RE/MAX 440
Michael Gillis

Michael Gillis
701 W. Market Street  Perkasie  PA 18944
Phone:  215-469-0213
Office:  215-453-7653
Fax:  267-354-6911

My Blog

Bank Card Defaults Drop, Mortgage Defaults Tick Up - What Does it Mean?

September 21, 2017 6:32 am

In some good news for the economic outlook, the bank card default rate recently experienced its biggest drop in 12 months this past July, down 18 basis points to .86 percent, according to the S&P Dow Jones Indices and Experian data. Meanwhile, auto loan defaults increased by four basis points, and the first mortgage default rate increased two basis points from June.

However, it’s important to look at the big picture. Though the National bank card default rate experienced its biggest drop in 12 months, it is still high. The bank card default rate set a recent low at 2.49 percent in December 2015. Since then, it moved irregularly upward before the July drop; it is now 3.31 percent. The composite, auto, and first mortgage default series are all close to their levels in July 2016.     

“Default rates for autos and first mortgage loans are at their lowest points in the last ten years, while bank card defaults remain modest,” explains David M. Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “Consumers’ use of credit is growing and the level of consumer credit outstanding is at an all-time high. In the year ending June 2017, consumer credit outstanding rose 5.7 percent, outpacing most spending categories across the economy. However, retail sales excluding autos as well as auto sales are down slightly since April, while home sales are little changed in recent months.

“While total consumer credit is at an all-time high, revolving credit – principally bank card loans – is close to the same level as mid-2008 early in the recession and financial crisis. At that time, revolving credit accounted for 38.5 percent of credit balances compared to 26.5 percent today. The revolving credit share of the total has declined steadily since 2008. The share of non-revolving credit rose and total non-revolving climbed from 61.5 percent to 73.5 percent of total consumer credit usage. The largest components of non-revolving credit are auto loans and student loans. Auto loans currently are about 40 percent of non-revolving credit. Student loans are the largest factor in the growth of non-revolving credit since 2008. Currently, they represent about 51 percent of non-revolving credit outstanding and 37.6 percent of total consumer credit outstanding.”

So while the economy continues to show gradual improvement on a macro level, debt continues to be a blight in terms of full recovery. Meet with your financial advisor to review your personal credit and debt scenario to see how you may be able to make improvements to the overall picture.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Easy Ways to Make Better Food Choices

September 21, 2017 6:32 am

(Family Features)--Maintaining a healthy diet can be easier than you think if you make your eating habits a priority and know how to make smart food choices.

For the best results, choose foods from all five major food groups with help from these tips:

Fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and contain necessary fiber, vitamins and minerals. Rather than serving fruits with cream cheese or sugary sauces, opt for nut butters or organic honey, and toss raw, steamed, boiled or baked vegetables in olive oil, salt and pepper instead of buttery sauces.

Protein. Select low-fat, lean cuts of meat and season them with herbs, spices and low-sodium marinades. Baking, broiling, grilling and roasting are the healthiest preparation methods. Try swapping ground beef for a lean or extra-lean cut, or opt for ground chicken or turkey instead. Non-meat protein options such as dry beans, peas and lentils can even be swapped for meat in recipes such as lasagna or chili.

Dairy. Choose skim or non-dairy milk, like soy, rice or almond milk, and use low-fat or part-skim cheeses in recipes. Nonfat or Greek yogurt can replace sour cream in many recipes and options like sherbet and soft-serve frozen yogurt are lower in fat than ice cream.

Grains. Choose products that list whole grains as the first ingredient, as they are low in fat and high in fiber. Some easy swaps include whole-grain flour, pasta and rice, as well as bypassing doughnuts and pastries for English muffins or bagels and opting for unsalted pretzels instead of potato chips.

Fats, oils and sweets. Too many high-fat foods can add excess calories to your diet, which can lead to weight gain and obesity, or increase your risk for certain health issues. However, a small amount of heart-healthy fat is actually good for you. When it comes to sweets, fig bars and gingersnaps make for healthy alternatives to cookies. Also beware of calorie-laden condiments and opt for nonfat and light mayonnaise and salad dressings instead.

Source: Family Features, Nice!

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Protect Your Credit From a Security Breach

September 21, 2017 6:32 am

Recently Equifax, one of our nation's three major credit reporting bureaus, announced that it had been breached. This means millions of consumer credit reports were made available to hackers, including their credit card numbers, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some cases, driver's license numbers. To help, Equifax has created a website ─ https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com ─ where consumers can check to see if their personal information may have been exposed.

In addition, below are additional steps that consumers should take.

Obtain your credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus ─ Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. All consumers are entitled to obtain a free copy of their credit report from each of these companies every 12 months. You can do this by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com, or by calling each of them by phone (Experian at 888-397-3742, TransUnion at 800-680-7289, and Equifax at 800-525-6285).

