Summer Home Maintenance Tips

Summer’s in full swing, and that means summer storms, heat, humidity, and air conditioning bills! This is a great time to take advantage of the warm weather to get your house in shape and running smoothly, as well as tackling a number of summer specific home maintenance projects.

Indoors

Clean Refrigerator Coils: The condenser coils on a refrigerator remove heat from inside the unit. The coil is located either on the bottom behind the kickplate, or on the back of the refrigerator. To clean refrigerator coils, turn off the power to the fridge, then vacuum the coils using a cleaner brush attachment.

Clean Refrigerator Door Gasket: The flexible magnetic rubber gaskets on your refrigerator doors can wear out and reduce the efficiency of your fridge. Start by inspecting the seals for cracks or tears. Then clean the gaskets with soap and water.

Clean Range Hood and Filter: Allowing grease to build up on range hoods and over the stove microwave fans can reduce their efficiency and shorten the life of the fan. In addition to cleaning the outer and inner surfaces of a range hood or microwave, it’s important to remove and clean the range hood grease filter regularly by washing it in the sink in hot, soapy water or running the filter in the dishwasher. If you can access the exhaust fan on the range hood, turn the circuit breaker off and clean the fan blades as well.

Clean Bathroom Vent Fans: Bathroom ceiling vent fans can collect quite a bit of dust, which can makes them noisy and inefficient. To clean and maintain a bathroom vent fan remove the cover, vacuum out any dust, and spray any moving parts with lubricant to get your fan quietly humming once again.

Clean Bathroom Drains: To clean tub and sink drains, remove the drain assembly and insert a drain stick in the drain pipe to pull out any hair or other clogs. Follow this by pouring a little bleach down the drain, allow it to sit for 10 minutes, then flush it with water to kill any mold or mildew lurking in the pipe.

Clean Showerheads: To clean your showerhead, tie a plastic bag full of vinegar over the showerhead and allow it to soak overnight (or take the showerhead off and soak it in a pan), then turn on the hot water to rinse it out. If your showerhead has seen better days, replace it with a new model.

Clean Ceiling Fan Blades: The blades on paddle ceiling fans get dusty over time and keep churning that dust around in your room.

Clean Dryer Vent Pipe: The accumulation of lint in the vent pipe and hose on clothes dryers causes 15,000 fires annually! To prevent a dryer vent fire in your home, it’s important to clean the dryer vent regularly. Start by removing the dryer hose and/or outside vent pipe cover, then clean the inside of the hose and pipe thoroughly with a special brush or vacuum cleaner. Also, make sure to clean the lint filter on your dryer every time you dry a load of clothes.

Replace Air Conditioner Filter: Replacing the air filter on your air conditioner every 1-3 months allows the system to run more efficiently and keeps the air in your home clean. It’s easy to change an air conditioner filter by removing the cover of the air return, sliding out the old filter, and replacing it with a new one. If you suffer from allergies, this is a great time to upgrade to a high-performance allergen air filter for your home.

Replace Water and Icemaker Filters: Replace disposable water filters on your water filtration system and/or icemaker as recommended by the manufacturer (usually every six months). This will keep mold and mildew from growing in the filter and keep your water clean, fresh, and flowing freely.

Drain Hot Water Heater: Sediment buildup can shorten the life of a water heater and raise your energy bills, so it’s a good idea to drain the water heater each year to remove sediment from the tank. Turn off the power (or gas) and water to the heater, attach a garden hose to the drain valve, and run the water outside. In addition inspect the water heater for leaks, make sure the vent pipe on gas water heaters is clear, and test the pressure relief valve to make sure it works and doesn’t leak.

Outdoors

Remove Mold and Mildew: Summer heat and humidity can cause mold and mildew to grow on the outside of your home. To remove it, scrub with a diluted bleach solution or trisodium phosphate. Be sure to protect plants and shrubs before cleaning, and prune them away from the house to help prevent future mold growth.

Clean Air Conditioner Drain Line: To prevent water from backing up in your home, it’s important in the summer to clean the AC drain line regularly with bleach. If the drain does become clogged, use a wet/dry shop vac to remove the clog, then pour a cup of bleach down the access pipe to kill anything else that might be growing in there.

Clean Grill: It’s cookout time! Get ready for summer barbecues by cleaning and repairing the gas grill. Scrub the grates with liquid grill cleaner, and clean the burners and burner covers with a wire brush. You can also use vinegar and aluminum foil to clean a grill. Use a toothpick to clean the holes on the burners to ensure even cooking.

