Choosing the Right Walk in Shower For You

While most homes still contain at least one traditional bathtub, more and more families are opting to replace their tub with a walk in shower for the home. People love how walk in showers take up less space, how they look and how accessible they are. However, not every walk in shower is right for everyone. Here are a few ways to determine which walk in shower is right for you.

Assess Your Needs

The reason you want or need a walk in shower will have a large effect on the type of shower you choose. You might want to save space in a small bathroom. You may have trouble stepping in and out of the tub. You may have trouble lowering and raising yourself in and out of the bath. You may want a walk in shower purely for aesthetic reasons. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of great walk in shower options for you to choose from.

Review Your Options

There are three primary types of walk in showers: stand-alone showers, shower bathtub combinations and handicapped accessible showers. Shower bathtub combinations are the most popular, though stand-alone showers are quickly growing in popularity. Handicapped accessible showers generally have features such as grab bars, low thresholds or seats that make showering easier and safer. Showers can be enclosed with a door, privacy wall, curtain or nothing at all, and they come in all sorts of sizes and shapes.

You also have many bathtub options as well, if you choose to include one. You may want a traditional tub, or a large and contoured tub that will be more spacious and comfortable. You may even choose to put in a Jacuzzi or whirlpool. Alternately, you may skip the bathtub altogether.

Choose a Design Style

These days, showers are as highly customizable as the bathrooms that contain them. You can choose a particular theme or feel such as “spa” or “Zen.” You can choose between a variety of different shower materials such as metal, glass, tile and even wood. You can also choose the colors and finishes that you prefer.

Consider Adding Extra Features

Once you have decided on the basic layout and design of your shower, consider which extra features may be important to you. You may choose to have a removable showerhead for easier cleaning, or you may choose to have multiple showerheads. You may want to install grab bars and handrails to help you safely navigate in and out of the shower or a bench that will allow you to rest while showering. Non slip tiles or pads are another important feature to keep you safe in the shower.

Whether you want a stand-alone shower, a shower bathtub combination or a handicapped accessible shower, you have several options available to you. Take your time and choose just the right layout, design and features for you, and you are sure to have a bathtub that you can safely use and love for years to come.


Walk In Shower Designs

Your Essential Guide to Cash and Investment ISAs

Individual Savings Accounts (or ISA) are a great financial planning tool. The UK government introduced ISAs in 1999 to encourage UK residents to save for the future. Although the name implies a savings account, ISA is not a regular savings account. ISA offers a tax-free way to save and invest. You’re entitled to keep the money earned from your ISAs, without paying tax on interest, dividends, bonuses and capital gains.

There are two types of ISAs: cash ISA and investment ISA (stocks and shares). In the tax 2013/14 year that runs from 6 April 2013 to 5 April 2014, you can invest up to £11,520 in ISAs. You can choose to invest the full amount in an investment ISA or save up to £5,640 in cash ISA, with the remaining balance of £5,640 in an investment ISA.

With cash ISA rates low, is it better to switch to an investment ISA? Here are some important things to consider when comparing the two:

Length of investment

A cash ISA is more suitable for short-term savings and it’s a better choice if you prefer liquidity. In contrast, investment ISA is ideal choice for long-term investment if you can afford to set aside your money for at least 5 years or longer. However, the value of your investment may go down and there is no guarantee that you’ll make a profit.

ISA flexibility

Your cash ISA can include cash deposited in banking and building society accounts as well as life insurance policies, shares in companies, and stakeholder medium-term products that fail to meet the qualifying conditions for investment ISAs. On the other hand, with investment ISAs, you can buy into individual shares, corporate bonds, equities, unit trusts, investment trusts, open-ended investment companies (OEICs), exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and gilts. With so many investment products to choose from, you should keep your portfolio simple and diversified to mitigate risks.

