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RISMEDIA, June 9, 2009-(MCT)-A big energy hog in the house is the refrigerator, but so is the central air conditioner. Although central air conditioning is on only a few months of the year, the annual cost can be much greater than the annual cost of running your refrigerator.

You can get a very rough idea of what it costs to run your air conditioner by comparing electric bills from a spring month when you aren’t using it and a summer month when you are. Multiply the difference by the number of months you use your air conditioner to arrive at your approximate annual cost.

Replacing an old refrigerator or air conditioner can save you money every time you use it.

For example, if your refrigerator was bought before 1989, it probably costs about $148 a year to operate; a new one will cost $36 a year, under current efficiency standards. If your central air conditioner is more than 10 years old, a new Energy Star-rated one will cost at least one-third less to operate.

In both cases, the savings from improved efficiency will defray, if not completely cover, the cost of buying the appliance.

Information from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories, U.S. Department of Energy


Teens Can Still Find Work This Summer - And Here’s How

by Alexandra Zega

teens-homespun4RISMEDIA, June 4, 2009-(MCT)-Your teen wants to make money this summer, but jobs are scarce and competition is fierce. So what’s a hopeful young worker to do?

Traditional summer spots, such as working at a summer camp, may already be filled. But other opportunities remain for those with creativity and the will to pound the pavement, experts said.

“They have got to be really tenacious,” said Renee Ward, founder of career site Teens4Hire.org. “There is a lot of talent in the market that business owners can choose from. The younger and the inexperienced are definitely going to be floundering this summer.”

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for 16- to 19-year-olds hit 21.5% in April, compared with the overall rate of 8.9%, according to the Labor Department.

Teens face such a tough uphill battle during a recession because they have less experience than other workers and are easier for employers to let go, said Harry Holzer, a professor at Georgetown University and former chief economist at the Labor Department. Plus, teens face stiff competition for jobs from older job hunters and immigrants.

“Of all the groups in the labor market, the group that faces the most competition is younger workers,” Holzer said. “The recession has made things much worse.”
Still, there is work to be done this summer, and that means options for younger workers. Here are four key routes for teens to earn income over coming months:

1. Try New Avenues. While there is turnover at traditional employers-restaurants or retailers, for example-teens should think creatively to find summer employment, said Austin Lavin, chief executive of MyFirstPaycheck.com, a job board for teenagers.

“Teenagers understand that the job market is tough this year, and they are being more creative and applying to places they might not have applied to before,” Lavin said. “It’s good to push your boundaries.”

Walking up and down the mall and trying every store just isn’t going to cut it anymore, he said. While filing may not be the height of fun, Lavin suggested that teens also look for work in offices.

Teens who are used to working at higher-end establishments may want to lower their sights a bit this summer.

“Places that are more affordable will be hit less hard during a downturn,” Holzer said. “There’s a lot of turnover at those places even in bad times. So jobs can be identified if people look hard enough.”

2. Internships. Even though jobs are scarce, there may still be an abundance of internships, some of which are paid.

“As the economy started worsening we saw companies were worried over hiring and uncertain about hiring needs,” said Mike Schaub, executive director of the Career Education Center at Georgetown University. “But for summer internships we have not seen a decline in the number. Employers realize that one of the best ways to vet a candidate is an internship.”

Competition for internships is tough, and an inexperienced college freshman may have difficulty getting a professional internship, said Schaub. To keep up with competition, students should use various strategies to find one of these spots.
“Students can use online listings, but that should not be the only way of finding good opportunities. Companies may expect students to go directly to them, and may not post on job boards,” said Schaub.

Unpaid internships can be a good opportunity for teens who don’t need the summer cash, said Holzer. “If folks are in the position to take an unpaid internship where they are learning valuable stuff, this is a good time.”

3. Network. While some students have already found jobs, others will be looking through the summer and may even go into fall, Schaub said. Reaching out to parents and parents’ friends may ease the job hunt, and contacting alumni can be particularly helpful.

