Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Twelve Olympic Facts That You Probably Didn't Know

Almost everyone is focused on the Olympics this week. Even if you are not a huge sports fan, you can appreciate the concept of the world coming together for this week to form friendships and showcase talents. Above all, there is a historic significance surrounding the origin of the Olympics. Here are twelve facts (in honor of the 2012 games) about the Olympics that you probably didn't know! 

  1. The Olympic flag was created in 1914 by Pierre de Coubertin. The five rings represent the five significant continents that compete in the Olympics. They are interconnected to promote the friendships and bonds forged over these games. The colors of the rings were chosen because at least one of the colors appears on the flag of every country in the world.
  2. The Olympic motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius" which means "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." The phrase was chosen by Pierre de Coubertin, which he borrowed from his friend, Father Henri Didon.
  3. The Olympic Creed reads as follows:
               "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most
                important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have
                conquered but to have fought well."

    4.   The Olympic flame originated in the ancient Olympic games of Greece. The Greek would light the 
          flame via sunlight and keep the flame burning until the conclusion of the games. As an ode to the
         ancient games, the torch is lit at the ancient site of Olympia by women wearing togas and using a
         curved mirror to reflect the sun. The torch is then carried from Olympia to the hosting city to represent
         the continuation from the original Olympic games to the modern Olympics.
    5.  The Olympic gold medals are not fully gold. In fact, the last time the medals were made completely of 
         gold was in 1912.
    6.  During the Opening Ceremony Procession, the athletes are always led by the Greek team. The teams
         follow in alphabetical order (according to that country's native language). The last team is always the
         hosting team.
    7.  In order to make things fair in regards to where the Olympic Games are hosted, the IOC gives the
         hosting honors to the city rather than the country.
    8.  The first modern champion of the Olympic games was James B. Connolly (United States). He won the
         hop, step, and jump (the first final event in the 1896 Olympics).
    9.  The Olympic marathon was created in remembrance of Pheidippides. In 490 BCE, Pheidippides, a
         Greek soldier, ran approximately 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to inform them of the successful
         invasion of Persia. The distance was filled with hills and obstacles, causing Pheidippides to reach
         Athens exhausted and with bleeding feet. After recalling the news, he fell to the ground dead. Thus, 
         the modern Olympic games include a race of about 25 miles to remember the great task of 
  10.  The Olympic Games were cancelled in 1916, 1940, and 1944 due to WWI and WWII.
  11.  The word "gymnasium" comes from the Greek work "gymnos" meaning nude. "Gymnasium" literally
         translates into "school for maked exercise." The atheletes in the ancient Games would participate in the
  12.  The Winter Olympic Games were hosted at Walt Disney in California in 1960. Walt Disney himself 
         was in charge of the opening ceremony; in order to impress everyone, the ceremony was filled with
         high school choirs and bands, releasing of thousands of balloons, fireworks, ice statues, releasing of
         2,000 white doves, and national flags dropped by parachute.

All facts were provided by Interesting Olympic Facts.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

If You Like it, Put a Ring on it... and then Insure the Ring

By: Aira Sakurai

Most people are familiar with BeyoncĂ©’s famous song that says "If you like it, put a ring on it" - and most men have taken that advice to heart (even before BeyoncĂ©’s inspiring words). However, the pop star forgot the next important step after putting the ring on it: INSURE THE RING!

In 2011, jewelry (rings, in particular) became the most common category reported for claims, surpassing electronics, which have been leading the claims charts for the past few years. In light of rising prices of precious metals and gems, jewelry has become increasingly valuable and more vulnerable to theft. It is also more expensive to replace, causing owners to rely on their insurance policies if the ring becomes damaged or is misplaced… if the owner has insurance for the ring.

Now, I am not suggesting that everyone needs to go out and buy a separate policy for each piece of jewelry. I realize the financial constraints that might cause. However, I am suggesting that you know your insurance policy. I cannot stress that enough. Most people have no idea what is covered on their insurance policy until they have to file a claim. As sentimental as jewelry tends to be, allow yourself piece of mind by knowing that it is protected and can be replaced if anything were to happen to it. Most homeowners policies cover jewelry up to about $1,500 or $2,500. This is typically true, however all policies and companies are different, so read your policy to make sure you know the limit.

