Agent NewsBudgetBuyingCommunityHealthHomesHousingOffice NewsReal EstateRetirementVacation homes January 7, 2021

How to Make Moving With Your Cat or Dog a Success

blog post by Chasity Rodriguez

 

IN A TIME DEFINED IN many ways by the coronavirus pandemic, everyday life is affected constantly as we adapt to changing circumstances. One of the many effects of the pandemic is that more and more people are buying or adopting pets, sometimes referred to as “pandemic puppies,” than ever before.

Simultaneously, an increasing number of people are sheltering in place or being uprooted and going through multiple moves due to major life shifts in how they work or go to school. For many families, that means packing up and making a move with their furry friends in tow.

Moving is not necessarily a fun activity, and we often don’t take into consideration just how stressful it can be for our four-legged friends. Animals, like people, need time to adjust. But with smart preparation and planning, you can make the move successful and easier for your pet, for you and for your new home.

 

Here are five tips to make moving with your pet as pleasant and stress-free as possible:

 

Visit Your New Home Before Moving Day

Introduce your pet to your new home and surroundings the way you might introduce young children to the space (they’re called “fur babies” for a reason, after all). Most people bring their children to their new home a few times prior to an actual move to get them excited about the house and neighborhood. This gives them time to explore and visualize themselves in the new environment and can alleviate some of the stress that may carry over with the major transition.

Try this with your dogs, too – let them sniff around while you’re taking measurements for furniture. Take them for a walk around the block so they can start to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings. Seek out any local dog-friendly parks and research where the best veterinarians and doggy day cares are. You’ll both come to rely on these resources, and it’ll be a great way to meet new people in your neighborhood.

You may be tempted to throw away old, worn-out items prior to your move, but you’ll be glad that you didn’t get rid of your dog’s favorite chew toy or your cat’s beloved scratching post. Having these familiar items present in their new spaces will be key to helping them acclimate and feel right at home.

If you really hate that old dog bed, it doesn’t have to stay in your new house long-term. Keep it around for the first few weeks until the dog adjusts and feels comfortable in its new space. Think about how you would feel if someone tossed your favorite pillow that you simply cannot sleep without.

The same goes for cats. You may feel inclined to get a brand-new litter box for your new home, but hang onto the one they’re familiar with while they get used to the new setting.

Keep Them Away From the Action

No one enjoys the mayhem of moving day. The house is a mess, movers are rummaging around and you’re scrambling to do your best to make sure it all goes as smoothly as possible.

It may be a smart move for families with children to send them to stay with a family member or friend on the actual move day, and do the same with your pet, if possible. You don’t want them to associate their new home with the inevitable chaos and the frazzled mood you are sure to feel on moving day. If you don’t have someone that lives nearby, drop them off at day care or ask a new neighbor if they’d be willing to help.

Prevent Accidental Damages

A move can make pets act abnormally – your dog may decide to use the floor as a bathroom or a cat may scratch up the carpeting. To avoid these potentially costly damages, try to protect your new home as if you were dealing with a new puppy or kitten with some simple precautions.

Lay floor mats down or cover the couch temporarily until you know all the moving jitters have subsided. An accident can create more stress for both of you, and tarnish what should be a loving and peaceful new environment.

Give Them a Room, Then Room to Grow

Cats, in particular, are more likely to feel anxious about their new surroundings. A way to ease their anxiety is to limit their initial access to the whole house or apartment. Create a home base for them in one room that has their favorite toys, water, treats and a litter box, and allow them to acclimate on their own time. Once they’re comfortable there, you can open up additional space for them to explore room by room. If your cat’s home base isn’t the final destination for its litter box, slowly move it closer to the permanent location each day.

Finally, don’t forget to change your pet’s address tags when you relocate. With time, patience and smart planning, everyone will start off on the right foot (or paw) in your new home.

 

By Allison Chiaramonte, Contributor

 

Chasity Rodriguez

Social Media Director

Windermere Mill Creek

BudgetCommunityHomesHousingOffice NewsReal EstateRetirementVacation homes December 22, 2020

How to Winterize Your Home Checklist

by Chasity Rodriguez

Make sure your home is safeguarded against subfreezing temperatures. Our checklist will help you ensure you’re prepared.

 


Protect Your Pipes

Depending on the region of the United States you’re in, you’ll need to protect your pipes from bursting this winter.

