses."

Employers plan to add a mix of new employees over the next six months, with each category trending up from last year:
  • Hiring full-time, permanent employees – 44 percent, up from 35 percent in 2011
  • Hiring part-time employees – 21 percent, up from 15 percent in 2011
  • Hiring contract or temporary employees – 21 percent, up from 12 percent in 2011
The top functional areas for which businesses plan to hire first are those directly impacting revenue and innovation. Customer Service remains in the No. 1 spot for recruitment with Information Technology and Sales rounding out the top three.
  • Customer Service – 24 percent
  • Information Technology – 22 percent
  • Sales – 21 percent
  • Administrative – 16 percent
  • Business Development – 13 percent
  • Accounting/Finance – 12 percent
  • Marketing – 11 percent
More employers are also reporting that their organizations have created entirely new job functions within their organizations to respond to evolving business demands. When asked if their organizations currently have positions that didn't exist in their firms five years ago, employers pointed to the following:
  • Positions tied to social media – 16 percent
  • Positions tied to storing and managing data – 15 percent
  • Positions tied to cyber security – 12 percent
  • Positions tied to financial regulation – 10 percent
  • Positions tied to promoting diversity inside and outside the organization – 9 percent
  • Positions tied to green energy and the environment – 8 percent
  • Positions tied to global relations – 8 percent
One-third (34 percent) of employers added full-time, permanent headcount in the second quarter, up from 29 percent last year and 33 percent last quarter. Nine percent decreased headcount while 56 percent made no change to staff levels and 1 percent were unsure. Looking ahead, 30 percent of employers plan to hire full-time, permanent employees in the third quarter, up from 26 percent last year. Given that employers historically have been more conservative in estimates than actual hiring activity, the number may come in higher at quarter end.

Source: CareerBuilder

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May Home Price Index Shows Third Consecutive Monthly Increase

July 6, 2012 4:50 am

Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased on a year-over-year basis by 2.0 percent in May 2012 compared to May 2011, according to CoreLogic’s May Home Price Index (HPI®) report. CoreLogic is a provider of information, analytics and business services.

On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, also increased by 1.8 percent in May 2012 compared to April 2012*. The May 2012 figures mark the third consecutive increase in home prices nationwide on both a year-over-year and month-over-month basis.

Excluding distressed sales, home prices nationwide increased on a year-over-year basis by 2.7 percent in May 2012 compared to May 2011. On a month-over-month basis, excluding distressed sales, the CoreLogic HPI indicates home prices increased 2.3 percent in May 2012 compared to April 2012, the fourth month-over-month increase in a row. Distressed sales include short sales and real estate owned (REO) transactions.

The CoreLogic Pending HPI indicates that house prices, including distressed sales, will rise by at least another 1.4 percent from May 2012 to June 2012. Excluding distressed sales, house prices are also poised to rise by 2.0 percent during that same time period. The CoreLogic Pending HPI is a new metric that was introduced within the April 2012 HPI report. It provides the most current indication of trends in home prices, and is based on Multiple Listing Service (MLS) data that measure price changes in the most recent month.

Other highlights as of May 2012 include:
  • Including distressed sales, the five states with the highest appreciation were: Arizona (+12.0 percent), Idaho (+9.2 percent), South Dakota (+8.7 percent), Montana (+8.2 percent) and Michigan (+7.9 percent).
  • Excluding distressed sales, the five states with the highest appreciation were: Montana (+9.1 percent), South Dakota (+8.5 percent), Arizona (+7.3 percent), Idaho (+6.6 percent) and Wyoming (+6.6 percent).
  • Including distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the national HPI (from April 2006 to May 2012) was -30.1 percent. Excluding distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the HPI for the same period was -22.2 percent.
  • Of the top 100 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) measured by population, 29 are showing year-over-year declines in May, 12 fewer than in April.
*April data was revised. Revisions with public records data are standard, and to ensure accuracy, CoreLogic incorporates the newly released public data to provide updated results.

