California Facing Flood Threats from “Pineapple Express”

A weather phenomenon called an atmospheric river aka Pineapple Express is set to send soaking rains and mountain snows to the state of California this week. While the moisture coming from the skies may seem like a God-send to this drought-stricken state, the flooding, rock/mudslides and even damaging winds will not be welcomed by most state residents. The National Weather Service stated earlier this week that this upcoming storm may be one of the most powerful storms to hit California since October 2009.

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The Pineapple Express gets it name due to the origin of the moist plume in the central Pacific near the Hawaiian islands. This atmospheric river is making its way down the western coast of the United States this week, dumping heavy rain from the western portion of Washington into northern California. On Tuesday, the first round of heavy rainfall soaked portions of western Washington with the bulk of the heaviest rain expected to fall on California’s west coast during the daytime hours Wednesday. From Wednesday night into Thursday, the storm system will slowly move through northern and central California as the southern portion of the strong Pacific jet stream pushes its way into the region. There is a real threat of flash flooding in many areas along the state’s western shoreline and further inland and especially in low-lying areas.

The National Weather Service
3said that anywhere from 3 to 5 inches of rain will fall in western Washington and the San Francisco Bay Area this week. Up to 8 inches of rain could come down along the Sierra foothills that are located below snow level as well as along coastal ranges and some locations in the Olympic Mountains. Flash floods, mud and rockslides are very possible in these areas as are debris flows because the ground is saturated from last week’s heavy rain. There are winter storm watches in effect for portions of the Sierras where up to 3 feet can come down between Wednesday afternoon and Friday. Travel in those areas will be hazardous as roadways will be be snow covered and slippery with visibility affected by winds that could gust in excess of 60 miles per hour. High wind watches are also in effect for many areas including the metropolitan San Francisco area.

Late Tuesday, the NWS issued a blizzard warning for northern California communities above 6,000 feet including Lassen National Park, Donner Pass, Echo Summit and Carson Pass. The warning will remain in effect until 1 pm Friday. The weather service is warning people in those communities to expect white-out conditions which could lead to roadway closures that last several hours

Simple Steps Towards Achieving Your Retirement Goals

If you are young, chances are you do not want to think about retirement just yet. Yet you will need to start planning for your retirement now, since the sooner you start planning and saving for retirement the higher the chances are that you will have a comfortable retirement that is well funded. People who put off planing for retirement early often end up struggling financially during what is supposed to be a happy and relaxing period of life, what some call the “autumn of life”. Putting off saving for retirement is the worst thing you can do for the rest of your financial life. You should open up a retirement account now if you have not done so yet and start putting away some money every pay period, no matter how small. To make things easier on you, you can set up automatic contributions to your retirement account. Even if you only put down 1% of your paycheck into your retirement account now, it will get you closer to your end goal. You can always increase the amount later.

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The key to retirement is wise financial planing with a diverse portfolio. Why a diverse portfolio? Simply put no one source of income is perfect. Retirees should have a variety of sources of income, in case one source of revenue dries up you have others to fall on. Social Security is not enough to live off of, you will need investments to supplement that social security. Merely having a 401k or a Roth plan will not cut it either.

Sources of retirement income:

* Social Security
Social security can be withdrawn at age 62, but if you wait till age 70 your payments will be much higher. Payments are guaranteed to keep up with inflation.

* 401(k)s and IRAs

Allows you to defer taxes on retirement savings and investment earnings until you withdraw your money.

* Roth accounts

Unlike 401ks and IRAs you pre-pay the income tax on Roth accounts. Withdrawals after the age of 59½ are tax free.

* Pension

Very few workers these days receive these. These are guaranteed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp, insures pensions so that you are safe even if your employer should happen to go bankrupt. You can create your own pension as well by using their own savings, by purchasing an annuity.

* Property

Having a paid off home can qualify you for a reverse mortgage which will provide you with a steady stream of retirement income.

* Stocks and mutual funds

An excellent addition to your retirement portfolio. Can help you keep up with inflation and diversify your retirement portfolio.

* Bonds

These are always secure, but tend to pay less than other sources. Yet there is one advantage to including some of these into your portfolio; Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, promise a rate of return above inflation.
* Savings accounts and CDs
To protect yourself and maximize the diversity of your portfolio, you should put one or more years’ worth of living expenses in these conservative accounts. These accounts are also backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). This source of income can be your emergency money when you are retired.

You need to crunch numbers and know exactly where you are going to be cash wise when you retire, and adjust your savings now if you find out that you came up short with your retirement funding. You will need to get a grasp of how much income you will need when you retire, so we need to estimate how much money you need to save. You should figure on replacing roughly 70% of your current income to live moderately and this is assuming you will have a mortgage already paid off by the time you retire, as housing and shelter expenses is one the highest expenses. This means when you retire you should have a monthly or yearly income of 70% of what you make now. If you want to travel often and dine out often when you retire figure on replacing 80% to 100% of your income. However if you are the frugal type, do not plan to travel often and can do without you could manage by replacing only 60% of your income when you retire.

Now that you have your base figure you need to figure out how to get to that end result. Brokerages that offer retirement planning will often have retirement calculators on their websites to help you with this. There are also calculators you can use on sites such as FINRA and Bankrate that have added options such as allowing you enter in how long till you retire, and it will show you how much your savings could potentially grow during that time. Now that you know how much money you need to save you simply need to start putting away money for your golden years. Try and make your investments as diverse as possible.

Some resources to help you plan:

AARP Retirement Calculator

http://www.aarp.org/work/retirement-planning/retirement_calculator.html


iMaximize Social Security
Helps you to maximize your social security benefits

http://www.imaximizesocialsecurity.com/


RetirePlan
Helps see your overall retirement planning by plugging in all numbers and factors to give a detailed picture of your financial status when you retire. Has a $4.99 cost.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/retireplan/id435739013?mt=8

Remember the key to financial planning for retirement is to act now and to maximize and diversify your portfolio. Acting now and planning ahead will ensure your retirement years are well funded.

What The Potential Changes With FEMA Flood Insurance Means

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If you’re a property owner who pays their premiums each year for flood insurance to protect your home and investments, there may be some changes coming your way. There is a new set of rules that is being proposed by U.S bank regulators that would make it necessary for homeowner’s to set aside their premiums in escrow accounts so that they can stay current and up to date on their flood insurance bills.

Most property owners are already aware that homeowner’s insurance does not include any flood damage coverage, but did you know that federally regulated lenders are still required to make sure that the homeowner’s that live in flood-prone areas have special insurance that cover some flooding. Even though this is in effect, still consumers are continuing to drop their coverage. When this occurs, a lender can impose an insurance policy on the borrower through force-placed insurance, but this is usually more costly to the homeowner.

These new regulations would come into effect after January 1st, 2016 and would be imposed by the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and other regulators. This was already supposed to go into effect in July of 2014, but was extended because the NFIP through FEMA has been in financial distress. The deadline for the regulation was extended under legislation that was passed last year.

When most people think of flood insurance, they are usually thinking of the National Flood Insurance Program that is controlled by the Federal Government. The NFIP covers about 5.3 consumers and businesses, and all of the policies that are sold and the filed claims are managed by private insurers.

The NFIP has been in financial distress since the middle of the last decade, due to many bad storms that hit the U.S which caused billions of dollars in damage. This program lost about $16 billion from Hurricane Katrina and about $7.8 Billion from Sandy according to FEMA statistics.

Legislation passed regulations in 2012 that was meant to stabilize the program and its finances, but it caused large hikes in the cost of premiums, which outraged the homeowners along the coastal areas. Due to the large backlash among consumers, the U.S lawmakers passed legislation to roll back increased in the flood insurance premiums.
So, what does this mean for homeowners that live in the low-lying areas that are prone to flooding? FEMA is planning an intensive audit of construction in many cities flood zones.

This is officially known as a Community Assistance Visit, and they will begin performing these between now and the spring of 2015, inspecting a handful of neighborhoods to see whether they are up to par or not. This means that the buildings that have been built in the past five years must be up to codes and must meet the requirements of FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.

