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The most important list to get you through the holidays

The most important list to get you through the holidays

The season of holidays has begun. Lists are forming so details get remembered. Gatherings, shopping, decorating, cooking, winterizing, it seems like the world speeds up for a couple of months.

Here is a self-care list that, hopefully, will help you better enjoy the holiday season knowing you took steps to provide for your safety and well-being:


Here are a few more ideas to consider:

These small actions can combine to have a great impact on your overall safety and welfare. Wishing you a safe and healthy holiday season!

Helpful Tips

practicing good digital self-protection

Practicing good digital self-protection

The digital age is filled with wonders and convenience. Remember the days before you could make a bank deposit through your phone in under a minute? When your only options were to send it through the mail or go to a bank, fill out a little slip of paper and wait your turn to be helped? Do you already wonder how you functioned in such dark ages? That was, what, maybe a decade back? Less? Times are changing rapidly and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

And for all of you saying, “I still take my deposits to the bank, thank you,” don’t tune out yet. Unless you are reading this on a piece of paper handed to you by a friend because you don’t access the internet, carry a mobile phone, have a social media profile, use a computer or otherwise engage in the interconnected technology of today’s world, this also applies to you.

Advancements in technology are enabling us to move through our lives with greater efficiency and convenience. The connected nature of that convenience also opens us up to risk. Hacking, phishing, viruses… these are enough to scare some people away from participating at all. Others don’t give it another thought. There is a happy medium, and that’s to understand what you’re looking at and what to do about it.

Here are a couple of helpful tips for practicing good digital self-protection:

Passwords and Identifying Questions

Have you ever used the same password on multiple websites because it’s too hard to keep track of all your passwords? Or parents, how about that combo of your kids’ names and birthdates? And how many identifying questions could be answered by someone viewing your social media profiles, such as schools you attended, places you’ve lived, maiden name, middle names, first car, favorite movie perhaps?

No, you don’t need to slam the gates closed on your social media profiles or take memorization classes to improve retention of the several hundred passwords in your digital life. Instead, you could try using a password vault (there are plenty of password solutions out there – run a search and compare your options to find the one that’s best for you). Don’t forget, it’s also a good idea to change your passwords a few times a year.

When posting on social media, keep in your mind the kinds of questions that you have answered in order to verify your identity with your banks, credit card companies, etc. Make sure you aren’t offering those answers up in your profile, photos, comments or posts. Have you ever seen those games people play where they add together the first street they lived on, their first pet’s name and their favorite color to come up with a funny name or poem? Seen with a more aware eye, how does that game look to you now?

Secure Sites and Saving Payment Info

You’re about to fill out a form that will convey your personal details to a company and a little voice in the back of your head asks, “is this safe?” Or you’ve just completed a transaction using your bank account or credit card and you notice a checkbox asking if you want to save this information for easier use the next time. In this world of warnings and alarm bells around identity theft, it’s good that these are triggering questions for you. Now, go reset that panic button. You have ways to make good decisions here.

example of secure website with https:// before domain name

You know that “http” stuff in front of the website you went to? Well, if there is an ‘s’ then there is a layer of security in play. It’s always a good idea to check with your better judgment whether you think the website you’re on is one you trust, but checking for that https:// before the website name can quickly answer the question of, “did they make an effort at making this form I’m about to fill out, or this shopping cart I’m about to use, secure?” If you don’t see an ‘s’ and you’re about to type in your social security number or credit card number, it might be good to pause and consider the safety of it.

As for that little checkbox asking whether to save your financial information for next time, do you have a good sense of the company and their commitment to protecting their customers’ information? Is their site using security? How do you feel about that information being in someone’s database? This is a convenience that can save time and the very real pain of scrambling through wallets and squinting at numbers while attempting to tap out the sequence correctly before timing out. And plenty of companies get it right. Seeing that checkbox is a good moment to remember to slow down and check your comfort level.


Life in this digital age doesn’t have to be spent in a constant state of fear, but awareness of the risks is important. When in doubt, stop and do a little research. Look at the details of the sites and mobile apps you use. Research if needed. Call the company. Ask questions. Understanding is the key to good digital self-protection. You’ve got this.

Be safe out there.

