Got Red Carpet Stain? This EC Reader Has the Solution!

If you’ve ever had a big ol’ ugly red stain on your otherwise beautiful carpet, you know the meaning of heartbreak. You’ve tried everything to get it out, but still it’s there. Big. Bad. Ugly.

What you wouldn’t give to find some kind of magic potion that would erase it once and for all. Right? Well, today is your lucky day because you’re about to discover just what that potion is.

Red wine spilled on carpet

RED CARPET STAIN SOLUTION. Need to remove a horrible carpet stain left by a red drink? Or coffee? Try Folex, which is a clear spray in a non-aerosol bottle. Available online for about $10,  and also at some Walmart and Home Depot stores. Simply spray the stain and work the product into the stained fibers with your fingertips. Blot with clean cloth. No rinsing necessary. I’ve used Folex on dark red wine stains, on ivory colored carpet and also on the shadows of old stains like coffee in a couple of places. Folex removed every trace. I highly recommend! Rebecca

ABANDONED PHONE CHARGERS. Once on a trip, I forgot to pack a phone charger. I was so desperate, I asked at the hotel’s front desk if they had one that would fit that I might use. A security guard took me to the storage room where there were at least 12 large plastic bins full! I dug through the spaghetti-like mess and found one. When I offered to return it, he said, “Keep it, we probably have three hundred more just like it!” Somehow, someone needs to figure out how to get local hospitals that could really use phone chargers for their patients and nearby hotels (that have way too many) together on this phone charger issue! (see Donate Phone Chargers) I always enjoy your posts. Thanks! Deborah


Rebooting My Spirit

To say that I am impressionable would be to put it mildly. And when I say impressionable I mean prone to take on the circumstances and the weight of people, places and things around me. Here’s an example: I watched the movie “Castaway,” and for the next seven nights in a row, dreamt that I was drowning.


I’m like a giant sponge. I absorb whatever I allow myself to be exposed to. Of course I can’t always control my surroundings and life situations so as to avoid anything negative, but I’ve had a giant wakeup call in the past week or so. I’ve allowed myself to become overly saturated with the cares of the world and the prophets of doom (and gloom). It’s time to reboot my spirit.

Here are the five things I will be doing on a daily basis over the coming 30 days:

1. Turn off the TV. I rarely sit and watch TV. But I am one to have it on in the background, all the time. I’m drawn to news and talk shows and you know what that means―all of the troubles of the world playing over and over again. I am taking a 30-day break from politics and news. 


5 Questions Reveal if You’re Ready to Retire

by Nick Bautista, CFP

I am thrilled to introduce Nick Bautista to you, a fully licensed professional, offering financial and insurance services, which by the way my husband and I count ourselves as clients. -mh

Arguably, one of the biggest and most time-consuming decisions we face in life is the question of when to retire. After all, we want to one day reap the benefits of having done our best to live below our means.

couple walking beach sunset retirement

With that in mind, here are five questions for which you need to have solid answers before you let that boss of yours know you’re ready to retire!

1. Have I fully considered the lifestyle I wish to live in retirement?

There you are, ready to retire and all of sudden it hits you—you haven’t thought through how you will actually live in retirement. How you will do that is a big deal. We grow up imagining not having to work forever, but somehow we don’t think through the details of what that lifestyle will look like. Ask yourself:

  • What would I like to accomplish?
  • What do I look forward to doing?
  • What do I want to avoid?

Sure, traveling the world or spending time with grandkids is great, but if your spouse has other ideas you better make sure you are on the same page about what retirement will look like.

Consider: Married couples often forget that the other spouse may not want exactly what they want. It’s important to start talking through your dreams and goals.

2. Do I have a retirement Spending Plan on paper—not just a general idea in my head?

What we think we spend versus what we actually spend is often much different. Most of us think we know where the money goes, but if you don’t track your expenses you have no idea if you can retire. How will you know whether you are spending more than you should out of your retirement savings and investment portfolio?

Consider: The highest spending years are those right before you retire. Naturally, this happens as those are your prime “go-go” years. You will eventually slow down due to health reasons.

Reducing your spending is always harder than being able to ramp up spending. You should have a Spending Plan that accounts for both what you need to spend and what you will be able spend. You could forgo some fun if you need to get groceries for the month, but you can’t necessarily go out and make more money, which makes reliance on your savings vital. Using a budgeting tool like to track your spending can help you stay on top of expenses.

3. Do I understand and have a plan for when to begin drawing my Social Security benefit?

According to the Social Security Administration, about 45 percent of people take Social Security at the first opportunity, when they turn 62. Do that and your benefit will be permanently reduced by at least 25 percent.

