8 Dangerous Mistakes To Avoid When Firing Up Your Generator This Winter

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With so many people spending more time at home due to COVID-19, having reliable and consistent power is more critical than ever. But with winter about to be in full swing—and serious storms already wreaking havoc on parts of the country—many of us are thrust into crisis mode to get the juice back on.

If you haven’t done so already, now’s the time to invest in a generator to restore power to your home quickly. But here’s the deal: This is not a device to learn as you go. You need to know how to run it safely—before you push “start,” and long before the lights go out. Because when you’re in crisis mode, it’s much easier to make dangerous mistakes that damage the generator or, worse, potentially put your family at risk.

Whether you’ve run a generator before or just bought one, here are eight things you should avoid.

1. You neglect regular maintenance

Hopefully, you won’t need to fire up your generator that often. But between the times that you do, you shouldn’t just put it in the corner and forget about it.

“Lack of proper maintenance on generators is the largest problem we see,” says Rusty Wise, owner of Mister Sparky in Cherryville, NC.

To ensure your generator is ready to go, Wise says to check the batteries regularly, and examine and clean the oil and air filter. You should also start it up on a regular basis during the colder months.

“Cranking the generator and putting it under a load is recommended at least once a month to help prevent moisture from accumulating in the windings and other electrical components,” says Wise.

2. You don’t use heavy-duty extension cords

It seems like power failures go hand in hand with severe weather—and pairing sleet, rain, and snow with the wrong extension cords is a recipe for disaster.

Extension cords range from smaller wire 18-gauge to larger wire 10-gauge, says Wise. Wise recommends at least a 14-gauge outdoor grounded extension cord with GFCI protection for generators.

That’s a general reference, as the extension cord length and the amperage of the load affect how much the extension cord can handle, Wise says. Always consult your manual for specific extension cord requirements.

3. You run the generator from the garage

When a storm knocks out power and you have a generator ready to go, it’s tempting to start it up ASAP to restore power.

But beware: It’s not a good idea to start it up while it’s in the garage, even with the door open.

Generators should be operated outside, in a dry area at least 25 feet away from any open windows or doors with at least 5 feet of clearance on all sides, says Austin Heller, product manager of portable generators at Generac Power Systems.

“Generator exhaust contains carbon monoxide, a deadly poisonous gas invisible to the naked eye,” says Heller. “Only use generators far away from any openings to your home, and install a carbon monoxide detector indoors to make sure you’re alerted when CO is detected.”

4. You don’t follow the correct sequence when starting and stopping

Read the owners manual, but generally speaking, Heller says to turn the generator on before plugging in extension cords, then plug any loads into the extension cord.

When powering off, unplug loads from the extension cord. Then unplug the extension cord from the generator before turning the generator off.

“Following these steps will help to protect yourself from electrical shock, but it will also help minimize unnecessary strain or damage to the generator,” says Heller.

5. You have bad gas

We’re not talking about your digestion issues here. If you only started up the generator once and stored it with the remaining gasoline in the tank, it might go bad from sitting, Wise says.

“If you are going to store your generator, make sure to drain all of the gasoline or run it periodically to keep the gas fresh,” Wise says. “There are also gasoline additives that can help to keep the fuel fresh.”

6. You add gasoline while the generator is running

Speaking of gas, the generator sucks down gasoline as the hours go by in a power outage, yet you can’t add more gas at the last minute like you do when your car reaches the empty mark.

“Refueling a generator while it’s running or while the engine is hot could be a quick recipe for disaster,” Heller says. “Spilled gasoline could ignite, and create an explosion. Make sure to turn off your engine and let it cool completely before refueling.”

7. You run your generator unprotected from the elements

In the rush to get power restored to the house, you might haul out the generator in the pouring rain without setting up an area that will protect the generator from the elements.

Generators can be fired up and run during a snowstorm or rainfall, but they should be operated in a dry area to avoid electrocution or inverter damage, Heller says. Run it on a dry surface under an open, canopylike structure. Or buy a cover made specifically for generators.

8. You connect your generator directly to the service panel

Also known as “back feeding,” this connection is extremely hazardous.

“Connecting a portable generator directly to household wiring (electrical service panel) can be deadly to the homeowner, neighbors, or utility workers,” says Heller. “This is an illegal process, and it poses a major risk of electrical fire to the homeowner and any neighbors serviced by the same transformer.”

To get more power to the home safely, hire a licensed electrician to add a manual transfer switch.

“It can be installed to the home’s electrical panel with a manual switch to power everything a homeowner needs backup for,” says Heller. “A certified dealer can assess the home and suggest the correct size generator, while a licensed electrician can safely install the manual transfer switch to code.”

The post 8 Dangerous Mistakes To Avoid When Firing Up Your Generator This Winter appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Check-In: Expecting Couple Struggling with Debt, But Future Looks Bright

When I first connected with Julia and John, the Queens, NY couple was expecting their first child and grappling with some debt, a lack of savings and income prior to the baby’s arrival. The couple was basically living paycheck to paycheck and in need of some advice to break through that cycle.

We reconnected this month to see how they’ve been doing. Julia is now nearing the end of her third trimester. The baby is due to arrive in two months.

I was hoping that with a baby on the way the couple would have found some ways to chisel away their debt or bulk up savings. Unfortunately, fie months later, they’re more or less still in the same money boat.

But they did act upon a couple of my tips and are benefiting from the goodness of New York and their parents, which has their futures looking brighter.

First, John, who lacks a college degree and was struggling to find full-time work, is going back to school. Not to a college or university, but to a 9-month software boot camp in New York that’s going to give him the skills and network to become a software developer. His potential earnings in the first year in the market could be as much as $75,000 (based on some people I know who’ve gone through similar programs in New York.)

The program will be about $15,000, a fraction of what it would cost to earn a bachelor’s degree. John’s parents have agreed to loan him the money. The couple’s decided to place that $15,000 family loan in savings and, instead, take out a small student loan to pay for John’s school. I agree with that strategy, given that their family is about to increase in size and having some cash on hand will be very important.

Once John completes school and finds work, I’d recommend the couple prioritize the credit card debt by paying at least double the minimums each month. Be most aggressive with the highest interest credit card debt first. Their student loan will likely have a smaller interest rate and can be paid over a 10-year period, making the monthly minimums relatively manageable. Automate those payments as soon as possible and benefit from a 0.25% interest rate reduction when they do.

While they’re taking on more debt, I’m okay with it. Investing in John’s education is one of the best ways this couple can get ahead and better secure their finances in the future – so long as they commit to earning more and paying it down.

Ahead of that program starting, John’s also taken on a side hustle (per my advice). He’s been working a few shifts here and there at Julia’s company, working with special needs patients as a social aide, taking them to community and outdoor events.

Some other good news that’s developed since we last spoke is that New York State has enhanced its Family and Medical Leave Act by implementing Paid Family Leave. In the past, certain employers were only required to provide workers with their jobs back after taking a leave of absence for up to 12 weeks. Now, qualifying private employers must provide paid time off and a continuation of health insurance for 8 weeks in 2018.

This came as a surprise bonus for Julia, who was preparing for zero paid time off from her employer.

It would be my recommendation to use part or all of that extra money to pay down their high-interest credit card debt.

Once Julia returns to work after her maternity leave, her mother-in-law will be the go-to caretaker during the day, another huge help.

They’re fortunate to have free childcare from a trusted, loved one. With that very big expense covered and John’s schooling about to start, I feel confident that the couple’s future is a financially bright one.

The post Check-In: Expecting Couple Struggling with Debt, But Future Looks Bright appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

More Americans are Using Retirement Savings to Cover Expenses

Twenty-twenty has taken its toll on the average retirement savings, according to a new study by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and Personal Capital, an online financial advisor. More than half of Americans are dipping into their savings, with 60 percent using their IRAs and 401(k)s to get them through the difficulties they are facing from […]

The post More Americans are Using Retirement Savings to Cover Expenses appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

9 Financial Strategies for Padding Your Bank Account in Case 2021 Goes Sideways

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So, you thought 2020 was bad? Just wait!

OK, we’re kidding. Obviously, 2021 should turn out way better than 2020 did, right?

There’s no way it could be worse, right?

Right?

Welllllllll… we hate to sound like pessimists, but if there’s one thing life has taught us, it’s that things can always get worse.

Maybe COVID’s sequel shows up. Maybe the economy crashes again. Maybe our weird politics get even weirder. Maybe aliens land in Times Square.

Just in case, we’ve got some proactive moves you should make to protect your bank account in case things go south. Before the next crisis gets going, let’s get started with the protective measures:

1. Save Up An Emergency Fund

This past year has taught us the hard way that everyone should have an emergency fund. You need a place where you can safely stash your savings away — but still earn money on it.

Under your mattress or in a safe will get you nothing. And a typical savings account won’t do you much better. (Ahem, 0.06% is nothing these days.)

But a debit card called Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back and up to 16 times the average interest on the money in your account.

Not too shabby!

Enter your email address here to get a free Aspiration Spend and Save account. After you confirm your email, securely link your bank account so they can start helping you get extra cash. Your money is FDIC insured and they use a military-grade encryption which is nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

2. Stop Overpaying for Stuff

Your bank account will be in better shape in 2021 if you stop overpaying for things. For instance, wouldn’t it be nice if you got an alert any time you’re shopping on Walmart and are about to get ripped off?

That’s exactly what a free service called Capital One Shopping does. (No need to be a Capital One customer to use it!)

Capital One Shopping’s free alerts can be added to your browser. Before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Amazon, Target, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. It will also show you coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even let you see the item’s price history.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new TV. You’re ready to check out, and you assume you’re getting the best price. Here’s when Capital One Shopping will pop up and let you know if you’re about to overpay. It will even automatically apply any known coupon codes to your order.

So far, Capital One Shopping has saved users more than $70 million.

You can get started with Capital One Shopping in just a few minutes to see if you’re overpaying online.

3. Get Paid Every Time You Buy Toilet Paper

Grocery shopping was never exactly pleasant. But these days, it’s a downright struggle. Fighting crowds; keeping six feet of space — just buying toilet paper is a feat. Shouldn’t you have something to show for it?

A free app called Fetch Rewards will reward you with gift cards just for buying toilet paper and more than 250 other items at the grocery store.

Here’s how it works: After you’ve downloaded the app, just take a picture of your receipt showing you purchased an item from one of the brands listed in Fetch. For your efforts, you’ll earn gift cards to places like Amazon or Walmart.

You can download the free Fetch Rewards app here to start getting free gift cards. Over a million people already have, so they must be onto something…

4. Knock $540/Year From Your Car Insurance in Minutes

Car insurance is another thing you shouldn’t overpay for in 2021. When’s the last time you checked car insurance prices?

You should shop your options every six months or so — it could save you some serious money. Let’s be real, though. It’s probably not the first thing you think about when you wake up. But it doesn’t have to be.

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Using Insure.com, people have saved an average of $540 a year.

Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

5. Stop Paying Your Credit Card Company

If things go south financially, the last thing you want to be saddled with is credit card debt. And the truth is, your credit card company doesn’t really care. It’s just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates. But a website called AmOne wants to help.

If you owe your credit card companies $50,000 or less, AmOne will match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every single one of your balances.

The benefit? You’ll be left with one bill to pay each month. And because personal loans have lower interest rates (AmOne rates start at 3.49% APR), you’ll get out of debt that much faster. Plus: No credit card payment this month.

AmOne keeps your information confidential and secure, which is probably why after 20 years in business, it still has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

It takes two minutes to see if you qualify for up to $50,000 online. You do need to give AmOne a real phone number in order to qualify, but don’t worry — they won’t spam you with phone calls.

6. Cut Your Food Budget by Planning Ahead

Even if you’re gainfully employed and not in imminent danger of being evicted, you’re probably struggling with bills like most of us are. Groceries are a huge part of everyone’s budget these days, so they’re a big target for savings.

Try preparing for the week ahead with some meal planning. This goes beyond just making a shopping list. Real meal planning helps you save money because it helps you use what you buy, preventing food and money waste. It also prevents you from spending extra cash on emergency lunches or late-night takeout.

First, figure out how many meals you’re responsible for making every week. If it’s just you, your answer might be 21: seven breakfasts, lunches and dinners. If you have a family, count meals per person — a dinner for three people counts as three dinners, even if you all eat the same thing.

Now figure out how much food you’ll need to buy to make it until your next grocery trip. If you buy the same items repeatedly, you know which ones to stock up on when they go on sale. Stocking up on sale items also helps you freeze meals for the future. If there’s a way to buy in bulk and prep the foods you eat the most often, do it!

7. Add $225 to Your Wallet Just for Watching the News

It’s been a historic time for news, and we’re all constantly refreshing for the latest updates. You probably know more than one news-junkie who fancies themselves an expert in respiratory illness or a political mastermind.

And research companies want to pay you to keep watching. You could add up to $225 a month to your pocket by signing up for a free account with InboxDollars. They’ll present you with short news clips to choose from every day, then ask you a few questions about them.

You just have to answer honestly, and InboxDollars will continue to pay you every month. This might sound too good to be true, but it’s already paid its users more than $56 million.

It takes about one minute to sign up, and start getting paid to watch the news.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He’s got his game face on and is ready for 2021, come hell or high water.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

What Do New FICO Changes Mean for Me?

Have you ever applied for a credit card, car loan or mortgage? If so, then one of the first things the lender looked at was your FICO score. It has a major impact not only on getting approved in the first place, but also on the interest rate you will receive after approval.

On August 7, FICO announced some pretty major changes in how they will be calculating that ever-important number. Before you can understand how the changes will or won’t impact you, you need to have a firm grasp of the basics.

What is my FICO score?

Your FICO score, or credit score, is a number ranging from 300-850 that shows lenders how reliable you will be in repaying your debts. A bad score is anything below 560, not very good is 560-659, good is 660-724, very good is 725-759, and anything above 760 is classified as great. While it is best to be in the great range, you can sometimes qualify for the best available interest rates with 720 or above.

In order to calculate your credit score, FICO pulls information from your credit reports from the three major reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. When banks and other lending institutions consider your application, they look at several factors. The first is usually your FICO score, which will either get you in the door or get it slammed in your face, but after that they consider other aspects of your finances, such as income and the detailed history on the credit report itself.

What are the changes, and how will they affect me?

There will be four notable changes to how FICO evaluates your credit score once the announced new model is released. Some of them will be very good for some people, some of them will be bad for others, and some of them may prove to show negligible changes.

The first, and biggest, is that medical debts will no longer be considered when calculating your score. This is a huge relief. Many otherwise fiscally responsible people go into massive debt when a medical emergency happens. Others don’t even know they owe money on medical bills in the first place, as they thought their insurance was going to cover their costs. When they realize they owe money, the responsible consumers pay it back, but it still leaves a scar on their credit report and, therefore, their FICO score.

With this new change, your FICO score will not be impacted. In fact, if you have no other negatives on your credit report (which would mean you most likely have a halfway decent score), you can expect to see your FICO score increase by up to 25 points.

Changes will also be made in considering debts that you have paid off. Currently, after you’ve paid off a debt, it stays on your credit report for seven years. That will continue to be the case after FICO’s updates go into effect, but FICO will no longer look at those debts, even though they show up on your credit report. If you have consumer debts that you have paid off, and they’re the only thing holding you back, you may see your score improve, as well.

There will also be an update to consider the creditworthiness of people who do not have an extensive report, taking into consideration things beyond just paying your month-to-month bills on time. (A lot of times, the people you are paying those bills to don’t even report that anyways.) Depending on how this is done, it could be a boon for those who are unable to get credit not because they are irresponsible, but simply because they have never chosen to borrow money before.

The final update is not good news for those who hold consumer debt. If you owe money and it isn’t paid in full, you can expect to see your credit score take a hit.

Hold your horses – and your enthusiasm.

While FICO has announced that it will make these changes, the new model has not gone into effect. It will not be ready to release to lenders until late 2014 or early 2015. Even then, banks have to choose to adopt it. Thismodel will be FICO 9. FICO 8 was introduced in 2009, and some lending institutions still have not updated since FICO 7. Just because they are releasing a new model doesn’t mean that your lending institution will apply it to their evaluation process.

Another thing to remember is that while your FICO score gets you in the door, banks will look at your credit report. All of those things FICO ignores will still show up. If your medical debts are deemed too oppressive for you to possibly be able to pay for a mortgage on top of them, you may still be denied. And while FICO will ignore debt that has been paid off and closed, it will still stay on that pesky credit report for seven years for all of your potential lenders to see.

While these changes could be a great way to get your foot in the door with lenders, they’re not a holy grail to your credit problems. The same tried and true wisdom will still apply: Spend responsibly, make sure the information on your credit report is accurate and pay off any debts as quickly as possible.

Femme Frugality is a personal finance blogger and freelance writer. You can find more of her writing on her blog, where she shares both factual articles and esoteric ruminations on money.

The post What Do New FICO Changes Mean for Me? appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

‘CBS Sunday Morning’ Host Jane Pauley Sells Hudson River Retreat for $6.3M

Jane Pauley Palisades HomeGilbert Carrasquillo/FilmMagic

The host of “CBS Sunday Morning,” Jane Pauley, has hosted a sale of her Palisades, NY, retreat for $6.3 million.

Pauley and her husband, Garry Trudeau, the creator of the comic strip “Doonesbury,” profited from their investment. The couple purchased the picturesque property for $2.3 million in 2015, real estate records show. They successfully sold the home in July.

Known as the “House in the Woods,” the four-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom, Tudor-style stone cottage offers scenic views of the Hudson River. Completed in the 1920s, with over 3,100 square feet of interior space, the waterfront abode had been off market when it was quietly sold.

Jane Pauley’s Hudson River home

realtor.com

While scant details are available, we do have some information from earlier occasions when the vacation getaway popped up on the market.

The small home comes with big names attached to it. The author John Steinbeck called the place home in the 1940s, as did the filmmaker Orson Welles and the English stage and screen stars Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh. 

