Certifications: the new key to employment

One of the most sought-after career credentials in the tech industry is the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Routing and Switching. Tech professionals with this certification take home salaries that are, on average, 16.7 percent higher than their uncertified peers, according to a Fairfield Research study. This certification acknowledges that someone is skilled to install, configure, operate and troubleshoot routed and switched networks.

“Studies show that chief information officers prefer Cisco Certified professionals because they are 42 percent more effective at resolving issues and decrease network downtime by 32 percent,” says Stephanie Kelly, corporate affairs business development for Cisco, citing results of an Employer Value of Cisco Certification and Training study. “Employers prefer to have someone they know is fully capable of handling a very technical, niche job.”

Despite the growing demand from employers and because certifications aren’t an industry or government mandate, some recent graduates and professionals try to play the odds and skip additional credentials due to the financial obstacle. Between study materials, pre-tests and exams, certifications can cost as much as $1,000. Now, select career colleges, like Westwood College, are pitching in by paying for their students’ exams to help attain a certification in their chosen field.

“We began running CCNA Routing and Switching review courses for students who passed courses offered through the Cisco Networking Academy. Students who took advantage of and successfully completed the review course were issued a voucher worth the cost of the exams,” says Dean Gouin, chief executive officer of Westwood College. “We know it takes a lot of work to achieve this credential and we believe it is important so we’ll continue to encourage our students to challenge themselves to do so.”

In addition to paying for the exams, Westwood, a nationally accredited on-campus and online career college, also covers the exam costs for medical assisting graduates to help them attain Certified Medical Assistants status. In addition to the actual exam, the college pays for practice exams and ensures all study materials are pre-purchased. Visit tech.westwood.edu for more information and behind-the-scenes footage about the college, and specific programs such as CCNA Routing and Switching.

To learn more about the Cisco Certified Network Associate Routing and Switching, visit learningnetwork.cisco.com. For more information on Certified Medical Assistants, visit the American Association of Medical Assistants at www.aama-ntl.org.

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Strategies for managing and reducing debt



Before you take any action, however, you need to know exactly where you stand financially. Look over all your outstanding debt – credit cards, car payments, mortgage or rent, student loans – to help you determine where you are and which obligations have priority. These tips from Wells Fargo can help you responsibly manage your debt and strengthen your credit situation.

* Organizing debt: Not all types of debt affect your finances equally. Collect recent statements from all your creditors. Write down the creditor, amount owed, monthly payment and interest rate on your account. Knowing which debts have the highest minimum monthly payments and interest rates will help you determine which debt is costing you the most.

* Prioritizing payments: -Examine where you can cut back on expenses, and put that money toward your debts. Try paying off your debts with the highest interest rates as quickly as you can, while continuing to pay at least the minimum due on all of your other debts each month. Once you’ve paid off the credit card with the highest interest rate, put that money toward the next highest.

* Calling creditors: If you can’t make a payment or need to make a partial payment, talk to your creditors about setting up a payment plan you can afford. You may be surprised – many creditors will be willing to work with you to find a solution.

* Refinancing your mortgage: If interest rates have dropped since you took out your mortgage loan, consider refinancing to lower your monthly payments. If refinancing isn’t an option, consider other options to repay your loan more quickly. For example, sending additional principal payments with your regular payments decreases the loan balance and reduces the overall interest owed.

* Seeing a credit counselor: These professionals will need to see all your financial material so that they can help you explore your options and make a plan to get you out of debt. To find a reputable credit counselor, visit the website for the nonprofit National Foundation for Credit Counseling, www.nfcc.org.

* Consolidating your debt: You might want to consider combining all of your debts into a single loan. This allows you to pay off your debt with one monthly payment, which could be lower than all of your previous monthly payments combined. It will also make it easier to keep track of your debt. Keep in mind that a debt consolidation loan simply transfers the debt to a new lender – you’ll still have debt. Additionally, if your consolidation loan has a longer repayment period, it could increase the total amount you repay. You can pay the loan off faster, of course, by making more than a minimum payment each month.-

There is hope if you are in debt. Creating a manageable plan to chart a path out of debt can give you confidence in knowing that you are in control of your finances and improving your credit health. For more information, visit the Wells Fargo Smarter Credit Center, www.WellsFargo.com/smarter_credit.

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What’s the finishing touch on a low maintenance home? The trim

Now consumers can enhance the architectural beauty of their homes with superior-quality cellular PVC trimboard from Kleer Lumber, a division of The Tapco Group. Kleer Trimboard provides versatile solutions with wood’s aesthetic appeal without wood’s extensive maintenance. Not only is Kleer Trimboard easily installed everywhere wood trim is traditionally used, it has more applications. It’s impervious to moisture, insect infestation and other threats to wood, giving homeowners the freedom to pursue more creative trim applications and peace of mind to enjoy their enhanced home for decades.

