Friday, November 22, 2013

Traveling for Turkey Day

Approximately 33 million people travel over the long Thanksgiving weekend, making it the most traveled holiday of the year (followed by Christmas and New Year’s). But traveling, both by plane and car, over the holidays can be stressful, and potentially dangerous, in the snow and ice. Don’t let holiday traveling give you the winter blues. There are precautions you can take to ensure the safety and general wellness of you and your family during winter traveling.

All winter traveling starts when you leave your home. Be sure to lock all doors and windows, and set your security alarm. You can even set lights on timers and ask a friend or neighbor to collect your mail while you’re away to give your home the lived-in look that may help ward off thieves.

Traveling by Plane
Winter flying can be met with lengthy flight delays, cancellations and missed connections. The most important travel tip is to stay calm, be patient and prepare for the worst possible scenario. How do you do this? Planning ahead can prevent unexpected and/or unwanted event from occurring, such as your desired flight filling up before you book it. Booking your flight far in advance not only ensures you will have a seat, but it also means lower airfare rates and a better chance of flying direct or minimizing connections.

Pack light to avoid hold-ups at the airport. Many airlines are cracking down on their baggage allowances and each bag you bring now costs you a pretty penny. Traveling light reduces your baggage fees and leaves room to pack any presents you receive for the trip back home.

Leave for the airport with plenty of time to spare. Driving through snow can cause unexpected delays and security lines during this peak travel season can grow quite long. Give yourself enough extra time to make up for such occurrences in time to catch your flight. On the other hand, this tactic can leave you with a lot of free time if nothing slows you down on your way. That’s much better than missing your flight! You can eliminate boredom by bringing a book, tablet or music for entertainment.

Remember, the holidays fall during peak flu season and you’ll be trapped in a steel tube with individuals who are possibly sick. Get your flu shot before you travel and wash your hands frequently to reduce the spread of germs. It’s also a good idea to stand up, stretch your legs and walk around every hour to stimulate blood flow and reduce cramping.

Traveling by Car
Winter driving can be met with road closures, increased amount of traffic accidents and slower speeds. Just like on planes, there are steps you can take to smooth over your road trips. Winter driving presents unique hardships, so you should have your car inspected before leaving. Have a mechanic check your car’s vitals, including the brakes, fluid levels, battery, light bulbs and particularly the tire pressure and tread.

With your car ready for the road, you should familiarize yourself with your route and the current weather conditions along the way. Bring a GPS and/or map in case you have to suddenly shift course due to construction, accidents, road closures or avalanches. Packing a safety kit can come in handy during emergency situations. Your kit should include items such as, but not limited to, a cell phone and car charger, jumper cables, ice scraper, tow rope, sand or kitty litter for traction, flashlights with extra batteries, blankets, emergency flares, matches, first aid medical supplies and a portable weather radio. 

You may also want to bring books and/or magazines in case you get stuck in traffic or a snowdrift.
Bring water and protein-rich snacks for every person in the car. The body requires more fuel in the cold and healthy snacks, along with proper hydration, will help keep you alert and focused. You may also want to stop every hour or two to stretch your legs, which can also improve your alertness.
Always remember to wear your seat belt and buckle up children in appropriate child safety seats or booster seats. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed to the fullest, but never get behind the wheel after drinking.

Traveling over the holidays doesn’t have to be stressful. Being prepared will help eliminate many common woes that winter travelers experience. Utilize these tips to stay safe and comfortable, wherever the season takes you. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Seven Myths about Health Insurance

Taking and maintaining a health insurance policy is a major achievement for many people, but care should be taken before signing on the dotted line.  Despite the fact that there are several insurance firms offering different health insurance packages, about 14% of Americans are still uninsured. While encouraging people to take up health insurance, it is also important to debunk the numerous myths that abound in this sub-sector. Below is an overview of 7 health insurance myths.  

