Tag: advice

Steps To Secure Your Financial Privacy

Safeguarding personal financial data has never been more important, as an increasingly digital world has made online banking that much more prevalent. Cyber crimes are a significant concern. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, no less than 422 million individuals were impacted by cyber crime in 2022, and nearly 33 billion accounts are anticipated to be breached by the end of 2023. Cyber crimes are happening every day, even if the public only hears about the largest data breaches.

Financial institutions as well as retailers and other businesses that require the use of personal financial information are obligated to safeguard customer data. According to the Federal Trade Commission, financial institutions protect the privacy of consumers’ finances under a federal law called the Financial Modernization Act of 1999, also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. That law governs banks, securities firms, insurance companies, and companies providing many other types of products and services. The law dictates how financial institutions can collect and disclose customer’s personal financial information.

Individuals also have key roles to play in protecting themselves. Though even the best precautions cannot completely secure your financial privacy, every little effort is worth it to reduce your risk of being victimized by data theft. These tips from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority can help individuals safeguard their privacy.

· You have the right to opt out of the sharing of some of your personal information with affiliates and non-affiliates of a financial institution. For example, you can opt out of receiving prescreened credit offers by way of credit bureaus selling information about you to lenders or insurance.

· Increase awareness of phishing scams. These often are emails that appear to come from legitimate firms or financial regulators asking for personal information. These entities would never ask for account numbers, passwords, credit card information, or Social Security numbers through email. Verify all communication with the financial institution by contacting that institution directly at the number listed on your account statement or bill.

· Be aware of where you click online. Never click on a questionable link or download a suspicious email attachment.

· Strong passwords can keep accounts more secure. Resist the urge to use the same password across many accounts. Once that password is compromised, the cyber criminal may be able to try it on your other accounts. Consider using a password manager to suggest and save strong and unique passwords for each account.

· Utilize multifactor authentication whenever it is available. MFA adds an extra layer of protection by using a password as well as a unique code or biometric to unlock the account.

· Conduct all financial business on a personal device on a secure network. Delete the cache and history frequently to avoid leaving a digital trace.

These steps can help protect financial security. Individuals need to be diligent in safeguarding their information from cyber criminals.

Symptoms Of Plumbing Problems

The drip of a faucet, the bang of pipes and the visible signs of a leak under the sink are some notable indicators of plumbing problems. Other, potentially serious issues may not be so evident. How can homeowners tell if they have potential plumbing problems? The following are some sights and sounds that indicate it is time to call in a plumber.

Banging or Clanking

Plumbers refer to these noises as water hammer. This is when a rush of water forces through the pipe and bumps into a closed valve, producing a metallic noise. Something is in the pipe that is restricting water flow. Over time, the flow of water meeting an obstacle could loosen pipe joints as the water tries to find an easier workaround.

Pipe Discoloration

If there is any sign of discoloration on pipes, particularly rust, it could be a symptom of a dripping sink or drain line that is slowly leaking. A slow leak can eventually turn into a big mess if left unattended.

Sewer Smells

Pipes need traps and vents. Traps are designed to prevent sewer gas from entering the home, while vents channel sewer odor up to the roof. If there are sewer smells, it could mean a trap has dried out or a vent line is cracked, says Family Handyman.

Low Water Pressure

If you turn on the faucet and the water pressure is poor, it could be the result of a clog or a leak somewhere in the system. Pipes that are improperly sized for a home also can affect pressure.

Sluggish Drains

Clearing drains is perhaps the only plumbing problem that homeowners should address themselves. More often than not, drains that fail to drain quickly have a blockage such as hair or other debris. If attempts to clear the drain do not work, it is best to bring in a professional plumber.

Shaking Sounds

Water can cause occasional noises, but if the sounds are frequent, the pipes are not secured firmly enough. A plumber will need to tighten the mounting straps or even completely replace them.

Plumbing issues are nothing to take lightly, as small problems can quickly escalate and cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Tips To Prepare For Flu Season

Influenza is more common than people may realize. Data from the World Health Organization indicates there are around one billion cases of seasonal influenza each year. Though only a small fraction of those cases result in severe illness, even a mild case of the flu can be unpleasant and disruptive.