Source: CoreLogic

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Five Ways to Maximize a Small Kitchen

July 5, 2012 4:50 am

A small kitchen can quickly become cluttered and feel cramped. According to Consumer Reports, a few small upgrades can make a big improvement. To maximize the space you have, rethink where you store things, especially if counter space is at a premium. Here are five additional ways to make every available inch count:
  1. Place your dishwasher strategically. Choose a location near the sink but where the dishwasher won't stop traffic when the door is open. Remember to think about access to other appliances, too. You don't want the dishwasher door to block the refrigerator door, for example.
  2. Incorporate a landing spot for food by the refrigerator and for pots and pans on at least one side of the stove. These small details can easily improve your kitchen's efficiency.
  3. Install roll-out cabinets where possible. A roll-out spice rack near the range is a great use of space and eliminates clutter on the countertop or in a cabinet.
  4. Drawers and pull-out shelves can make a big difference. They're a perfect way to store pots, pans, kitchen tools and even dishware. Most commercial cabinets can be outfitted with pull-out shelves and other organizers.
  5. Before making any updates, take an inventory of everything you need and use in your kitchen and where it's kept. Remember to plan storage for small, easily overlooked items such as pot holders and plastic bags.
Source: Consumer Reports Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide

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Job Openings Increase in Top 50 Metro Areas, Says New Report

July 5, 2012 4:50 am

The July 2012 Employment Outlook from job search engine Simply Hired®, reports a 9.2 percent increase in nationwide job openings month-over-month and a 13.3 percent increase year-over-year. Job competition held steady at a nationwide ratio of three unemployed persons for every one job opening.

"For the second month in a row we're seeing positive growth in job openings nationwide," says Gautam Godhwani, Co-founder and CEO of Simply Hired. "This steady increase is reflected across all the major metro areas, showing that employers have a confidence in today's economy, which is very encouraging as we head towards the fall hiring season."

Job openings increased in all 50 of the major metros, with Boston and Pittsburgh (both 16 percent, respectively) and Salt Lake City (15 percent) showing the largest increases. While nationwide job competition held steady, regional competition eased up slightly. Job seekers in a number of metro areas are facing improved conditions, including those in New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle & Tacoma, Tampa & St. Petersburg, Denver, Sacramento, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Raleigh & Durham, Greenville (S.C.), and Las Vegas.

Job openings in all 18 industries increased in June, with agriculture (31.6 percent) and non-profit (18.2 percent) showing the largest amount of growth. Financial services (11.5 percent) and real estate (11.5 percent) also saw noticeable increases.

With nearly two-thirds of all occupation categories experiencing growth in job openings, office and administrative workers (15.3 percent) and food workers (8.7 percent) saw the largest increases. Occupations experiencing the largest declines month-over-month included financial specialists and accountants (-23.2 percent) and military personnel (-9.1 percent).

Source: Simply Hired

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How to Reduce Wildfire Risk

July 5, 2012 4:50 am

Few homeowners prepare for a wildfire or take steps to reduce wildfire risk unless one is threatening their home. However, according to Allstate, the fires raging in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, along with the dry, drought-like conditions across the country should have every homeowner taking steps to reduce wildfire risk.

Allstate recommends homeowners reduce wildfire hazards by taking a few simple steps that can make a big difference if a wildfire threatens your community.

According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), homeowners should remove potential fuel sources and create a defensible zone around a home which will dramatically reduce wildfire hazards. This may help slow flames or help direct the flames away from your home during a wildfire. Allstate and IBHS also recommend homeowners do the following within 30 feet of most houses to reduce wildfire risk:
  • Eliminate fuel sources like dry landscaping, woodpiles and decks.
  • Prune trees and shrubs.
  • Trim taller trees so lowest branch is no less than six feet from the ground.
  • Remove dead leaves and branches from the yard.
  • Clear branches from around the roof and chimney.
  • Mow lawn regularly and dispose cuttings and debris promptly.
  • Clear roof, gutters and eaves of debris.
  • Maintain your irrigation system.
  • Move firewood and storage tanks at least 50 feet away from the home.
  • Store flammable liquids properly.
Source: The Allstate Corporation

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Fourth of July Grilling Tradition Continues

July 3, 2012 4:50 am

According to the 23rd annual Weber GrillWatch™ Survey, a whopping 90 percent of American grill owners fire up their backyard grill on the Fourth of July, a nine percent jump from last year.