Frozen Pipes: Prevention and Repair

Check Your Fireplace

Animal nests or creosote buildup in your fireplace can be hazardous. Have an annual inspection before building your first fire of the season. Also, soot and other debris build up in the chimney. Call a chimney sweep to thoroughly clean the chimney before your first winter use. You should also vacuum or sweep out any accumulated ash from the firebox.

Clean Your Fireplace

Clean the Gutters

Cleaning your gutters is an important part of winter prep. A good rule of thumb is to have the gutters cleaned as soon as the last leaves have fallen in the autumn. To prevent clogging, inspect and clean the gutters of leaves and other debris. Clean gutters will also allow melting snow to drain properly.

If you want to avoid gutter cleanings, consider gutter guards. They can be made of stainless steel or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and will help keep out leaves, pine needles, roof sand grit and other debris from your gutter. They need to be occasionally brushed off to ensure the guards work to their maximum effectiveness, but it’s not as strenuous as routine cleanings.

Get a Programmable Thermostat

In the winter, the Department of Energy suggests keeping the thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re at home. Lower the thermostat a few degrees while you’re away or sleeping. Switching your thermostat out for a programmable version is a good idea. It’ll let you customize your heating so the system doesn’t run when you don’t need it, keeping your home comfortable and bills down.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Bring in the Outdoors

Cold temperatures, snow and ice can damage outdoor furniture and grills. If possible, store them in the garage or basement. If you have a gas grill with a propane tank, close the tank valve and disconnect the tank first. It must be stored outside. If you don’t have storage space for your items, purchase covers to protect them from the elements. You also need to maintain your grill and cover it before putting it away for the season.

Clean and Maintain Your Grill

Maintain Your Outdoor Equipment

Outdoor power tools, such as mowers and string trimmers, need to be cleaned and maintained prior to storing. If you have a snow blower, it’s time to inspect it before the first snowfall to ensure it’s working properly.

Why Own a Generator

Caring for Outdoor Power Equipment

Save on Your Energy Bills

Call your local power company to see if they conduct energy saving assessments. It’s often a free service where a representative will identify specific changes to make your home more energy efficient and save you money. In addition to the suggestions above, LED light bulbs and water heater blankets can also make a difference.

Make Your Furnace More Efficient

Your furnace will function more efficiently with a clean filter. A dirty filter with trapped lint, pollen, dust, etc., obstructs airflow and makes your furnace run longer to heat your home. Replace filters at least every three months.

Be Roof-Ready

Snow, rain, ice and wind can make it challenging for your home to withstand winter’s wrath. Of particular concern should be your roof. You can get a head start on winterizing your roof with a few key steps.

  • Inspect the roof. Look for broken, frayed, curled or missing shingles; clogged valleys; damaged flashing; or deterioration.
  • Clear leaves, pine needles, dirt and other accumulated debris from the roof.
  • Cut back overhanging branches to prevent damage to shingles and gutters.
  • Install snow guards.
  • Check the attic and ceilings for staining from water leakage. While you’re up there, make sure the attic is properly ventilated to prevent mold and mildew.
  • If you live in an area that’s prone to snow, invest in a snow roof rake.

Protect Windows From Heat Loss

To help keep chilly air from leaking in through window cracks, swap out the lightweight summer curtains with thermal lined curtains or drapes. They’ll help keep your home warm and lower your heating bill. For the windows that don’t get direct sunlight, keep the curtains or drapes closed to keep the cold air out and the warm air in.

Time to Stock Up

Don’t wait for the next big winter storm. Depending on where you live, there are certain staples that are good to stock up on ahead of time.

  • Snow shovel
  • Ice scraper
  • Ice melt
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Weather radio
  • Emergency car kit (extra blankets, radio, ice scraper, car charger, first aid kit, jumper cables)
  • Water and food that doesn’t require cooking or preparation (dried fruit, granola bars, crackers, etc.)
  • Extra pet food

 

 

 

Written by Chasity Rodriguez

Social Media Director

Agent NewsBuyingCommunityHomesHousingReal EstateVacation homes November 10, 2020

Why This Winter’s ‘Slow’ Home-Selling Season May Be Hotter Than Ever

Winter is traditionally real estate’s slow season. Between the cold weather and the holidays, the housing market typically plunges into a hibernation of sorts, with both buyers and sellers shelving any major real estate moves until spring. This winter’s real estate market, however, is shaping up to be unlike any other before it—and, contrary to what some may have feared, is slated to be an excellent time to sell a home. In fact, Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, predicts “it will be one of the best winter sales years ever.” Why? Chalk it up to a perfect storm of low mortgage interest rates, sparse housing inventory, plus a pandemic that’s fundamentally changed how, when, and where buyers are shopping for homes. So if you’ve assumed you should put your home-selling plans on hold until spring, read on for a surprising reality check on all the reasons this winter could be a great time to put your house on the market.