Another thing to note is that the limit can either be applied to each piece of jewelry you own, or to your total amount of jewelry. For example, if you have a policy that covers jewelry for up to $2,000. You make a claim on a $2,000 engagement ring and a $500 pearl necklace. If your policy has a limit of $2,000 for your total amount of jewelry, then it will only pay the $2,000 and you will be left to provide the remaining $500 out of pocket to replace your jewelry. However, if you policy has a limit of $2,000 for each piece of jewelry, then it will pay out the full $2,000 for the engagement ring and then $500 for the pearls. You can understand why it is important to know what type of policy you have.

If you have a particular piece of jewelry that exceeds the limits of your policy coverage, you can take out a separate policy just for the item. You will need to send in photos and an appraisal, depending on the company through which you purchase the insurance. Please contact our agency with any questions and remember “If you like it, put a ring on it” … and then go ahead and insure that ring!

Written by Kelly Jones

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Risks of "Money-Saving" Tricks

Photo by TwinPossible
I recently came across an article titled "Avoiding High Insurance Costs by Self-Insuring." The title caught my attention, so I decided to read through it. Very basically, this article suggests that people should cut down on their insurance policies and set aside cash to use in the case of an event. While this might seem like a good idea to some, let me point out some flaws and reveal the other side of the spectrum. Many people are trying to cut down costs, but this plan might actually cost you more money in the long run - money that you might not be prepared to pay.

One of the options suggested in this article - and one of the common questions I hear in the agency - is to reduce the deductible on your auto insurance policy. In regards to the PIP deductible, I do not recommend this at all. Even if you changed the deductible to $1,000, you would only be saving about $20 - $30 (for the average policy) every six months. You would have to keep $1,000 on hand to cover the deductible in the event of an accident. It would take about 25 years to break even between the amount of money you save every six months and the $1,000 cash you have set aside. That does not sound like the best financial strategy.

People also try to reduce their comprehensive and collision deductible or eliminate it altogether to save some money. I will use my personal auto policy as an example for this one. I currently have $500 deductible for both comprehensive and collision coverage. If I change that to $1000 deductible, I will only save $33.36 every six months. If I eliminate the coverage altogether, I will save $101.41 every six months. Let's look at the first option: to reduce my deductible to $1,000, I would have to then keep that $1,000 on hand at all times in case of an accident. Since I am only saving $66 a year, it would take about 15 years to make the savings worth it. Likewise, if I were to eliminate the coverage, I would save $202.00 a year. I would have to consider the amount that my car is worth to decide if this is a good option for me. If I had an older car that was only worth $5,000, it would still take 25 years to break even because you would have to keep that $5,000 on hand (since that is what the insurance company would pay out after the deductible).

While these options might benefit some people, the majority of the time they are not the best financial decision. There are ways to save money on insurance policies. However, each insurance policy is different and the needs of each client are different. If you have any questions, feel free to call our agency. Our agents can review your policy and discuss both the benefits and the risks of different money-saving options.

Written by Kelly Jones

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Healthy Twist on Summer Favorites, Part III.

Picture from Self magazine
Today is the last installment about how to turn your child's favorite foods in to a healthier alternative. We are covering the last few food items that allow you to sneak extra fiber and veggies in to each recipe without altering the taste, so your kids will still love it! Remember, if you try any of these tips, please write in and let me know how you liked it!

