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Astoria or Bust!!

The view from the balcony off the girls' bedroom, McClure Park is across the street and downtown is just a few blocks away!

The view from the balcony off the girls’ bedroom, McClure Park is across the street and downtown is just a few blocks!

Wow, I can hardly believe that I haven’t written about our family’s big move to Astoria. Personally, it feels like a pretty incredible story and there have been tons of money conversations along the way and still pending…we are set to close on our house in Portland this week (thankfully able to rent back) and crossing our fingers as we negotiate some pretty significant repairs for “our new house” in Astoria.

For those of you I’m not connecting with on Facebook/LinkedIn, my hubby, Kevin, has accepted the Community Development Director position for the City of Astoria. It’s truly his dream job, and I can hardly wait to see the ripple effect of his work in the community. For those curious about the town, I wrote a brief history below.*

After momentarily being taken aback at the idea of moving, and how it wasn’t my current “vision” for our family, and once I opened myself up to the idea, I realized that it actually expands my vision of what’s possible for us. Yes, it’s a tremendous leap of faith and a gargantuan task, but the truth is that I’ve felt more in flow in the past few months than ever before.

Here are the highlights of just how serendipitous things have been throughout:

  • We actually decided in January when setting our family goals for the year that we were ready to sell our house…although at the time we were planning to move into Irvington (we even put an offer on a house a block from school that wasn’t accepted!)
  • So, we had already been repairing and purging and prepping to put our house on the market by May.
  • I was still on the fence about the idea of moving when Kevin left to interview, but in the two days while he was away I realized just what a golden opportunity this would be for us.
  • Kevin was given a verbal offer just the morning after he returned…we both ended up having to be patient for another month until the final contract was settled.
  • Knowing that we needed to sell/move relatively quickly, we put our house on the market the very same weekend that we went out to Astoria to go house hunting.
  • Once we were visiting Astoria with the intention of moving, I suddenly realized how similar it feels to Kalundborg where I lived in Denmark. Add the wind and rain, and I’m going to feel right at home!
  • Our place in Portland quickly to a sweet couple from Brooklyn for what seems to be the new going rate in town of $51k above asking. (The process has been seamless, we’ll very soon be renting back our house until early August).
  • The very first house that I fell in love with online is the one that we have currently pending and very much hope to buy (structural issues and all!) I’ve started thinking of it as Mit Eventyr Hus (My Fairy House). It’s an amazing Craftsman home built in 1915 for a local Finnish surgeon. On top of having a spacious upstairs, it has a library, parlor, sun porch, theater and a hot tub in the basement! The home inspector thought that the woodwork alone would cost around $250k to replicate today. In Portland’s market the house would surely be over a million dollars!
  • Serendipitously, the house is on 7th Street, and my Twin Sis, Miel, lives on 7th Avenue in Portland. Our father’s birthday was on the December 7th, her son’s birthday is on the June 7th…and we were born in 1977. Very auspicious and spooky cool indeed.
  • On top of all this, nearly everyone I meet suddenly has a connection to Astoria: neighbors, friends, coaches…the New Season’s clerk!

From our view, one of the only trade offs is the rainy climate…It rains about ten inches each month from November to January! So, on our list of plans/desires is to get some stylish galoshes and rain gear that will help us embrace the rainy season. 🙂 Our family is savoring the summer heat, knowing that we’ll soon be adapting to the coastal climate. Truthfully, Makenna actually loves the wind and rain, and even made up her own song on our first visit.

There’s so much to share about our move. As much as I will miss be just a mile from Miel and Clark, and our lovely Portland lifestyle, I am simply so excited about our new life ahead of us!

Thanks for all of your well wishes on our pending move!

Darcy

*Astoria 101: For those of you only know of Astoria New York, aka Queens, Astoria Oregon is a beautiful maritime city at the mouth of the Columbia River. It’s the oldest white settlement west of the Rockies, and is near where Lewis and Clark first set up camp at Fort Clatsop. Interestingly, the town was booming a century ago and had nearly the same population as today. Astoria was the second largest city in Oregon with a population of 8,975. The population now is just over 10,000 (From the City of Astoria website). People talked about it being the “San Francisco of the North,” but apparently it rained too much in the winter for most people to stay.

The Importance of Business Insurance: Reasons to Invest

It doesn’t matter what industry your business operates in, it is crucial that you invest heavily in protecting and safeguarding its assets. People often only associate insurance with certain industries, however, you’d be pressed to find any enterprise than wouldn’t benefit from insuring their assets. There are numerous ways that you can achieve this, whether it is generalized cover or very specific insurance.

It’s important you consider the following when looking for insurance. It pays to do your research and spend time making sure you are getting the best deal. Otherwise, you may find that you either overspend or you are not covered for everything you need to be.

  1. Accident or Injury

Every workplace has casualties, whether you own a factory driven operation or one that is office based. Businesses that operate out of an office may think this type of cover doesn’t relate to them but that’s not necessarily the case. Even small local SMEs should look into this as it could cause issues if someone does get injured and you have no cover. The simple act of an employee injuring themselves in the workplace can have devastating consequences, both in terms of long-term sickness and financial damages. Public liability and other forms of insurance can help to protect your business and reduce pay-outs in instances where you are not at fault. Without this, you are liable to pay over the odds even for minor injuries.

