Richard Parke
Richard Parke

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Don't Slip Up - Renter's Insurance Isn't Just for Possessions

December 17, 2014 12:36 am

About once a year I get a reminder from Peter Frascarelli, CPIA, president of PIACT - the Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut Inc. He has often discussed how renters insurance covers personal items in the event of damage from a variety of events.

If your belongings encounter smoke, broken water pipes, electrical surges, vehicle damage, vandalism, windstorms or an explosion, many renter's insurance plans can cover replacing or repairing items.

However, Frascarelli says, there are some restrictions on what renters insurance will cover.

Generally, natural disasters like earthquakes and flooding are not covered, although most insurance companies offer additional coverage for these situations.

But the most important point Frascarelli makes is regarding renter's liability exposures. Did you know if someone twists an ankle on the wet bathroom floor, the renter is responsible for covering the treatment for the injury.

All the more reason for both current and prospective renter's policyholders to double-check to ensure your policy will cover the medical payments for the injured person, and up to what amount.

One way to ensure you are compensated for any belongings you may lose in a fire, storm or other catastrophe Frascarelli says, is to take an inventory of all possessions.

Your inventory should list each item, its value and serial number. Photograph or videotape each room, including closets, attics, cellars, storage buildings and your garage.

Keep receipts for major items in a fireproof place. And, keep several copies of your inventory and receipts in another location.

Renters insurance is relatively inexpensive, according to Frascarelli.

Just like any other type of homeowners insurance policy, a renter's insurance premium will depend on a number of factors: where you live; your deductible; your insurance company; and whether you need additional coverage.

To save the most on premiums, Frascarelli says consider increasing your deductible - and ask about discounts for protective devices including smoke and fire detectors and burglar alarms.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Travel Smarter This Holiday

December 17, 2014 12:36 am

Tensions are generally higher on roads and airways over the holidays, and with more Americans than ever planning to travel this season, it’s important to be prepared. To avoid frustration and headaches, Getaroom.com recommends the following tips.

1. Consider traveling on a holiday. Travel on Christmas Day is often much cheaper than in the days leading up to the holiday. If you have kids that want to spend Christmas morning with close relatives and Christmas evening with those further away, traveling on Christmas Day may be your best bet.

2. Save on car rentals. If your vacation is only four to five days in length, you might want to search for weekly rates on car rentals, rather than daily costs. Stay away from car seat or GPS rentals offered with the car, as well as supplemental insurance

3. Fly a smart route. Avoid layovers in areas where snowstorms are prone to happen. If you’re traveling from San Diego to Miami, for example, avoid layovers in Detroit, Chicago or Denver, where winter weather can wreak havoc. Select a route that flies through less unpredictable climates, such as Houston or Atlanta.

4. Get a ride to the airport. Airport parking rates tend to skyrocket over the holidays, so get a lift from a friend or use a recommended car service.

5. Account for extra time. Long lines at the airport can put you at risk of overbooking situations, so arrive well in advance of your departure time. If several flights are overbooked and you miss your original flight, airlines have limited obligations to assist you.

Source: Getaroom.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The High-Tech Homeowner Wish List

December 17, 2014 12:36 am

Tech-savvy millennials aren’t the only ones seeking an upgrade at home. This holiday season, more homeowners are seeking to outfit their homes with devices designed for maximum convenience and security. Which features do high-tech homeowners covet most? Consumer Reports highlights the top choices on smart homeowner wish lists:
Wireless meat thermometer – Perfect for entertaining, a wireless meat thermometer provides hosts with wireless alerts when food reaches a safe temperature.

Smart slow cookers – Smart slow cookers can be controlled and monitored directly from a smartphone – ideal for homeowners who are gone for most of the day. And despite this technological addition, most versions can still be cleaned in the dishwasher.

Robotic vacuum cleaners – Who doesn’t want to come home to a clean house? Robotic vacuum cleaners are a good option for homeowners with little time on their hands, and can be set to run whenever people or pets aren’t present.

Color-changing LED light bulbs – For those who want to consume less electricity and save on bills each month, a color-changing LED light bulb can be brightened or dimmed depending on desired usage. There are even models with color-changing and pulsating options to create a fun atmosphere for guests. Simply set the bulbs up on your Wi-Fi network at home.

