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Home prices have edged up in Washington, DC, making the president’s mansion slightly more valuable than it was 4 years ago.

 

What’s happened to the value of your house in the past four years?

In Washington, D.C., home prices have edged up slightly. And that means President Barack Obama can say that his house, at least, is better off now than it was four years ago.

The White House is now worth about $284.9 million, or about 1.5% more than the $280.8 million in was worth in 2008, MarketWatch reports. If homes in the area continue to increase in value, then the White House’s worth could rise an additional 1.1% in the next year to $288 million. MarketWatch got the data from real-estate site Zillow (Z -1.45%).

So why is the D.C. area doing so well when other parts of the country are not? Washington is home to four sectors that have done extraordinarily well even in the housing downturn: health care, government, education and military, Zillow CEO Stan Humphries told MarketWatch.

A recent report found that D.C. home prices rose 4% in the third quarter from a year earlier, The Washington Post notes. Sellers there are getting about 98% of their asking prices.

But the White House still hasn’t reached the value hit during the years of President George W. Bush. In June 2006, the building was worth $299.9 million.

My question: Has Zillow figured the White House’s mysterious renovation into its value calculations? The mansion has wrapped up an $86 million, two-year project that appeared to build something deep underground, The Associated Press reports. No one in the federal government will talk about it, though.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Kim Peterson

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For years it was assumed that renters were simply less civic-minded. But low tenant turnout may be due to something far easier to overcome: the cumbersome registration process.

 

With time running out in some states to register to vote in the presidential election, see if you know which of the following questions is more crucial for renters:

A) Will you take the time to vote on Nov. 6?

B) Are you registered to vote?

The answer is “B.” The distinction is particularly important for tenants, who have just as much of a stake in election outcomes as do homeowners. (Even if Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips said in 2010 that the nation’s founders were on to a good idea in allowing only property owners to vote, “because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community.”)

For years, the massive population of tenants — one-third of Americans and climbing — has turned out at a markedly lower rate than homeowners. In the 2008 presidential election, for example, 52% of renters voted, compared with 68% of homeowners, a sizable gap that, if closed, could turn elections. A back-of-the-envelope calculation using census figures shows that if tenants voted at the same rate as homeowners, an additional 11.2 million tenants would cast ballots in the upcoming November election.

For years, the reason for low tenant turnout has been chalked up to demographic factors, such as lifestyle or income — really just a polite way of saying, “Renters don’t care.” That’s because the demographics of tenants tend to mirror the demographics of those with low voter-turnout rates:

Lower income: The median income of tenants is about half the median income of homeowners, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Low-income citizens register and vote at lower rates. In 2008, according to census data, 80% of people with incomes of more than $100,000 were registered and 73% voted; only 64% of those with incomes of less than $20,000 were registered and 52% voted.

Less education: People with less education are less likely to own a home, and voting trends again correlate. In 2008, only 50.5% of eligible voters with less than a high-school diploma had registered to vote, compared with 64.1% of those with a high-school diploma and 81.2% of those with a four-year college degree, according to census data.

Younger: The 2008 election saw near-record youth turnout, which was credited with helping to secure victory for President Barack Obama. Even so, among 18- to 29-year-olds, only 51% of eligible voters went to the polls, compared with 69% of those between the 45 and 64.

More mobile: Tenants are far more likely to move than homeowners. Because of that, theorists have surmised, they are less likely to put down roots and become civically engaged.

Oops, I completely forgot to register
But evidence is mounting that it is the last point — the fact that people move — that is key, and that past assumptions about why tenants don’t vote may be incorrect.

Political scientists who have been re-evaluating reams of voting data have found that whether a tenant votes is less about political will and more about the cumbersome and at times elusive process of registering.

Think about it: The last time you moved, which tenants obviously do far more frequently than homeowners, at exactly what point in the unpacking process did you jump and say: “I’ve got to go re-register to vote at my new address!”

