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Blog › July 2015

Home Staging Worth the Money, Effort? Yes.

Nearly every home seller hopes to get their property sold quickly and at top dollar.

Staging may be just the thing to help in that quest, according to the National Association of REALTORS’® 2017 Profile of Home Staging (http://bit.ly/2tGmtXe).

Using things like furniture, color, lighting, and accent pieces, professional stagers transform for-sale homes from ho-hum to oh-ah and work to make a property appeal to the largest number of prospective buyers

And their work has an impact: 39 percent of sellers’ agents said that staging a home greatly decreases the amount of time the home is on the market, according to NAR’s report.

Here are some of the report’s key findings:

 

Additional findings include:

  • The most commonly staged spaces include the living room (83 percent), kitchen (76 percent), master bedroom (69 percent), and dining room (66 percent).

  • Staging the living room was found to be most important to buyers (55 percent), followed by staging the master bedroom (51%), and the kitchen (41 percent).

  • Seventy-seven percent of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for buyers to visualize a property as a future home.

 

SMART WAYS TO SPEND YOUR TAX REFUND


According to a CIBC survey, 58 per cent of respondents expect a tax refund this year.

No doubt, luxury goods – that stylish pair of Fluevog shoes or the Apple Watch – beckon.

But instead of spending your refund on fleeting pleasures, why not resist temptation and use the money to invest in your future self?

Three smarter ways to spend that refund:

  1. 1.     Home upgrades. Especially if you’re planning to sell your house, investing your tax refund on smart renovations and upgrades could help you make your home more appealing to prospective buyers. For example, green upgrades – improved insulation, new windows, and energy efficient appliances, for example – can help you cut your energy bills now and give your home a selling edge later.
  2. 2.     Emergency fund. No explanation needed.  Start or add to your emergency fund.
  3. 3.     Retirement accounts. Your future self will thank you if you plow your refund into your RRSP or TFSA.

Now also may be a good time to impart some financial wisdom to your kids and grandkids about saving and spending.

In its fifth annual tax study, BMO Nesbitt Burns found out how Millennials plan to spend their tax refunds.

Some – 16 percent – plan to use the money for travel or luxury items.

But others have wise plans, such as paying off outstanding bills or reducing debt (37 percent); saving it (33 percent); and paying down their mortgage (14 percent).

That said, the study also look at Millennials’ knowledge about strategies and investments that can reduce their tax hits.

Some stats:

  • ·        Only 48% seek out tax efficient investment options and a bulk of the group doesn’t understand strategies for reducing that tax liability. 
  • ·        Fifty-nine percent don’t fully understand how capital gains are taxed
  • ·        60 per cent aren’t sure how dividend income is treated from a tax perspective

Helping members of the younger generation understand the implications of their financial choices and getting them off to a good financial start will help them have a more secure future.

But it also benefits you.

Maybe they’ll be less likely to come knocking on your door for loans.



FINDING, ASSESSING SNOWBIRD RETREATS


If you’ve been thinking about buying U.S.-based property in a retirement-friendly community for the months when you’re a snowbird, AARP just released a useful tool that can help you but narrow your options and find that ideal spot.

And it’s a cinch to use.

Plug in the zip code of your prospective retirement venues and the AARP Livability Index (https://livabilityindex.aarp.org/?cmp=LVABLIDX_MAR25_015) gives you a snapshot of the town or city based on seven categories -- housing, neighborhood, transportation, environment, health, engagement, and opportunity. 

AARP considered 60 factors in those categories when ranking communities, and it gives them scores ranging from 0 to 100. You also can create side-by-side comparisons of three zip codes at a time. In addition to using the tool, see its “Most Livable Places at 50+”     (http://www.aarp.org/home-family/your-home/best-places-to-live.html?Cmp=MSTLVBL015_APR15_015)  for a number of extra features, including the best cities for date night for the 50+ set and the best cities for staying healthy.

Another feature ranks the top 30 livable places around the country. You can quickly find the top 10 small, medium and large cities.

San Francisco, Boston and Seattle top the list of big cities and La Crosse, Wis, Fitchburg, Wis and Bismarck, ND land among the list of best small cities - those with populations of 25,000 - 100,000.



