Springtime Gardening Tips

There’s nothing quite like garden in full bloom. And nothing says spring like a row of Pink lilybreathtakingly beautiful flowers blossoming in riotous color. But all that beauty comes after some serious work. There’s planning, planting, maintenance and more. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult to turn your own patch of grass into a botanical work of art.

Here’s how to make it happen:

1.) Prepare your garden

Before you put anything in the soil, you’ll need to get the ground geared up for planting. First, remove all weeds, making sure to pull out the roots. Next, revitalize the soil from its long, dry winter by adding fertilizer or compost.

2.) Determine sunlight exposure

Make sure you know exactly how much sunlight each area of your garden gets so you can purchase the appropriate flowers for each spot. Some plants can handle the midday summer sun, and some will die from that exposure. Others will do well in a shaded area, and some need just a bit of filtered sunlight to thrive. Observe your garden’s sun exposure throughout the day and do your research before purchasing any seeds or plants.

3.) Pick your flowers

It’s always exciting to pick out the flowers that will bring your garden to life. Before you drop a bit of everything into your shopping cart at the nursery though, consider these two factors:

  1. Annuals vs perennials: There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Annuals include begonias, cosmos, geraniums and marigolds. Though they only live for one season, they are typically cheaper than perennials and bloom all season long, giving you more time to enjoy their beauty. Conversely, perennials, which include tulips, lavenders, hibiscus and hydrangeas, last several years but have a shorter blooming life and are usually more expensive. Do you like to change up your garden every year? Would you rather not have to plant each year? Consider each element carefully before making your selection.
  2. Variety will make your garden pop. For incredible results, diversify the colors, heights and flower types throughout your garden. Place a monochromatic flower, such as an orchid, near bicolored tulips. Plant climbing roses, or a vine like sweet peas, near a lower flower bed. Use a row of evergreens to create a darker backdrop for brilliantly colored flowers. Invest in one spectacular flowering tree, like a flowering crabapple or cherry blossoms.

4.) Choose vegetable plants

No garden is complete without some edibles. Here are 4 easy-to-grow veggies to get you started:

  1. Zucchini. The summer squash grows quickly and is simple to plant and care for. To speed up the process, soak your zucchini seeds in moist paper towels and wait for them to sprout before planting.
  2. Peas. Snap and snow peas take several months to grow. You can plant them early in the season; even before the soil is completely warm.
  3. Tomatoes. Sweet cherry tomatoes grow quickly and will turn any salad into a gourmet dish. Choose an area for your vine that gets full sun exposure.
  4. Cabbage. Cabbages need hardly any care; just be sure to use a slug bait to keep those hungry critters away.

5.) Plant!

Here’s the fun part! Before you get started, though, check your seed packet for the best planting time in your region. Make sure you aren’t planting too early or too late in the season.

It’s also important to plan your garden in full detail before you start digging. Measure the spaces you allotted for different kinds of plants, and make sure your plans are realistic so you don’t wind up frantically trying to undo a half-hour of planting because you ran out of room in the designated area.

On the day of planting, your soil should already be moist and prepared for seeding. When planting each seed or flower, determine how far beneath the soil that particular plant needs to go. Then add fertilizer as per the package instructions, gently incorporating the fertilizer into the soil. Next, place your seed or flower in the soil and fill the hole with soil. Lastly, add mulch to help ward off weeds and diseases.

6.) Maintenance

The amount of water each flower needs for growth can differ greatly. Research every plant in your garden carefully to make sure they are all getting the right amount of water. You can also choose to have a sprinkler or a drip system installed to simplify the process. Weed your garden regularly to keep it looking stunning and always trim wilted, dead blossoms off plants to allow new growth to form. Also, check your newer blossoms regularly for leaning and drooping – they may be in the need of support in the form of bamboo stakes or forked branches.

Now that your garden is in full bloom, pull out your most comfortable lounging chairs, pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade and enjoy the beautiful fruits of your labor!

Your Turn: How does your garden grow? Share your best gardening tips, secrets, and advice with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/85001907/list/10-ideas-from-outstanding-spring-gardens
http://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/14-simple-gardening-tips-and-tricks

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/7025676
http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/topics/spring-gardening
http://gardenclub.homedepot.com/3-things-need-know-about-planters/
http://www.promixgardening.com/en/tips/easy-plants-beginners-zucchini-peas-tomatoes-06/?gclid=Cj0KEQjwrsDIBRDX3JCunOrr_YYBEiQAifH1Fs-wNnZsXJkC4dq6PXUMP2zXMcR1RMM1m0p8gZgde0QaAtJp8P8HAQ
https://www.google.com/amp/m.wikihow.com/Plant-Flowers%3Famp%3D1
http://www.improvenet.com/a/choosing-the-right-flowers-for-your-garden

Everyone Understands the True Meaning of the Day: Myths and Facts

In 2000, a Gallup Poll showed that only 28% of Americans understood the true meaning200514832-001 of Memorial Day. In response, President Clinton issued an official memorandum for all federal departments, stating in part:

“… I ask that all Americans come together to recognize how fortunate we are to live in freedom and to observe a universal ‘National Moment of Remembrance’ on each Memorial Day. This memorial observance represents a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.”

Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act on Dec. 28 of that year, designating 3 p.m. local time on every Memorial Day as a National Moment of Remembrance.

