REMAX 440/Central Blog

What is your Digital Personality?

April 19, 2012 4:50 am

When it comes to your online habits, are you a Content King or a Social Butterfly? The difference matters to businesses who want to capture your attention on digital devices.

A new IBM study of the media and entertainment market reveals that as consumers adopt an increasing number of digital devices, four distinct new "digital personalities" are emerging. This shift is compelling companies to adopt more innovative business models that deliver personalized experiences.

The "Beyond Digital" study paints a portrait of a rapidly changing audience that is adopting a wide range of digital devices at a dizzying pace. And, contrary to popular belief, most are not college students. For example, 65 percent of respondents aged 55 to 64 report surfing the Web and texting with friends while watching TV. Of those over age 65 watching TV, 49 percent surf the Web and 30 percent are texting. Eighty-two percent of surveyed global consumers aged 18 to 64 are embracing connected digital devices.

Today’s connected consumers demand instant access to personalized content on their own terms. With the growth of digital devices, one-way communication and distribution of content is no longer feasible. According to the IBM study, most users fall into one of four emerging personality categories:
  • Efficiency Experts: With 41 percent in this category, these respondents use digital devices and services to simplify day-to-day activities. Efficiency experts send emails rather than letters, use Facebook to communicate with others, access the Internet via mobile phones, and shop online.
  • Content Kings: Are generally male consumers, who frequently play online games, download movies and music, and watch TV online. This audience represents 9 percent of the global sample.
  • Social Butterflies: Place emphasis on social interaction – they require instant access to friends, regardless of time or place. Fifteen percent of consumers surveyed reported they frequently maintain and update social networking sites, add labels or tags to online photos, and view videos from other users.
  • Connected Maestros: 35 percent of those surveyed take a more advanced approach to media consumption by using mobile devices and smartphone applications to access games, music, and video or to check news, weather, sports, etc.
According to the IBM study, media and entertainment companies' payment infrastructures need to be flexible and scalable to allow a variety of innovative pricing approaches to attract consumers with different preferences to their content. The need for payment option flexibility, even for the same set of consumers, is apparent by looking at those most active in adopting new devices. This group's preferred mode of payment to watch a movie on a website is by viewing advertising that is included with the movie (39 percent of this segment chose this option), while they prefer to see movies on a tablet by purchasing a subscription (chosen by 36 percent). But to watch movies on a smartphone, they prefer to pay per use (the payment choice of 36 percent).

IBM surveyed 3,800 consumers in six countries – China, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States for this study, and also met with global representatives in broadcasting, publishing, as well as media service agencies, and telecommunication providers, to evaluate digital consumption behaviors.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

5 Ways to Take Control of Your Spending Habits

April 19, 2012 4:50 am

You might be among the many who head out on a routine shopping trip and come home with purchases you never intended to buy… and bills you never wanted to pay. Needless to say, such impulse buying is a fast way to derail a savings plan.

M&I Financial offers the following five tips for getting your spending under control:
  1. Start by developing a budget based on your income. To create financial stability, it's crucial that your spending not outpace earnings. To do this, track your spending for a few months and write down where your money is going. From there, you can make any necessary adjustments to spending in order to bring spending in line with income. Once your budget is written, don't forget to check back periodically and ensure plans are still on track.
  2. Learn to distinguish between wants and needs. While it's nice to treat yourself, it's most important to live within your means. Wants are things that are nice to have, while needs are things that are really necessary to survive. Nearly half of Americans consider a cellphone a necessity and about a quarter say the same about cable, but whether those are really necessities is debatable.
  3. Control seasonal spending. Holidays, birthdays, and back-to-school spending can all put a dent in a savings account. To keep spending at a reasonable level, set budgets and priorities before the holidays hit. To gauge how much you'll spend in the coming year – and how much you'll need to save for it – review your previous year's expenses for holidays, wedding gifts, etc., and be sure that spending is accounted for in your budget.
  4. Don't give in to social spending. The scenarios are familiar, where a friend encourages spending on an expensive non-necessity, or friends regularly wanting to meet for dinner and drinks. While it can be fun to occasionally splurge, these social spending habits can really break the bank. To avoid overspending, create a fixed budget to cover discretionary spending on things like clothes and unexpected social outings.
  5. Raise your kids to be responsible spenders. Talk to them about your family budget and give them opportunities for real-life learning. Explain where the money comes from when you visit the ATM or write a check, along with the importance of paying bills on time.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

New Bully Deterrent System Free to Schools

April 18, 2012 4:48 am

Providing schools with the right technology and free promotional materials to report and deter bullying, uTip Bully Busters from e2Campus® is a cloud-based platform that utilizes standard text messaging and can be implemented in less than five minutes.

