Hurricanes, Storms, And Tornados…Oh My!!! | Sereda Y. Fowlkes

Va_Woman_Magazine_July_Aug_2016_Page_27Hurricanes and tornadoes are both natural disasters that require preparation. With almost 1,200 tornadoes in the U.S. last year, as reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and with hurricane numbers expecting to be average or even somewhat greater (Insurance Industry News), it’s important to know what to do if one is in your area. While you can’t control the weather, you can take steps to help prepare your family and home for tornado and hurricane seasons. Here are some tips on what to do.

Prepare Your Home

Atlantic hurricane seasons run from June until the end of November (Insurance Industry News). Additionally, peak tornado season in the U.S. is March through May in the southern states, and late spring through early summer in the northern states, according to However, you shouldn’t wait for tornado or hurricane seasons to make your home secure. The American Red Cross suggests hiring a professional to help reinforce masonry walls that provide support to your home, secure your chimney and to connect your manufactured home permanently to it’s foundation. If you have time before a hurricane or tornado approaches, the Red Cross also suggests moving or securing lawn furniture and other items that may become a projectile during a storm.

Plan a Family Drill

Practicing where to go in the event of a storm keeps everyone in your household safe in a real emergency. For example, if your home has a basement, you should seek shelter there. If you don’t have access to a basement, then you still have a few options, such as the lowest floor, under stairwells, an interior hallway, or a small center room, like a bathroom or closet (NOAA). It’s always important to avoid windows and to use sturdy protection as cover, with the NOAA suggesting a mattress or sleeping bag. Stay Safe on the Road

Stay Safe on the Road

If pulling over and getting inside a sturdy building to seek shelter isn’t possible, the National Weather Service advises staying in the car with your seat belt on and keeping your head down and covered with your hands and a blanket, if you have one stashed in your car. Also, you should avoid seeking shelter under a bridge or overpass, according to the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness. The weather service and Red Cross advise that while you can exit your vehicle and head to a ditch, you may still encounter flying debris — including your car. Both organizations also advise changing your plans if you know that severe weather is approaching. Know the Difference Between a Watch and a Warning

Know the Difference Between a Watch and a Warning

Knowing the difference between a watch and a warning is part of being prepared. A watch means that a storm is possible in the area, notes the weather service. In a warning, a storm is expected or occurring, for example, a tornado sighting (NOAA). It’s also a time for action, as you should move to a safe area, says the weather service.

Pack an Emergency Kit

If a tornado or hurricane touches down in your area, it might be a few days before you have electricity and clean running water in your home. To get through those days, recommends an all-purpose emergency kit that includes enough water (at least one gallon per person in your household per day) and food for at least three days, a battery-powered or hand crank radio, extra batteries and a map so you can stay up to date on storm movements.

To stay prepared, contact my Allstate office for a Disaster Kit, which will include supplies like a flashlight, collapsible water bottle, rain slickers, hand sanitizer and dust respirator. (while supplies last)

Protecting your Home

It’s important to have your home and cars insured because you never know when a catastrophe might occur. Also, contact your property insurer after a storm to assess any potential damage to your property.

By taking a few steps to help practice what to do during severe weather, packing an emergency kit and insuring your property, your family

By Sereda Y. Fowlkes, Principal, Fowlkes Insurance Services Inc.
Auto | Home | Life | Retirement Allstate Insurance Co
8601 Westwood Center Drive, Vienna, Va 22182
phone: 703-556-7857 email:

Reality Check | Luanne Lee | YOUR COLLEGE PLANNING COACH

LWM_MJ15_web_Page_29Spring! The time of year we all look forward to. It’s the end of winter with warmer weather, longer days, green grass and flowers blooming. Spring is also the time of year I start getting “the phone calls.” The calls I dread each year that start out with “Hi Luanne, so-and-so said if anyone can help us you can.” These calls all start out with the same stressful tone and I’m left to deliver the unfortunate reality of college-planning-gone-wrong to a range of parental emotions that include disbelief, dismay, and ultimately anger.