7. Watermelon
Watermelon, like any other fruit, is great for kids. The fact that it is mostly made of water causes this fruit to be a perfect refresher during the hot months of summer. Therefore, watermelon should be your first choice in fruit for your little one!
  • Add additional fruit to a platter next to the watermelon. All of the bright colors of the fruit will entice your child and provide them with extra nutrition and antioxidants. Just make sure that you put a lot of watermelon out, too! Watermelon contains lycopene, which is a major disease-fighting antioxidant.
  • Remember the idea about freezing grapes? Well, it works for watermelon, too!
  • Some children don't like the super sweet flavor of watermelon (I remember a few of my childhood friends having this problem). If that is the case, add a little salt to the watermelon. I know that sounds crazy, but the sweet and salty combo is actually delicious!
8. Sweets
Every child (just about) LOVES sweets - anything from hard candy to chocolate! During the summer, it doesn't hurt to indulge them a little bit because they will usually work off the extra calories with all of their running around and playing. Even so, it is still more relaxing as a parent to know that you are giving your child something a little healthier to eat.
  • Implement serving sizes by baking individual brownies and cookies instead of a sheet of brownies or cake. "Lighten up cake and brownie mixes by replacing oil with half oil and half applesauce (or another fruit puree)" (WebMD).
  • Instead of giving your child a chocolate bar, put a few chocolate shavings on top of fruit or frozen yogurt. That way, they get their chocolate fix without getting all of the extra calories and fat in a chocolate bar.
  • Whatever sweets your child wants, add fruit to it! Whether it is a cupcake or ice cream, add cut up strawberries or blueberries (banana is good on chocolate desserts). This way, you child is still getting the nutrition from the fruit even though they are adding a little bit of dessert to it!
9. Sugary Drinks
Sodas and sugary drinks are going to be everywhere, especially when you are out and about with your child. It is so much easier to just stop at a vendor and grab a soda than it is to find a healthy drink that tastes good. So, how do you fix this?
  • One of the best ideas I have heard (and have tried) is adding fruit juice to spritzer. You can use sugar-free juice or organic; you can even squeeze your own fruit juice so you know it is fresh and healthy. Just add it to the spritzer and you have just made fruit soda (only MUCH healthier)! Try this with lemon for a great alternative to lemonade.
  • If you must grab a soda or lemonade while you are out of the house, share it with others so the portion size is controlled. Ask for a second cup and split the drink,
  • Keep the little travel packs of water flavor (i.e. crystal light, MIA, etc.) in your purse you can buy water and then add the flavoring with no extra calories. Some of these flavorings are even sugar-free!
These are just a few ways to make your child's diet a little healthier. Remember, all of these ideas came from the article on WebMD. I hope you try these tricks out and let us know how it works for you. I know I have personally tried a few of these ideas and have gotten great reviews. Here's to healthy eating! 

Written by Kelly Jones

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Healthy Twist On Summer Favorites, Cont.

Photo from GOOD LIFE eats
After posting yesterday about how to turn your child's favorite food in to a more nutritious meal without sacrificing the flavor, I received a lot of great feedback from parents. So, for the next two days, I am going to continue to relay the great food ideas from the WebMD article so you can try these get recipes in your own home!

4. Frozen Yogurt
Yesterday, I left off at how to make ice cream healthier. Most people automatically think a healthier version of ice cream is frozen yogurt. Sometimes that is true, but sometimes frozen yogurt is loaded with more sugar than low-fat ice cream. So here are a few ways to make the right dessert choices:
  • "How about frozen yogurt pie? Crunch up graham crackers (or buy a graham cracker pie shell), spoon frozen yogurt into it, top with fresh strawberries or raspberries, then freeze" (WebMD).
  • Fruit parfaits and smoothies are also great alternatives for a healthy dessert.
  • In my house, we freeze fruit (especially grapes). These frozen fruits make for a great evening snack because you get the frozen aspect that reminds you of ice cream and the sweetness from the fruit.
5. Waffles and Pancakes
What kid doesn't love waffles and pancakes? I would eat this for breakfast every Saturday morning as a kid. While the taste is incredible, these foods are packed with carbs, and the typical toppings are not the healthiest options, either. Syrup and butter contain sugar and carbs (the bad kind). So, how do you make this breakfast favorite a little healthier?
  • Buy whole wheat waffles or pancake mix. The extra fiber will combat the carbohydrates.
  • Use fresh fruit for toppings. The fruit will still provide the sweet taste of the syrup and other traditional toppings without the bad nutritional aspects.
  • If you must use syrup, buy light syrup or sugar-free syrup -- trust me, it tastes the same.
6. Popcorn
Did you know that popcorn is actually considered a whole grain? "In fact, a recent study showed that people who eat popcorn regularly get about 22% more fiber in their diet, compared to people who don't eat popcorn" (WebMD).
  • Try to get the low-fat versions of popcorn instead of the super buttery and salty kind.
  • Use small bowls as a serving size for your child instead of handing them a large bowl with the whole bag in it.
  • Pop your own popcorn in a small brown bag and then use salt and spray butter to control the ingredients.
These are all just small changes to favorite foods that allow your child to have a healthier lifestyle. Try these tips with your child and let me know your reaction! Also, if you tried something different that worked, please share!