 

Pandemic lockdowns have created pent-up buyer demand

While spring is typically real estate’s busy season, the “silent spring” of 2020 saw the housing market grind to a near halt amid pandemic-mandated lockdowns. This, in turn, created pent-up demand to purchase property that is only now being unleashed. “We currently see buyers sticking around in the housing market much later than we usually do this fall,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist at realtor.com®. “If that trend continues, we will see more buyers in the market this winter, too. So this winter is likely to be a good time to sell.” “There are plenty of people in the pipeline ready to hit the market this late autumn and winter,” Yun agrees. Many real estate agents have noticed this glut of eager buyers first-hand. “Winter is usually a slower season, but this year we’re not seeing any sign of letting up,” says Matt van Winkle, a real estate broker and owner of Re/Max Northwest Realtors in Seattle. “The selling season was delayed because of COVID lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, so several months of usual busy sales periods were delayed.” This buyer demand likely won’t wane anytime soon. “We will see an extended purchase season in 2020 and into 2021,” says Shelby McDaniels, channel director of corporate home lending at Chase.

 

Lockdowns are forcing many buyers to upsize their homes

COVID-19 has not only created pent-up demand, but many buyers are also in the market purely because they’re working/schooling from home and realizing their space is no longer big enough—particularly now that the temperature’s dropping so they can’t easily escape to their back patio to catch up on emails alone. “With people spending so much time in their homes, including working from home and virtual schooling, there’s a great emphasis on being happy there,” says Matt Curtis, owner of Matt Curtis Real Estate, in Huntsville, AL. Lack of space is a complaint agents hear more often now. And if people are allowed to continue working from home rather than commuting to an office, they might also realize that they can shop for homes farther outside cities—great news for home sellers who live in more remote areas.

 

Housing inventory is low

Although buyers are plentiful, the number of homes for sale is way lower than usual. According to realtor.com’s Monthly Housing Market Trends Report, in September, national housing inventory declined 39% over last year. “Because the number of homes available is currently at a record low, even if we see some improvement, which I expect, there will still be relatively few homes for sale,” Hale says. “That will keep upward pressure on home prices and help ensure that homes continue to sell quickly.” “Inventory is low, so the overall advantage is with the seller,” agrees Yun. Tracy Jones, a real estate agent with Re/Max Platinum Realty in Sarasota, FL, says buyers have so few homes to choose from these days that they’re feeling forced to make quick decisions about whether to make an offer, or risk losing out on the chance. Nationally, homes spent an average of 54 days on the market in September, 12 fewer days than last year, according to the realtor.com trends report. “The buyers I have worked with this year only had a handful of homes to look at,” Jones says. “They had no time to wait and talk about it, and they had to fight other buyers if they wanted to buy them.”

Sellers can get top dollar for their homes

It’s simple supply and demand: Low supply and high demand are bound to drive up home prices, so sellers stand to make a killing. Across the country, median home listing prices jumped 11.1% in September compared with a year ago, to $350,000, according to realtor.com. Price per square foot increased by 13.9%. “Sales prices and home values remain strong,” McDaniels says. And since there are so many offers on the table, “sellers can call the shots regarding terms of contract and repairs.” The only challenge sellers face with such low inventory—if you can even call it a challenge—is dealing with too many offers at once, says Curtis. “The challenge they face is navigating multiple offers and not accepting an offer too quickly to help ensure they get the most money for their home,” he says.

 

Mortgage interest rates are low

Although buyers will face stiff competition, it’s not all bad news for them. For one, despite high home prices, record-low interest rates mean they’ll save a ton of money. Interest rates on a 30-year fixed-rate loan were 2.8% as of Oct. 22, according to Freddie Mac. This “boosts buyer home purchasing power,” Hale says. “In fact, despite double-digit increases in home prices this year compared to last year, today’s home buyers are likely actually paying slightly less on their mortgage each month, thanks to much lower mortgage rates.” The Federal Reserve has continued to lower interest rates this year to keep the economy going during the COVID-19 crisis, says McDaniels. “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, economists and real estate professionals predicted mortgage interest rates would remain below 4% in 2020,” she says. “This means buyers that might have waited will consider entering the market this year.”

