RE/MAX 440
LEE ANN BAUMER, ABR, SRS, CSA, Green, SRES
4550 W. Tilghman Street
Allentown  PA 18104
 Phone: 610-392-1127
Office Phone: 610-398-8111
Fax: 267-354-6243 
lbaumer@remaxcentralinc.com
LEE ANN BAUMER, ABR, SRS, CSA, Green, SRES

My Blog

Is Life Insurance Right for You?

May 6, 2015 12:27 am

Choosing the right type and amount of life insurance is vital to a sound financial plan, but is it right for you? According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), there are two major types of life insurance: term and whole life. Term covers the policyholder for a specified period, usually from one to 30 years. Whole life, sometimes called permanent life insurance, covers the policyholder for as long as they live – even if it’s to 100.

To assess your insurance needs, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) suggests asking yourself the following five questions.

1. Does anyone depend on me for financial support?

Whether it’s a spouse or domestic partner, children, grandchildren, or even aging parents, you’ll want to make sure they’re left financially secure. Purchase enough life insurance to replace your income while also financing the expenses your beneficiaries will incur to replace services you provide within the household (e.g., landscaping, tax preparation). Stay-at-home parents, and those caring full-time for an adult family member, should also consider purchasing life insurance to allow for hiring professionals to undertake these tasks.

Your family may have other sources of income, such as Social Security survivor benefits, but this is rarely enough, particularly if you have children under 18 and want to fund their education.

2. Are my retirement and other savings alone enough to support my dependents?

Unless your savings and retirement benefits are substantial, the income they generate is unlikely to be enough to pay for the housing, education and other day-to-day needs of your financial dependents. Remember, they will also have to take on the cost of replacing your employer-provided benefits, such as health insurance premium payments and retirement contributions.

3. Will estate and inheritance taxes significantly reduce the amount my dependents receive?

Even if you are leaving a considerable inheritance, don’t assume that will be enough. Consult with your financial advisor or an insurance professional on how your tax situation impacts the type and amount of life insurance you should purchase.

4. What is my plan for covering final expenses?


Whether or not you have dependents, you’ll want to be able to cover the expenses incurred by funeral related costs, outstanding taxes and debts, and the administrative fees associated with “winding up” an estate. These expenses can total upwards of $15,000, and can be defrayed by having the right life insurance policy in place.

5. Will I be able to leave a donation to my favorite charity?

A beneficiary does not necessarily have to be a loved one; it can be a much-loved cause. If you have a favorite charity, foundation, museum, etc, you can use a life insurance vehicle to leave the organization a more sizable donation than you might have otherwise.

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Senior Safety Tips at Home and On the Go

May 6, 2015 12:27 am

With nearly 50 million citizens age 65 and older living in the United States and Canada, seniors represent one of the fastest growing population segments – but also a demographic commonly targeted for crime, according to the experts at Master Lock. To stay safe through every life stage and season, the security product provider recommends:

1. Staying Alert When Out and About

Property crimes represent the highest share of crimes against those 65 and older – nearly nine out of 10, according to the National Elder Law Network. Stay alert and aware of surroundings when out of the house and keep valuables protected. Always lock cars, even if they’ll only be unattended for a few minutes. Keep packages or shopping bags out of sight, and always check the area around your car before entering or exiting. When out in public, women should wear their purses close to their body and men should carry their wallet in an inside coat or front pant pocket.

2. Lock Up Home Safety

Seniors should never have to worry about safety in their own home. For added protection beyond traditional door and window locks, safeguard sliding glass and patio doors with the added strength of a security bar and consider a home alarm system to alert against intruders. Keep doors locked both when you’re home and away, but allow access to a friend or family member in case of emergency by storing a spare key in a key safe.

3. Secure Personal Items in a Group Home Environment

Misplaced or stolen belongings are a frequent complaint of nursing home residents. Keep valuables safe by storing them in an easy-to-use, locked safe that only you and a trusted companion know the combination to. Small items, such as credit cards, jewelry or cash, can be stored in a portable safe, while larger items, like documents or memorabilia, can be stored in a fire-resistant safe.

4. Protect Against Identity Theft

Mature consumers (ages 50 and over) represent the largest demographic of identity theft victims, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Why? Consumers in this age group typically have more assets than younger consumers, making them ideal targets. Reduce your risk by never carrying your social security card; shredding documents that contain any identifying information; keeping personal information such as bank statements, Medicare statements and social security numbers in a locked safe; and storing credit card numbers in a safe location for easy retrieval if they’re lost or stolen.

5. Think Twice Before Divulging Personal Information

Seniors are also major targets of fraud, such as telemarketing scams, according to the American Association of Retired Persons. Follow the general rule of thumb that if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Never rush into signing anything, and never give your credit card, Social Security, Medicare or bank account details to anyone over the phone. When in doubt, check with the Better Business Bureau or police.