Inspect Crawl Space: Excess moisture in the crawl space under your home can cause mold, rot, and buckled wood flooring. Inspect the crawl space, floor joists, and any HVAC ductwork under your home for signs of moisture or condensation, and inspect foundation walls for leaks or seepage. Make sure to cover the crawl space with thick plastic to prevent moisture from coming up through the ground.

Patch Cracks and Holes in Driveway: Use concrete repair caulk or asphalt crack sealer to repair cracks in concrete or asphalt driveways. If your driveway is showing its age, you may want to pressure wash it, repair any holes, and then apply a concrete resurfacer or asphalt sealer to give it new life.

Prune Shrubs Around AC Units: Air conditioning units and heat pumps require plenty of air circulation to work efficiently, so it’s important to keep shrubs trimmed back away from the unit. Make sure there’s at least 18” of room around the sides of the air conditioner, and three feet or more above the unit.

Check Lawn Irrigation: Inspect irrigation lines and nozzles for leaks and clogs, and adjust the sprinkler heads so your lawn is evenly covered and water isn’t wasted on sidewalks and driveways. To test the coverage, place straight-sided tuna cans on the ground around the yard, and run your sprinkler as usual. If your irrigation system is set right, all of the cans should be filled to the same level.

Avoiding Online Tax Scams

Tax Season is now in full swing with cyber-criminals preparing to file fraudulent tax refund requests on behalf of millions of Americans. The IRS saw a 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents in the 2016 tax season. The IRS has issued several alerts about the fraudulent use of the IRS name or logo by scammers trying to gain access to consumers’ financial information in order to steal their identity and assets. Scammers use the regular mail, telephone, fax or email to set up their victims. When identity theft takes place over the web (email), it is called phishing.

According to a new “urgent alert” issued by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, scammers are now combining schemes and targeting a far broader range of organizations than ever before.  CEO fraud or Business Email Compromise are e-mail scams in which the attacker spoofs the boss and tricks an employee at the organization into wiring funds to the fraudster. Last year, the FBI estimated that crooks had stolen nearly $3.1 billion from more than 22,000 victims of these wire fraud schemes. W-2 phishing occurs when crooks impersonate the boss and request a copy of all employee tax forms.

Users who have already filed their taxes this season can still be vulnerable to tax-related scams. Many schemes take advantage of users by alleging to have information about the filer’s refund, or noting a problem with the return that was previously filed. An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. They sound convincing, use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling.

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn’t answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.

Below are some of the most common email scams users should be cautious about:

  • The email says the user is owed a refund and should forward a bank account number where the refund may be deposited. Once the scammer has the bank account information, that account will see a big withdrawal, not a deposit.
  • The email contains exciting offers or refunds for participating in an “IRS Survey.” This fake survey is actually used to acquire information to perform identity theft.
  • The email threatens the user with fines or jail time for not making an immediate payment, or responding to the email.
  • The email includes a “helpful” downloadable document (e.g. “new changes in the tax law,” a tax calculator, etc.). In reality, the download is a malicious file intended to infect your computer.

How to avoid becoming a tax-scam victim

  • Do not respond to emails appearing to be from the IRS. The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through email or social media to request personal or financial information. If you receive an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, send it to phishing@irs.gov.
  • Do not respond to unsolicited emails and do not provide sensitive information via email. If the email appears to be from your employer, bank, broker, etc., contact the entity directly. Do not open any attachments or click on links contained in unsolicited or suspicious emails.

  • Carefully select the tax sites you visit. Use caution when searching online for tax forms, advice on deductibles, tax preparers, and other similar topics. Do not visit a site by clicking on a link sent in an email, found on someone’s blog, or in an advertisement. The website you land on may look just like the real site, but it may be a well-crafted fake.
  • Secure your computer.  Make sure your computer has all operating system and application software updates. Anti-virus and anti-spyware software should be installed, running, and receiving automatic updates.

Resources

 

What is Your Exit Plan?

The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that more than 50% of business have no exit plan. Two thirds of all business owners report that they do not understand the options available to them. Fully 75% of business owners report they do not know the worth of their business. Consider this:

  • Your financial security and that of your spouse and family, depends upon your ability to exit successfully.
  • Exiting your business is likely to be the most important financial transition of your life.
  • Exiting a business can be complicated.
  • Others are depending on you. Your partners, employees, customers, family and community are counting on you to do it correctly.
  • Exiting a business is a risk activity.
  • If you don’t have a plan, you will leave money and more on the table.