“Registration itself is really the red tape and the stumbling block right now,” says Liz Kennedy, a counsel with Demos, a public policy research group that advances voter rights. “There are so many different jurisdictions that administer elections that a lot of this can be perhaps somewhat tricky to navigate.”

It isn’t until an election draws near that many people even remember that they need to re-register at their new address. Then it’s up to them to find out how, where and by when. Recent, tighter voter ID laws present further complications, while threatening to disenfranchise millions of elderly, minority and low-income citizens.

There’s still time to register to vote
Meanwhile, voters may hear or read little about legal protections afforded citizens, including those designed to help people who have recently moved.

For example, under the National Voting Rights Act, if you did not move out of your jurisdiction (for example, New York City is in one jurisdiction), you are allowed to cast your ballot at your old polling place.Furthermore, many states allow anyone who has moved within the state to vote at the new polling place, even if that person hasn’t yet registered to vote at his new address. A voter can update his address on the day of the election. Many states allow voters to register online.

Those laws alone affect millions of tenants. Within the past year, almost 20 million voting-age adults moved in this country. Of those, two-thirds moved within their county and 84% moved within their state.

“So all is not lost when people move, and they should certainly not think, ‘Oh, gee, now I can’t vote at all.’ They should instead call their Board of Elections,” Kennedy said.

States determine their own voter-registration deadlines. The earliest are 30 days before the election, or Oct. 7 for the upcoming presidential election. Eleven states, including swing states Iowa and New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia allow voters to register up to and including Election Day. North Dakota has no registration requirements.

To find voter-registration details for your state and jurisdiction, you can call the 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) hotline or go to www.866OurVote.org. You can also see deadlines and other information at VoteSmart.org.

If you register, you will vote
But back to bucking the old stereotypes about why tenants don’t vote.

It turns out that once renters register to vote, they are just as likely as homeowners — or those who haven’t moved — to cast a ballot. About 90% of registered voters show up to vote for president.

“A lot of our under-represented demographic, these groups are highly mobile. But if you look at the turnout rate among the registered voters, they turn out at the same rates,” says Youjin Kim, apolicy analyst with Demos.

A 2011 academic study of 1.8 million voter-registration records found that after about age 22, people were more likely to register only because they were more likely to have been at one address for a longer period of time. The authors found a correlation with the registration process itself, not with a lack of resources or interest.

“So the argument that the younger you are, the less ties that you have to the community, and the less interested you are, is not true,” Kim says.

A 2000 study by a political scientist at the University of California, Davis, found that while voter-turnout rates were highly affected by the act of moving, it didn’t matter how far away the voter moved. In other words, it wasn’t changing communities that mattered, but simply changing addresses. So much for the assumption that low voter turnout meant people hadn’t established roots in their community, the author concluded.

Furthermore, says Demos, when registration is uncomplicated, people vote. The five states with the highest voter-turnout rates all have same-day registration.

Just give tenants the forms?
In Madison, Wis., where half the city households are renters, one elected official introduced a novel idea to help streamline voter registration for city clerks, who were getting inundated with applications on Election Day.

Since so many people move into new apartments in mid-August, just as election season is heating up, why not require that landlords give all new tenants voter-registration application and information sheets?

As in other states, efforts have been under way to clamp down on voter registration. And Wisconsin does not ask about voter registration when drivers apply for a license, as many states do under the National Voter Registration Act. Really, though, Alderwoman Bridget Maniaci says she just wanted to reduce government costs and ease clerical workload by preventing tens of thousands of registration applications from landing on Nov. 6.

Since the law went into effect this summer, city clerks have been receiving about 1,000 applications a day, a far more efficient stream to handle. Local government provides the paperwork to landlords, who then include it in the packet of information they already provide tenants.

“We’re trying to get the forms to people so they can come in in a staggered fashion,” she says. The clerk’s staff “is able to manage that and get everyone into the poll books.”