Where to open an ISA

You can open a cash ISA account with an ISA manager such as a bank, building society, and National Savings and Investments. Select ISA managers who are approved by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and authorized by the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA). For an investment ISA, you need to be invested on an investment platform such as Interactive Investor, in order to access the wide range of investment products. The investment platform allows you to hold your investments in one place, monitor your portfolio performance and rearrange your investments. Most investment platforms also offer trading tools such as market news, company news and reports, and learning guides. Some investment platforms may offer ‘self-select’ ISAs that enable you to choose a variety of shares and securities to build your portfolio.

Different platforms offer different range of investment choices and charge differently. Make sure you find out from your ISA manager about the charges of managing your ISA and whether there are penalties for early withdrawal and switching from one ISA manager to another.

ISA restrictions

While you need to be at least 18 years or over to open an investment ISA, you can open an adult cash ISA on your 16th birthday. Many investments that qualify within an ISA carry certain other restrictions. For instance, you can only invest in foreign shares that are listed on a recognised stock exchange. You need to weigh up the pros and cons of buying individual foreign shares in your portfolio.

For tax purposes, people who qualified for an ISA include residents in the UK, a Crown employee such as a diplomat or a member of the armed forces who is working overseas and paid by the UK government. An ISA cannot be hold jointly with, or on behalf of, another person.

In each tax year, you can only subscribe to one cash ISA and one investment ISA. However, you can choose different managers in different years. Hence, there is no limit on the number of different ISAs you can hold over time.

Whichever type of ISA you choose, it is important to have a good knowledge of the investments you want to hold and design your investment strategies that reflect your desires, goals, and risk threshold. If you’ve not used an ISA before, a lower-risk cash savings option may be a good start, before moving onto investment ISAs.

Image by Images Money, used under Creative Comms license

5 Surprising Ways to Turn Your Finances Around

Many hardworking men and women are finding that money is extremely tight in today’s economy. Even those people who have started working second or third jobs are frequently living from paycheck to paycheck. In many cases, there are not enough hours in the day to bring in additional money. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to maximize your income as is. The following are five somewhat surprising ways you can save your hard-earned money — and begin to experience financial freedom.  

Make Charitable Donations

If you are trying to get your finances in order, it’s likely donating to charity isn’t the first thing on your mind. While it may seem counterintuitive, making charitable donations can actually save you money. Donations to charity are tax deductible, and by keeping track of each donation, you can receive a sizable tax refund at the year’s end. Additionally, donating to people in need is often a catalyst for financially responsible living, as it helps you to better assess your wants against your needs.

Donating your car to charity is one of the most financially rewarding donations you can make. This donation will qualify you for a major tax deduction, and will also eliminate the costs of driving and maintaining a vehicle. Once you find the best place to donate a car in New York or wherever you live, the process is simple. The donation center will handle the details, leaving you to enjoy a life free from the costs of gas, insurance, and car loans. Additionally, by donating your car and choosing to walk, bike to work or use mass transit, you can dramatically improve your health, reducing your health care costs over time.

Take Advantage of Deals

Keeping a sharp eye on sales, searching through the bargain bin and clipping coupons are simple ways to save in a dramatic way. Grocery expenses can add up quickly, so before heading to the store, gather all the coupons you can. Planning your meals around items on sale can prevent a shopping spree from leaving a hole in your wallet. Another way to save at the grocery store is to join a discount club that offers savings on bulk items.

You can also save money on your clothing purchases by paying attention to discounts and sales. One way to significantly cut back on clothing costs is to shop out of season. Look for a bathing suit in December or a winter coat in July, for instance. Once the appropriate season comes along, you’ll be glad you have weather-appropriate clothing that you were able to purchase at half the price.

Do It Yourself

If you are faced with household projects that will cost you a pretty penny, consider taking them on yourself. In many cases, tasks such as fixing a dishwasher or dryer are simply a matter of having the right tools and a little direction. Many home improvement stores offer weekly workshops on do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. This is a great time of the year to jump on the DIY bandwagon, as projects to winterize your home can become costly when hiring professionals.