What is your plan?

  • Sell to 3rd Party
  • Transfer business to the next generation
  • Transition business to key management
  • Utilize an ESOP to sell to employees
  • Liquidate

Are you ready for the next step?

At STAR Bank, we have assembled a team of professionals trained to guide you in completing your exit plan. We are happy to be a part of your trusted-advisor team. Please let us know how we may be of further service.


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Developing a Financial Plan

Did you make a New Year Resolution to manage your money better in 2017?  To do that, start with a budget.

The key to a good budget is including as much information as you can, so that you can adequately prepare and plan. It’s important to keep accurate records of your spending so you’ll spot places where you can save money and know how much you can reasonably spend.

What is your current income? The first step in creating a budget is to total all of your income, or money coming in. We recommend you do this on a monthly basis. Include only your take home pay (this is your salary minus taxes and deductions). Your income may also include tips, child support, investment income, etc.

What are your monthly expenses?  Next, you’ll need to track your expenses, or money going out. Some of your bills will vary from month-to-month, so use a monthly average. For example, if your cell phone is $45 one month and $55 the next, estimate $50 per month. For annual bills, divide the yearly cost by 12 for a monthly figure.

How much of your income should be spent?  Rent or mortgage payments plus your credit obligations – should not exceed 35 to 40 percent of gross monthly income. The amount you owe on credit cards, monthly car payment, student loans and other monthly payments should not exceed 10 to 15 percent of your take-home pay.

Put it in writing.  Our budget calculator will help you document and categorize your expenses. Tally up everything you spend money on. Don’t forget your daily coffee or snacks. Those can add up quickly!

Do the math. The last step in creating your budget is to total all of your expenses and subtract them from your total income.

Did you have money left over at the end of the month – or too much month left at the end of the money?

  • If your income and expenses are EQUAL …
    • You might be living paycheck to paycheck. Cut expenses and develop a savings plan in case of emergencies or unexpected expenses.
    • If your income and expenses equal each other, but only because you’re using credit to survive and paying only minimums each month, you may need to talk to a debt counseling service to help you get back on the track to live within your means.
  • If you have MONEY LEFTOVER at the end of the month …
    You’re doing a good job of managing your expenses. Here are some suggestions for the leftover money:

    • Open a savings account at a bank.
    • If you already have a savings account, consider setting up automatic transfers to your savings account or, if you have direct deposit, ask your employer to put a portion of your paycheck in your savings account automatically.
    • Also investigate whether your employer offers a 401(k) or other employee matching savings plan. The contribution you make to this type of account is taken out of your paycheck before taxes.
  • If your total was negative and you DON’T HAVE ENOUGH MONEY …
    • You need to make adjustments immediately. Keep in mind that it’s usually easier to cut back on expenses than to increase your income. Analyze your budget to see where you can cut expenses – especially from the Looking Good and Just for Fun categories. Often those are the easiest things to cut from your budget.
    • Call your utility, phone, cable, cell phone providers. There may be ways to cut those bills that just take a phone call.
    • Consider increasing your income by getting a second part-time job or by working overtime.

If you’d like some advice and guidance as you develop your plan, STAR is here to help.  Just stop by any of our convenient locations or give us a call!

9 Ways to Avoid Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware is a form of malware used by cyber criminals to freeze your computer or mobile device, steal your data and demand a “ransom”¾ typically anywhere from a couple of hundreds to thousands of dollars ¾ be paid. Ransomware can affect individual computers or laptops, enterprise networks and or servers used by government agencies, financial institutions and healthcare providers. STAR Bank recommends the following tips to help individuals and businesses avoid ransomware attacks:

Tips for consumers:

  • Don’t click. Visiting unsafe, suspicious or fake websites can lead to the intrusion of malware. Be cautious when opening e-mails or attachments you don’t recognize even if the message comes from someone in your contact list.
  • Always back up your files. By maintaining offline copies of your personal information, ransomware scams will have a limited impact on you. If targeted, you will be less inclined to take heed to threats posed by cyber criminals.
  • Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date.  Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
  • Enable popup blockers. To prevent popups, turn on popup blockers to avert unwanted ads, popups or browser malware from constantly appearing on your computer screen.

