June 18, 2024

Is buying a home still a worthy investment?

There are many ways to make your money grow and increase your wealth over time. You can invest in the stock market. You could put your money into bonds or high-yield savings accounts. Or you can put the money to work for you via real estate by purchasing a home, either to live in or to rent out.

But is buying a house a good investment? That depends on many different factors, including your short- and long-term goals. Learn more by checking out my latest article for Yahoo Finance, available here.

June 12, 2024

Cineversary podcast welcomes back TCM's Eddie Muller to celebrate 50th birthday of Chinatown

In Cineversary podcast episode #71, host Erik Martin is joined again by Eddie Muller, host of TCM’s Noir Alley and founder/president of the Film Noir Foundation, to mark the golden anniversary of Chinatown (1974), directed by Roman Polanski and starring Jack Nicholson. Together, they investigate what makes this movie tick like precision clockwork 50 years later, why it still matters, crucial themes, and more.
Eddie Muller
To listen to this episode, click here or click the "play" button on the embedded streaming player below. Or, you can stream, download, or subscribe to Cineversary wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, PodBean, RadioPublic, and Overcast.

Learn more about the Cineversary podcast at www.cineversary.com and email show comments or suggestions to cineversarypodcast@gmail.com.

June 5, 2024

Car insurance costs after adding your adolescent

You've got a son or daughter who has recently received a driver's license and is eager to get behind the wheel. But before you can hand over the keys, it's important to answer a crucial question: How much does it cost to add a teenager to car insurance?

The answer can vary depending on several factors, but you can likely expect higher premiums once your adolescent is added to your auto insurance policy. Dig for the facts and get price quotes from different insurers after inquiring about potential discounts you and your teenager may be eligible for. Learn more by reading my latest article on this topic for Carinsurance.com, available here.

May 28, 2024

Work for yourself? Here's how to get a mortgage loan

If you run your own business — or are a gig worker, freelancer or independent contractor — financing a home could prove challenging. One of the first things lenders look for is a steady, verifiable income. Without a regular paycheck or W-2 statement, it can be harder to prove how much you make, and how reliably you make it. But just because you work for yourself doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to have a hard time getting a mortgage. 

Learn what's required to get approved for a loan when you’re self-employed by checking out my newest piece for Bankrate, available here.

May 21, 2024

Two-wheeled intensity

Jeff Steber has worn a lot of hats in his life, from carpenter to guitar builder to car customizer. But he’s most proud of his role as founder and CEO of Intense, the bicycle company he launched in 1993. Over the past three decades, Steber and his team have crafted high-caliber mountain bikes—renowned for their innovative designs, choice of materials and components, build quality, speed and durability.

Learn more about Intense and the rugged bikes they craft by reading my newest article for The Costco Connection magazine, available here.

May 16, 2024

Cineversary podcast honors 70th birthday of On the Waterfront

Michael Phillips and Stephen Rebello
In Cineversary podcast episode #70, host Erik Martin lights 70 birthday candles for Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando. Two esteemed guests join him this time around: Stephen Rebello, author of the forthcoming book A City Full of Hawks: On the Waterfront Seventy Years Later; and Michael Phillips, film critic for The Chicago Tribune. Together, they examine why this movie still matters seven decades later, what makes it a movie masterwork, salient themes, and more.

To listen to this episode, click here or click the "play" button on the embedded streaming player below. Or, you can stream, download, or subscribe to Cineversary wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Castbox, Pocket Casts, PodBean, RadioPublic, and Overcast.

Learn more about the Cineversary podcast at Cineversary.com and email show comments or suggestions to cineversarypodcast@gmail.com.
   

May 8, 2024

Demystifying the facts behind down payment assistance

Down payment assistance programs help aspiring home buyers afford the upfront costs of buying a home. Typically administered by state or local housing finance agencies and nonprofit organizations, DPA programs offer a mix of grants, deferred-payment loans, forgivable loans and mortgage tax credit certificates to eligible buyers.

While DPA programs are common, many buyers are confused about who can qualify for assistance and how they work. To help clear up some of the most persistent down payment assistance program myths, why they endure, and the facts about applying for and getting DPA, read my first article for new client Quicken Loans, available here.