The news from e2Campus comes on the heels of an announcement from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about the re-launch of their website

Already in place at schools around the country, uTip Bully Buster combines technology with psychology to decrease bullying and crime at school. SMS text messaging technology puts the power in the palm of students' hands – enabling them to discreetly and anonymously report a situation immediately, so schools can respond quickly.

Free promotional materials show students how to anonymously send a tip while simultaneously sending a warning to would-be bullies. When posters are displayed in a prominent area, they acts as a constant reminder to bullies that hundreds of eyes are watching and that anyone – even a friend – can now anonymously report an incidence of bullying.

The company is offering free one-year pilot programs to schools that sign up for uTip before August 31, 2012.

For more information, visit

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Consumer Credit Default Rates Decreased in March

April 18, 2012 4:48 am

Data through March 2012, released this week by S&P Indices and Experian for the S&P/Experian Consumer Credit Default Indices, a comprehensive measure of changes in consumer credit defaults showed that, with the exception of bank card, all loan types saw a decrease in default rates for the third consecutive month.

In addition, the four that did decrease posted their lowest rates since the end of the recent economic crisis. The national composite declined to 1.96 percent in March from the 2.09 percent February rate. The first mortgage default rate decreased from February's 2.02 percent to March's 1.88 percent. Second mortgage and auto loans default rates also declined from 1.20 percent and 1.22 percent in February to 1.03 percent and 1.11 percent in March, respectively. Bank card was the only loan type where default rates increased in March to 4.47 percent from its 4.41 percent February level.

"The first quarter of 2012 was largely positive for the consumer," says David M. Blitzer, managing director and Chairman of the Index Committee for S&P Indices. "Not only have we resumed the downward trend in consumer default rates that began in the spring of 2009, but we appear to be reaching new lows across most loan types. The first three months of 2012 show broad based declines in default rates with first and second mortgage, auto and composite default rates all reaching post-recession lows.

"The first mortgage default rate fell by 14 basis points in March, bringing this rate below the prior August 2011 low. The second mortgage rate fell by even more during the month, 17 basis points. Both second mortgage and auto default rates are also at their lowest in the three-plus year history of these data. While the bank card rate rose, it was not by much and is still close to the recent low reported just last month.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Spring Brings Mixture of Financial Optimism and Caution

April 18, 2012 4:48 am

Spring seems to be breathing new life into consumer’s attitudes toward their financial outlook. The bi-monthly measure of Americans' sentiments toward their overall financial security, the Country Financial Security Index®, inched up 0.4 points from February to 66.2. This uptick marks the fourth consecutive increase in financial security sentiments, the longest in the survey's five-year history.

According to the report, improvements in savings and optimism about college funding helped drive the overall increase.
  • 53 percent were able to set aside money for savings this month, a three-point increase from February. This is the highest percentage of those able to save since October 2008.
  • Those confident in their ability to send their children to college jumped five points to 61 percent.
  • Despite these gains, Americans seem undecided about the future of their financial security.
  • Confidence in retirement savings and overall financial security both dropped one point to 57 and 41 percent, respectively.
  • Americans who said their overall level of financial security was getting worse inched up two points to 39 percent.
More than any other age group, 40-49 year olds exhibited strong optimism in both their short- and long-term money matters this month.
  • 81 percent were confident in their ability to pay debts, up nine points. There was also a 13-point jump to 58 percent in those able to set aside money for savings.
  • 64 percent were confident in their ability to send their children to college, a 12-point increase from February.
  • Confidence in retirement and those who rate their overall financial security positively were both up six points to 57 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

How Green is Your Neighborhood?

