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There are steps you can take now to substantially increase your Social Security payments during retirement.

The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retiree in 2013 is estimated at $1,261, according to the Social Security Administration. That’s just $15,132 a year — for many people, hardly enough to live on.

 

Hopefully when you reach retirement, you’ll have a nice nest egg to offset hurdles like vanishing pensions and unpredictable stock market returns. But either way, there are certain actions you can take today to boost your Social Security payments during retirement, and they can add up to thousands of extra dollars in your golden years.

13 ways to get more Social Security

There are steps you can take now to substantially increase your Social Security payments during retirement.

By Stacy Johnson Jan 18, 2013 5:29PM

This post comes from Renee Morad at partner site Money Talks News.

 

Money Talks News logoThe average monthly Social Security benefit for a retiree in 2013 is estimated at $1,261, according to the Social Security Administration. That’s just $15,132 a year — for many people, hardly enough to live on.

 

Hopefully when you reach retirement, you’ll have a nice nest egg to offset hurdles like vanishing pensions and unpredictable stock market returns. But either way, there are certain actions you can take today to boost your Social Security payments during retirement, and they can add up to thousands of extra dollars in your golden years.

 

Here are 13 things you can think about today to increase your Social Security payments during retirement:

 

1. Work at least 35 years

Social Security benefits are calculated based on your 35 highest-earning working years. If you work fewer years, you’ll have years with zero income averaged in, which will lower your payout.

 

2. Ask for a raise

If you experience a jump in salary, you’ll likely boost your future earning potential and may see an increase in your Social Security payments down the road because, as we just explained, Social Security takes into account the 35 top-earning years of your career.

 

3. Take a second job

The same logic applies: If you earn more each year, you’ll likely increase the amount you get in Social Security when you retire.

4. Wait until full retirement age to claim Social Security

You can begin collecting Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but you might not want to: Your benefit will be reduced by 25% for life. To get your full payment, wait until you reach full retirement age — 66 for anyone born between 1943 and 1954. For those born from 1955 to 1959, the age gradually rises toward 67. For those born in 1960, it’s 67.

 

5. Better yet, wait until age 70

If you can afford to wait until age 70 to claim Social Security benefits, it’ll pay off. Thanks to what the Social Security Administration calls “delayed retirement credits,” benefits increase 8% each year you delay tapping into Social Security — up until age 70. So waiting until you reach 70 means about a third more income for life.

 

When considering this strategy, it’s particularly beneficial for the higher-earning spouse in a marriage to hold out until age 70 to increase the total benefits the couple will receive throughout their lifetimes. In the event that the spouse with the higher benefit passes away, the surviving spouse will receive the higher payment.

 

If you took benefits early and regret the move, it might not be too late to fix it. Under limited circumstances, you may be able to repay all the benefits you received so far and restart them at a higher level based on your age. For more details, check out this page on the SSA website.

 

6. Use online tools

If you’re unsure about the best time to claim benefits based on your individual budget, health, life expectancy, or other factors, use online resources to help you decide. A good place to start is SocialSecurity.gov/M​yStatement, where you’ll get your personalized statement. This estimates what your benefits will be at age 62, at full retirement age, or at age 70.

 

Once you get estimates for both you and, if applicable, your spouse, there are other online tools that compare your benefits under various scenarios to help you determine the best claiming strategy. Consider AARP’s Social Security benefits calculator.

 

7. Claim spousal benefits

If you’re married, you have a choice: You can either take the benefit based on your work history, or half your spouse’s benefit. So if your spouse earned a lot more than you did, and has a higher benefit as a result, compare and see which will pay the most.

 

You can also claim Social Security benefits based on an ex-spouse’s work record if you were married for at least 10 years. Doing so doesn’t reduce your former spouse’s check or otherwise impact him or her. In fact, he or she need never know you applied.

 

8. Taking early retirement? Beware of outside income

If you start taking benefits before reaching your full retirement age, employment elsewhere can reduce your Social Security checks.

 

For example, say you started taking Social Security in 2012 at age 62 and your full retirement age is 66. For 2012, your benefit would be reduced by $1 for every $2 you earned in gross wages or net self-employment income above $14,640.

 

If you reached full retirement age in 2012, you could have earned up to $38,880 prior to the month you turned 66. More than that, and your benefit would be reduced by $1 for every $3 you earned.

 

After you reach full retirement age, you get your full benefit no matter how much you earn.