 

Any economic shift likely won’t be felt until spring

Although unemployment continues to rise due to COVID-19 layoffs, Hale says this could affect the real estate market, but the effects likely won’t be felt for a few months. “A worsening unemployment rate would lead to a slowdown in the housing market and home sales, but I don’t expect that to happen immediately, more likely in the spring,” Hale says. This could create a slower start to the spring home-buying season. Plus, if another round of stimulus money appears, this would fuel consumer spending. “This would be a good thing for the housing market and the economy at large,” Hale says.

 | Nov 2, 2020

 

 

Blog by Chasity Rodriguez

Social Media Director

Agent NewsCommunityEventsRecreational Activities October 1, 2020

Your Fall Reading List

 

Fall Reading List

These are my reading picks through the Fall. I hope you enjoy them along with other reading options through Sno-Isle Libraries which is offering contact-free pick up and return of physical library materials. All online services and resources continue to be available. No in-library services are available at this time. Visit there site here, sno-isle.org

 


 

The Impersonator by Mary Miley

“In 1917, Jessie Carr, fourteen years old and sole heiress to her family’s vast fortune, disappeared without a trace. Now, years later, her uncle Oliver Beckett thinks he is found her: a young actress in a vaudeville playhouse is a dead ringer for his missing niece. But when Oliver confronts the girl, he learns he is wrong. Orphaned young, Leah’s been acting since she was a toddler. Oliver, never one to miss an opportunity, makes a proposition: with his coaching, Leah can impersonate Jessie, claim the fortune, and split it with him”–Dust jacket flap.

 


 

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zeitlow Miller

Growing up in the segregated town of Clarksville, Tennessee, in the 1960s, Alta’s family cannot afford to buy her new sneakers–but she still plans to attend the parade celebrating her hero Wilma Rudolph’s three Olympic gold medals.

 

 

We hope you enjoy the books I have chosen to put on our blog to read. Visit sno-isle.org to view other wonderful books that are available online. Sno-Isle Libraries are not open yet but you can reserve books online and there are safe pick up and drop off options for you.

 

 

Chasity Rodriguez

Social Media Director

Windermere Mill Creek Real Estate

CommunityOffice News August 4, 2020

Your August Reading List

 

Looking for Something to Read this Summer?

These are my reading picks to enjoy reading through August. I hope you enjoy them along with other reading options through King County Library System which is offering contact-free pick up and return of physical library materials. All online services and resources continue to be available. No in-library services are available at this time. Visit there site here, kcls.org.

 

All the Days Past All the Days to Come by Taylor, Mildred D.


In her tenth book, Mildred Taylor completes her sweeping saga about the Logan family of Mississippi, which is also the story of the civil rights movement in America of the 20th century. Cassie Logan, first met in Song of the Trees and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry , is a young woman now. In search for her place in the world, leads to a journey that takes her from Toledo to California, to law school in Boston, and, ultimately home to Mississippi to participate in voter registration in the 60’s, . She is witness to the now-historic events of the century: the Great Migration north, the rise of the civil rights movement, preceded and precipitated by the racist society of America, and the often violent confrontations that brought about change.

 

The Moment of Lift – How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates


In this candid and inspiring book, Gates traces her awakening to the link between women’s empowerment and the health of societies. She shows some of the tremendous opportunities that exist right now to ‘turbo charge’ change. And she provides simple and effective ways each one of us can make a difference. A personal statement of passionate conviction, this book tells of Gates’ journey from a partner working behind the scenes to one of the world’s foremost advocates for women, driven by the belief that no one should be excluded, all lives have equal value, and gender equity is the lever that lifts everything.

 

 

We hope you enjoy the books I have chosen to put on our blog to read. Visit kcls.org to view other wonderful books that are available online. Kcls.org Libraries are not open yet but you can reserve books online and there are safe pick up and drop off options for you.

 

 

 

Written by Chasity Rodriguez

Social Media Director

Agent NewsCommunityHousingOffice NewsReal Estate June 30, 2020

Your July Reading List

 

 

Looking for Something to Read this Summer?