FALL FACTS


Fall – as in tripping, not autumn – statistics and their impact on older adults are daunting. 

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 20 to 30 percent of seniors experience one or more falls each year and they’re the leading cause of injury among older Canadians.

In fact, falls cause 85 percent of seniors' injury-related hospitalizations and 95 percent of all hip fractures.

See the full statistics in an infographic here: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/seniors-aines/publications/public/injury-blessure/seniors_falls-chutes_aines/assets/pdf/infographic-infographie2_2015-eng.pdf

If you’re concerned about falling or if a loved one is in danger of falling, consider assessing the potential factors, whether they stem from muscle weakness, chronic health conditions, inappropriate footwear, poor eyesight, or in-home dangers.

Here’s a room-by-room checklist to identify the dangers lurking at home and ways to minimize risk. www.preventfalls.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/SOYF_HomeSafetyChecklist.pdf

Find other fall prevention resources and organizations at: www.canadianfallprevention.ca/links/partners/



SEYMOUR: AN INTRODUCTION


Actor Ethan Hawke turns his attention to Seymour Bernstein in a documentary, “Seymour: An Introduction” that introduces viewers to an 88-year-old New York pianist who gave up the spotlight as a concert pianist to devote his life to teaching.

The movie (http://www.seymouranintroduction.com/) is sublime.

For one, there’s finally a depiction of a senior who has contributions to make, enduring insights to share, and someone with abundant talent who’s leading a rich, fulfilling life as he ages.

He’s not playing tennis, he’s not living in oh-so-perfect designer digs, and he’s not dining on precious spa salads.

 

Instead he lives in a messy one-room New York apartment where he works magic.

 

He teaches tomorrow’s musical superstars and passes on his genius and wisdom.

 

You see Bernstein giving master classes. You witness his pure joy when he finds the perfect Steinway piano for an upcoming performance.

 

But it’s not just the music that’s magic in the movie. His philosophy about life, competition, fear, mentoring, and the search for meaning are inspiring.

 

He says, “Life has conflicts, pleasures, harmony, and dissonance. The same thing occurs in music.”

 

Bernstein, it seems, has found the perfect way to age – engaged, busy, and steeped in his art. And he’s loved and respected.

 

Current and former musicians will relate to the bliss that making music brings. Bernstein notes that most people don’t tap the god within and talks about how music can allow us to become one with the stars.

 

Even if music isn’t your thing, you can find your own way to become one with the stars.

 



PORTRAIT OF DECLINE


A combination of heartbreak, the unvarnished truth, and humor make Roz Chast’s graphic novel, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant, a compelling read for anyone facing the health decline of an aging loved one.

 

The New Yorker cartoonist uses her formidable skills to deliver an unflinching look at what that decline really looks like, along with the effect that it all has on the caretaker-child.

 

Cartoons, drawings, and text convey the guilt, exhaustion, chronic dread, heartbreak, and the hemorrhaging of money associated with caretaking and when adult kids become their parents’ parent.

 

Interspersed with the depictions of the indignities of extreme old age is a biting, dark humor.

 

Much of that stems from the chaos Chast faces in her parents’ overstuffed Brooklyn apartment.

 

There’s the “crazy closet.” It’s jammed with everything from tattered clothing and unusable record players, to ancient luggage and 40-year-old blankets.

 

Chast discovers a drawer full of old metal jar lids. She photographs what she names her dad’s Museum of old Schick shavers. 

 

And, like so many kids, Chast had neither the energy nor the desire to sift through the stuff.  Eventually, she turns to the building’s super and asks him to take care of – dump -- virtually everything. 

 

The book imparts numerous lessons. One critical takeaway: Don’t do this to your children.

Listen to an interview with Chast at http://www.npr.org/2014/05/08/310725572/a-cartoonists-funny-heartbreaking-take-on-caring-for-aging-parents



LET THE PURGING BEGIN


Turns out your millennial children don’t want your formal dining room set, your fine bone china, or the antiques you’ve been collecting. 

