Your Home – Tips for Living Healthy in 2021

Your Home – Six Tips for Hiring a Handyman


Owning a home requires a decent amount of upkeep year-round, but not all homeowners have the time or expertise to perform the necessary fixes and maintenance duties around their property. This is where a handyman comes in handy!

Hiring a Handyman: Tips for Success

If you’ve never hired a handyman before, you may be unsure about what to look for. There are many things to keep in mind, including which licenses or permits are required for the work you’re proposing. Here are our top six tips for successfully hiring a handyman who will provide you with quality work and a great customer experience.

1. Determine Exactly What You Need Done.

It’s important to have a clear idea of what you expect from your handyman before you make a choice to hire one. That way, you won’t run into any confusion during your working relationship. For example, if you’re hiring a handyman to paint the exterior of your house, you should be very specific about what color and brand of paint you want, how many coats the handyman should apply, and whether or not he should include the windowsills and other exterior features within his coverage.

2. Make Sure You’re Hiring the Right Person for the Job.

Before hiring your handyman, you should ask him detailed questions about his previous experience with projects that are similar to yours. If your prospective handyman has never performed the task that you’re looking for, he could end up making costly mistakes. Make sure that your handyman knows what it takes to get the job done and will be able to perform the work quickly and efficiently.

Additionally, it’s important to note that extremely detailed work such as plumbing, electrical wiring, or AC repair should be left in the hands of a professional who is licensed to operate in those areas, rather than a general handyman.

3. Read Reviews and Check Your Handyman’s References.

If your handyman has an online presence for his business, make sure you look over any and all reviews that customers have left in order to make sure you’re hiring a trustworthy person. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask your handyman for references from previous clients that you can follow up on. A quality handyman will have no problem providing those for you.

4. Don’t Pay Upfront.

If your handyman is requiring payment in full before starting work, you should view this as a red flag. Some handymen will require around 10% at the start of the project or may require a percentage of the materials to be purchased upfront. Any handyman asking for more than that is likely trying to scam you.

5. Prioritize Quality Over Cost.

People have a natural tendency to want to pick the lowest price when shopping around. But when you’re making choices that could affect the living quality of your home, this may not be wise. Resist the tendency to simply choose the lowest bid and make an investment in the best handyman you can find.

6. Stay Up to Date on Permit Laws.

Depending on where you live, certain home improvement jobs like remodeling or significant repair work may require a city or county permit. Make sure your repairs are done in accordance with the law. Check with your building commissioner or county board if you think the work being performed is significant or may require a permit.

Finances – Preparing for the 2021 Tax Season


Usually, the last thing you want to think about at the beginning of the new year is “I should do my taxes.” But even though there’s more than four months until Tax Day, it never hurts to get a jumpstart when it comes to preparing your taxes. In addition to avoiding the stress of completing your tax return at the last minute, the extra time will help you to find all of your eligible deductions, which may lead to receiving a bigger refund.

Gather Your Tax Records

For the majority of taxpayers, the two most common tax documents are W-2 forms and 1099 forms. W-2 forms are issued by employers and record the income you were paid, as well as the taxes that were withheld on your behalf. 1099 forms, on the other hand, reflect any other income you received. This form covers a wide range of income-earning scenarios, including account interest and dividend payments or the income earned by independent contractors (Uber drivers, for example).

You may also receive additional forms, depending on your situation. Unemployment income, virtual currencies, and student loans all generate tax forms, and it’s in your best interest to make sure that you have all of this information on hand. This will ensure that you get the full refund or credit that you are due.

Filing Status

If you got married during 2020, you’ll need to decide whether to file jointly or separately. There are a number of reasons for either choice, so you should consult with a tax professional to decide which status will provide the most benefit to you. Similarly, parents and their older children (up to 24 years old) should discuss whether adult children will be claimed as dependents on their parents’ taxes.

Tax Brackets and Deductions

In 2020, both the standard deduction and the marginal tax brackets increased slightly to account for inflation, although the tax rates have largely remained the same. For a single filer, the standard deduction is $12,400. For married couples filing jointly, the amount is $24,800. These changes may affect your filing status as well, so be sure to account for them.