Consider: Create your account at to get an estimate of your benefits at your full retirement age (FRA). Delaying benefits each year until age 70 can add about 8 percent per year more in benefits. Social Security is only meant to cover a part of your retirement expenses. The average benefit is just under $16,000 annually for someone claiming Social Security. Make sure you know how much you and your spouse can expect.

4. Do I understand and know my options for how and when I will turn my retirement savings into an income stream? 

In that you will no longer have a paycheck, how will you create income? How will you cover your living expenses? Before entering into retirement you should know how to rollout and manage your 401(k) or other retirement account money. Retirement is here and it’s time to sell off part of your investments to create income. How do you do that?

Consider: You may want to roll your 401(k) into an IRA and manage the investments yourself or find help. A general rule of thumb is to not take out more than 4 percent from your portfolio each year. This allows your portfolio principal to continue to grow in retirement in order to keep up with inflation.

5. Do I have a specific plan that will allow my income stream to last for my lifetime?

It’s no surprise that Americans are living longer. We smoke less and eat healthier food, which has been increasing our lifespans. A 65-year-old couple has a 74-percent chance that one of them lives until age 85 (according to Social Security Period Life Table 2011). Your money may need to last much longer than 20 years. You are ready to retire when you know your money will support your entire retirement, however long that may be, and you have looked at your budget and created a plan. You know with a high degree of certainty how much you can draw each year to enjoy a fun, lasting retirement.

Consider: Inflation and healthcare costs. Inflation eats away at how much you can purchase. Healthcare costs have been rising every year around 5 percent (according to BLS CPI). Having enough money when you are 80 is just as important as having fun in your 60s. Managing your investments to sustain your lifestyle helps you to do that.

Need help answering these five questions? A good place to start would be reading Mary’s book, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement (it’s great for men, too!).

db3a8653-aecc-472f-8049-94b5f9fd1e39Or contact me directly (949-333-6394) to schedule a free consultation. I would love to set up a time that we could chat through these five questions to determine where you are and how you can know for certain when you’re ready to retire.

Do you have specific questions or just need further clarity on retirement? Nick Bautista would love to speak with you. You are invited to contact him by phone 949-333-6394 or email:

The forgoing represents hypothetical examples and are for illustrative purposes only. No specific investments were used in this example. Actual results will vary. Past performance does not guarantee future results. This material is intended for informational/educational purposes only and should not be construed as investment advice, a solicitation, or a recommendation to buy or sell any security or investment product. Please contact your financial professional for more information specific to your situation.

Mark Phillips & Associates ~ 19712 MacArthur Boulevard ~ Suite 225 ~ Irvine, CA 92612
949-333-6394 office // 949-333-6392 fax

Nick Bautista (CA Insurance Lic.#0G06508) is a Registered Representative and Investment Adviser Representative with/and offers securities and Advisory Services through Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC,. A Registered Investment Adviser. Fixed insurance products and services offered through Mark Phillips & Associates or CES Insurance Agency.


10 Cool Gadgets that Put Money Back in Your Pocket

There is an old marketing adage that insists that for a business to make money it has to spend money. There’s truth in that for business, but when it comes to personal money management don’t count on it unless you have a clear strategy.

That’s exactly what these inexpensive yet handy gadgets offer—clear strategies capable of reducing the high cost of your home’s electricity, water and gas.

dollars in a jeans pocket, closeup

Don’t get me wrong—I am not saying that you cannot reduce your energy consumption without buying a gadget to do it, but the following ten such gadgets sure do make the job a lot easier, which means you’re more likely to carry through to see the net savings!

1. Outlet Sealers. Electrical sockets and switch plates on exterior walls can be hidden sources of drafts that may lead to high heating and cooling costs. Socket sealers are really easy to install and act as a buffer between your home’s inside and the outdoor air, helping to keep conditioned air in and outside air out. The Duck Brand 283333 Socket Sealers Variety Pack comes with 16 outlet sealers, 6 switch plates and 2 decorative covers. About $5.

2. Window Shrink Film. Chilly winter or hot summer weather can send the home heating/air conditioning bill through the roof. But a little insulation goes a long way. You can cut a chunk out of your power bill by making your home your home more energy efficient when you install window shrink film. It’s easy, using a conventional hair dryer with film like you can get in a Duck Brand 281506 Indoor 10-Window Shrink Film Insulator Kit. This particular kit will insulate the equivalent of ten 3’ x 5’ windows for a total of about $7.


How I Book Really Cheap Travel

Recently, while packing up files and expense records, I came across a file for a  business trip that could have been very expensive but was so cheap, I am still amazed.

