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Provided by RISMedia News
4/3/2020  1:27:15 PM

Seven Top Ways to Keep Your Family Healthy


No one can predict when a health crisis will arise, but there are steps every family can take in any environment to ensure they remain healthy enough to ward off illness.

From the Center for Disease Control (CDC), health experts, and university researchers, here are seven proven tips for raising healthy families:

Make nutrition a family affair. A well-balanced diet combined with regular exercise is the basis for good health. Even young children can be encouraged to ‘eat the rainbow’ of fruits and veggies along with whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats and fat-free sources of calcium. Involve everyone in learning about nutrition, planning and preparing healthy meals – and commit to drinking lots of water and steering clear of sugary drinks.

Get enough exercise. Kids who spend a little time outdoors each day typically get enough exercise, but adults should make time for at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. Whether it’s walking, bicycling, dancing, swimming, or participating in sports – even gardening counts! – a little daily exercise can pay big health dividends.

Help avoid injury. Wear seatbelts and bike helmets, use smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at home, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily, and be street smart when walking alone. 

Create no-phone zones and times. Designate times during the day – like at the dinner table or during homework time - when no technology is allowed. A 10-minute break from devices just before bedtime can help ease the way toward sleep.

Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep is one of the best promoters of physical and mental health. It reduces inflammation and helps reduce the risk of infectious diseases. Aim for a minimum of eight to nine hours for children, and seven to eight hours for adults.

Plan some family time. Family vacations can be fun, but just spending a few hours of regular time together is a great way to increase communication. Whether it’s over a game board, at the zoo, or volunteering together at the local food bank, meaningful family time can contribute to overall health.

Avoid smoking and keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. Smoking harms every major organ in the body, and second-hand smoke can severely impact children. If you drink, keep your intake to within accepted guidelines – up to one glass per day for women and two per day for women, according to the CDC.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Smart Home Technology You Can Easily Integrate Into Your Home


Smart home technology is advancing beyond telling your phone or internet-enabled device to play music and look up sports scores.

Smart thermostats, lightbulbs, plugs, locks and doorbells are available to homeowners, and the list of things technology can connect to within a home is growing every year.

Here are some smart devices you may want to consider integrating into your home:

Thermostat
With a variety of options to choose from, one of the most popular smart thermostats among today's homeowners is the Nest Learning Thermostat, which is owned by Google.

The Nest thermostat uses an algorithm to adapt to your preferences, as well as when you leave and arrive home. When you're away at work, it uses your phone's location to determine that you've left and enters eco mode to save money and energy, reducing bills by up to 15 percent, according to the company.

Floodlight
The Sengled Smart LED Floodlight is an inexpensive way to monitor your home as a motion sensor, while providing light without having to turn the light switch on and off.

Unlike some motion detector lights that require installing new fixtures and possibly wiring, the Sengled Smart LED bulb connects to existing fixtures. Built-in motion and daylight sensors turn the light on automatically for 90 seconds when motion is detected within 30 feet. The light can also be controlled through voice control on Alexa or Google Assistant.

With the Sengled app, you can even receive mobile notifications when motion is sensed.

Smart Lock
The August Smart Lock Pro + Connect attaches to the existing deadbolt and features keyless access. With your phone in your pocket, you can open the door without fumbling for your keys. It automatically locks the door behind you after you leave.

The lock can also be voice activated through Siri, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Smart Doorbell
Want to see who's ringing the doorbell? With continuous streaming and video recording, the Nest Hello gives you a 160-degree view and visitor detection alerts. It also has a speaker and microphone so that you can communicate with visitors knocking on your front door whether you're inside the house—or away from home.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

How to Make Mornings Less Stressful


For many people, mornings are stressful, even chaotic. Rushing and feeling anxious first thing in the morning can set a negative tone for the rest of the day. Some simple (but important) changes can make a world of difference.

