How to get your offers accepted to buy properties


The biggest challenge facing most real estate investors is making acceptable offers, especially when buying properties is the basic foundation of real estate investing.

Unless you buy properties, you cannot make any money.

Here is how to make offers that get accepted.

The offer you make depends on the type of property you are buying.

1) Buying from motivated sellers

If you buy houses from motivated sellers, it is necessary to have the following pieces of information:

a) Market Value

Do your due diligence to find out conservatively how much the house would be worth in perfect condition. You must have this information before you can make any offer.

b) Mortgage balance

You must get this information before you can make an offer. A seller who is not willing to disclose this information is not motivated enough. Move on to a motivated seller.

The mortgage balance must allow you to buy the house and still leave you with a profit. It must allow you to make a profit and own it free and clear.

c) Repairs needed

It is possible to estimate repair costs with the information provided by the seller.

You must know how much you need to fix up the house before you can make an offer. Of course, I like to see the house and do my own repair estimates.

d) Asking price

If the owner is asking for too much money given the above 3 pieces of information, the deal might never happen.

A good asking price must take into account the market value, mortgage balance and repairs. You can then make an offer based on the asking price. Make an offer if the mortgage balance allows you to make a profit.

Even though it is necessary to consider the seller’s needs, no offer can be too low. If they are facing foreclosure, then they probably need some money to move, or their asking price might be just enough to get away from the property.

If the mortgage balance is too high compared to the value of the house, it does not make sense to make an offer. Move on to the next deal.

There is no bad offer, except the one you have not made. Always make the offers that make sense to you. You’ll be surprised how many get accepted.

2) Buying foreclosed properties

The asking price and repairs are the only important considerations to make in this case. Banks selling these properties are willing to negotiate.

Most REOs are listed below market value. Depending on your exit strategy, if the numbers are close to making sense, by all means make an offer.

Lastly, remember to make your offer lower than the asking price.

by: Simon Macharia 

http://www.articlecity.com/articles/home_improvement/article_6984.shtml 

Five ways to invest in gold

If that includes you, you’re not alone. A recent survey shows that nearly half of U.S. investors don’t believe they’re knowledgeable enough about the precious metal to make a decision about adding gold to their portfolios. The World Gold Council highlights these five options to get you started: 
1. Gold Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
Since 2004, U.S. investors have been able to buy Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) backed by physical gold through their brokerage accounts on a regulated stock exchange, just like a share of a company’s stock. Ownership of gold ETF shares provides investors with a vehicle that reflects the performance of the price of gold bullion, less expenses of the ETF.  With these gold ETFs, individuals do not need to physically store gold, so no need for a safe or safety deposit box. Different types of gold ETFs are available on the market but not all are 100 percent backed by physical gold, so read the prospectus carefully and ask your financial adviser to help you select the one that best suits your needs. 
2. Gold mining stocks
With this option, you are investing in a gold-mining company, rather than gold bullion. Depending on the company, you may be able to generate income from dividends. While the value of gold stocks has historically been closely tied to the price of gold itself, other factors can determine the value of the individual companies. More than 300 gold-mining companies are listed and publicly traded in the U.S. 
3. Gold Accumulation Plans (GAPs) 
Similar to a conventional accumulation plan, GAPs allow investors to set aside a fixed amount of money every month in order to purchase gold on various days. This cost averaging cushions investors from short-term variations in the price of gold. When the account closes, investors could have one or more of the following alternatives: receiving bullion bars or jewelry or simply selling the gold for cash.
4. Gold bars
Gold bars range in size from just a few grams to the 400 ounce London Good Delivery bars most people have only seen in the movies. There are many different refineries that produce gold bars and most companies that sell gold will offer a variety of sizes to suit various budgets.  
5. Gold coins
Issued by governments around the world, gold bullion coins are a popular choice for investors. Their value is primarily based on their fine gold content. Bullion coins differ from numismatic or collectable coins, which are valued on rarity, design and finish rather than their gold content. Many mints will offer “proof” versions of the bullion coins at a premium to the gold content for collectors and those looking for an heirloom gift for milestone celebrations such as a birthday or wedding. American Eagle coins are a common form of bullion coin in the U.S. and other popular bullion coins that are widely available include the Gold American Buffalo, Canadian Maple Leaf, South African Kruggerrand and Chinese Panda and Austrian Philharmonic.
Where to buy: Both bullion coins and gold bars may be purchased online or by phone from companies that specialize in precious metals.
“There are a number of ways to invest in gold and each can play its own role in your portfolio. Owning an ETF, bars or coins and mining shares may be viewed as complementary investments,” says Juan Carlos Artigas, Global Head of Investment Research at the World Gold Council.
The World Gold Council (www.gold.org) provides useful information on why, how and where to invest in gold.
The information provided is for educational purposes only. Consult your financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

How to flip a house using project managers


With framing subcontractors coming in as scheduled, I all of a sudden realized that the floor that they would be framing over had some very serious issues.

