Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Amazing Apps: Reelgood

36% of Americans plan to watch movies this Labor Day Weekend, but the average American will spend up to an hour this long weekend just browsing aimlessly for something to watch! 
Reelgood saves users valuable time by putting all the movies from 20 different streaming sources—including favorites like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now—into a single destination. No more flipping through Netflix, switching over to Amazon Prime, and over to Hulu without finding the perfect flick. With Reelgood, simply browse one page with everything from all of those sources—then launch your pick directly from the Reelgood interface.
Reelgood is free to download at the App Store [https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/reelgood-pick-perfect-movie/id1031391869], and is coming soon to web, Apple TV 2, and Android.

Soul Sustenance: Seize the Day

I recently had a chance to review Seize the Day by Joyce Meyer. I've read her books before, and I'm always delighted to read the positive attitude with which she writes - I always feel better after having read a chapter in her books.

This book is no different. It talks about how we can "seize the day" even in the mundane, boring, small, seemingly unimportant tasks of life. By being purposeful in all we do, we can make each moment count, no matter what ends up on our plate.

The Bible-based principles, along with real-life stories, help make the book real, accessible, and convincing. By letting God direct our life, our choices, and our attitudes, we can relish blessings and happiness from Him - not always because we necessarily get more, but because we feel like we do when we're resting in His goodness.

Thrifty Thinking: Why Being Friends With Your Broker Could Cost You Money

Building a trusting relationship with a financial professional is important because you’ll be sharing information about your assets and income, and you’ll want to feel confident when acting on any advice you receive.
But be wary of becoming too close, says Dennis Notchick, an Investment Advisor and Certified Financial Planner with Safeguard Investment Advisory Group (www.safeguardinvestment.com).
“People often become good friends with a broker who’s not doing a very good job for them,” Notchick says. “Even when they begin to realize they aren’t getting their money’s worth, they can’t bring themselves to break the ties. The personal relationship has come to mean more to them than their bottom line.”
Notchick recalls once when a couple in their 60s came to him to discuss whether there were better options for their money. Based on their financial professional’s advice, they had invested $1 million in variable annuities.
“Variable annuities can be very expensive,” Notchick says. “The fees can range from 3 to 4 percent per year, so I pointed out to the couple that they were being charged exorbitant fees and could reduce $30,000 or more in costs.
“The husband was on board and ready to make a change, but the wife was hesitant. She didn’t want to jeopardize that friendly relationship they had with their broker. They decided to stay where they were, paying over $30,000 in fees each year, just because they want to keep that friendship.”
So what should people do when they want to find an advisor they can trust, but don’t want to go overboard with the relationship?
For starters, Notchick suggests they ask these questions:
• Is the advisor a fiduciary? The fiduciary standard says that the financial professional must always act in a client’s best interest. Many advisors, at least right now, are held to a lesser standard. Their advice only needs to be generally suitable for the client, which allows these professionals to steer clients to investment products that are more profitable for the advisor. Beginning in January 2018, a new U.S. Department of Labor rule will be in full effect and require that all financial professionals meet the fiduciary standard when providing retirement advice. Some brokers call themselves fiduciaries – but how can you tell which hat they are wearing when giving you that advice?
• What licenses does the advisor have?  If an advisor only has a securities license, then you will only receive securities-related advice.  If an advisor has an insurance license, you will only receive insurance-related advice.  Make sure you work with an advisor who understands both worlds and creates a plan based on the client’s philosophy, not someone else’s.
• What’s the advisor’s experience? It’s worth knowing not only how long the advisor has been in the business, but more importantly what kind of training and experience he or she has. For example, Notchick says, those who earn the Certified Financial Planner designation must go through extensive training and pass a rigorous exam, but real world knowledge/experience of all the areas of financial planning are also critical.
“Certainly, it’s important to have an advisor you can trust, but you still want to keep the relationship professional,” Notchick says. “When that relationship becomes more like a friendship, high fees almost always mean the investor will pay the price.”
About Dennis Notchick
Dennis Notchick, CFP is a Registered Investment Advisor Representative and Certified Financial Planner with Safeguard Investment Advisory Group (www.safeguardinvestment.com) in San Diego, Calif. He has nearly a decade of experience as a financial professional, and holds Series 3, 7, and 63 and 65 Securities Licenses and a California Life/Health Insurance License. Notchick has a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from California State University Northridge.