April 29, 2024

Vetting voicebot vulnerability

Alexa, Siri, Google, and other voice assistants are listening to more people than ever before. For proof, consider that the number of US voice assistant users is forecast to exceed 162 million by 2027, up from 145 million in 2023, with around 46 million millennials and 45 million regularly using voice assistants today, according to Insider Intelligence data. Market Research Future expects the voice assistant market to grow to $30.72 billion by 2030.

But note that nearly 7 in 10 consumers worldwide are either somewhat or very concerned about their privacy online, per the IAPP Privacy and Consumer Trust Report 2023, with 57% of consumers believing that AI poses a major threat to their privacy. Many of these worries pertain to the increasingly ubiquitous and pervasive presence of voicebots and voice assistants used by companies, especially in customer service capacities. People are becoming more aware and troubled about the collection, storage, and utilization of their data by corporate America, particularly in terms of data security and privacy.

Learn more about this topic by reading my newest article for Speech Technology Magazine, available here.

April 23, 2024

How to get a car loan

It’s challenging to come up with enough scratch to afford the full price tag on a new or used vehicle. Per Kelley Blue Book’s most recent data, the average transaction price of a new car is $47,401.

Meanwhile, Edmunds.com reports that the average price of a used car stands at $27,297. If you’re like many drivers, chances are you’re going to need some financing help in the form of a car loan.

Take the time to better understand how car loans work, the advantages and disadvantages of getting a vehicle loan, eligibility requirements, who offers car loans, steps involved in the process, what to consider carefully before signing on the dotted line, and alternatives to ponder by checking out my latest Refi.com article on this topic, available here.

April 17, 2024

Cineversary podcast marks 70th anniversary of Seven Samurai

David Desser and Stuart Galbraith IV
In Cineversary podcast episode #69, host Erik Martin sends 70th birthday wishes to Akira Kurosawa’s epic masterwork Seven Samurai. This month, he’s joined by Asian cinema expert and University of Illinois film professor David Desser, as well as Stuart Galbraith IV, author of The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. Together, they explore what makes this film a treasure of world cinema, how it has stood the test of time, prominent themes, and more.

To listen to this episode, click here or click the "play" button on the embedded streaming player below. Or, you can stream, download, or subscribe to Cineversary wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Castbox, Pocket Casts, PodBean, RadioPublic, and Overcast.

Learn more about the Cineversary podcast at www.cineversary.com and email show comments or suggestions to cineversarypodcast@gmail.com.

April 9, 2024

Shed of the class

Whether you need extra real estate to store that lawnmower, a handy hideaway to stash your bikes and gear, or additional space for crafting or relaxing, a sturdy new shed deserves a spot in your yard. Fortunately, a wider array of these prefabricated enclosures are available today, easier to assemble and built to last longer than ever.

Learn more by reading my latest article for The Costco Connection magazine, available here.

April 2, 2024

Spring housing market forecast

With the weather warming up and flowers starting to bloom, it’s natural to get excited about the spring season upon us. But will hope spring eternal for home shoppers and sellers alike over the next few months? What’s in store for us as the national spring home buying season begins?

When in doubt, consult those in the know. So I contacted several trusted housing market experts for their analyses and forecasts about the spring home buying season, including predictions on mortgage rates, home prices, and inventory as well as tips on how house hunters can get a leg up on the competition. Read my full writeup, published by The Mortgage Reports, here.

March 26, 2024

How to replace a lost or stolen credit card

That plastic rectangle in your wallet or purse may look small, but it can present a large problem if it’s misplaced, stolen or compromised. That’s because a thief can quickly rack up unauthorized charges and possibly harm your credit unless you take swift action.

That’s why it’s crucial to take a lost or stolen credit card seriously. You need to know what to do if you notice unauthorized charges, including how to contact your credit card issuer and the major credit bureaus, when it’s best to file a police report, when to consider a security freeze on your credit file, and other best practices you can adopt to safeguard your credit cards.

For tips, check out my lastest story for Bankrate, available here.

March 19, 2024

Need a home appraisal? Here's what it costs

A professional home appraisal is essential when buying or selling a home. If you’re purchasing, your lender will require one to verify that the loan you’re applying for is appropriate to the home’s value. If you’re selling, you’ll want an objective take on how much you can expect your home to sell for. Either way, you’ll be asking the question, How much does a home appraisal cost?