  1. Assets – Physical and Virtual

Business has changed a lot with the growth of the internet. Now almost every business has a broader range of assets. Even a domain name can be worth millions and businesses need to know how to protect these kind of things. An ecommerce site could generate big revenues per day so any problems with the site could result in big losses. While there is an increased focus on virtual assets and online insurance, it is important to understand the importance of protecting your businesses physical assets as well. These include anything you own, from your main office space to any facilities that you may own. Insurance coverage can protect you in the event of fire, vandalism and even acts of international terrorism. While this may seem like an unnecessary expense, it is one that can deliver huge peace of mind and it is also particularly ideal for firms with international offices. This may be more relevant to certain industries. For example, if you work in the energy sector, cover such as that provided by Catlin, protects you for working in that sector, detailing specific things related to energy and power.

  1. The right Image

Creating the right image for your business is very important. Customers need to be reassured that you are a serious business and insurance is a clear indicator of that. It’s more important than ever to gain the trust of your target market so you need to make an effort in any way you can.

How the Pension Reforms Will Affect You

The 6th April marked the official introduction of some major reforms to the pensions system. Investment charges have been re-examined, an auto-enrolment scheme has been rolled out, and the ability to pull money from pensions has been completely redefined. With practically every aspect of saving for retirement scrutinised and changed by the government, almost all of us stand to benefit from reassessing our pension arrangements in light of these alterations, so which of these changes do you most need to know about?

Increased Freedom 

One of the most important changes implemented by the Conservative government has been to give people greater power over how they spend, save or invest their retirement pots. You’ll now find that you’re able to access your entire pension fund from the age of 55. Additionally, you’ll no longer be limited to removing 25 per cent of your pension pot tax-free on only one occasion; you’ll be able to make as many withdrawals as you wish.

Free Guidance 

An additional move by the government has been to introduce free money guidance to advise people on their options and how the changes will affect them. Although these sessions will not offer personalised advice, they will provide expert general guidance to help inform your decisions.

New Products 

These changes will also mean that a number of new pension products will be made available to those considering their retirements. New income drawdown schemes, in particular, look likely to see a surge in popularity thanks to changes in their format. These alterations will mean that they’re no longer only available to those with a certain amount of other guaranteed income, and that people may be able to invest in them alongside an existing work pension.

Tax Opportunities 

These reforms have been accompanied by a flurry of tax changes, foremost among them the ability for pensioners to pass on the remainder of their pension pots to loved ones tax-free. Many will welcome this, as the children of deceased pensioners must currently pay a 55 per cent tax on their inheritance. Now, those with a parent under 75 will not pay any tax at all, whilst those with an older parent will only be taxed at their current income tax level.

Increased State Pensions 

State pensions have also been altered, which means a 2.5 per cent increase in income for those currently receiving them. This means that those reaching retirement can now expect £115.95 per week. A ‘triple lock’ has also been introduced, which means that payments will increase by whatever percentage is the highest out of inflation, average earnings or 2.5 per cent.  In addition, the two-tier system also looks set to be phased out, with the intention that everyone should receive a ‘flat rate’ state pension of between £144 and £155 a week by 2021.

How will these changes affect you?

The Basics of Home Security

Your home is more than just an investment: it’s the place your family lives and grows, and where you and your loved ones should feel your safest and most secure. So, as a homeowner, parent and responsible adult, how can you protect your home and family? How can you prevent burglaries, theft, home invasions and other dangerous scenarios?

The Fundamentals of Home Security

The basics of home security may seem obvious, but you might be surprised at how many break-ins occur as a result of unlocked doors or windows. In fact, more than 25% of burglaries in the United States are no-force break-ins. That said, the importance of secure locks and deadbolts cannot be understated. What’s more, it’s not enough to lock your doors when you’re away or asleep; to prevent home invasions and daytime burglaries, make sure your whole family gets into the habit of keeping doors and windows locked at all times.

Home security systems are also a safety fundamental. And, in addition to deterring crime, modern systems, like these home security systems in Florida, offer added benefits like motion detectors, smoke alarms and other hi-tech features, all designed to keep your property safe and secure. So, to protect both your home and loved ones, investing in a home system is just good common sense

Thinking Like a Criminal

In addition to basic security measures, thinking like a would-be criminal can help you ramp up the safety of your home. Use these tips to reduce your risk of being victimized:

  • Keep valuables out of sight. Step outside your home and see if any valuables are visible from the outside. Can you see electronics, works of art, etc. from the yard or porch? If so, invest in some window treatments, and stop enticing would-be burglars.
  •  Secure outdoor items. Motorcycles, tools and even children’s toys can attract burglars. Keep these items locked away, and be sure to keep your garage and outdoor storage spaces secure, as well.
  •  Know who’s in your home. Conduct thorough background checks before you hire someone to do work on your house or property. Also, after strangers have been in your home, check to make sure that all windows and possible entrances are locked and secure. Many burglars enter a home under innocent pretenses, then unlock a door or window so that they can return at a later date.
  •  Make sure your home looks occupied. If you plan on being away from home for an extended period, making your home look occupied can deter would-be criminals. Use timers for your lights, have a neighbor pick up newspapers and mail, and make sure all blinds and curtains are closed.
  •  Keep your lawn and hedges neat. Tall bushes, trees and overgrown shrubbery can serve as hiding spots for burglars and other criminals; therefore, you should keep everything neat and maintained.