Source: Master Lock

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Homeowners Should Know about Property Tax Appeals

May 6, 2015 12:27 am

As many homeowners being receiving their local property tax bills, those considering property tax appeals should be prepared with all the relevant information and be mindful of local rules, according to the Appraisal Institute.

The amount of property taxes due to local municipalities is typically based on the location and assessed value of the home. Homeowners also should understand that the assessed value of a property can change over time if, for example, improvements are made.

“There can be a big difference in property taxes from county to county and state to state,” says M. Lance Coyle, president of the Appraisal Institute. “Regardless of where one lives, it’s important to know how property taxes are calculated locally and to follow all related legal requirements.”

While homeowners may think they have a good idea of whether their property has been properly assessed, it’s much easier to make the case that their taxes are too high if there’s a professional appraisal to back up the argument. Homeowners should consider having an independent appraisal prepared and present the appraisal report to the assessor because appraisers are third-party experts who provide credible opinions of value. Homeowners also should be mindful of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules.

“Many homeowners recently filed tax returns with the IRS. Looking ahead to future tax filings, it’s important to understand that the agency has specific rules about the deductibility of property taxes, and consumers should with check with their tax professionals accordingly,” Coyle says.

Source: Appraisal Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Ways to Jumpstart College Savings

May 5, 2015 12:24 am

When it comes to financing a college education, saving money is easier said than done. Though 90 percent of American parents believe a college education is an important investment in their child’s future, less than half (48 percent) are actively saving, according to a recently released survey by Ipsos and lender Sallie Mae.

What’s more, those who have established a college fund are saving less than they did in past years, with the average annual amount falling to just $10,040.

Increases in the cost of living and unexpected expenses were the most commonly cited reasons for saving less.

Despite these findings, habits are changing for the better. More parents saving for college are using auto-deposit services, designating a portion of each paycheck to a college savings fund, reducing personal and household spending and using cash-back rewards programs tied to college savings accounts.

According to Sallie Mae, a little preparation can mean big savings in the long run. Parents who build a plan to save for college have saved $11,102; parents who do not have plans saved just $7,611.

To boost your saving efforts, Sallie Mae recommends the following:

1. Open a savings account. Set up and designate a savings account as your college fund. Deposit gifts from friends and family, and sign up for free services that let you earn cash back to save for college.

2. Make regular contributions. Set a goal, and create a routine of adding money. Even a little bit adds up over time, and automatic deposits make saving easy.

3. Explore tax-advantaged options. Put your money to work using dedicated college savings programs like Coverdell Education Savings Accounts, prepaid state college savings plans, and 529 college savings plans.

Source: Sallie Mae

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Reducing Portable Generator Risks

May 5, 2015 12:24 am

(Family Features) From weather-related power outages to camping or tailgating, portable generators work overtime in warmer months to provide a flexible means of electricity. When power fails, they provide reassuring light to a storm-darkened house, restore operation to power necessary equipment and allow you to operate climate control devices such as fans and space heaters.

However, portable generators are not free of risks – the greatest of which is carbon monoxide, according to the Portable Generator Manufacturers’ Association (PGMA). The engine exhaust from these devices contains this gas, which you cannot see, taste or smell and can have fatal consequences for people and animals that are exposed to excess levels. Remember to:
  • Never run a portable generator indoors or in partially-enclosed spaces like garages, porches, breezeways or tents, even if using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Carbon monoxide can build up and linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.
  • Always place a portable generator downwind and point the engine exhaust away from occupied spaces, such as a campsite or tailgate area.
  • Get to fresh air immediately and call 911 for emergency medical attention if you feel sick, dizzy or weak while using your portable generator.
  • Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide alarm according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Always refer to the generator owner's manual for further information about safe operation and potential hazards.
By learning how to properly operate your portable generator, you and your family can safely avoid the inconvenience of power outages and enjoy hours of fun this summer and beyond.

Source: PGMA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Kitchen, Bath Remodels Top Homeowner Wish Lists

May 5, 2015 12:24 am

Kitchen and bathroom remodels remain the most popular projects for homeowners, according to a recently released National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) survey. Why remodel? Survey respondents reported homeowners are motivated to remodel in order to upgrade to newer, better features at home.

“As the country’s financial footing improves, clients are better able to realize their home design dreams,” says NAHB Remodelers Chairman Robert Criner. “While remodels prompted by repairs remain common, homeowners have more discretionary funds available for upgrades, so better style, comfort and safety motivate more home improvement projects.”



Both kitchen and bath remodels have increased since 2013, rebounding strongly from historic lows in 2010. Projects during this period ran the gamut of home improvements, ranging from simple upgrades like window and door replacements to complex plans for whole home remodels and basement transformations.

After kitchens and baths, the most popular remodeling projects were window and door replacements, whole house remodels, room additions, property damage repairs and handyman services.