Allow me to share:

My 4.2 GPA, 2080 SAT, all AP classes, son/daughter didn’t get accepted at UVA/Tech/JMU…WHY?? Or…They got accepted, but the Financial Aid Award only offers loans! Where is the aid? Where are the scholarships we expected for our bright child? Or…We only applied to state schools because the privates are SO expensive!

Reality: The competition is fierce! In the 2014/15 school year UVA received 31,021 applications, 8997 were accepted, 3706 enrolled. At Virginia Tech 20,744 applied, 15,067 were accepted, 5,474 enrolled. At James Madison 22,550 applied, 14,823 were accepted, 4,358 enrolled. Approximately 30% of enrolled students were international or out of state students.

Reality: At most state schools the largest piece of the Financial Aid pie is in Federal Loans. The only Grant Aid received is when there is financial need and that is when you have an AGI of less than $35K.

Reality: Private schools had a 47% average discount rate in 2014. Private schools offer Merit Scholarships. Private school students graduate in 4 years 62% more than state schools.

The school says since we didn’t file the FAFSA we will pay full price. We didn’t file because our guidance counselor/CPA/Financial Advisor/ work buddy/neighbor told us we make too much money to qualify so why bother.

Reality: Make sure the advice you take is coming from someone who specializes in college planning. Everyone should file the FAFSA, no matter what their income. The FAFSA is the gateway to all Financial Aid, both Need and Merit Aid.

My star athlete (soccer/lacrosse/baseball/football/track, etc.) didn’t receive any athletic scholarships!

Reality: Athletic scholarships are highly misunderstood. Most athletic scholarships are shared amongst many and nowhere near your expectations.

I have a 529 plan. Isn’t that supposed to cover everything?

Reality: Many parents confuse 529 plans and the state prepaid tuition plan. The prepaid tuition plan ONLY covers tuition and mandatory fees at a state school. Room, board, books, transportation and other fees are not covered. Plus, if a 529 plan loses 20% in stock market volatility, it can be very
underfunded. Unfortunately, I find this very common.

The ultimate heart breaker: Luanne, we have a junior and sophomore in college. We have had a job loss/medical emergency/ lost money in the market/ death of a parent or some unprepared for life event. We have continued to overfund our retirement, pay extra to our mortgage, used up our savings and have run out of resources. How can we tell our children they have to drop out?

Reality: Too often I find these parents turned down the student Stafford Subsidized loans that carry a 0% interest rate with no payments while the kids are in school because “We didn’t want our children to have college debt” The mortgage lender won’t let them access the extra equity in their mortgage because now they can’t qualify (to get their own money). They can’t/shouldn’t borrow from the 401K. They have given all of their extra money, and control, to bankers who can say NO! Life happens! Plan for the worst, look at the reality of your finances and plan strategically.  When money is tight, 2 years at Community College can save many families $40,000 or more per student on a 4 year degree. The most expensive part about college? Starting and not being able to finish!

There are plenty of other situations I have encountered, especially during this time of the year when college expenses hit home, literally. Be sure to follow the advice of a person who specializes in college planning and you can avoid many of these pitfalls in your childrens’ educations.

By Luanne Lee, CCPRS

10 Things Everyone Should Know about Planning a Funeral or Memorial Service |

LWMJanFeb2015-smallfinal_Page_19No one wants to talk about death or dying or to plan their own funeral. The death of someone you care for, together with wanting to make the right decision leaves many families feeling overwhelmed. Often these decisions must be made when a family is grieving and is the least prepared. That’s why it’s so important to give serious thought to your personal wishes and to prearrange your services in advance.

1. Be informed about the choices available.

How would like to be remembered? Your funeral or memorial service should be personalized to reflect your wishes and should bring comfort to your family and friends. Prearranging gives you the opportunity to become informed about your options in an unpressured environment, when you have the time to think things through.

2. Record your wishes. 

Your survivors benefit the most when you prearrange. It also ensures that your wishes are made known. Make sure your wishes are recorded in writing and shared with your family. Keep a copy with your important papers that is easily accessible to your family members.