 

9. Claim twice

Let’s say the husband is 66 and the wife is 62. If the husband files for benefits, the wife could opt for half her husband’s benefit, while still earning money and letting her benefit grow. She can drop the spousal benefit and file for benefits based on her own work record whenever she wants. If she waits until age 70, she’ll have the maximum benefit using her own history.

 

There are lots of strategies like this to maximize Social Security. As you approach retirement age, be sure and do lots of reading. This article from Kiplinger is a good place to start.

 

10. Benefits for your kids

When you start collecting Social Security benefits, unmarried dependent children under age 18 may qualify to receive benefits worth up to half of your full retirement benefit amount. This can include a biological child, adopted child, stepchild or dependent grandchild. He or she may also get benefits at age 18 or 19 as a full-time student (no higher than grade 12) or 18 or older if the individual has a disability that began before age 22.

 

11. Plan ahead for taxes

If the sum of your adjusted gross income, nontaxable interest income, and half your 2012 Social Security benefits exceeds $34,000 — or $44,000 for couples — up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable.

 

There’s not much you can do about this, but there are a few strategies that might work. For example, if you earn interest from taxable savings and don’t need the income, you could transfer those savings into a tax-deferred investment, like an annuity.

 

12. Do your due diligence

Read your Social Security statements to be sure everything has been reported correctly. Although inaccuracies are uncommon, some scenarios, such as a name change, lend themselves to a greater chance of error.

 

13. Clear your debts

Your Social Security benefits are protected from most debt collections, but they can be taken for federal taxes, federal student loan balances and child support or alimony. Clearing these debts will leave your Social Security benefits untouched.

 

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

Original Article by: Stacy Johnson

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What a great way to spend the beginning of The New Year!

 

Everything here only costs a few bucks or takes a few minutes, but the impact? Huge.

1. Train a service pet. A $5 gift to canine assistants.org covers a week of food for a puppy learning to aid people with disabilities.

2. Buy groceries for a needy family. Nearly 50 million Americans are facing hunger; $21 to feedingamer ica.org feeds a family for two weeks.

3. Donate your old phone to cellphonesforsoldiers.com, which recycles them and uses proceeds to buy calling cards for our troops abroad.

4. Restore vision. $50 to unite forsight.org gives surgery to one of the 94 million people who are blinded or visually impaired by cataracts.

5. Rehabilitate women who’ve been trafficked. Senhoa.org hires survivors to make jewelry and helps them safely transition back into society.

6. Provide a kid with peace of mind. Holiday bulbs designed by celebs like Brooklyn Decker support the Child Mind Institute, which researches mental illness in kids ($40, available at bloom ingdales.com).

7. Help more teens in the U.S.graduate. A million drop out each year. Tutor and assist in an at-risk classroom for 10 months with cityyear.org.

8. Keep an infant HIV-free. In Africa, more than 800 babies are born with it daily; $50 to m2m.org teaches an expectant mom to avoid transmission.

9. Donate your wedding gown or veil to brides againstbreastcancer.org. They’ll sell it at a bridal show and help pay for support groups for patients.

10. Comfort the homeless. At projectnightnight.org, $20 provides a blanket, book, and stuffed toy to one of the 334,819 kids in shelters nationwide.

11. Beautify a city park. $15 to tpl.org goes toward playground equipment in a new or renovated green space for boys and girls across the U.S.

12. Ready young mothers. $50 to nursefamilypartnership.org coaches five first-time moms about healthy pregnancies and smart parenting.

13. Save a life in South Sudan. $5 to doc2dock.org ships unused supplies from U.S. hospitals to remote clinics, where shortages threaten lives.

14. Give Internet access to Afghan women. $25 to youngwomenforchange.org donates a desk to the first-ever female-only Web café in Kabul.

15. Prep an animal for its new home. Just $10 to petfinder foundation.com vaccinates four shelter dogs or five cats, keeping them ready for adoption.

16. Invest in health. 17% of American young people are obese; $50 to actionfor
healthykids.org buys PE tools for a class in a struggling district.

17. Inspire a new author. M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel’s holiday album ($11, amazon.com) benefits 826 National, which helps disadvantaged students build writing skills.

18. Stop partner violence. In honor of Yeardley Love, who was killed by an ex-boyfriend, joinonelove.org educates us all to prevent abuse.