It’s Always Been Called Memorial Day

Actually, it was originally Decoration Day. The purpose was to visit cemeteries and place flowers on graves of fallen loved ones who had died as soldiers. In May 1868, Gen. John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month: “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country … and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

In 1882, many people began calling it Memorial Day, although the Decoration Day name didn’t disappear until after World War II. A federal law passed in 1967 officially made the name of the holiday “Memorial Day.”

Memorial Day Commemorates the Fallen of All U.S. Wars

Now it does, but it originally honored only those that were lost in the Civil War. During World War I, as the United States found itself engaged in another major conflict, the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who had died in any war.

Although WWI was called “The War to End All Wars,” the Civil War is without question the U.S. holder of that title. Some 750,000 soldiers died, making it the deadliest war in our history and requiring the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. For comparison, about 644,000 Americans have died in all other conflicts combined.

Memorial Day has Nothing to do with Waterloo, Right?

Many towns claim to be the birthplace of this tradition, but it’s unclear exactly where it originated. By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to their fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

In April 1866, for instance, just a year after the war ended, women from Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers. It was recognized at the time as an act of healing regional wounds. That same month, in Carbondale, Illinois, 219 Civil War veterans marched to Woodlawn Cemetery, where Logan would later deliver his address. The ceremony gives Carbondale a claim to the first organized, community-wide Memorial Day observance.

Despite this and other independent observances, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a proclamation on May 26, 1966, naming Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo – named after the more famous one in Belgium where Napoleon was defeated – was chosen because it hosted an annual community-wide event each Memorial Day after 1866. During that time, businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

Memorial Day Has Always Been the Last Monday in May

The date of Decoration Day, as Logan called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle and because flowers would be in bloom. Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 for decades, but in 1968, a century after Logan’s decree, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, establishing Memorial Day as a federal holiday on the last Monday in May. The legislation took effect in 1971 and was intended to give federal employees a three-day vacation.

Flags Fly at Half-Mast All Day on Memorial Day

Almost right. Many Americans display the United States flag from their front porches or attached to a flagpole. Others decorate their front lawns with mini flags. Most federal buildings, including post offices and courthouses, fly their flags at half-mast. If you want to follow suit, feel free, but you technically should fly flags at half-staff only from sunrise until noon, then raise them to the top until sunset.

The commemorative flag tradition at Arlington National Cemetery began in the 1950s. Soldiers now place flags on over 260,000 graves there. The national cemetery, located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., was originally the home of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. It became a cemetery after the war to bury the nation’s honored dead.

Confederate States Didn’t Observe Memorial Day Until After WWI

That’s not quite true. Because of resentment toward the north after the war, most U.S. southern states decided not to celebrate Decoration Day in 1868. All but one of them honored their dead on separate days until after World War I (whereas, by 1890 every northern state had made Decoration Day an official holiday).

There’s one exception, though: Mississippi. On April 25, 1866, the town of Columbus embraced both the Union and Confederate casualties buried in its cemetery. This tradition is still carried on today in the state: Blue uniforms or gray, all are honored for their sacrifice.

Nine southern states set aside a separate day for honoring Confederate dead, variously called Confederate Memorial Day, Confederate Decoration Day and Confederate Heroes Day: Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana and Tennessee.

No Country Can Eat 800 Hot Dogs a Second

Au contraire. Although Memorial Day can and should be a solemn occasion, Americans also gravitate toward parades, road trips and barbecues on that weekend. And the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council – yep, there is one – says that, on Memorial Day, we’ll consume 818 grilled dogs per second. That’s just short of 71 million a day.

Have a fun and safe Memorial Day holiday weekend. See how many of these facts or myths your friends and family at the picnic might know. But, most of all, keep in mind that, for 150 years, the real reason for the holiday has been to honor fallen American heroes.

SOURCES:

http://www.funtrivia.com/playquiz/quiz3097282375608.html
http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Saving-Money/2015/0518/Seven-fun-Memorial-Day-facts-for-the-holiday-weekend
http://www.inquisitr.com/2094497/memorial-day-2015-10-facts-to-remember-about-the-holiday/
http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history
http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/05/25/mf.holiday.memorial.day/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/memorial-day-facts–and-a-quiz/2011/05/29/AG7PxlEH_blog.html?utm_term=.59c30633ae4f 

Beware Of WannaCry Ransomware

On Friday, May 12, an unprecedented Trojan virus spread like wildfire through the 8480c-hackerinternet, creating enormous damage and loss.

The WannaCry ransomware attacked 57,000 computers in more than 150 countries in less than a day.

As its name implies, ransomware works by holding a victim’s data under “ransom.” The virus encrypts the files on an infected computer and holds those files hostage unless the victim pays a ransom, in which case the files are promised to be returned, unharmed.

The WannaCry virus demands a payment of $300 in exchange for decrypting infected files. If the victim doesn’t cough up the money within three days, though, the ransom doubles to $600. If a full week goes by without payment, WannaCry deletes all of the files and they are gone forever.

On Saturday, 22-year-old security researcher Marcus Hutchins became an instant hero when he registered a domain name within the virus’ code in an attempt to track its spread, unintentionally slowing its progress.

Unfortunately, though, Hutchins’s actions did not completely halt the virus. By Monday morning, more than 200,000 systems across the globe were reportedly infected. European countries were hit the hardest. Many large companies were forced to close their doors for several days, as were banks, hospitals and government agencies.

As of now, no one is sure who’s behind the virus. However, most experts believe a group known as “The Equation Group” is utilizing a code written by the National Security Agency to exploit flaws in Microsoft Windows and create the virus.