The phrase “flu prevention” may be somewhat misleading, as the best people can do is reduce their risk for seasonal influenza. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to do that is to get vaccinated against the flu each year. Each year’s flu shot is different, as researchers design the vaccination based on which strand of influenza they anticipate will be most prevalent in a given year. In addition to getting vaccinated, individuals can consider these tips, courtesy of the CDC, to protect themselves and others from the flu and stop the spread of germs.

  • Steer clear of close contact. Individuals who are sick can steer clear of close contact with other people in order to safeguard them from the flu. On the flip side, people who live or work with individuals who have the flu can avoid close contact as well.
  • Don’t be a hero. The CDC urges anyone who is sick with the flu to stay home until their illness subsides. Avoid going to school, work and running errands so you can help to prevent the virus from spreading.
  • Cover up. The CDC notes that the flu virus spreads primarily through droplets produced when people with influenza cough, sneeze or talk. When around others, cover your mouth and nose, particularly when sneezing or coughing. When you have to sneeze or cough, do so into the cradle of your elbow. Coughing into your hands could help to spread the virus, as germs can transfer from your hand onto surfaces others may touch, like doorknobs and handles.
  • Routinely wash your hands. Make it a habit to wash your hands regularly. When returning home, wash your hands before you do anything else. This is especially important when returning home from places where lots of people tend to congregate, such as grocery stores and restaurants. Lathering hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds can help get rid of germs. If soap and water is not available, the CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. The CDC notes that germs spread when people touch contaminated surfaces or objects and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. It’s easy to touch your eyes, nose or mouth without even thinking about it, but make a concerted effort to avoid touching these areas to safeguard yourself and others from the flu.

Seasonal influenza can be a disruptive and potentially deadly force. Various practices can help people protect themselves and others from contracting the flu.

Snow Blower Safety Tips

Meteorologists are predicting an El Niño weather pattern this winter. What that spells out for particular regions of the country remains to be seen, but when snow hits certain areas hard, cleanup will be necessary.

It is essential for homeowners and business owners to get outdoors promptly to remove snow from walkways for the safety of pedestrians. Shoveling snow can be back-breaking work, particularly when the snow is very wet or compacted. That’s why many people have invested (or plan to invest) in snow blowers to make faster work of snow removal. While these tools are quite effective, they require caution and proper technique to help avoid injuries. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are 5,740 hospital emergency room-related injuries associated with snow blowers each year. The organization Safety Now says most injuries associated with snow blowers involve injuries to the hands or fingers, including amputation.

Individuals can prevent common injuries and even death by following these snow blower safety guidelines.

  • Read the owner’s manual to understand all of the controls and features before use.
  • Dress accordingly for the weather, including using sturdy footwear with good traction. Boot or shoe grippers can reduce the risk of slips and falls. Also, avoid loose clothing, as scarves or jackets can become tangled in moving parts of the machine.
  • Start the snow blower outside and not in a garage or shed. Gas-powered devices give off carbon monoxide.
  • Stay focused on the task at hand, which means using the snow blower only when sober and not under the influence of medications that can cause drowsiness.

Working at a brisk pace can help prevent the snow blower blades from getting clogged from the snow sticking. Wet, heavy snow is more likely to clog the machine, so it may require more passes to get the job done.

  • Clogs can occur, and require extreme caution to dislodge. Always turn off the snow blower and disengage the clutch, says the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Wait for the impeller blades to stop spinning. Always use a broom handle or a stick to clear compacted snow. Never stick your hand down the chute or around the blades, even if the power switch is off.
  • Keep all safety shields and mechanisms in place on the machine.
  • Do not leave a snow blower unattended. If the snow blower is an electrical version, use an extension cord designed for outdoor use and plug it into an outlet equipped with a ground fault circuit interrupter. Keep the extension cord away from the auger.

Even though snow blowing can be less physically taxing than manually shoveling snow, it still exerts the body. Take frequent breaks to rest. Exercise caution where you toss the snow, and make sure other people, particularly children, are not in the path of snow removal.

Jump Into Adventurous Resolution Ideas

Individuals looking for a little more excitement and adventure in their lives can think about making New Year’s resolutions that align with their adventurous goals. These adventurous ideas can serve as inspiration for anyone who wants to be a little more daring with this year’s resolutions.

Try A New Outdoor Activity

The great outdoors consistently beckons. Answer the call by engaging in a new outdoor activity. Any activity can be adventurous if it’s new to you. Start off small and get more into it as your skills improve. Consider kayaking, surfing, mountain biking, rock climbing, or anything else that presents a thrill.

