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Tim Lugara

Tim Lugara
423 North Main Street  Doylestown  PA 18901
Phone:  215-348-7100 1632
Office:  215-348-7100
Toll Free:  800-360-7100
Cell:  215-917-8673
Fax:  267-354-6961

Tim's Blog

Consumers Plan Early Start to the Holiday Shopping Season

November 12, 2013 3:57 am

The 2013 holiday shopping season is underway, with survey results showing some unexpected trends. As in most years, the top shopping day of the year is expected to be Black Friday. However, Cyber Monday will follow close behind across most demographic groups, overtaking Super Saturday as the second busiest holiday shopping day of the year.

Procrastinating is out this year with most consumers (62 percent) planning to finish their gift buying on or before December 16. Stores are likely to accommodate this trend and consumers should plan to make popular gift purchases early this holiday shopping season.

The hottest gift category this year is expected to be toys and games followed closely by consumer electronics. Gifts receiving the most specific mentions include smart phones, tablets, game consoles, digital cameras and televisions.

Other key findings include:

-Thirty-seven percent of women list "seasonal discounts" as their top motivating factor while only 20 percent cite "gift practicality." Men were more evenly divided between "seasonal discounts" (30 percent) and "gift practicality" (27 percent) as the driving factor influencing their holiday shopping.

-Men are more likely to shop for consumer electronics this year while women intend to buy games and toys.

-Respondents aged 18-34 are significantly more likely to shop for consumer electronics this holiday season than any other age group surveyed.

-Approximately one-third of respondents from households with a combined annual income of $100,000 or more are expected to shop on Cyber Monday vs. Black Friday. The opposite is true for respondents from households with a combined annual income of less than $35,000.

-Respondents from lower income households are more driven to find the perfect gift for their loved ones this year, with 40 percent of respondents in the $35,000-and-under income category saying that "finding the perfect gift" is the factor most likely to influence their holiday shopping.

With the rapid growth of online shopping, consumers planning to buy their gifts over the Internet this holiday season should be aware of their state's tax remittance policies, save all receipts from online purchases and be sure to calculate and remit the taxes at the appropriate time. This unnecessary burden on consumers would be lifted if and when Congress passes Marketplace Fairness legislation. Modernizing the sales tax system so that it aligns with the 21st Century marketplace will benefit consumers and create a level playing field for all retailers.

Source: ICSC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Flu Prevention Tips

November 12, 2013 3:57 am

Germ removal experts at Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System® have developed helpful tips to keep office environments healthy and help eliminate germ "hot spots" during cold and flu season.

In addition to getting a flu vaccine, it is important to keep work environments clean. Reception desks, counters, door handles, telephones and computer keyboards are some of the most common surfaces that are touched hundreds of times throughout the day. Germs quickly spread from surfaces to the immune system, making it important to clean areas with EPA-registered disinfectants frequently.

Here are some strategies to remain flu-free this season:

-Know the germ "hot spots" in the office. For example, the average phone has 400 times more germs than a toilet seat. Flu viruses can live on surfaces up to four days. It's important to properly disinfect your work area frequently.

-Eating at your desk? Your work surface is a "bacteria cafeteria" according to Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona.

-Know the grimiest things you touch at the office on daily basis: kitchen sink and faucet handles; microwave and fridge door handles; vending machine, elevator and ATM buttons; drinking fountains; keyboards and touchscreens.

The most common way the flu spreads is by hand-to-face transmission. The average person touches their face 18.5 times and 30 objects within an hour. Washing hands frequently with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds helps stop the transmission of germs.

"For years, professionals in the commercial cleaning industry relied on their senses to determine whether something was clean or dirty," said Sean Kajcienski, chief sales officer at Coverall. "The old way of cleaning with string mops, upright vacuums and cotton rags doesn't work. In fact, those old techniques can actually make the problem worse by spreading germs throughout your facility."

Kajcienski advises workers be aware of harmful germs lurking in unexpected areas and traveling throughout the office. Last flu season began in November and was the worst since 2009. December, January and February log the most flu cases, so the time to "step up" your germ-killing cleaning program is now.

Advanced technology, such as the ATP meter, is often used in restaurants, schools and hospitals to accurately verify germ reduction after cleaning.

Germs can best be killed and removed from surfaces using:

-Hospital-grade disinfectants (proven to kill germs)
-Color-Coded microfiber towels (towel used on toilet not used in kitchen)
-Flat mops with self-dispensing buckets (never uses dirty water)
-HEPA Backpack Vacuums (removes 99.97 percent of particles)

Source: Coverall

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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DIY Decorating that Lasts All Season Long

November 12, 2013 3:57 am

(BPT) - As the holidays roll around, it's natural to want to spread good tidings and cheer with festive decorations like wreaths, candy canes and Santa Claus figurines. But this year, instead of digging out the same old holiday decorations, why not create some new looks that will last the entire winter season, even after you put away the gift wrap and ornaments?