Consider placing a "credit freeze" on your credit reports with these companies. In most states, including Illinois, each credit bureau may charge you up to a $10 fee for a credit freeze. (Equifax announced on Sept. 12 that it will no longer charge $10 for a security freeze.) A credit freeze prevents lenders and others from accessing your credit information, making it much harder for someone to open a new account of any kind in your name ─ only your current creditors will be able to access your credit report. Also note that you can tell the credit bureaus to lift your credit freeze if you need to apply for new credit, which you can do for a particular credit application or temporarily for a chosen period of time. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won't prevent your creditors from reporting your payments on existing accounts to the credit bureaus.

Pay close attention to credit card and bank account statements for any unauthorized charges.

Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report files. This alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim, and they should take extra steps to verify that anyone seeking credit in your name is really you!

Consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service. Equifax is offering one free year of credit monitoring to all consumers, regardless of whether your personal information may have been stolen. You can find many other reputable companies that offer this type of service by conducting an Internet search for credit monitoring services.

Source: Equifax
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Save Your Car From Prowlers

September 20, 2017 6:43 am

The thought of having your car broken into is chilling - yet many of us park our cars in unattended lots and on sketchy streets at regular intervals, often in our own neighborhoods.

The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll finds only about 1 in 5 respondents (19 percent) say they're extremely or very concerned about car prowls in their neighborhood. Instead, about half (48 percent) admit they're not very or not at all concerned about the threat of a car break-in. Among those surveyed, a majority of drivers say they regularly take basic precautions to prevent break-ins by locking doors and removing valuables. Just under half (45 percent) say they use an electronic alarm system to protect their car and belongings, as well.  

Beyond those simple steps, PEMCO recommends following these tips to keep valuable possessions safe from car prowlers:
- Never leave your car running unattended, even if you're just going away for a few seconds. If you do need to leave the vehicle, turn the car off, remove the keys and lock the doors so thieves don't have an easy target.

- If you park on the street, find a well-lighted area. Good lighting is even more critical if you're parking overnight, as thieves intent on ransacking cars often strike between 3 and 5 a.m.

- Don't leave anything in view, no matter what you think it may be worth. Even a few coats left innocently piled on the seat might look like they're hiding something worth stealing.

- If you have to leave items in the car, stash them in the trunk, and do it before you park so a prowler doesn't see you. If you don't have a trunk, put belongings out of sight on the floor or under the seat.
Source: www.pemco.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Here’s How You Can Afford Your Rent

September 20, 2017 6:43 am

If you’re like many Americans - in particular, millennials who are just starting out on their own - chances are high that your housing costs exceed what you can actually afford. According to federal guidelines, if you’re paying more than 30 percent of your pre-tax dollars on rent, you fall into the ranks of the cost-burdened. Here are some tips from RentHop to make rent more affordable and restore some balance to your wallet...and life.

Try a different neighborhood. This may sound obvious, but moving to a new, more affordable location is often overlooked as an option. While you may be dead set on living in a certain neighborhood, do the math. If living elsewhere means saving hundreds of dollars a month, it might well be worth it. Find out what more affordable neighborhoods are still within reasonable commuting distances to your job or if flex work schedules may be an option.

Try a different apartment. In other words, downgrade. While you may love the high-end amenities and the extra closet space, are they really within your budget? Consider scaling down a bedroom or forgoing an on-site workout facility. Figure out what you can live without and you’ll be rewarded by a much-needed cushion in your bank account.

Get a roommate. If you don’t want to give up the extra space, the great location or the amenities, it may be time to find a roommate. The savings are obvious - reduce your costs by half or two thirds depending on how many roommates you take on. Just be sure to figure out in advance how you’ll handle non-fixed expenses like groceries.

Looks into rental assistance programs. If you’re really having trouble making ends meet and having a roof over your head is in jeopardy, look into rental assistance programs that may be available in your state. These programs have a mission to help low-income tenants and families keep their current housing through providing financial support. Such rental assistance programs can be given through the government, charity programs, local resources, non-profits, etc. Do your research on short- and long-term assistance programs where you’re living. If you qualify as a low – to moderate-income family, you could be eligible.

Talk to your landlord. Before you make any big changes, talk to your landlord. He or she may be willing to accept a late payment or two, or partial payments until you can get back on your feet or find a roommate. This is particularly true if you’re renting from a local individual as opposed to a large property management firm.

Renegotiate your lease. If your lease is up for renewal soon, use this opportunity to renegotiate with your landlord to at least maintain the same price you had been paying. If you’re in a spot where you know there isn’t a lot of interest, it will work in your favor.

