​Plan now for your big move this summer

(BPT) – The big move – it should be in all-caps and announced with a deep, authoritative voice. THE BIG MOVE. And it’s coming to your family soon. It might be from one house to another across town, or it might involve crossing many state lines. No matter the distance, amount of belongings or number of people, your big move is going to be a big deal.

There are ways to plan for your move so the big event doesn’t overwhelm you. Here are five moving tips:

1. Less is better - The less you have to move, the easier your move will be on your body and your wallet. It will also be easier to fit everything into your new house. While packing, create three piles. The first is your “must-go” pile. The second is your “must-sell” pile, which includes anything you haven’t used in the last year, anything you have multiples of and anything you just don’t want any more. The third is the “must-throw” pile, and it contains anything that can’t be sold at a garage sale or donated. Start creating these piles now, and it will make moving day much easier.

2. Stock up on supplies – Big boxes might seem like a great idea because they can hold so much stuff, but what happens when you try to lift one and carry it down a flight of steps? Stock up on boxes of multiple sizes, but keep in mind that smaller is much easier to carry. Also stock up on foam and bubble wrap to protect your fragile items, a good supply of packing tape and bold markers for labeling boxes. You’ll also want to have moving blankets and hand trucks to make it easier to transport your items.

3. Rent a truck - One trip makes the big move simple, even if you’re just moving across town. Penske Truck Rental guarantees a truck for every reservation. Most movers find the 12- or 16-foot truck perfect for moving a few large items or the contents of a small condo or apartment. 

4. Pack smart - Load the heaviest items on the truck first. When you’ve got a sturdy base of the heaviest items, you can start stacking on top. This is when it’s handy to list a box’s contents on its side. If you have friends and family helping, they’ll know not to set books on top of your china.

5. Safety and security – Trucks are taller, wider, heavier and require more stopping distance than the vehicle you are used to driving. Take extra precaution, especially when the truck is loaded. Watch out for low-hanging tree branches and building overhangs, and use extra caution when cornering. To protect your belongings, park in well-lit areas and padlock the rear door. To make sure you’ve got everything you need on moving day, create a travel bag for keeping important paperwork, credit cards, identification, a change of clothes, drinks and snacks close at hand. 

As you cross days off on the calendar and the big day approaches, these tips will help you sail through the event with few conflicts. Before you know it, you’ll be settled in your new home.

 

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Tips to improve your indoor air quality


(BPT) – You pride yourself on keeping a clean home. The laundry is washed, the dishes are dry and the den where the children built their pillow fort has been restored to sanity. You’ve been vigilant about cleaning up the messes you can see, but what about the messes you can’t? What are you doing to improve the air quality in your home?

You may not think about the air quality in your home because the problem isn’t visible, but that doesn’t stop dust, dander or chemicals from polluting your air. Everyday living generates up to 40 pounds of dust in a six-room house every year, according to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), the HVAC Inspection, Maintenance and Restoration Association.

Taking steps to clean the air in your home will do more than just improve air quality; it will also save you money. Twenty-five to 40 percent of the energy used for heating or cooling a home is wasted because contaminants in the heating and cooling system cause it to work inefficiently, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

If you’re interested in improving the air quality in your home and saving money while you do it, here are some tips to get you headed in the right direction.

Hire a professional to clean your most important asset

Your heating and cooling system is the lungs of your home. The system literally takes air in and breathes air out. Because of this, keeping your HVAC system and your ducts clean is the most important thing you can do to improve your home’s air quality. “If your ducts look dirty, they probably are,” is NADCA’s advice to consumers.

Have your system serviced by a certified technician. This will not only improve the quality of the air in your home, it will allow your heating and cooling system to run more efficiently, saving you money on energy bills.

Make sure to hire a NADCA-certified technician. All members have certified Air Systems Cleaning Specialists (ASCS) on staff and they are required to further their education by attending seminars and to adhere to the NADCA code of ethics.

Encourage ventilation

Today’s newer homes are built air tight, making ventilation difficult. The simplest way to encourage ventilation is to simply open windows. In the bathroom, turn on the exhaust fan to stop steam from collecting dirt and keeping it in the bathroom. In the kitchen, place any appliance that creates steam or oily vapor under the stove hood. Finally, make sure vents on the outside of your home are not blocked by leaves or snow as season dictates.

Prevent mold

Mold can be one of the most harmful contaminators of air quality. You’ll find mold in areas where moisture and poor ventilation come together. Vacuum rear grills on appliances like your fridge and freezer to improve ventilation and empty and clean any drip trays to eliminate mold. If you have a leaky pipe in your home make sure it is addressed. Take a tour outside and trim any bushes or shrubs that have grown too close as that proximity can lead to mold and algae.

