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Christmas Gifts

Christmas Gifts

Christmas is less than a week away. The phone isn’t ringing as often and email has slowed too, as clients, friends, and business associates prepare for Christmas. I attended my last holiday party on Sunday and we’re now finalizing our preparations to spend time with our kids and grandchildren. It promises to be a wonderfully noisy time filled with plenty of hugs, laughter, stories, gifts, and too much food. Christmas is a special time to me. I love the lights, the carols, and the smells of cookies and pies baking. The smells flood me with memories of the times when my kids were much younger and couldn’t wait to open gifts of toys. I still have a few gifts to purchase to round out what everyone’s getting and will summon the patience to enter the fray of one last trip to the mall. Even with that impending trip, I’m happy and joyful. I want to give gifts that each person enjoys and realizes I thought of them when I purchased it. I realize they want the same for Sheri and me when they ask us what we want. I don’t really need anything, although I wouldn’t argue with a pair of purple socks, or one of the books on my wish list on Amazon. The things I really want can’t be purchased online, wrapped in paper, and placed under a Christmas tree covered in lights. The gifts that are most important to me are the gifts of presence; time spent with each son, daughter in law, grandchild, and Sheri’s kids. It’s a meal around a kitchen table that is spiced with conversation, laughter, and the stories we share of what we’re learning. It’s hearing and sharing hopes, dreams, and even things that we’re facing that may be difficult. It’s reading a story or playing a silly game with one of the grandkids and getting with friends who are as much family as our blended family and sharing life’s journey. I’m reminded, though, that the holidays are difficult for some. I know people who are waiting on a doctor’s word of whether their treatment was successful, someone who’s lost a loved one recently, or have been through a difficult time. The gifts I want to share are; Courage for those who are afraid based on their current circumstances Faith for those who have none and are unsure what their next step is Hope for those who can’t see past their present pain Love for those who are alone and yearn to be held Laughter for those whose spirit needs to be lifted Persistence for those who are tired but need to take another step Vision...

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Holiday Home Security

Holiday Home Security

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Green Monday have come and gone. In case you missed it, you have less than 2 weeks until Christmas, so you still have plenty of time to find the perfect gift for loved ones or yourself! It’s a beautiful and festive time of year, however, there are those who look to take advantage of people during this season. Break-ins occur during this time of year, both homes and cars, yet it only takes a few precautionary actions to lower your risk of being a victim. Here are 6 actions you can take to prevent a home break in when we should be celebrating! Lock all Openings: Take a moment to check each window and door to ensure they’re locked. Even windows on a second story should be locked. Criminals would rather not attract attention by breaking glass or kicking in a door, and too many home burglaries happen because a window or door is unlocked. Use Automatic Timers: Buy several automatic timers and put them on different lights throughout your home. Set them to come on and go off at different times so it appears someone is moving from one room to another. Save one of the timers to put on a TV or radio. The sound alone will make most burglars believe someone’s home. Do not put one on a Christmas tree since the tree should not be lit if you’re not home. Don’t Advertise: Gifts should not be visible from any window or door. Many people love to open a front window to display their tree as a part of their holiday decorations. If you do this, don’t put presents around the tree until Christmas Eve. Why tempt someone to window shop your home with beautifully wrapped presents under a tree or in gift bags from popular stores? Once gifts are open, be sure to break the boxes down and / or cut them up into smaller pieces and place them in opaque trash bags before setting them out for pick up. Sticking boxes of a flat screen TV or other popular items out at the curb or in the alley advertises what you have and invites unwanted attention. Package Delivery: If you’re ordering presents from your favorite online store, have them delivered to your office instead of your home when no one’s there. Boxes on your front porch invite someone to take them. If you can’t do that, schedule the delivery for a day when you’ll be home and are able to sign for them. Travel Planning: If you’re traveling during the holidays, have your mail delivery stopped and held until your return....

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Car Insurance: Guidelines on When Your Kids Have Their Own

Car Insurance: Guidelines on When Your Kids Have Their Own

I was talking with a prospective client this week who has a daughter graduating later this month from a university in Texas. The question they were grappling with was whether to keep her on their car insurance that I would be quoting, or to have her get her own policy since she has a pretty nice job lined up. I run into this a few times a year and thought we’d examine how I suggest they approach the decision. There is no “right” age for an adult child to get their own car insurance, however, there are some factors that tend to guide this decision. Where the adult child will live upon graduation The financial ability of both the parents and the new graduate The graduate’s age What the carrier will “encourage” If the newly minted graduate will live in the same state, they can leave them on their policy. The one change the parents should make to their car insurance policy is to change the garaging address of the vehicle the adult child has to their son or daughter’s new address. Such a change could lower or increase the rate based on rates where the graduate lives, whether they’ll be renting a house or an apartment, etc. If the child is moving out of state, then I recommend they go ahead and secure their own car insurance with an agent in their new home town. The reason for this is that the son or daughter are establishing their own residency and usually means registering the vehicle in their name in the new state. Next, the parents should evaluate the adult child’s financial ability to pay for their own car insurance. Launching out on your own requires funds to secure an apartment, buy furniture, work clothes, and in some cases, begin paying off student loans. It may be financially helpful to delay requesting a son or daughter get their own policy until a later date when they have fully transitioned to paying their own bills and are able to manage a budget, provided they remain in state. Most insurance companies in Texas don’t recognize a man or woman as an adult until they reach the age of 25. This is usually the age where we see a significant decrease in the car insurance rate, provided they have no claims or tickets. When the adult child lives in the same state, and the parents are willing, I recommend they leave their son or daughter on their policy until they turn 25. This keeps the adult child’s premium lower because they can take advantage of the multi-car discount and the lower rate the adult may have...