They’re also not too attached to mementos -- yours or their own childhood trophies, scrapbooks, and artwork.

See: http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-millennials-nix-parents-treasures-20150328-story.html#page=1

Many millennials are living compact urban lives, they have their own aesthetic sensibility, and they’re cataloging their memories digitally.

Do your kids a favor. Let the purge begin.



SEASONAL JOBS: ENCORE CAREERS WITH A TWIST


Mike Fitzpatrick spends summers leading raft tours for Mad River Tours on Wyoming’s Snake River in Jackson Hole. It’s a seasonal gig that he’s been doing since 2011.

The work can be intense. Days sometimes last 10 to 12 hours, he’s lifting boats in and out of the water, and he’s responsible for the safety of passengers. During the winter he switches gears and works a ski instructor.

The 66-year-old has been living this life for about five years after a career as a civil engineer.

Plentiful work, sweet perks

Though college students once had a lock on the ski-bumming lifestyle, more plum jobs at national parks, golf courses, and resorts are being filled by retirees.

Seasonal work is plentiful, there’s a wide variety of job types, and employees enjoy unique perks.

The work ranges from physically demanding gigs, like Fitzpatrick’s, to tamer assignments as greeters, front desk employees, Segway guides, and shuttle drivers.

Depending on the venue, perks can include Tibetan yoga classes, ski passes, and access to award-winning golf courses. And those working in national parks spend their off hours in spectacular nature. Think Fundy, Banff, and the Gaspé Peninsula.

“I love being on the river. The feeling of floating down the river and the scenery and the wildlife are soothing,” says Fitzpatrick. “Plus, I like to turn people on to the love of the river and the importance of keeping rivers pristine.”

Summer camp for grown-ups

Seasonal workers’ motivations and financial situations vary too. Some are well-to-do corporate retirees, some are supplementing retirement income, and for others such jobs are a break on their RV route.

No one gets rich doing seasonal work, warns Kari Quaas, HR recruiting specialist and pied piper'ess of Cool Works, a niche job board for seasonal work that features an “Older and Bolder” page geared to those seeking encore careers. But many jobs include housing and food at a cost of about $15 per day and there’s a unique satisfaction that comes with the work.

“It’s a lot of fun, keeps life interesting, and it’s an adventure. Plus, it’s a unique bonding experience and you never know who you’ll meet,” she says. “People support one another and they share a bit of that dream mentality and the idea that tomorrow isn’t promised.”

For some, it’s a little like getting to go back to summer camp.

Employers’ expectations

That said, employers do expect employees to bring skills and a commitment to the job.

If you want to be a ski instructor, emphasize that you’ve been a lifelong skier, for example. Or if you’re applying at a ranch, employers will want to know that you’ve had experience working with horses.

“It’s key to communicate that you’re looking for new experiences and that you’re willing to try anything – something new,” says Quaas. “Those willing to jump in and give it a try will be well rewarded. There’s a large community of people who do this kind of work and everyone can find something interesting.”

And employers appreciate older workers. “There’s a maturity level that’s not there when you’re 19 years old. Having all kinds of people and people of different ages working together creates a good team and it brings a new dimension to our company,” observes Mary Bess, general manager of Mad River Tours (http://mad-river.com). “Young guides look up to Fitz (Mike Fitzgerald) as a mentor and he brings a sense of professionalism.”

Good for the soul

Such jobs also return a sense of adventure and excitement to people’s lives.

Bess points out that there are riches to be had beyond financial rewards. “As you age, your experiences become more valuable to you.”

She ticks off some side benefits she’s seen among mature workers, including the camaraderie of belonging to a team, finding a new peer group, and learning new skills.

“It keeps you young. Being retired doesn’t mean sitting at home stagnating. There can be a next phase and it can be anything that you want it to be. What do you want to do with your day? It’s an open door,” she says.

Fitzpatrick probably would agree.

“I used to get stressed out when I was working as an engineer. The river isn’t that way,” he says. “I’m satisfied with life and more at peace.”

Resources:

If you’re game for an adventure, here some jobs sites where you can jumpstart your research. Also search favorite resorts and vacation venues and check the employment section of the sites.