Learn the answer by reading my latest story for LowerMyBills.com, available here.

March 14, 2024

Cineversary podcast celebrates diamond anniversary of The Third Man

David Thomson and Charles Drazin
In Cineversary podcast episode #68, host Erik Martin celebrates the diamond anniversary of Carol Reed’s The Third Man with two outstanding guests: David Thomson, renowned film critic, cinema historian, and author of The Fatal Alliance: A Century of War on Film; and Charles Drazin, film historian and author of In Search of The Third Man. Together, they scour the streets and sewers of Vienna on the trail of Harry Lime and the truths behind this now 75-year-old masterwork.

To listen to this episode, click here or click the "play" button on the embedded streaming player below. Or, you can stream, download, or subscribe to Cineversary wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, PodBean, RadioPublic, and Overcast.

Learn more about the Cineversary podcast at www.cineversary.com and email show comments or suggestions to cineversarypodcast@gmail.com
  
 

March 5, 2024

Breathe easier indoors

Many people assume that outdoor pollution caused by cars and factories is rampant, meaning we should spend more time indoors for better respiratory health. But it may surprise you to learn that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor levels of pollutants are often two to five times greater than outdoor pollutants—in some cases more than 100 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.

Couple that stark fact with this alarming stat: We tend to spend around 90% of our time indoors.

Consider that poor indoor air quality can seriously affect your health, causing or worsening allergies, asthma, and other respiratory problems. Polluted indoor air has various sources, from everyday dust and pet dander to mold spores and harmful chemicals from cleaning products.

For tips on how to improve the quality of your indoor air, read my newest article for The Salt Lake Tribune, available here.

February 27, 2024

No butts about it: You can kick that smoking habit

Addicted to tobacco but finding it difficult to stop? There are good reasons why abandoning cigarettes and other forms of smoking is so hard. One of the biggest is that nicotine, found in tobacco, can be as addictive as heroin or cocaine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarettes are designed to swiftly deliver nicotine to the brain. Within your brain, nicotine instigates the release of chemicals that induce pleasurable sensations. With repeated nicotine exposure, your brain becomes accustomed to its presence. 

But all hope is not lost. It is absolutely possible to kick cigarettes and other forms of smoking to the curb for good with the right approaches and education. Get helpful tips by reading my newest piece for The Daily Herald, available here.

February 20, 2024

Audiovisual augmentation

With astounding relative speed, artificial intelligence (AI) technology has permeated many different businesses and industries in recent years. But lately, its encroachment into video and voice creation has been particularly remarkable, providing ample opportunities for players in this field to succeed in more efficient, economical, and impressive ways. 

Consider how AI is revolutionizing the field of video by automating tasks, improving the editing and post-production process, and unlocking innovative opportunities. Video editors powered by AI today can, for instance, efficiently analyze and process extensive amounts of footage, identifying key moments and automatically generating highlights. AI also plays a crucial role in tackling intricate editing tasks such as color grading and transitions. Additionally, AI-driven tools empower creators to produce distinctive and captivating visual effects, introducing a new layer to storytelling. 

AI has reshaped the creation of voices, as well, ushering in an era of realistic and expressive synthetic speech that is now used widely within areas such as customer service chatbots, voiceovers, virtual assistants, and audiobooks.  Deep learning algorithms, trained on vast datasets of human speech, can now generate voices that are virtually indistinguishable from their human counterparts. This breakthrough has expanded possibilities across various domains, including voice-over work, animation, entertainment, and personalized communication.

It’s constructive to consider the progress that’s been achieved on these fronts, the adoption rate of voice and video creation, the difficulties that still need to be addressed, and the enticing possibilities ahead. Learn more by reading my newest piece for Speech Technology magazine, available here.

February 14, 2024

Cineversary podcast sends valentine to It Happened One Night for its 90th birthday

Joseph McBride
In Cineversary podcast episode #67, host Erik Martin and guest Joseph McBride, a film professor at San Francisco State University and author of Frankly: Unmasking Frank Capra, send a valentine to It Happened One Night, directed by Frank Capra, which celebrates a 90th birthday this month. Erik and Joseph hitchhike across Hollywood history to examine how this granddaddy of the romcom and screwball comedy remains a classic, its influence on later films, what it reveals about Capra, and much more.