Minnesota, which has had same-day voter registration since 1974, has the country’s highest rate of voter turnout: 75% in 2008, compared with 64% nationally.

“It doesn’t matter to me how you’re voting; it matters to me that we have accessibility for individuals to go vote,” Maniaci says. “I don’t understand how we got to the point as a country where discouraging voting is a positive policy goal to have.”

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Karen Aho of MSN Real Estate

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From what to plant to what to harvest, here’s everything you need to know to prepare your garden for autumn.

 

There’s a snap in the air, the songbirds are looking at their calendars, and trees are exploding in hues of yellow, pink and red. But don’t think that means you can spend the weekends in your jammies. Make haste while the weather is still gardener-tolerant; you’ll be happy for those shorter to-do lists come late fall and winter.

Perennials
Keep planting spring-flowering bulbs, all the way up until the ground becomes frozen, and prepare tender perennials for winter.

  • Holes for planting crocuses, daffodils, tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs should be about three times deeper than the diameter of the bulbs. Add peat moss, fertilizer and bulb dust to the soil as you plant; then give them a good watering.
  • In milder climates, bulbs can still be divided and transplanted.
  • Before the first frost, move tender plants such as begonias, geraniums, gerbera daisies and impatiens indoors for the winter.
  • Buy hardy garden mums to plant in well-drained soil in a sunny location; fertilize now, and again in the spring. Color spots of winter pansies and flowering kale and cabbage can also be planted early in the month, or until the ground freezes.
  • Gladioluses, dahlias, tuberous begonias and fuchsias should be prepared now for winter storage.
  • Hold off on mulching perennials until the ground has frozen.

Trees and shrubs
October is a great month to shop for trees and shrubs, as they’re showing their true colors at the nursery. Planting can take place now and over the next several months, letting strong, healthy roots develop over the winter.

  • Make your last selections of trees for planting this month and later, even if you hold off on buying.
  • Tie up and prune raspberries.
  • Mid-autumn is a perfect time for planting grapevines.
  • Take hardwood cuttings.

Lawn care
In most areas, lawn care can continue until about mid-October.

    • Aerate lawns now while grass can recover easily; if you core aerate, make cores 3 inches deep, spaced about every 4 to 6 inches. Break up the cores and spread them around.
    • If your lawn needs it, thatch and follow with a fall or winter fertilizer.
    • Even if thatching isn’t necessary, your lawn will be happy for a dusting of fertilizer now to help roots gain strength before the spring growing season.
    • Overseed bald patches or whole lawns as needed.
    • Rake and compost leaves as they fall, as well as grass clippings from mowing. If left on the ground now, they’ll just make a wet, slippery mess, inviting to pests.

Watering
It’s easy to forget about watering duties in the middle of fall, but proper moisture now is key to your plants’ successful survival over the cold winter months.

  • Check the moisture of all plants, especially those in dry, sheltered areas such as under eaves and around tall evergreens.

Composting
Autumn leaves must fall — but what to do with them?

  • Rake or otherwise gather all the little fallen ones, from leaves to grass clippings to spent plants and vegetables, and either give the compost pile a good feeding or spade them directly into the ground. Exception: If your grass has been treated with herbicides, it might be safer to compost than to blend into the soil.
  • As an alternative to raking, if you have drifts of piled leaves, mow over them in the grass to break them up and make a great brown-and-green composting combo.
  • Save some whole leaves for piling around roses after the ground has frozen

Pest control
Slugs don’t slow down as the weather gets cooler; in fact, you’ll likely find them at all life stages in October, from eggs to youngsters and adults.

  • Take whatever measures you prefer — salt, slug bait, saucers of beer — to eliminate slugs. It’s best to catch them at early stages, to stop the reproduction cycle.
  • Keep the ground raked and tidied to reduce their habitat.
  • Keep staying ahead of weeds this month; they serve as homes for pests and bugs, and destroying them before they flower and seed will save you work in the future.