Helpful Tips

3 home renovation suggestion this year

3 home renovation suggestions to consider this year

Whether you're a brand-new homeowner or have longed to have a place to call your own, you've probably thought about various home renovation ideas at one point or another. Refurbishing your home can provide a lot of pizzazz to your cozy confines and better yet, increase its resale value should you ever decide to list it.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of renovating, even more than what it takes to actually do it, is knowing where to begin. With so many options available, coming to a final decision can be daunting. But it doesn't have to be, so long as you have a general idea of which room - or rooms - in your residence could use a good pick-me-up.

Family painting together

Here are three of the more popular projects homeowners choose to take on:

1. Kitchen

The most trafficked room of the house, the kitchen is the gathering place for conversations, meal planning, dining and snacking. In 2017, according to figures compiled by Houzz, the kitchen was the most frequently chosen room to remodel - and it paid off, quite literally. Roughly 80 percent of renovating homeowners acknowledged that the refurbishing of their kitchens increased the value of their properties, the Houzz survey revealed.

2. Bathroom

Ask any real estate agent, and they'll acknowledge just how invaluable would-be buyers consider the bathroom. Given how frequently people opt to modernize it, that certainly seems to be the case, as in 2017, more than a quarter of homeowners who remodeled chose the guest bathroom.

Perhaps the only room of the house that gets more use, outside of the kitchen, is the bathroom, which may explain why nearly 40 percent of Americans who renovate it do so to upgrade drab, worn-out surfaces, be it the floor, tub, vanity or all three according to the National Association of Realtors' 2017 Remodeling Impact Report.

3. Home security and automation systems

Automation has made homes more secure and enjoyable, thanks to systems synced to interior lighting and setting alarms. In 2017, home security installations accounted for 15 percent of interior renovation projects, a dramatic uptick from 10 percent during the previous year, according to the Houzz poll.

By doing some self-reflection and running the numbers so you can properly budget, you'll come to a decision on the renovation project that feels right.


Click here to learn more about Renovation Mortgage Loans at Residential Mortgage Services

Helpful Tips

Opting out from credit pre-screeningDid you know that when a mortgage inquiry is logged on your credit report, your personal information is automatically added to lists that are being sold by Experian, Trans Union and Equifax to certain kinds of mortgage lenders?

There you are, beginning your mortgage loan pre-qualification, and the next thing you know you're flooded with phone calls and mail from other mortgage lenders trying to get your business. Maybe you want the phone calls and extra mail and they're saving you time and energy by coming to you.

If that doesn't sound nice, you'll be happy to know that there is a simple step you can take prior to having your credit pulled that will remove your name from those lists.

Before you request a trusted mortgage lender to pull your credit, dial 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) or go online to to opt out (this is the service recommended by the Federal Trade Commission). You can opt out for a period of five years or permanently. You'll need to provide enough personal identification for this service to verify it is correctly removing your personal record from the marketing lists. While you're in there, you may additionally choose to be removed from the lists that are currently sold to credit card companies to generate pre-approved card solicitations.

Another reason why you may want to consider opting out is to reduce the number of companies that have your personal credit data, and reduce the amount of mail traveling around with your personal information on it, thereby reducing your risk of identity theft.

To read up on what the FTC has to say on this subject, visit

Helpful Tips

Fall Planning

Sep 21
Category | Helpful Tips

autumn planningWith Labor Day right around the corner, and the holidays quickly approaching, have you done your Fall Planning?


Between apple picking, cheering on your favorite football team and pumpkin carving this Autumn, be sure you take the time to prepare your home for the approaching cold weather season!


Winter Preparation Checklist:


[ ]  Gutters: Clean out your rain gutters after the leaves have fallen

[ ]  Windows: Install storm windows, put winter plastic on inside window or use energy

      saver curtains on them to prevent heat from escaping

[ ]  Doors: Add weather stripping to doors

[ ]  Emergency Kit: Prepare an “emergency” kit in case of power outages from snow

      and ice storms with some key items: Food, Important documents, Family photos,

      Flashlights and Batteries  

[ ]  Pipes: Wrap pipes in unheated locations

[ ]  Energy Source: clean and prep your furnace, wood stove or back up generator


Once you’ve prepped your home against the winter elements, be sure to take a look at your winter household budget.  How does your mortgage fit into your financial budget and goals?  With interest rates still at historic lows, now is a great time to see if refinancing or purchasing a new home will be beneficial to you.

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