Six Things to Know Before Getting Your First Dog

Are you considering adding a dog to your family? It is not a decision that should be made lightly. After all, adding a pet will likely change your, and their lives for years to come. Here are some basics you and your family should give some thought to before getting your first dog.

Breeds Matter

This may seem obvious, but many only consider the breed of the dog in terms of their appearance. You may think you want a certain dog because they are cute but the breed of a dog affects much, much more than their looks. It will impact how much attention they need, their temperament, their health and whether they are right for your lifestyle and living conditions. Research breeds based on the type of dog you will be compatible with, not on their “looks”.

Dog Size Impacts Lifespan

The larger the dog, the shorter it’s lifespan will likely be. Larger dogs also tend to have more physical and health issues than smaller dogs. This may not be a deciding factor in your choice, but it is worth considering

You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks….to a Degree

Getting a puppy is tempting because you can start with a clean slate. Plus puppies are just so darn cute. Don’t underestimate how trying and frustrating they can be, however, especially in the early stages. Adopting an older dog may be a better solution. Unless the dog is over 7 years old you will still likely be able to train them and teach them new tricks.

A Dog’s Behavior is Often tied to How They View Their Place in the Family

Dogs are pack animals are will find their place in your “pack” or family. If the view themselves as protectors they may bark at even the slightest of noises. Alpha-type dogs will often try to take more control in the house and pull on the leashes when being walked. It can be very beneficial to learn more about this pack mentality and how it impacts training when getting a first dog.

Start a Dog Saving Account

If you are inclined to add a dog to the family, start at least a small pet savings account. Pets can be more expensive than you realize, especially when it comes to shots, injuries and illness. Having money set aside specifically for your pet may help you avoid a very difficult decision should your pet require an expensive surgery or medical treatment in the future.

You should also be aware that adding a dog to the family could create an increase in your homeowners insurance rates. This may especially be true if a dog is considered an aggressive breed where you live. Contact one of our independent insurance agents to see how a pet you are considering may, or may not, impact your homeowners’ insurance rates.

Interesting Origins of Rock N Roll Band Names

Anyone who grew up in the Rock ‘n Roll era has been exposed to some interesting band names. We may never have given many of them much thought, and many, actually have no real significant meaning. Others, however, were inspired by unknown stories. Here are a few.

ABBA

They were named using the first initials of the band members. It could have turned out so much differently should they had different names.

Bay City Rollers

No, the band was not from Bay City but was named randomly by sticking a pin in a map that included Michigan.

The Beatles

The name was inspired on Buddy Holly’s Crickets, but the spelling was altered for a little play on words.

Blood, Sweat and Tears

Rather than a Winston Churchill Speech, the name of this band was taken from the name of a Johnny Cash Album.

The Box Tops

After recording “The Letter” the band was looking for suggestions on a name and the thought occurred to have them send in 50 cents and some box tops to enter a contest. Contest over.

Chicago

Some will remember their original name as the Chicago Transit Authority. It was pretty simple in that their record label wanted to shorten their name.

Deep Purple

It may be hard to imagine but the band’s name was taken from a band members grandmother’s affection for a Bing Crosby song of the same name.

Hootie and the Blowfish

No, lead singer Darius Rucker was not Hootie nor his band the Blowfish. These were actually nicknames of a couple of his college friends, one who looked like an owl (Hootie) and one who look like a blowfish.

The Rolling Stones

This is not complicated as the legendary band was named after the title of a Muddy Water’s tune.

Three Dog Night

Nearly called Tricycle to emphasize the three members of the band, they settled on Three Dog Night, an Australian description on how cold nights were described. A Three Dog Night was the coldest.

UB40

The band was named after a British unemployment form, the UB40 that would help applicants get unemployment benefits from the British government.

There are usually little quirks or stories behind the names of most famous bands. Searching out your favorites can be fun and enlightening!

Expert Guidance and Your Small Business

If you own or manage a small business, odds are you are operating with limited resources. It is probably a good bet you don’t have your own IT team, aren’t operating with a staff lawyer and may not even have your own full-time bookkeeper. You could probably benefit from the help of someone with advertising and marketing experience, in loss prevention and even security. You can benefit from experts in your area with the right approach and an open mind.

Advertising and Marketing

Contact your local newspaper or radio stations and let them know you are looking for help in coming up with marketing ideas. Many media companies will even create “speculative” ads for clients for free, just to demonstrate their capability. Of course, they will try to sell you on their particular media, but at the very least you will learn more about marketing and your local media, and may even come away with some valuable ideas. There also may be help available from the Marketing and Advertising classes at local colleges who may be in search of real life projects in which to get involved.

Security

Many businesses can benefit from upgrading their security, and security companies often provide free assessments to show where you may be vulnerable. You could probably benefit from this knowledge, even if you don’t buy their “system”. Some insurance companies offer discounts for installing a security system should you decide to proceed with it.

Insurance

Industry experts estimate that about 44% of all small businesses are operating without business insurance. These businesses are at risk to lose their business to vandalism, a natural disaster or even a simple slip and fall. Some may feel they can’t afford it, others may not know how at risk they are. Most simply don’t fully understand its value and how affordable small business plans can be. No cost, no obligation expert help may just be a phone call away when you connect with one of our professional, independent business insurance professionals.