Tips for businesses:

  • Educate your employees. Employees can serve as a first line of defense to combat online threats and can actively help stop malware from infiltrating the organization’s system.  A strong security program paired with employee education about the warning signs, safe practices, and responses aid tremendously in preventing these threats.
  • Manage the use of privileged accounts. Restrict users’ ability to install and run software applications on network devices, in an effort to limit your networks exposure to malware.
  • Employ a data backup and recovery plan for all critical information. Backups are essential for lessening the impact of potential malware threats. Store the data in a separate device or offline in order to access it in the event of a ransomware attack.
  • Make sure all business devices are up to date. Ensure antivirus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and conduct regular scans so that your operating systems operate efficiently.

6 Ways to Protect Your Business from Business Email Compromise Scams

Companies of all sizes are being targeted by criminals through Business Email Compromise scams. In these scams, cybercriminals gain access to an employee’s legitimate business email through social engineering or computer intrusion. The criminal then impersonates the employee – often a senior executive or someone who can authorize payments – and instructs others to transfer funds on their behalf. STAR Bank recommends the following tips to help businesses and employees avoid business email compromise attacks:

  • Educate your employees. You and your employees are the first line of defense against business email compromise. A strong security program paired with employee education about the warning signs, safe practices, and responses to a suspected takeover are essential to protecting your company and customers.
  • Protect your online environment. It is important to protect your cyber environment just as you would your cash and physical location. Do not use unprotected internet connections. Encrypt sensitive data and keep updated virus protections on your computer. Use complex passwords and change them periodically.
  • Use alternative communication channels to verify significant requests. Have multiple methods outside of email – such as phone numbers, alternate email addresses – established in advance through which you can contact the person making the request to ensure it is valid.
  • Be wary of sudden changes in business practices or contacts. If an employee, customer or vendor suddenly asks to be contacted via their personal e-mail address, verify the request through known, official and previously used correspondence as the request could be fraudulent.
  • Be wary of requests marked “urgent” or “confidential. Fraudsters will often instill a sense of urgency, fear or secrecy to compel the employee to facilitate the request without consulting others. Use an alternative communication channel outside of email to confirm the request.
  • Partner with your bank to prevent unauthorized transactions. Talk to your banker about programs that safeguard you from unauthorized transactions such as call backs, device authentication and multi-person approval processes.

For more tips, see the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center’s public service announcement.

Life Insurance at Various Stages

Your need for life insurance changes as your life changes. When you’re young, you typically have less need for life insurance, but that changes as you take on more responsibility and your family grows. Then, as your responsibilities once again begin to diminish, your need for life insurance may decrease. Let’s look at how your life insurance needs change throughout your lifetime.

Young man with casual clothes in the park, with copy space

Young Adults
As a young adult, you become more independent and self-sufficient. You no longer depend on others for your financial well-being. In most cases, your death not create a financial hardship for others. For most young singles, life insurance is not a priority. Some would argue that you should buy life insurance now, while you’re healthy and the rates are low. This may be a valid argument if you are at a high risk for developing a medical condition (such as diabetes) later in life. But you should also consider the earnings you could realize by investing the money now instead of spending it on insurance premiums

If you have a mortgage or other loans that are jointly held with a cosigner, your death would leave the cosigner responsible for the entire debt. You might consider purchasing enough life insurance to cover these debts in the event of your death. Funeral expenses are also a concern for young singles, but it is typically not advisable to purchase a life insurance policy just for this purpose, unless paying for your funeral would burden your parents or whomever would be responsible for funeral expenses. Instead, consider investing the money you would have spent on life insurance premiums. Your life insurance needs increase significantly if you are supporting a parent or grandparent, or if you have a child before marriage. In these situations, life insurance could provide continued support for your dependent(s) if you were to die.

Close up of bride and groom holding hands.

Newly Married
Married couples without children typically still have little need for life insurance. If both spouses contribute equally to household finances and do not yet own a home, the death of one spouse will usually not be financially catastrophic for the other. Once you buy a house, the situation begins to change. Even if both spouses have well-paying jobs, the burden of a mortgage may be more than the surviving spouse can afford on a single income. Credit card debt and other debts can contribute to the financial strain. To make sure either spouse could carry on financially after the death of the other, both of you should probably purchase a modest amount of life insurance. At a minimum, it will provide peace of mind knowing that both you and your spouse are protected. Again, your life insurance needs increase significantly if you are caring for an aging parent, or if you have children before marriage. Life insurance becomes extremely important in these situations, because these dependents must be provided for in the event of your death.