“Kleer Trimboard delivers the authentic, rich appearance of wood coupled with the long-term durability and very low-maintenance homeowners want,” says Jack Delaney, national sales manager of The Tapco Group’s Kleer Lumber division. “With Kleer, people don’t have to sacrifice aesthetics to avoid wood’s problems. Kleer’s cellular PVC trimboard outperforms wood in every application, in every climate. Kleer Trimboard is appropriate on virtually every house, whether it’s a coastal mansion or modest neighborhood home.”

Kleer Trimboard works where roofing meets the house, around windows and doors, in contact with the ground and concrete where wood often fails, and anywhere the imagination leads, including soffits and fascia, columns and cornices. With unmatched versatility, Kleer can be machined to create intricate gingerbread and fluted pilasters and other custom applications, including heat-bending for elegant curves. Kleer trim is also a breeze to glue, route and mold using wood trim tools. Boards and other components come in multiple sizes.

Because it’s completely synthetic, Kleer isn’t susceptible to the challenges that plague wood and composite trim, including mold, mildew, swelling and rot from moisture or insect damage. Wood’s form and function inevitably fails over time despite repeated sanding and repainting. Kleer trim is easily maintained with soap and water, keeping it beautiful long-term.

Kleer’s proprietary TruEDGE technology keeps board edges cleaner through installation and beyond. And, if the edges do get dirty, they are much easier to clean than edges without TruEDGE technology. Unlike some PVC trim brands that are textured, Kleer Trimboard has a natural wood grain finish that closely resembles genuine cedar; it’s also available with a smooth finish on both sides. Available in pure white, Kleer Trimboard keeps its fresh bright appearance for decades or can be painted to match other decor. Its Limited Lifetime Warranty, which includes labor for the first two years, offers the industry’s strongest protection.

Kleer’s complete system includes trimboards, sheets, mouldings, adhesives, and concealed fasteners to finish any job. Ideal for home exteriors, Kleer Trimboard is also used for interior wainscot applications in moist spaces, including bath and laundry rooms. Kleer’s Beaded Boards and Sheets enhance and protect these areas, including ceilings.

“We’re continuously innovating and expanding the Kleer Trimboard product line, so customers have the best choices for enhancing the architecture, curb appeal, and value of their homes,” says Delaney. “The decorative possibilities are endless. Kleer Trimboard also perfectly complements Kleer Decking and the Kleer Rail PVC Railing System. No other trimboard offers Kleer’s combination of benefits – it’s the right finishing touch for every home.”

The Tapco Group, a U.S. Green Building Council member, is the building industry’s leading provider of easy-to-install, premium, innovative interior and exterior products. Serving the building industry since 1961, Tapco specializes in the manufacturing of roofing, siding, decking, railing, trim, tool systems, egress systems and siding components. The products combine versatile application, durability, vast color palettes and uncommon authenticity to exceed the expectations of contractors and homeowners.

For more information, visit www.kleerlumber.com or www.TheTapcoGroup.com or call (800) 521-7567.

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Cozy up to energy savings with insulation

With temperatures dropping, odds are your energy bills will be doing just the opposite. In fact, heating (and cooling) account for approximately 54 percent of the energy use in a typical U.S. home, according to the Department of Energy, representing the largest energy expense for most homeowners. One of the most effective ways to manage a home’s climate, comfort and energy costs is by ensuring that it is properly insulated. 

“Insufficient insulation, particularly in basements and attics, can allow heat to escape, resulting in higher energy bills and a less comfortable indoor environment,” says Don Kosanka, product program director for Owens Corning. “The great thing about insulation is that it is an investment that returns itself. It’s something that homeowners can install themselves and it provides year-round benefits. Not only does insulation keep homes warmer in winter and cooler in summer, it delivers energy and cost savings all year long.”

In fact, sealing and insulating – when done by a knowledgeable homeowner or skilled contractor – can help save up to $200 a year in heating and cooling costs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition to cost savings, the experts at Owens Corning outline three other key benefits of insulating your home:

  • Energy efficiency – The primary purpose of insulation is to control heat flow in a home to save energy on heating and cooling. It’s estimated that homeowners can typically save up to 20 percent of heating and cooling costs by air sealing the home and adding insulation. For optimal energy efficiency, a home should be insulated from the roof down to its foundation. Information about specific areas to insulate in a home is available at www.energy.gov.
  • Environmental impact – The energy saved by insulating a home also benefits the environment, but it is important to note that not all insulation products have equal environmental impacts. Look for products made from recycled materials.
  • Enjoyment – Simply put, a well-insulated home is a more comfortable home. Insulation provides a protective barrier between the conditioned areas of a home and the outside elements helping to control moisture and temperature. Additionally, fiberglass insulation acts as a sound absorber, reducing the transmission of sound from one room to another or from the outside.

 

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Remodeling for resale vs. impressing your friends


It’s one more area where we can show our sophistication and good taste. We can, and often do decorate to impress and make a statement about how successful we are.

It’s an ego thing. It makes us feel good to show our financial success.

And in one way it’s often men who go over the top the most. We can argue about it if you want.

They want imported everything including granite or marble, architectural designs, custom finishes and expensive kitchens and baths, along with lots of garage space for luxury cars.

But some luxury cars hold their value far batter than houses do.