Prepare for the Day Ahead

You can eliminate much of your morning stress by taking care of as many things as possible the night before. Check the weather forecast and pick out clothes and shoes for yourself and your kids. If anyone will need an umbrella, coat or other items not generally worn, put them with each person's clothes. If you and your kids take lunches to work or school, make them in the evening. Put them in the refrigerator in labeled or color-coded bags. Fill your gas tank in the evening so you won't have to make a detour in the morning.

Plan Your Day and Week
Make a to-do list for the day ahead, but be realistic about how much you can accomplish. Prioritize items so you get essential tasks done and know which ones can be saved for another day.

If there are any special events, medical or dental appointments, athletic competitions, teacher conferences, or other things that are not a regular part of your weekly routine coming up, write them on a calendar. Check it before the start of the week so that you can make any necessary adjustments to your schedule in advance.

Don't Stay in Bed Too Long
Many people experience morning stress because they get out of bed at the last possible moment. Resist the urge to do that. Don't hit the snooze button. You won't get any more quality sleep, but you could be groggy and fall behind schedule.

Before you get out of bed, take a moment to think about things for which you are grateful, things you have to look forward to that day, and what you hope to accomplish. Don't check your email, texts, social media accounts or newsfeed until you have gotten ready for the day. Reading about other people's problems or requests could cause you to begin your morning on a negative note.

Fuel Your Body
Eat a healthy breakfast that includes protein. Avoid sugary foods that will provide a quick boost of energy followed by a crash. If you typically skip breakfast, try eating a small morning meal each day for a week and see how it affects your mood and energy level.

Expect the Unexpected
Build an extra 10 or 15 minutes into your schedule in case you spill something on your shirt, find that a pet knocked over a plant, or hit a traffic jam. Something will inevitably come up at least once a week. Budgeting extra time for those situations can help you avoid becoming frazzled.

Change Your Routine
Mornings don't have to be stressful. Knowing what you need to do, accomplishing as much as you can ahead of time, and being prepared for last-minute hiccups can make your mornings much more relaxed.

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How to Help Your Child Cope With Allergies


Allergies can make life uncomfortable or nearly unbearable. Kids with allergies may not understand why their bodies respond to things in ways that other bodies don't. They may feel different from their siblings and peers, and may struggle with feelings of embarrassment and isolation.

Talk to the Doctor and to Your Child
If you suspect that your child has allergies, schedule an appointment with a doctor. Once you have confirmed that your child has allergies and know what triggers reactions, you can make any necessary changes.

Explain to your child in age-appropriate terms what allergies are, what he or she is allergic to, and how to avoid reactions. Your child will feel less anxiety and will be more willing to accept medication and diet and lifestyle changes if you explain what is going on and why those measures are necessary.

How to Deal With Allergies
If your child needs to take medication, discuss the benefits, how it should be taken and how often. If your child needs to take medicine at school, talk to the school nurse and teacher so your child can be excused from class when necessary.

If your child has to avoid certain foods, make sure all relatives, teachers, coaches, babysitters, family friends and any other people who might care for your child understand which foods he or she can't eat. Describe the signs of an allergic reaction and explain what to do if one occurs.

If your child needs to stay inside on days with high pollen counts, look for something fun to do. Encourage your child to invite friends over to play indoor games or watch movies.

If your child is allergic to a family pet, some treatments might make it possible to keep the pet without causing too much discomfort for your child. Keep the pet out of your child's bedroom and frequently sweep and vacuum to reduce the amount of dander in your home. If your child's symptoms are so severe that you can't keep the pet, giving it to a family member or friend who agrees to share photos and updates could ease the emotional distress. You might also be able to have a different type of animal as a pet without triggering allergic reactions in your child.

Kids often feel embarrassed if others perceive them as different, or if they view themselves that way. However, allergies are very common. If your child and others feel comfortable discussing their allergies, that can help take away the stigma, but don't force the conversation.