An example of this would be neighborhoods in the five boroughs of New York that were badly damaged after the Superstorm Sandy that hit in 2012. FEMA will visit these neighborhoods that were expanded and redrawn after the disaster. Most of the property owners of these buildings will be required to join the NFIP.

Homes that are now being rebuilt due to damages are all in compliance with the flood-zone criteria. But, most of these communities raised the height of the building an additional two feet higher than required by the codes. This audit is required for all communities that participate in the program, but communities that go above and beyond the minimum usually can receive flood insurance premium discounts.

These communities that choose to go above and beyond the minimum can see discounts up to 45% on their flood insurance premiums according to FEMA. One city in one of the boroughs is keeping their expectations of FEMA’s visit to a minimum though, because they believe that the program may not carve out neighborhoods for the discounts. But, nonprofit organizations in the area are speculating that allowing these neighborhoods to join does make sense.
A neighborhood named Breezy Point is a co-cop that includes almost 3,000 homes, and they have taken many preventative measures to protect against storm and water damage. They have also applied for a FEMA grant so that they can build an even more extensive coastal barrier. This small community is hoping that if this barrier is high enough, than FEMA will revise the flood maps and cut down prices for the premiums. It’s a system: have sufficient protection, FEMA lowers insurance rates.

Other communities may not be so lucky though, and may not be eligible for the discounts. This is because many of the buildings have not been renovated in a long time, and they don’t meet the current standards for joining the program.

Consumers Benefits By Comparing Cash Back Cards and Their Shopping Perks

You are a person with a good credit, and you are in the market for a cash-back credit card. With so many options available out there, which one do you select? The answer to that depends on both your shopping habits and other features you desire in a credit card. For that reason, you should compare the benefits offered carefully to review the bottom line savings and maximum rewards possible with each credit card.

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Take for instance, the Chase Freedom® card. You can steadily earn 1% cash back on all purchases, and rack up to 5% cash back rewards on various categories, which change every quarter. If you are the type to pay attention to those changing categories and disciplined enough to purchase only those items that qualify you can maximize your cash back reward. Moreover, the Chase Freedom® card offers a $100 bonus cash back to new card members after spending a minimum of $500 within the first 90 days of opening the account. The introductory annual percentage rate (APR) is 0% on all purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. The regular APR is a variable 13.99% to 22.99% after that.

If you are a Bank of America customer, you may want to consider the BankAmericard™. You can earn a $100 cash back bonus after spending at least $500 on the card within the first 90 days of opening your account, and you will earn 1% cash back on all purchases. Additionally, if you are willing to charge your gas and groceries, you can 3% cash back on gasoline and 2% back at the grocery stores (at participating merchants) for the first $1500 in combined purchases in those two categories. The best feature offered with this card though is an additional on-going 10% bonus every time you choose to redeem your cash back into a Bank of America checking or savings account. The introductory APR is also 0% for both new purchases and balance transfers, but only for the first 12 months. Following the introductory period, there is a variable APR of 12.99% to 22.99%.

The Citi Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® card also offers 1% on all purchases and a $100 bonus after spending at least $500 within the first three months of signing up with them. They also offer 5% cash back in various categories which change every quarter. However, with the Citi card, the total cash back you can earn with this card is $300 per calendar year, (excluding the $100 signup bonus), unless you shop through the Citi Bonus Cash Center® where you can earn an average of 5% unlimited cash back through certain merchants who pass the discount along to you. The introductory APR is also 0% like the two other cards, and is good through the first 12 months after signing up. The standard APR is 12.99% to 22.99% following the introductory period.

If you hate the idea of having to pay attention to categories in order to maximize your cash back reward, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards credit card may be the best option for you. With this credit card you automatically earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day. The rewards will never expire while the account is open. Moreover, you can redeem your cash back reward at any time for any amount. The introductory APR is currently 0% for purchases until May, 2015. However, that is not offered for balance transfers. The standard APR is a flat 22.9%.

As you can see, it pays to spend time comparing cash-back reward cards before signing up. Depending on your needs and desires, you can find the best card for you with a little research. Staying current with the top offers is a great way to maximize the benefits with cash back and rewards credit card offers and gain valuable perks, rewards and points including cash back that can be used throughout the year towards future purchases.