Your Growing Family
When you have young children, your life insurance needs reach a climax. In most situations, life insurance for both parents is appropriate. Single-income families are completely dependent on the income of the breadwinner. If he or she dies without life insurance, the consequences could be disastrous. The death of the stay-at-home spouse would necessitate costly day-care and housekeeping expenses. Both spouses should carry enough life insurance to cover the lost income or the economic value of lost services that would result from their deaths. Dual-income families need life insurance, too. If one spouse dies, it is unlikely that the surviving spouse will be able to keep up with the household expenses and pay for child care with the remaining income.

Catching up after workUpwardly Mobile
For many people, career advancement means starting a new job with a new company. At some point, you might even decide to be your own boss and start your own business. It’s important to review your life insurance coverage any time you leave an employer. Keep in mind that when you leave your job, your employer-sponsored group life insurance coverage will usually end, so find out if you will be eligible for group coverage through your new employer, or look into purchasing life insurance coverage on your own. You may also have the option of converting your group coverage to an individual policy. This may cost significantly more, but may be wise if you have a pre-existing medical condition that may prevent you from buying life insurance coverage elsewhere. Make sure that the amount of your coverage is up-to-date, as well. The policy you purchased right after you got married might not be adequate anymore, especially if you have kids, a mortgage, and college expenses to consider. Business owners may also have business debt to consider. If your business is not incorporated, your family could be responsible for those bills if you die.

Divorce. Torn photograph of wedding cake topper.Single Again
If you and your spouse divorce, you’ll have to decide what to do about your life insurance. Divorce raises both beneficiary issues and coverage issues. And if you have children, these issues become even more complex. If you and your spouse have no children, it may be as simple as changing the beneficiary on your policy and adjusting your coverage to reflect your newly single status. However, if you have kids, you’ll want to make sure that they, and not your former spouse, are provided for in the event of your death. This may involve purchasing a new policy if your spouse owns the existing policy, or simply changing the beneficiary from your spouse to your children. The custodial and noncustodial parent will need to work out the details of this complicated situation. If you can’t come to terms, the court will make the decisions for you.

Staying fit the fun wayRetirement Years
Once you retire, and your priorities shift, your life insurance needs may change. If fewer people are depending on you financially, your mortgage and other debts have been repaid, and you have substantial financial assets, you may need less life insurance protection than before. But it’s also possible that your need for life insurance will remain strong even after you retire. For example, the proceeds of a life insurance policy can be used to pay your final expenses or to replace any income lost to your spouse as a result of your death (e.g., from a pension or Social Security). Life insurance can be used to pay estate taxes or leave money to charity.

Source: 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy

ATM Safety Tips

You can now do more than ever at an ATM:  withdraw cash, make deposits – checks or cash – transfer funds, and more.  While these conveniences make our busy lives easier, ATM crime does happen, although rare.  Keep these updated tips in mind to keep yourself and your personal information safe.

Protect Your Card

  • Always protect your ATM card and keep it in a safe place, just like you would cash, credit cards or checks.
  • Do not leave your ATM card lying around the house or on your desk at work. No one should have access to the card but you. Immediately notify your bank if it is lost or stolen.
  • Keep your Personal Identification Number (PIN) a secret. Never write it down anywhere, especially on your ATM card.
  • Never give any information about your ATM card or PIN over the telephone. For example, if you receive a call, supposedly from your bank or possibly the police, wanting to verify your PIN, do not give that information. Notify the police immediately.

Using an ATM

  • Be aware of your surroundings, particularly at night. If you observe or sense suspicious persons or circumstances, do not use the machine at that time.
  • Have your ATM card ready and in your hand as you approach the ATM. Don’t wait to get to the ATM and then take your card out of your wallet or purse.
  • Visually inspect the ATM for possible skimming devices. Potential indicators can include sticky residue or evidence of an adhesive used by criminals to affix the device, scratches, damaged or crooked pieces, loose or extra attachments on the card slot, or noticeable resistance when pressing the keypad.
  • Be careful that no one can see you enter your PIN at the ATM. Use your other hand or body to shield the ATM keyboard as you enter your PIN into the ATM.
  • To keep your account information confidential, always take your receipts or transaction records with you.
  • Do not count or visually display any money you received from the ATM. Immediately put your money into your pocket or purse and count it later.
  • If you are using a drive-up ATM, be sure passenger windows are rolled up and all doors are locked. If you leave your car and walk to the ATM, lock your car.