Written by Kelly Jones

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Healthy Twist on Summer Favorites!

Do you slightly cringe inside when your children ask you if they can have a big, greasy burger or a full-of-sugar ice cream cone? Maybe you are on a special outing and you don't want to deprive them, but you feel guilty about letting them eat food that we all know is not healthy. Maybe they just completely run away from vegetables and anything healthy, leaving you with not many choices for nutrition. Well, your days of feeling guilty are over. Thanks to WebMD, I am going to share with you a few healthy spins on classic childhood food that your children are sure to love. They won't even realize it is healthy!

1. Nachos and Cheese
Oh, yes. There are few people who do not enjoy nachos and cheese, kids included. However, a lot of these pre-made quesadillas and salsas have a lot of sodium and preservatives that are not ideal. Here are a few ways to make this snack healthier without your kids becoming wise to your tricks!
  • Use chips with extra fiber. These are typically whole wheat chips.
  • "Top chips with beans, salsa, guacamole, and melt low-fat cheese over it all. Kids love those kinds of healthy carbs" (Sheah Rarback, MS, RD, director of nutrition for the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami School of Medicine).
  • Sneak veggies into the chip dip through a puree. You can either mix it right into the dip or just let it stand alone.
2. Hamburgers and Hot Dogs
These favorites are bundled with fat, sodium, and does anyone even know what is in a hotdog? Exactly. It's not beneficial to a growing child. However, here are a few ways that you can add somem value to these meals:
  • Grill burgers with lean beef or turkey for a little more nutritional value and less fat. "Add a little applesauce or egg white for extra juiciness" (Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LD, a dietician in St. Petersburg, FL, and an American Dietetic Association (ADA) spokeswoman). I have personally grilled burgers with apple butter and they have become a family favorite! I strongly reccommend it!
  • Try different types of hot dogs, instead of the traditional beef ones. Chicken and turkey are great and taste the same when grilled!
3. Ice Cream
I am guilty of an addiction to ice cream. There is just no better dessert than chocolate ice cream, in my opinion. Maybe your children feel the same way. Luckily, there are a few tricks to make sure that a bowl of ice cream doesn't break their nutritional bank!
  • Look for "light" ice cream; there is usually less calories and half the fat than regular ice cream. The taste is the same. I always eat the Publix light chocolate ice cream and I have never noticed a different taste than the full-of-fat chocolate ice cream.
  • Fudgesicles also carry much less calories and fat, and the bar represents built-in portion control.
  • Is your child not a chocolate fan? No worries. Have some fun making your own popsicles using real fruit juice, an ice cude tray, and popsicle sticks from the craft store! This is the healthiest option of them all because you know exactly what is going into that popsicle!
These are just a few healthy spins on those summertime classics. I will be sharing a few ideas each day this week, so be sure to check back!

Written by Kelly Jones

Friday, July 13, 2012

Weekend Festivities

Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! Are you still trying to decide what to do this weekend? Looking for something fun, local, and inexpensive (or FREE)? Well here is a list of activities happening in Hillsborough county this weekend. More details can be found at the Brandon Patch website.

