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The Newsletter
What You Need to Know About Home Security
Did you know...?
  • Over 1.7 million burglaries occurred in the U.S. in 2014.
  • Burglar-proofing can prevent nine out of 10 break-ins.
  • Insurance discounts of between 2 and 15 percent are typically available to homeowners who install security systems.
With these facts in mind, it's small wonder many homeowners install systems to beef up their home security. It seems like a no-brainer, but there are several things you need to consider before signing on the dotted line for your new system.

Shady salesmen - Unfortunately, not all security system salespeople are trustworthy. Many homeowners have found themselves the victims of unethical business practices when it comes to their home security systems. Sales representatives have installed faulty systems, offered contracts based on false promises, misrepresented fees, failed to cancel contracts, and renewed contracts without consent. These and similar practices should make homeowners cautious when purchasing new systems.

Agent recommendations - Because of the risk homeowners face when dealing with security sales reps, it is wise to seek the counsel of your insurance agent. He or she may be able to recommend a specific company known for solid business practices, or at least steer you in the right direction. Your agent can also give you tips on avoiding shady online-based or door-to-door sales reps.

Discounts - Not every system qualifies you for a homeowners insurance discount. Check with your insurance agent before you purchase anything. Your agent can advise you about the types of systems that are eligible and explain the discount, so you can make an informed decision about what to install and if it will be worth the cost.

Other security measures - Your best deterrents to thieves are light and noise. Dead bolt locks, bars, window grates, and security lighting are additional options that offer defense and potential savings. Contact your insurance agent for information regarding your specific policy to discover the best options for your home.
Forget Rushing: Make Time to 2016
New Year 2016
The year has just begun, and your 2016 calendar is already booked. Each weekend is packed. Every day is filled. It's another year of rush, rush and do, do.

Daily, we hit the ground running. We travel at breakneck speed through a dizzying list of appointments and commuting. We're always checking our devices; sometimes without even taking in what we read.

This can't be healthy. Why are we in such a hurry? Let's...slow...down.

Just as we recognize the frenzied lifestyle we've created for ourselves, we also recognize the need for a few slowdowns. These may be drastic changes or simple daily pleasures. If you're looking for a few ways to slow down, try the following, courtesy of
  • Adjust your commute. Ride your bike, work from home, take the train and read, listen to an audiobook in your car. Make a change that reduces commuting stress. Perhaps even consider changing jobs to be closer to home.
  • Allow children unstructured time. Don't schedule activity every moment of the week. Have available art supplies, building blocks, and the great outdoors; let kids find their own things to do.
  • Take time for a hobby. One evening a week, remove all your screens. Instead of watching sitcoms or checking social media, spend time on something you are passionate about.
  • Get bored. Now and then, be okay with a few moments when nothing happens. Simply sit. Take in your surroundings. Watch the clouds. Watch people. Resist the urge to constantly DO and just BE.
Are You Finding 'Assignment of Benefits' a Problem?

Some patients have had difficulties with what's termed "assignment of benefits" arrangements. And these difficulties can become serious for patients and providers.

An assignment of benefits is an arrangement between the patient and his or her health care provider whereby the patient's insurer pays that provider directly for health services rendered. Most health plans honor these requests. However, one or two insurers use loopholes to refuse to pay out-of-network providers directly. Instead, they pay the patient. It then becomes the patient's responsibility to pay the provider, resulting in confusion for the patient and long payment delays for the provider. Although this payment method is limited to one or two insurers, it does create big problems.

According to a California Medical Association survey, 96 percent of doctors reported problems trying to collect from patients when these insurers refused to honor an assignment of benefits agreement. Why? Patients have to wait for the reimbursement check from the insurer (which may take a while), deposit it, and send the payment to their provider. Some don't realize they're responsible for payment, and some just don't pay. Providers must wait months. Even worse, they may need to hire collection agencies to get their money from patients.

Therefore most providers prefer to bill the patient's insurer directly. Some won't accept assignment of benefits arrangements and/or they'll refuse to treat out-of-network patients. Patients may have to find another provider or another insurer.
If you're having difficulties with assignment of benefits, contact your health insurance agent. He or she can help.

Hold That Remodel Until You Check for Insurance Coverage
Considering a home remodel? If you decide to put on an addition, finish the basement, or transform that loft into a nursery, ensure that the proper insurance is in place before reaching for a hammer. Typical remodel projects require insurance for four aspects of the job:

The house - Don't wait until after the addition is complete to change your homeowners policy. You'll want that space insured from damage even before the final touches are added. Before the project starts, contact your insurance agent and increase the value of your home to reflect the impending changes.

The stuff - If you add new furniture or equipment, be sure your personal possessions coverage is still sufficient. Also remember to add these items to your home inventory list.

The contractor - Ask your general contractor to show you a copy of the company's workers' compensation insurance. It's essential that this coverage is in place and sufficient to protect you from having to pay for workers' injuries yourself.

The subcontractor - Often the contractor will subcontract part of the work, such as electrical or plumbing. Verify whether or not the contractors' workers' compensation policy will cover these subcontractors, or whether the subs have insurance of their own.

If anyone completing work on your project is not sufficiently insured, you may be able to extend your own homeowners policy to provide coverage. Check with your agent for the best options, or search for another contractor with insurance that offers the protection you feel is necessary. Better safe than sorry.

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What do they wear in Italy on New Year's Day to bring luck?
Recipe: Mexican Beef and Rice Casserole
Serves 4
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons Mexican seasoning blend
1 pound lean ground beef
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 1/4 cups canned black beans
2 cups cooked white rice
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cups shredded melting cheese
1 bunch cilantro, sliced
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat oil in a large pan. Add garlic, onion, and spices. Stir until combined and softened. Add meat. Break it up with a spoon until cooked through and lightly browned. Add tomatoes, spinach, beans, and water.

Cook for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir into rice. Add 1/4 of the cheese. Add cilantro, reserving some for the garnish. Season to taste and transfer to a baking dish. Top with remaining cheese. Place in oven. Bake 15 minutes or until cheese is browned and bubbly. Garnish with remaining cilantro.
Worth Quoting
This month, some lighthearted quotes on the topic of the future:

I look to the future because that's where I'm going to spend the rest of my life.

George Burns
This newsletter and any information contained herein are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial or medical advice. The publisher takes great efforts to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this newsletter. However, we will not be responsible at any time for any errors or omissions or any damages, howsoever caused, that result from its use. Seek competent professional advice and/or legal counsel with respect to any matter discussed or published in this newsletter. This newsletter is not intended to solicit properties currently for sale.
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