Book Nook: Literary Starbucks

Literary Starbucks began as a Tumblr that imagined what it would be like if famous authors and  literary characters ordered coffee. For example: "Zeus heads straight for the end of the counter and takes every else's (sic) coffee for himself" and "Eric Carle uses a large black coffee to paint a watercolor Starbucks. The baristas frame it and put it behind the register."

Now, authors Nora Katz, Wilson Josephson, Jill Poslanzer, and Harry Bliss have collaborated to bring their humorous and witty prose in book form, lightly illustrated. I loved the variety of authors and characters represented, and I liked how it was a good blend of extremely well-known authors and characters, ones I had heard of but didn't know much about, old and new authors/characters, and completely new names. In fact, I looked up several authors to add to my reading list based on the descriptions in the book.

The book is easy to read, whether or not you know a lot about literature. The stories, even about new authors, are humorous, tongue-in-cheek, and fun. It's a great book for anyone who loves to read, drink coffee, or both.

NORA KATZ is a senior at Carleton College, studying history and archaeology. WILSON JOSEPHSON is a senior at Carleton College, studying English. He an editor at The Rain, Party, & Disaster Society. JILL POSLANZER is a graduate of Carleton College, with a degree in English. She works at CBS Studios in Los Angeles. HARRY BLISS is a cartoonist and cover artist for The New Yorker magazine, and creator of the internationally syndicated, single panel gag cartoons entitled Bliss.

Book Nook: Smell the Raindrops

Segregation is a painful period in our nation's history. Bethany Ann had a wonderful experience during this time period, however, growing up with a particularly progressive wealthy white family in the South. Her black nanny Karine, became exceptionally close throughout her life.

The book Smell the Raindrops: One young woman's journey through life, love and recovery chronicles what Karine meant to her, and how her relationship impacted her whole life. It shows where the racial climate was, and what it meant to be someone who questioned segregation in small ways.

It was a well-written book, seemingly autobiographical, based on actual feelings of the time period, with a compelling, believable story that serves to help the reader examine their own feelings toward racial diversity and the history of relationships between different groups of people.

B. A. Austin is an independent art history lecturer with a Bachelor of Arts from Bowdoin College and a Master of Arts from the University of Memphis. Austin created this memoir-style work of fiction based on her own experiences across the country, infusing each page with a deep sense of place and time. It is a journey across America, across several generations, bringing readers intimately close to day-to-day events that shaped our history.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Thrifty Thinking: Is Hoarding Cash The Prudent Move As Market Awaits Election Results?

Could cash stuffed into a Mason jar and buried in the back yard be the best investment hedge against the unpredictable future that this year’s presidential election will bring?
While no one actually encourages burying money, some financial watchers have suggested that hoarding cash – even as much as 50 percent of your portfolio – would be a smart way to limit risk in case the market gets extraordinarily jittery once we know who the next president will be.
But not everyone agrees that strategy is the right call – at least not for all.
 “Cash is an old standby that certainly works,” says Rich Conley, Executive Vice President and Head of Sales for Sawtooth Solutions (www.sawtootham.com), a company that provides technology platforms that help financial advisors manage their clients’ accounts.
“But raising cash could create unintended tax consequences so you will want to take that into consideration as well.”
Conley says “hoarding” is something of a loaded word. It suggests that people are letting emotion creep into what should be a disciplined approach to investing and building wealth over time.
“Hoarding may also be counterproductive,” he says. “It may be a good idea for some investors, but not for others. The primary reason someone would want to hold a higher than normal amount of cash is to reduce investment risks.”
Conley says he just recently had a lengthy discussion on the subject and its implications with Barry Mendelson, CEO of Capital Market Consultants in Milwaukee.
“To reduce risks, you need to have a good idea of how much risk you are taking right now and how much of it you want to reduce,” Conley says. “That answer won’t be the same for everyone.”
He says there are a few things to consider before anyone decides to join with the cash hoarders.
• Market reaction isn’t inevitable. Just because doomsayers think election results could negatively jolt the market, that doesn’t mean it will happen. “If you think back to the last election, it produced a result that was very counter intuitive, with the market rallying very strongly following the results,” Conley says. “I don’t know many people who would have guessed that, except those who believed the status quo would be rewarded.”
• Other options exist besides hoarding. There are plenty of alternative approaches to limiting risk. But in choosing one, each investor should decide for themselves what they are trying to protect against and what approach best matches their forecasted outcome and concerns.
• Issues to watch. The political issues of particular concern to investors are the same issues impacting the general electorate, such as national security, public safety and the economy. Depending on who wins, the approach to those issues could be quite different, as would be the effect on investors.
“No matter what, we will have a new administration and things change,” Conley says. “There is risk in change and likely it will be quarters before there is clarity on the nature of that change.”
About Rich Conley
Rich Conley is Executive Vice President and Head of Sales of Sawtooth Solutions, (www.sawtootham.com) a company that provides wealth management services and technology platforms that help advisors manage their clients’ total relationships.