Replace filters and screens

In the warmer months, clean the area around your air conditioner and repair any vermin screens on your chimney flues that may be damaged. During the cooler months, remove screens from any window that may trap condensation and make sure to change your furnace filter monthly.

Keeping the air in your home clean is just as important as washing the dishes or cleaning the clothes. The first step is to have your heating and cooling systems serviced by a NADCA technician. Once that is complete, follow these tips to maintain your air quality. To learn more about NADCA and how you can benefit from an HVAC cleaning, visit nadca.com/en/faq.

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Cost-cutting techniques to fit your lifestyle



So how do you choose which tip to focus on? The answer is easy. Look at your personal lifestyle to figure out the savings tactic that will work best for you.

* For the serial over-achiever

Sure, you probably have the energy to coupon “til the cows come home,” but that is not the most efficient use of your time. Try setting a goal. Your first step should be to figure out how much you would like to save each month so you can stop yourself once you hit that goal. Of course saving more than what you estimated would be great, but it’s important to maintain a healthy coupon/life balance.

And don’t be afraid to multitask! “When I was working full time, I would use my breaks and lunch to cut out the coupons I would need to shop and sometimes also shop on my lunch hour,” says Jennifer Williams, founder of “My Frugal Wife” blog. Cutting coupons while you eat or while the kids are doing homework means you aren’t skipping important parts of your day to get couponing done.

The important thing is to manage the time you spend couponing so that it does not add stress to your already-busy life.

* For the rewards program skeptic

You may think that the concept of saving is all well and good, but when it comes to the practice of participating in rewards programs you are not sure that the effort matches the savings.

This can be true, especially if you try to juggle too many programs at once. Participating in more rewards programs does not necessarily mean more savings. In fact, there are an average of 21.9 rewards program memberships per household in the U.S., according to the 2013 Colloquy Loyalty Census, yet individuals are only active in 44 percent of the rewards programs they are signed up for.

Save more by focusing your efforts on the right program for you. “Find a program that allows you to save on your most frequent purchases,” says Heather Brickell, founder of “My Sweet Savings” blog. “A rewards program such as the Fuel Rewards Network(TM) program – or FRN(TM) program – is valuable because your savings pay off at the pump – one of the hardest places to save money or get a discount.”

The FRN program allows you to redeem rewards for fuel savings at participating Shell stations. There are multiple ways to earn rewards through everyday purchases of things like food, clothing and household goods.

Participating in a program that allows you to earn rewards without having to step outside of your normal routine can help you save regularly without the stress.

* For the on-the-go lifestyle

Don’t have time to spend hours cutting coupons or scouring the Internet for deals? No problem. If you are constantly on the go, but still looking to save money, Brickell suggests looking into downloadable smartphone apps that will allow you to save money on everything from clothing, dining out, and travel. “Apps are easy to use and many retailers and even restaurants will scan discount codes right from your smartphone,” says Brickell.

Download a few choice apps and begin scanning them whenever you have a free moment in your day. It’s quick and easy because, let’s face it, your phone never leaves your side.

Just remember, if you are doing something – anything – to save, then count that as a success! You can create a consistent stream of savings without having to spend all of your time worrying about making it happen. For example, Wayne Wesley, an everyday consumer from Florida who commutes 60 miles per day for work, also takes advantage of the FRN program’s ease of use. “I am not the kind of person who would use coupons or spends a lot of time hunting for bargains,” says Wesley, who estimates he’s saved more than $500 using the FRN program over the past year. “But I earn rewards at my grocery store each week and usually save between 35 and 95 cents per gallon when I fill up. It’s an easy way I save money each month without much effort.”

The bottom line is that you can cut costs and save in a way that works for you. Don’t let time or multiple rewards programs and savings tactics overwhelm you; just pick the one that is right for you and stick with it. The savings can really add up over time!

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Six simple steps to financial success



1. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, use it. For a variety of reasons, it is often going to be your most attractive investment opportunity. Most employers will match a portion of your contributions, making your effective returns higher. If you contribute $1,000 to your plan, for example, and your employer matches that at 50 cents on the dollar, your contribution is actually worth $1,500. A 401(k) also offers tax advantages on contributions and investment gains. Finally, it puts your contributions on autopilot via systematic payroll deductions. That makes it less likely you’ll skip contributions, and also lets you take advantage of the powerful benefits of dollar-cost averaging. (Dollar cost averaging does not ensure a profit, nor does it protect against losses in a declining market. Because dollar cost averaging involves continuous investing, investors should consider their long-term ability to continue to make purchases through periods of low price levels.)