Stimulate the senses

Nothing says winter like the fresh smell of pine and the soft, warm glow of candle light. Place pine tree-scented white taper candles around your living spaces, light and enjoy for a fresh look and smell that will stimulate your senses well into 2014.

Color works wonders

Another easy way to excite the senses during a drab, gray winter is with pops of color. For a decorative display that lasts all season, avoid the red and green color combination associated with Christmas and branch out with more contemporary choices like teals, blues, purples and pinks. Metallics like silver and gold are also a great way to glitz up the season without looking like the North Pole in overdrive. Group spray-painted ornaments or pine cones in a hurricane vase or glass bowl and display on the mantel for added ambiance to any living room.

Deck the halls

Looking for a way to display the abundance of holiday cards from friends and family? Repurpose an old window shutter to create a unique display. Start by spray painting it with a festive shade, such as green or burgundy, which adds a touch of holiday spirit. Once dry, hang the shutter in the kitchen or entryway and place holiday cards in the slats of the shutter for a creative way to stay organized. Once the holidays have passed, you can still use the shutter to display birthday cards, thank you notes, party invitations and more all year long.

Outdoor decor
The inside of the home isn't the only space you can be creative. Make a lasting statement before house guests even step inside your home by focusing decorative attention to the outside. Line walkways and driveways with lights or faux miniature pine trees, and place white flameless candlesticks on each windowsill to add a simple touch of holiday spirit without going overboard. Prop a vintage snow sled outside the front door to welcome guests.

Source: www.krylon.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Juggling That Work-Life Balance

November 6, 2013 3:42 am

Larry Katzen forged an ambitious career as a leader at one of the world’s most prestigious accounting firms. But he has been equally ambitious with his family life; he’s the father of quadruplets—three sons and a daughter. And he felt it was important to serve his community, sitting on more than 10 boards of directors.

“It was an incredible challenge and I don’t regret one minute of it!” says Katzen, author of “And You Thought Accountants Were Boring - My Life Inside Arthur Andersen,” a look at working in one of the world’s most historically important accounting firms.

“The quadruplets were born April 22, 1974, before multiple births became fairly common, so we were front-page news and featured on all the national TV news shows,” Katzen says. “But that also tells you there weren’t many other parents who could give us advice, and certainly no Internet forums to turn to!”

“It comes down to sticking to some basic principles: doing the right thing, for one, and listening to your heart,” Katzen says.

He draws on his 35-year career and family life to offer these tips for working parents with multiple children:

• Cultivate support systems! One of the wonderful things about Arthur Andersen was the people who worked there, including his bosses, Katzen says. “They knew the physical and financial struggles Susan and I faced caring for four babies and, because I never gave less than my all at work, they did what they could to work around my situation,” he says. That included a heftier-than-usual annual pay raise that Katzen learned only years later was approved because the firm’s partners knew he would need the extra money.

Susan reached out to moms of multiples to develop her own support system, and the couple hired a recent high school graduate to help care for their rambunctious brood a couple days a week.

“There’s no glory in not asking for support and help,” Katzen says.

• Combine business and family. Katzen traveled frequently for his job and, when his children were 9 years old, a business friend suggested he bring them along, one at a time, on his trips.

“The first was my daughter, Laurie. We flew to New York on a Friday and spent the weekend shopping, dining, taking in a show. For the first time ever, we were alone together without any disruptions,” Katzen says. “Neither of us ever forgot that weekend.”

• Consider buying a small vacation home.
Traveling with four young children was extremely difficult, especially nights in motels, where the family would split up into two rooms – one parent and two children in each.

“When we discovered Sun Valley, Idaho, the children were 6. On our first trip there, they quickly learned to ski, and they clearly loved the snow – we could hardly get them to come inside,” Katzen says.

The family so enjoyed the vacation, they looked into the prices of condos.

“We found a furnished condo at a very affordable price and for the next 13 years, we enjoyed summers and winters in Sun Valley,” Katzen says. “It may sound like a big investment, but when you consider the costs of motels and dining out for a family of six, it works out well – and it’s a lot more comfortable.”