Harvesting
In many areas, October is the month to harvest.

  • Do a taste test on vegetables, and harvest them when flavor is at its peak. If you’d like to extend the harvest of carrots, turnips and other root vegetables, leave some in the ground to mulch as the weather gets colder. They can handle cold snaps!
  • Early in the month, before temperatures drop too much, seed cover crops such as clover, peas or vetch to enrich the soil. It will serve as a natural fertilizer, stifle weed growth and help loosen up the soil for next year’s crops.

Houseplants
If your September was mild enough that your houseplants and geraniums are still outdoors, be sure to make them cozy inside before the first frost takes a bite out of them.

  • Take geranium cuttings of 2 to 4 inches to root indoors.
  • If you treat houseplants chemically, after treating be sure to keep them warm and away from direct sunlight.
  • Fertilize houseplants now; they shouldn’t need it again until March.
  • Get poinsettias and Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti ready for well-timed holiday color. Give them a daily dose of 10 hours of bright daylight or four hours of direct sun, and 14 hours of night darkness. Christmas cacti need a cool environment of 50 to 60 degrees F, while poinsettias prefer a warmer 65 to 72 degrees. Let cacti dry out between waterings.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Sally Anderson of MSN Real Estate

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…To start planning your Christmas Wishlist.

I find most of the gifts I ask  for from this beauty of a publication:

THE NEIMAN MARCUS CHRISTMAS BOOK

 

MY TOP PICKS:

These adorable Kendra Scott earrings – and a steal at only $90.00

This cashmere robe. Talk about luxurious. Too bad it doesn’t get below 90 degrees in Austin.

But above all else….

A walk-on role in the Broadway production of Annie. I would die and go to heaven. I am going to try to convince James to buy this one – but don’t hold your breath.

 

So ladies (or gentlemen), if you want to make your own Neiman Marcus wishlist to give to loved ones, view the online catalog here.  You’re welcome.

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Appliance-makers are betting on finishes that are just different enough.

Is this the end of a 25-year run for stainless steel?

Major manufacturers are placing bets on different potential successors to the shiny, upscale appliance finish, whose resilience surprised many.

It is a pivotal moment in kitchen design: While stainless steel is still the dominant look, there are clear signals it has outworn its welcome, even with no clear successor in place.

The appliance industry has tried to promote new looks before. In recent years, manufacturers have pitched “oiled bronze,” “antique copper” and a gray hue called “meteorite,” as well as aluminum and other look-alikes, but none has been able to unseat stainless steel.

Whirlpool Corp., the world’s largest home-appliance maker, recently introduced its Ice Collection of appliances, including glossy white. “White is the new stainless,” a Whirlpool news release says.

“Black is the new stainless steel,” Wolf Appliance says in a news release for black-glass ovens introduced this spring.

In September, General Electric introduced refrigerators, ovens, microwaves and dishwashers in a muted gray called “slate.” Miele says it will roll out new high-gloss finishes for the U.S. soon, though it has not shared details.

The new colors and materials, though not as vibrant as the avocado green and harvest gold of previous eras, are designed blend in with their surroundings, rather than stand out like a trophy of technology the way shiny stainless steel tends to do.

Introducing a new finish is a gamble. Development takes a year or more. Stores sometimes grant extra space to new ideas. Typically, however, manufacturers have to work within an allotted number of slots, so an unsuccessful product can put the company’s overall sales at risk.

No manufacturer is writing off stainless steel completely. It is too durable and versatile for that. Whirlpool, mindful of consumers’ devotion to it, played it safe and included a stainless-steel option in the Ice Collection line. Still, there is a growing sense that stainless steel’s popularity is running into overtime.

The new kitchen
The new appliances partly reflect the kitchen’s changing role in the home. In an open floor plan, the kitchen functions as the hub of relaxing and entertaining — a return to its historic role as the center of family life.