Touchscreen locks – The ultimate in home security, a touchscreen deadbolt connects to your home using compatible automation or security devices. Combined with standard key and remote smartphone capabilities, a touchscreen door lock can be your most powerful safety measure against intruders.
Source: Consumer Reports

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Simplicity Rules Home Design in 2015

December 16, 2014 12:30 am

With the end of the year drawing near, many homeowners plan to set aside time to outline household expenses for the coming year – and many will be factoring home improvements into the equation, according to the Home Improvement Research Institute.

If you’re carving out room in next year’s budget for home upgrades, consider incorporating some of the trends set to fuel the design industry. For 2015, the Delta Faucet Company points to natural aesthetics, bold motifs and streamlined style. How do you turn those abstract trends into concrete home improvements? Get started with these tips:

Natural Aesthetics
Organic shapes, woods washed with color, powdery surfaces and uneven edges – the natural trend continues to gain favor among home design enthusiasts. Look for overstated colors found in nature, such as blurred bronze, worn copper or oxidized tones. Integrate softer hues into the home with earth tones such as soft gray, sky and sand.

Inspiration: Transform a stained piece of wood into a kitchen countertop, or incorporate stag horn ferns into a wall mount.

Bold Motifs
Simply put, this trend has an outgoing, courageous disposition. Look for feminine curves paired with boisterous colors, such as subtle creams next to loud lace or robust oversized floral patterns.
Pretty and practical is the name of the game.

Inspiration: Showcase your favorite print in a large frame for a beautiful living room backdrop, or collect a variety of frames in different finishes and shapes to construct a unique home gallery.

Streamlined Style
Simplistic design paired with angled blocking results in a balanced and clean environment. Combine geometric profiles with luxury and warmth by pairing tempered metals, such as a clean copper, with marble.

Inspiration: Increase bath space by mounting wall units with steel frames for a clean, structured look.

Source: Delta Faucet Company

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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10 Steps to Secure Social Networking

December 16, 2014 12:30 am

According to a recent survey from Internet security leader Trend Micro, just 38 percent of people know how to limit what they post online, further propelling the concern that heavy social media use can lead to identity theft. Put simply, posting information online can be the gift that keeps on giving.

“Most of us are far too trusting with our personal information online,” says Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of Cloud and Emerging Technologies at Trend Micro. “We don’t realize how quickly little bits add together to form a startlingly accurate picture of our personal lives. This unintentional disclosure of personal data can have very real consequences.”

To mitigate your risk of leaving a trail for cyber thieves to follow, Trend Micro recommends:
1. Only post updates or photos you won't mind sharing with strangers. What goes online stays online.
2. Keep tabs on all your tags and mentions. Getting tagged in a post might seem harmless, but it can also decrease your privacy.
3. Make sure only your intended audience sees your posts. If your friends have less restrictive settings, it’s possible for others to view your information.
4. Never click on a link posted or sent by someone you don’t know.
5. Use a two-factor authentication for all social media accounts, and activate any other security measures you have access to.
6. Check privacy policies and adjust your settings to your comfort level. Keep track of these policies on an ongoing basis – they change often.
7. Double-check your security. Use privacy scanning software to check current privacy settings in different social networks.
8. Report and block spammers. This can help sanitize your feed as well as notify a social media site to take down the spammers’ accounts.
9. Always verify with your contacts any link they send your way, preferably through another form of correspondence.
10. Be careful whom you accept as a friend on social networks. Identity thieves can and do create fake profiles in order to steal your personal information.
Source: Trend Micro

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Buyers: Evaluate a Home's Exterior

December 16, 2014 12:30 am

(BPT) – Buying a home is one of the most important investments you’ll make for yourself and your family. Before making a purchase, ask yourself these four questions. Determining the answers in advance will allow you to enjoy your new home now and in the years ahead.

1. What exterior style speaks to you? Your home is an extension of your lifestyle and a reflection of your personality. When shopping for a new house, contemplate curb appeal. First impressions matter, so it's important to consider architectural style, exterior color and details like trim and landscaping.