The high number of uninsured has no effect on the insured

As stated above, approximately one out of seven Americans do not have health insurance. Most people who are insured believe that high figure is not their problem, and that they are not affected in any way. The reality is that nobody is immune to the effects that stem from having many uninsured people. The insured often pay for the treatment costs of the uninsured through high health insurance premiums, which hospitals pass on to the beneficiaries in form of charities. Having a large number of uninsured patients also puts a huge strain on emergency rooms of health care facilities.

Individuals have no control over how much they can pay

Most people who have health insurance believe that they are paying high premiums, and they are probably right. Many also believe that there is nothing they can do about these high charges, but they are wrong about this. There are a number of things one can do to enjoy low premiums including watching ones weight, avoiding cigarettes, avoiding high-risk activities and many others. It also helps to weigh all available options before taking a health insurance policy.

Group policies are less expensive

There is also a belief that group health insurance plans are always less expensive than individual plans, an idea that is not totally true. The fact of the matter is that there are many other factors that determine how much a person pays for health insurance. For example, young person in perfect health who does not have dangerous hobbies will probably pay less in an individual plan than he would in a group package.

Health insurance is too expensive

The idea that health insurance is too expensive is a generalization that is not true in its intrinsic sense. While it may be true that health insurance premiums are viewed as high by many people, this does not mean that they are too expensive. With the right kind of market research, one can find affordable plans that offer suitable coverage. Then there are no-claims discounts, premium excesses and other types of discounts. Moreover, it is not easy to put a price to the peace of mind that comes with health insurance.

Medicaid covers nursing home costs for elderly people

People assume too much on Medicare Supplemental Insurance. For example, many believe that Medicaid will pick up the tabs on their nursing home costs in case they need it in their sunset years. The reality is that the plan may only cover up to half of the cost, and only for those who qualify. A good Long Term Care Insurance can easily cover the difference, or else the patient’s family will be forced to cough up the money.

Most uninsured people are unemployed

There is a growing belief that nearly everybody who does not have health insurance is unemployed (or lives in a non- working family). This is a myth, and the reality is that nearly 80% of the uninsured come from working families; the only problem being that they do not qualify for the benefits or cannot afford their portion of the premiums.

Even the uninsured always get health care

Most of the uninsured believe that they can always get medical care when they need it, but this is a false belief. Some of them do not get the care they need, and even those who succeed in getting it have to grapple with lengthy delays. Besides, there are serious economic consequences of seeking treatment without health insurance. This is why not having health insurance has been identified as one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy.

It is clear that the health insurance industry is still shrouded in numerous myths. This is why families are advised to consult widely before getting insured. If you need more information, you can give us a call at 813-689-8878.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why Should You Purchase Annuities?

Annuities can serve many useful purposes for retirement. If you're thinking of purchasing an annuity, here are some things to consider.

If you need income right away, an immediate annuity can be used to:
    Help protect you against outliving your assets - Social security will pay retirement income for as long as you live, as do defined-benefit pension plans - the only other source of income available that continues indefinitely is an immediate annuity. 
   Help protect your assets from creditors - Generally creditors can only access payments from an immediate annuity as they’re made, since the money you gave the insurance company now belongs to the company.

If you’re saving money for the future, a deferred annuity can be used to:•   Help you meet your retirement income goals - Plans such as a 401(k) are an important part of planning for your retirement; however, contributions to these plans and to IRAs are limited. They also, may not produce all of the retirement income you need. This is especially true if you’ve started saving for retirement late or had contributions interrupted due to job changes. If you do not have a 401(k) keep in mind your social security benefit may provide less than you need to retire, another reason that a deferred annuity could come in handy after retirement.
   Help you diversify your investment portfolio - Investment experts routinely advise their clients that to get the best return for a given level of risk, you should diversify your investments. Fixed annuities, in particular, are unique because they offer an investment that is guaranteed not to decrease and will actually increase at a specified interest rate (and, often, potentially more).