Website Spotlight: Promgirl.com

Homecoming and Prom season is always a fun time of the year! Between being crowned Queen or King, or simply enjoying the night out with friends or a date, you realize that high school is slowly coming to an end and graduation followed by a new journey, is closer than ever.  Aside from all these great sides to prom, there is one stressful factor, which is finding the right dress and looking fantastic for photos on one of the most memorable nights of your life!

Discovering the right dress plays a big role for these kinds of events. The hardest part is buying a dress that you know for sure nobody else will be wearing. PromGirl has the largest selection of homecoming dresses and gowns that are available online! Provided in many different styles, colors, and shapes, PromGirlmakes it easy to find a dress that’s right for you and your special night out. With the variety of amazing selections for a low cost price, there is no need to stop by the mall or different boutiques, only to be faced with the stress of long lines and snarky sales people before the big day. Just shop and check out in the click of a button in the privacy of your own home. Please visit promgirl.com to view more and contact Jane@haveyourcake.info for samples or hi res images required for your story.
About PromGirl:
Founded in 1998, PromGirl is the largest leading online retailer of special occasion fashion, offering an extensive selection of high-quality, "in-stock" dresses at an affordable price. Our customers, and their shopping experience, are at the forefront of everything we do. We take pride in ensuring that our customers experience nothing short of perfection from the ease of browsing our styles, to finding the perfect dress to complement their personality, to wearing the finest quality dress from top designer brands. Today, our reach is global and we are proud to deliver "dream dresses" all around the world. We make this happen with an expert team of seasoned professionals in Middletown, Delaware; New York City, and a state of the art facility in New Jersey that houses hundreds of thousands of dresses. 

Parenting Pointers: The No Rescue Policy: Why it’s Time

By Parenting Educator and Author Amy McCready

Forgotten lunches. Essays. Homework. Sports equipment. Oversleeping. Never fear!  Mom or Dad are near! 

No doubt, we parents feel a little super-hero-ish when we show up to rescue our kids in distress when they forget what they need or what they’re supposed to do. Whether we’re protecting them from a zero in a grade book, a reproachful eye from a coach, or the ruffled feathers of a commitment gone sideways, it feels good to be the hero for the people we love the most.  What you may not realize is…ultimately, all that rescuing inadvertently paves the way to big-time entitlement issues. And that doesn’t feel very super, does it? 

When kids know that no matter what – no matter when – you’ll drop everything and make THEIR responsibility YOUR responsibility – where is the incentive to grow up? To own responsibility? You may have guessed it – there is none.

Enter the No Rescue Policy. It’s a powerful tool that is simple to use but can be initially challenging for parents as we fight the urge to “fix everything” and for kids as they fight the change.  Once the cycle of rescuing is broken, however, you will be thrilled with the responsibility your kids take on and really thrilled to no longer have to race to save the day! 

Here’s how the No Rescue Policy works:

*A note of warning: The No Rescue Policy is for frequent forgetters – not for a once in a blue moon bout of forgetfulness. (After all, we all make mistakes!).

1.     Give them fair warning: Let your kids know you see how they are growing up and becoming independent in so many ways.  Express confidence that they are now old enough to manage some things for themselves and step up to some new “grown up” responsibilities. Outline what you expect from them and let them know that you will no longer be picking up the slack or rescuing them by rushing forgotten items to school, sports, or other practices/rehearsals.