Pounding on my cell phone to find someone… Anyone to help me on literally zero notice, I realized the only person I had that could do it… Was me.

So I dusted off the flooring toolbox, started pulling out the old flooring tools and began ripping up floorboards with my trusty Wonderbar.

Not having done this kind of work in a few years, one of the boards I ripped up broke loose and smashed me square in the jaw.

Dazed and bloodied… And luckily not having to call the emergency crew… I realized something…

When you’re first learning how to flip a house, there’s lots of different ways to do it.

Especially when it comes to the rehab, there are a number of different paths to take:

Some like to do all the rehab work themselves.

Some don’t want to do any of the rehab work themselves.

And some pick the middle path, doing some work and then having others do the rest.

Which way is best?

How to Flip A House – Do It Yourself?

Personally, I don’t mind doing some of the rehab work…just as long as I don’t have to do all of it.

Unless I feel the overwhelming need to pound a sledgehammer through a few walls in the demo… I’d much rather pay someone else to do it.

Personally, I’d rather spend my time looking for the next deal.

I used to be a flooring guy for years, so if I have to do some of the work on a rehab, I will. And if my experience this past week tells me anything, I think its best to stick to overseeing the rehab work instead of doing the rehab work.

However, when you’re learning the basics of how to flip a house, there’s no doubt that getting your hands dirty on your first house flip is a great way of really getting to know the business.

Doing at least some of the rehab work yourself to start off isn’t a bad idea… But then getting others to do it for you afterward is a great way to scale things… As well as limit potential trips to the Emergency Room.

The Pros and Cons of Hiring a GC to Do Your Flips

In an ideal world, hiring a general contractor (or “GC”) to do all your rehab work is the best possible way to go when you’re house flipping.

But that’s only if you can make the numbers work.

It’s certainly nice to have one single point of contact to do all the dirty work for your house flips and rehabs while you’re out looking for the next deal or rounding up potential buyers.

This way is far easier on you (and your chin), especially if you’re doing it part time or have other real estate deals to tend to.

On the flip side, in many areas of the country it’s extremely difficult to get a contractor to do the work for you and still stick to your 70% Rule in hopes of getting the ARV and profit margin to make the deal work.

The issue is that the really good general contractors out there tend to use the same subcontractors and don’t bid out each job they do. They have “their guys” who do the subcontracting and they’re oftentimes reluctant to try to negotiate with them.

On top of that, remember that a GC adds on 10-20% over what his subcontractors charge him. There’s nothing wrong with that because everyone needs to make a profit here.

And believe me, on many jobs, your GC really earns that wage!

A good tip here is if you are dead set on using a specific contractor, you might be able to negotiate a lower management percent or even none at all for a percentage of the profits on the deal. General contractors also can be good sources of potential funding as well.

If you are just learning how to flip a house…everything is negotiable in house flipping!

Should I Do The Rehab Myself?

To answer this question, it’s going to depend on a lot of different factors, but the biggest factor of all is you.

For me, it was a logical step to do the rehab on my first few house flips. As I said before, I was in the building trades full time and was used to being on job sites. I love construction and to me, turning a run-down shack into a beautiful place to live is one of the coolest things around.

So I went out and got my state contractor’s license, ready to GC my first house flip all on my own.

As I look back on it, despite the challenges, it was great experience. Primarily because I could see firsthand how the whole operation runs. This on the job experience has really helped me in my house flipping career – so much so that when I hired the job out in the future, I knew exactly how to set the rules and how to follow the whole house flipping process.

There’s nothing like firsthand experience to teach you that.

In House Flipping…Know Thyself

Do you absolutely need to do it this way?