Special Precautions for Using an ATM at Night

  • Park close to the ATM in a well-lighted area.
  • Take another person with you, if at all possible.
  • If the lights at the ATM are not working, don’t use it.
  • If shrubbery has overgrown or a tree blocks the view, select another ATM and notify your bank.

Source:  American Bankers Association

My child is heading to college. What insurance issues does this raise?

As you send your child off to college, you probably have a lot of things on your mind, such as whether your child will eat right and get enough sleep, how to pay tuition, and what to do with that empty bedroom. And although insurance may seem like a low priority, there are some important issues you should consider.

As for health insurance, even if your child isn’t a student, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires your medical plan to extend dependent coverage for your adult child up to age 26. But if the plan is an HMO and your child’s college is far from home, accessing an approved provider may prove difficult. An alternative is to purchase health insurance coverage through your child’s college. Many colleges and universities offer low-cost health insurance for students. However, be sure to check the maximum coverage limits on school-subsidized health insurance carefully. They are generally much lower than your own policy, which is one reason the college plan is less expensive.

If your child will be living in a dorm or other university housing, his or her personal property will typically be covered under your homeowners insurance policy. However, you may want to check your policy for coverage limitations on certain items (e.g., computers and stereos). If your child moves out of the dorms and into an apartment, his or her personal property will usually no longer be covered under your policy. In that case, he or she should purchase a renters insurance policy to cover his or her possessions.

If your child will be taking a car to school, make sure that the car is properly insured. If the child owns the car, the insurance policy must be in his or her name. If the child is “borrowing” a family car, he or she must be listed as a driver on the insurance policy. Some insurance companies may require the child to be listed as the primary operator, since the car is in the child’s possession and not the parents’.

Source: American Institute of CPA’s

7 Tips to Help Seniors Live at Home Longer

Most Americans want to remain in their homes as they grow older, also known as “Aging in Place”. STAR offers the following tips for those considering this option:

Take a hard look at your finances. Arrange a meeting with a trusted family member or friend and a STAR banker. It’s critical to understand your financial resources, how long they’ll last and what housing options are the most cost effective for you. Be sure to consider all costs associated with aging in place, including:

  • Home modifications
  • Transportation to medical appointments, shopping and other errands
  • In-home care for house upkeep and medical purposes

Consider a reverse mortgage. Though not for everyone, a reverse mortgage loan can provide monthly cash payments based on your home’s equity.

  • Make sure to read all loan documents carefully. There are a number of actions that could cause the loan to become due.
  • For more information on reverse mortgages, visit aba.com/consumers.

Assess your home and determine what modifications are necessary. While staying in your home is preferable for many, there are often design changes that must be made to ensure it’s also safe and comfortable.

  • Make sure there is at least one step-free entrance to your home.
  • Update lighting inside and outside of the house so that all walkways and stairs are well lit. Clear pathways throughout house and firmly secure all carpets to the floor to prevent tripping.
  • If a bedroom and bathroom does not or cannot exist on the first floor, consider installing an elevator or chairlift. At a minimum, make sure you have handrails on both sides of your stairs.
  • Install grab bars in the bathtub, shower, or near the toilet. \

Make security a priority. Older Americans are often targets for scams and other criminal behavior. Be cautious about who you allow in your home and disclose sensitive information to.

  • Install up to date and easy to use locks. Make sure your front door has a peep hole or a security monitor so you can see who is outside.
  • Consult someone you trust when hiring a contractor, financial advisor, etc.

Look into community resources. If mobility is limited, look in to services offered in your area. Many communities have established non-profit programs that offer transportation and food delivery to assist older Americans at a reasonable cost.

Be prepared for possible emergencies.

  • Keep a list of all emergency contacts on your refrigerator or by a phone.
  • Consider a Personal Emergency Response System. Transmitters can be worn as a bracelet or around your neck and require the simple push of a button to send a signal to a call center.
  • Have your address number visible from the street so emergency responders can easily identify your home.

Reevaluate every six months to make sure all needs are being met. As you age, your needs inevitably change. Take time twice a year, or as needed, to sit down with your trusted family or friend and make sure your current living situation is still the right one.