19. Pay for a terminally ill child’s getaway. $25 to givekidstheworld.org helps affected families take a vacation to its Florida resort.

20. Volunteer from your desk. Sparked.com asks about your skills and passions, then gives ideas for using your talents to better the world.

21. Fight lung cancer. A donation to lcfamerica.org funds research to predict, detect, and treat the top cancer killer among Americans.

22. Take care of amputees. $300 to brac.net provides a prosthetic arm or leg to a Haitian who lost a limb due to the 2010 earthquake.

23. Prevent illiteracy. Order yourself a new book at better worldbooks.com, and they’ll send one to a needy child in the U.S. or abroad.

24. Raise a roof for a struggling family. Spend a day at one of womenbuild.org’s 27 sites and help put a low-income family into a home.

25. Groom women for government with a gift to the nonpartisan wufpac.org, conservative shepac.com, or liberal emilyslist.org.

26. Keep at-risk youth drug-free. For $25 to deaeducationalfoundation.org, one girl can attend after-school dance classes for 10 weeks.

27. End hunger. Spend $120 on a Feed tote full of gourmet snacks (deandeluca.com), and 15 meals go to kids in Africa, Asia, or the Middle East.

28. Soothe a scared kid. Send a stuffed animal to projectsmile.org; police officers and paramedics will hand them out to trauma victims.

29. Give land to a poverty-stricken woman. For $150, landesa.org secures a plot for a woman in India to live and grow food with her family.

30. Rush in relief when disasters like Hurricane Isaac strike. Teamrubiconusa.org uses your $11 to keep a veteran ready to deploy to crisis areas.

31. Rebuild schools after devastation. Every dollar to happyheartsfund.org, created by former Glamour Woman of the Year Petra Nemcova, does just that around the globe.

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

Original Article by: Emily Mahaney

Click here to view original article

 

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Financial institutions have no obligations to disclose or fix flaws in an as-is property, so buyers need to do the due diligence and hire seasoned foreclosure home inspectors to make sure they are not stuck with a lemon.

 

Q: When a bank forecloses and then sells a house, do they have to disclose any faults or flaws? My friend bought a house that had been foreclosed and didn’t get the power turned on to see if the well and heat pump worked. They don’t!
—  Olga

A: Though some banks are fixing up foreclosure properties, the vast majority are sold as is, hence these institutions have no obligations to disclose flaws and typically don’t know exactly what the defects are, anyway. Moreover, banks are under no obligation to fix as-is homes, and they tend to provide only a narrow time frame for inspections.

So it’s usually up to buyers to do the due diligence and a thorough inspection. As your pal discovered, it’s not a stretch to suspect that the previous owner of a distressed home let maintenance slide. Further, many such homes are vacant for months with no caretaker. Plumbing and sewer problems result.

Unfortunately, your friend found out the hard way that getting the power restored is a must when examining a foreclosure. Granted, getting that done is not always easy. Banks often state upfront in their special addendums that they won’t be responsible for having utilities turned on to allow inspections.

And little wonder: Electric companies often remove a home’s electric meter after terminating service, which complicates the whole process. Depending on the site and city, it might cost money to have a meter reinstalled, a permit fee may be required, a county inspector may have to inspect the meter post, and an electrician may even have to conduct an inspection to make sure the house won’t burn down when power is restored.

In short, some would-be owners find themselves forking out $400 to $900 just to get an inspection. As a result, some will drop the deal. Others, like your friend, simply choose to forgo that part of the inspection entirely.

One cheaper way is to secure a foreclosure inspector who can power the entire home with a portable generator to check the furnace, heat pumps, condenser, water heater, appliances, lighting, outlets and any electrically operated well, as in your friend’s case. A call to such an inspector will let you know if this is allowable in your area.

Let this serve as a cautionary tale. As tempting as it is to go it alone in an effort to save some bucks, a foreclosure buyer is always wise to hire a real-estate agent experienced with foreclosure deals and their nuances, get that power turned on and use a seasoned foreclosure home inspector to give it the twice-over. Good luck.

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

Original Article by: Steve McLinden of Bankrate.com

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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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The most potent weapon in your antiaging arsenal may be scaling back at mealtime.

The most potent weapon in your antiaging arsenal may be scaling back at mealtime.