A good many sports stars have bankrupted themselves buying this stuff.

A really unique house may only appeal to one person, the person who remodeled it or built it.

There are several problems when a house like this goes to resale.

1. The really expensive finishes and decorating are too individual to work well at resale. The owner might like orange granite, but no one else does.

2. The costs of certain types of décor can never be recovered at resale. It’s something the owner wanted that no one else wants or will pay for.

3. The house may be over improved for the values in the neighborhood. For example fashionable granite that has gone into kitchens all over the country. The stuff costs several thousand dollars to install but houses no longer sell for enough money to recoup the cost.

4. Custom paint is a turn off to buyers when houses go to resale. It’s ALWAYS the wrong color. The wrong color, meaning any color that is not neutral, just won’t sell.

5. The décor that the owner has spent so much time and money on does not appeal to buyers. Often it might even turn them off and they run from the property to the next one. Decorating styles can really be a disadvantage at resale.

6. Custom houses usually only appeal to the owner/ builder. No one else wants the floor plan that has all the kids sleeping in a one-room dorm or the workshop in the bedroom wing. A poorly done remodel can mess up a perfectly good house plan, too.

7. It can be very difficult to sell a house in an area if it is very different from the other houses in the neighborhood. In the southeast for example, most buyers prefer traditional exteriors. A hard contemporary or mid century modern may take way longer to sell than something more traditional. It’s the reason neighborhoods have architectural review boards. They don’t want anything really different.

So if you expect to have to resell your home any time in the near future control your spending. Only spring for the expensive stuff that will move with you when you go. The house may still represent something important for your ego without being so individual you can’t sell it. Resale means you want to appeal to as many buyers as you can so you can sell a house quick.

That means the property has to be sort of average.

It might be more fun to impress your friends with great food and a feeling of simple luxury. 5 stars for comfort can trump the most outrageous décor with your friends and guests.

by: Paula Stone

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_4809.shtml

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Money advice for expectant and new parents


Have you ever heard the saying that “babies don’t come with owner’s manuals”? It’s true that no matter how many books you read, classes you take, or experienced parents you talk to, you can never be completely prepared for the challenges and joys of parenthood. You can, however, prepare yourself for the costs of a new baby by looking after your finances before your bundle arrives.

New parents don’t always prepare for the expenses associated with having a baby. One survey by Redbook Magazine and VISA found that less than 50 percent of expectant parents create a new budget that includes baby expenses. And while 76 percent of parents-to-be felt financially prepared for a baby, after the tyke arrived, 41 percent of new parents said they weren’t as prepared as they had thought.

Taking steps like clipping coupons and buying secondhand clothes can help new parents save cash, but other important financial considerations – such as protecting their credit scores – require advanced planning. Here are some tips to help expectant and new parents to look after their finances:

Before the baby arrives

* Review your health insurance and what it covers. The full costs of pre-natal care, maternal care and delivery are not always covered by all insurance plans. As soon as you know you are pregnant – or when you make the decision to conceive – contact your insurer and ask for a detailed explanation of benefits. The Redbook survey found that unexpected hospital costs – things that couples thought their insurance would cover – cost one in four new parents more than $2,000 from their own pockets. Knowing what’s covered, and what’s not, can help you determine how much cash to set aside for hospital expenses.

* Review your credit. One way or another, you will be spending money – a lot of it – when the new baby arrives. Whether you need to tap credit to buy nursery furniture or need a good credit score so you can get a better auto policy that costs less, it’s important to understand this aspect of your financial well-being. Enrolling in a product such as freecreditscore.com can help you understand your credit score and status, which can help you make informed decisions about how you will use credit during this potentially financially challenging time.

* Create a spending plan. Your overall spending plan should not only include a budget for day-to-day costs like diapers, but a long-term plan for larger expenses such as nursery furniture, day care, and college savings. It’s important to estimate not only how much you’ll spend but when you’ll spend it, too. For example, your short-term budget may include the cost of a crib – an item you will need immediately – but you may be able to postpone other furniture purchases like a dresser or changing table.

When you’re new parents

* Buy wisely and frugally. From clipping coupons to buying off-brand names or purchasing from second-hand stores, it’s possible to equip your baby with everything he or she needs at a fraction of the cost of buying brand new, brand-name retail products. It’s normal to feel pressured to buy new, top-of-the-line luxury items for your baby, but used items and off-brand products can be just as good. Check out online ratings for a used item’s durability before you buy it, and see what other consumers have to say about cheaper brands of diapers, baby wipes and clothing.

* Continue to keep an eye on your credit; it’s a key element of your financial health. Good credit directly affects your ability to buy that bigger house you need as Junior starts to grow, get an auto loan for a minivan, or secure a new job in some cases. The Internet can help. For example, freecreditscore.com offers a Score Planner that lets members and nonmembers see for free how their financial behaviors can affect their credit scores.

While nothing can really prepare you for the agony of sleepless nights with a newborn or the joys of seeing your baby take his or her first steps, it is possible to prepare for the financial responsibilities associated with becoming a parent.

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