There is no fix for WannaCry, though cyber-security experts are hard at work trying to decrypt infected files. If your computer is infected, it’s best not to pay the ransom. Instead, restore backup files to your computer or seek help from a professional who specializes in restoring lost data. Paying the ransom doesn’t guarantee the return of your files, and it encourages attackers to infect your computer again.

As always, the best way to protect yourself is to be proactive. Here are 5 steps you can take to keep your computer safe from WannaCry and other ransomware:

1.) Create a backup of your files

If you haven’t already done so, invest in an external hard drive and get into the habit of making regular backups of your data. This will protect your files in case anything happens to your computer, saving you lots of time, money and stress.

You can also subscribe to a cloud backup service and regularly upload your most important data. There are multiple free cloud services you can use, such as Google Drive, Apple iCloud or Dropbox. All of them will store your valuable data (to a size limit) without charging you a penny.

2.) Patch your Windows with Microsoft’s fix

Upon discovering that WannaCry spread through a weakness in Microsoft Windows, the software giant released a fix for the vulnerability. Protect your computer from this virus and other ransomware by using the fix to strengthen your computer’s code.

3.) Update your operating system

While the discovered weakness in Windows now has an appropriate band-aid, no one knows if there are any other flaws that can be exploited for another virus. It’s important to update your OS to the most recent version, preferably to Windows 10, as soon as possible. The more updated your software, the less likely it is that it contains vulnerabilities that can be abused.

4.) Use a firewall

A strong firewall will prevent ransomware from accessing your computer and will guard your online activity. No program or malware will be able to enter your system without your full consent.

Since malware is always evolving, it’s important to update your firewall on a regular basis to ensure protection from the most recent viruses and malware. You can purchase your own firewall or utilize available security measures offered by Windows, being sure to check regularly for updated versions.

5.) Avoid suspicious websites and emails

It’s too easy for hackers to infect your computer. All they need is for you to click on a flashing banner ad on your favorite shopping site and – oops! Malware is installed and it now has access to your entire computer and all your files.

Alternatively, following a link on a random email can infect your computer and destroy all your data. When browsing and checking your emails, always be on guard. Never visit suspicious-looking sites or click on any ads that look shady. Don’t download anything you can’t explain, and never click on links found in emails from people or companies you’re not familiar with. A little bit of caution goes a long way toward protecting your computer.

No one knows when WannaCry will stop circulating the web, but it always pays to be careful. Once you’re infected, restoring your data can be stressful, time-consuming, and costly. Taking steps to protect yourself, though, is painless and simple. By implementing the ideas detailed above, you’ll help keep your computer safe from this and any other ransomwares looking to make a buck off your carelessness. Better to be smart and safe than sloppy and sorry!

Your Turn:What security measures do you take to protect your computer from viruses? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

http://bgr.com/2017/05/15/wanna-cry-ransomware-virus-windows-wannacry-explainer/ 
http://money.cnn.com/2017/05/13/technology/ransomware-attack-protect-yourself/ 
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.purevpn.com/blog/how-to-protect-from-ransomware/amp/ 
https://www.google.com/amp/www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/39920141 
https://www.google.com/amp/amp.usatoday.com/story/101690214/  

Fidget Spinners: Harmless Fad Or Mega Distraction?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen them practically everywhere. Thefidget small plastic gadgets don’t do much, but they’ve completely overtaken the toy industry.

Fidget spinners were initially marketed as a sensory toy for children on the autism spectrum and those with ADHD or sensory processing disorder. Within days, though, the hand-held gadget experienced a wild surge in popularity and became a must-have for every child and teenager across the county – and plenty of adults, too.

The basic fidget spinner is built with three prongs centered around a circle. Flick a prong, and the triangle shape becomes a blur, almost like a ceiling fan. The toys are manufactured by several companies and are sold virtually everywhere – airports, gas stations, grocery stores and, of course, toy stores.

If you’re wondering what the great appeal behind the fidget spinner is, you’re not alone. Just like you, many parents are scratching their heads in bewilderment. After all, the toys don’t make much noise; they don’t beep or flash or do anything too exciting. And yet, the fidget spinner and its cousin, the fidget cube, now dominate 49 of the top 50 rankings on Amazon. They’ve all but invaded classrooms and hundreds of videos have already been posted on YouTube by self-proclaimed “fidget experts” demonstrating dozens of tricks that can be done with the small toy.

And it’s not just kids – the fad has spread to adults, as well. Fidget spinners are showing up in college classrooms, on train rides and at the workplace. In fact, Forbes magazine has already named the fidget spinner the official office toy of 2017.

While toy fads constantly come and go, there hasn’t been a fad of this magnitude since the hula hoop craze of 1958, when an estimated 25 million were sold in just a few months.

Parents and educators are on the fence about this fad, though. The price tag is conservative and it keeps the kids occupied, but some claim it’s a tremendous classroom distraction that should be banned.

While the novelty of the fidget spinner will fade with time, it’s anyone’s guess if they will become a classic like the Rubik’s Cube, or soon lay forgotten in a dusty corner of the playroom, never to be played with again.

Here’s what you’ll want to know about the latest fad:

1.) No scientific backing

Fidget spinners have been marketed as a stress-reliever and a self-care tool for ADHD and autism. Parents of diagnosed children have eagerly purchased these toys in the hopes that they will help their child concentrate in class and perhaps alleviate some of their symptoms.

It’s important to note, though, that there has not been any scientific evidence backing this claim. While some might find that they do provide temporary relief from symptoms, they should never be used in place of therapy or medication.

