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1. Know where your main electrical panel and water shutoff valve are located.
Even if you have no intention of doing your own maintenance or repair work, you should know how to cut the power and turn off the water main in an emergency. That knowledge could prevent considerable damage in the event of a burst water pipe or hose—and could even save a life.

2. Make sure your fire extinguishers are ready to perform.
A fire extinguisher that’s been sitting around for years may not work in an emergency. To make sure your extinguishers are in good order, check the dial gauges every month to see if the pressure needs recharging. If an extinguisher has been used once, even for only a small amount, it must be recharged. Look online for a local company that specializes in recharging fire extinguishers, or ask your fire department for advice.

3. Replace the batteries in your safety alarms on a regular schedule. Obviously, it’s important to have functioning batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. (These days, the two are often combined in one unit.) Even if your alarms are hardwired, they still need a backup battery in case your power goes out, so replace these batteries annually. And consider changing the thermostat battery at the same time, to avoid having your furnace malfunction while you’re away. 4. To keep appliances running efficiently, replace or clean filters as required.

Most appliances seem to have filters: refrigerators, humidifiers, water filtration systems, range hoods, furnaces, air conditioners, and more. Clean filters help your equipment function at peak efficiency and increase its life expectancy. While some filters can be cleaned and reused, most must be replaced with new ones. Keep track of which filters you need, and when they must be cleaned or replaced, by filing away any documents you received at purchase time.

5. Caulk regularly to protect against moisture.
Caulk protects the parts of your house that may be exposed to moisture. It seals gaps where water might seep in: around showers, tubs, and sinks, and on the exterior of the house around windows and doors, foundations, and driveways. Vigilant maintenance of all the caulk will ensure that water won’t cause mold, mildew, and eventual rotting. Not only is water damage expensive to repair but also it can also cause illness since some people are susceptible to mold that grows on damp drywall and other materials.

6. Seal tile grout at least once a year, and clean it regularly.
Don’t assume that the grout between your bathroom and kitchen tiles is waterproof. In fact, it’s not. You need to apply sealant to the grout annually or run the risk of water seepage. I’ve torn out many a shower to find the wall behind it so badly rotted from water infiltration that it crumbled in my hands. As an added benefit, sealant helps protect the grout against hard-to-clean staining. Some types of sealant are more labor-intensive than others, so do your research to find out what will work best for your situation.
Besides sealing your grout, Mason recommends cleaning it regularly. For eco-cleaning, try this recipe for Homemade Tub, Tile, and Grout Cleaner.

7. Clear obstructions from the clothes dryer duct.
Clogged vent systems are the leading cause of clothes-dryer fires. If you see lint around the dryer vent outside your house, you can be sure that lint has accumulated in the ducting. Every year you should clean the entire vent system, removing the flexible pipe connected to the dryer so you can vacuum it thoroughly, and using a flexible brush to reach up inside the dryer itself. Companies specialize in this service, but you can do it yourself with a kit of duct-cleaning brushes and other equipment. Annual cleaning also helps the dryer function properly.

8. Remove debris from rain gutters and window wells.
Rain gutters are meant to direct water away from the house. But when gutters fill with leaves and other debris, water can creep under shingles, sneak behind wood siding, and damage walls. At least once a year, check that gutters and downspouts are clean and clear of obstructions. And watch for clogged drains in window wells, which can result in water leaking into your basement or crawl space. Cover window wells with screening to help keep drains free of debris.

9. Clean the area around your refrigerator motor once a year.
The refrigerator fan is constantly drawing air into the area around the motor. That can cause dust to collect, blocking the motor’s air intake and forcing the motor to work harder to keep the temperature cool inside the refrigerator. It can also shorten the motor’s life span. At least once a year, pull out your refrigerator and clean the area behind and underneath to make sure the motor can run efficiently.

10. Take these small measures to extend the life span of items in your home.
Tighten the hinges, handles, and knobs on appliances, cabinets, and doors as soon as they become loose. It helps the doors close properly and saves wear and tear. Check the weather-stripping around your outside doors, and replace it when it becomes worn. This will help seal out drafts and keep insects from sneaking in.

It's easy to regard the bedroom as a design afterthought. After all, how many people actually see it? But you do spend a third of your life in there—it should be a retreat from the chaos of the world outside. And designers are always coming up with new ideas to improve the space.

Repeat after us: In 2018, your bedroom will be boring no more. If you're looking for some quick ways to shake up your sleep sanctuary, we've got you covered. Read on for of-the-now inspiration that's certain to take your boudoir from dowdy to downright dreamy.

1. A return to luxury
READ MORE HERE

You know the generational drill—or at least you think you do.Millennials, the conventional wisdom goes, are tech-obsessed, self-obsessed, debt-laden, and weirdly fascinated by beards and avocados. Generation X: cynical, self-reliant, often forgotten. Baby boomers: rebellious, materialistic, obstinate, unhealthily obsessed with late-night cable news.