Saturday, July 14

Beginners Running Group
Train for your first 5K with other Y members. Meet in the lobby prior to the run. Regular childcare hours apply for facility members. This group meets every Saturday.

Brats On The Grill
Every Saturday from 11:00 AM till 2:30 PM, come enjoy authentic grilled German Bratwurst and Knatwurst at the European Gourment. Comes with homemade German sauerkraut on a traditional brotchen roll with German mustard all for only $4.50. Plenty of additional delicious sides, drinks, and desserts to choose from!

Band Jam/Skate Jam at Brandon Skate Park
This annual event features five to six participants competing at a time in a skate jam by doing skateboarding tricks one after the other. Local bands will play live music during the event.

Team UP Sports - Youth Leagues Sign Up Day
Team UP Sports is organizing a youth flag football league for girls and boys ages 5-13. We are having sign up day at Moe's Southwest Grill at Winthrop Town Center. Come see what we have to offer and the fun we have planned for your flag football player. Special pricing for those families registering on Saturday 7/14!

Sunday, July 15

All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast
Head over to VFW 8018 for a hearty, all you can eat breakfast. This event occurs every Sunday.

DCC Ministry Sunday Service
Deliverance Christian Connection Ministry (DCCM) is focused on acheiving all that God has destined our ministry to achieve. We seek to be a ministry modeled after Biblical insight by striving for spiritual excellency through our desired threefold purpose to Evangalize, Edify, and Equip the whole person to serve the community and to reach the world as told by Jesus Christ. Our mission is to be compassionate in our love, excellent in our service, holy in our living, passionate and reverent in our worship.

Coastland Church Service

Special Needs Sunday School for Kids & Teens
All children and teens with autism, down syndrome, and any other intellectual disabilities. We are teaching the kids that they are accepted and loved by God EXACTLY the way they are. This is not a babysitting service. We learn by acting out Bible stories, singing songs, and playing games. We work one on one with the kids to make sure the story, game, etc. is adapted uniquely for them.

If you want more ideas about what is happening in the community, be sure to mention the Brandon Patch website listed abve or our Community page to view a monthly events calendar. Have a blessed and safe weekend!

Written by Kelly Jones

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New App That Drives Your Car (pretty much)

Photo provided by iOnRoad.com
 We all know that cell phones are incredible things. Let's be honest, there is an app for pretty much anything you can think of. So why not have an app for driving? We have apps to help us with direction and traffic, but now there is one that actually helps drive your car (or at least advises you every step of the way). This app is called iOnRoad, and is being considered "the #1 driving assistant" regarding all apps. Now, I am not speaking on its safety, just on the features of the app and its possible benefits to driving. I would still recommend to use anything involving your phone and driving with caution. Here are just a few of the features offered on iOnRoad:
  • Advanced collision warning system
    • This app uses the cameras in your phone/gps in combination with its RoadAwareTM algorithm to assess the roads on which you are traveling and warn you of any potential dangers. You will receive both audio and visual warning of dangers, regardless of whether or not iOnRoad is playing in the background.
  • Headway distance monitoring and alert
    • Using the cameras in your phone/gps, iOnRoad can actually monitor your distance from the car in front of you. If you approach the car too quickly or don't brake soon enough, iOnRoad will begin to give audio warnings.
  • Driver-friendly phone operation
    • To cut down on the dangerous nature of playing with your phone while driving, this app has a user-friendly screen that allows you to access these tools with just one click.
  • SMS and notification narrator
    • iOnRoad will read you your text messages and notifications as you are driving.
  • Safety point counter
    • As you continue to use iOnRoad, you will accumulate safety points for things such as braking slowly and general good driving behavior. At the end of each trip, you can view a driving summary to improve on certain driving techniques.
  • Car locator
    • Oh yes, this app will help you find a lost car in a parking lot. It provides a GPS and photo image to help you get back to your car. Simply tap the Car Locator button when you first park to log in the information so that you can find your car later.
While the safety of this app is not yet certain (again, there is always a risk when using a phone to drive), this app has a lot of great qualities and tools to help assist any driver. Oh, and it's completely free! This might be just the thing to take on your next family trip!