Sublet. If you have an opportunity to move to a more affordable place before your lease is up, see if subletting your apartment is an option. Before you do, however, make sure it’s not forbidden in your lease agreement and that there are no other laws against subletting. Discuss it with your landlord to be safe.

So if you’re feeling squeezed by your monthly rent, don’t despair. Sit down with a calculator and consider the options above. There is always a solution.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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How to Save Your Car From Prowlers

September 20, 2017 6:43 am

The thought of having your car broken into is chilling - yet many of us park our cars in unattended lots and on sketchy streets at regular intervals, often in our own neighborhoods.

The PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll finds only about 1 in 5 respondents (19 percent) say they're extremely or very concerned about car prowls in their neighborhood. Instead, about half (48 percent) admit they're not very or not at all concerned about the threat of a car break-in. Among those surveyed, a majority of drivers say they regularly take basic precautions to prevent break-ins by locking doors and removing valuables. Just under half (45 percent) say they use an electronic alarm system to protect their car and belongings, as well.  

Beyond those simple steps, PEMCO recommends following these tips to keep valuable possessions safe from car prowlers:
- Never leave your car running unattended, even if you're just going away for a few seconds. If you do need to leave the vehicle, turn the car off, remove the keys and lock the doors so thieves don't have an easy target.

- If you park on the street, find a well-lighted area. Good lighting is even more critical if you're parking overnight, as thieves intent on ransacking cars often strike between 3 and 5 a.m.

- Don't leave anything in view, no matter what you think it may be worth. Even a few coats left innocently piled on the seat might look like they're hiding something worth stealing.

- If you have to leave items in the car, stash them in the trunk, and do it before you park so a prowler doesn't see you. If you don't have a trunk, put belongings out of sight on the floor or under the seat.
Source: www.pemco.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Renovating Your Bathroom? Think Safety First

September 20, 2017 6:43 am

A renovation can be a fun period where your wildest home-design ideas can be put into action. However, when planning out a brand new bathroom, it's important to keep safety in mind, especially if you have seniors or children living in your spaces. Moen notes that children younger than five account for more than half of all slips and falls in the bathroom.

Here are six tips from Moen to help make your bath safe and stylish:

Install grab bars. These bars can make or break a fall in the bathroom. The best places to install them are: 1) near the toilet, 2) along the showerhead wall and 3) on the back wall of the tub/shower.

Choose a dark grab bar. Darker finishes against a lighter wall allows those with impaired vision to easily find grab bars.

Love levers. Faucets with lever handles make turning the fixture on and off easier for everyone.

Go handheld. A handheld shower brings the water to you, which helps keep you safer and makes it easier to bathe children.

Shelf life. Keeping items (like shampoo) within reach on a shelf in your shower helps you avoid slips and falls.

Take a seat. Studies show that women are 72 percent more likely to be injured in the bath or shower than men. Add peace of mind with a shower seat to prevent slips during activities such as shaving legs.

Light it right. Consider three or four globe lights for a well-illuminated, safe bath.

Source: Moen

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Safety Warnings for Fidget Spinners

September 18, 2017 4:53 am

Any household where kids live or even visit today probably has a couple (or dozens) of fidget spinners lying around. However, I was recently contacted by the Consumer Product Safety Council about these clever new toys that are all the rage among our children.

On August 10 CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle announced her agency was investigating some reported incidents that prompted a warning to parents and caregivers to keep fidget spinners and similarly branded toys from small children because the plastic and metal spinners can break and release small pieces that can be a choking hazard. Buerkle said there have also been reports of fires involving battery-operated fidget spinners.

She said it is key to use the charging cable that either comes with the fidget spinner or has correct connections for the device - charging cables are NOT interchangeable, Buerkle warns.

Also, if a fidget spinner is marketed and is primarily intended for children "12 years of age and younger," its manufacturer and/or retailer must certify it meets standards, including limits for phthalates, lead content, and lead in paint including the U.S Toy Standard ASTM F963-16 - and be labeled as such. So remember:

- Keep fidget spinners away from children under 3 years of age.

- Plastic and metal spinners have small pieces (including batteries) that can be a choking hazard. Choking incidents involving children up to age 14 have been reported.

- Warn children of all ages not to put fidget spinners or small pieces in their mouths or play with the fidget spinner near their faces.

And if you have battery-operated fidget spinners:

- Have working smoke alarms in your house to protect you if there is a fire.

- Be present when products with batteries are charging.

- Never charge a product with batteries overnight while you are sleeping.

- Always use the cable that came with the fidget spinner.

- If the fidget spinner did not come with a cable, use one with the correct connections for charging.

- Unplug your fidget spinner immediately once it is fully charged.