I don’t think so. But think of general contracting your first house flip as a bit of “on the job training”. It’s not necessary – but it’s surely an experience you’ll refer back to many times in your house flipping and real estate investing career.

If you have a full time job and are rehabbing one house at a time, then you may very well have the time, but this largely depends on the kind of job you have as well.

If you have a fair amount of flexibility with your job hours, then perhaps it may work.

If you’re tied to a desk all day and an hour commute away from the geographic area you do your flip in, then perhaps not.

However, only you can answer that.

Do understand this though; in order to effectively manage any real estate investing rehab, you will have to be available to manage the sub-contractors by phone, early in the mornings or in the evenings. And if you have other things on your plate, like a job, a wife, kids… This gets tiresome.

There will be times when you’ll need to go on site and if you are on a business trip a thousand miles away at the time, it might be tough to pull this off.

For me, my flooring business allowed me the flexibility to stop in on the job site and check on things whenever I needed so I was fortunate enough to have the flexibility.

You on the other hand, may not.

Ideally, if you have enough money saved up to quit your day job and become a full time Real Estate Investor then this will be much easier for you to manage. Plus at that point, it IS your job!

So if you’re not sure if being the general contractor is right for you, then you may want to try it to see if you like it.

But if you’d rather play it a bit safer, then there is another choice that may be right for you.

Behind Door Number 3: The Project Manager

Short of hiring a full blown general contractor, you could use a project manager instead. We’ve found this to be a very effective way to rehab house flips, especially where hiring a GC is cost prohibitive.

For example, you could approach a smaller, hands-on type of licensed carpenter who has experience working with other subcontractors. You could then negotiate a fee based on his involvement in the project.

I’ve found carpenters and other subs very receptive to this arrangement. On top of the money they make doing the other work on the property, he’s getting paid an override on how well he manages others.

Like I said before, everything is negotiable in real estate investing and house flipping, so be creative here. And remember it’s about “win-win”.

For example, you could do any number of these financial arrangements:

    Flat Fee: Simple enough. Pay a flat fee to oversee the job. No real creativity here.

    Partnership: Work out a partnership or an equity stake in the property. This is a very creative way to handle things. I wouldn’t suggest this strategy on your first flip, but its one to consider.

    Percentage: Pay a percentage of the overall job that may be smaller than a typical general contractors cut. If he’s good, this could really save you.

    Flat Fee and Performance Bonus: Pay the project manager a project management fee of around $2,000 and then assign bonuses for meeting timelines and budgets. The bonuses really keep the project manager motivated because he has a skin in the game. You pay some money upfront, but even more when they hit performance metrics.

Whatever you do though, do your best to establish a fee that works for the both of you. The fee you pay is largely dependent on your location and the going rates that project managers are typically paid.

You can get this kind of information from your real estate investment mentors, from other real estate investors in the area, or at your local REIA meetings.

Where to Find Project Managers

We’ve found that finding someone young, hungry and motivated is the best profile for success. It may differ for you, but these are the kind of guys (it’s usually guys here ladies) who will put in the extra hours and get things moving in the right direction. Young, ambitious and smart is always a good profile to look for.

There may be some ideal project manager candidates in our backyard at technical colleges. These newly graduated students are typically hungry and have a good background that could be ideal for your project. In some cases, if you find a good one and your budget allows it, put them on your payroll and keep them working for you full time.

More often than not, freshly minted students for what they may lack in “real world experience” may more than make up for it with all the background knowledge from school in addition to the computer and technical knowledge for running budgets and keeping things humming smoothly.

Of course, before you go and hire a full time person to manage your flips, make sure you’re in the position to afford it as well as have enough projects going on to keep him or her busy on a regular basis.

So whether you do the rehab on your own, hire a general contractor or get a project manager, you can do well and make money any of these three ways.

Author: Mike LaCava

Mike’s Website: http://www.houseflippingschool.com

Steps for creating the ultimate game day space

Store away the things you don’t need

Since this space is likely to have quite a few visitors, it’s essential that you can always find what you need and your buds have plenty of space to celebrate. Tip one: Never lose the remote. Velcro works great for securing the remote to a designated space on the wall; that way it’s always in the right place. Tip two: cut back on the clutter. Consider installing some shelving units – nothing says team pride more than painting the selves in your team’s colors. If you don’t have the space, consider purchasing furniture pieces that do double work, such as a storage ottoman with a hidden mini-fridge or a chair with a built-in cooler.

