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5 Secrets for Getting the Best Last-Minute Travel Deals

Summer is slipping away, and if you’re feeling the heat but think you’ve missed the boat on vacationing, the consumer editors at Reader’s Digest say it’s not too late to find a bargain.

Granted, the best deals on air travel and some vacation packages are offered months in advance. But Digest editors wrested a few cool tips from Toronto-based travel agent Brian Simpson on getting the best deals on last-minute travel:

Don’t confuse “last-minute” with “short notice.” Last-minute travel is generally accepted to mean short-notice travel, taking place within about 14 days from when you booked. However, short-notice travel means you show up at the airport and buy your ticket, as in many a rom-com movie. This method will cost you an arm and a leg, but savings of 30 to 50 percent are fairly easy to find if you can book two weeks before you pack.

Airfare deals need the most sleuthing. The best last-minute deals are often found in package deals, which include the airfare. Last-minute deals on airfare alone are rare, although tour operators needing to fill a charter flight will sometimes offer really low prices, so that’s the place to start looking if you’re looking for late-date airfare.

Mid-week travel is best. Traveling on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday can save you big bucks no matter how far ahead you book. For last-minute travel, it’s crucial, so plan a Wednesday to Wednesday vacation if you can.

Be savvy about last-minute hotel deals. The best path for late-date hotel deals may be with Priceline, where you can name your price. Hotels like it because it helps them to fill empty rooms. But you won’t know which hotel has “won” your business until you’ve accepted the deal, so it may not be the best choice if you are really choosy.

Last-minute travel is best for adventurers. You’ll find the best deals if you are willing to take a bit of potluck about destination. The search may be less successful if you’re stuck on one place and have no flexibility on vacation dates.

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What Are the Worst Invasive Plants—and How Can You Stop Them?

Invasive plants can ruin a perfectly functioning ecosystem, creating issues for years and potentially changing landscapes forever.

The key to controlling invasives is to be sure they don’t get where they don’t belong, according to The Nature Conservancy (nature.org).

The environmental nonprofit says that the best way to fight invasive species is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Every consumer can play a role in stopping the introduction and spread of invasive species.

The Conservancy says everyone can help protect native plants and animals by following these six easy guidelines:

  • Verify that the plants you’re buying for your yard or garden are not invasive. Replace invasive plants in your garden with non-invasive alternatives. Ask your local nursery staff for help in identifying invasive plants.
  • When boating, clean your boat thoroughly before transporting it to a different body of water.
  • Clean your boots before you hike in a new area to get rid of hitchhiking weed seeds and pathogens.
  • Don’t “pack a pest” when traveling. Fruits and vegetables, plants, insects and animals can carry pests or become invasive themselves. Don’t move firewood (it can harbor forest pests), clean your bags and boots after each hike, and throw out food before you travel from place to place.
  • Don’t release aquarium fish and plants, live bait or other exotic animals into the wild. If you plan to own an exotic pet, do your research and plan ahead to make sure you can commit to looking after it.
  • Volunteer at your local park, refuge or other wildlife area to help remove invasive species. Help educate others about the threat.

So what are some of the most invasive species? The Smithsonian says purple loosestrife is one of America’s most pervasive invasives. Purple loosestrife can become dominant in wetlands, producing as many as two million wind-dispersed seeds annually with underground stems growing at a rate of one foot per year.

Japanese honeysuckle is another aggressive vine prolific throughout much of the East Coast that smothers, shades and girdles other competing vegetation, the Smithsonian says.

In the Southeast, kudzu grows at a rate of up to one foot a day and 60 feet annually, smothering plants and killing trees by adding immense weight, girdling or toppling them.

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6 Financial Goals to Achieve Before You Die

(TNS)—At the end of life, your final thoughts won’t be on bad financial decisions—but before you approach the hereafter, you’ll likely have more than a few regrets about poor money management.

Fiscal distress often results from a lack of long-term planning. Failing to save enough for retirement—a decades-long endeavor—is the biggest financial regret among American adults, according to a Bankrate survey, followed closely by not having an adequately-funded emergency savings account.