“Until the industrial age, the kitchen was central to the home,” says Victoria Matranga, an industrial-design historian and program coordinator for the International Housewares Association.

It lost that role as kids went to their second-floor bedrooms with their own TVs, she says, adding, “Now there’s a movement to get people together again, in the kitchen.”

Patrick Schiavone, Whirlpool’s vice president of global consumer design, spent two decades as a car and truck designer at Ford Motor Co. before joining Whirlpool in 2010. Now house-hunting near Whirlpool headquarters in Benton Harbor, Mich., he is set against stainless steel for his kitchen appliances.

“I’m over it,” he says.

Schiavone’s first big U.S. project at Whirlpool was developing the company’s Ice Collection, which aims to remake what he saw as the outdated look of black and white appliances on the market.

“We wanted to make them as beautiful as stainless steel,” he says. “We want it to feel more like it was meant to be in the space, rather than be some futurist styling of machinery.”

Consumers typically buy a new appliance when an old one breaks after a decade or two of use. They often mix different brands. Schiavone wants the Ice Collection’s distinctive look to push people to splurge on the whole collection.

“We were careful to make a suite that people lusted after,” he says.

Banking on change
The appliance industry needs a boost after several years in which the housing-market slump has dampened appliance sales. Manufacturer discounts have eaten into profits.

GE is betting on a metallic matte finish it calls “slate.” Figuring that cost-conscious consumers aren’t likely to replace all their appliances at once, GE revised the new finish several times, making it warmer so as to complement the stainless steel, white or black appliances already found in consumers’ kitchens.

“Not every consumer is ready to completely change out their kitchen appliances,” says Lou Lenzi, director of industrial design for GE Appliances. “They don’t see the need to swap that expensive range they bought a year ago.”

There is a 12- to 15-year life span for an appliance finish to build momentum, peak and decline, Lenzi says. “For stainless steel to have such a strong run is remarkable.” Still, he says he detects “stainless fatigue” in the market. “Living-room aesthetics are appearing in the kitchen’s cabinetry and flooring. Then you have this big piece of industrial steel staring at you. Clearly, there is a disconnect.”

Slate’s development was veiled in secrecy. Lenzi’s team used code names such as “Dorian Gray” and “Earl Grey.” The team noted that countertops were becoming less polished and figured a matte appliance finish would complement them better. A muted surface shine also makes appliances resemble the flat-screen TVs and iPads that are increasingly at home in the kitchen.

At the high end, Viking Range — whose iconic, open-burner stainless-steel range was one of the first to bring professional-kitchen styling into homes — offers 23 color alternatives to stainless steel, including “cinnamon,” “wasabi,” “kettle black” and “dijon,” launched this spring. Still, stainless steel dominates.

“I’d say 80% of our sales are still stainless steel,” says Brent Bailey, design director at Viking Range. “I could add another 100 colors, and the percentage wouldn’t change much.”

Wolf, part of Sub-Zero Inc., chose highly reflective black glass for its new E Series line.

“Glass is becoming more popular in our society in general, and in architecture, the buildings coming up are glass,” says Michele Bedard, Wolf’s vice president of marketing. There won’t be a white counterpart, though. “It’s been debated, but white doesn’t have that lasting power. We test our appliances to last 20 years.”

German appliance-maker Bosch, meanwhile, stands by stainless steel in the U.S.

“We’ve seen in the last 10 or 15 years alternative finishes on the market, but they’re not enduring,” says Graham Sadtler, industrial-design manager for Bosch. “Similar to fashion, fads come and go.”

Getting consumers to switch from stainless steel isn’t easy. Jenn-Air launched a line of “oiled bronze” appliances in 2007; it has already dialed back availability of the finish in certain models.