Forming a Neighborhood Watch Group

Neighborhood watch groups can be extremely useful in preventing theft, burglaries, vandalism and other types of crime. If your community already has a watch group, sign up and lend a helping hand; if not, talk to your neighbors about your community’s need for added crime protection. Canvas your neighborhood, and suggest a meeting spot where residents can brainstorm ideas on keeping your area safer and more secure.

Your home and family deserve the best in safety and security. And with the tips provided here, you can protect your property and loved ones, and reduce the risks associated with burglaries, home invasions and other types of emergencies.

How to Talk to Your Teens About Money

How do you teach teens about finances and making good choices? How do you discuss their first credit cards? How do you talk about how to get cost effective student loans?

It’s important to keep things simple to hold their interest.

Finance can be difficult. There are many topics to discuss. You can talk about the dangers of debt. You can talk about the effects of poor credit ratings. And you can talk about money management.

But one way to keep things simple is to introduce  basic ideas about money. These ideas are the rules of thumb about spending, earning, saving, and investing. Personal money management is just a commentary on these four aspects of money.

Spending

When talking to a teenager about money, you should focus on how spending works.

There is a distinct difference between three different ways of spending:

  • Spending more than you earn.
  • Spending as much as you earn.
  • Spending less than you earn.

If you spend more than you earn, you will experience debt. This can spiral out of control. Debt, in turn, leads to self-doubt. Dwindling self-confidence soon becomes helplessness. Some people spend their entire lives stuck in this cycle of insufficiency. With credit cards, it is easy to spend more than you earn. You are under the impression that borrowed money can be  paid off. Unfortunately, the amount borrowed keeps on growing. Rather than pay on the amount borrowed, you  pay off the smallest balance on a credit card. This results in your interest adding up as the balance grows. Over time, you start falling farther behind. You should share stories of people who fell into bankruptcy following this track.

If you spend as much as you earn, then you are walking a tightrope. An unexpected expense can throw the delicate balance between income and expenses off balance. Talk about how living paycheck to paycheck creates a sense of quiet desperation.

If you spend less than you earn, then you have a chance of getting ahead. You can pay off unexpected bills.  You can embrace new opportunities.

It sounds simple to spend less than you earn. It sounds simple to avoid the trap of living paycheck to paycheck. It sounds simple to avoid spending less than you earn. Yet, this is not easy. Even the government can’t figure out how to do it.

Additionally, we live in a world of constant temptation. Advertisers spend millions to persuade us to buy unessential things.

Earnings are flexible. There is no such thing as a fixed income. Earnings depend on proven ability—either through knowledge, skills, or diligence. We earn what we deserve. A lawyer will earn more than a retail store clerk for a reason. A lawyer has spent many years in law school while a clerk learns the basics of the job in a week. A lawyer will also provide a more valued social contribution.

When you bring this up, your teenager may point to exceptions. It is not always clear that income follows value. If someone is underpaid, then they have not demonstrated their value. If they have value, but are underpaid, then they have chosen to work for the wrong company.

This, leads to a new equation: increasing your value will increase your income.

You earn the value you deliver to the marketplace.

People do not get rich by accident. And, they don’t become poor because of bad luck. The law of earning and the law of causality are tied together.

Saving

If one gets good at earning, and one spends less than one earns, then there is a surplus. Save this surplus rather than spending it on big ticket items.

Savings can help in three instances:

  1. You might lose your job.
  2. You might have unexpected expenses.
  3. You might stumble upon an opportunity to invest.

Without savings, then reality has to stay exactly the same. If nothing changes, you will always have enough income. But life is about change, and most change is unpredictable.

Investing

You can invest in yourself or in an income opportunity.

You invest in yourself under the following conditions:

  1. You get more education.
  2. You increase your knowledge.
  3. You improve your skills.

These three things improve your value to the marketplace. You have increased your capacity to earn more.

Investing can also be investing in a new business or in the financial markets.

Investing is buying assets rather than liabilities. An asset puts more money into your pocket. A liability takes more money out of your pocket.

This is a simple definition, but an important one. Many salespeople try to convince you that their product is an investment. But since you have more money going out than coming in, it’s a liability.

The Basic Rules

Once your teens understand the rules of money, they will avoid making financial mistakes. They will learn to handle everything from student loans to credit cards with responsibility because they understand the rules about spending, earning, saving, and investing.

Citations:

Credit cards for teens: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/122214/find-best-credit-cards-teens.asp

Financial literacy for teens: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/03/05/financial-literacy-teen-money-education/

Student loans: http://www.simpletuition.com/student-loans/