Get Creative In The Kitchen

Being adventurous can extend to any aspect of life, including dining. Expand your culinary horizons by trying new flavor profiles and recipes inspired by global cuisine. This may include ingredients you deem to be “exotic” but are customary in other parts of the world.

Sleep Outdoors

Adventures do not have to be large and time-consuming. In fact, the term “microadventure” was dubbed by Alastair Humphreys, an adventurer and speaker, as a way to squeeze more gutsy activity into anyone’s schedule. One way to do so is to resolve to sleep outdoors in a new place once a month. Shaking off the creature comforts of home enables you to adapt and embrace new experiences.

Aim To Be More Sustainable

Active lifestyles often involve exploring natural landscapes. These areas can be affected by trash, which also can impact wildlife in negative ways. Resolve to keep parks, trails, rivers, lakes, forests, and other outdoor areas clean and beautiful. Various organizations spearhead these types of efforts, but you can work independently as well. Always practice a “carry in, carry out” policy when hiking or enjoying nature.

Individuals can ponder the many ways to embrace more adventurous resolutions in the year ahead.

Fun Ways To Enjoy The Start Of Winter

Winter begins on December 21, 2023, and ends on March 19, 2024. Many people lament the arrival of winter, perhaps thinking the colder temperatures and shorter hours of sunlight will compromise their chances to have fun. Even though particularly chilly thermostat readings or stormy conditions can hamper some plans, when people dig deeper they may find that even the coldest days present opportunities for enjoyment.

When winter begins, the following activities can make for an entertaining way to celebrate the arrival of the season.

Build A Snow Creation

Use the first significant snowfall of the season to organize a snowman, snow-woman, or snow-animal-making event or contest. Waterproof gloves are a necessary piece of equipment, as are buckets for moving snow, shovels, carving and shaping tools (which can be plastic cutlery), and accessories to dress up the final product.

Go Sledding On The Best Hills

Sledding is a popular wintertime activity that doesn’t require too much equipment. Sleds can be purchased at sporting goods stores or toy stores. Sledders of all ages should consider wearing helmets to protect against injury if they will be traversing especially steep hills.

Host A Winter Block Party

Many cities and towns across North America participate in WinterFest events, which run the gamut from food and craft festivals to sporting events. Individuals can take cues from these type of activities and plan neighborhood festivals right on their streets. Neighbors can wheel out their fire pits or utilize outdoor propane heaters to keep spots cozy. Hot cocoa and cider stations and warm treats can keep everyone from feeling too cold. Electric slow cookers can keep everything from soups to chilis to stews warm and participants can enjoy a buffet of hearty foods.

Visit An Ice Rink

Whether a rink is indoors or outside, ice skating is a quintessential wintertime activity. Skaters of all skill levels can take to the ice and enjoy some exercise and laughs. Check local rink schedules to take advantage of open skate times when hockey games or practices are not dominating the ice.

Mark The Winter Solstice

The winter solstice, also known as the start of astronomical winter, is the shortest day of sunlight on the calendar. It occurs when either of the Earth’s poles reaches maximum tilt away from the sun. In the Northern Hemisphere, this occurs on December 21, 2023. Because there will be only roughly seven hours of daylight, take steps to make the fact that the sun will set at its earliest a little easier to swallow. Kids can run around outdoors with glow sticks, while adults can deck their homes in twinkle lights if they are not decorated for Christmas. Lanterns, campfires and candles can be lit, and everyone can gather outdoors to chat and socialize.

Winter begins on December 21, 2023, and there are plenty of ways to celebrate this fun, if sometimes frigid, season.

Simple Tricks To Disentangle Holiday Lights

The joyous holiday season is enhanced by the beautiful and festive decorations that adorn homes and businesses during this special time of year. Twinkling lights are part of the holiday decorating equation. However, tangled lights in storage bins and boxes can sap anyone’s holiday spirit.

Christmas lights can turn into a tangled mess no matter how hard people work to avoid such an outcome. Christmas lights get tangled partly because of their design. There is a metal wire inside the cord to help with the packaging of the lights, which gives the cord a natural curve. Furthermore, most light cords are made from twisted or braided wires that have spaces throughout. The lights themselves can get snagged in these pockets between the wires.

Although it can be frustrating to deal with tangled lights that look like balls of yarn in a knitting basket, there are ways to disentangle them with relative ease – and then pack them in a way that can reduce further tangles.