Much like your physical well-being, financial health requires both good habits and a bit of luck. By setting up financial goals and working hard to accomplish them, you can focus your energy on the more meaningful parts of your life.

1. Maintain a top-notch FICO score.
You’re going to need to borrow a large sum of money at some point in your life. Want to buy a house? A car? Chances are you’re going to need to go to the bank first. The more creditworthy you appear to a financial institution, the less interest you’ll end up paying.

Guarding a super prime score, generally around 740, should be an important financial goal. Most Americans fall short. The average FICO score hit an all-time high last year, reaching 700. You should aim higher—although don’t stress over trying to get a perfect mark of 850. Life’s too short.

How do you improve? Pay off all your credit card bills in full every month, on time. Use no more than 20 percent of your available credit and keep your oldest accounts going even if you don’t need them.

2. Have a six-month emergency fund.
Amassing six months’ worth of spending in a high-yield savings account is really hard. Depending on where you live and how much you earn, you’re looking at a stash of somewhere between $20,000 and $50,000. Only 39 percent of Americans would be able to pay for a $1,000 emergency with cash, according to a Bankrate survey. Wages have mostly stagnated since the Great Recession, and low interest rates are a headache for savers.

An emergency fund is a hedge against disaster. If you were laid off, it would let you take your time picking your next role. If you got sick or the roof caved in, you wouldn’t have to go into debt. If you’re starting from scratch, place any windfall you receive into a savings account. You can even name the account “break in case of emergency.”

3. Become a 401(k) millionaire.
How much you need in retirement savings depends on your current standard of living, but you may face some adjustments after calling it quits. Half of all households are at risk of spending their golden years with less spending power than they are used to, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

The old rule of thumb suggests you need eight times your final income in retirement savings (there are more detailed measures you can use, or you can hire a financial planner). Still, retirement saving is relatively straightforward. Save 10 to 15 percent of your income, including a company match in your 401(k), and invest in low-cost diversified funds. One quick and easy way is to pick a target date fund that gets more conservative (i.e., more bonds) as you age.

4. Pay off your mortgage.
Even if you have a low mortgage rate—mortgage rates have been muted by historical standards since the onset of the housing crisis—owning your home outright is one of the most financially liberating steps you can take, and a sure way to save money.

Let’s say you put 10 percent down on a $262,500 home with a 30-year fixed rate mortgage at 3.88 percent. You’ll end up paying $164,000 in interest alone. Taking out a 15-year loan, instead, would save around $90,000.

Even if you stick with the average loan length, consider contributing extra to your monthly payment whenever possible, and join the 36 percent of mortgage-free homeowners.

5. Make a major purchase with cash.
Despite an improving jobs picture and stock markets ascending to new heights, Americans are struggling with savings and debt. The personal savings rate has dropped dramatically over the past few years, while the percentage of families with credit card debt jumped by nearly six percentage points to 43.9 from 2013 to 2016, according to the Federal Reserve. The average indebted household owes $5,700. With the Fed poised to raise interest rates multiple times in 2018, taking on debt is an ever more expensive proposition.

The next time you need to make a big purchase, like a family vacation or a new car, try to make it completely with cash; you’ll not only enjoy the thing you just bought, but you won’t face the anxiety that accompanies new debt. To ramp up your savings rate, automatically siphon a small percentage of your biweekly paycheck into an earmarked savings account. Saving automatically is the quickest way to build up your cache.

6. Pay off student loans.
Student loans afflict people of all ages. Nearly one in six Americans have student debt, with a median amount of $17,000. If you took on loans for post-grad studies, you owe $45,000. Meanwhile senior debt has quadrupled over the past 10 years, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

If you’re already putting enough away for retirement—generally 10 percent of your pay, including any employer match—and have a fully-funded emergency fund, start working overtime to pay off your student debt. Put any raises, or your tax refund, to chip away at the mountain of debt.

©2018 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Partnering IRA Funds: An Alternative Way to Fund Your Real Estate Investment

Did you know you can partner with other funding sources to increase your investment potential? Self-directed IRAs are the only retirement arrangements that allow individual investors the freedom to pursue alternative investments, such as real estate. Investing in real estate with a self-directed IRA offers many benefits to those who are looking for creative ways to save for the future. Investors have complete control over their investment choices. Unlike other IRAs, you’re not limited to stock, bonds or mutual funds. Self-directed IRAs provide the opportunity to save money for the future on a tax-deferred or tax-free basis. In addition, an IRA is considered a separate entity that can conduct business with others. This is a common strategy used in real estate investments. The process is fairly simple, but be sure to adhere to IRA regulations to avoid engaging in any prohibited transactions.

How do I partner with others to purchase real estate using a self-directed IRA?

  1. Identify the partner you would like to invest with.
  2. Perform your due diligence and confirm that the investment fits your strategy.
  3. Combine your self-directed IRA fund with other funds to purchase the property.
  4. Your IRA will own a percentage of the property and must be stated on the title when the transaction is recorded.
  5. All income and expenses (on a proportionate basis) from the property flow in and out of your IRA and not your personal finances.
  6. If the property is sold, your IRA receives the portion of the proceeds proportionate to the percentage of ownership.

A self-directed IRA can partner with anyone at the time of initial purchase, but after the transaction is complete, the IRA cannot conduct any business with a disqualified person. Doing this could lead to significant tax penalties.

The following people are considered disqualified persons:

  • You
  • Your spouse
  • Your lineal ascendants and descendants, and their spouses
  • Any person providing plan-related services (custodians, advisors, fiduciaries, administrators)
  • Any entity (business, corporation, partnership) of which you own at least 50 percent, whether directly or indirectly

What are the ways in which I can take advantage of the partnering strategy to help me save for retirement?

  1. Partner With Another Investor
    Investors are on the lookout for new opportunities, and networking with like-minded individuals can be a great way to find an investment partner. Partnering with a fellow investor offers the potential to learn from each other, as well as disperse risk between two people.
  1. Partner With a Relative
    While you are not allowed to buy from/sell to relatives, as they are considered disqualified persons for these purposes, you do have the option of partnering with them to purchase a new investment. This can be a great way to save for retirement together with a loved one.
  1. Partner With Yourself
    It is possible to partner your self-directed IRA funds with your personal savings for the purchase of a new asset, such as a real estate property.
  1. Partner With Another Self-Directed IRA
    Partner your account funds with the funds in another IRA to maximize your purchasing power. Find another motivated retirement investor to explore your possibilities.
  1. Partner With a Group
    Sometimes partnering with one account, one investor or only yourself will not provide enough funding for the investment you are interested in. In this case, you can partner with a group! Partnering can be a great tool for retirement investing, but it is important that you understand how to utilize this strategy for success.

It’s Easy to Get Started
All you have to do to get started is open an account and fund it. There are three ways to fund your self-directed IRA: transfer or rollover an existing retirement account, such as an employer’s 401(k), into a self-directed IRA; or make regular, annual contributions to your account. Once your account has cash in it, you can start investing immediately! As you read in this article, you can partner with other investors until you have enough cash to invest in real estate on your own. Download our free report about partnering your self-directed IRA with real estate here to learn more.

Disclaimer: Before you invest in this business sector using your IRA, it is best to consult with your investment, legal and tax advisor. Entrust does not endorse or recommend any of these investments. Proper due diligence by you, the IRA holder, is recommended before entering into any transaction.

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The post Partnering IRA Funds: An Alternative Way to Fund Your Real Estate Investment appeared first on RISMedia.

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Dorothy B. "Dot" Rhone
Broker/Owner
Century 21 Covered Bridges Realty, Inc.

ABR, CRS, CRB, GRI, e-PRO, SRS, SFR, One America
Office:  570-784-2821 x 19
Cell and Text: 570-204-0279
Email: Dot@DotRhone.com
Licensed in PA # RM421649

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