Simply put, your regular, fixed-dollar contributions buy more shares when prices are low, and fewer when they’re high.

2. Understand your investment horizon. Many people underestimate how long their retirement savings will need to last, which can lead to a host of mistakes. Some invest too conservatively, making it hard for their portfolios to keep pace with inflation. Others draw down their assets too quickly in retirement, boosting the odds that they’ll run out of money in old age. The average 65-year-old in good health can expect to live about 20 more years. Your investment strategy should reflect the possibility that you will not only meet, but perhaps exceed, the life expectancy averages.

3. Don’t underestimate the corrosive effects of inflation – even at low levels. At a rate of just 2 percent, inflation cuts the buying power of a dollar by a third in about 20 years. At 3 percent, it does the job in 14 years. Make sure your portfolio includes some assets, like stocks, that historically have outperformed inflation over long periods of time.

4. Diversify your investment portfolio, but understand that you will need to do more to mitigate longevity risk. Diversification is the simplest and most effective approach to managing investment risk, but is ineffective at managing many other threats to your financial security. Longevity risk, for example – the risk of outliving your savings – is best managed by pooling your risk with other investors. One way to do that is with an annuity contract issued by an insurance company. Certain annuity contracts work like old-fashioned pension plans, paying a fixed income for life. (Guarantees are backed by the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company.) Some include escalation clauses that increase your payout over time to keep pace with inflation. Knowing that you have provided for your basic living expenses with an annuity can provide the reassurance you need to take a long-term perspective on stocks and other growth-oriented investments – the ones your portfolio needs to keep pace with inflation.

5. When investing in stocks, don’t confuse where a company is headquartered with where it earns its money. Many people are looking to capitalize on investments in the fast-growing emerging economies of Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Often, though, emerging-market companies are not fueled by growth in their own economies. Many are mining or other natural resources firms whose results are driven by global commodity prices. Rather than investing directly in emerging markets, a better alternative for many people is to invest in U.S. companies that do business globally. Many of these companies have brands that are household names in emerging markets, and some even earn more overseas than they do in the U.S. In fact, a large share of the profits of the companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index is generated outside the U.S. Bottom line, you already enjoy substantial global diversification with U.S. stocks.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The ever-expanding array of alternative investments can seem overwhelmingly complex, and may require frequent and ongoing attention. Rather than trying to do it yourself, consider working with a financial professional. Getting their advice on matters critical to your financial well-being will usually make good fiscal sense.

Editor’s Note:
Insurance products issued or offered by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Appleton, WI. Not all products are available in all states. Securities and investment advisory services are offered through Thrivent Investment Management Inc., 625 Fourth Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55415, 800-847-4836, a FINRA and SIPC member and a wholly owned subsidiary of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Thrivent Financial representatives are registered representatives of Thrivent Investment Management Inc. They are also licensed insurance agents/producers of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

Deposit and lending services are offered by Thrivent Federal Credit Union, a member-owned not-for-profit financial cooperative that is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration and doing business in accordance with the Federal Fair Lending Laws. Insurance, securities, investment advisory and trust and investment management accounts and services offered by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans or its affiliates are not deposits or obligations of Thrivent Federal Credit Union, are not guaranteed by Thrivent Federal Credit Union or any bank, are not insured by the NCUA, FDIC or any other federal government agency, and involve investment risk, including possible loss of the principal amount invested.
For additional important disclosure information, please visit Thrivent.com/disclosures.
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With the right approach, former homeowners can get on the path to homeownership again



When the housing bubble burst, a staggering number of Americans were affected – 4.8 million borrowers lost a home to foreclosure while a further 2.2 million gave up their homes in short sales, according to national data by RealtyTrac. The recovery of the housing market has been slow, but the confidence of once-foreclosed-upon homeowners has grown along with it. Sixty-five percent of Americans in Fannie Mae’s national monthly housing survey for April said they would rather buy a home rather than rent if they were going to move. With a new perspective on saving and making wise investments, many of those affected are now eager to get back to being homeowners.