2.) Choose cheaply

One of the biggest selling factors of this fad is the modest price tag – most go for just a couple bucks. Like every popular fad, though, opportunists have been quick to cash in on the craze. The market boasts luxury spinners with flashing lights, or with more ball bearings to supposedly guarantee a longer spin time. These deluxe versions come with a price tag of a few hundred dollars or more.

Kids are thrilled with the cheaper versions, though, and they fulfill their purpose perfectly. Don’t get sucked into shelling out big bucks, because this fad may be over in a few weeks. By then, your child may never look at a spinner again.

3.) Classroom chaos

A lone spinner produces a low, almost indistinct whir. Multiply that by 25, though, and you’ve got quite a racket. Now imagine trying to teach over that din.

Fidget spinners might look like the perfect classroom toy; they’re small enough to fit under the desk, and make hardly any noise. But some teachers and principals have found them to be too distracting, and many schools have banned them completely. Aside from the collective hum of the gadgets spinning, the toys often go clattering to the floor or are used to demonstrate tricks, further adding to their distraction.

Other teachers don’t mind the noise, though, and claim they support concentration while providing a legitimate sensory aid for those who need it. Make sure your child’s teacher is OK with the fidget spinner being used in the classroom before your child brings it to school.

4.) Smartphone substitute

While no scientific studies have backed this claim, many posit that the fidget spinner’s popularity is linked to its vibrating motion, which mimics that of a smartphone. They theorize that the toy serves as a salve for the smartphone-addicted child, who loves the feel of a screen throbbing.

Whether this is true or not remains to be proven, but if it’s a choice between a phone and a fidget spinner, remember that the toy won’t mess with your child’s attention span or internal clock the way screen time does, making it the better choice.

Here to stay, or gone tomorrow? It’s anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, though, make smart, informed choices about the latest toy fad.

Your Turn: Do you think fidget spinners should be allowed in classrooms? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

http://www.npr.org/2017/05/14/527988954/whirring-purring-fidget-spinners-provide-entertainment-not-adhd-help
https://www.google.com/amp/amp.usatoday.com/story/100737096/#scso=uid_WRjMWAAEI3oKY-9KBg83Jg_1:865
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/jplafke/2016/12/23/fidget-spinners-are-the-must-have-office-toy-for-2017/amp/
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/05/the-fidget-spinner-explains-the-world/526521/
http://www.abc15.com/news/national/toy-takeover-whats-behind-the-fidget-spinner-fad

Changes In The VantageScore System

The VantageScore system is getting an overhaul. Many people wonder what kind ofa1522-credit2breport changes are being made and how will this affect the way their score is calculated.

The VantageScore, which dictates the way credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — determine your credit score, is going through a shake-up this fall. The company is looking deeper into specific circumstances and what they say about your financial responsibility.

Having a favorable credit score comes into play when you need to qualify for financing on a new car, if you’re opening a new credit card, or you want to take out a loan. In each of these scenarios, your credit score is the most important deciding factor for your approval, and will also influence your terms and interest rates.

It’s important to note that the new system will not impact mortgage loans. This is because few mortgage lenders use VantageScore; most use FICO scores to verify eligibility.

The changes will affect the credit scores of many people, though, for better or for worse. It’s wise to learn all you can about these changes so you can make the necessary adjustments to your credit behavior.

Lucky for you, we’ve made it easy! We’ve broken the changes down into the three main areas they impact, and then we’ve simplified it by telling you what these changes mean for you.

Read on to learn all about it!

1.) Trended data and trajectories

What it means:

Under the modified system, VantageScore won’t just check if you’re meeting your minimum monthly payments; it will consider trended data, too. This means the company will analyze the trajectory of your debts on a month-to-month basis. They want to know the direction in which your finances are going. Are you gradually paying down debt, or are you scraping by with the minimum payments as your balance slowly grows?

What it means for you:

In the past, your score wasn’t affected by growing debt as long as you were making the minimum payments on your cards. Now, if you’re careful about making the monthly payment but your balance is increasing each month, your credit score will take a hit.

Conversely, if you’re working toward actually paying down your debt, your score will likely get a boost. If you don’t fall into this category, it’s time to get serious about doing away with your debt for good. Even small steps toward this goal will be recognized and rewarded.

2.) Large credit lines

What it means:

Having lots of available credit was once considered a mark of good credit. After all, if the companies deemed you responsible enough to merit all that credit, it’s gotta be a good thing, right? Well, not anymore.

With the new system in place, VantageScore will mark a borrower negatively for having excessively large credit card limits. The theory behind this rationale is simple: lots of open credit means the borrower can quickly rack up a huge bill.

What it means for you:

If you enjoy an excellent credit score, you likely have a large line of credit available and will be negatively impacted by this change unless you take action. This change also upends the old advice that the more credit cards you have open, the better. The rationalization behind that maxim was to build your available credit, and thus, improve your score. With the modified system, though, the opposite is true.

Let’s say Bob has $4,000 in credit card debt with a $40,000 limit across several cards. He’s only using 10% of his available credit. In the past, this would net him a higher credit score. Bill, on the other hand, has $1,500 in debt out of an $8,000 limit. In the past, this modest credit limit would lower his score.

With the new changes in place, the realities are shifting. Bob, who has a lot more available credit, will likely score lower than Bill, who only has $6,500 available to borrow.

Aside from those who enjoy prime credit scores and have several open cards, this change will also affect people who enjoy playing the credit card rewards-and-points game.