“We hoped that oiled bronze would take off,” says Brian Maynard, Jenn-Air’s brand-marketing director. “It got a lot of attention, and it sold quite well, but we’ve seen it wane a little recently. We’re not disappointed with it, but it just isn’t stainless steel.”

Electrolux recently introduced a black-steel finish in markets outside the U.S. but says that stainless won’t go away soon.

“People still want that connection between the restaurant experience and their own home,” says Bob Martin, Electrolux’s design director of major appliances in North America. “Stainless steel at the high end will be strong and stay strong for a long time.”

“Other finishes haven’t achieved the same level of sophistication in terms of aesthetic,” says Stefano Marzano, chief design officer for Electrolux, who has been exploring possibilities in stone, ceramic and enamel.

Stainless steel’s staying power is partly the result of how Americans approach their kitchens, says David VanderWaal, director of brand marketing for LG’s home appliances.

“They start with the cabinets, then it’s flooring, countertops, lighting, and then finally it’s their appliances.” LG isn’t offering alternatives, he says. “We don’t see the trend of stainless-steel appliances diminishing.”

 

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Ellen Byron of The Wall Street Journal

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The average American man works 8.73 hours per day. If you feel like you need 87 hours in a day just to meet all of your deadlines, then you have a bigger problem than drowning under your inbox: You’re setting yourself up for heart disease, finds a new study published online today in The Lancet.

The study looked at workers under “job strain.” That’s just a fancy way of saying that you 1) have piles of work to do, and 2) feel like you have zero control over your workload, your promotion chances, or the brain-numbing assignments your boss slaps on your desk.

The findings: Men who experience job strain have a 29 percent greater chance of developing heart disease than men without these demands. Even guys who had very high workloads were in the clear as long as they felt like they had some control over their fate.

Strain leads to stress, which increases your blood pressure–the number one risk for heart disease–and could lead to a long list of other heart-damaging side effects, researchers explain.

Are you strained? Answer these two questions:

Do you feel constantly overloaded at work? Do you feel like there’s jack you can do about it? If yes to both–congratulations!–you have job strain.

But even if you can’t control your workload, you can beat the heart-damaging effects of stress. Step 1: Sweat. A lot. A University of Missouri at Columbia study found that 33 minutes of high-intensity exercise helps lower stress levels more than working out at a moderate pace. What’s more, the benefits last as long as 90 minutes afterward. For a fast-paced, muscle-building, fat-torching workout that’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before, check out Speed Shred from Men’s Health DeltaFIT. The eight follow-along DVDs will change your life, one 30-minute workout at a time.

Steps 2 through 15: These easy tips to turn your workplace into a palace of zen.

Take Your Calls Standing Up

Here’s what happens when you flick on your iMac: “Your breathing rate goes up 30 percent, your blinking rate goes way down, and you tend to tighten your arms and shoulders without knowing it,” says Erik Peper, Ph.D., of the Institute for Holistic Healing at San Francisco State University. Your remedy: Change your body position every half hour or so–simply standing while talking on the phone can improve bloodflow and ease muscle strain. (Is your office chair killing you? Find out in the Men’s Health special report Sentenced to the Chair.)

Visit Cracked.com

Each hour, spend a minute perusing a funny blog. Periodic breaks help you process and absorb new information, increasing your efficiency, says Cleveland Clinic psychologist Michael McKee, Ph.D. During your hiatus, take 10-second breaths–inhale 4 seconds, exhale 6–to bolster your heart’s ability to recover from stress.

Enforce the Three-Second Rule

The average working professional spends roughly 23 percent of his workday on email and glances at his inbox about 36 times an hour, finds a study from the University of Glasgow. It takes you an average of 64 seconds to return to a task once you’ve stopped to read a new email, according to another study from Loughborough University. Allow yourself no more than 3 seconds to decide whether a message is worthy of your immediate attention, says John Grohol, Psy.D. (Here’s an email you’ll look forward to receiving every day: The Men’s Health Daily Dose newsletter. It’s full of tons of useful stuff!)