Begin by plugging all lights into the outlet to see if they work. If most of the bulbs are burnt out or the lights do not go on at all, discard the strand. There’s no point untangling lights only to learn they don’t work.

Start slowly, beginning on the plug end, when untangling the lights. Keep the strand you’re working on separate from the other lights so they do not inadvertently become entangled. Tackle this job in a space with a lot of room. Lay the lights out on a large table or sit on the floor to do the untangling.

Utilize a pen or pencil to fish out more stubborn snags. This can help you loosen any knots and make it easier to pull snags through.

Lay the untangled strands out in a safe area away from your working space as you work through each strand.

One of the ways to avoid the hassle of tangled lights is to remember to store the lights in ways that will reduce their propensity for tangling in the first place.

· Rather than wrap lights around your hand or arm to condense the strand, use something else. A piece of cardboard, a hanger and some PVC tubing can keep lights from becoming tangled.

· Store lights in a zip-top bag to keep them from tangling with other strands stored together.

· Save the original boxes and return the lights to them after each use.

· Icicle lights have hanging strands of lights on longer strands, which can compound tangling issues. Use a rubber band to gather the hanging “icicles” together, or use some plastic wrap for the same purpose.

· Invest in a cord reel, similar to what you might use for a garden hose. Longer light strands or wires are stored on such reels, and they can be used with Christmas lights.

Patience and care can prevent holiday lights from becoming tangled.

How To Master Shopping Early For The Holidays

“The early bird gets the worm” is a well-known English proverb that historians trace all the way back to the 1600s. Though the words might first have been popularized hundreds of years ago, they remain as true today as they were then, particularly in regard to holiday shopping.

Savvy shoppers have long touted the importance of starting early when looking for holiday gifts for loved ones. Seasoned procrastinators may never embrace early shopping, but others who want to a less hectic holiday shopping season can consider these tips.

Begin With A Plan

Holiday shopping excursions, whether they take place in town, at the mall or online, can take longer than expected when shoppers have no idea what they’re looking for. Prior to your first holiday shopping trip, jot down gift ideas for each person on your list. Then scour stores or websites for those items. Starting early affords shoppers time to bargain hunt and ensures supply shortages or other issues won’t get in the way of a happy loved one come the holiday season.

Recognize The Notion Of “Early” Has Changed

Early holiday shopping used to be synonymous with the retail holiday Black Friday, which occurs the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. However, many holiday shoppers now begin buying gifts long before they’ve purchased a Thanksgiving turkey. In its 2022 Consumer Pulse Survey, McKinsey & Company found that 56 percent of consumers started their holiday shopping in October. A host of variables may have influenced that shift, but supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic have lingered, which undoubtedly compelled consumers to get an especially early start on holiday shopping. Shoppers who want to ensure everything arrives on time for the holiday season must recognize that “early” shopping now involves beginning around Halloween, if not earlier.

Take The (Local) Road Less Traveled

Shopping local merchants in person is a strategy savvy shoppers have long since embraced, but it’s one that’s especially beneficial in an era marked by supply chain issues and inflation. Local merchants don’t have the overhead or sizable staffs of big box or chain stores, which enables them to keep costs low. And since local merchants produce many of their own products, it’s likely there’s something in store that shoppers will love and less likely that they will have issues filling orders. A late fall afternoon in a local shopping district can yield an array of treasures and help holiday shoppers find the right gift for many a person on their list.

When In Doubt, Go Gift Card

If the right gift is proving elusive even when shopping early, shoppers should not hesitate to go the gift card route. Shoppers need not feel as though a gift card is a nonstarter, as a 2022 survey from the National Retail Federation found that 54 percent of survey respondents indicated gift cards were the most desirable gift of the holiday season.

Shopping early is a great way to enjoy a less hectic holiday season.

Essential Gear For First-Time Thanksgiving Hosts

Hosting Thanksgiving is a large undertaking that can put some hosts under pressure. Unlike some other holidays that are less food-focused, Thanksgiving is largely about the meal. Turkey is the centerpiece of the celebration, and any guests who come over are going to expect turkey and a number of side dishes. Leaving hungry is never an option on Thanksgiving.

Individuals who are new to Thanksgiving hosting may be at a loss as to where to start with their preparation. There are certain must-haves hosts should familiarize themselves with. Many of these essentials revolve around tools for cooking in the kitchen and serving guests.