Support Your Child
In addition to the physical symptoms of allergies, children may have to deal with complicated emotions. Explaining what is going on and finding ways to avoid triggers can ease the emotional toll on your child. Talk openly and honestly about your child's allergies and help him or her find ways to cope.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Adding a Dog to the Family? Here Are Some Expenses to Consider


Getting a dog can be one of the most rewarding things you'll ever do. Seeing your cute pet's tail wag when you get home from a long day at work can be a heartwarming experience that makes the responsibilities of dog ownership worthwhile.

But don't forget those responsibilities, including financial ones, when determining whether now is the right time to bring a dog into the mix. New owners can expect to pay $1,400-$2,000 in the first year of having a puppy, and $14,500 over their dog's lifetime, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA.

Here are some costs to consider, according to the ASPCA:

Food
Don't underestimate the cost of feeding your dog. Premium brand dry dog food for large dogs costs an average of $400 per year. Taking care to not overfeed your pet will lower the food cost a little and will also help prevent them from becoming overweight and having higher medical bills down the road.

Boarding and Walking Services
Unless you have a kind friend or neighbor that is willing to watch your dog for free when you go on vacation and is able to walk him/her while you're at work, you may need to pay for pet sitters and dog walkers throughout your dog's lifetime.

A 30-minute dog walk on Wag, a nationwide dog walking service, costs about $20. Boarding on Rover, a network of pet sitters, costs $25-$35 per night, up to $75 in some areas.

Vaccinations
Puppies need a round of immunizations in their first year, and regular boosters every few years afterward. Vaccinations can cost about $100, though you may be able to get them for free (or a lot cheaper) at vaccination clinics offered at pet stores.

Medical Care
Going to the vet can be expensive, with recurring medical care costing anywhere from $210 annually for a small dog to $235 for a medium-sized dog and $260 for a large dog, according to the ASPCA. While emergency care expenses aren't included in the ASPCA data, they can often cost pet owners upwards of thousands of dollars.

To prepare for emergencies, begin saving for this expense as soon as you've decided to get a dog, and buy pet health insurance as a way to defray the costs of expensive medical treatment that may be necessary along the way. Pet health insurance costs about $225 per year, with most plans reimbursing 80 percent of eligible expenses after the annual deductible is met.

Dental Care
A related medical cost is professional teeth cleaning, which costs $200-$300. While annual cleanings are generally recommended by vets, brushing your dog's teeth at home with a pet toothbrush and toothpaste may help save some money in this area.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

How to Stay Social While Practicing Social Distancing


It can be incredibly isolating to be stuck at home while practicing social distancing. And that's become the new reality for many Americans. But being at home doesn't have to mean you're alone. There are many ways you can be social and connected while staying inside your home. Here are some tips:

Use social media. Everyone is a lot more active on social media right now because it gives people the opportunity to feel connected even if they're in isolation. Use social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Snapchat to stay in touch with everyone. You can have conversations through Facebook groups, view videos and content that your friends and colleagues have shared, and share pictures of cute animals because that makes everyone feel a little bit better.

Get on the phone. I know, no one talks on the phone anymore, right? This is the perfect time to change that. Have long phone conversations with friends and family to check up on them and update each other even while you're separated from each other.

Try video conferencing. You can talk to your family, friends and colleagues as if they were in the same room with you. Just hop on a video call and have a conversation like you normally would. Being able to see someone's facial expressions along with hearing their voice will help you really feel connected.

Attend virtual events. You can find practically any kind of event in virtual form online. Even breweries are participating in the new trend. And there are concerts being streamed so you can rock out with thousands of others online. Find something you're interested in and join a virtual gathering that applies.

This is a great opportunity to connect with people all around the world. Find online groups and communities that you can relate to and join in on the fun! And if you're still feeling disconnected, just remember we're all going through this together and so none of us are really alone.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

When Should You Start Saving for Your Children's College Education?