3. Talk about it with your family and incorporate their wishes. 

A funeral or memorial service is an important part of the grieving process. For family members and loved ones alike, the service provides an opportunity to express their grief, to share memories and to celebrate the life lived. Prearranging is an excellent time for families to discuss and make objective decisions calmly and rationally together.

4. Decide the final disposition. 

Determining your final disposition by burial or cremation is a personal decision, influenced by your faith and beliefs.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask about prices.

Prearranging enables you to keep your  nancial commitment to a comfortable level while eliminating the future  nancial burden placed on your surviving family members.

6. Consider planning and prepaying for your arrangements. 

Prepaying for your services can take care of the actual expense of the service ahead of time, easing the future  nancial burden on your surviving loved ones.

7. Why insurance may not be enough. 

Usually, life insurance, as well as final expense insurance provides a one-time lump sum benefit after a death has occurred. There is no guarentee that the funds will not be consumed by the expenses that result from a long illness or serious accident. Purchasing prearrangements combine the benefits of insurance with a guaranteed service and price.

8. A prearranged funeral or cremation service and medicaid assistance. 

In Virginia, a prearranged funeral or cremation service funded by the life insurance may be treated as an exempt asset for medicaid qualification purposes. This allows you to prearrange the service you desire while maintaining your assistance eligibility. Please consult with your attorney before applying for medicaid assistance to learn more about Virginia’s requirements.

9. Find out ahead of time what government benefits you are eligible to receive. 

Unfortunately, most funeral and burial benefits provided by the social security administration as well as the Veterans Administration are limited. Most families find that additional funding is necessary in order to provide the type of service they find appropriate for their loved one. To find out exactly what benefits you are eligible to receive contact: and

10. Speak with your local dignity memorial provider. 

Our funeral counselors are trained professionals who can be a vital and supportive resource for you and your family. With years of experience, they can explain all the options available and help you make informed decisions. They can guide you step-by-step through the process of prearranging.

By Donna S. Buchanan

Winter’s Coming… Are You Ready? | Ambit Energy

LWMNovDec2014small_Page_28El Nino is coming! What does that mean for our 2014-2015 winter long range forecast? While The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a winter with frigid temperatures, dare we say it, colder than last year’s polar vortex, other long range forecasts are predicting El Nino will produce a warmer winter than last year. So who is right? Ever hear the saying “Weathermen are the only people who can be right 50% of the time and still keep their jobs.”? Weather is at best unpredictable and is very difficult to tell the kind of a winter we will have. So the best thing
we can do is be prepared for anything! Here are some helpful ideas to help you save money this winter season.


  • HVAC checkup: It is worth the service charge to be sure your system is operating at optimal levels by having an inspection of the motors, belts and other complex components. Remember to change those filters every month to increase efficiency of the system.
  • Consider a Digital Thermostat: An older system in not as efficient as the new ones and they can over heat a room. A programmable thermostat allows you to control the temperature when people are not at home and when they are home.
  • Clean the Ducts: Clean air ducts allows for efficient movement of heat and clean air. It is best to consult a professional for this service.
  •  Check Insulation and seal those Doors and Windows: Make sure blown insulation hasn’t settled and are at proper levels. Sealing doors and windows and applying weather-stripping are keys to keeping your energy cost down.

AND….Pay LESS $$$ For Your Natural Gas

The biggest monthly energy cost is the gas delivered to your home and you have no control over these costs. You pay what the incumbent natural gas provider tells you to pay. Until now, Deregulation of energy allows you chose what you WANT to pay. Deregulation means energy companies now have competition from certified energy retailers and you have options. Options that let you select a different supplier providing you natural gas with significant annual savings. Savings that you can use for other things than paying inflated energy bills.

As Ambit Energy Consultants, we can switch any Washington Gas customer in Northern Virginia, at NO cost and 100% GUARANTEED satisfaction, to Ambit Energy and provide natural gas at a lesser cost. Switching is completely transparent, no contracts or fees, and you retain Washington Gas as your biller and as the delivery company. Then it just gets better! As an Ambit Energy customer you receive a Welcome Gift of a two night, three day “mini” vacation to any of our 75 designations, PLUS you earn travel rewards every time you turn on your natural gas.