Many former homeowners have learned difficult lessons, and their road back to homeownership will be signposted with challenges. However, it may be possible for them to regain their dreams. These tips from Wells Fargo, the nation’s leading mortgage lender, may help set prospective buyers on the right path:

* Talk to a reputable lender about owning a home again. Having someone on your side to help you through the process is important, but it’s essential that that person has the experience and knowledge to help you make an informed, affordable lending choice. An experienced lender can explain the time limits that affect buyers who faced foreclosure or short sale; there is generally a set amount of time that needs to pass before you’re eligible to be considered again for mortgage approval. Wells Fargo has a mortgage presence in 2,358 locations including stand-alone mortgage stores and other business partner sites. Go to www.wellsfargo.com/mortgage to find a home mortgage consultant near you.

* Make an honest assessment of your credit situation. In the current mortgage approval environment, having a foreclosure or short sale on your financial record will affect what options you may have for loan approval. You can access your credit report from any of the three agencies by going to www.annualcreditreport.com; everyone is entitled to a free annual report. If you need help in making sense of your financial status and information on how to improve it, you can talk to a Wells Fargo Home Mortgage consultant about the My Home Roadmap(SM) service. Those enrolled in My Home Roadmap receive up to two hours of free, phone-based financial coaching from an accredited credit counseling agency, paid for by Wells Fargo. Enrollees also receive emails from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage consultants that provide useful tips and reminders on handling the financial responsibilities of homeownership.

* Prepare a down payment. Homebuyers re-entering the housing market after foreclosure or short sale typically need to have a down payment – in most cases 20 percent – ready before purchasing a home. In addition to those funds, think about additional expenses you might have to pay, such as closing costs. Showing the ability to handle the financial responsibilities of homeownership beyond the monthly mortgage payment like taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utilities and other household expenses will be extremely important in achieving loan approval.

* Get preapproved. It’s a good idea for prospective homebuyers, even those who are re-entering the market, to work with lenders who offer a pre-approval program. The preapproval process helps borrowers determine and understand their budget before diving into a home search, allowing them to shop more confidently.

Homeownership is still part of the American dream, even for those who’ve dealt with foreclosure. To ensure that your next home is your dream home, plan carefully, get help and take a proactive approach to answering the tough questions.

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Five steps to impact community health positively through education


Health education is a rewarding career for many. You don’t have to be a doctor or a nurse to become involved. It takes professionals in accounting, research, law and administration – as well as individuals who enjoy working with people – all collaborating to improve the well-being of others. Why care about community health? Several reasons, according to the Association of Schools of Public Health’s website, What is Public Health?, are: the importance of improving access to health care, controlling infectious disease and reducing substance abuse.

 
There may be no better example of a dedicated public health professional than Dr. Mine S. Seniye, chair of the Allied Health department at Brown Mackie College – Albuquerque. She has traveled the world preparing students and health care professionals to care for underserved populations.

Here, she outlines five steps to implement a successful health program.

 

Step one. Assess the community

 
Whether you want to enhance community health in a Bosnian village or an inner city neighborhood, it is important first to understand the community as a whole. Who lives there? Where are they from? What are their current health practices? “This can’t be done long distance,” says Dr. Seniye. “You can’t just barge into a community and ask ‘What do you eat?’ You must take part in the society and let them accept you as a person.”

 
Step two. Community organization

 
Collaboration with community leaders is essential to any successful health program. “It is important to identify leaders and stakeholders in the community to recruit to the team,” says Dr. Seniye. The Minnesota Department of Health suggests looking for those who are in a position of power, or have already made decisions on previous community issues, and those who actively volunteer. Collaborators from the community help you understand the inner workings of the society.

 
Step three. Create and implement the program

 
When approaching any community to help, it is important to speak in terms of what they already have, and adding to it. “Rather than telling them you want to fix something or change the way they do things, you must communicate that you are here to enhance what they already have,” Dr. Seniye says. “Suggest what may be lacking, and integrate a solution into a program already familiar to them.”

 
Step four. Assess the program

 
An advisory group formed at the outset can be invaluable to assessing the progress of your efforts. “Keep the team involved. I always share small successes with the group – the number of patients, where they were treated. I see the grassroots community advisors as gatekeepers,” she says. “They keep us on track.”
Step five. Maintain the effort

 
Eventually others come in to carry on. They must be prepared to be effective in that community. “This takes a competency that many don’t have. They must be chosen carefully,” says Dr. Seniye. “I find that as I get to know people of other cultures, and students who want to engage, I also get to know myself better. It is a growth process. Students teach me something every day.

 
“All the knowledge, resources, and ideas won’t help without fitting into the culture you want to improve,” adds Dr. Seniye. Whether diversity occurs among the people staffing the program, or the people they serve, it is important to develop an understanding of others. Respect for their culture, beliefs, and ways of interacting is critical for success.
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