Whichever category you fall into, it’s best to use less than 30% of your available credit. Also, if you have a large credit line open across several cards, consider closing some of your cards to lower that number. Finally, if you’re thinking of opening a new card in the near future, ask for a smaller credit limit over a larger one.

3.) Medical debt, tax liens and civil judgments

What it means:

Medical debt, tax liens and civil judgments will no longer be factors at play when determining your credit score. These elements are being removed with the rationale that they often harm a credit score prematurely and are later proven erroneous. Civil judgments and tax liens are often inaccurate, and can significantly lower one’s score before the error is corrected. Similarly, medical debt can hurt credit scores before insurance can reimburse the borrower for the payments.

What it means for you:

If you’ve had any of the above dragging down your credit score, you have cause to celebrate. In fact, you might even see a jump of as much as 20 points to your score! On the flip side, if you have negative marks from things like delinquencies and debts that have gone to collection agencies, this new rule won’t help you much.

If you are looking for a way to track your credit score for free, take a look at WalletHub.*

*Please note: WalletHub gives you TransUnion and VantageScore credit scores.  Not all lenders use TransUnion, so your score when you apply for a loan may be different.

Your Turn: Do you think the new system encourages responsible use of credit? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2017/04/19/credit-score-changes-2017/  
http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/19/major-changes-coming-to-how-your-credit-score-is-calculated.html   
https://amp-usatoday-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/amp.usatoday.com/story/100653342/   
http://www.pressherald.com/2017/04/24/changes-coming-in-the-fall-to-how-major-credit-score-is-calculated/
https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/smart-money/changes-might-raise-your-credit-score/
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/vantagescore-fico-score-the-difference/
https://thepointsguy.com/2017/04/changes-credit-score-calculations/ 

The Pros And Cons Of Bridge Loans

Buying your second home is nothing like buying your first. This time around, you’re bridge loancoming to the table with the experience of being a homeowner. You know what to expect throughout the buying process, you know what to look for in a home and you know what you can afford. After all, experience is truly the best teacher.

Another major difference this time around is that you’re likely counting on proceeds from the sale of your first home to help cover the down payment and the closing costs of your new home.

But what happens if selling that home is taking a bit longer than you’d anticipated? What if you need to move immediately because of a job opportunity, or because there’s a great home on the market that will be snatched up if you don’t grab it quickly? How are you going to come up with the funds if your own home isn’t selling quickly?

This is where bridge loans come in. A bridge loan provides temporary financing until more permanent financing can be obtained. When taking out a bridge loan, it’s understood that once permanent financing is in place, some of those funds will be used to pay back the bridge loan. Bridge loans are most commonly used to help the borrower span the gap between the sale of one home and the purchase of another.

Terms vary tremendously, so take the time to talk with your loan officer. Some will completely pay up the outstanding mortgage on the old home, while others will only pay off a portion of it, leaving the borrower with two mortgages, or simply lumping the loans together.

Bridge loans understandably have shorter terms than other loans, and are typically more expensive as well. Also, a lender will usually only extend a bridge loan if the borrower agrees to finance their new home’s mortgage through the same institution.

Bridge loans seem to provide the ideal solution to a less-than-ideal situation: You can now house-hunt freely and without waiting for your current home to sell. However, bridge loans are not as simple as they may seem.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of taking out a bridge loan.

Pros

1.) Freedom to house-hunt

The most obvious benefit of taking out a bridge loan is also the most significant. With this financing in place, you’ll be free to buy the home of your choice, without being bound by the sale of your previous home.

2.) Short lending term

Another big benefit of bridge loans is their short lifespan. Bridge loans usually run for six-month terms, though they can span anywhere from several weeks to several years. In contrast, most conventional loans are structured around a long payback term that can last for decades. The longer the payback term, the more likely it is that the borrower will suffer from a financial setback, which makes repayment challenging or impossible.

This, in turn, can give rise to further financial challenges as the borrower is hit with various penalties and fees, or is forced to take out another loan. The short payback term of bridge loans assures that this loan will not be a source of financial stress for years to come.

Cons

1.) Total debt increases

Any loan a buyer takes out will cause their total debt to climb. Sometimes, a bridge loan will split the purchase of the second home into two mortgages, leaving a buyer with three monthly mortgage payments; one from their previous home, and two from their new one. Other times, the buyer will be left with two mortgages to pay, which can also be a strain on their budget. In either case, an increase in debt means an increase in monthly financial obligations.

2.) High interest rates and fees

To compensate for their short lifespans and the amount of work the lender has to do for them, bridge loans generally have high interest rates, generally reaching between 8.5 – 10.5% of the total loan. There are also various fees involved, such as closing costs, origination fees and more.

3.) Risky contingency

Bridge loans are usually taken out with the understanding that the sale of your existing home will allow you to repay the loan. But what if your house doesn’t sell before the loan is due? This can happen even if you have an interested buyer – they may not get the financing they need or they may back out. This will leave you with a huge debt on your hands that you can’t afford to repay.

It’s important to speak to a Realtor about market conditions before taking out a bridge loan, even if you think you have a buyer. Make sure the odds are in your favor and that it is likely your home will be sold on time before committing to a loan that is contingent on its sale.

If you really need the funds from the sale of your home before the transaction is finalized, but the thought of taking out a bridge loan makes you uneasy, you may want to consider other options. You can take out a HELOC, borrow against a 401(k) plan or take out a loan secured by stocks, bonds or other assets.

And of course, don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union for guidance throughout the process of buying and selling a home.

