10 Affordable Ways to Survive the Polar Vortex

by Erica Starr 29. January 2014

Baltimore Snow

Welcome to Baltimore folks! The home of the blue crab, Old Bay, Berger cookies and the most recent addition to its resume’, the co-host of the 2014 Polar Vortex. According to the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore has racked up the most single digit temperature lows for the month of January since 1982. While that heart-warming statistic may not make you all warm and fuzzy inside, these money saving tips just might do the trick AND teach you a thing or two on how to save money at the same time.

Money Saving Tips to Survive Baltimore's Polar Votex:

1) 86 the Jewelry

As soon as the frigid air hits the metal of your latest and greatest accessories, they start absorbing the temperature. Fast forward a few moments and you now have a pair of ice cubes hanging from your ears instead of the dangly earring you thought you put on in the morning.

2) Bake Cookies

Bake anything for that matter. 375 degrees is pretty darn warm, so after you’ve taken your batch of mouthwatering chocolate chip cookies out of the oven, turn it off (write that down…turn it off) and leave the door open while it cools down. Heck, just using your oven often heats up your kitchen, so why not kill two birds with one stone – food and heat; multitasking at its finest.

3) Reverse, Reverse

While you may typically use your ceiling fans to cool down, running your fan on low in reverse actually pushes any warm air in the room down to your living area. Yes, running the fan in any capacity can increase your electric bill but because you are keeping it on low, the impact to your monthly bill will be minimal, if any.

4) Uncover Vents

This may seem like common sense, but when you are pressed for space in your living area (i.e. a Canton rowhome), a lot of times we forget about the vents that we covered up when we bought that new couch. Just do a quick walk-through of your house and make sure that nothing (furniture, towels, boxes, and pets) is covering up your vents, preventing the hot air from circulating properly. If your vents are covered, your furnace is working double (and charging double) to heat an area that will never be adequately heated.

5) Hot Beverages are Your Friend

Whether it’s coffee, tea, hot chocolate or your grandmother’s famous hot tottie, cozying up with a warm drink can help keep even the coldest of January days more bearable.

6) Dodge the Drafts

Putting Door Draft Dodgers™ against the bottom of your outside doors and windows may prove to be the best Polar Vortex $10.00 you’ll ever spend. These extremely affordable, genius inventions will not only help keep the cold air out, but you’ll also be saving on your monthly energy bills as your heating units won’t have to work as hard.

7) Who Doesn't Love Fuzzy Socks?

And here you thought you’d never get any use out of the fuzzy socks that you got for Christmas all those years. After you call your Mom and thank her, break out a pair or two of your favorite wool or fuzzy socks. Again – two birds with one stone – bonus points with the Mom AND warm feet – the multitasking continues.

8) Change Your Furnice Filters

When is the last time you changed the filters in your furnace? If you can’t remember, chances are it’s time to change them. Even if you can remember, it can’t hurt to check them and make sure they are clean and working effectively. Changing or cleaning your filters regularly will also help you increase the efficiency and life expectancy of your furnace while helping you cut energy costs.

9) Teach Me How to Snuggie

Yep – we said it. Don’t lie, you know you have, or at least want, a Snuggie®. Worst case scenario, put your robe on backwards, it’s really the same thing AND costs you ZERO dollars.

10) Cuddle up with Your 4-Legged Friend

Nothing is more heart-warming than sitting down on the couch and cuddling up with your 4-legged K9 or feline friend after a cold, blustery day. Trust me; if nothing else, it will put a smile on your face.

So there you have it: the official Baltimore Polar Vortex Survival Guide. We fully expect all of you to go home, take off your jewelry, break out the Snuggie® (equipped with fuzzy socks) and cuddle up on the couch with your favorite K9 or feline while eating chocolate chip cookies and enjoying a giant cup of tea. What more affordable way can you think of to stay warm, save money and eat chocolate chip cookies? Again with the multitasking…it’s like you’re a multitasking, money saving Czar or something.

Stay warm out there, Baltimore!

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

The Best Things to Buy in the Winter

Spring Forward with These 5 Energy Saving Tips

How to Stay Cool when Temperatures are Hot

Let There be Light...at the End of the Tunnel

by Anirban Basu 24. January 2014

Anirban Basu

The U.S. economy had been stuck at 2 percent growth for several years and throughout much of 2013. Imagine a sports car with incredible get up and go, but one that had to constantly negotiate a series of speed bumps that permit it to only travel between 30 and 40 miles per hour. To complete the analogy, that translates into sub-par economic growth and an unemployment rate still hovering around 7 percent after more than 4 years of economic recovery.

However, the outlook for 2014 is as positive as it has been for any year since the onset of the financial crisis. There are a number of relevant factors at play. The world economy is now strengthening, with accelerating growth apparent in China, parts of Europe, the U.S., and in a host of emerging nations. Accordingly, the International Monetary Fund projects that the global economy will expand 3.6 percent in 2014 after expanding closer to 3 percent in 2013.

There are other tailwinds that more specifically impact the U.S. economy. The nation now enjoys greater certainty regarding its federal budgetary and Federal Reserve monetary policies. Seemingly against all odds, the federal government recently passed a budget that guides spending into 2015. On December 18th of last year, the Federal Reserve announced that it would begin to taper its bond purchase program beginning in January. Rather than purchasing $85 billion each month in assets, the Federal Reserve will taper its purchases to $75 billion per month. Specifically, the FOMC will reduce its purchases of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities to $40 billion and $35 billion per month.