If you have or plan to have children, you want them to have a bright future and to be successful and financially secure. That may mean that you hope (or expect) that they will obtain a college degree. With tuition and other costs steadily climbing every year, many parents worry that they won't be able to afford to pay for their children's college education.

Set Clear Priorities
Before you start saving for college, you need to get your finances in order in other areas. Make sure you have an emergency fund with enough money to cover at least three months' worth of expenses in case you suffer an illness or injury or lose your job. It's also important to set aside enough money for your own retirement. You won't be doing your kids a favor if you're too old or ill to work, don't have enough saved to support yourself, and have to rely on them when they're starting out in their own careers and are not yet financially secure.

Lower Current Expenses
Find ways to cut your expenditures to make room for college savings in your budget. If you have any high-interest credit cards or loans, pay them off, or at least get the balances under control before you start setting aside money for your children's future education. Consolidating credit card balances to lower your interest rates and refinancing your mortgage or other loans can save you money each month.

Eating out less often and reducing your spending on clothing and entertainment are other ways to lower expenses. These changes could allow you to save money for college without having a major impact on your current quality of life.

Ways to Save for College
Once your own financial situation is secure, you can begin to save money for your children's college education. The earlier you start, the better. Because of compounded interest, even a small amount, when consistently set aside each month and left to accrue interest, can grow into a sizable nest egg.

You might want to open a 529 savings account to set aside funds for college costs. You can even establish an account in your own name before a child is born and then transfer it to your child's name later. Another option is to put money in an IRA to be used for your own retirement or for your children's college education. Discuss your options and tax implications with a financial advisor.

Be Ambitious, but Realistic
With higher education costs soaring, the key to building a substantial amount of savings is to start early. The more you set aside, and the longer it can collect interest, the better off your children will be when they're ready to enter college. If you can't save as much as you would like, remember that grants, scholarships and loans may be available to help. Make your own retirement and your family's current financial security your first priorities as you save for college.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

What to Do If You Find an Error on Your Credit Report


Lenders look at your credit report to determine whether you qualify for a loan or credit card. Inaccurate information could lead to an unfavorable interest rate or outright denial of your application. You should periodically request copies of your credit reports and check them for errors. If you find a mistake, act immediately to have it corrected so it doesn't hurt your chances of obtaining credit.

How an Error Might Have Occurred
If you have a common name, your records could have gotten mixed up with someone else's. If you are divorced, a joint account that you had with your former spouse might not have been removed from your credit report, even if it was supposed to be according to your divorce settlement. Someone might also have made an error when entering your personal information. An account might be listed on your credit report more than once, or an account that was closed might not have been removed. In a more extreme scenario, someone might have stolen your identity and opened a fraudulent account in your name.

How to Dispute an Error
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit bureaus are required to investigate any alleged errors reported by consumers, unless those claims are deemed frivolous. If you find what you believe to be an error, write to the credit bureau or fill out an online form. Explain what you believe is incorrect and provide copies of any documents that support your position. If you send letters via the postal service, mail them certified and request receipt confirmation. Keep copies of all letters you send to the credit bureau and any responses you receive.

You should also contact the company that provided the information to the credit bureau and explain why you believe it is incorrect. Include copies of supporting documents and state that you have filed a dispute with the credit bureau.

Possible Outcomes
The credit bureau should complete its investigation within 30 days. In many states, a consumer who disputes an error is entitled to receive a free copy of a new credit report showing that the mistake has been corrected.

If the credit bureau does not agree that there is an error in your report, you can ask it to include your statement disputing the information in your file. Your statement can be provided to anyone who received your credit report recently or who will in the future. You may have to pay a fee for this service, but it can be worthwhile if it helps you avoid getting turned down for a loan or credit card. If you suffer harm as a result of an error on your credit report, you may need to hire a lawyer to help you resolve the issue.