Your savings could give you that little extra spending money for the holidays! Now that is something to CHEER about!

By Selina Adamson and PJ Riner
Call 571-333-0427 or e-mail

Protecting The Stay-At-Home Spouse | Valerie P. Kaiser, CFP

LWMNovDec2014small_Page_10When married couples have young children, often one spouse stays home while the other works outside the home. While most parents understand the necessity of purchasing a life insurance policy on the income earner, few realize the importance of also insuring the stay-at-home spouse.

Being prepared for the unexpected.

What if the stay-at-home spouse suddenly died? The family would be devastated. While friends and family members would initially pitch in to help, eventually they would return to their regular lives. Before the surviving spouse returned to work, a caretaker for the children and home would need to be hired, presenting a potential financial hardship. Had life insurance been purchased on the stay-at-home parent, however, the family’s needs would have been protected.

Measuring the value of the stay-at-home spouse.

Despite the importance of the stay-at-home parent, there’s little research to quantify its value. In its 13th annual “Mom Salary Survey,” reports the most popular functions performed by mothers equate to $113,586 per year1 in salary. Also, it states the stay-at-home spouse works a 94-hour week, performing, among other roles, the duties of housekeeper, cook, day care teacher, driver, and psychologist.

LWMNovDec2014small_Page_11Flexible, customizable choices.

The type of policy you select depends on your needs and budget. Term life insurance provides affordable coverage for several years. In contrast, permanent life insurance offers protection for your entire life (provided premiums are paid) and accumulates cash value tax-deferred. This cash value can be accessed (loans accrue interest and reduce the policy’s cash value and death benefit). Plus, riders, available with term and permanent life insurance, enable you to customize your policy to meet and grow with your changing needs.

The loss of a parent is an emotional hardship for a family; purchasing insurance coverage for a stay-at-home spouse can help ensure that it doesn’t become a financial hardship as well.

This educational, third-party article is provided as a courtesy by Valerie Kaiser, CFP®, Agent, (CA#0F39945) New York Life Insurance Company. To learn more about the information or topics discussed, please contact Valerie Kaiser, CFP® at 703-610-4073.

The True Costs of College Planning – Luanne Lee

college planning loudoun woman magazineThere are many myths and misconceptions about what it’s going to take to fully fund college. Most parents recognize that it could be expensive,  but they are largely  unaware of the frequency of success in pursuing a degree.  For example, according to a study completed in 2008 by the US Department of Education, approximately 57% of students who enroll in a 4 year college actually attain their undergraduate degree. What’s more surprising to many, is that in order to get that statistic up to 57%, we have to wait for 6 years. The percentage of students graduating in 4 years is eye opening. According to the study, the national graduation rate at public colleges is only 29%. At private colleges, the number of students graduating in 4 years is 51%. Only when you take into consideration how long it may take to graduate, can you really begin to understand which schools may be more or less expensive than the others.

Another concerning  factor about the expense of college, is that most parents look only at the cost of tuition for 1 year. They forget about Room and Board, Books, Fees, Transportation, Miscellaneous Expenses, and Inflation at 5-7% annually! As a result, they vastly underestimate the total cost of attendance. The only way a family can properly plan for the eventual cost of college, is first to understand how long it might take and second, to understand all the elements of cost.

The reality for most families, they’ll need help in fully funding college. Again, they often confuse Financial Aid with money that does not need to be repaid. The reality is that the largest single element of what is called Financial Aid comes in the form of loans.

We are in the business of helping families through the major life transition of sending their children through college in the most efficient manner possible. For many, it will be the most expensive time of their lives and, if not handled properly could jeopardize their retirement or cripple their children with unnecessary student loan debt. We encourage you to attend one of our free educational workshops or come in for a free strategy session. Remember, you shouldn’t have to choose between your child’s college and your retirement.