Put a Green Dot on Your Phone

This is your secret reminder to take one deep breath before you answer a call, says Susan Siegel, of the Program on Integrative Medicine at the University of North Carolina school of medicine. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll sound more confident.

Go to Starbucks–with Your Coworkers

Researchers at the University of Bristol in England discovered that when stressed-out men consumed caffeine by themselves, they remained nervous and jittery. But when anxious men caffeine-loaded as part of a group, their feelings of stress subsided. Just make sure you avoid The 6 Worst Coffee Drinks in America.

Play Pandora at Work

A study in Nature Neuroscience found that listening to favorite tunes or anticipating a certain point in a song can cause a pleasurable flood of dopamine. Listen to a few songs in a row several times a day.

Try the Office Chair Workout

An Australian study published last month found that just 15 minutes of yoga–practiced right from an office chair–can reduce stress. Got a chair? Sitting in it right now? Great–try The Office Chair Workout.

Be Fashionably Late to Happy Hour

If you’re looking forward to unwinding after a grueling work week with a cold brew, hold off on happy hour for 30 minutes: Drinking while stressed out actually prolongs your anxiety–even when you limit yourself to two–according to a study at the University of Chicago. The easy fix: Tell the crew you need to run errands before hitting the bar. Then take a quick walk, browse Best Buy’s new releases, or flip to SportsCenter to check the scores.

Grab Your Ears

Tug your lobes (lightly) and move them in circles in opposite directions for a count of 10, advises massage therapist Elizabeth Cornell. The motion moves the tentorium membrane in your head, which can relieve stress. You’ll also be in fighting shape for charades.

Take the Scenic Route

If it doesn’t add much time to your commute, drive on roads with more trees and grass–natural scenes decrease feelings of anger and frustration on the road, according to a study in the journal Environment and Behavior. Not an option? Put on your favorite band’s new album. Drivers who faced frustrating and irritating congestion felt less stressed when listening to music they enjoyed, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Put a Hole in a Tennis Ball and Squeeze

Let the tension build up in your hand and the rest of your body, then release. This increases relaxation, says Allen Elkin, Ph.D., director of the Stress Management and Counseling Center in New York City. Tennis balls are those yellowy things people hit around in the ’70s and ’80s.

Hold Your Tongue

When your annoying colleague decides to be annoying once again, tell yourself, I choose to be calm, says Siegel. Ah, now it’s a choice, and you choose to be master and commander of the ship.

Make a Schedule

If the boss suddenly dumps a big project on you, try not to say, “I can’t do this. I’m gonna get fired.” (Try particularly not to say this in front of your boss.) Instead, present him with a schedule outlining when things can be done. What was overwhelming is now under control and open to negotiation, says James Blumenthal, Ph.D., a psychologist at Duke University.

Laugh It Off

Think your job is stressful? Try taking a gig as a New York City firefighter. One study found that every time a fire alarm bell rings, a firefighter’s heart rate jumps up to 150 beats per minute–about the same rate as a moderate jog. Firefighter Matt Long says his fire station received between 4,000 and 5,000 calls like that each year. “After a bad day, we deal with things through laughter,” Long says. To land the perfect practical joke, make sure you know the person well, always help clean up, and be ready to have your target prank you back.

Pop This Pill

Frazzled medical students fed an omega-3 supplement for 12 weeks saw a 20 percent drop in stress compared to their placebo-taking peers, Ohio State University research shows. Click here for the 10 Best Supplements for Men.

Do you feel your blood pressure going down already?

 

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by:Editors of Men’s Health

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Life insurance is complex, and there is no one-size-fits-all advice. Don’t let misunderstandings stop you from choosing the right coverage.