Written by Kelly Jones

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Something Extra to Pack in your Suitcase

Photo from Meeting You On and Off the Road
by Faye Shealy, William & Mary Law School
Many people view summer as an opportunity for family vacations. The kids are home, the weather is nice -- why not take a trip and celebrate the wonderful family that you have? While these vacations are designed for fun and relaxation, I'm sure we all have stories that describe when things did not go according to plan. Luckily, there is a way to plan ahead for the bumps in your road to paradise and ensure that your vacation is not derailed: travel insurance. Oh, yes, there's insurance for that. Let me take a moment and describe to you some of the great things that travel insurance protects against:

These tips come from Michael Figueiredo (Why You Should Purchase Travel Insurance, Struxtravel)

  1. Your connecting flight has been cancelled... travel insurance helps find new flights to get everyone home.
  2. Your baggage was lost with your insulin inside. You need help to not only locate your bag, but also to have your perscription filled as soon as possible. Travel insurance helps with that.
  3. You're overseas and your passport and wallet are stolen. Guess who helps you out with funding and a replacement passport to get you home. Oh, yeah. Travel insurance.
  4. You need emergency medical treatment and adequate treatment is not available. Travel insurance will help arrange and pay for medical evacuation.
  5. You must suddenly cancel your "non-refundable" trip. Travel insurance pays for that.
  6. Your family's luggage is lost and might not make it to the hotel at all. Insurance pays for necessities while you wait for your luggage (and pays for replacement if it's stolen).
  7. You are forced to evacuate from paradise due to an oncoming storm. Travel insurance helps you to evacuate and reimburses your lost vacation inverstment.
  8. Your vacation line goes bankrupt. Insurance pays for your refund  or helps you find an alternative way to reach your destination.
  9. You are in an accident in a foreign country and need medical attention. Travel insurance helps you find an English-speaking physician.
  10. Three weeks before your scheduled arrival, a terrorist attack occurs in the city to which you are planning to visit. Yep, travel insurance will pay if you decide to cancel your trip.
Yes, some of these scenarios are extreme, but some of them are perfectly conceivable incidents that do occur during vacations. The point is that you don't want a minor disruption to throw your entire family trip off course. Travel insurance is relatively easy to purchase and is reliant on each individual trip, i.e. you don't have to pay a yearly premium if you are only going on vacation once. You just pay for each trip that you want to insure. These policies also allow a lot of wiggle room in coverages. For example, you can purchase a policy that covers all ten of the above examples or you can purchase one that only covers a cancelled flight. The choice is yours.

Regardless, I strongly advise everyone to purchase travel insurance before your big family vacation. Vacations are a time to relax and have fun with your family, not to worry about minor things that your insurance company can handle for you. Call us today for more information!

Written by Kelly Jones

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Hidden Dangers of Cheap Auto Insurance

          In our current economic status, many people are trying to cut corners in their budgets everywhere they can. One of those places is insurance... particularly car insurance. Many companies out there are offering dirt cheap auto insurance rates. I even saw one the other day claiming that I could get my insurance for $7 a month. Let me tell you something: I have been working in the insurance industry for many years and there is NO WAY a company can adequately cover ANYONE for $7 a month. It's just not possible. Luckily, I can across this article that does a great job of explaining the hidden dangers of cheap car insurance:

When it comes to car insurance, cheap isn't always better. Find out why...By Chris Kyle 

Are you looking to cut costs on your car insurance? Here's some advice: Proceed with caution. Cheap auto insurance could actually end up costing you more down the road.

"Nobody should shop for auto insurance by price alone," says Jeanne Salvatore, senior vice president of public affairs for the Insurance Information Institute (III), an organization dedicated to improving public understanding of the insurance industry.

"You want to get a great price that comes with great service," Salvatore says. "It's a balancing act."