These are my reading picks to enjoy reading through July. I hope you enjoy them along with other reading options through Sno-Isle Libraries which is offering contact-free pick up and return of physical library materials. All online services and resources continue to be available. No in-library services are available at this time. sno-isle.org

 

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad


When Layla Saad began an Instagram challenge called #meandwhitesupremacy, she never predicted it would become a cultural movement. She encouraged people to own up and share their racist behaviors, big and small. She was looking for truth, and she got it… Thousands of people participated in the challenge, and over 80,000 people downloaded the supporting work Me and White Supremacy.

 

We Rise We Resist We Raise Our Voices by Hudson, Wade – Editor Hudson, Cheryl Willis – EditorBryan, Ashley 


What do we tell our children when the world seems bleak, and prejudice and racism run rampant? With lavishly designed pages of original art and prose, fifty diverse creators lend voice to young activists.

 

We hope you enjoy the books I have chosen to put on our blog to read. Visit sno-isle.org to view other wonderful books that are available online. Sno-Isle Libraries are not open yet but you can reserve books online and there are safe pick up and drop off options for you.

 

 

Chasity Rodriguez

Social Media Director

Windermere Mill Creek Real Estate

Agent NewsBudgetBuyingCommunityHomesHousingModern DesignReal EstateUncategorizedVacation homes June 22, 2020

Get The Most Out Of Your Furniture

10 Basic Rules for a pull together look in any room of your home

 

There are so many ways to fill a room but where do you start? I’ve complied 10 simple tips to help you pull together any room whether its filled with furniture or not. These tips will help determine where to put things, where not to put things and help you decided what is important and what’s not.

Furniture

1. Think about the the function of the room and how are you using the space

Ask yourself how do I want to use the room and how many people will use it? That will help you decide the type of furnishings you’ll need and the amount of seating that will be best fit your needs.

Furniture

2. What will your focal point be in the room

Decide what your focal point will be in the room, fire place, the television or even the view. If you plan to watch television in the room, the recommended distance between the set and the seating is three times the size of the screen (measured diagonally). Therefore, if you’ve got a 40-inch set, your chair should be 120 inches away.

Furniture

3. Start with priority pieces

The largest pieces of furniture should go first, such as the sofa in the living room or the bed in the bedroom. You want these pieces to face the focal point. The recommended space between chairs are 8 feet apart to facilitate conversation. Of course if your room is small avoid pushing furniture against the walls.

Furniture

4. Give some thought to Symmetry

Symmetrical arrangements work best for formal rooms and asymmetrical arrangements make a room feel more casual. I think this is a super helpful tip because you will know right away what you prefer your space to feel and look like. Do you want casual or do you want a more formal feel? These are the questions I would ask myself.

Furniture

5. Create a Traffic Flow

The flow of traffic through the room generally is the path between doorways. You don’t want to block that path with any large pieces of furniture if you can avoid it. The general rule is to allow 30 to 48 inches of width for major traffic routes and a minimum of 24 inches of width for minor ones.

I would direct traffic around a seating group, not through the middle of it. Or you can create two small seating areas instead of one large one.

Furniture

6. Variety

You can vary the size of furniture pieces throughout the room, this is so your eyes move up and down as you scan the space and avoid putting two tall pieces next to each other. Also, balance a large or tall item by placing another piece of similar height across the room from it.

Furniture

7. Build in Contrast

Combining straight and curved lines to add contrast can make a huge difference. I really love the idea of straight lines with curvy lines. If the furniture is modern and linear, throw in a round table. If the furniture is curvy, mix in an angular piece. You can also combine a leggy chair with a solid side table, and a solid chair with a leggy table.

Furniture, Space, Arrangement

8. Design for Easy Accessibility 

Place a table within easy reach of every seat and make sure every reading chair has an accompanying lamp. Also, coffee tables should be located 14 to 18 inches from a sofa to provide legroom. I personally think you can adjust this one because sometimes you just do not have the space.

Furniture, Space, Arrangement

9. Allow for Flow

In a dining room, there’s a recommendation for at least 48 inches between each edge of the table and the nearest wall or piece of furniture. This is to give space to move around easily.

In bedrooms, the recommendation is at least 24 inches between the side of the bed and a wall, and at least 36 inches between the bed and a swinging door.