Source: NAHB

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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4 Ways to Reduce Your Eco-Footprint

May 4, 2015 2:21 am

Poor air quality affects everyone, but some people are particularly sensitive to air pollutants, including adults and children who are active outdoors and people with respiratory diseases such as asthma, according to the EPA. Poor air quality can be further compounded by smog, which forms from a variety of pollutant sources, including cars, trucks, motorcycles and buses, coal burning at electric generating stations, gasoline stations and print shops, and household products like paints and cleaners.

If you area is experiencing poor air quality, there are ways you can help reduce airborne pollution, including:
  • Using public transportation or walking whenever possible
  • Combining errands and car-pooling to reduce driving time and mileage
  • Using less electricity by turning air conditioning to a higher temperature setting and turning off lights, televisions and computers when they are not being used
  • Avoiding use of small gasoline-powered engines, such as lawn mowers, string trimmers, chain saws, power washers, air compressors and leaf blowers on unhealthy air days
Source: EPA.gov

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Over 65 Million Americans Live in Homeowner, Community Associations

May 4, 2015 2:21 am

According to a recent review by the Community Association Institute (CAI), an estimated 66.7 million Americans live in common-interest communities, including homeowners associations, condominium communities and cooperatives. Between 1970 and 2014, the number of community associations has swelled from 10,000 to 333,600, the CAI reports.

Homeowners associations account for 51 to 55 percent of the 333,600 associations, with condominiums representing 42 to 45 percent and cooperatives 3 to 4 percent. States with the most associations are Florida (47,100), California (43,300), Texas (19,400) and Illinois (18,150).

"Community associations are an increasingly vital segment of the U.S. housing market—and are increasingly desired by smart homebuyers," says CAI Chief Executive Officer Thomas M. Skiba, CAE. "Not only do they provide options, alternatives, facilities and amenities that most Americans could not otherwise enjoy, they protect property values by preserving the nature and character of the communities."

The estimated value of homes in associations is $4.95 trillion. Associations collect an estimated $70 billion in assessments from their homeowners. Assessments fund association services, such as professional management, utilities and maintenance, and a wide variety of amenities, including pools, club houses and social events. About $22 billion of assessment dollars are contributed to association reserve funds for the repair, replacement and enhancement of common property.

An estimated 30 to 40 percent of associations are self-managed, meaning they do not employ a community manager or management company.

An estimated 2.3 million Americans serve on community association boards and committees at any one time. They perform an estimated 78 million hours of service annually; the value of their volunteer time is estimated at $1.6 billion.

Source: CAI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Buyers Place Higher Value on Fire-Protected Homes

May 4, 2015 2:21 am

Homeowners are more likely to buy a home – and assign it more value – if it’s protected by fire sprinklers, according to a recent Harris Poll survey. Nearly eight in 10 respondents said fire sprinklers provide the ultimate protection for residents.

"It's certainly encouraging to see that 59 percent of homeowners say fire safety is very important to them and that the majority would rather buy a sprinklered home," says Home Fire Safety Coalition (HFSC) President Lorraine Carli. "But we are also reminded of how much awareness work there still is to do. For example, just half the homeowners recognize the increased fire hazards associated with lightweight residential construction to residents and firefighters, and only about a third understand how open design increases the danger of a home fire."

The common myth that all the fire sprinklers spray water at once when a fire breaks out remains a roadblock to homeowner interest. While homeowners often receive information about home safety features from their builder, 93 percent of them said that firefighters are a more trustworthy source for fire safety. Nearly half say they have more confidence in homebuilders who offer sprinklers than those who do not.

Source: HFSC

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Sunny Skies Ahead for Retirees

May 1, 2015 12:12 am

Rebounding from record lows at the height of the recession, more Americans are now confident in their ability to afford retirement, according to a recent Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) survey. This increasing optimism stems from the 67 percent of workers who either have, or have a spouse who has, a retirement plan such as a 401(k), pension or IRA.

The survey found that 35 percent of those with a retirement plan, either personally or through a spouse, have saved at least $100,000, though just 23 percent have calculated retirement needs.

Worker confidence in the affordability of retirement has inched upward in various areas, including basic expenses, medical expenses and long-term care expenses. Workers are also somewhat more confident that they are adequately preparing financially for retirement. Retiree confidence has increased substantially, as well.

Additionally, both workers and retirees are less likely to describe their level of debt as a problem. The types of debt most frequently reported are mortgages, credit card debt and car loans.

Many Americans, however, are not taking the necessary steps to afford retirement, the survey suggests. For workers without a retirement plan, savings remain low and only a minority appears to be taking basic steps needed to prepare for retirement. Sixty-four percent of those without a retirement plan say they have saved less than $1,000.

For half of workers, cost of living and day-to-day expenses are most detrimental to savings. Nevertheless, many workers say they could save a small amount more – 69 percent state they could save $25 a week more than they are currently saving for retirement.

Source: EBRI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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