A Life Story (With a Moral)

It’s funny how people sitting next to you on airplanes sometimes open up and like to talk. This happened to me last week with a gentleman who looked at me and decided I was a good person to talk to, or maybe I’m just a good listener.

He told me his whole financial life history. Don’t ask me why. I didn’t know him, and he didn’t know me, but I listened.

Identity stolen twice, divorced twice, both times expensive, and just remarried at age 66 to a somewhat younger woman who has significant debt.

His career has been varied. Fireman, CPA, boat captain, electrical engineer and now talking about retirement. He will be going from a high-income earner to a low-income retiree.

During our one sided conversation, one thing became very clear. He had been dealt some financial hurdles and had worked very hard to correct these issues, but these experiences had left him financially apprehensive.

Here are his concerns. Can he afford to retire? Can he manage on a substantially reduced income? Should he continue to work? Will his employer allow him to work, and if so, for how long? Should he become a consultant to permit supplementing his income? Will he need to sell his house? Will he need to sell his boat, which, next to his wife, he loves dearly?

Many questions with perhaps not the answers he wants to hear. Life’s twists and turns sometimes takes us in directions we would rather not go in, but still have to deal with.

The moral of the story is to plan for the future, protect your assets and work with skilled financial advisors. Life happens, so be prepared.

Will You Be Working “After” Retirement? Then Think About Life Insurance

older-AA-couple-walkingA new Merrill Lynch/Age Wave study found that 47% of respondents age 50 or older who identified themselves as retired have worked or plan to work during their retirement years. What’s more, 72% of pre-retirees in that age range said that their ideal retirement will include some form of work. Retirement, which had been age 62 to 65, is now typically 65 to 69.

The unforgotten financial crisis may be playing a role in such extended working years. Many people panicked after the market crash, got out of stocks and never got back in. They’ve locked in the losses they took then and are still trying to recover.

Often overlooked in these situations is the need for life insurance beyond the “normal” retirement years.

People are living longer these day and may be afraid of outliving their money. Even those who are financially secure are worried. One solution is to work a few more years. The work might be full or part time, depending on the individual’s health and interests, but often overlooked in these situations is the need for life insurance beyond the “normal” retirement years.

If you still need to work to make ends meet after retirement, what happens to your surviving spouse and family members if you were to die? The need for the income does not go away.

The solution for this problem is life insurance that stays in effect after your normal retirement age. If you don’t survive long enough to complete your financial goals for that comfortable retirement, life insurance can fill the gap and replace the income which has been lost.

Relief for the Sandwich Generation

Many middle-aged adults are finding themselves caught between supporting their dependent children while looking after their aging parents.

This predicament places those in their 40s and 50s in a particularly difficult position from both a financial and emotional standpoint. So how can those in the Sandwich Generation survive without getting eaten alive? By planning.

One such way to plan for the anticipated needs of your aging parents is to purchase along-term care insurance policy for them. This type of policy allows for quality care for your parents while helping to relieve the financial and caregiving burdens from you and your family. Be aware, long-term care insurance is medically underwritten so your parents will have to take a physical and share their medical records during the underwriting process.

Plus, if you’re in your 40s or 50s and healthy, it’s also a great time to consider purchasing a policy for yourself while premiums are more affordable.

Take a look at this infographic from LifeHealthPro using statistics from a study conducted by Pew Research. As you can see, the need is real and you need to be prepared for the consequences.

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How to Talk About Bullying

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Parents, school staff and other caring adults have a role to play in preventing bullying. They can:

  • Help kids understand bullying. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bullying is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
  • Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
  • Model how to treat others with kindness and respect.

Help Kids Understand Bullying

Kids who know what bullying is can better identify it. They can talk about bullying if it happens to them or others. Kids need to know ways to safely stand up to bullying and how to get help.

  • Encourage kids to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied. The adult can give comfort, support, and advice, even if they can’t solve the problem directly. Encourage the child to report bullying if it happens.
  • Talk about how to stand up to kids who bully. Give tips, like using humor and saying “stop” directly and confidently. Talk about what to do if those actions don’t work, like walking away
  • Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other kids.
  • Urge them to help kids who are bullied by showing kindness or getting help.
  • Watch the short webisodes and discuss them with kids.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Research tells us that children really do look to parents and caregivers for advice and help on tough decisions. Sometimes spending 15 minutes a day talking can reassure kids that they can talk to their parents if they have a problem. Start conversations about daily life and feelings with questions like these:

  • What was one good thing that happened today? Any bad things?
  • What is lunch time like at your school? Who do you sit with? What do you talk about?
  • What is it like to ride the school bus?
  • What are you good at? What would do you like best about yourself?