2. Is your home protected from the elements? With the climate ever-changing, extreme weather is a reality in all corners of the country. Look for homes with siding and trim products that protect from hurricanes, blizzards, wind, wildfire and more.

3. Is your new home built using sustainable products? Green building continues to be a growing trend, in part because an energy-efficient home can save you money on heating and cooling bills. By choosing a home clad in 100 percent sustainable and efficient material, you're consuming less energy and reducing your environmental footprint.

4. What maintenance will your new home require? Selecting a home made with low-maintenance building materials can lower the chances of large ticket home repairs in the future. Ensure the materials have a strong warranty to protect your investment.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Four Ways to Reduce Your Water Footprint

December 15, 2014 12:24 am

(BPT) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the average American family uses 300 gallons of water each day for everything from brushing their teeth and washing clothes to running the sprinkler and flushing the toilet. But what about other uses for water?

‘Invisible’ or ‘virtual’ water is hidden in the things you eat, products you use and clothes you wear. According to the Value of Water Coalition, 86 percent of all water used is invisible to most consumers because it's used to produce food, beverages and products. One T-shirt, for example, requires 700 gallons of water to manufacture; one car uses 40,000. Growing a single apple requires 19 gallons of water.

"As consumers, we need to focus on the water we can't see to make an even bigger impact in helping the environment, saving money and conserving the world's most precious resource," says Roman Lis, a principal engineer at MWH Global. "The good news is there are simple steps we can take, starting where we live and work.”

MWH Global recommends these four tips to reduce your invisible water consumption:

1. Add up your daily habits. Find out how much water - real and invisible - you use each day as a starting point to determine the best steps to consider in reducing your consumption. You can log your daily habits into the Water Footprint Calculator at www.waterfootprint.org. Choose the extended water calculator, which tallies the water you use at home and the water that's in the food you eat and products you buy.

2. Make simple switches. Consider substituting products that use more water with others that have a smaller water footprint. For example, drink more tap or filtered water instead of buying bottled water. Find favorite recipes that replace or use less meat. (It takes 1,230 gallons of water to yield one beef steak.) Buy more clothes with artificial fibers instead of cotton which is made with more water.

3. Use water-efficient appliances. T
oilets, dishwashers and washing machines use a significant portion of a household's visible water consumption. When it's time to replace an appliance, do your research. Find out the amount of water an appliance uses from the manufacturer's data and compare various products to identify the ones that have the lowest water consumption. Replacing an old toilet, for example, can reduce the toilet's water consumption by 20 to 60 percent.

4. Choose more sustainable products and practices. It's not always easy to know the water footprint of your favorite products since there aren't any labeling requirements. However, some product labels or websites may note the company's sustainable practices, including water, for acquiring, producing and distributing goods. Try to select products you trust as being made in more environmentally and water-friendly ways. Look for companies that have high sustainability ratings.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keep Toy Safety in Mind This Holiday

December 15, 2014 12:24 am

Did you know that more than half of the three billion toys and games sold in the U.S. are purchased during the holidays? Though stronger federal regulations and higher toymaker standards exist, a child’s safety is never guaranteed. Bevin Maynard, child advocate at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, notes that appropriate selection and proper use of toys, combined with parental supervision, can greatly reduce the incidence and severity of toy-related injuries.

Maynard suggests:
  • Choose well-made toys suitable to the child’s age, interest and skill level. Contrary to popular belief, age labels are not intended as developmental ratings – they are for safety reasons.
  • Steer clear of toys containing lead paint.
  • When shopping for a child younger than 6-years-old, skip toys with small magnetic pieces.
  • When shopping for a child younger than 8-years-old, forgo electronic toys if they have a heating element, such as a battery or electrical plugs.
  • Avoid toys that produce loud noises. High-volume games can permanently impair a child’s hearing, and loud sounds can frighten a younger child.
  • Do not gift toys with strings, straps or cords longer than 7 inches.
  • Immediately discard plastic wrappings on toys before they become dangerous play things for young children.
  • If giving a ride-able toy, such as a bike or scooter, include a helmet as part of the gift.
Source: St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Household Expenses: Do You Have FORO?