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Take Preventive Measures to Keep Your Garage and Family Safe

November 6, 2013 3:42 am

Garages continue to serve as a major hub of activity in the modern household, often becoming the primary entry point into the home and a storage center for everything from soccer balls to snow blowers. But, with one out of every 15 garage door openers lacking the latest safety features, there is a hidden threat in millions of households across America. To avoid injuries from the largest and heaviest moving object in the home, LiftMaster is announcing its national "Don't Chance It. Check It.™" Garage Safety Initiative.

Once considered a luxury item, automatic garage door openers are now installed in 35 million households across the country, with more than 70 percent of homeowners relying on their garage door as the main access point to the home. As more and more garage door openers made their way into American homes over the last several decades, laws were enacted to ensure the safety of those using them. However, prior to 1993, protection systems, such as infrared sensors or "photo-eyes" that stop a garage door before making contact with an object or person – were not mandatory.

Instead, garage door openers were equipped with force-sensing safety systems that only reverse the door after it makes contact with an object. These older models can be safe and reliable if installed, tested and maintained properly. But unless they're retrofitted with photo-eyes, the vast majority of these older units still are not up to today's standard in safety.

The program, currently rolling out to a national audience, is designed to help homeowners and families understand how to check their door and make sure they have the safest garage door opener system in place. Follow these three easy steps to ensure safe functionality of any automatic garage door openers installed after 1993 or retrofitted with safety eyes:

1. Check the sides of the garage door for properly installed photo-eyes (black sensors), mounted no higher than six inches off the floor.

2. Block the photo-eye with an object over six inches tall and press the close button on the garage door opener. The door should not close.

3. Lay an object that is at least 1.5 inches in height flat on the ground in the door's path and press the close button. Household objects this size might be a bar of soap, stack of index cards, or a hardcover book. The door should reverse off this object. If it makes contact and does not reverse, the door is not operating correctly.

After recording the results, homeowners are encouraged to contact a Certified Safety Check Dealer to seek guidance on how to keep this high traffic area safe and secure. For further assistance or to learn how to upgrade a garage door opener, homeowners can visit LiftMaster.com/GarageSafety .

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simple Tips to Prevent Home Fires

November 6, 2013 3:42 am

Deaths from fires and burns are the third-leading cause of fatal home injuries, and Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine has offered five simple ways to prevent home fires.

"Often victims in house fires die from smoke or toxic gases, rather than burns," Consedine said. "We can all take certain precautions to help prevent these types of tragedies, particularly now as we prepare for colder weather."

Tip 1 – Give heaters their space

In colder months, heating can be a concern. Portable, electric space heaters need three feet of clear space in all directions. Keep heaters away from draperies, furniture, bedspreads, people and pets. Also, homeowners should have their central heating equipment professionally inspected and serviced each heating season. And if you regularly have logs burning in your fireplace, have your chimney inspected and cleaned annually.

Tip 2 – Stand by your pan

Cooking, particularly stove-top cooking, is the leading cause of home fires. Many such fires happen after residents put something on the stove, but become distracted and forget about it. If you have to leave the kitchen while cooking, turn the heat off the burner.

Tip 3 – Don't smoke in bed

House fires can occur as smokers lose track of their still-smoldering butts, which then come in contact with flammable surfaces such as couch cushions. Also cigarettes should be doused with water before they are thrown away to make sure they are completely extinguished.

Tip 4 – Check electrical cords and don't overload your fuse box

Faulty or worn electrical cords are another top cause of home fires. Cords that become frayed or cracked can send sparks to flammable surfaces and start a fire. Check all of your electrical cords to see they are in good shape, and replace those that have deteriorated.

Also, do not overload your circuits. Stick with one plug per receptacle/outlet. Another potential hazard occurs when numerous outlets are wired to a single circuit. You may find that all of the outlets in an entire room are connected to a single circuit. This means that you don't necessarily have to overload a single outlet to cause a fire.

Tip 5 – Check your smoke alarms

All households should have at least one smoke alarm on each floor and preferably one in every bedroom. New smoke alarms should be installed every ten years. Test the alarm and replace the battery yearly.

Source: Pennsylvania Insurance Department

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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4 Things You Need to Know About Buying Eyewear

November 5, 2013 3:42 am

There have been a lot of stories counseling Americans not to buy eyeglasses from their local eye doctor. This is not only bad from a personal health perspective, but also from a personal finance perspective.

Here are some facts that everyone needs to know before choosing their specs.

1) Retail (e.g., Pearle Vision, LensCrafters) is not always cheaper! Independent research shows that buying glasses at an independent eye doctor is still less expensive than at many corporate retail chains…by a lot! When you add vision coverage to the mix (which nearly 20 percent of Americans have), that price is even lower.