Talking about bullying directly is an important step in understanding how the issue might be affecting kids. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but it is important to encourage kids to answer them honestly. Assure kids that they are not alone in addressing any problems that arise. Start conversations about bullying with questions like these:

  • What does “bullying” mean to you?
  • Describe what kids who bully are like. Why do you think people bully?
  • Who are the adults you trust most when it comes to things like bullying?
  • Have you ever felt scared to go to school because you were afraid of bullying? What ways have you tried to change it?
  • What do you think parents can do to help stop bullying?
  • Have you or your friends left other kids out on purpose? Do you think that was bullying? Why or why not?
  • What do you usually do when you see bullying going on?
  • Do you ever see kids at your school being bullied by other kids? How does it make you feel?
  • Have you ever tried to help someone who is being bullied? What happened? What would you do if it happens again?

Get more ideas for talking with children about life and about bullying. If concerns come up, be sure to respond.

There are simple ways that parents and caregivers can keep up-to-date with kids’ lives.

  • Read class newsletters and school flyers. Talk about them at home.
  • Check the school website
  • Go to school events
  • Greet the bus driver
  • Meet teachers and counselors at “Back to School” night or reach out by email
  • Share phone numbers with other kids’ parents

Teachers and school staff also have a role to play.

Encourage Kids to Do What They Love

Help kids take part in activities, interests, and hobbies they like. Kids can volunteer, play sports, sing in a chorus, or join a youth group or school club. These activities give kids a chance to have fun and meet others with the same interests. They can build confidence and friendships that help protect kids from bullying.

Model How to Treat Others with Kindness and Respect

Kids learn from adults’ actions. By treating others with kindness and respect, adults show the kids in their lives that there is no place for bullying. Even if it seems like they are not paying attention, kids are watching how adults manage stress and conflict, as well as how they treat their friends, colleagues, and families.

– See more at: http://pekin.olhblogspace.com/2014/08/01/how-to-talk-about-bullying/#sthash.RQ9ULj3S.dpuf

Student Loan Fraud: Yes, It’s on the Final

Time to start studying up on student loan fraud. This fairly new form of identity theft is on the rise, and it costs a

pretty penny, according to a federal report: about $874 million, with the government losing about $187 million.

With deadlines for federal student aid right around the corner, consider these two real stories:

  • A Michigan man’s identity was used to secure $3,000 in student loans and a $6,700 Pell Grant. The victim filed a police report, a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, and disputes with all three major credit bureaus—to no avail. The government said that since his information was used, he was still responsible for loan payments.
  • A California woman discovered she was a victim of student loan fraud when she tried to refinance her home. Her credit score had plummeted because someone used her information to secure two student loans, one of which had gone into collection. Her tax refund was docked to pay off the loan.

Both victims mentioned their situation to their respective insurance agents, who said their insurance policies covered them for Identity Management Services from IDentity Theft 911. Now, they each have their own dedicated fraud specialist helping to resolve their cases.

“People who claim the threat of identity theft is overblown simply have no concept of the nature of the crime or the persistence and expertise required to resolve these types of issues,” said Adam Levin, chairman and founder of IDentity Theft 911. “Without the help of a professional fraud investigator, victims are likely to get bogged down in red tape for months, if not years.”

Student loan fraud happens when identity thieves apply for loans using stolen personal information, often through low-cost online colleges. They receive federal funding through the school, and after tuition and fees are deducted, the balances is remanded to the “student.” Criminals usually take that balance and leave victims on the hook for debt repayment.

Identity theft rings are often behind this crime. However, a report by the Office of the Inspector General shows an 82 percent increase in the number of college students who are suspected of engaging in loan fraud in the last four years. Suspected participants jumped from 18,719 students to 34,007 in that period. The office identified more than 85,000 recipients who might have participated in student aid fraud rings.

If you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft or wish to proactively manage your identity, check with your insurance company, financial institution, or employee benefits provider. Many companies offer LifeStages™ Identity Management Services from IDentity Theft 911 for low or no cost. To learn more, visit idt911.com or call 1-888-682-5911.

See more at: http://pekin.olhblogspace.com/2014/08/01/student-loan-fraud-yes-its-on-the-final/#sthash.JGGO0KMT.dpuf

50″ Flat Screen TV Donated to Sponsor WHOA

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More Insurance Agency has a passion to help others. This year, at the Whiteside County Fair, a 50″ flat screen TV was donated to help support the local non-profit organization, White Oaks Therapeutic Equestrian Center, or WHOA.