By Luanne Lee, CCPRS


Out with the Old: What to Shred, and When

shred guide

Are You and Your Spouse on the Same Page? – Katie McAuliffe

well fargo imageAfter 24 years of marriage, Joe and Jane often finish each other’s sentences. So imagine how surprised they were when some differing goals emerged during a recent retirement income planning discussion with their Financial Advisor. As their advisor led the couple through an exercise designed to help them set retirement priorities, they discovered that Joe was eying a particular pocket of savings to enable his early retirement. Jane, on the other hand, viewed that same account as a fund for their children’s college education.

Such discrepancies are common, even for couples who communicate well. “When you’ve lived with someone a long time, you may assume you know what your partner is thinking,” notes Donna Peterson, Senior Vice President in Retail Retirement at Wells Fargo. “If you’re not on the same page, you could thwart each other’s objectives without knowing it,” she warns — as in the example of Joe and Jane.

Taking the Long View

Uncovering such differences and deciding how to handle them is a critical early step to building a retirement income plan for both partners. During this first stage, your Financial Advisor will ask each of you key questions, such as when you want to retire, where you’d like to live, and how you ideally would fill your days during retirement.

The answers to those three questions in particular can affect major financial decisions you make as a couple throughout your marriage, so it’s best to start discussing them well ahead of retirement. For example, if you’re in the market for a new home, decisions about how much to spend and how long you’ll stay there may change when viewed through the lens of retirement.

It may make sense to economize on a house you intend to occupy only until your children are through grammar school, or to invest more heavily in a lifelong residence. The size of the mortgage can also affect how much you contribute to retirement savings, as well as whether you enter retirement carrying debt.

Buying a home is just one choice into which retirement can factor. “Responsibilities to family, such as paying for education or caring for older relatives, can influence your plans too,” Peterson says. And just as circumstances may change, so too can your retirement income plan — but it’s important to start with as complete a vision as possible.

Starting the Conversation

Surprisingly, Peterson recommends that you and your spouse meet with your Financial Advisor to discuss your retirement goals in detail. “The most successful retirement plan conversations are generally a little spontaneous, so allow your Financial Advisor to serve as the catalyst for the discussion as well as your guide through it.”

This discussion may stretch over a few meetings, since there’s a lot of ground to cover. Your advisor will not only help you discover your ideas about retirement but also begin to educate you about issues that can affect your income plan, such as:

  • Health care costs
  • Risk tolerance
  • Market and economic realities
  • Inflation and taxes

“Very few couples have considered all these elements before consulting a professional,” says Peterson.

Your Financial Advisor can suggest ways to integrate these considerations into your joint retirement income plan. You may walk out of the session with a stronger strategy, as well as a greater understanding of your spouse’s hopes and dreams — knowledge that can make your partnership even stronger.

Wells Fargo Advisors is not a legal or tax advisor. However, its Financial Advisors will be glad to work with you, your accountant, your tax advisor and/or your lawyer to help you meet your financial goals.

This article was written by Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC and provided courtesy of Katie McAuliffe, Financial Advisor in Leesburg, VA. Investments in securities and insurance products are: NOT FDIC-INSURED/NOT BANK GUARANTEED/MAY LOSE VALUE. Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, Member SIPC, is a registered broker-dealer and a separate non-bank affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company. ©2012 Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC. All rights reserved. 0812-0078 [87568-v1] 08/12

Katie McAuliffe is a Financial Advisor with Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC., in Leesburg, VA




Give away 5 – 10 unused items from your house, closet or office every month of the year 2013. At the end of the year your will have purged over 100 items that you didn’t use anyway. Not only will you de-clutter, BUT, the process of cleaning out and getting rid of things, opens up space and room for all that is new and wonderful in your life TODAY!

Hire a professional Financial Planner to assist with your portfolio for growth THIS YEAR!!!! Already have a great professional to manage and assist with your portfolio??? Review and research options for growth opportunities.TIP: Make sure your investment portfolio has exposure to emerging markets. One of the best performing emerging markets over the last 10 years according to Morning star is Delaware Emerging Market fund (DEMAX) Check it out!

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