2) If you have a complex prescription, many online retailers can't make you glasses. The little secret that most online sites don't advertise is the fact that they only sell single vision lenses, not progressives. If they do sell progressives, you are responsible for providing your measurements. So if you have a complex prescription, need glasses to help you see at multiple distances, or are over the age of 40, the chances that you won't be seeing as clearly as you could are pretty high!

3) Beyond price, glasses need to do more than just look good. Glasses are unique in that they are the only fashionable medical device (so far!). Your glasses must be customized to you in every way to maximize their role to help you see clearly. And, while can find some great values online, your eye doctor should, and must, play a critical role in helping you select the best frame and lenses that are right for your individual needs. Just a few things your eye doctor and their staff ensure:

Up-to-date prescription: Your eye doctor will make sure your prescription hasn’t changed and your eyes are healthy through a comprehensive eye exam before picking out your new style. This is especially critical for young children whose eyesight can change regularly. Glasses with the wrong prescription don’t help you see!

Lens options: Lenses may seem like an afterthought, but the right ones can make a big difference. Today’s digital lens technology is more affordable than ever before, especially with vision insurance, and makes a huge difference in helping you to see your best. Your eye doctor and their staff are a great resource to learn about specialized lenses and coatings to fit and enhance your personal lifestyle needs.

Measured to fit your face: Measurements are essential to ensure that your prescription works for you. Because your face is unique so are the way your lenses fit your frames! Your eye doctor and their staff will take your personal measurements to ensure that once your new frames are in hand, they fit your face properly and not only look good on you but help you see.

4) Buying discounted frames online may cost you money in the long run. If you find a deal that is too good to be true online, it probably is. Extremely discounted designer and brand name glasses sold online are usually done so through a “gray market,” which is unofficial, unauthorized or unintended sales by the original manufacturer. This is important to know because, if these glasses malfunction, you may not have an option to get them fixed under warranty. If you purchase through your eye doctor, you have the confidence in their direct relationship with the frame manufacturer.

Source: VSPBlog.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Americans Prefer to Live in Mixed-Use, Walkable Communities

November 5, 2013 3:42 am

Choosing a community is one of the most important factors for consumers as they consider buying a home, and research by the National Association of Realtors® has consistently revealed that Americans prefer walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods and shorter commutes.

According to NAR’s 2013 Community Preference Survey, 60 percent of respondents favor a neighborhood with a mix of houses and stores and other businesses that are easy to walk to, rather than neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation.

The survey findings indicate that while the size of the property does matter to consumers, they are willing to compromise size for a preferred neighborhood and less commuting. For example, although 52 percent of those surveyed prefer a single-family detached house with a large yard, 78 percent responded that the neighborhood is more important to them than the size of the house. Fifty-seven percent would forego a home with a larger yard if it meant a shorter commute to work, and 55 percent of respondents were willing to forego a home with larger yard if it meant they could live within walking distance of schools, stores and restaurants as opposed to having larger yard and needing to drive to get to schools, stores and restaurants.

“REALTORS® build communities and care about improving those communities through smart growth initiatives. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, smart growth is typically characterized by mixed-use development, higher densities, and pedestrian friendly streets that accommodate a wide diversity of transportation modes,” said NAR President Gary Thomas. “Growth patterns, economic development and quality-of-life issues are inextricably linked to the success of communities and residents.”

When asked to identify their ideal community, the most popular choice was a suburban neighborhood with a mix of houses, shops and businesses. The least popular was a suburban neighborhood with just houses.

As for transportation concerns, 41 percent said improving public transportation would be the best solution, while 29 percent would prefer the development of communities where people do not have to drive long distances to work or shop, and 20 percent would choose building new roads.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Four Reasons Veterans Should Work With a Housing Counselor When Pursuing Homeownership

November 5, 2013 3:42 am

In an effort to improve the homeownership and financial planning outcomes of active duty service members and veterans, NeighborWorks America CEO Eileen Fitzgerald called upon nonprofit housing counselors and nonprofit financial capability coaches to increase their outreach and other marketing efforts to those who have chosen to serve their country in the armed forces.

A recent survey by NeighborWorks America found that homeownership is a major goal for veterans and their families. According to the survey, 92 percent of veterans said that homeownership was an important part of their American Dream. And by a nearly three-to-two margin (49 percent to 32 percent), veterans today feel prepared to buy a home.

Against this backdrop, Fitzgerald identified four reasons that service members and their qualified family members considering homeownership or financial planning should work with a housing counselor. These reasons included how taking advantage of nonprofit housing counseling and education could help reduce the significantly higher mortgage delinquency rate seen among borrowers with mortgages backed by a Department of Veterans Affairs guaranty.