Equity investors cheered the policy announcement for at least three reasons. First, the Federal Reserve introduced language suggesting that short-term rates will remain low for many quarters to come. The announcement also reduces the level of policy uncertainty, and markets don’t like uncertainty. Finally, the decision to taper implies that the Federal Reserve’s forecast for U.S. economic activity has improved since its September 2013 meeting.

There’s more at work than policy shifts. Gas prices have fallen, helping to increase consumer disposable spending power. Corporate performance remains solid. A majority of large U.S. corporations beat their earnings estimates during last year’s third quarter. However, a materially smaller share beat their revenue estimates, implying that companies continue to aggressively manage costs to boost bottom line performance. With economic growth now accelerating both nationally and globally, corporate America may have an opportunity to rapidly expand both their respective bottom and top lines.

The stock market has simply boomed as a result of the confluence of many factors, with the S&P 500 surging nearly 30 percent in 2013. While 2014 is unlikely to generate anything close to that return, the stock market’s performance has added both capital and confidence to the U.S. economy, which in turn creates a better environment for the broader market.

In general, regions of the nation enjoying the fastest recovery are those that are associated with rapidly rising populations (e.g., Texas, Florida), surges in energy production (North Dakota, Texas, Louisiana), increased industrial output (Indiana, South Carolina) and rapidly recovering housing markets (Florida, Georgia, Arizona). These regions are likely to continue to expand more rapidly in 2014.

Will Maryland Catch the Tailwinds?

Maryland was a willing participant in the nationwide recovery and continued to post solid economic performance numbers throughout 2013. For instance, between November 2012 and November 2013, the state added 33,500 jobs or 1.3 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The State ranked 28th in the nation with respect to year-over-year percentage job growth over that period, down from 22nd in May of 2013. Despite the dip in relative job growth, the Free State ranked ahead of Virginia. Statewide aggregate employment has now surpassed its December 2007 level, the month during which the Great Recession began.

Despite a promising outlook for the global and national economies, there is cause for concern in Maryland. Like a facemask-wearing stalker in a 1980s horror movie, the State’s structural deficit refuses to permanently disappear. What was once estimated to be a $300 million surplus for FY2014 is now an $87 million deficit. The budgetary gap rises to $400 million for FY2015. It is critical that Annapolis resolve these shortfalls without further impacting the state’s business climate and reputation.

Moreover, Maryland does not fully participate in many of the economic segments that are likely to drive the U.S. economy forward in 2014, including industrial and energy production. As a wealthy state, Maryland does benefit from disproportionate impetus from stock market-induced wealth effects, however. It also helps that sequestration has been relaxed a bit. The distribution, medical research and financial service intensive Baltimore metropolitan area has arguably been the healthiest economic region within Maryland of late in terms of pace of recovery.

Anirban Basu is Chairman & CEO of Sage Policy Group, Inc., an economic and policy consulting firm in Baltimore, Maryland. Basu is one of the Mid-Atlantic region's most recognizable economists, in part because of his consulting work on behalf of numerous clients, including prominent developers, bankers, brokerage houses, energy suppliers and law firms. On behalf of government agencies and non-profit organizations, Basu has written several high-profile economic development strategies, including co-authoring Baltimore City's economic growth strategy. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of 1st Mariner Bank.

Traditonal vs. Roth IRAs: How to Choose

by Marylove Moy 23. January 2014

Roth vs Traditional IRAs

One of the most frequent questions asked to our 1st Mariner Financial Advisers is regarding the choice of a Traditional or Roth IRA*.

It is complicated...

At first glance, the Roth IRA is very appealing since it offers the long term investor the ability to withdraw funds TAX FREE (after age 59 ½, a holding period of 5 years or for very specific exception situations). Investors must bear in mind that the Roth does not offer the possible tax deduction of the Traditional IRA.

In reality, it usually comes down to numbers. However enticing the idea of the Roth IRA may be, in many situations an investor is better off contributing to a Traditional IRA.

Therefore, the first step in deciding which IRA is better for you, is to determine if you are eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA. (There are strict income limits which apply to Roth IRAs.) Higher income earners have IRS-imposed limits governing their ability to make a Roth IRA contribution. For example, in 2014, individuals earning $112,000 and couples earning $178,000 begin to have their dollar amount contributions limited and ultimately phased out at higher income levels.

There are many online calculators offered that assist you in making the decision. I urge you to take the time to work through this calculation! The calculator can determine your eligibility and project the long term values of both a Traditional and Roth IRA using your age, salary, percentage contribution and expected rate of return. These values are only projections, but you owe it to yourself to complete the exercise. It is your future!

Both types of IRAs offer similar contribution amounts and investment options.

These are but a few of the many considerations in your retirement planning. For most individuals, their 401(k)s and IRAs represent the single largest part of their net worth (aside from personal residence); I urge you to seek the guidance of a financial professional in making these important decisions.

*Not insured by FDIC or any Federal Government Agency.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

Daily Habits of Rich People

Managing Your Money in Retirement



© 2008- 1st Mariner Bank