April 17, 2012 4:48 am

You may be taking steps at home to live a green life, but how does your community stack up? A new online tool, 10Green, can help you assess the health of your local environment.

Enter your zip code or the name of your community and 10Green gives you the health of your location on a simple 0 to 10 scale. Developed by the renowned Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine, 10Green uses 10 air quality measures representing some of the most significant threats to human health, including carbon monoxide, large and small particulates, ozone, sulfur dioxide and heavy metals.

"If you care about the health of your body, chances are you know your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and if you care about your financial health, you probably know your credit score," says Dr. Paul Mayewski, the explorer, scientist and professor who serves as director of the Climate Change Institute. "But if you care about the environment where you live and work, how do you measure the health of your community? We created 10Green to be a place where you can easily learn about the health of the environment in your community."

In determining whether communities are healthy or unhealthy, 10Green uses the strictest health standards from those reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, European Commission, California Environmental Protection Agency, Health Canada, and the World Health Organization to assign a health score.

10Green also leverages decades of ice core research by the Institute to promote understanding of how the chemistry of Earth's atmosphere has changed as a consequence of human activities. And beyond just an overall score, 10Green gives users the health implications of their community's score and how the health of the community has changed over time.

"10Green was motivated by our years of scientific research into climate change," adds Mayewski. "People have so much information at their fingertips. It is hard to make sense of all of the data, so we wanted to give people a useful tool that helps them easily understand the implications of climate change and air pollution."

For more information, please visit

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Economic Indicator: Prom Spending?

April 17, 2012 4:48 am

Despite continuing economic sluggishness, a new national survey by Visa Inc. shows that when it comes to high school proms, Americans appear to be willing to spend ever increasing amounts. American families who have teenagers will spend an average of $1,078 each on the prom, a 33.6 percent boost over the $807 spent in 2011.

"Prom season spending is spiraling out of control as teens continuously try to one-up each other," according to Jason Alderman, senior director of Global Financial Education, Visa Inc. "It's important to remember that the prom is a high school dance, not a wedding, and parents need to set limits in order to demonstrate financial responsibility."

The prom spending data also revealed some interesting regional and income level disparities. Families in the Northeast will spend twice as much as every other region of the country. Regionally, the survey found:
  • Northeastern families will spend an average of $1,944
  • Southern families will spend an average of $1,047
  • Western families will spend an average of $744
  • Midwestern families will spend an average of $696
One troubling statistic is that parents surveyed who fell in the lowest income brackets (less than $50,000) plan to spend more than the national average - $1,307. Breaking down the spending by family income, the survey found:
  • Parents who make under $20,000 will spend an average of $1,200
  • Parents who make $20,000-$29,999 will spend an average of $2,635
  • Parents who make $30,000-$39,999 will spend an average of $801
  • Parents who make $40,000-$49,999 will spend an average of $695
  • Parents who make over $50,000 will spend an average of $988
  • Parents who make over $75,000 will spend an average of $842
The Visa survey also found that parents are planning to pay for 61 percent of prom costs while their teens are only covering the remaining 39 percent.

"One of the reasons that prom spending may be running amok is that parents are paying the vast majority of the costs, giving teens little incentive to economize," Alderman added.

Visa offers the following tips for sensible prom expenditures:
  • Shop for formal wear at consignment stores or online. As with tuxedos, many outlets rent formal dresses and accessories for one-time use.
  • Have make-up done at a department store's cosmetics department or find a talented friend to help out.
  • Split the cost of a limo with other couples, or drive yourselves.
  • Take pre-prom photos yourself and have the kids use cell phones or digital cameras for candid shots at various events.
  • Work out a separate prom budget with your child well in advance to determine what you can afford. Set a limit of what you will contribute and stick to it. If teens want to spend more than that, encourage them to earn the money to pay for it or decide which items they can live without.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Invest Your Tax Refund in Your Home

April 17, 2012 4:48 am

One way to give your tax refund legs is to invest it in your home. While the housing market may still be experiencing difficulties, real estate remains a great long-term investment. BMO Financial Group offers the following real estate-related options for your tax refund:

First-Time Homebuyers
Today's historically low interest rates along with more reasonable home prices make home buying a great opportunity and a tax refund can be used toward a down payment. There are a number of loan options along with grant and down payment assistance programs that are perfect if you are a first-time homebuyer. But, before you set out to buy a home, it's best to talk with a mortgage professional and be pre-approved.