But through all of their stark differences, card-carrying members of each group share one unifying goal: to live in a place that neatly checks off the boxes on their master list of needs, hopes, and dreams. As the millennials say, YOLO. Yet when it comes time to pack up the U-Haul and move to a new home, millennials, Gen Xers, and boomers all define this in different ways—and in different places.

Read more here.

It's tax time, and you're claiming those office expenses and miles logged getting to and from work, but are you taking the "Saver's Credit"? The Saver's Credit, also referred to as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit by the Internal Revenue Service, is available to eligible taxpayers who are saving for retirement, yet 64 percent of workers are unaware of the credit, according to the 18th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey.

"As a tax credit, the Saver's Credit is an important incentive to save for retirement in a 401(k), 403(b) or IRA. By saving for retirement and claiming the credit, eligible taxpayers may be able to lower their federal income taxes," says Catherine Collinson, president of nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. "Millions of Americans who are already saving for retirement could be missing out on the Saver's Credit simply because they don't know it exists. Among those who are not yet saving for retirement, the Saver's Credit could be the incentive they need to get started."

What Is the Saver's Credit?

The Saver's Credit is a non-refundable tax credit that may be applied up to the first $2,000 of voluntary contributions an eligible worker makes to a 401(k), 403(b) or similar employer-sponsored retirement plan, or a traditional or Roth IRA. The maximum credit is $1,000 for single filers or individuals and $2,000 for married couples.

"The Saver's Credit is a tax credit in addition to the benefit of tax-advantaged savings when contributing to a 401(k), 403(b) or IRA. Many eligible retirement savers may be confusing these two incentives because the notion of a double tax benefit seems too good to be true," says Collinson.

Who Can Claim the Saver's Credit?

The credit is available to workers ages 18 years or older who have contributed to a company-sponsored retirement plan or IRA in the past year and meet the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) requirements:

- Single filers with an AGI of up to $31,000 in 2017 or $31,500 in 2018 are eligible;

- For the head of a household, the AGI limit is $46,500 in 2017 or $47,250 in 2018; and,

- For those who are married and file a joint return, the AGI limit is $62,000 in 2017 or $63,000 in 2018.

Additionally, the filer cannot be a full-time student and cannot be claimed as a dependent on another person's tax return.

How Can Workers Claim the Saver's Credit?

"Workers who are eligible to receive the Saver's Credit are at risk of missing it if they use the wrong tax form. If you are eligible to claim the Saver's Credit, you should use Form 1040, Form 1040A or Form 1040NR. The Saver's Credit is not available on Form 1040EZ," says Collinson.

Another important and potentially overlooked opportunity is the IRS Free File program. Workers who are eligible to claim the Saver's Credit are also eligible to take advantage of this program that offers federal income tax preparation software for free to tax filers with an AGI of $66,000 or less. Unfortunately, a concerning 55 percent of workers are unaware of this program, according to the 18th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey. Twelve companies make their tax preparation software available through this program at www.irs.gov/FreeFile. Certain restrictions may apply.

Tips for claiming the Saver's Credit:

- If you’re using tax preparation software to prepare your tax return, including those programs offered through the IRS Free File program, use Form 1040, Form 1040A or Form 1040NR. The credit is not available with Form 1040EZ. If your software has an interview process, be sure to answer questions about the Saver's Credit, also referred to as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit and/or Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions.

- If you’re preparing your tax return manually, complete Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to determine your exact credit rate and amount. Then, transfer the amount to the designated line on Form 1040, Form 1040A or Form 1040NR.

- If you’re using a professional tax preparer, be sure to ask about the Saver's Credit.

- If you receive a refund, consider directly depositing it into an IRA to further boost your retirement savings.

"Please spread the word about the Saver's Credit by telling your family, friends and colleagues – and be sure to check whether you're eligible. Many people who contributed to a 401(k) plan or IRA in 2017 are eligible to receive it, but may be missing out because they don't know about it," says Collinson. "Those who are eligible but did not save last year can still contribute to an IRA until April 17, 2018 and may be able to claim the Saver's Credit for 2017."

Source: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies

Home sellers had it good at the end of last year, racking up profits they hadn't seen in more than a decade, a new report finds.

In the last quarter of 2017, sellers pocketed an average $54,000 over what they originally paid for their homes, according to a recent ATTOM Data Solutions report. That's up 0.49% over the previous quarter and nearly 14.6% over the same quarter the previous year.

And it's the most sellers have netted, an average 29.7% profit, since the third quarter of 2007. Thank the national housing shortage for those sky-high returns.
Read more here.