To help you make an informed decision, we've outlined five potential pitfalls of cheap auto insurance. Keep reading to learn why the lowest insurance rates can end up costing you big-time in the long run...

#1 - You're probably not getting the coverage you need

Okay, so after some digging, you found a cheap quote on a car insurance policy. But do you know what's covered in the policy - and more importantly, what's not?

In most states you need some liability insurance, which covers the damage you cause to others or to property in the event of an accident, to legally drive. So, make sure you know your state's minimum coverage requirements.

However, collision and comprehensive coverage - which covers your car in the event of an accident, theft, vandalism, fire, and weather-related disasters like floods - is not required by law in the United States, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners' (NAIC) website, which helps regulate insurance requirements.

Do you want protection from these types of accidents? If so, you can expect your rate to rise accordingly.

#2 - Your low-priced deductible payment could lead to higher costs

One popular way to save on car insurance is to opt for a higher deductible, the amount you pay out-of-pocket before your insurance kicks in, according to "How Can I Save Money on Auto Insurance?" an article on the III's website.

This could help reduce your premium because you are agreeing to pay a set amount (perhaps the first $1,000) on any future claims.

The danger is that if you are unlucky enough to have several accidents, this strategy can quickly become an expensive one.

You should take a look at your finances and make a realistic assessment of what you can afford.

A $1,000 deductible may not make sense if you don't have that kind of money handy in case you need repairs. On the other hand, a higher deductible could make sense for low-risk drivers who rarely get behind the wheel.

The important thing here is to be honest about what kind of protection you need and can afford.

#3 - Bad customer service is bad news, even if your policy is cheap

You know the old adage about how the customer is always right? We all know that's not true. However, it is reasonable to expect prompt and courteous responses to your questions and concerns.

"You want to find a company with a really good reputation for customer service," Salvatore says.

Salvatore urges consumers to ask friends and family members for recommendations, just like you would do if you wanted a doctor or a dentist referral. Ask if they have filed a claim with their company and how it went.

You can also check with your local state insurance department to find out the number of consumer complaints received about a particular company in relation to the number of policies sold, according to the III website.

#4 - Friends may not be covered on a cheap policy

Hey, you're a nice guy or gal. Sometimes you let a friend borrow your car. But is he or she covered?

"Perhaps," writes the Ohio Department of Insurance in a consumer guide on the Ohio state's website. "Some liability policies cover a licensed driver who drives with your permission, while other policies state specifically that no other person is covered when driving your car."

And in a related hypothetical situation, what if you borrow a friend's car?

Whether you live in Ohio - or elsewhere - you owe it to yourself to find out the answers to these questions now. Don't wait until after you or a friend get into an accident to find out that your cheap policy has some holes in it.

#5 - You need to watch out for cheap insurance scams

If a cheap car insurance quote sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In fact, it may even be fake. Potential red flags can include dirt cheap rates as well as companies and agents who are difficult to reach.

In 2011, some Detriot-area drivers were scammed into buying low-cost, bogus auto insurance through a company called Ethos, according to Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website.

Fortunately, insurance companies and their agents must be licensed in the state that you live, so verification is usually only a quick phone call away to your local insurance department.

And while auto insurance scams can be uncommon, it's better to be safe than sorry.

    As you can see, cheap auto insurance is not always the best way to cut down on expenses because it could turn out to cost you a lot more in the long run. At Fearnow Insurance, we specialize in risk management. This basically means that we make sure you are aware of all of your coverages so that you can make an informed decision about what policy is best for you. If you have any questions about your policy or about coverages in general, give us a call at 813-689-8878.
Written by Kelly Jones

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fun Facts About Independence Day

image provided by Joe McMillan, 6 May 2003
          Every fourth of July, we as a nation gather to celebrate our independence from Britain. This celebration usually includes fireworks and barbeques, friends and family. A lot of times we get caught up in the celebration and tradition of the holiday, and we forget what we are really celebrating. Here are a few fun facts about Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence to remind us all of the true reason for this holiday. Who knows... maybe you can even bring up a few of these facts at your party

Fact #1: The Declaration of Independence, signed in 1776, was meant to justify a revolt against the British, with a list of charges against the British king.