2.     Get your kids in on the act.  Your kids may not love this new policy and that’s all right. Be sure to make kids part of the solution by asking them to come up with ways to ensure that they don’t need rescuing in the first place!  Ask, “What do you think we can do to make sure you have everything you need for school before you leave in the morning?”  Make a running list of new strategies and suggestions and see what works!  For some a checklist by the door works: others pack their school bags the night before.  Figure out what works for your family and experiment with new ideas.

3.     Start with a trial run.  It’s a good idea to do a few practice runs before setting the new No Rescue Policy in stone.  Tweak the plan as needed. Be sure to announce when the No Rescue Policy will be in full effect.  At that point – they’re on their own and can remember to do things for themselves, or expect to learn from the consequences. 

4.     Stick to it. Here’s where the tough part starts.  Your job is to do NOTHING. When your daughter leaves her lunch at home, or your son leaves his cleats, or the permission slip is on the table instead of in the backpack – your job is to do nothing – don’t rescue; don’t remind. Let them walk out the door without a word from you.  It will be agony for you and tough for your kids as they experience the natural consequences of their forgetfulness. There might be pleading. Maybe crying. Maybe anger as they blame you for their forgetfulness.  Take comfort in knowing that letting them fail is where the real learning happens. They may have been hungry at lunch or had to face the teacher about forgotten homework, but chances are, it won’t happen again.    

5.     Save the sermons. Remember that life’s greatest lessons come from our mistakes. In the moment – avoid the “I told you so’s” and express empathy: “That must have been tough to tell your coach you didn’t have your practice gear. How did you work it out?” Then shift the conversation to solutions: “How can you tweak the routine so you don’t forget your equipment next time?”

Implementing the No Rescue Policy sometimes requires intestinal fortitude – but it’s well worth it!!  Kids learn more from their own mistakes than from any lecture you can come offer. Keep in mind that your end game is to help your kids learn independence, self-sufficiency, pride in taking responsibility – and help them steer clear of the entitlement trap.

Good luck and happy parenting!

For more strategies on how to avoid the entitlement epidemic and raise kids who take personal responsibility, order a copy of Amy McCready’s bestselling book - now available in paperback: The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World

Amy McCready is the Founder of PositiveParentingSolutions.com and the author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World as well as If I Have To Tell You One More Time: The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, Or Yelling. Amy is a regular contributor on The TODAY Show and has also appeared on Rachael Ray, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Steve Harvey and elsewhere. In her most important job, she is mom to two fabulous young men.  Learn more at www.AmyMcCready.com.

Amazing Apps: 5 Ways Your Spare Change Can Make A Big Impact

Nearly every time we make a purchase, it results in spare change. Some of us let it jingle around in our pockets, while others drop it into the charity bucket next to the register, hoping that it makes it to the featured charity.  Even more of us let it pile up in our vehicles, waiting for a chance to put it to use.  But, what if that spare change, as small as it may seem, could actually add up to something big - making a difference in the world or give your family a fun vacation?  The good news is that you can! 
“We all have spare change, and most of us see it as trivial, ” explains Leena Patidar, chief executive officer and co-founder of Coin Up. “What people don’t realize is that the aggregation of this spare change is actually quite powerful. It adds up quickly, allowing for major effect, depending on how you want to use it.” 
According to the Transportation Security Administration, there was over $531,000 worth of spare change left behind in the country’s airports just during 2012. Imagine what that much money could have done to help a charity. There are some good things that your family can do with their spare change. Here are 5 things to keep in mind as the change begins to pile up:
  1. Save for a family vacation. Many families find it challenging to pay for a family vacation. Yet if they saved spare change throughout the year, putting it into a big bank in the closet, they may have $600 or more at the end of the year. That’s enough to take a nice little family vacation or staycation and create some memories.
  2. Keep saving it. If you put all of your spare change into a bank in the closet, and then once per year you cash it out and add it to a savings account at the bank (or invest it), you will be building a nice nest egg toward retirement. Even saving a few hundred dollars per year, this will add up to a nice payday once retirement hits and the money has all been compounded in the bank.
  3. Pay it forward. Use your spare change to pay it forward for someone else. If you let it pile up in the car, once you see you have a few dollars just use it to pick up the tab for the person’s latte in line behind you. That good deed is likely to create a ripple effect of kindness.
  4. Eliminate debt. In our society, most people carry around some debt, whether from credit cards, automobile payments, or student loans. Save up the spare change, and every time it adds up to $25-50, apply it to debt. Over time, those extra payments will add up and will help eliminate the debt quicker.
  5. Give to your favorite charity. Everyone has a cause they are passionate about. Giving spare change to a favorite cause or charity can help have a major impact on that issue and lead to a better world. Apps such as Coin Up have helped make giving spare change to one’s chosen charity effortless. By downloading the app and choosing a charity to donate to, your purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar, with the change going to your chosen charity each month.
“We know the impact and power that spare change can have on society,” added Coin Up co-founder and chief technology officer, Scott Graham. “That’s why Coin Up is revolutionary, because we are creating a society that can easily engage in charitable giving through the convenience of every day transactions; taking incremental spare change from your daily credit/debit card transactions and donating it to the charity of your choice.”
The Coin Up app is free to download. All users do is download the app to register, choose a cause they are passionate about, put in their payment source, and set a monthly limit. The spare change from their transactions (at stores, restaurants, or that daily coffee) will automatically be given to their chosen charities. The app provides a secure way for people to control their monthly charity donation amount, and provides for a tax-deductible donation. For more information on the Coin Up app, visit https://www.coinupapp.com or download it today on the Apple App Store.
About Coin Up:
Coin Up is an innovative mobile app that provides a platform for donors to give to their favorite charitable causes effortlessly. Once downloaded and registered, the app will round up purchases made on your credit card or debit card and give the spare change to the person’s chosen charities. The app is free to use and has been designed to help people give monthly to charities they are passionate about, making it easy for their spare change to have a big impact.
Coin Up's mission is to create a society that engages in charitable giving through the convenience of every day transactions. The company was co-founded by Leena Patidar and Scott Graham.  For more information on Coin Up, visit the site at: https://www.coinupapp.com YOUR CHANGE. YOUR IMPACT @CoinUpApp

