Saturday, December 21, 2013

Eliminate Debt - By Chris Wallace

Primerica believes the ultimate key to financial success is knowledge– about how money works, how to make responsible, well-informed decisions and how to get the best value for the dollars you spend. As part of Primerica’s continuing commitment to consumer education, over the next several months we will discuss common sense financial concepts that can help people overcome the obstacles they face and achieve their goals. 
This month we will focus on the forth principle: Eliminate debt.

Of all the threats to your financial security, none is more dangerous than debt. In every family’s quest to feel good financially, debt is the most common enemy. The very fact that it is so common – who doesn’t have debt? - makes it one of the biggest challenges to your financial well-being.

The bad news about compound interest is that it always works. When you are building a saving program it works in your favor. With debt it works against you. When you pay just the minimum balance on your credit cards, interest charges are added each month to the remaining principal. Your new balance is principal plus the interest… and that amount gets compounded again and again. It is easy to see how small debts grow large with compound interest.

Did you know if you made a one-time $3,000 purchase with no new purchases and make the minimum payments, it would take 10 years to pay off and you would end up paying $2,002 in interest charges? Based on APR of 18 percent.

There are two kinds of debt, revolving and fixed. Credit card debt is what is known as “revolving” debt. The interest compounds daily instead of monthly which means you can pay much more in interest. Because there is not a fixed amount that you pay each month, your debt can go on forever. Additionally, your interest rate could change at almost any time and there is little a consumer can do beyond paying off the entire balance at once. Revolving debt can erode your financial security quickly.

The surest way to protect your self is to not get into debt in the first place. If you do get into debt then you want to focus on paying it off as soon as possible. Debt stacking is the quickest way to do this. By taking into account the interest rate and amount of debt, debt stacking identifies an ideal order for you to pay off your debts. You begin by making consistent payments on all of your debts. As you pay off the first account you apply this payment the next account and continue until you payoff that account. This gets the principal of compound interest working for you.

So let us say you have $2,720 in monthly debt payments. You continue to make this payment on all of your debts until they are paid off. Most people when they pay something off create another expense. This plan can eliminate 10 or more years on your debt freedom date and save hundreds of thousands in interest.
There are a variety of programs that can help you do this. As always we recommend you consult with a professional to accelerate your debt freedom date!

In the time you took to read this article at least one resident of Windham will have had something stolen. We will talk about that next month when we explore the five most common credit mistakes.

Eight Corners Farm - By Michelle Libby

The sights and the sounds of the season are all around, but no place more than at Eight Corners Farm where the heady aroma of balsam hangs in the air and the lights and decorations put customers in the mood for the holidays. 
Owner Rhonda Davis and her husband, Chris, have been preparing for the holidays since October and it has been this way for 10 years. Eight Corners Farm, at the corners of Albion and Windham Center Road, started out as a farm for 4-H sheep that belonged to the Davis’ children. After they grew up, Rhonda turned her hobby of floral design and decorating into a backyard business. Now 10 years later, they are a growing, successful business with quality products to liven up any party, event or holiday festivity. 

“My hobby grew into my career,” Rhonda said. With the converted sheep barn and four greenhouses, Eight Corners Farm has grown to a year round business with commercial growing accounts, decorating in the summer and at the holidays as well as landscaping, hardscaping, fall and spring clean up and garden maintenance. Chris manages the landscaping part of the business. Rhonda designs bouquets and arrangements for funerals, special events and weddings. She was named Maine State designer of the year and has taught adult education classes locally. 
“One of the best designers in the State of Maine? That’s when they say Rhonda Davis,” Chris said. Every order is a custom order and made to be one of a kind, Rhonda said. 

This summer she travelled to Las Vegas where she rubbed elbows with some of the best designers in the world. The theme of the floral design conference was passion. “This is my passion,” she said, mentioning that fresh flowers are her specialty. She also likes to bake and is not above “bribing” a customer’s husband to wait while she whips up a holiday centerpiece. 