Go Green

Environmentally conscious living is a terrific way to save both the planet and your finances. There are several ways you can go green to save money, not the least of which is cooking your own food. According to Forbes, Americans spend nearly a thousand dollars per year on dining out for lunch alone. Cooking at home lends itself to nutritious eating and will make you more aware of the food you are buying, how it was grown and its effect on the environment. Growing a vegetable and/or herb garden is another great way to help protect the earth while cutting down on food costs. As winter approaches, also consider turning your heat down before bed and using an extra blanket. When your electric bill arrives in the mail, you’ll be glad you took this small step.

Eliminate Clutter From Your Life

Decluttering your home and your life is one way to gain perspective on what you do, and do not, need. You can make decluttering financially beneficial by adding up the amount of money you spent on all of the items you are now throwing out. This is money you can save in the future by cutting down on unnecessary purchases. If you cannot donate the items you are looking to get rid of, sell them on eBay or Craigslist. Even if selling your belongings doesn’t make you a fortune, at the very least, it will provide you with a little extra money to put toward savings.

For many Americans, hard work and extra hours are not enough to get out of a financial rut. By implementing these five tips, however, you can turn your money troubles around. Start making these small but powerful changes, and begin your journey to a financially stable future today.

About the Author: Mary Goldman is a contributing writer and financial adviser.

[Featured image by 123RF]

Investment After Retirement

So you have accumulated a handsome amount of your money in your retirement savings and you are eligible for Social security. Now the question from most retired people is ‘What are the best investment options after retirement?’

Before answering this question, let us talk about what factors post retirement could affect your investment decisions.

Risk: After retirement, since you don’t have a regular job that brings in monthly income, you may want to go for conservative investment (low risk) options that do not deplete your original investment.

Maintenance effort: Some investments such as real estate may require a lot of human effort to take care of it in terms of maintenance. If you don’t have energy and people around you to manage the same, you better avoid such investments. Retired life is meant for peace and not to generate additional headache and pressure.

Frequency of returns: Your post retirement investment should offer regular returns so that you can meet your monthly budget requirements with the same.

Your monthly budget: What’s the amount of money you require for a typical monthly budget.

Excess money saved up: What’s that excess amount of money that you have saved up beyond what’s required for your retired life (Read: How much money do I need to retire?)

Your best investment options

The following are some of the investment options for your retirement life as they offer less aggressive and low risk route.

  • Monthly Income Plans
  • General Bond funds (short term)
  • Government Bond funds (short term)
  • Bank Savings accounts

Ensure that you check out the Morning Star ratings your instruments before making an investment decision.

Avoid these investments

The following is only a guideline on investment types to avoid. Of course, if you have several millions in your hand after all those regular income investments and wondering where to throw your money, you may consider one or more of these as well.

  • Stocks, shares and other equity market linked products
  • Illiquid investments
  • Real estate
  • Precious metals and stones
  • Forex

In summary, enjoy your retired life without taking risks with respect to your investments.

Retirement Hobbies and Activities

Retirement can suddenly throw several questions at people! A busy professional till then – with hardly any time to spend for other activities – now has a lot of free time at hand without knowing how to spend the same.

Why is it important to be engaged in something?

It is no surprise that a lot of people enter a state of depression when the regular income, the job that they loved, the people around and networking opportunities – all of them are taken away all of a sudden. Hence it is very important that retired individuals find some ways to keep themselves busy – preferably something that keeps them physically active.

Post retirement activities and hobbies

The following are some of the hobbies in retirement phase of your life that you may opt for based on your physical health, areas of interest and money at hand:

Digital photography: Photography is one of those amazing hobbies that you can pick as an area of interest at any age. The retired people may find it even more exciting because they have a lot of time at hand to observe the nature and objects around and capture those moments. Digital photography has another advantage that you can share your work online, get noticed and sometimes even paid.

Fishing: This is some hobby that is time tested and right up there in terms of popularity for several generations now. Fishing allows you to enjoy more time outdoors while doing an activity that is sporty but won’t tire you out. Further you have the opportunity to enter competitions as well.