Your Turn: Have you bought a second home recently? How was the purchase different than your first time around? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/bridge-loans-ease-the-transition-from-one-home-to-another-at-a-cost.aspx 
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge_loan 
https://www.thebalance.com/what-are-bridge-loans-1798410 
http://m.finweb.com/real-estate/the-pros-and-cons-of-bridge-loan-financing.html  

Choosing An Equity Loan In A Rising Rates Environment

Interest rates are expected to climb soon. What are the differences between a home5b368-house2bmoney equity line of credit (HELOC) and a typical home equity loan? How does an environment of rising interest rates impact each choice?

It’s true that most financial experts are predicting an interest rate hike (or multiple hikes) this year. With rising rates, borrowing against the equity of one’s home will likely become a more popular choice. That’s because people will choose to fund home renovations and other high-priced needs with their equity instead of moving to a new home with a mortgage that has higher interest rates. Refinancing their existing mortgage for a lower payment will no longer be a viable option either, since they probably already have a great rate they won’t want to give up.

With that said, here are some basics you’ll want to know about each kind of loan:

HELOCs

1.) How they work

A home equity line of credit is a revolving credit line that allows you to borrow money as needed to a limit, with your home serving as collateral for the loan. Lenders approve applicants for a specific amount of credit by taking a percentage of their home’s appraised value and subtracting the balance owed on the mortgage. They may also consider any outstanding debt you have, your income and your credit history.

If you’re approved for a HELOC, you can spend the funds however you choose. Some plans do have restrictions, though, and may require you to borrow a minimum amount each time, keep a specific amount outstanding or withdraw an initial advance when the line of credit is first established.

2.) Pros

HELOCs allow for more freedom than fixed home equity loans. Since you’re opening a line of credit and not borrowing a set amount, you can withdraw money as needed from the HELOC over the course of a set amount of time known as the “draw period.” This is especially beneficial if you’re renovating your home or using the money to start a new business and don’t know exactly how much money you’ll need to fund your venture.

Repayment options on HELOCs vary, but are usually very flexible. When the draw period ends, some lenders will allow you to renew the credit line and continue withdrawing money. Other lenders will require borrowers to pay back the entire loan amount at the end of the draw period. Others allow you to make payments over another time period known as the “repayment period.”

Monthly payments also vary. Some require a monthly payment of both principal and interest, while others only require an interest payment each month with the entire loan amount due at the end of the draw period. This can be beneficial when borrowing for an investment or business, as you may not have the funds for repayment on a monthly basis but anticipate earning enough to pay back the entire loan.

3.) Cons

HELOCs have variable interest rates. This means the interest you’re paying on the loan can fluctuate over the life of the loan, sometimes dramatically. This variable is based on a publicly available index, such as the Wall Street Journal Prime Rate, and will rise or fall along with this index. Lenders may also add or subtract (Destinations Credit Union’s rate is Prime Minus 1%*) a few percentage points, called margin, of their own.

Obviously, taking out a HELOC in an environment of rising interest rates means your rates are likely to increase over the life of the loan. In addition, HELOCs that only require repayment of principal at the end of the term can also prove to be difficult for some borrowers. If you have trouble managing your monthly budget, you may not be able to pay back the full amount on time. In that case, you will be forced to refinance with another lender, possibly at an unfavorable interest rate.

Home Equity Loans

1.) How they work

A home equity loan, also secured by your home’s equity, allows you to borrow a fixed amount that you receive in one lump sum. The amount you will qualify for is calculated based on your home’s loan-to-value ratio, payment term, your income and your credit history. Most home equity loans have a fixed interest rate, a fixed term and a fixed monthly payment.

2.) Pros

The primary benefit a fixed home equity loan has over a HELOC is its fixed interest rate. This means the borrower knows exactly how much their monthly payment will be for the entire life of the loan. In an environment of rising rates, this is especially beneficial for the borrower, as their loan will not be subject to the increasing rates of other loans. Also, the interest paid on a home equity loan is often 100% tax deductible (consult your tax advisor for details).

Unlike the repayment policy of HELOCs, every payment on a home equity loan includes both principal and interest. Some loans allow borrowers to pay back larger sums if they choose, but many will charge a penalty for early payments. Regardless of policy, at the end of the loan term, the entire amount is paid up and you can forget about the loan.

3.) Cons

Generally, fixed rate Home Equity Loans start out at a higher rate than HELOCs, so rates must rise a lot to make this the better deal for interest rates.  Taking out a fixed home equity loan means paying several fees. Receiving all the funds in one shot can also be problematic if you find that you need more than the amount you borrowed. Also, the set amount is due every month, regardless of your financial standing at the time. And, of course, if you default on the loan, you may lose your house.

Carefully weigh the pros and cons of each kind of loan before tapping into your home equity. Shop around for the best rates and terms, and be sure to calculate whether you can really afford the monthly payments of your chosen loan.

Don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union to find out about the loans we have available for you.

Your Turn: Have you ever borrowed against your home’s equity? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.franklintempleton.com/investor/campaigns/templeton-global-bond-rising-rates?gclid=CjwKEAjw5_vHBRCBtt2NqqCDjiESJABD5rCJP3FZKzsQc7EeIo3T0s4DMxIgvNCsL4At-X8K8nzR7BoC5-fw_wcB
https://www.google.com/amp/www.csmonitor.com/layout/set/amphtml/Business/Saving-Money/2017/0219/Why-a-home-equity-loan-is-a-smart-choice-as-rates-rise
http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/active_trader/trading_insights/trading_strategies/6_strategies_for_dealing_with_rising_interest_rates.html
http://homeguides.sfgate.com/choose-home-equity-loan-2651.html
http://online.wsj.com/news/
http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/brochure.pdf
http://www.realtor.com/home-finance/homebuyer-information/what-are-liens-on-a-home.aspx

Putting Your Affairs In Order

It’s important to have your financial affairs in order, especially whe5cf7e-grandparentsn approaching an advanced age, but it’s all so overwhelming. How can you go about this task?