Fact #2: The Fourth of July commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. It was initially adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776, but then it was revised and the final version was adopted two days later.

Fact #3: As Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration, Britain's army was on its way toward the New York Harbor. it began:
 "When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
Fact #4: The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 men representing the 13 colonies. The moment marked the beginning of all-out war against the British.

Fact #5: Several coutries used the Declaration of Independence as a beacon in their own struggles for freedon. Among them, France. Then later, Germany, Poland, Russia and many countries in South America.

Fact #6: "Yankee Doodle," one of the many patriotic songs in the United States, was originally sung prior to the Revolution by British military officers who mocked the unorganized and buckskin-wearing "Yankees."

Fact #7: The "Star Spangled Banner" wasn't writeen until Francis Scott Key wrote a poem stemming from observations in 1814, when the British attacked Baltimore's Fort McHenry during the war of 1812. It was later put to music, though not decreed the official national anthem of the United States until 1931.

Fact #8: Three presidents actually died on July 4. Two of them passed away within hours of each other on July 4, 1826: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The two had been political rivals and then friends later in life. the other to share the distinction was James Monroe, who died July 4, 1831.

Fact #9: In 1776, about 2.5 million people lived in the newly independent United States, according to the U.S. Censure Bureau. In 2011, 311.7 million Americans [celebrated] Independence Day.

Fact #10: On July 6, 1776, the Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to print the now-historic Declaration of Independence.

(All facts are provided by "50 Fabulous 4th of July Facts: History of Independence" by LiveScience)

          I hope that these facts have been enjoyable and, who knows, maybe they will come up in conversation during your celebration tomorrow. I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday, and please remember why we are really celebrating. Happy Independence Day, Everyone!

Written by Kelly Jones

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fourth of July Recipes

          Once again, a holiday is right around the corner and I feel the need to share some recipes to enhance your celebration. If your family is anything like mine, every get-together centers around food. So, what better way to celebrate Independence Day than by baking a few delicious red, white, and blue desserts? Here are a couple easy recipes from the Food Network that would make a great hit at your party!

Photograph taken by Tara Donne

Fruit-Tart Flag

Fill premade miniature tart shells or phyllo cups with sweet mascarpone cream (see recipe below), then arrange on a tray and top with blueberries and halved strawberry slices to create stars and stripes.

Mascarpone Cream:
Beat an 8-ounce container of mascarpone cheese and three tablespoons confectioners' sugar with a mixer until smooth. Gently fold in 1/2 cup freshly whipped cream.

Red, White, and Blueberry Triffle
Two 16-ounce containers strawberries
Two 6-ounce containers blueberries
One 6-ounce container blackberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Pinch kosher salt
One 8-ounce package cream cheese
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 prepared angel food cake (about 12 ounces)
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish, optional
1 1/2 tbsp apple jelly or apricot preserves, for garnish, optional

Trim and quarter strawberries and set aside. Combine the blueberries, blackberries, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup water, lemon zest, juice and salt in a medium saucepot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and continue to cook, stirring occassionally, until the berries break down and the sauce thickens, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool.

Place the cream cheese, 1/4 cup cream, the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the canilla extract in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth and fluffy. In a second large bowl, whip the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Fold about one quarter of the whipped cream into the cream cheese mizture until lightened, and then fold in the remaining whipped cream.

To assemble to thrifle, rip or cut the angel food cake into 2-inch pieces. Place half the cake pieces in the bottom of a 12-to-14 cup trifle dish or large bowl. Top with about half the blueberry sauce, half the cream and half the quartered strawberries. Repeat the layers with the remaining cake, berry sauce, cream and strawberries. Cover with plastic wrap and chill 8 hours or overnight. Before serving, either dust with confectioners' sugar or heat the apple jelly in the microwave for 25 seconds to loosen, and then brush over the strawberries.

Written by Kelly Jones