IT CAN HAPPEN AT ANY AGE: One day you’re eating what you want with no consequences. The next day, one stray cookie and your jeans don’t zip. Elisabetta Politi, nutritional director at the Duke Diet & Fitness Center in Durham, North Carolina, notes that each year your resting metabolism burns approximately 10 fewer calories — 100 fewer per decade — meaning you can slide up into the next dress size all too easily if you don’t gradually adjust your diet over time. Plus, as you age, “your old techniques don’t work anymore,” says Heather Bauer, a New York City-based registered dietician and coauthor of Bread Is the Devil. “You can’t binge and starve your way to a healthy weight.” Research suggests that even exercise can’t counteract the evils of age-related weight gain. Recent studies indicate that metabolism is less responsive to exercise than we had thought. New York-based fitness instructor and holistic health coach Craig Smith believes that the food you eat accounts for a full 85 percent of your body’s appearance, while a gym routine dictates only the remaining 15. “No workout will give you the results you want unless you change your diet,” he says. We polled the country’s top nutritionists and doctors and a swath of svelte professional women to find the best body strategies for every age.

20s

THE SCIENTIFIC SCOOP: Most women’s basal metabolic rate — a key determinant of metabolism speed — can drop by 5 to 10 percent between their mid-teens and early 20s, due to a rise in reproductive hormones, says Dr. Jeffrey Morrison, a family doctor and nutritionist based in New York City. “As a woman enters prime childbearing years, estrogen — which increases body fat — rises,” he explains. At a cellular level, mitochondria, which convert glucose into energy, become less efficient, impairing the body’s ability to burn fat and sugar, says Oz Garcia, a New York City-based wellness and aging expert whose clients include Hilary Swank and Heidi Klum. “As kids, our mitochondria work at full blast,” he says, but they slow with age.

THE EATING STRATEGY: Aim to get a full third of your diet from protein, suggests Morrison, who says he’s seen patients become vegetarians only to find it harder to shed weight when they consume inadequate amounts of protein, which is necessary to maintain muscle mass and optimize metabolic function. Case in point? Jewelry designer Suzanne Somersall, 29, lost 5 pounds from cutting back on calorie- and carb-dense Nature Valley granola bars and eating more lean protein like chicken, salmon, and hummus. In addition, New York nutritionist Joy Bauer suggests swapping sugar- and calorie-heavy coffee drinks, the domain of college all-nighters, for skim-milk lattes. Milk provides calcium (women need 1,200 milligrams daily to help build bones before menopause) and protein. And add vegetables like spinach to get folic acid, which is important for women who want kids.

THE EXERCISE PLAN: Experts agree that establishing a consistent fitness routine, say 30 minutes of cardio three to four times a week to establish muscle tone and drive metabolism, is a must. Good habits now will pay dividends later.

30s

THE SCIENTIFIC SCOOP: Research done at the Cleveland Clinic shows that while portions of the human skeleton continue growing through the mid-20s, by her 30s, a woman’s vertical growth has stopped and the hormones responsible for boosting muscle and bone strength fall off dramatically. Experts say those growth hormones also help prevent glucose absorption in fat cells, and when there is a deficiency, it’s hard to lose weight. On top of that, pregnancy and breast-feeding mean many women temporarily increase their nutritional intake, and stress — brought on by full-fledged careers and family life — can cause overeating and trigger the release of cortisol, a hormone that signals to the body to store fat around the midsection.

THE EATING STRATEGY: “In your 30s, every day can be a frantic whirlwind,” says Bauer. To stabilize blood sugar and maximize energy, she suggests starting the morning with a breakfast of Greek yogurt, which has lots of calcium and twice the protein of regular yogurt, and making a peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread for a mid-morning snack. (The slow-burning carbs help you feel fuller longer, as does the fat in the peanut butter.) Elisa Dahan, a 33-year-old mother of two and the Montreal-based co-creative director of outerwear line Mackage, eats Nutella on whole-wheat toast every morning, saying it satisfies her sweet tooth and gives her something to look forward to the night before. For dinner, in lieu of bread or pasta, Dahan has a salad and barbecued salmon. One habit busy women should avoid, experts agree, is unintentionally sabotaging a diet by casually polishing off high-calorie foods (like uneaten French fries) from your child’s or partner’s plate. “You have to create controlled moments when you can eat,” advises Bauer. So steam a big plate of spinach to snack on while your kids have dinner, or order a side of grilled asparagus at restaurants.