COVID and Taxes

The biggest question we hear is whether the stimulus payment you may have received through the CARES Act will be considered to be taxable income. The good news is that these payments are not counted as taxable income. Instead, they are being considered as a refundable tax credit, so you don’t have to worry about them on your taxes.

However, because of the impacts of COVID-19, many taxpayers will find themselves dealing with unusual tax situations. Unemployment, independent contractor earnings, and other forms of income all need to be reported to the IRS, so make sure to track down any information that you may need in regard to your income and expenses.

File Sooner Rather Than Later

While the deadline to file your taxes this year is Thursday, April 15th, you can always e-file your taxes before that time. The IRS will likely begin accepting electronic returns sometime between January 15th and February 1st of this year.

If you’re eligible to receive a tax refund, the sooner you file your return, the sooner you’ll receive your refund. And even if you’re not receiving a refund this year, getting your taxes done sooner will help you put 2020 behind you.

This article is for information, illustrative and entertainment purposes only and does not purport to show actual results. It is not, and should not be regarded as investment advice or as a recommendation regarding any particular investment action.

Personal Interest – Tips for Staying Healthy During the Pandemic

staying healthy

People all around the world are dealing with the largest global health crisis in a century. At times, you may feel overwhelmed. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented actions. Instead of getting stuck in fear and uncertainty, take the time to optimize your physical and mental health.

Consider these tips on ways to stay healthy during the pandemic. Although they are simple choices that you can make to keep you feeling your best, they pack a punch!

Eat Well

Try to prepare healthy meals ahead of time and choose healthy snacks. When you are under stress, you may tend to make more impulsive decisions about food. Lots of people rely on comfort foods to get through tough times. These kinds of foods (cookies, ice cream, salty snacks, and candy) are often filled with empty calories that may give you a short temporary boost but can also leave you feeling worse off in the long run.

By prepping meals ahead of time or stocking your shelves with healthy snack options, you will be more likely to choose foods with adequate protein and vitamins. This will keep your body feeling more energized and ready to take on the day.


Deep, diaphragmatic breathing is a technique you can do at any time and in any location. Taking slow, deep breaths with audible exhalations can work to calm down the nervous system. A calm nervous system is generally a healthier nervous system. Breathing techniques can diminish the “fight or flight” response in your brain. In turn, this leads to a slower heart rate and a feeling of peace.

Using your breath as a tool when you feel stress levels start to rise will help you to manage your feelings and maintain your relaxed state of mind.


With your doctor’s approval, taking the time for at least 30 minutes of heart-pumping exercise three to five days per week is a great prescription for general health. Exercise has so many benefits, including improved cardiac health and improved mood.

Exercise also keeps you moving. During the pandemic, with many businesses and schools adjusting to a remote status, you may have found that your lifestyle is suddenly much more sedentary than it used to be. Making time to exercise is crucial to keeping your body strong.

Regular physical exertion can also help manage any anxiety you may be feeling. Don’t underestimate how much better you will feel after a workout.

Avoid Alcohol and Drugs

Alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic. A recent survey found that drinking rates are up by 14 percent overall and by 17 percent among women. Using alcohol or drugs to cope with stress can be an unhealthy choice. There are much more effective ways of dealing with stress.

Trying things like yoga and meditation instead can positively impact the ways you are feeling without the negative side effects that some substances can produce. There are so many online classes that teach yoga and meditation right now, even for beginners. Take advantage of them!


Find a way to connect with others in a safe manner. There are plenty of outdoor activities that you can do that still satisfy safety guidelines. As long you are following the recommended protocols, getting outside with others is a great way to connect. If weather or distance does not allow this, try to at least connect online via social media or other platforms so that you are still seeing some smiling faces on a regular basis.

Taking good care of yourself using these five tips will help you maintain a healthy and balanced life during the pandemic.

Thank you and have a great month!

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Paul Stella