Add some team spirit

Your favorite team doesn’t have an ivory colored locker room, so why does your man cave? Embrace your team colors with a fresh coat of paint, a simple and cost-effective way to update your space. If your team has bright colors, consider painting a few items or striping the walls so it is not too overpowering. When painting the walls, pick up a Purdy White Dove roller cover. It’s especially great for applying paint to large areas and can be easily cleaned and ready for multiple colors. White Dove covers work with all paints and exterior stains, especially where a smooth, lint-free finish is desired.

Allow your collections to manifest

Whether you enjoy building mini airplanes or have a slight movie obsession, make the space your own and showcase that plane collection, baseball memorabilia or movie theme. Having a place to enjoy your hobbies and your friends is a smart way to save space and showcase what you love. If you don’t have any collections, consider hanging a few posters of the hometown teams. Looking to brag a little more? Create a custom banner symbolizing your championship last year in your fantasy football league.

Create your own halftime activities

You could sit there and watch the commentators and commercials for 20 minutes, or you can add some fun and competitive spirit to your man cave. If you have a small space, consider breaking out games like darts or cards. If you have more space, think about incorporating some larger games such as a vintage pinball machine or a pool table in the room.

Feed your friends

Designate an area of the man cave for food and beverages. To really set your space off, consider a vintage-styled popcorn machine or hot dog roller cooker. A slow cooker is also a game day essential for making chili. Sport themed plastic bowls are great for snack foods such as pretzels and chips.

By following these simple tips, the guys will be enjoying the game and your awesome space in no time.

Selecting a trustworthy mover is the first step in avoiding moving day headaches


Americans are on the move. The United States Census Bureau estimates that 12.5 percent of Americans – nearly 40 million people – changed residences each of the past two years. While many turned to moving professionals for assistance, some learned the hard way that not all moving companies are created equally. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) received nearly 3,000 complaints about moving companies last year alone – a double-digit increase from the prior year.

Some good news arrived in October in the form of a new law that provides additional protection for victims of rogue moving companies that hold belongings hostage in the interest of scamming consumers to pay unexpected fees. The new law gives FMCSA the authority to force the return of consumer belongings in addition to the ability to levy fines of up to $10,000 per day.

Unfortunately, our industry has been plagued by moving ‘companies’ that advertise unbelievable ‘deals’ that turn out to be consumer scams, says Jon Sorber, executive vice president of Two Men And A Truck, the nation’s largest franchise moving company. The new regulations are a welcome change for those of us committed to operating legitimate moving companies, but they are just a start. Education is really the key to making sure consumers avoid the hassle of a moving scam in the first place.

Sorber suggests consumers ask the following questions before hiring a mover:

1. Can your family, friends and co-workers make a referral? It’s likely that you know several people who’ve hired a moving company in the past year. Why not tap the resources of people you trust to share their experiences?

2. Does your mover have a brick and mortar facility you can visit? Often the “rogue” mover operates from a storage unit or perhaps with no office at all. If you are dealing with a legitimate moving company, they will have an office with trucks, employees, boxes, supplies, etc.

3. Is your mover licensed in your state? The majority of states require a formal license to operate as a mover, and selecting a licensed, insured mover is your best bet in guaranteeing a hassle-free experience.

4. What community or industry associations does the moving company have? Is your mover in good standing with the Better Business Bureau? Are they active members of the local Chamber of Commerce? Choose a mover who is valued and trusted within your community and you’ll likely eliminate any concern of questionable practices.

5. Does your mover offer free moving quotes? A legitimate mover is going to provide free estimates of your move before a single item is moved. If they refuse to do so, keep shopping regardless of how good the deal sounds.

Paul Oakley is senior vice president for Government Affairs at the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA), the moving industry’s largest trade association. He and his team began working with Congress to develop the new regulatory provisions. Like Sorber, he believes the new laws provide some measure of safety, but cautions that more work must be done to eliminate dishonest moving practices.

The laws going into effect directly impact policing of the industry, says Oakley, but ultimately we must have safeguards that make entry into the industry more difficult, tougher enforcement against bad actors, and a greater effort needs to be made to educate consumers on how to choose a proper moving company.