Refinance Your Home
With rates at historical lows, refinancing may help a homeowner lower their rate or change the length of the loan's term, allowing them to pay off their loan quicker and save money on interest. It's best to check with a mortgage professional you trust who can help determine if a lower rate or different loan term makes the most sense for your personal situation.

When considering refinancing, people often worry that appraisals and closing costs will outweigh the minimal monthly savings gained. Determine how long you plan on staying in the home you're refinancing. Sometimes closing costs can be recouped in monthly savings over a longer period of time. An alternative is to use your tax refund to pay closing costs.

Pay Down Your Mortgage

Paying down your mortgage with your tax refund is also a great way to decrease your debt and increase equity in your home. If you plan on staying in your home for at least the next three to five years, consider investing your tax refund toward the principal of your mortgage.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Think Like a Burglar to Protect Your Home

April 16, 2012 4:49 am

As we move into peak vacation season, FrontPoint Security offers its top home burglary tricks along with tips to help consumers keep their homes safer from burglars.

Newspapers. Burglars look for newspapers piling up on a front door, yard or porch. Make your newspaper vanish by having delivery stopped or a neighbor collect it daily if you plan to be away.

Mail. If burglars see mail accumulating in a mailbox, it tells them the homeowners are out of town and this is likely a good pick. Make your mail disappear by having it held by the post office or picked up by a neighbor.

Lawns. Hiring someone to keep your lawn mowed while you are gone will keep it from levitating higher than your neighbors’, and can be a good investment in home protection.

Lights. Burglars watch neighborhoods to see if any houses are consistently without lights. The best way to ensure your lights don’t go dark for an extended period of time is to remotely control your lights—giving off the natural appearance that someone is home.

Pets. If you have pets that are normally seen or heard around the home, a burglar casing a neighborhood may take note when these pets are suddenly absent. For homeowners with dogs, getting a dog-sitter to check in regularly may cost no more than boarding and keeps a presence in your home.

Privacy. Social media is the latest trick for burglars. Avoid posting your travel plans or posting comments that say you are away from home. It is better to post those vacation photos after you return home.

Noise. When a burglar suspects that a home is unoccupied, he may still listen for the sound of activity once he gets close the house itself. Consider leaving a radio playing while you are away or, like lights, controlling your television remotely through home automation.

For more information, please visit

Published with permission from RISMedia.

3 Ways to Sell Your Home for More

April 16, 2012 4:49 am

Whether you plan to sell your home in the near or distant future, the right home improvement projects will not only boost your home’s appeal but also its value on the market.

Jeff Kaliner, founding partner of Power Home Remodeling Group, recommends beginning with your home’s exterior as it is responsible for making your home’s first impression. Power shares the following tips to stay on trend with home improvements this spring and summer:

Energize your exterior – Projects like updating siding, window replacement and refreshing entry doors can have a dramatic effect on your home's curb appeal for a relatively low cost. In fact, seven of the top 10 home improvement projects for 2012 are exterior projects garnering anywhere from 69 to 78 percent return on investment—the highest of any other projects this year.
Choose bold and bright finishes – Fiberglass entry and garage doors are a popular alternative to their pricey wooden counterparts in 2012. A fiberglass door is weather resistant, durable and, above all, maintenance free. This material allows you to achieve the stylish look of an elegant craftsman or rustic design with decorative glass at the fraction of the price. Bright, bold exterior colors are also popular this year. Make your curb appeal pop by choosing a shade of tangerine, yellow or deep purple for your entry door to give your home a cheery look heading into spring.
Energy efficiency is still supreme – The top green home trend for 2012 is renovating to reduce your home's heating and cooling costs. Making the most of an empty attic space by adding a bedroom, or at least finishing it with insulation, is a great way to keep conditioned air from escaping through the roof. Updating the attic also happens to be this year's third most cost effective home improvement, garnering a whopping 72 percent return on investment, and adding living space without increasing the home's footprint is an eco-friendly way to gain more square footage.


Published with permission from RISMedia.

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