Rhonda also recycles vases and spring containers, she said. Many people bring in their own containers to be filled. The greenery used by Eight Corners Farm at the holidays comes from the land the Davis’ own in northern Maine.
Rhonda also volunteers and fosters for Doggies for Maine Lab Rescue. 

The farm also sells gifts, ornaments and consignment artwork. 

Eight Corners Farm still has boxwood trees, fresh centerpieces, candles, wreaths and kissing balls for sale at reasonable prices. Rhonda can also suggest items for hostess gifts. The farm will be closed from right after Christmas until March, when they will begin planting in the greenhouses. To contact the farm, call Rhonda at 615-9968 or Chris at 615-9977 or email

Sebago Metal Fabrication - By Michelle Libby

If a customer can dream it and it’s made out of aluminum or steel, Sebago Metal Fabrication can build it. Since 2001, the company has been creating aluminum docks, stairs and gangways for Sebago Docks. Now, under the direction of production manager Frank Walker, they are looking for customers to challenge their welding capabilities. 

“We can do most anything,” said Walker, who is the contact person for Sebago Metal Fabrication, although the company is owned by Jim Wynn. “Most of what Sebago Metal Fabrication does is custom work.” They have built a 55-foot stairway and a permanent dock on Sebago Lake. 

“We specialize in extruded aluminum fabrication,” said Wynn. Aluminum is lighter, more durable, doesn’t rust, lasts longer and doesn’t need to be painted, he said. Extruded fabrication means that the aluminum is like playdough and is squeezed through a mold to create a unique shape. Each shape is copywrited to the person who created it. Sebago Metal Fabrication holds many unique molds, Wynn said.  

“It really is green technology,” Walker said. Being light, it is used in dock frames, handicapped ramps, picnic tables and more. The aluminum is also used to create the sides for portable ice arenas like the one set up at Fenway Park each year. 

Walker also has created wagons and sleighs for the equine world, he said. He also creates roll around carts for companies to move product around. 

Welding aluminum is a specialty trade, Walker said. “It’s a whole different world and different machines,” he said. 

Sebago Metal Fab also works with steel to create railings, entryways, unique art pieces and welding repairs to plows, boats and trailers. The company also create fire escapes. 

The company is looking for jobs to complete from a $50 repair job to a $20,000 gangway project, they want to show customers what they can do. They have a CAD design machine on site to help make a vision into a model to build by. “It’s ideal to have an idea and then get a plan drawn up,” said Walker. 

In the winter there are about five employees, but during dock season the number rises to 15 or so.
When asked about the difference in price between aluminum and steel, the answer was that in the end aluminum costs less after cleaning, priming, painting and treating the steel. 

“Nothing too big, nothing too small, we’ll do it all,” said Wynn. “We’re the best kept secret in Naples, Maine.” Walker will travel between Acton and Augusta to finish work, although he prefers to do most of the work in the Naples shop. Some of the products Sebago Metal Fab makes it sells through Craigslist ads.
For quotes, estimates and information, visit, call 653-3766 or email

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gray Family Vision Center - By Michelle Libby

Last February Gray Family Vision Center opened an office in Windham, at 8 Crimson Drive off Route 302. The small office has all of the skill and technology of a larger facility, under the co-ownership and direction of Dr. David Guiseley, OD and Dr. Jonathan Cook, OD.

“Our demographics said we had a high percentage of patients coming from the Route 302 corridor. We opened a satellite office to serve their needs,” said Cook between patients. 

Both optometrists work in both the main office in Gray, which opened in 1989, and the satellite office in Windham four days a week alternating between morning and afternoons. A technician travels with them to do screenings and pre-exam eye tests. Margaret Frazier is the optician on site, fitting glasses and contacts for patients. She is also in charge of reception at the Windham office. Officer manager Amy Harmon, CPOT, oversees the whole operation.  

“We offer primary eye care,” said Harmon. They do comprehensive eye exams, contact lenses, emergency treatment for injuries, disease management for diabetes and Glaucoma. 

“We see everyone from birth to 100, or really there is no age limit to coming here,” she said. 