Buerkle urges consumers to visit the CPSC Fidget Spinner Safety Education Center for additional safety tips, and urges consumers to report fidget spinner safety incidents to CPSC at www.SaferProducts.gov.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Pro Gutter Cleaning Tips

September 18, 2017 4:53 am

Have you been putting off cleaning those gutters? Clearing out your gutters at least once a year is essential for avoiding overflow and backups. However, there are a variety of gutter cleaning tips that can bring sanity into this tedious task. Some of the basics are listed below, by gutter pro Robert Lenney, owner of Gutterglove, Inc.

Ladder Safety: Always let someone know you will be using a ladder to work on your roof or gutters. Use a safe and sturdy ladder, preferably with a small shelf strong enough to hold a five-gallon bucket to collect gutter debris. Make sure to secure the bucket with a lanyard. I recommend a four-legged step ladder for a single story home, and an extension ladder for a two-story home.

Garden Hose: Use a garden hose with a pistol-grip trigger spray nozzle. This type of spray nozzle allows you to adjust the water pressure with the use of just one hand.

Gutter Scoop: Scooping out the leafy debris seems to be the best overall method for cleaning out the gutter. An excellent tool for this job is the bright orange plastic "Gutter Getter" scoop, which can be purchased at most hardware stores.

Wear Gloves: Gloves can help protect hands against dirty, rotting leaf debris that often contains bird, pigeon and squirrel droppings that are ridden with bacteria. Gloves can also prevent painful cuts from the torn metal shards of an old, ragged gutter.

Protective Eye Wear:  Eye protection is a must because one never knows what might fly out of the downspout when cleaning gutters. People have experienced rats, birds, frogs, wasps and bees leaving at high speeds once they start removing a clog, and the last thing they want to have happen is an eye injury.

Rake Off Roof: Rake all debris off the roof first. Otherwise, the next rain will wash all the debris down into the clean gutter, clogging it up again.

Rubber Shoes: If walking on the roof is necessary to perform gutter cleaning, it is good to use rubber soled shoes. Rubber soles tend to adhere best and prevent slipping and falls.

Downspouts Unclogged: Make sure the downspouts (leader pipe) are clear. After all the gutters are cleaned out, run the water hose down the downspout at full pressure. If the water backs up out of the top, a clog is present.

Power Line Hazard: When cleaning gutters around a power line cable that drops from the power pole to the roof of a home, conduct a visual inspection of the electrical cable where it connects to the roof. This is to ensure that the protective wire insulation hasn't rubbed off through years of wear-and-tear by weather and nearby trees. If the cable appears to have damage, do not attempt to repair it. Call a licensed professional electrical contractor to fix it.

Gutter Guards: Using a quality gutter guard can eliminate the need for cleaning out gutters. Consider carefully the manufacturer's claims before purchasing a gutter protection system that keeps out leaves and pine needles, because many promises are made that can't be delivered. Lenney is the President and CEO of Gutterglove which is a manufacturer of top rated DIY and pro-install stainless steel micromesh gutter guards throughout North America.

Source: Gutterglove, Inc.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Simple Ways to Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

September 15, 2017 4:17 am

(Family Features)--When it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle, some recommendations are fairly simple, such as exercising regularly and eating right. Many people, however, don't know how much exercise they should get or which foods are the best choices. They also may not realize there are other ways to take care of your body and mind to promote better overall health.

Start on the path to healthier living with these tips from the wellness experts at Walgreens.

Exercise regularly
The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five days a week, and that's because an active lifestyle can help you achieve far more than muscle mass or weight loss. Regular exercise can also contribute to mental well-being, and even something as simple as a walking break or two at work can provide health benefits.

Eat well
The keys to a healthy diet are eating the right amount of calories for your activity level and eating a wide range of foods to ensure that you're receiving all the nutrients your body needs. 

Get enough sleep
Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being, and can help improve your mental health, physical health and quality of life. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours per night for adults and 9-11 hours for school-aged children. If you find sleep elusive, try implementing a bedtime routine to send signals to your body that it's time to sleep, avoid screen time immediately before lights out and eliminate caffeine after lunch.

Manage stress
Between juggling a career, family and other commitments, it's easy to find things to stress over. Practices such as meditation and yoga can help to better manage stress. Setting aside time for a favorite hobby can also help relieve stress and focus on an activity you enjoy. Aside from mental and emotional impacts, stress can also impact your physical health, so it's important to identify coping mechanisms that reduce overall stress.

Be social
Making time to socialize with friends and family is an important part of living a long and healthy life. Even if your schedule is packed, try to block out time at least once a week to spend with family and friends.
Break bad habits

Whatever their nature, work to break bad habits by first acknowledging the problem then working to replace the negativity with alternatives that make a more positive impact on your life.  Even a negative attitude can bring you down.

Source: walgreens.com/nice.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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