No one knows when their time will come. Whether you’re pushing late into your 70s or are a spring chicken, it’s best to be prepared. Also, a debilitating illness or car accident can incapacitate anyone without warning, leaving a person unable to manage their finances or express their needs. Establishing a clear protocol for the distribution of assets and for medical preferences will ease a painful time for family members while ensuring that your will is carried out.

Fortunately, this is not as overwhelming as it sounds. Here are nine steps you can take to make sure you’re fully prepared for any eventuality:

1.) Take inventory of all your items of value

List every item you own that’s worth $100 or more. First, list all physical items like your TV set, jewelry collection, vehicles, guns and computers. Next, list all non-physical assets, including 401k plans, IRA assets, and all existing insurance policies, such as homeowners, auto and health insurance.

Be sure to list all open accounts in your name with Destinations Credit Union and any other financial institution. While completing this step, check that all beneficiaries listed on these accounts are the ones you want and that all other information is correct.

2.) Assemble a list of all your credit cards & debts

Create a list of your open credit cards and other debts. Include auto loans, existing mortgages, home equity lines of credit, student loans and any other debts you may have. It’s a good idea to run a free credit report once a year; this will remind you about any open credit cards you may have forgotten.

3.) Select an estate administrator

Choose someone you trust completely to be responsible for executing your will. Think carefully before choosing your administrator and bear in mind that emotions accompanying your death may impair this person’s decision-making ability.

4.) Send a copy of your assets list to your estate administrator

When you’ve completed your lists, date and sign them. Make at least three copies of each list; give the original to your estate administrator and, if you’re married, give another copy to your spouse. Have your spouse place the list in a safe-deposit box and keep another copy in a safe place at home.

5.) Review all retirement accounts, life insurance policies and annuities

Every account in which you list beneficiaries will be bequeathed to the person(s) or entity designated on the actual account upon your death, regardless of how you list these accounts in your will. Take the time now to review all such accounts, policies and annuities to be sure they list your chosen beneficiaries.

6.) Assign TOD designations

Prevent your assets from being distributed in an expensive court process by simply assigning them a TOD, or transfer-on-death, beneficiary. Most accounts can easily be set up with a TOD. Call, click or stop by [credit union] to find out how you can set up a TOD beneficiary on your accounts.

7.) Create a will

Wills are not just for senior citizens – everyone over the age of 18 should have one. This document will serve as the guide for the distribution of your assets upon your death, preventing thorny family feuds and expensive court proceedings.

While creating your will, be sure to assign power of attorney to a designated lawyer, choose a health-care surrogate and select guardians for your kids and pets.

Sign and date your will, have two witnesses sign it, and obtain a notarization on the final draft. Give one copy to your designated estate administrator, keep another copy in a safe place at home and give your spouse a third copy to be kept in a safe-deposit box.

8.) Create a living will

You may be strong and healthy now, but there’s no guarantee you’ll always be that way. A debilitating disease or a car accident can incapacitate you, leaving you unable to care for yourself or to express your needs. At that point, having a living will, or a medical power of attorney, will be a true life-saver. This document will stipulate who you’ve chosen for the responsibility of making medical decisions on your behalf. It will also specify whether you’d like to be resuscitated, put on life support and have other invasive procedures done on your behalf. Having a living will takes a tremendous burden off your family during an already trying time.

9.) Create an estate-information packet

Now that you’ve gathered all your financial information and created your wills, it’s time to organize them. While you may know where all important documents are kept, it can be difficult for someone else to locate them when circumstances make it necessary. By creating one master document containing all important information, you’ll save your loved ones hours of work.

Your estate-information packet should include details like your Social Security number, the location of your living will, your designated estate administrator, a list of all accounts you own and a list of your investments.

This link will provide you with a checklist that can serve as your guide or template when creating your estate-information packet: http://drotterholt.com/affairs.html
Now that you’ve taken care of the hard work, you can get back to your bucket list of things to do before you die. Do you want to swim with dolphins? Visit the Alps? Go for it — the sky’s the limit!

Your Turn: Thinking about what happens after you’re gone is never easy. How did you motivate yourself to take care of this task?

SOURCES:

https://www.nia.gov/health/publication/getting-your-affairs-order

https://drotterholt.com/affairs.html

http://www.investopedia.com/articles/retirement/10/estate-planning-checklist.asp

http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0709/3-things-to-get-in-order-before-you-die.aspx

http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/putting-affairs-in-order-before-death#1

Beware Of Fake Checks! Protect Yourself From The Latest Scam

Despite a rapidly changing economy and a constantly evolving banking system, personal checks don’t look all that iStock_000000199568XSmall checkdifferent from the way they looked 50 years ago. They represent a system of trust and goodwill. Recently, though, they’ve been used as the means for pulling off some nasty scams.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has recently cautioned consumers to be extra wary of an uptick in the circulation of fake check scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also recently issued an alert regarding a fake check scam.

There are several variations of the fake check scam, but they all end with the victim losing thousands of dollars.

