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John F. O'Hara

John F. O'Hara
731 W Skippack Pike  Blue Bell  PA 19422
Phone:  610-277-4060
Office:  215-643-3200
Cell:  267-481-1786
Fax:  267-354-6973

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Save or Spend? 5 Ways to Make Your Tax Refund Count

February 19, 2016 1:51 am

Taxpayers averaged $3,000 refunds from the IRS last year, and more than 70 percent expect a refund this year. If you’re awaiting a refund, plan now to make the most of this year’s windfall, says Corey Carlisle, executive director of the American Bankers Association (ABA) Foundation.

“Tax season is a great time for consumers to reassess how they allocate extra cash,” Carlisle says. “It’s wise to take steps toward securing your financial well-being, like storing your refund for rainy days or using it to get a jumpstart on saving for retirement.”

Carlisle and the ABA recommend:
 
1. Saving for Emergencies – Open or add to a high-yield savings account that serves as an “emergency fund.” Ideally, it should hold about 3-6 months of living expenses in case of sudden financial hardships, like losing your job or having to replace your car.

2. Paying Off Debt – Pay down existing balances either by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first.
 
3. Saving for Retirement – Open or increase contributions to a tax-deferred savings plan like a 401(k) or an IRA. Your bank can help set up an IRA, while a 401(k) is employer-sponsored.

4. Putting It Toward a Down Payment – The biggest challenge that most first-time homebuyers face is coming up with enough money for a down payment. If you intend to buy a new home in the near future, putting your tax refund toward the down payment is a smart move.

5. Investing in Your Home – Use your refund to invest in home improvements that will increase the value of your home. This can include small, cost-effective upgrades, like energy-efficient appliances that will pay off in both the short and long term. If you have more substantial renovations in mind, your bank can help with a home equity line of credit.

Source: ABA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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15 Safety Tips when the Power’s Out

February 19, 2016 1:51 am

Severe storm conditions may threaten structural damage to your home, but they can also result in electrical hazards. These dangers are most often associated with the use of portable generators and space heaters, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), and may exist long after the storm has ended if a power outage occurs.

When operating a portable generator, keep in mind these tips: 

• Do not operate a portable generator in your home, basement, or garage. Generators can very quickly produce high levels of carbon monoxide, which can be deadly. 

• Be sure the generator is used with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries. 

• Do not connect generators directly to the household wiring without an appropriate transfer switch installed. The power from the generator can back-feed along power lines and harm anyone who comes into contact with them, including utility line workers making repairs.  

• Make sure there is at least one working carbon monoxide detector in your home. Test the batteries at least twice a year, at the same time smoke detector batteries are tested.

When operating a space heater, keep in mind these tips: 

• Make sure your space heater has the label showing that it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory. 

• Before using any space heater, read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully. 

• Inspect space heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use. If frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater. 

• Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when you're leaving a room or going to sleep, and don't let pets or children play too close to a space heater. 

• Space heaters are only meant to provide supplemental heat and should never be used to warm bedding, cook food, dry clothing or thaw pipes. 

• Proper placement of space heaters is critical. Heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs. 

• Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces. Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire. 

• Place space heaters out of high traffic areas and doorways, where they may pose a tripping hazard. 

• Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. 

• Do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater. 

• Always unplug and safely store the heater when it is not in use. 

Source: ESFI

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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