Become familiar with the home buying process.


With home prices rising in nearly every market across the United States, and mortgage rates moving erratically, active duty service members, veterans and eligible spouses have the unique opportunity to purchase a home with a zero down payment because of the 100 percent borrowing ability enabled by a home loan backed by a Veterans Affairs guaranty.

"A zero percent down payment mortgage could be a great way for those who qualify to achieve homeownership," said Fitzgerald. "But there's more to buying a home than having enough money for the down payment. It's extremely important to understand the home buying process and to know how to avoid potential risks. That's where NeighborWorks network and other nonprofit housing counseling agencies add tremendous value, by providing step-by-step information on everything from how to pick a real estate agent to guidance on home energy efficiency."

Take steps to reduce default risks.


One of the major downside risks of homeownership is delinquency that could lead to foreclosure. Default and foreclosure damage a homeowner's credit, cause extra stress and could lead to poor financial decisions - such as falling prey to a mortgage loan modification scam - that have the potential produce even worse financial outcomes.

"Working with data from the credit reporting company Experian, NeighborWorks America showed that homebuyer education and counseling is effective at helping to reduce serious mortgage delinquency," said Fitzgerald. "There are many factors that can lead to delinquency and default, but one thing that seems to help reduce the risk of default is housing counseling and education."

Locate closing cost assistance.

VA mortgage eligible homebuyers have the opportunity to include their closing costs in the overall mortgage amount borrowed. Although closing costs vary from location to location, they typically are several thousand dollars. But what if a VA borrower who may have little cash saved didn't want to borrow the closing costs as well as the money needed to purchase the house. What's the solution?

"There are a number of ways that working with a nonprofit housing counselor could help a VA mortgage borrower obtain closing costs," explained Fitzgerald. "While each assistance program has different terms and conditions, the best way to determine eligibility is to work with a nonprofit housing counselor."

Connect with a financial coach.

According to Fitzgerald, a growing number of nonprofit housing counseling organizations are increasing the skill set of their staffs by having some counselors become certified as financial capability coaches.

"Financial capability coaches help everyone establish a plan to meet their financial goals, whether that's to achieve homeownership or another goal such as decreasing credit card balances or increasing savings," said Fitzgerald.

Research from a recent project between the Citi Foundation and NeighborWorks America found that that people who received financial coaching significantly improved their savings habits, enhanced their credit scores and meaningfully paid down debts.

"Nonprofit housing counselors who also are certified financial coaches are a key asset for service members to connect to," said Fitzgerald. "The bottom line is that whether a homebuyer is using a VA mortgage or not, the nonprofit housing counseling community is here for active duty service members and veterans to help them achieve their financial goals."

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Great Dollar Store Buys

November 4, 2013 3:39 am

If you are pinching pennies, a dollar store can be your best friend. Not everything there is truly a bargain, but consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch recommends 10 dollar store purchases that offer good quality as well as big savings:

Cleaning supplies – According the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, most dollar store cleaning supplies work just as well as name brands at a savings of 30 percent or more – and that includes sponges, mops, and scrub brushes.

-Food containers – Plastic food containers in all shapes and sizes cost a fraction of the name brands at retail stores and will keep your food fresh just as well.

-Gift wrap and bags – They will probably be of lesser quality than what you find at the party store. But they are just as attractive, and since most bags and wraps are discarded anyway, why pay so much more than you need to?

-Greeting cards – Cards may cost as little as fifty cents at the dollar store. You may not find a great selection, for many occasions you will find them a worthwhile buy.

-Holiday items – From Halloween centerpieces to Christmas décor and Valentine’s Day items, you will find a huge selection of holiday items and candy at the dollar store.

-Party supplies - You can find paper plates, napkins, and plastic utensils in a variety of colors at the dollar store for about a third of the cost at party supply stores and less than half what you’ll pay at the grocery store. Also look for streamers, plastic tablecloths and helium balloons at great prices.

-Personal grooming items – Hair brushes, toothbrushes, toothpastes and deodorants are significantly less expensive at the dollar store.
Picture frames – You may be amazed at the variety of picture frames in all sizes available for a buck at the dollar store. Look like a hero and frame your children’s artworks for practically nothing.

-Scented candles – You can find these in a variety of sizes and colors for a dollar, compared to three bucks or more at other stores.

-Shampoo and conditioner – Unless you are loyal to one particular label, you will probably find that most shampoos and conditioners from the dollar stores do as good a job as their name-brand counterparts.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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