Furniture

10. Do some Planning

Before you move furniture test your design thought on paper. Measure the room’s dimensions, making sure your noting the location of windows, doors, heat registers and electrical outlets. You can use graph paper or use a digital room planner to test various furniture. This process can be fun!

 

Of course these are all just suggestions and the exact measurements on spacing furniture out can be adjusted to fit your needs. Just have fun with it and remember you can always change it.

 

Written by Chasity Rodriguez

Social Media Director

Windermere Mill Creek Real Estate

 

Agent NewsCommunityEventsOffice News June 9, 2020

Your June Reading List

 

 

Looking for Something to Read this Summer?

These binge-able titles will keep you engrossed with reading through June. KCLS is planning a phased return to in-library services when it will be safe to do so. Until then, take advantage of their expanded collection of eBooks, audiobooks, streaming movies and TV, and online programming at kcls.org.

 

Here are a few reading suggestions from Emily Calkins of The King County Library System:

 

Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile


A single mother living in L.A. inherits a sugar cane farm from her father and returns to her childhood home in Louisiana. Baszile’s debut inspired the television series, which soon begins its fifth season. Baszile brings humid, kudzu-draped rural Louisiana to life in this story of family and second chances.

 

 

Chemistry by Weike Wang


A chemistry graduate student takes uncomfortable steps toward adulthood as she navigates her Ph.D. program and her relationship with a more successful boyfriend. Wang’s writing is both melancholic and dryly funny, and it gives this coming-of-age story an unforgettable voice.

 

 

 

About Emily

Emily Calkins is the readers’ services program coordinator for KCLS, where she specializes in connecting readers with stories, authors, and each other. She also is the co-host of KCLS’ podcast, The Desk Set. As a reader, she likes flawed characters, atmospheric world-building, and anything with a slow-burn romance.

CommunityHealthOffice NewsReal Estate June 1, 2020

How to Rediscover Happiness

Are You Feeling Extreme Loss During This Time of Hardship?
May 15, 2020

 

At this uncertain time, when many are feeling an extreme loss of control,  shifting your mindset and even discovering happiness can change your expectations as things go forward. Many factors play into why we are feeling the way we do right now. Not only with the pandemic but with the equality of our country.

Although many people think the key to happiness is their level of productivity, science finds the opposite is true: Increasing your happiness will actually boost your productivity. It’s important to seek positivity in the midst of a pandemic and beyond.

You can choose the things that resonate for you and skip what doesn’t. Here are some of the choices you can make:

  • Grace. Don’t be so hard on yourself while life itself is especially hard. “Are you holding yourself to pre-coronavirus standards right now? Because that’s not fair, Find beauty in the mistakes you make and view them as learning opportunities.

 

  • Gratitude. Remind yourself of the things you are passionate about. That will help you to stay motivated in your daily tasks, which might include parenting, pursuing business leads, or both. Daily affirmations can help you lessen your anxieties and reach goals, but what she calls “afformations” may be more effective. While an affirmation is asking someone, “Let me know if you know someone looking for a house,” an “afformation” is more direct: “Who do you know that is looking for a house?” This communication style can trigger synapses in your brain, changing the mind’s pathways to bring more positive thoughts. You are more likely to get satisfying results using the “afformation” method.

 

  • Growth. In order to be at peace, you must practice peace. Balance the negative news you read with good news. Search for the hashtag #covidkindness on Twitter and Instagram to flood your feed with “paying it forward” stories that will leave you with a smile. Also hashtag #blacklivesmatter to see what you can do to stop the spread of hate and diversity. We are all equal and we can do our part to help our communities.

Taking part in acts of kindness, even if it’s simply smiling at people you pass on the sidewalk, will raise your serotonin levels. “Little acts make the biggest difference in people’s lives” and your own.

At a time when many are living socially distant from others, it’s important that the interactions we do have are making a positive impact on our well-being. Evaluate how you feel about your relationships; lean into those bringing you good energy and back away from those who don’t.

Cut yourself some slack while your daily duties have shifted dramatically and concerns about your financial, mental, and physical well-being have escalated. We need to prioritize our self-care, We need to be kinder—and to start with ourselves.

 

Visit Monthofer’s website for more resources on taking care of yourself during these stressful times and beyond.