Gardening: Just like fishing, gardening is a timeless hobby. If you are gardening enthusiast, you can keep yourself busy all around the year (Read: Winter gardening) and more over it can get you most of the things like herbs, vegetables and fruits for your kitchen. Gardening is also a research oriented job which needs a lot of reading and experiments.

Writing, Poetry or Blogging: Blogging or writing is a great way to put forward all those thoughts that you wanted to let the world know but couldn’t do it earlier. Even better would be poetry and being part of any poetry group. But again, this will depend on how talented and interested you are at writing related creativity.

Volunteer programs: Being a volunteer on social, community and charity related activities is probably the best way to network and get involved with people after retirement. This is something that adds a lot of value to you as an individual while serving the society.

Traveling: Well, who doesn’t like traveling? Retired life is probably the best time to do all those traveling around the world assuming that you have saved up plenty money and is sure that you do not outlive the money at hand you can take this route (Read: How much money do you need to retire?)

There are a number of other things in the sporting world, research, science or reading but at the end, it is all about what you are most comfortable with and what your health and money situation is. Most important thing to remember is to enjoy every single day of your remaining life.

How much Money do I need to Retire?

Retirement planning is a real headache for even the most proficient financial adviser or retirement planning professional simply because of the uncertainties involved in life. First of all nobody really knows how long he or she will live and how many defendants he or she might have at various points of time. On top of that, there are varying factors such as economic recession, critical illnesses, unprecedented calamities etc that can spoil all your calculations.

However, there are ways to calculate how much money you will need (roughly) under normal circumstances in order to retire gracefully and lead a peaceful life thereafter. All these calculations are always based on optimistic known factors and under predefined conditions, though. Also, the earlier you retire the more error prone your retirement calculation will be, because you have more years to live than you already did and the sample figures can go wrong.

Money needed to retire

The main assumption parameters for any retirement planning are the inflation rate, return on your current investments and average life expectancy

For example, in the US, the average life expectancy is around 78 years but most retirement calculations will assume a safer value of 85 years so that you don’t end up outliving the money. Similarly the inflation rate is typically capped at 3% for most calculation purposes in the US though other countries might have much higher inflation rates.

Since the amount required post retirement is a huge figure, you have to plan for your retirement from the day you get your first job


First you have to figure out how much you will spend. This is not an easy thing to do but you can still calculate it based on where it stands today. Post retirement, mostly you will end up spending a lot less than you spend today because usually expenses such as gas, work clothes, lunches out etc. On the other hand your health care expenses or cable TV expenses might go up. Based on your priorities, you may arrive at a monthly expense figure for your retirement life. This may be up to 20 or 25% less than your current monthly expenses. Let us call this figure ‘x’. You have to calculate the annualized (multiply by 12) number to arrive at an annual retirement budget or 12x.

Next you have to figure out how much more will you need per month apart from your social security and annuities to meet the ‘x’ mentioned above. For example, if your retirement benefits per month amounts to y, you still need (x – y) per month which you can call the shortfall per month.

The retirement planning is all about covering for that shortfall annualized and multiplied by the number of years after your retirement and till you die.

i.e. 12 * (x – y) * your remaining number of years. Let us call this value ‘z’.

Basically, you have to find a way to cover for this shortfall of ‘z’ using your 401-k plans, interest on your savings account or any other income that you might have and saved up. This is exactly the money needed to retire.

Consuming your retirement money

Researches show that if you are retiring at normal retirement age group (i.e 60 to 65), you can withdraw up to 4% of your retirement money per year parked in various accounts. For example, if you have retired with one million dollars, you can withdraw $40,000 in your first year post retirement. However, if you are retiring at a ‘young’ age of 45 or 50, you cannot afford to withdraw more than 3% per annum to meet your post retirement life. These figures are based on research data for the past several decades.

Please note that the calculation will hugely vary for those countries that have very high inflation rates. Basically in that case, the returns on investment is way below the skyrocketing living expenses and hence take the help from a financial adviser in your area to plan your retirement life.