Weber commissioned Toluna to field the 23rd annual Weber GrillWatch Survey. A total of 1,000 grill owners throughout the United States completed the online survey. All respondents were 21 years of age or older and currently own a charcoal, gas or electric outdoor grill or smoker. The sample was divided between 50 percent males and 50 percent females and was balanced demographically to represent households across the U.S.

The survey revealed the following fun grilling facts:
  • Independence Day remains the most popular "grilling holiday" of the year, followed by Labor Day (77 percent); birthdays (76 percent); Memorial Day (71 percent) and Father's Day (53 percent).
  • The three foods grilled most often are hamburgers (73 percent), chicken (41 percent) and steak (40 percent).
  • Hot dogs and burgers remain the top two foods considered easiest to grill (78 percent and 72 percent, respectively; followed by steak (49 percent), brats (43 percent) and chicken (38 percent).
  • Three in 10 grill owners feel that grilling is an extremely important activity when entertaining guests in their home (30 percent); with 77 percent say grilling is an important activity when entertaining.
  • The grill brings people together. During grill parties, more than one-half of grill owners (59 percent) say their guests tend to congregate outside—of those, 26 percent enjoy "hanging out" exclusively by the grill.
  • On average, grill owners host approximately 2.8 barbecues during the summer; nearly 19 percent say they hosted at least five barbecues during the summer months.
Source: Weber-StephenProducts LLC

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Five Tips for Effective Retirement Planning

July 3, 2012 4:50 am

Planning for retirement can be a time of great anticipation as well as great anxiety. And, given the current economic climate, many individuals have changed their plans for retirement by either pushing back their retirement date or have considered working part time during their retirement to supplement their fixed incomes.

According to Jim Cantrell, a certified financial planner and owner of Financial Strategies, Inc. in Brookfield, Wis., while some people close to retirement have changed their goals or approach, others simply don't know what to do.

He provides the following five tips to help create a solid financial plan for the future:
  • Know what you are going to do. If you have grandiose thoughts of spending months in exotic destinations, you will need to put a bit more into your retirement fund than if your goal is to do volunteer work and stay close to home. One of the best ways to ensure that your future plans are appropriate for you is to get involved in activities that are of interest before you retire. For example, if you plan to spend your time volunteering, consider giving a few hours a week before retirement to see if this will work with your future plans. Additionally, if relocation is part of your retirement goal, spend time vacationing in the areas you could potentially call your future home.
  • Know your benefits. It is important to talk to your organization's human resources department well before you plan to retire. Consider items such as health insurance, pension and stock options. Each of these things could have a big impact on your finances once you are retired.
  • Diversify your stock options. As you approach retirement, it is important to ensure that you do not have an over concentration of stock positions. Sometimes senior management and upper level executives have a lot of their portfolio tied up in their company; however, once they retire, they will not have the same level of control in the direction the company takes. Having all your eggs in one basket (or a lot of them) is never a good idea, this is why it is important to consider diversifying your investment portfolio.
  • Move to stable investments. As you approach retirement (approximately five to seven years prior), consider shifting your investment portfolio from a higher percentage of equities to less risky, fixed or stable investments. This will make your portfolio a much safer place to go and get your money when you need it.
  • Have a solid plan. How much will you need to put away to live the lifestyle you currently enjoy, or what things do you plan to cut out? Know what you currently have available and what you will need and put it all down in a solid and workable plan. One of the best ways to ensure that you have a solid plan is to meet with a certified financial planning practitioner (a fee-only advisor is recommended) to create a program that meets all your future needs.
Source: Financial Strategies, Inc.

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