Thrifty Thinking: Turn an Everyday Rug into a Speedway Racetrack

By Merri Cvetan
 Decorating a kid’s room can be a challenge. You want the decor to be fun, yet functional; age-appropriate, but a design that will grow with the child. No one wants to redecorate Junior’s room every few years. 

One timeless accessory that adds personality and pizazz is an area rug. You can find rugs in every color and many designs and textures, but if you can’t find the perfect one or just want an easy DIY project (a great gift), here’s a project to make a racetrack floor mat for your child’s room.

 I found a 24 x 36-inch indoor/outdoor area rug. You can use almost any rug, but one with little or no texture, a low pile or a tight weave is easier to paint. This one resembles a low pile plush carpet. 

You will also need craft paint, flat head brushes or a small paint roller and painter’s tape.

I decided to make an oval racetrack. For a template, I used a big roasting pan. You can also use a large plate or bowl.

Trace the shape of the pan or plate onto a piece of paper.

Cut it out and use this piece as a template to cut the rounded shapes from the painter’s tape.

Lay the cut pieces of tape on the rug, along the edge of the paper template. Continue until you get the complete oval.

I decided to make my track 2 in. wide, so I measured 2 in. from the edge of the template. The new, smaller piece becomes the template for the inside track. Repeat the process of cutting out pieces of tape and attach to the rug to create a track 2 in. wide.
Fill in the space with black paint (or any color—who says roads have to be black?). I used a flat head stencil brush. Dab the paint on with an up-and-down motion to avoid getting paint under the tape. If you use a small roller, roll paint toward the middle, not toward the edges of the tape. It took 3 coats of paint to get full coverage. Allow the paint to dry completely before removing the tape.
I could have made a large track that filled in the entire rug, but wanted to add regular roads too. Lay out additional tape in any pattern. Repeat the paint process and allow it to dry.

My country roads needed center lines so I borrowed a slotted spoon from the kitchen and traced straight lines with a white pencil. Then I used a fine paint brush to make the lines permanent with white paint.

You are only limited by your imagination. You might prefer a figure-eight track or curvy roads. You can add houses, schools and fire station. Let your kids help create the design—you might get a very interesting little town!

Merri Cvetan of MEC Design Studio is an interior designer in Wisconsin who writes on home d├ęcor for The Home Depot. Merri's inventive DIY design ideas for area rugs reflect her interests that clients' homes reflect the personalities of the people who live in them. Home Depot's complete area rug collection, including styles reviewed by Merri, can be found online