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End of Year Insurance Review

End of Year Insurance Review

2017 is winding down and 2018 will be here before you know it. Various web sites and blogs will soon be posting articles and tips on end of year financial planning and moves to make before the new year arrives. Some will address tax moves you can make now, while others address rebalancing your portfolio, opening an IRA, and steps to improve your financial position for 2018. I enjoy reading these posts and articles, however there’s one topic most of them ignore. It happens to be one I believe you should include with your end of year financial review, and that is conducting a review of your insurance policies. An insurance review confirms whether you’re adequately covered, not paying for coverage you don’t need, and sometimes it may even lead to paying less than you have been paying! Grab your policies, flip to the declaration pages, and let’s see what we can accomplish in 30 minutes or less! Home Insurance: Did you add square footage, remodel your kitchen, or create a master suite? If so, you may need to increase the amount of your home’s dwelling coverage by the cost of your home improvement project to ensure you have enough insurance to replace your home in the event of a total loss. Did you update your wiring, HVAC system, or plumbing? What about replacing your roof? Updates can lower your annual premium (see http://wiseinsurancegroup.com/home-insurance-home-updates/_). Do you have or did you activate a monitored alarm system? It’s worth a discount! If you were being charged for a prior insurance claim that happened 3 or 5 years ago, point this out to your agent. It should lower your premium depending on how long your company factors them into your rate and when it “rolls off.” For individuals who work from a home office, determine how much you paid for home insurance for the year. You’ll need this for taxes. If you bought a home in 2017, remember to file your Texas Homestead Exemption with your county tax office in January. If you never filed your Homestead Exemption, do so now! This won’t save you anything on your home insurance, but it will lower your property taxes! Car Insurance: Did you buy a new car this year? Review at the uninsured / under insured motorist property damage coverage. It needs to be enough to cover your loan amount should you be involved in an accident and the car is considered a total loss. If you drive an older car and there’s no loan, it may be time to remove the collision deductible and move to liability coverage (see http://wiseinsurancegroup.com/when-should-you-drop-full-coverage-car-insurance/), which provides a nice savings. Before doing so,...

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Why Net Neutrality Is Important to Small Business

Why Net Neutrality Is Important to Small Business

A free and open internet was cemented by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under President Obama’s administration. On Tuesday, the FCC, under the leadership of the current administration, announced it wants to reverse net neutrality. Reversing net neutrality is not a Republican versus Democrat or liberal versus conservative decision. It’s about money. Before we delve into the politics of net neutrality, I think it’s important to review what it is. Everyone – individual, small or large business, and political persuasion – has the same access to whatever we want to access on the internet regardless of size, interest, etc. No one must pay the broadband carriers extra to have that access. Under President Obama’s administration, he guaranteed net neutrality even after broadband carriers proposed there be fast lanes and slow lanes. The fast lanes would carry a cost and could get preferential treatment in delivery of content and searches to those on the slow lanes. FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, has called for the end of net neutrality which would clear the way for telecom providers to implement fast and slow lanes for companies, charge different rates for the delivery of any content, and stop those who are unwilling to pay. I believe the approach proposed by the broadband carriers will have a negative impact on small businesses making it cost prohibitive to be on the fast internet lanes. Large companies will be able to afford the cost of faster internet lanes while many small businesses will not. As a small business owner, I understand the value of being discovered through a local Google, Yahoo, or Bing search. My blogging has helped me be discovered by people wanting comparison quotes for home, auto, life and business insurance. More importantly, it’s allowed me to provide educational content which helps consumers make informed decisions about their insurance needs. A free and open internet is imperative for continued economic growth, especially in the small business arena. Small businesses continue to lead the economic recovery in hiring and new job creation. They account for half of all private sector jobs, 60% to 80% of net new jobs annually, and employ about 130 million US workers. Having a tiered internet delivery model penalizes small business. Large internet tech companies including Google and Amazon believe it would end free speech. How we ensure net neutrality is the big question. Should it be regulated like electric and telephone utilities are under an expanded version of their law which was created decades ago, or should there be little or no regulation giving carte blanche control to the telecom companies? I believe it’s too important an issue to blindly follow either political party, rather,...

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