How to Achieve a More Meaningful Retirement

June is International Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – a designation for most people to, if nothing else, take stock in the good fortune they and their families have enjoyed, and consider contributing something for charitable purposes.

“It’s a news story that never gets old: the little kid suffering from cancer who runs in a touchdown and gets a standing ovation, or is recognized by an entire city as Batman for a day, or the little girls who dress up for prom night because, tragically, they may not make it to high school,’’ says independent retirement advisor Gary Marriage, Jr.

“Retirees, who’ve lived full, mostly blessed lives, often wish they could do something for these children or another cause that touches their heart.”

Marriage, CEO of Nature Coast Financial Advisors (www.naturecoastfinancial.com), which specializes in maximizing retirees’ finances, says charitable efforts can provide a powerful sense of purpose and meaning to life – whether they come in retirement or during the working years. Marriage, for instance, is founder of Operation: Veteran Aid, which helps veterans and their surviving spouses with long-term care expenses by qualifying them with the Department of Veteran Affairs’ Aid and Attendance benefit.

He reviews four reasons why retirees should explore charitable giving.

•  Voluntary vs. involuntary philanthropy: At the federal level, you can zero out your estate taxes by diverting what would have gone to the government in favor of your chosen cause. In a real sense, the government is a sort of charity; Through taxes, a citizen’s money goes into the social capital funnel. If you’re worried your tax money isn’t being spent wisely, consider a legitimate charity that you would like to support. There are legal leveraging techniques that can be used to make your taxed income skew more voluntary than involuntary.

•  Smart from the heart giving: Each year, Americans give about $300 billion to charity. Like any investment, carefully consider to whom you’re giving; ask plenty of questions. Also, think about giving to underfunded charities. Finally, make your money go further by donating your time and skills to the charity. You’ll likely experience even greater satisfaction when you combine a donation of money and effort.

•  The rewarding knowledge of your will: Only about 40 percent of Americans have this important legal document, which covers your estate’s executor, guardians for children and how to distribute your estate. A fourth component is gifts, which enables you to identify people or organizations to whom you wish to give gifts of money or specific possessions, such as jewelry or a car.

•  Perspective on your money: Many people say, “…but I’m not Bill Gates or Warren Buffett – let those guys give their money away.” In fact, there are many “middle-class millionaires” – those who live modestly in middle-income neighborhoods, who have a net worth of $1 million or more. “These folks have saved money their entire lives, and they don’t donate money easily,” Marriage says. “However, others in their same situation have donated some of their estate and found it among the most rewarding acts they’ve ever done.”

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

Top Kitchen Design Tips

Kitchens remain a top remodeling project in 2014, according to the Member Profile Study done by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), in time for National Home Improvement Month this May. Eighty-two percent of NARI members identify kitchens as its No. 1 service.

This year, the association’s 2014 CotY Awards program, which recognizes top projects in 25 categories, totaled nearly $73 million worth of remodeling projects and identified national trends emerging, especially in the areas of kitchen updates.

“Consumers want practical, comfortable kitchens that are efficient to use and easy to live in.” says Tom O’Grady, CR, CKBR, chairman of NARI’s Strategic Planning. “Bigger isn’t better, but homeowners still want a feeling of space, and open concept and islands are still part of kitchen trends in 2014.”

Improving the overall look and feel of the kitchen was most often cited as the main motivating factor by homeowners for remodeling, followed by improving function on the CotY entries.

Lighting:
The continuing trend of fewer upper cabinets in the kitchen creates more space for decorative task lighting, often on adjustable arms that gives the option to have the light directed where it is needed most. Decorative task fixtures in black, iron and aged brass finishes make a statement. Other trends include:

  • Pendant lights over kitchen islands continue to be a great opportunity to bring style into the mix.
  • Chandeliers in kitchens add a pretty and an unexpected sparkle and can soften up the hard lines and smooth surfaces of appliances and countertops below.
  • An oversized lightening fixture becomes a focal point in an otherwise plain room.
  • Under cabinet lights, controlled by a dimmer, provide ambiance.

Built-in cabinetry that looks like furniture

Mixing and layering finishes and woods to create a custom look is another key trend, as is built-in accent cabinets that act as framework for the rest of the cabinetry.  These cabinets, often designed tall and narrow with glass fronts provide the look of a built-in china cabinet to showcase collectables. In general, upper cabinets are less popular because they stop the line of sight, especially to backyard garden views.

  • Appliances are subtly hidden behind the cabinetry for a clean, streamlined appearance.
  • Colorful kitchen cabinetry has made a big comeback. Palettes using and mixing blues,
  • orange, browns or greens countering neutral white, wood or dark finishes are providing
  • kitchen flair.
  • Dramatic contrasts of light cabinets and dark countertops provide visual impact.

Wine storage

  • With the explosion in the wine market over the past few decades, wine is becoming more of a lifestyle choice and factoring into kitchen designs.
  • Dedicated “butler” areas for entertaining, sampling and sharing wine with guests are very popular, allowing the cook the opportunity to socialize while doing food prep.
  • Integrated wine coolers, an answer to tight kitchen spaces, are nestled into cabinetry along with wine racks to showcase a homeowners’ collection.

If you’re planning a home renovation project this year, consider incorporating some of these trends to update your kitchen. Before construction gets under way, consult with a professional remodeler about the renovation projects you have planned.

Source: http://www.NARI.org

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.