Check Your Credit Reports
An error on a credit report can prevent you from achieving your financial goals. Request free copies of your credit reports and check them for errors. If you find any, take steps to address the situation as soon as possible.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

How to Search for Homes Remotely


For future homebuyers, especially those who were mid-search when the COVID-19 pandemic started, being able to explore potential homes has drastically changed. As social distancing has increased across the country, and with an unknown time frame of how long this isolation will actually last, many open houses and meetings with agents and sellers have been cancelled. However, just because you can’t see homes in person, doesn’t mean your search needs to end. 

Talk to a Real Estate Agent
The real estate business is one of thousands that has had to adjust and adapt during this pandemic. Utilizing social media and today’s technology has given agents the opportunity to communicate with clients in new, virtual ways. If you were planning on attending an open-house or walk-through for a specific property, talk to your agent and see if you can set up a virtual tour. Some agents may even have pre-recorded video tours to share. 

Utilize Listing Websites
If you’re looking to explore new properties, your local real estate brokerage and agent websites, and portals like realtor.com and Zillow, feature thousands of listings, categorized by location, price range, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, quality of schools and much more. While you’re stuck at home, take some time to research homes in the areas you are interested in moving to and view information, images and sometimes even virtual tours to expand your home search.

Explore Neighborhoods on Facebook
Deciding on a neighborhood, or simply getting to know the ones you’re interested in moving to, can be tough when you can’t visit it. But don’t fret—social media is here to help. Many communities have Facebooks groups, run by local schools and businesses, parents or individuals to stay connected and share information. Exploring these pages is a great way to get to know a neighborhood, from dining, activities and schools to learning about your potential future neighbors and community.

Your home search may be affected by the current state of this virus, but shouldn’t stop you from exploring potential homes and neighborhoods. With the vast resources available, from experienced real estate agents to the expansive search tools online, future homebuyers have the opportunity to shop around from the comfort of their homes. 

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Ways to Avoid Declaring Bankruptcy


If you're burdened by debt, the stress of having bills you can't pay and receiving calls from creditors can be overwhelming. You might even be considering declaring bankruptcy. Before you take such a drastic step that could significantly lower your credit score and limit your future financial options, look for other solutions.

Earn More Money
If possible, increase your income. If you have been at your job long enough and your boss is pleased with your performance, ask for a raise. If that's not possible, volunteer for projects that could put you in line for a promotion. If you work part-time, look for a full-time job or a second part-time one. Use your skills to earn extra money by freelancing or teaching others, or find odd jobs to generate additional income.

Reduce Expenditures
Look for ways to cut costs. If you live in an expensive apartment, look for a cheaper place, find a roommate or consider moving in with family or friends. Before you ask your loved ones for help, be honest about your circumstances, your ability to contribute to living expenses and how long you might need to stay with them.

You can also save money by cutting back on things like entertainment, eating out and clothing. If you spend a lot of money to commute to your job, ask if you can work from home, or consider public transportation.

Negotiate Repayment Terms
If you have explored these options and you're still struggling to pay your bills, talk to your creditors. They would rather get some money than have your debts be discharged in bankruptcy court. Your creditors might be willing to lower your interest rates and allow you to make smaller payments over a longer period of time. A credit counseling company can help you negotiate with your creditors if you have not had success working with them directly.

Sell Property or Borrow Money
Another option is to sell some of your belongings to earn money quickly. Turn jewelry, clothing, accessories, electronics or even a vehicle into cash by selling them online or holding a yard sale.

If you're in dire straits, you can borrow money from family or friends. Before you ask others for a loan, think about their financial situation. Your loved ones might feel obligated to help you, but it wouldn't be fair to ask them for help if it means that they wouldn't be able to pay their own rent or mortgage or feed their own families. If someone is willing and able to loan you money, agree to a plan with specific repayment terms and stick to it. If you don't, it could cause irreparable harm to your relationship.

Explore All Options
If you're buried in debt, you might feel that bankruptcy is the only option, but there are other solutions to explore first. With hard work and a combination of strategies, you can fight your way out of debt.

Published with permission from RISMedia.