I traveled from Los Angeles to Denver as the Speaker for the Dept. of Interior Employee Book Forum. I had plenty of notice making it possible to book travel, hotel and car well in advance. Check out these details for how I cut the cost of airfare, hotel and rental care by more than half.

travel word scheme and computer keyboard

FLIGHT: I try to keep my travel with the same airline to build up my frequent flier miles and usually that works pretty well. I’ve found that in most cases, AA is very competitive. However, this time cheapest AA roundtrip fare for flights that fit my schedule for this particular trip was anything but reasonable—$755. Wow! At first I was sure I’d made a mistake. But no, that was indeed AA’s best price. I put the reservation on “hold” to give me time to shop around. Most airlines will do this for 24 hours.

I went straight to and input the very same information. Within 30 seconds the site returned many options for the same date, time and destination. The cheapest: $196 roundtrip including all fees and tax on United with one small twist. I would have to depart from LAX (Los Angeles) but return to SNA (Orange County). That’s perfect for me given that at the time I worked closer to LAX but lived closer to SNA. Realizing I was about to not spend $559, I booked it on the spot.


Take the Luck Out of Potluck

I grew up as a preacher’s kid in the era of the all-church potluck, a kind of ritual that took place regularly in the basement of the church. The food was, at best, bland. That is until the advent of Lemon Jello, when things took a decided turn for the worse.


To this day, I don’t know where it came from, but my father became the proud owner of two 55-gallon drums of lemon Jello powder, divided up into small, unlabeled, non-descript packages. We knew it was lemon Jello because he told everyone that it was. You would have thought the man struck gold for the joy it brought to him. Imagine two gigantic, industrial-strength drums of free lemon Jello.

The assignment for all the church cooks was to take as much of this stuff as they could handle and to come up with amazing potluck dishes using the lemon Jello. Not wanting to disappoint the preacher, everyone (it seemed to me), accepted the challenge.

These people dutifully made lemon cakes and lemon puddings; lemon pies and lemon drinks. The results were not good, even though my father declared each lemon Jello offering to be better than the last. The truth is that no matter how hard these cooks tried, whatever they made with the lemon Jello was not fit for human consumption. 


EC Father’s Day 2016 Gift Guide

Since Father’s Day is a week away and since I have a feeling you’re as surprised by that as I am and since most of us have dads, know a dad or have a dad figure in our lives—once again I’ve taken the liberty of assuming that you might appreciate some help coming up with an awesome Father’s Day gift. And don’t worry—Amazon Prime shipping can deliver most, if not all, of these gifts in plenty of time for the big day.


BBQ Grill Tools Set. This 16-piece BBQ set is made of sturdy stainless steel construction and just as neat as a pin! if your Dad likes things well organized with easy access—and he’s a man of the grill—this is the set of tools he wants and needs! $42

Nordic Ware 2 Burner Backsplash Griddle. Watch Dad turn the kitchen (or outdoor grill) into a diner for making great breakfasts (lunch, dinner) with this Double Burner Backsplash Griddle. It features a raised edge that allows for easy flipping-whether cooking eggs, meats or veggies and is two burners wide. Ideal for frying multiple foods at once. Drip reservoir in front collects excess grease and oil, and backsplash prevents spillage. Cast aluminum is durable and easy to clean. Made in the USA. $40

Bosch 2-Speed Drill/Driver Kit. 12-Volt Max Lithium-Ion 3/8-Inch 2-Speed Drill/Driver Kit with 2 batteries, charger and case. Great power and absolutely the best drill/driver for common household projects. $99.


Don’t Throw That Out!

Ever walked into the kitchen to get that first cup of coffee only to discover someone left the ice cream on the counter all night? Or the milk? Or discovered an opened bottle of wine in the back of the fridge? And what’s with those bags of stale chips in the pantry? I don’t hate spoiled food as much as I did before I discovered so many clever ways to use up items I used to throw out.


Sour milk

It often happens in warm weather, with even a limited milk supply, that some of it gets  sour before it can be used. Don’t throw it out, even if there is only a little. Sour milk is a valuable kitchen asset! Have a clean glass to pour the remnants in, and keep it in the fridge until you have accumulated one cup. Then plan to use it as soon as it thickens, since milk becomes bitter if it stands too long. Note: Recipes using sour milk must include baking soda.


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 1 cup thick sour milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 400 F. Sift the flour, salt, and soda well together. Rub in the shortening with a spoon. Add the milk and stir lightly. The dough should be soft. Drop by spoonfuls into greased muffin tins and bake in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes.