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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

5 Master Bedroom Design Ideas to Maximize Comfort and Space

June 1, 2012 3:24 am

For some, the master bedroom is not only a place to sleep; it also doubles as a favorite reading spot, an entertainment hub, or even a yoga studio. But with limited space, how can you make this popular room a more flexible space, without sacrificing style and comfort?

"Your bedroom should be the ultimate reflection of your personality, as well as your hobbies and passions," says Ben Thorud, Senior Vice President of Ashley Sleep. "Whether you want to curl up with a good book, watch a movie on your home entertainment system, or help the kids with their homework, you can add some simple designer touches that help maximize your comfort and space."

The following simple bedroom design ideas can easily transform any master bedroom, no matter how big or small:

1. Upgrade your bed. Whether your mattress has seen better days, or you just want to upgrade to a bigger size with more space to spread out, a new bed is one of the most important investments you'll ever make.

2. Choose a comfortable headboard. If you spend a lot of time sitting up in bed, consider trading out your old headboard for one with a tufted, padded or sloped design. It makes it easier to lean back while watching TV, reading a book or surfing the Web.

3. Don't scrimp on the pillows. Adding lots of pillows to your bed is not just more comfortable for sleep, it's also more inviting and compels us to spend the day in bed (or at least initiate a good pillow fight!)

4. Add a media chest. A media chest provides a place to tuck away the TV, DVDs and games when they're not in use. Plus, a media center usually stands high enough so you can see over the footboard. You could also use your dresser as a TV stand, with a top drawer reserved for storage, and install a floor-length mirror to replace the one that once sat on your dresser.

5. Extra seating. If the kids spend a lot of time in your bedroom, consider adding a bench at the foot of the bed, or a cozy chair in the corner of the room. It provides more space for people and for storing your things.

Source: Ashley Sleep

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Fixed Mortgage Rates Fall to New All-Time Record Lows

June 1, 2012 3:24 am

Freddie Mac recently released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing fixed mortgage rates following bond yields lower to new all-time record lows. The 30-year fixed averaged 3.75 percent setting a new all-time record low for the fifth consecutive week. The 15-year fixed averaged an unprecedented 2.97 percent bringing three of the four benchmark mortgage rates below 3 percent for the first time in Freddie Mac's weekly survey.

Additional details from the PMMS include:

• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.75 percent with an average 0.8 point for the week ending May 31, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.78 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.55 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.97 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.04 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.74 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.84 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.83. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.41 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.75 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, unchanged from last week. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.13 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Swim Safely at Home

May 30, 2012 3:22 am

As the weather warms up, Consumer Reports shares several important and practical pool safety tips. Whether you have a pool on your own property or are visiting and using a friend or family member’s pool, the following procedures are essential to ensuring everyone’s safety, especially that of young children. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), there was an annual average of 5,200 pool or spa-related emergency department-treated submersion injuries for children younger than 15 from 2009 to 2011.

Consumer Reports recommends implementing several protective layers of pool safety, including CPR and first aid skills. Of course, children in and around pools should be under constant adult supervision, and young children should take swimming lessons as early as possible.

Make sure the following safety tips from Consumer Reports are put in place at your pool this summer:
  • Alarms: Any door leading from the house to the pool area should have an alarm that sounds when the door is opened. Pools should also have pool alarms that sound both at the pool and in the house if a child falls into the water.
  • Covers: When not in use for extended periods of time, pools should be securely covered.
  • Drains: Pool drains should have safety covers that prevent entrapment.
  • Fencing: A non-climbable fence, a minimum of 4 feet high, should surround the pool. The gate on the fence should be self-closing, self latching, and lockable.
Lastly, Consumer Reports advises being wary of pool toys that could potentially pose a safety hazard. A recent Consumer Reports recall, for example, involved inflatable pool slides sold at Walmart and Toys R Us that could deflate while in use and trigger a serious injury. According to the CPSC, there had been at least three cases where the pool slides maimed or killed swimmers.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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'Telework' Goes Mainstream

May 30, 2012 3:22 am

According to a new report from The Conference Board, the proportion of employees who work predominately from home (or another remote location) has, over the last decade, more than tripled in many industries, while nearly doubling nationwide among all full-time (non-self-employed) U.S. workers.

Drawn from a number of recent surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau and private sources, “The Incredible Disappearing Office: Making Telework Work” finds employees taking more frequent advantage of such workplace flexibility across the board, with 84 percent of employees who telework more than once per month now working remotely at least one day per week. In 2008, that number was 72 percent.

The latest research finds that teleworking rates (just over 2 percent nationwide) remain highest in occupations traditionally associated with the practice—including child care workers (9.1 percent in 2010), writers and authors (9.3 percent), and sales representatives (10.8 percent). The fastest growth, however, has been outside these familiar work-from-home roles, with the most dramatic increases seen in computer-related positions and others reliant on remote access to technical systems.

These trends are fundamentally altering the profile of the average teleworker. Where employees of non-profit organizations were most likely to telework in 2000, by 2010 the for-profit sector had taken the lead. It may be unsurprising that workplace flexibility appeals both to older workers nearing (or delaying) retirement and Gen Y new hires for whom virtual presence and multichannel communication are second nature.

With today's significantly cheaper, lighter-weight technology, organizations can often enjoy savings based on teleworkers. It is little wonder, then, that the federal government is embracing the approach. Signed into law on December 9, 2010, the Telework Enhancement Act (TEA) established a framework of identifying and training eligible employees, backed by appropriate policy and support, effective management oversight, and timely reporting; it offers a model not only for public agencies but also private organizations seeking to implement their own telework programs.

In surveys, teleworkers cite a number of obvious lifestyle benefits. With no commute, employees enjoy time with loved ones during precious morning and evening hours. Based from home, they gain the flexibility to adjust their schedules as job and personal demands arise. Likewise, teleworkers often note improved performance and higher productivity, with the ability to focus on work priorities free of the stress of distractions and office politics.

At the same time, this very autonomy can have distinct drawbacks. Teleworkers may feel cut-off from their colleagues and weakened in their ability to influence both day-to-day decisions and larger strategic plans. They often lack sufficient professional and administrative support and fear that being "out of sight, out of mind" keeps them from being properly recognized and rewarded by management. With meetings and group projects more difficult to coordinate, teleworkers also risk resentment from office-based colleagues, who may assume additional responsibilities in their absence. Finally, the same "always on" technology that makes the modern home office possible can mean difficulties setting boundaries between home and work time, setting the stage for potential overwork and burnout.

According to “Making Telework Work,” extensive, proactive planning from the top is key to reaping the significant cost savings and worker-satisfaction gains of teleworking while maintaining organization-wide morale and cohesion. Whether opportunities for telework are reserved for the best-performing employees, promoted across an organization, or used to attract standout applicants from a wider talent pool (such as disabled veterans, semi-retired experts, and parents with young children), leaders must establish formal, transparent guidelines if the "virtual office" is to be a real success.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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New-Home Sales Tick up in April

May 30, 2012 3:22 am

Sales of newly built, single-family homes rose 3.3 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 343,000 units, according to newly released data from HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau.

“The increase in April sales activity is in line with other important housing measures that have shown continued, gradual improvement from the first quarter as more consumers look to take advantage of today’s low interest rates and affordable home prices,” notes National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Chairman Barry Rutenberg, a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. “In markets where demand is rising, we could be seeing a faster pace of recovery if not for persistently tight lending conditions that are slowing both the building and buying of new homes.”

“Today’s report is representative of the kind of modest but consistent gains that we expect to see in new-home sales through the remainder of 2012,” says NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “As indicated by our most recent builder surveys, more consumers are taking advantage of historically low mortgage rates amidst firming economic and job market conditions in certain areas.”

On a regional basis, new-home sales rose 7.7 percent in the Northeast, 28.2 percent in the Midwest and 27.5 percent in the West in April. The South was the only region to post a decline for the month, of 10.6 percent.

Meanwhile, the inventory of new homes for sale held virtually unchanged at just 146,000 units in April, which is a historically slim 5.1-month supply at the current sales pace.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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May 29 is '529 Day' – Do You Know What That Means?

May 29, 2012 3:20 am

Today is 529 Day and according to a survey released by financial services firm Edward Jones, 62 percent of Americans have no idea what a 529 college saving plan is. The survey, which asked respondents to identify what a 529 plan is from a list of options spanning from "a college savings plan" to "a form of life insurance," found that almost two-thirds chose the wrong answer. About 14 percent of the respondents simply said they did not know.

According to the firm, the survey results reinforce the growing problem that many Americans are facing today – the rising costs of higher education. Tuition costs of four-year public colleges rose 8 percent from 2010 to 2011, and they are expected to continue to rise, according to the College Board. Created more than 15 years ago in 1996, a 529 plan is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage preparing for future college costs.

Awareness for 529 plans rises with the wealth level of those surveyed. Only 27 percent of respondents making less than $35,000 a year identified a 529 plan, while 57 percent of those making between $75,000 and $100,000 annually and 62 percent of respondents making more than $100,000 annually identified the correct answer.

Respondents who have college degrees were much more likely than other respondents to identify a 529 plan, with 53 percent choosing the correct option. This compares to 33 percent of respondents who attended—but did not complete—college and 29 percent of those whose education ended with high school or earlier.

Just about half (48 percent) of respondents with children of any age indicated they knew about a 529 plan. Those with children between the ages of 13 and 17 were less likely (43 percent) than their peers with younger children to identify a 529 plan. More than half of respondents with children under the age of 13 (52 percent) correctly identified a 529 plan. Those with no children were much less likely to choose the correct option (30 percent).

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Word of the Day

May 29, 2012 3:20 am

Word of the Day 

Graduated payment mortgage. Mortgage loan for which the initial payments are low but increase over the life of the loan.

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How Green is Your Travel?

May 29, 2012 3:20 am

Travelers are an eco-conscious group, according to the results of a recent survey. In fact, 71 percent of survey respondents reported that it is either important or very important to try and reduce their carbon footprint while traveling.

According to the survey—conducted by international ground transportation provider The GO Group, LLC,and GO Airport Express, a GO Group member company based in Chicago—just 13 percent of participants responded that reducing their carbon footprint while traveling is not important, while 15 percent said they hadn't thought about it at all.

"These results indicate that travelers are environmentally aware, and we will continue to explore ways we can help them reduce their carbon footprint," says John McCarthy, president, The GO Group, LLC. "By nature, shared rides are green rides. With six people on board, a van uses only 30 percent of the fuel that six cars would use and creates 54 percent fewer carbon emissions."

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Credit Card Scenario Brightens, Signals Economic Improvement

May 29, 2012 3:20 am

Consumers are continuing to do a better job of managing their credit as the economy gradually improves. As of April 2012, existing bank credit card balances were 28 percent below their peak, according to Equifax's May National Consumer Credit Trends Report.

Balances were $531 billion in April 2012 compared to slightly more than $730 billion in January 2009. Retail card balances have not trended up or down, remaining even with seasonally adjusted pre-recession levels, however, the number of retail card accounts fell sharply. Over the 28 months ending December 2010, card accounts fell by 22 percent. They have since grown by 4.7 percent, now reaching 173 million accounts. In April 2012, available credit for retail credit cards (the difference between total credit limits and balances) increased approximately $5 billion after bottoming out in Q4 2011, driven primarily by rising credit limits.

"The combination of increased available credit and more timely payments among card borrowers has led to the recent growth in card lending," explains Equifax Chief Economist Amy Crews Cutts. "Consumers are starting to respond to increased credit availability both in cards and other tradelines, a signal of both their financial confidence and improving economic conditions. In turn, this increased consumer credit activity bodes well for U.S. economic growth through the second half of 2012."

Other highlights of the data include:
  • Aggregated bank card credit limits have held steady for the past six months at $2.4 trillion, roughly 6.6 percent higher than the low point set in February 2011.
  • New bank card issuance rose almost 37 percent in February 2012 relative to the same month a year ago.
  • The credit limit on new cards averaged $4,784 in February 2012, a 17 percent increase from the February 2011 average of $4,008.
  • Utilization (the ratio of balances to credit limits) was slightly more than 22 percent in April 2012, nearly equaling November 2007 lows.
  • As of March 2012, roll rates (the rate at which consumers progress from the "current" stage in payments to 30 days past due) have remained below 1 percent since February. This marks the first instance in more than five years roll rates have remained at this level for more than two months.
  • Retail card credit limits are stabilizing after falling 15 percent in early 2010 and another 7 percent in mid 2011 (currently at $299 billion).

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Why Debt Can Be a Good Thing

May 25, 2012 3:16 am

When it comes to the best ways to use money, too many Americans operate under a key misconception, says investment adviser and financial planner Ike Ikokwu.

“Money is opportunity, and having a blind spot for maximizing investment can drastically reduce one’s future options,” says Ikokwu, author of “Winning the Money Game: Separating the Myths from the Truth.” That blind spot is debt, he says. Just as Americans have learned there are such things as good fats and good cholesterol, so too is there good debt for a prosperous financial future.

As Ikokwu explains, the three most common ways of becoming wealthy involve debt: “They use it to launch businesses, invest in real estate, or pay for advanced degrees in order to become high-income earners.”

Ikokwu also outlines the following myths concerning debt:
  • Paying off your home mortgage provides financial security.
  • A 15-year mortgage is always the quickest way to pay off your home.
  • Putting money in your 401K or other qualified plan saves you taxes.
  • The stock market is the only place to generate high, double-digit returns.
Admonishments to “stay out of debt” prevent people from gaining financial independence, Ikokwu says. Investing in education, a new career in another state or a new business may be more lucrative than paying down a mortgage.

“My definition of being ‘debt-free’ is to have enough money so that you can pay off your debt at any time – if you need to,’’ he says. “But you don’t necessarily want to do that. Good debt can save you money on taxes, increase your investment gains and allow you to take advantage of wealth-building opportunities. Bad debt, on the other hand, is like having a big hole in your money bucket.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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