The scam may be done under the pretext of a work-at-home job, an online sale or a sweepstakes that you’ve miraculously “won.” You’ll be asked to deposit a check or money order worth several thousands of dollars more than the amount you’re supposedly owed and then wire the difference to your contact. They’ll always have a story to explain why that process is necessary – such as they’re avoiding complicated overseas tax laws, an error on their part or they need you to cover fees. If they’ve “employed” you, they may claim that these checks are from their “clients” and need to be processed after you’ve deducted your portion.

Of course, these checks are completely phony. Unfortunately, it can take several weeks for a financial institution to recognize a fake check. By that time, you may have already sent the requested amount to the scammer, and by the time you realize the check was fraudulent, it’s too late to reclaim your money. Worse yet, you’ll be responsible to pay the fee for the bounced check. If you didn’t have sufficient funds to pay the amount you sent to the scammers and you were relying on their check to cover the amount, you’ll also need to reimburse the financial institution for that money.

If you think you’re too smart to fall for this scam, think again. Fake checks can be extremely hard to recognize, as they often bear the name and logo of legitimate financial institutions. In fact, the Council of Better Business Bureaus recently released list of the most risky scams, fake check scams rated number two.

Keep yourself safe by following these tips:

1.) Wait for clearance
It’s hard to tell if an online job is bogus until your first paycheck clears. Wait several weeks until you can verify that the funds from a deposited check are completely available before making any wire transfers with that money. Never use the funds from a deposited check from an unknown source until you are absolutely certain it has cleared.

2.) Ask questions
If an online sale or job sounds suspicious, don’t be afraid to be curious. Ask about the over-payment and the inflated checks. When you’re told a long, rambling tale about overseas charges and company errors, ask more questions. Demand a new check and some sound answers. If you don’t receive what you ask for, rip up the check and shut down any communication you might have had with them.

3.) Play hard to get
Scammers find your information by buying lists of potential victims from other scammers, randomly calling thousands of numbers and reviewing your online activity to see if you’re a good target. They’ll check if you click on enticing but unbelievable offers, and determine whether you’re looking for a job. They’ll check whether you open every email you receive and answer every phone call.

Stay one step ahead of their game by being as anonymous as possible. Make sure your number is on the FTC’s Do Not Call List. You can add your number to the list at donotcall.gov. Strengthen your spam filter and never answer emails that sound too incredible to be true. Be wary of answering calls from unknown numbers – just picking up the phone makes you a credible target.

Lastly, if you or someone you know has been victimized by a fake check scam, be sure to report the scam to your local law enforcement agency and to contact your state’s attorney general. It’s also important to file a complaint with the FTC, where it will be filed in a secure online database used to help international law enforcement agencies track down the criminals responsible for these reprehensible scams.

Remember: the best protection against scams is to be informed and to be aware. Always be on the alert for those low-down scammers who are trying to take advantage of your trust and goodwill.

Stay in the know, and stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a fake check scam or connected events to scam attempts ? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.ncua.gov/newsroom/Pages/news-2017-april-check-scams.aspx
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/dont-bank-check

http://www.fraud.org/fake_check_scams 

Mother’s Day On A Budget

Along with the blooming flowers and blazing sunshine comes the plans for celebrating Mother’s Day. Our moms are always there for us, and now is when we show them how much we appreciate all they do.
However, between flowers, gifts, and dining out, Mother’s Day costs can quickly add up. How do you keep within a reasonable budget while still showing Mom how much she means to you?
Fortunately, it’s easy to save big while celebrating Mother’s Day in style. Here’s how:
1.) Frugal flowers
Nothing says “I love you” like a vibrantly colored bouquet, but those beautiful blossoms can cost a bundle. Save on Mom’s flowers by doing some of the work yourself. Don’t rely on the florist to provide the perfect base for the bouquet – bring your own basket from home or pick up a cheap but pretty vase at a craft or thrift store.
Also, consider shopping your local grocery store or sidewalk stand before visiting a florist. Significant savings – like a bouquet for as little as $10 – can be had by cutting out the middleman.
Lastly, if you are shopping at a florist, call first to find out when their flowers are delivered so you get the freshest of the bunch.
2.) Gift it right
Get creative! Mom would love something personally crafted by you, like a decorated framed photo of a shared memorable moment or a scrapbook of your best childhood memories.
If you’d rather purchase a gift, shop early so you don’t feel pressured into buying something you can’t afford. Also, carefully mine coupon sites like RetailMeNot, Coupons.com and Couponcabin to see if you can snag a deal.
3.) Dining out (or in) for less
Of course, celebrating Mom’s special day isn’t complete without sharing a wonderful meal. But restaurants can be expensive, so don’t make reservations just yet! Maybe Mom would enjoy a home-cooked meal more than an evening out. You can whip up her favorite dishes, set the table royally and enjoy a delicious dinner at home.
Or throw together a family barbecue. Get the grill going for a delectable dinner that’s fun to prepare and even more fun to eat!
If you’ve got your heart set on taking mom out to a restaurant, though, shop around for the best Mother’s Day deals. And, of course, check sites like Groupon or LivingSocial before making reservations.
4.) Plan ahead
It’s not too early to start thinking about next year’s Mother’s Day. Shop the post-Mother’s-Day sales for fantastic deals on greeting cards, wrapping paper, and gifts for Mom.
It’s worth the extra effort to save money on Mother’s Day expenses. After all, no one will be happier to see you saving money than dear sweet Mom!
Your Turn: How do you celebrate Mother’s Day on a budget? Share your best tips with us in the comments!