Two Men And A Truck offers more questions consumers should ask before hiring a mover at http://www.twomenandatruck.com/moving-questions. Consumers might also consider AMSA’s Before You Move checklist at http://www.moving.org.

One fall with osteoporosis can completely change your life


(NC)-For a person with osteoporosis, even a minor fall like a slip on the stairs or fall from a seated position can cause a bone to break, leading to decreased independence and even death.

 

Within the first year of suffering a fracture, one in five women will die of complications related to the fracture. Of those who survive, 40 per cent will suffer from disability. In this case, prevention is the best medicine.

 

The good news is that it is possible to make simple changes inside the home to reduce risks of falls, like this:

 

Living rooms and hallways

 

• Keep hallways clear and free from clutter and obstacles by moving coffee tables, plant stands and magazine racks away from high-traffic areas.

 

• Choose non-slip rugs or add a non-slip pad under all area rugs.

 

• Anchor electrical cords close to the walls and ensure there are no loose extension cords.

 

Stairwells

 

• Wooden staircases should have a carpet runner for traction.

 

• Ensure there is handrail that is sturdy and easy to grip.

Kitchen

 

• Keep the kitchen organized so that everything is easy to access.

 

• Wipe up liquid, grease or food spills in the kitchen immediately.

Washroom

 

• Use non-slip bath mats to absorb splashes and add slip-resistant stickers to the tub.

 

Outdoors

 

• Install outdoor lights at all entrances to the home and ensure the lighting is bright enough to see clearly at night.

 

• During winter months, ensure the driveway and entrances are shoveled and salted.

 

More information is available by talking to your doctor, or online at http://www.healthandbone.ca.

Behind in saving for retirement? Approaches to catching up

On average, baby boomers say they have saved or invested $275,000 for retirement, but believe they’ll need a median of $750,000 to live comfortably, according to a Boomers & Retirement Survey released by TD Ameritrade, Inc. (“TD Ameritrade”), a broker-dealer subsidiary of TD Ameritrade Holding Corporation (NYSE: AMTD). That means some boomers may face a shortfall of nearly a half a million dollars as they head into retirement.

Smart retirement planning, thoughtful choices and a handy -option called a “catch-up contribution,” can help boomers regain ground lost during the recession. A catch-up contribution allows people older than 50 to increase their contributions to their IRA or employer-sponsored retirement plans beyond the usual limits for such tax-deferred retirement plans.

“Anyone approaching retirement should consider different opportunities, like catch-up contributions, that might make sense for their retirement investing plans,” says Lule Demmissie, managing director, retirement, TD Ameritrade. “These catch-up contributions could help workers 50 years and older save thousands more – perhaps even hundreds of thousands of dollars more – toward their retirement. When planning for retirement, every dollar counts, especially when it’s going into a tax-deferred vehicle.”

Demmissie offers some guidance for baby boomers approaching retirement:

* There is no standard target amount for retirement. When setting a target for your retirement investing or savings, you need a realistic idea of how much you’ll need to maintain the standard of living you desire in retirement. Online calculators and tools, like those found on TD Ameritrade’s online retirement center can help you set goals by exploring various real-world scenarios that might impact your assets over time and at retirement. For example, do you have health challenges that may create medical expenses? Perhaps you and your spouse would like to travel when retired. Different objectives and circumstances will influence how much you’ll need to save in order to live comfortably.

* Don’t rely on Social Security benefits, but don’t overlook them, either. They should be a part of your overall retirement plan, but not the heart of it. Unfortunately, 65 percent of retired boomers said they rely on Social Security benefits, and nearly one-third said they wouldn’t be able to live comfortably without these payments, according to TD Ameritrade’s survey. “The best way to avoid having to rely completely on Social Security is to set a retirement savings goal and work toward it prior to retiring,” Demmissie says.

* Take advantage of catch-up contributions. As long as you will be 50 (or older) by the end of the calendar year, you may be eligible to contribute an extra $1,000 per year toward your IRA until you turn 70 (which is the last year to contribute to a traditional IRA). If you save an additional $1,000 per year for 20 years and get a 5 percent rate of return, you could have an additional $34,719 toward retirement. Fully fund your IRA with $6,500 a year between ages 50 and 70, and that could amount to an additional $225,675 for retirement.