· Large Roasting Pan: You’ll need somewhere to oven-roast the turkey. While it’s perfectly acceptable to purchase a disposable aluminum pan for this purpose, if you plan to host Thanksgiving year after year, investing in a quality roasting pan will help deliver even cooking temperatures to the food and also can be used for roasting other meats.

· Wire Rack: The turkey is placed upon a rack inside of the roasting pan so that it will not swim in the juices and cause a soggy bottom during cooking. Many roasting pans and racks are sold as sets, but others can be purchased separately. The rack can be used for other purposes as well, including cooling baked cookies or even drying out fresh herbs.

· Food Thermometer: Ensuring the turkey and other foods are cooked to the correct internal temperature is essential. You do not want to send guests home with foodborne illnesses. Food thermometers run the gamut from very basic to those that can be programmed to alert cooks through an app on a smartphone. Turkey is done when the temperature reads 170 F in the breast and 180 F in the thigh. If stuffed, the stuffing should register 165 F, according to Butterball.

· Coordinated Casserole Dishes: Casserole dishes can hold all of the sides served with the turkey, including stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, and more. A set of matching dishes will help the tablescape look more coordinated.

· Service For Eight or More: Thanksgiving draws a crowd, so take inventory of silverware, dishes, wine glasses, and any other table needs to ensure that you can accommodate all of the guests. Purchase new items if you cannot set the table completely with what you have, as mixed and matched may be okay for informal events but may not set the tone hosts are aiming for on Thanksgiving.

· Table and Chairs: Determine if you have enough table space to seat all of your guests. Some dining tables come with an extension leaf, but you still may need to supplement with a folding table. You may need more seating. Chairs can be rented or you can utilize some folding chairs.

· Turkey Serving Platter: When the turkey is ready, it can be placed on an attractive serving platter for your photos, after which you slice and then return the sliced poultry to the serving platter for dining.

Thanksgiving requires a number of essentials that hosts will need to have on hand to make the holiday complete.

How To Prepare A Fireplace For The Winter

As hours of daylight shorten and fall gives way to winter, thoughts shift from fall foliage to spending time cuddling under warm blankets and being cozy indoors. A fireplace can improve the ambiance of any room and help to create a warm and welcoming gathering spot.

Home fireplaces typically are wood-burning or gas. Though maintenance for these fireplaces differs, certain preparatory steps must be taken to prepare a fireplace for winter.

Clear The Clutter

Items can accumulate in areas that are not in use, and a fireplace is no exception. Take a few hours to remove any belongings from in front of the fireplace and clean the mantle thoroughly.

Have The Chimney Cleaned

Hire a professional chimney cleaning company to inspect the chimney and clean it thoroughly before winter. According to BobVila.com, a chimney should be cleaned once a year, or after about every 80 fires. The National Fire Protection Association says failure to properly clean chimneys is one of the leading contributors to home fires. That’s due to creosote, a highly flammable residue that builds up in the flue that lines the chimney.

Inspect The Interior

The interior of a wood-burning fireplace is likely lined with fire bricks. Check for cracks and loose joints. Hire a professional mason to make any repairs, as special materials are needed to withstand the heat of fires.

Install A Chimney Cap and Screen

According to Family Handyman, a chimney cap is a protective covering that goes over the top of the chimney. It is made of steel or copper mesh with a cap on top. This protects the chimney from rain and downdrafts and keeps animals and debris from getting into the chimney.

Prune Overhanging Branches

If there are trees close to the home and the chimney, cut them back, as they can be a fire hazard. Branches and leaves also can restrict the proper draft of the chimney.

Assess The Outdoor Vent

Gas fireplaces typically emit exhaust through a vent in the home. Remove any blockages from the vent, including leaves, cobwebs and debris.

Check Glass or Other Coverings

The glass or face of the fireplace helps regulate carbon monoxide exposure and protects people from the flames. Be sure the glass covering is intact.

Clean Ceramic Logs

Gas fireplaces use ceramic logs, rocks or beads that can become dusty. Clean them prior to use. Dirty ceramic logs can be a fire hazard and produce an unpleasant burning smell.

Check The Blower and Pilot

If the fireplace has an electric blower, clean and dust it so it doesn’t become clogged. Inspect the pilot light for any wear and tear that includes wiring or structural issues.

It takes several steps to prepare fireplaces for cold weather seasons when they’re most likely to be used with frequency.