THE EXERCISE PLAN: Full-body conditioning, like in a cardio class with weights, will torch calories and build muscle simultaneously, making it a time-efficient way to get in shape during your 30s, says Smith.

40s, 50s & BEYOND

THE SCIENTIFIC SCOOP: As metabolism function drops further, daily calorie requirements dip, too. In addition, women approaching menopause have less estrogen, meaning fat goes straight to the abdomen, not hips or thighs.

THE EATING STRATEGY: After 40, overall health becomes as much a consideration as weight. Experts highlight the need for heart-healthy fats like coconut oil, which contain a cholesterol-lowering triglyceride that’s easily converted into energy; and antioxidant-packed and anti-inflammatory foods like red bell peppers, which can reduce the effects of chronic oxidative stress and excessive inflammation, both of which are linked to higher cancer risks. Meanwhile, Dr. Michael Moreno, a San Diego-based family practitioner whose latest book, The 17 Day Plan to Stop Aging, was published in September, tells patients this age to eat Brazil nuts, loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that can help fight depression. Ji Baek, 42, founder of Rescue Beauty Lounge, an upscale line of nail products, has her own approach: She eats just one meal a day. Throughout the morning and afternoon, Baek snacks on an apple or a few cashews and drinks tea in anticipation of a 6 p.m. dinner date with her husband or friends, which often includes wine, stuffed pasta shells, and steak. “I’m not a farmer. I don’t need to eat three times a day,” she says, adding that the diet allows her to enjoy the foods she loves while staying lean. “I choose quality over quantity.”

Jewelry designer Ann Dexter-Jones, in her late 50s, took the opposite approach, eating more, not less, when she realized that being too thin was adding years to her appearance. “I needed a few carbs to fill out my face,” says Dexter-Jones, who now has oatmeal for breakfast, a meal she used to skip; vegetable- and fish-filled lunches and dinners (Dover sole and sea bass are favorites); and vodka sodas instead of wine, which she says has too much sugar. Savory snacks, like Gorgonzola and Emmentaler cheese, salami, and pickles, round out the day.

THE EXERCISE PLAN: Add resistance training to your fitness program to mitigate the effects of sarcopenia, the age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass, says Dr. Caroline Apovian, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center.

THE NEW PRESCRIPTIONS

Last summer, the FDA approved its first two diet medications in more than a decade, Belviq and Qsymia. (Another, Contrave, was rejected in 2011 but is expected to be reviewed again in two years.) Die-hard dieters are rejoicing, but experts like Dr. Gerard Mullin, the director of Integrative Gastroenterology Nutrition Services at Johns Hopkins Hospital, question the drugs’ long-term efficacy. Even those who celebrate the addition of new tools to help patients, like Dr. Caroline Apovian, say the drugs are intended for clinically obese patients with diseases like type 2 diabetes or hypertension. “This is not for someone who wants to lose 5 pounds to fit into a wedding dress,” she says.

NAME: BELVIQ

TIMELINE: Approved by the FDA in June 2012; available by prescription soon.

CLAIM TO FAME: This appetite suppressant activates a serotonin receptor in the brain, so smaller portion sizes trigger greater satiety. In clinical trials, almost half of the nondiabetic patients who used Belviq lost 5 percent or more of their starting weight (an average of 12 pounds) in a year. Possible side effects include headaches and dizziness.

NAME: QSYMIA

TIMELINE: Approved by the FDA in July 2011; available by prescription soon.

CLAIM TO FAME: This drug combines phentermine, an appetite suppressant, with topiramate, an epilepsy and migraine medication often prescribed off-label to help people feel fuller. Dieters on a high dose lost slightly more than 10 percent of their starting weight, but possible side effects include elevated heart rates, a decline in cognitive function, and birth defects in babies of pregnant patients.

NAME: CONTRAVE

TIMELINE: Rejected by the FDA in 2011; may be reviewed again in two years.

CLAIM TO FAME: Contrave, a combination of the antidepressant buproprion (marketed as Wellbutrin) and naltrexone, a medication for drug and alcohol addiction, suppresses food cravings. The FDA has asked for more research on its effect on cardiovascular health.

 

 

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

Original Article by: Tatiana Boncompagni

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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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I simply couldn’t help but sharing this –

Check out this website for some adorable and stylish “Back-To-School” looks for Toddlers – Charles and Kate

http://glo.msn.com/style/back-to-school-style-for-every-age-8498.gallery

 

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