Agent NewsBudgetCommunityHealthHomesHousingReal EstateRetirementUneployment May 28, 2020

Ways to Stretch Your Unemployment Benefits

Loan word made from gold balloons

By Maryalene LaPonsie, Contributor,

If you’ve been laid off, here’s how to make your money last:

 

Even if unemployment benefits can cover bills right now, workers should prepare to make changes to their budget and their lifestyle.

MORE THAN 36 MILLION Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since mid-March. While the government is providing a $600 per week boost to the benefits of eligible workers, that extra money only lasts until July 31. Plus, it may not be enough to bridge the gap for some workers.

Workers should prepare to make changes to their budget and their lifestyle. People want to create a semblance of normality, but there is so much uncertainty.

No one knows how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last or when we will return to previous levels. People should be careful not to wait until their financial situation becomes precarious before taking action. Instead, know how to do the following in order to stretch your unemployment benefits:

  • How to change your budget.
  • How to make extra money.
  • How to wisely dip into retirement savings.

How to Change Your Budget

“Take a deep breath and look at what (you) have,” says Jeff Corliss, managing director and partner at advisory firm RDM Financial Group. He advises people to list all their assets first so they have a full picture of their financial status. Understand how much the budget needs to be adjusted.

Before you start making changes, add up your normal expenses and subtract them from your unemployment benefits and other income available. If you have a shortage, that will need to be made up by money from savings or cuts to your budget.

“When evaluating your budget, review the transactions on your bank statement,” says Brandon Tucker, a certified financial planner and manager of financial planning at eMoney Advisor. “If your recurring expenses are automated, it can be difficult to remember where your dollars are being spent, so it’s a good idea to look at each line item on your statement.”

Then, decide what you can do without. “You really want to be in a cash conservation mode,” says Dan Keady, chief financial planning strategist at financial services firm TIAA. Again, you don’t want to wait until you are in financial crisis to make changes.

Eliminating subscriptions to streaming services and limiting takeout meals are both easy ways to cut monthly costs. Many mortgage companies and landlords are being flexible right now, so call to inquire into whether reduced or delayed payments might be an option as well. Also call your auto insurance company to see if cheaper coverage might be available now that you are no longer commuting.

Health insurance is the one expense you don’t want to cut. Getting sick without having medical coverage could be financially devastating and compound the problems caused by unemployment.

How to Make Extra Money

After adjusting your budget, you may want to look at how you can bring in some extra money until you are called back to the workplace. However, tread cautiously here since earning too much could make you ineligible for unemployment benefits.

“You really need to find out what your state allows,” Keady says. Some states limit people to a specific amount of earnings while others also limit the number of days a person can work. A few states have both requirements. For instance, in New York, unemployed workers can receive partial benefits so long as they work fewer than four days and earn no more than $504 in a week.

Assuming you are able to work, picking up temporary side jobs may be a simple way to supplement. Instacart, Shipt and DoorDash are all delivery services that may need an influx of workers during the pandemic. Selling items on online marketplaces such as Etsy may also be an option.

“If they can, (workers) should try to rebuild their skills,” Wilson says. Some community colleges are offering free classes to unemployed or underemployed workers. Courses through websites such as Skillshare or LinkedIn Learning may also be a source for online training.

How to Wisely Dip Into Retirement Savings

While it may be tempting to go into debt to cover bills, it can make financial recovery for your family even more difficult. “Being unemployed is temporary, but high interest credit card debt is not,” Tucker says.

The CARES Act gives workers another way to access needed money. Under the law, those affected by the coronavirus can withdraw up to $100,000 from an IRA or 401(k) account in 2020. The money won’t be charged a 10% early withdrawal penalty, although funds from traditional accounts are subject to regular income tax. Those taxes can be paid off over a three-year period. The money can also be returned to a retirement account within three years of the distribution and not apply to annual contribution limits.

“That’s one of the last resorts I would use,” Corliss says. “You could blow up your retirement if you’re not thoughtful.”

If you do decide to dip into your retirement funds, make sure it isn’t simply delaying the inevitable. For example, don’t use money from a retirement account to make mortgage payments on a house you won’t be able to afford in the long term. If you don’t anticipate your income rebounding to a level at which it can support your lifestyle, it’s better to downsize sooner rather than later. Otherwise, you could end up losing not only the house, but your retirement fund as well.

Corliss remains optimistic about the future for American workers. He says, “It may hurt for a bit, but we’re going to get through this.”