WHOA, also located in Morrison, IL, offers therapeutic horseback riding and animal-assisted activities as well as other related services for children and adults with disabilities. It  has been associated with the Equine Assisted Activities (EAA), which has been known for beneficial forms of exercise and recreation for people with a wide variety of disabilities.

WHOA combines goals, sports, recreation, therapy and education in its lessons. Lessons run from April-October, and have day and evening hours available. Lessons include basic instructions of grooming, tracking, horsemanship, riding and/or driving skills. Every lesson is taught by PATH certified instructors.

Volunteers sat in the commercial building the entire fair week raising awareness to the public about this fantastic organization.

The lucky winner this year was Melissa Henrekin. Husband Matt (pictured) said Melissa was overjoyed when she found out she won, yelling, “I never win anything!” I guess her spell has been broken!  Congratulations Melissa and thank-you for supporting WHOA.

 

College Students Need to Take Insurance 101 Before Heading Off to Campus

College students moving into dorms or off-campus housing this month should review their family’s insurance policies to make sure their possessions are properly covered, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

“Expensive sports equipment, electronics and furniture are increasingly showing up on college campuses today, so parents need to make sure these items are insured,” said Michael Barry, vice president, media relations, I.I.I.

Students who reside off-campus may not be covered under their parents’ homeowners or renters policy. If that is the case, they will need to purchase their own renters insurance coverage.

Before a student heads off to a college, the I.I.I. recommends taking the following steps:

  1. Create a “dorm inventory” to document what’s leaving home: List the items the student plans to bring to school, along with the estimated value. To make this process easier, the I.I.I. has created free Web-based software, available at KnowYourStuff.org. Be sure to note specific high-value items such as a computer, camera or musical instrument and scan receipts into the system to document their retail value. Having an up-to-date inventory can help determine how much insurance to purchase and get insurance claims settled faster in the event of theft, fire or other types of disasters.
  2. Check homeowners or renters policies for off-site coverage: Many homeowners and renters policies provide financial protection for a college student’s personal possessions (e.g., a TV, clothing and furniture) while they are away from home and residing on a college campus. Other homeowners and renters policies may limit the amount of coverage for a college student’s belongings to 10 percent of the total amount of a policy’s overall coverage for personal possessions. So if the student’s parents have $100,000 worth of personal possessions insurance for the family’s primary residence, for example, only $10,000 of coverage would be applicable to possessions in their youngster’s dorm room. In both cases, the student’s possessions would be covered for the same disasters that are in a standard homeowners or renters insurance policy. These include fire, theft, vandalism and natural disasters, such as a hurricane. The student would not be covered for typical college type mishaps, such as accidentally spilling coffee on an expensive electronic device. Items such as jewelry and musical instruments may be subject to dollar limits under a standard homeowners or renters policy. If these limits are too low, parents may want to consider buying a personal property floater or an endorsement to their homeowners or renters policy. This provides a higher amount of insurance and broader coverage. Most jewelry floaters, for instance, include additional coverage for “mysterious disappearance.”It may make sense for students to leave expensive jewelry at home or store it in a safe deposit box. Floaters for storing jewelry in a safe deposit box are generally less costly, and many insurers will let people take jewelry out and wear it if they are informed in advance.
  3. Review auto insurance policies: If a student has been driving the family car and will now be away at college, at least 100 miles from home, the policyholder’s insurance professional should be told. The owner may be eligible for a discount. If a student has his or her own car, the insurance company should be informed if it will be used at school or left at home. If the car is being taken to school, the price of the policy will now be re-evaluated based on where the school is located. If a student leaves a car at home, it is important to let the auto insurer know if anyone else will now be driving the car or if it will remain un-used except for when the student is home for vacation. If that is the case, the policyholder may be eligible for a discount. Many auto insurance companies will also give a discount to students who get good grades at school.

Parents may want to consider purchasing stand-alone insurance policies for their college student’s desktop computer, laptop, tablet or iPad for events which are not covered under a standard homeowners or renters policy, such as accidental damage to these pieces of equipment caused by things such as a drop or a spill.

Keep in mind that if a credit card is used to buy expensive technology products, some insurance protection may also be available to the purchaser through the card itself.