To listen to this episode, click here or click the "play" button on the embedded streaming player below. Or, you can stream, download, or subscribe to Cineversary wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, PodBean, RadioPublic, and Overcast.

Learn more about the Cineversary podcast at www.cineversary.com and email show comments or suggestions to cineversarypodcast@gmail.com.

February 7, 2024

Will your health insurance cover talk therapy?

Want help for a mental health-related issue? The good news is that most health insurance plans will cover treatment like talk therapy, inpatient hospitalization, substance abuse treatment, emergency care, and medications. But your need for these services and pharmaceuticals must be deemed medically necessary, which requires a diagnosis.

Learn more about if and to what extent health insurance covers mental health treatment, how to confirm if therapy coverage is in place, what kinds of treatments are typically covered, how much therapy costs, and more by checking out my newest story for Forbes Advisor, published here.

February 2, 2024

The perks of pet ownership

Fido, Fluffy and friends with feathers, fins and scales can make a big difference in our lives, providing companionship, structure and distraction from our concerns. But pets can also contribute to better physical and mental well-being, yielding substantial health benefits.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, research indicates that the connection between individuals and their companion animals is associated with numerous health advantages, including reduced blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, fewer feelings of solitude and anxiety and diminished symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Pet ownership also increases opportunities for physical activities and outdoor pursuits, improved cognitive capabilities in seniors, and enhanced occasions for social interaction.

Read my newest article for CTW Features, available here, to discover more of the benefits of owning a pet.

January 23, 2024

Not a "morning person"? Here's how you can still stay healthy

Have trouble staying alert in the a.m. hours? Feeling sluggish during the early part of the workday? Did you stay up too late last night because you had trouble falling asleep? If you are not a “morning person,” you’re not alone. But getting it in gear can be challenging when you consistently get insufficient slumber or if you can’t rise and shine efficiently.

When you have to wake up earlier than you prefer and struggle with this early schedule, there are things you can do to feel better, improve your energy levels, and maintain recommended health and wellness. Learn more by reading my latest article for The Daily Herald, found here

January 17, 2024

Cineversary podcast celebrates 60th birthday of Dr. Strangelove

Rodney Hill and Kenneth Turan
In Cineversary podcast episode #66, host Erik Martin heads to the War Room with former LA Times and NPR film critic Kenneth Turan and Hofstra University film professor Rodney Hill to decipher the top secret codes behind Dr. Strangelove, directed by Stanley Kubrick, in celebration of the movie’s 60th anniversary. Erik and his guests explore how this black comedy masterwork remains evergreen, Kubrick’s brilliant directing choices, and key themes underpinning this supreme political satire. Erik also chats briefly with Tom Lucas from Fathom Events, who unveils Fathom’s 2024 lineup of Big Screen Classics returning to theaters this year.

To listen to this episode, click here or click the "play" button on the embedded streaming player below. Or, you can stream, download, or subscribe to Cineversary wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, PodBean, RadioPublic, and Overcast.

Learn more about the Cineversary podcast at www.cineversary.com and email show comments or suggestions to cineversarypodcast@gmail.com.

January 9, 2024

A New Year's resolution to ruminate on: Modernize your home's look

“Out with the old, in with the new” is a credo that doesn’t have to exclusively apply to the turn of the year. In fact, it often pays to keep early tabs on trends coming down the pike and proactively implement what the experts forecast, especially when it comes to home improvement. Indeed, paying attention to interior design trends from year to year is a great way to get new inspiration for your home. Trends often emerge from innovative ideas, which can give you a fresh perspective on your abode.

Discover creative ways to update your home's design by reading my latest article for The Daily Herald, available here.

January 3, 2024

Housing market experts offer predictions for the next 3 months

We may be in the thick of winter, but many homebuyers and sellers are starting to have warm thoughts about the housing market. That’s because, looking ahead, market indicators suggest we’ll see increased activity thanks to lower mortgage rates. Yet home prices remain high and inventory levels are tight in many markets.

How will the first quarter of 2024 shake out when it comes to rates, prices, sales activity and more? In my newest story for Bankrate, available here, I asked top real estate experts to identify upcoming trends and offer their predictions.