“Alumni want to give back to the university. Many students do find work by contacting our alumni. Also, as connections are nurtured, that can turn into opportunities,” he said.

MyFirstPaycheck.com’s Lavin said teens should not be shy about hitting up their folks and their folks’ friends.

“It’s about networking, telling everyone you know you are looking for work,” Lavin said. “A lot of companies are cutting back on costs, but if you have a family friend who runs an office, there might be a chance to do secretarial duties.”

4. Entrepreneurship. Now is a good time for teens to think about what they’re good at, and consider a summer business. “They can be creative and come up with ways to earn money-be a DJ, do garage sales for neighbors, tutor senior citizens on computers,” said Teens4Hire.org’s Ward.

Lavin noted that e-businesses, such as selling items on eBay, may not be the best option for teens without the right background and support: “You have to be very careful when you are starting an online entrepreneurship, but if a teenager has the skill set and support of their parents, online is a good option.”

 

 

© 2009, MarketWatch.com Inc.



RISMEDIA, June 1, 2009-Speaking to the National Association of Home Builders Spring Board of Directors Meeting, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will allow homebuyers to apply the Obama Administration’s new $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit toward the purchase costs of a FHA-insured home. Donovan said that this action will help stabilize the nation’s housing market by stimulating home sales across the country.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 offers homebuyers a tax credit of up to $8,000 for purchasing their first home. Families can only access this credit after filing their tax returns with the IRS. This announcement details FHA’s rules allowing state Housing Finance Agencies and certain non-profits to ‘monetize’ up to the full amount of the tax credit (depending on the amount of the mortgage) so that borrowers can immediately apply the funds toward their down payments. Home buyers using FHA-approved lenders can apply the tax credit to their down payment in excess of 3.5% of appraised value or their closing costs, which can help achieve a lower interest rate.

“We believe this is a real win for everyone,” said Donovan. “The Obama Administration is taking another important step toward accelerating the recovery of the nation’s housing market. Families will now be able to apply their anticipated tax credit toward their home purchase right away. At the same time we are putting safeguards in place to ensure that consumers will be protected from unscrupulous lenders. What we’re doing will not only help these families to purchase their first home but will present an enormous benefit for communities struggling to deal with an oversupply of housing.”

Currently, borrowers applying for an FHA-insured mortgage are required to make a minimum 3.5% downpayment on the purchase of their home. Current law does not permit approved lenders to monetize the tax credit to meet the required 3.5% minimum down payment, but, under the terms of this announcement, lenders can now monetize the tax credit for use as additional down payment, or for other closing costs, which can help achieve a lower interest rate. Buyers financing through state Housing Finance Agencies and certain non-profits will be able to use the tax credit for their downpayments via secondary financing provided by the HFA or non-profit. In addition to the borrower’s own cash investment, FHA allows parents, employers and other governmental entities to contribute towards the downpayment. This action permits the first-time homebuyer’s anticipated tax credit under the Recovery Act to be applied toward the family’s home purchase right away. Unlike seller-funded down-payment assistance, which was a vehicle for abuse, this program will allow homebuyers to shop for the best home price and services using their anticipated tax credit.

According to estimates by the National Association of Home Builders, the Administration’s homebuyer tax credit will stimulate 160,000 home sales across the nation- 101,000 of which will be first-time buyers who will receive the credit. Another 59,000 existing homeowners will be able to buy another home because a first-time buyer purchased their home. Given FHA’s current market share, it’s estimated that thousands of families will be able to purchase a home by allowing the anticipated tax credit to be applied toward their purchase together with an FHA-insured mortgage.

Homebuyers should beware of mortgage scams and carefully compare benefits and costs when seeking out tax credit monetization services. Programs will vary from organization to organization and borrowers should consider whether the services make sense for them, as well as what company offers the most suitable and affordable option.

For every FHA borrower who is assisted through the tax credit program, FHA will collect the name and employer identification number of the organization providing the service as well as associated fees and charges. FHA will use this information to track the business closely and will refer any questionable practices to the appropriate regulatory agencies, as necessary.

For more information, visit www.hud.gov.



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