The private enclave where the home is located, Sneden’s Landing, is less than an hour from Manhattan and has attracted notable residents for decades.

Other A-list residents in the Hudson River hamlet have included Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Al Pacino. Scarlett Johansson reportedly bought a home in the village in 2018, and Angelina Jolie spent some of her childhood years there.

The original owners were apparently inspired by homes they saw on a trip through the French countryside, according to a previous listing description.

Hand-built with stone, brick, and mortar, the house features chestnut wood plank floors made from trees on the property. Other details include three fireplaces, leaded glass windows, and a slate roof. Two large millstones have been incorporated into the stone fireplace.

Surely, this haven for Hollywood will continue to be a draw. On a bluff over the Hudson River, the country hideaway is close enough to the city for a quick escape from urban life. Potentially, the new owner might be able to add to the 2.4-acre property.

Pauley, a long-time broadcast journalist, anchors “CBS Sunday Morning.” Previously, the Emmy-Award winner held a position with NBC’s “Today” show, and she has also co-hosted “Dateline.”

Trudeau, who won a Pulitzer Prize for “Doonesbury” in 1975, also executive produces the Amazon Studios series “Alpha House.”

The post ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ Host Jane Pauley Sells Hudson River Retreat for $6.3M appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Extreme Makeover’s Ty Pennington Lists Bright and Beautiful Venice Beach Home

Reality TV star Ty Pennington, known for changing people’s lives with his energetic personality on the original version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, is now looking to cash in on his own home makeover. Pennington has just listed his house — a beautiful and bright 1927 Craftsman in Venice, Calif. — for $2,795,000.

Pennington put his home design expertise to good use and carefully restored the property earlier this year with the help of his trusted interior designer, Patrick Delanty. Delanty, also known to be Halle Berry’s designer, has long been working alongside Ty Pennington, serving as his design director for Extreme Makeover and running his on-air design segments, most notably his presence on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Rachel Ray Show, NBC’s Nightline and Good Morning America.

Just like its reality TV star owner, the home is bright, cheerful and quirky, with colorful interiors exuding creativity and style. The property is listed by Patrice Meepos of Compass.

inside ty pennington's bright home in venice, california
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 

Tucked away on a one-way street near the beach, Venice Boardwalk, canals and Abbot Kinney’s hot spots, the original 1927 dwelling has 3 beds, 3 baths, and a sizable living room with decorative fireplace, along with a sunken family room with large windows overlooking a newly landscaped, private back yard with koi pond.

inside Ty Pennington's house in Venice, CA
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
living room in Ty Pennington's house in Venice, CA
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington bedroom
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
sunken living room in ty pennington's house
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
inside Ty Pennington's house in Venice, CA.
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 

The ground level hosts the kitchen, laundry room, and bedroom with direct backyard access, as well as a full bath. On the upper level, there’s a master retreat and a second bedroom. 

Ty Pennington added quite a few special touches to the 2,102-square-foot home, including bamboo flooring, baths adorned in vintage-inspired ceramic tile, a master bath sporting a standalone shower and an antique cast-iron freestanding tub, kitchen with concrete countertops and a wraparound, porcelain-tiled porch. There’s also a beautiful backyard that looks like a great place to entertain guests.

ty pennington kitchen
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington kitchen island
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington backyard
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 
ty pennington backyard entertaining area
Ty Pennington’s house in Venice, CA. Image credit: Anthony Barcelo 

While Ty Pennington did not return to host HGTV’s 2020 version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (which is hosted by Modern Family‘s Jesse Tyler Ferguson), you can catch the two time Emmy award winner in his other home improvement series, Trading Spaces — which recently restarted airing after a 10-year hiatus.

You can also get more tips from the home design expert from his latest book, Good Design Can Change Your Life, which is an intimate look at Ty’s design inspirations and is full of décor advice and tips. While we haven’t yet had the chance to pick up the book ourselves, according to his website the book is part reference, and part behind-the-scenes from Ty’s own home remodeling, which means the Venice home is already a bookshelf hit.

More beautiful celebrity homes

Morgan Brown Re-Lists Stunning West Hollywood Home Amid Split from Actor Gerard Butler
Wayne Gretzky is Selling his $22.9M California Home Designed by ‘The Megamansion King’
Chrissy Teigen & John Legend Buy $17.5M Beverly Hills Mansion After Cashing Big on Previous Home
5 Fabulous Homes of Your Favorite Formula 1 Drivers

The post Extreme Makeover’s Ty Pennington Lists Bright and Beautiful Venice Beach Home appeared first on Fancy Pants Homes.

Source: fancypantshomes.com