One of the unique services Gray Family Vision Center offers is infancy exams free for children from ages birth to one year through the AOA. “This helps us to provide lifelong eye care,” said Harmon. A child or an adult, who is uncommunicative, can have their eyes checked by using only objective refraction tests instead of subjective tests.

When seeing babies, the doctors can catch a potential issue before the school calls in third grade saying that a child isn’t seeing clearly. Not seeing well can delay a child in speech and reading. “It makes such a big difference in the kids who don’t know it’s unusual because it’s normal for these kids,” said Harmon.  

Eye exams are routinely given every two years, but could be more often depending on the specific condition, said Harmon. There are tests given by the technician before the doctor does the comprehensive exam looking at overall eye health. After that he does the refraction portion of the exam, which is where he checks to see if glasses are appropriate and what strength they should be. 

“They go together,” said Harmon. 

Eye exams have changed over the years, Cook said. “Technology has really developed to a degree to where we can work in a more accurate way. Refraction is so much more accurate. Before it was one-quarter of a diopter, now it’s one-one hundredths of a diopter. Imaging has also changed,” Cook said. 

“Imaging has allowed us to track changes better and doesn’t rely on the doctor’s knowledge. We have it in black and white,” said Harmon. 

They have a full range of glasses and contacts to fit every budget, including Coach and RayBans.
As the practice grows, the doctors hope to bring on more optometrists, said Harmon. At this point, Cook estimates that they see 4,500 patients in a year’s time, and they accept most insurances. 
To reach Gray Family Vision Center in Windham or Gray to schedule an appointment, visit them online at or call 894-2174.

Pic – Raymond residents Jonathan Dupuis and his mom Jennifer have a free infant screening with Dr. Cook at Gray Family Vision Center. Michelle Libby photo.

PC Lighthouse - by Michelle Libby

Dave Barracks has been around computers since before the invention of what people think of computers today. He didn’t open PC Lighthouse until September 2003, which he operates out of his house at 65 Whites Bridge Road. 
“I’ve done it all my life,” Barracks said. “I did it in the military for 20 years back when it was called data processing in the Army Signal Corps.” He was stationed in France and remembers sending messages on the Trans Atlantic Cable on an IBM punch card. That was before satellite service. 

“I’ve seen it really from its basic inception,” Barracks said. 

He worked for a few private companies before he decided to retire and open his own computer repair shop. He has done everything from get rid of viruses to manufacture computer boards in Augusta.  

Barracks has a large customer base spread over a radius of one hour from Windham. He travels to see customers and also allows drop offs at his home. 

“If it’s related to a computer I can do all levels of repairs,” Barracks said. He is certified for all types of repairs on everything from PCs to Macs to tablets. “If it’s broke, I can fix it,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it should be fixed.” His certifications range from A+ certification, network certified, MS Office user certified. He also receives referrals from Staples, he said. 

In 2003 when he first started, he fixed 99 percent desktop computers and one percent laptops, now that is completely reversed, he said. “It’s getting harder and harder to find desktops,” Barracks said. He is waiting for his new Surface tablet to arrive, which will replace his desktop. 

With PCs he fixes viruses, malware mostly. With Apple products it’s broken glass on the screens or hard drive failures, Barracks said. In that case it’s mostly the customer caused problems, he added. 

“Computers are better. The reliability is a heck of a lot better than it used to be,” Barracks said. A typical home computer will last roughly five to seven years, he said. 

“I just wonder what’s going to happen next,” he said. 

He does not do sales, which he purposely said he never wanted to do. He does not stock parts and he doesn’t mark up the price on parts. “I make my money on the labor part,” he said. His specialty is hardware failures or broken parts. 

He is also very comfortable with the software side. He does install software to computers. Barracks is also “senior” friendly. Being a senior himself, he understands the needs of his generation. 

His prices range from $50 per hour, not to exceed $175 or $75 per hour if he comes to the client’s home. A typical repair costs $125, he said. He accepts all credit cards, Paypal, cash and checks. He is a member of the local better business bureau and the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.