Best Domestic Airlines of 2016

March 7, 2017

Many of us love to travel to wonderful vacation spots, but hate the process of getting there.  Airlines often get the brunt of criticism for making the trek frustrating, but some airlines are doing better than others to smooth the way.

Travel and Leisure is out with its list of the Five Best Domestic Airlines.  These are the ones that can make us smile with a quirky comment by the flight attendant, free snacks, and even better, free bags.

Here’s the list of the winning domestic airlines that charmed passengers in 2016:

  1. Virgin America
  2. JetBlue Airways
  3. Hawaiian Airlines
  4. Alaska Airlines
  5. Southwest Airlines

Click here to read more from Travel & Leisure.

Who Needs a Will and Why?

February 15, 2016

For Nora and Bill Massaro, having a will gives them peace of mind.

“To me, it was kind of a relief that I was taking care of my children,” Nora Massaro said.

If you die without a will, there’s no guarantee who will inherit your assets.  Basically, the court decides, distributing your property according to the laws of the state.  It’s called probate, and it can be a costly and slow moving process.

Even more importantly, if you have young children, a will lets you designate specifically whom you want to get custody, so the court can follow your wishes.

“They would look to relatives of the deceased parents, but you might want your sister so and so in Baltimore and not your sister so and so in Brandon, you know, just preferences,” attorney Craig Hall said, who’s been creating wills for clients for 30 years.

If you DON’T have a will, this is generally how Probate plays out:

  •   If you were married with kids, your surviving spouse and children inherit your assets.
  •   If you had minor children, the state will choose their guardians.
  •   If you were single and childless, your state will likely determine which of your relatives will inherit your financial assets and property.

Revocable Trust

This is the second marriage for both Nora and Bill.  They didn’t want any conflict between their kids from previous marriages, so they also created a revocable trust to try and avoid probate altogether.

“It can’t be contested. Period. End of story. It eliminates them going to court and having to fight back and forth. The trust dictates what our wishes are,” Bill Massaro said.

“The three sons get a long great,” Nora added, “We want to keep it that way.”

In the big picture, a revocable trust can be contested, but it is much more difficult. An individual who tries to challenge a trust must file a lawsuit and prove he/she has standing to make the challenge.

More Flexibility

A revocable trust, also known as a living trust, gives you more flexibility and control over how your assets are distributed.  For example, it allows you to avoid giving a minor child a big lump sum of money all at once.  You can distribute allotted payments up to a certain age like 25 or 30, when they would receive the balance.

“That helps to give you peace of mind, because young adults often aren’t ready– responsible enough, to receive a large, lump sum of money,” said Hall. The revocable trust gives you more control to make sure that money won’t be squandered.

The “living” trust also gives you more control over your assets while you’re still alive should you become incapacitated. You designate how your property should be handled, by putting it into the trust.

“You don’t know what you’re going to need. You don’t just transfer it, because the kids are going to get it eventually.  You need to protect yourself,” Hall explained.

Execute the Will Properly

If you don’t use an attorney, several websites, like Legal Zoom, offer programs to create a will yourself, but you do have to be careful.

Be sure to execute the will properly to avoid challenges.  The minimum requirement in Florida is two witnesses.

Even better, create a ‘self-proving’ will by taking witness names under oath and notarizing.

“So that you need not go find a witness 20 years from now and have them go to the courthouse, to prove up the will,” Hall said.

Also, be aware, you can’t make any handwritten changes to the will once it’s been witnesses and signed.  That will make the document null and void in a court of law.

Getting Started

The hardest part is often just getting started.

“Thinking it out, as far as, mine, hers, ours is a complicated situation,” said Bill Massaro, “So we had to really sit down and put it on paper.”

Take stock of everything you own from bank accounts to insurance policies to that cherished fishing pole you got from your dad.

Pick the Right Executor

It’s also important to name a ‘responsible person you trust’ as the executor of your will.

“That’s the person who would be handling the transactions, payment of your debts, satisfaction of your bills, and the distribution of your assets per your will,” said Hall.

It’s a big job, so choose carefully.  This is the person who will oversee the process and make sure your wishes are carried out.

Store it in a Safe Place

Once it’s completed, store your will in a safe place in your home or a safety deposit box at the bank.  And let the executor know where it is and how to get access to it, when the time comes.

So what’s the cost of a will?

  •   If you go to an attorney—expect to pay anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to more than a thousand, depending on the complexity of your assets.
  •  Sample forms online can cost as little as $10 to $20 for a basic will, while complete fill-in-the-blank templates average around $100 to $500, depending on the complexity of your personal circumstances.

Why don’t people have wills? 

According to a survey by Rocket Lawyer:

  •  57% said they “just haven’t gotten around to making one”
  •  22% felt that making a will wasn’t urgent
  •  17% didn’t think they needed a will
  •  14% don’t have a will because they don’t want to think about death

 

Sugar: It’s the New Tobacco

February 11, 2016

You won’t find a Surgeon General’s warning on your bag of sugar, nor is it regulated by the FDA. Yet sugar can be far more addictive than cocaine, and Americans consume way more than they should.  Much of it is found in processed foods and sweetened drinks.  According to a study published in JAMA: Internal Medicine in April 2014, most U.S. adults consume about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day.

Ingestion of sugar, like many drugs, causes a release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain.  For those who are prone to addiction, eating “junk food” which contains added sugars can cause a craving for more sugar which can only be satisfied with increased and steady doses.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added simple sugar (not counting whole foods, fiber, or starch) recommended per day is:

  • Men — 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons)
  • Women — 25 grams (6 teaspoons)
  • Children– 12 grams (3 teaspoons)
  • Pre-Teens/Teens — 20 grams (5 teaspoons)

To compute the caloric count, multiply by four.  For example, 25 grams of sugar is equal to 100 calories.