“Remember, it is never too late to start planning for retirement,” Demmissie says. “If you experienced financial setbacks that stalled your retirement efforts, it may just mean you have to adjust your retirement expectations, work a little longer or think of other means of support that you may have not considered before. But it’s never too late to get started.”

Which comes first: The real estate deal or the buyer’s list?


This question is kind of like another question where people can’t seem to agree on the answer; “Which came first; the chicken or the egg”? Real estate investors all have a different opinion when they are asked whether you should find a deal first or start a buyer’s list and then find a deal.  For me, the answer has always been “the deal.” If you have a great deal, you can always find a buyer for it.

I had someone email me recently that said they had wanted to begin wholesaling houses for a couple of years, but he just couldn’t bring himself to buy that first investment property. He was afraid he wouldn’t be able to sell it. This man had spent a number of years learning the business, but had become paralyzed with fear over this prospect of putting a house under contract that he wouldn’t be able to sell.

If you are just getting started and you find yourself having the same problem, here are 4 tips for you.

1. Know What a Good Deal Looks Like

This is no doubt the hardest part when you are brand new. You almost always pay too much for your first couple of deals. Before you sign on the dotted line, run your potential deal by someone that is an experienced investor. Marginal deals are hard to sell.  If you have any doubt about the numbers or the area where the house is located, just walk away and find another deal. There’s always another one around the corner.

2. Know Where Investors Like to Buy

It won’t do you any good to get a house under contract at a great price if it is in an area where investors don’t like to buy.  Ask experienced rehabbers and landlords where they like to buy. Be sure to find out what types of properties they like, and the price range they prefer. In general, you will be pretty safe in bread and butter neighborhoods; the kinds of neighborhoods for first time homebuyers.  In my area there is a market for more expensive houses, but there are fewer investors in this group.  Buy houses that would work for either a rehab that would be sold to a retail buyer, or a home that would make a great rental and they will always be in demand.

3. Put an Escape Clause in Your Contract

This is vital especially when you are brand new.  Make the deal subject to inspection or partner approval. This is your safety net. It will make it easier for you make offers with confidence.

4. Begin Immediately to Build Your Buyer’s List

There is nothing like having a good buyer’s list to call or email when you have a property you want to sell quickly. It is truly a wholesaler’s secret weapon.  These folks will be loyal repeat buyers if you always have great deals for them, and if you conduct your business with them in an ethical manner 100% of the time.

Implementing these 4 tips will make it easier to make those first offers and get your first few houses under your belt.

Finding a Buyer for Your Deal

There are a number of ways you can quickly find a buyer for the property you have under contract even if you don’t have a buyer’s list.

You can take the deal to your local REIA group where you will find a group of people that are looking for their next house.  At my monthly meeting, we have a table set up for vendors and for folks that want to put out fliers about properties they have to sell. This is usually the first place people head after signing in.

You could list the house on Craigslist. I have sold several properties there, but I would rather much sell to someone at my REIA group; they are usually more experienced investors.  But even if they are brand new, they will almost always be educated to some degree if you find them at this meeting. Most investors are more than willing to help them if they can close the deal.

Concentrate on getting a great deal, and you can be sure you will find a buyer.

Author: Sharon Vornholt

Sharon’s Website: http://LouisvilleGalsRealEstateBlog.com

New ways to enjoy fall’s bounty



Here’s a sophisticated plate to serve while friends and family are watching the game at home, or for any gathering that calls for some creative gourmet cooking. The spicy grape chutney is a natural with roast beef.

Roast Beef Party Platter with Grape Chutney

Grape Chutney

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup tawny port

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 cinnamon stick

2 cups seedless red California grapes, halved

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450 F. In a medium saucepan, combine the onion, port, vinegar, raisins, sugar, ginger, mustard seeds and cinnamon. Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced to 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of liquid, about 15-17 minutes. At the same time, spread the grapes on a baking sheet and roast until soft and juicy, about 10 minutes. Add to the chutney, season with salt and pepper and let cool. Can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Makes 2 cups.

Party Platter ingredients:

2 pounds thinly sliced roast beef

1 pound thinly sliced sharp or mild provolone

Red, green and black seedless California grape clusters

A variety of rolls

Directions:

Arrange roast beef and provolone on a large platter along with the grapes. Place rolls in a basket and serve with the chutney. Serves 8.