– See more at: http://pekin.olhblogspace.com/2014/08/01/college-students-need-to-take-insurance-101-before-heading-off-to-campus/  

Mold 101

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Mold is a fungus that can grow almost anywhere, indoors or outdoors. The approximately 100,000 species of mold that exist all share the same basic characteristics: the need for oxygen, moisture and nutrients to grow. Indoor wood, wallboard, wallpaper, upholstery and dust can be excellent nutrient sources.

Although mold can grow in most environments, it grows best in damp, warm conditions. Molds spread and reproduce by making spores, which are small and lightweight; able to travel through air; can resist dry, adverse environmental conditions and are capable of surviving a long time.

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Individuals are exposed to mold through skin contact, inhalation or ingestion, which may cause mild to severe allergic reactions, depending on an individual’s sensitivity. Working or living in moldy conditions can be dangerous. Not only does it present health dangers, but left unattended it will continuously grow and can damage and destroy whatever material it has inhabited.

How to help your yard recover from winter.

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Your yard goes dormant throughout the winter, and the cold temperatures can seriously wear it down. Help your yard recover from winter with these tips.

  • Remove any patches of damaged lawn. Salt, plows and disease can do a number on your grass, so use a metal rake to remove any dead or damaged patches.
  • Don’t mow too early. Grass needs a chance to reestablish itself, so let it grow reasonably tall before mowing. For the first mow, use the high setting to keep the grass strong.
  • Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer in early spring. You can also apply herbicide early on to prevent weeds from growing.
  • Overseed your lawn. Overseeding is the process of planting grass seeds directly into the existing turf. This leads to denser grass with more color variation. Though best done in the fall, you can still get great results by overseeding in the spring. Slit-seeder machines can do the work for you; ask a home supply store specialist for help choosing one.
  • Prune trees and shrubs. Using a pruner, trim trees and shrubs back to their live stems. (For any branches thicker than ½ inch, use a handsaw.)
  • Trim perennials and grasses. Cut back flowering perennials to a height of four or five inches and grasses to two or three inches. This will allow space for new growth.
  • Clean up the area around plants. Rake up any leaves, uproot any dead annuals and remove existing mulch a little at a time as the temperatures warm. (Wait until the soil warms up in mid- to late-spring before applying a new layer of mulch. If you put it down too early, it will slow the warming process.)
  • Restore your walkway. Rake any errant gravel back into place. If you have flagstones, fill new sand or stone dust into the cracks.

With some time and energy, you can help some of your most important assets recover from a winter that’s now officially behind us.

How to help your home recover from winter

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Your home likely took a beating this winter, so you’ll want to invest some time in helping it get back to its pre-winter condition. Here are a few ways you can help your home recover from winter.

  • Have your roof inspected. This is especially important if you notice any leaks or loose shingles or metal. The freezing and thawing that was so common this past winter can create big splits out of small cracks.
  • Fix any ceiling stains. Your ceiling may have a yellow or brown stain if your roof has a leak. If so, first fix the leak before sealing the stain with a sealer/primer than apply a coat or two of paint.
  • Check storm doors and screens. Things to look for on doors include bent or broken hinges, frames or edges. Depending on the extent of the damage, you can either repair or replace the door. Also inspect your screens for holes before you swap out your storm panels.
  • Consider resealing your driveway. A lot of water seeps into driveways during the winter, which can create cracks when it freezes then thaws. If you notice a lot of cracks, consider having it resealed to prevent further cracking.
  • Seal your deck every few years. If your deck is looking worn-down, have it pressure washed and resealed.
  • Check your fence(s). Repair or replace any loose slats or rot on your fences. Use epoxy to patch up any worn wood.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts. Leaves can weigh things down while ice dams can bend and break gutters. Grab a pair of gloves, a sturdy ladder and a trowel to clear any leaves and debris out (call a professional if you’re not comfortable doing this on your own).

    If you’re dealing with an ice dam and want to try a DIY approach, first remove snow with a long-handled aluminum roof rake. Then fill a pair of pantyhose with calcium chloride ice melter and hang it from your roof so it crosses the ice dam and hangs off the gutter. If that doesn’t melt the ice dam, call a pro—you don’t want to be up on your rood during icy conditions.

  • Apply caulk to leak-prone areas. Expansion and contraction can cause openings that will let April rains seep in. Seal it up by applying exterior caulk to leak-prone areas like windows and areas of the siding where walls join together.
  • Inspect outside faucets and hoses. Turn them on to ensure water is still running as it should; if you can stop the flow with your thumb, the water pressure may be too low and a pipe inside your home may need to be fixed.