 

Life insurance is not a simple product. Even term life policies have many elements that must be considered carefully in order to arrive at the proper type and amount of coverage. But the technical aspects of life insurance are far less difficult for most people to deal with than trying to get a handle on how much coverage they need and why. Here are 10 misconceptions surrounding life insurance (and the realities):

Myth No. 1: If I’m single and don’t have dependents, I don’t need coverage.

Even single people should have at least enough life insurance to cover the costs of personal debts, medical and funeral bills. If you are uninsured, you may leave a legacy of unpaid expenses for your family or executor to deal with. Plus, this can be a good way for low-income singles to leave a legacy to a favorite charity or other cause.

Myth No. 2: My life insurance coverage needs to be twice my annual salary.

The amount of life insurance you need depends on your specific situation. There are many factors to consider. In addition to paying medical and funeral bills, you may need to pay off your mortgage and provide for your family for several years. A cash-flow analysis can help determine the amount of insurance you need.

Myth No. 3: My term life insurance coverage at work is sufficient.

Maybe, maybe not. For a single person of modest means, employer-paid or -provided term coverage may actually be enough. But if you have a spouse or dependents, or know that you will need coverage upon your death to pay estate taxes, then additional coverage may be necessary.

Myth No. 4: My premiums are tax-deductible.

That’s not true, at least in most cases. The cost of personal life insurance is not deductible unless the policyholder is self-employed and the coverage is used as asset protection for the business owner. Then the premiums are deductible on the Schedule C of the Form 1040.

Myth No. 5: Life insurance is a must for everyone.

It is certainly true that most people need life insurance. However, people with sizable assets and no debt or dependents may be better off self-insuring. If you have medical and funeral costs covered, then life insurance coverage may be optional.

Myth No. 6: It is always smarter to buy term coverage and invest the difference.

Not necessarily. There are distinct differences between term and permanent life insurance, and the cost of term life coverage can become prohibitively high as you age. Therefore, those who feel certain that they must be covered at death should consider permanent coverage. Further, while a term policy may appear more expensive, premiums for permanent coverage could go on for many more years.

There is also the risk of becoming uninsurable, which could be disastrous for those who may have estate-tax issues and need life insurance to pay them. But this risk can be avoided with permanent coverage, whichremains in force until death.

Myth No. 7: Variable universal life policies are better than regular universal life policies.

Many universal policies pay competitive interest rates, and variable universal life policies contain several layers of fees relating to both the insurance and securities elements present in the policy. Therefore, if the variable subaccounts within the policy do not perform well, the policyholder may well see a lower cash value than someone with a straight universal life policy.

Poor market performance can even generate substantial cash calls inside variable policies that require additional premiums in order to keep the policy in force.

Myth No. 8: Only breadwinners need life insurance coverage.

Nonsense. The cost of replacing the services formerly provided by a deceased homemaker can be higher than you think, and insuring against the loss of a homemaker may make sense, to compensate for cleaning and child-care costs.

Myth No. 9: I should purchase the return-of-premium rider on any term policy.

There are usually different levels of return-of-premium riders available for policies that offer this feature. Many financial planners will tell you that this rider is not cost-effective and should be avoided. Whether you include this rider will depend on your risk tolerance and investment objectives.

A cash-flow analysis will reveal whether you could come out ahead by investing the additional amount of the rider elsewhere versus including it in the policy.

Myth No. 10: I’m better off investing my money than buying life insurance.

Hogwash. Until the value of your assets exceeds your debt, you need life coverage of some sort. Once you amass $1 million of liquid assets, you can consider discontinuing (or at least reducing) your million-dollar policy. But you take a big chance when you depend solely on your investments in the early years of your adult life, especially if you have dependents. If you die without coverage, there may be no means to provide for them after your current assets are depleted.

The bottom line

These are just some of the misunderstandings about life insurance. The key concept to understand is that you shouldn’t leave life insurance out of your budget unless you have enough assets to cover expenses after you’re gone. For more information, consult your life insurance agent or financial adviser.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Mark P. Cussen, Investopedia

View Original Article Here

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