December 15, 2014 12:24 am

A recent National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC) poll reveals that the overwhelming majority of consumers surveyed (92 percent) have a fear of running out of money, or FORO.

Root causes of this fear vary. Sixty-four percent of respondents fear they will not having enough money to pay monthly bills, 14 percent fear not having enough funds to comfortably retire, 11 percent fear having enough for unplanned expenses, and 3 percent fear not being able to finance their children’s education.

Finding stable financial ground today will relieve stress and allow planning for future needs to begin. To get started, the NFCC suggests that consumers put the following five steps in place:

1. Begin saving - People without a well-funded savings account are living on a slippery financial slope, as unplanned expenses are inevitable. When money is tight, saving is often low on the list of priorities. To remedy the situation, consider living on a cash basis – people who pay with cash typically save 20 percent over their previous spending with plastic. Pretend that any raise, bonus, birthday money or other windfall money never happened and instead direct it toward savings. Aim to build up the rainy day fund to equal one month’s salary, as this should be sufficient for most short-term emergencies.

2. Track spending
- A leak can’t be plugged until it has been identified, and finding a financial leak starts with tracking spending. Have everyone in the family who spends money write down their spending for 30 days. It is critical to include incidental spending, as small leaks can add up to be big problems. At the end of the period, have a family council to review the spending, making joint decisions as to how the money should be spent moving forward. Make necessary cuts and allocate the money toward the categories that the family determines are most important. The unity that results from this type of decision-making process will likely produce a greater level of success, as everyone will be moving in the same direction.

3. Create a cash-flow calendar
– This is perhaps the easiest step, but will increase financial awareness. On a calendar devoted to finances, record all sources of income and the associated paydays. Next, note which bills are due to be paid during the various pay cycles. If there’s not enough money available to meet a debt obligation on its due date, call the creditor and find out if the date can be moved. This will prevent overdrafts, late payments and fees.

4. Decrease debt - Debt is expensive. Face the financial facts, write down and total the existing debt and associated interest paid each month. The totals may be shocking, but will hopefully spur action. Ignoring the problem will only make matters worse. If help is needed to create a realistic debt repayment plan, reach out to an NFCC member agency.

5. Set goals - Make a list of short-term goals for the next 12 months. Make a separate list of long-term goals. Now go back and include dates and dollar amounts with each goal and decide which can realistically be met. Goals that aren’t achievable only serve to discourage and potentially derail the entire plan. Knowing the objective, timing and financial commitment necessary to meet the goal will bring a sense of purpose to overall spending decisions.

Source: NFCC

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Healthcare Plans: 3 Questions to Ask

December 12, 2014 2:18 am

Whether dealing with a new plan or a renewal of an existing plan, there are many factors patients should consider before taking action, including deductibles, co-pays and drug costs. Patients should also take into account which physicians and facilities are covered under their health insurance plan, and the cost for receiving treatment out-of-network so that they make informed health care decisions. Additionally, patients should make sure to ask their physicians whether they are participating in plans they are considering.

“We want to make sure Americans choose a plan that is right for them and their families in terms of cost and coverage,” says Robert Wah, MD, president of the American Medical Association (AMA). “It is very important that patients look beyond the big print, color-coded plan designations and prices of insurance plans and check the small print details before making their selections.”

The AMA urges patients to thoroughly review all aspects of the plans they are choosing in order to prevent interruptions in care and higher out-of-pocket costs. Consider the following:

1. Are your family's doctors in the plan? If not, what will you have to pay out-of-pocket for office visits or other services your doctor prescribes? Is the plan's directory of participating physicians up-to-date and accurate? Are there physicians on the list who are still accepting new patients?

2. What does the plan cover? What percentage of your health care costs will you have to cover? If so, how much and can you afford it? How much will you have to pay out-of-pocket for the medicines your family needs? Will you be able to use hospitals, labs and other facilities that are convenient to where you live or work? Does the plan provide access to a sufficient number of specialists that you need?

3. Does your primary care physician have to receive permission from the insurance company to refer you to a specialist? Does that rule include specialists you see regularly for a chronic condition? Does the insurer use penalties or incentives to induce physicians in the plan to limit referrals in any way?

Source: AMA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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