Here’s a refreshing way to use grapes and apples to balance the strong flavor of cabbage with tart sweetness. Plus, the bold red and green colors make for a striking salad that is also easy to make. This versatile slaw pairs well with roasted chicken, hamburgers, pork chops and many other family favorites.

Grape and Red Cabbage Slaw

Ingredients:
 1/2 small head red cabbage (about 1 pound), finely shredded

2 cups halved green seedless California grapes

1 Granny Smith apple, julienned

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, grapes and apple. In a small jar, combine the vinegar, honey, mustard and olive oil. Shake well and pour over the cabbage mixture. Season generously with both salt and pepper and let stand 30 minutes at room temperature. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Serves 8.

Grape and flower centerpiece

Instead of using glass or plastic marbles to secure autumn flowers in a vase, consider filling your vase with grapes instead. Green, red and black grapes can easily complement your flower colors as well as securely holding the blooms and greens in place.

Directions: Fill a tall vase with grapes until about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Fill with water and arrange the flowers. Grapes can be placed in single color layers or mixed together like a mosaic.

For more grape ideas, go to grapesfromcalifornia.com or facebook.com/grapesfromcalifornia.

Includes recipes

How women can take control of their financial future


As women continue to break the glass ceiling in the working world, they also need to keep in mind their potential vulnerability in the financial world. Women tend to be more concerned about monthly expenses than saving enough for retirement, according to a recent survey sponsored by the Retirement Services Division of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

 
But the reality is that women often live longer than men, and therefore will have to figure out how to stretch retirement dollars longer, says Elaine Sarsynski, executive vice president of MassMutual’s Retirement Services Division and chairman and CEO of MassMutual International LLC.

 
Only 39 percent of women report being confident they know how to calculate how much money they will need in retirement, according to the nationwide survey. And compared to men, women were less likely to increase portions of income saved through work retirement plans, or contribute to a regular IRA account.

 
“Women need to pay attention to personal finances, because one way or another there is some likelihood they will be doing it alone,” says MassMutual Financial Professional Robin Weingast. “More than  50 percent of women age 75 or older live alone, and the median income of women 65 plus is now $15,000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2011 report on older Americans.”

 
Sarsynski says it is also troubling to note that when people retire early, they are often doing so for negative reasons like declining health, disability issues or unemployment.  A Retirement Confidence Survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald & Associates found that to be the case for 50 percent of their respondents.

 
“If you are a woman in this situation, you may be even less prepared to handle such a sudden challenge,” Sarsynski says.
For women in all stages of life, here are some financial aspects that should be reviewed and added to a retirement planning program:

 
* Bank accounts – If you’re married, sharing joint bank accounts can help highlight how the family income is spent. Chances are you and your spouse don’t earn exactly the same income. Some couples decide to split expenses evenly, while others appropriate the larger income toward the larger bill payments. Whatever you choose to do, consider creating a personal savings account in addition to the household financial contribution responsibilities you already have.

 
* Debt – Debt accumulation can cause a strain on a spouse’s credit – and finances – even if it happened prior to the wedding. Determine if you will be held responsible for your spouse’s prior debts, and if so, to what extent? If you are able to keep your prior debts separate, it will help to ensure each other’s property remains out of reach of creditors, protecting your individual credit ratings.

 
* Retirement – On average, women tend to spend 12 years out of the workforce due to care giving responsibilities for children, parents and spouses, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. To top it off, women typically earn 77 percent of what their male counterparts earn. This traditionally results in women contributing less to retirement via 401(k) accounts, or receiving less through pensions and Social Security benefits. Because of these factors, women need to start a retirement planning process earlier in life, either setting additional money aside, or meeting with a financial adviser to discuss options.

 
* Insurance – Even with a great retirement plan in place, unplanned factors can impact savings. Disability income insurance can provide a source of income in the event you are unable to work because of an accident or illness. And life insurance can help provide financial security upon death by providing funds for children to attend college, or to help continue with mortgage payments.

 
* Maintenance – Make sure to keep retirement savings and insurance on pace with income. It’s important to keep your retirement savings on par with what you earn. If you receive a raise, consider using a portion of that money to increase your contribution to your 401(k) plan. The same goes for disability income insurance protection. As your income rises, so should how you allocate funds to protect it.

 
Taking a good look at personal long-term plans can help women be better situated for their futures financially. Retirement is an option for all women no matter their life situations, and can become a reality with good planning.