Overuse of sugar is a leading contributor to obesity in both children and adults, and has been linked to high cholesterol and heart disease, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, inflammation, suppression of the immune system and headaches.

Read the Label

Many common foods, which one might not think of as sugar-laden, have a surprising amount of it.  For example:

  • 1 Tb catsup – 4 g
  • Starbucks Latte Grande – 17 g
  • Graham cracker – 8 g
  • 20 oz Vitamin Water – 33 g
  • 12 oz can of soda – 39 g

Know What You’re Reading

There are literally dozens and dozens of names for sugar and artificial sweeteners found in processed foods.  Some common ones are Aspartame, corn syrup, fructose,  Saccharine, Splenda and Sweet’n’Low.   Some not-so-well-known names are gluten, isolate, sodium cyclamate and truvia, and anything ending in “ose,” such as dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose or sucrose.

Food for Thought

Be a smart and healthy consumer.  “Everything in moderation” is good advice when it comes to most things.  However, if you are one of the unlucky ones with an addictive personality and have a problem with sugar, learn the names used for added sugar in food, read all labels, and avoid something that can cause you so much harm. Stick with whole foods, including fruits (but not juices), and use raw honey to satisfy that craving for sweets.

Best Products & Treatments for Scars

January 27, 2016

Pictures of Wesley’s lip after the car accident: with stitches & after healing

Today, you can barely tell where facial plastic surgeon Dr. Ed Farrior stitched up Wesley Winer after a terrible car accident, a few years ago.

“It was bad.  I lost a big portion of my lip,” Wesley said.  “I had just really come to the conclusion that I was going to be scarred for life, like horribly.”

Read more

Top Money Mistakes to Avoid in 2016

January 12, 2016

A new year is here and that means it’s time to get your financial future in order.  Here are the top money mistakes to avoid in 2016.

Number 1Don’t fail to have a plan.

“If you don’t have a goal, you’re gonna end up somewhere.  It’s not maybe where you want to be,” certified financial planner Chris Redhead says.

Read more

Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?

December 16, 2014

Angie Moreschi – Consumer Wise

Our pets are part of the family and we all want the best care for them, but vet care can get very expensive these days. Pet insurance is an option some pet owners consider to help ease the financial burden in case of an emergency or major illness, but does it pay off over time?

Read more

Credit Monitoring – Paying for it & Doing it on your own

March 11, 2014

By Angie Moreschi

Credit monitoring is one of those things that you probably don’t think much about until something bad happens.  Well, bad things have been happening.  Ever since a few big security breaches at major retailers like Target, Neiman Marcus and Michaels Craft Store this year, a lot of us are suddenly thinking about it.

Jillian Estes is among the millions of target shoppers whose private information was compromised in the recent, major security breach.  She knows every time she uses her credit card, there’s some risk, but actually finding out your information has been stolen, takes it to a whole new level.  “There’s an obvious sense of violation, because that’s our money.  That’s our account.  How far does this go? Really, how deep is this?  And we had to do something,” Estes said.

Read more

Economic Predictions for 2014

January 2, 2014

Al Lewis

Our favorite economic prognosticator consulted his Magic 8 Ball to provide what is sure to be an accurate assessment of the year ahead.  Al Lewis, who pens the Tell It to Al business news blogs and a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal, is always good for a few laughs– and maybe a few tears, as we look ahead to what 2014 has in store for our checkbooks.

Take it away Al:

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all these years of covering business, it’s that nobody knows the future any better than the Magic 8 Ball by Mattel.

At the end of each year, I consult with my little black globe to see what the next year will bring for the economy.

 

For 2013, it accurately predicted: new highs for the stock market but a bumpy year for the economy; oil prices below $100 a barrel for most of the year; gold prices not returning to their 2011 high; and an unimpressive recovery for housing.

 

Click here to see what it forecasts for 2014 in my column in The Wall Street Journal Sunday.

10 Worst Cars of 2013

January 2, 2014

Chevrolet Spark CVT

Every year, Consumer Reports tests cars on its own track to come up with the best of the year and the worst.

Here is the list of duds as rated by Consumer Reports:

1. Chevrolet Spark CVT

2. Honda Crosstour

3. Lexus IS 250

4. Lincoln MKS

5. Mercedes-Benz CLA

6. Mitsubishi Mirage

7. Mitsubishi Outlander

8.  Nissan Sentra

9. Nissan Versa sedan

10.  Scion tC

Click here to read more about each car on ConsumerReports.org.

 

 

New Study Shows Many Herbal Supplements Fake

November 6, 2013

Popular herbal supplements like echinacea, Ginko biloba, St. John’s Wart, and black cohosh are among dozens being called into question, in a new study that used DNA testing.  The study found many of these supplements don’t actually contain the herbs, at all.  Instead, they are little more than powdered rice and weeds.

Canadian researchers tested 44 bottles of popular herbal supplements sold by 12 companies.  A third of the pills actually contained none of the purported herb and 60-percent were diluted.

The New York Times reports on the controversy:

 Americans spend an estimated $5 billion a year on unproven herbal supplements that promise everything from fighting off colds to curbing hot flashes and boosting memory. But now there is a new reason for supplement buyers to beware: DNA tests show that many pills labeled as healing herbs are little more than powdered rice and weeds.

 

Using a test called DNA barcoding, a kind of genetic fingerprinting that has also been used to help uncover labeling fraud in the commercial seafood industry, Canadian researchers tested 44 bottles of popular supplements sold by 12 companies. They found that many were not what they claimed to be, and that pills labeled as popular herbs were often diluted — or replaced entirely — by cheap fillers like soybean, wheat and rice.

Click here to read more from the New York Times.

 

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