We can discuss your business, your goals and your risks. We can help design a business insurance plan to fit your business. Best of all, we can reach out to our network of insurance companies to get quotes for you.

If you are part of the 44%, we can help. If you already have business insurance, we can provide a review and price quote to ensure you are getting your best value. Contact us today.

Pre-Planning Doesn’t Require Pre-Paying

One of the big misperceptions about pre-planning for your own final services is that you have to have the financial resources to pay for your funeral upfront. There may be tax benefits in doing so and a funeral home may even “lock-in” your price when paying upfront, there are other options.

Many funeral directors have payment plans or allow you to pay what you can when you can in pre-paying. An even simpler and straight forward way to cover the costs of your pre-planned funeral is through a life insurance policy.

You can start the pre-planning process on your own or with the help of a funeral director. The assistance of a funeral director is beneficial in that it can help you determine more accurately the pricing of services or a “Celebration of Life”. Most begin by deciding whether they would prefer a traditional burial or cremation. Pre-planning may include choosing an urn or casket, selecting a burial plot or choosing a favored place to have ashes buried or dispersed. Pre-planning gives you the option of picking the music you want played, who you would like to give a eulogy and even what you would wear. It actually can be rewarding and bring you peace of mind. It also will take some of the emotional burden from your family.

You’ll want to make sure you have enough life insurance to cover everything involved in your final expenses, relieving additional stress from loved ones. Place your wishes along with your life insurance policy in a safe place with the contact number of the funeral home who may have helped you.

Pre-planning can also be as simple as letting those you care about (in writing) that you wish to be cremated and have a simple ceremony. But even simple ceremonies can reach into the thousands of dollars. Adequate life insurance is a critical part of the equation.

Even if you already have a larger life insurance policy, a policy designated for your final arrangements can be very helpful, and thoughtful. Give it some thought.

If you have questions or would like a quote to see how just affordable life insurance can be, contact us. Our experienced independent agents can help find a life insurance program to fit your needs and budget.

Fear of Fire: How Flames Have Caused Destruction Across America

House fires cause significant damage across America each year. Annually, there are about 350,000 house fires causing over 2,600 deaths and creating over $7 billion in property damage. As significant as these numbers are, fires in residential housing is much less disastrous than they once were. In the 1800s, for example, when homes were largely made from wood and crowded closely together in major cities, even routine fires spread quickly, often burning entire city blocks at a time. This was a time when modern firefighting equipment was limited as were access to home telephones. Public call boxes were the main vehicle for notifying local fire departments of a problem.

Rural and forest fires were even more problematic as they frequently raged for a long period before even being noticed. Here are just a few of the devastating fires that devastated areas of America in the past.

The Peshtigo Fire

Frequently noted as one of the most significant fires ever in the United States, this forest fire started in Northeastern Wisconsin on October 8, 1871. It eventually reached parts of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It devoured 1.2 million acres and was responsible for more deaths than any other fire in history. It is estimated between 1,500 and 2,500 people died in the blaze. Incredibly, the fire occurred on the same day as the more famous Great Chicago Fire which, while significant, paled in comparison. The deaths that occurred as the result of the Peshtigo fire almost equal today’s annual fire-related death toll.

Great Fire of New York

This fire started on September 20, 1776, and burned until the next day. The fire took place on the west side and Lower Manhattan area in New York City and by the time it was extinguished it is estimated to have destroyed up to 25 percent of the buildings in the city. New York also experienced another “Great New York Fire” that occurred in 1835.

The San Francisco Fire

One of the most famous fires in American history was the result of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906. The earthquake and resulting fire took place on April 18 and not only created almost unimaginable damage but caused massive deaths. The loss of human life is estimated at between 700 and 3,000 or more from both the earthquake and fire.

Coverage for fire damage is an important part of your homeowners’ insurance coverage. If you are unsure of your overall coverage, contact us for a free homeowners’ insurance review. If you like, we can get you a no obligation quote. We look forward to assisting you.

America’s Castles

America’s castles have drawn so much interest that they were the subject of a documentary-style series on the A&E Network from 1994 to 2005. The series explored some of our most-unique structures across the country and what led to their construction. Some have been built in interesting and unusual locations. Here are a few.

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

Perhaps the most famous of America’s “castles” Biltmore is a mansion constructed over six years in the late 1800s. While the average American home may be 1500 to 1800 square feet, Biltmore boats over 175,000 square feet and is the largest privately owned home in the U.S.

The Boldt Castle, New York

This Alexandria Bay, New York castle was built by hotel magnate George Boldt for his wife. Using the craftsmanship of over 300 stonemasons and carpenters and imported Italian marble, Boldt began construction in 1900, but his wife did not live long enough to see its completion. Neither did Boldt. The castle remained incomplete until some 70 years later. Today it has been restored and its location on Heart Island in the 1,000 Lakes Region of New York makes it a perfect locale for weddings.

Hearst Castle, California

The Hearst Castle sits beautifully and proudly on a hill overlooking San Simeon, California. It was built over 28 years between 1919 and 1947 for newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Hearst Castle is actually 4 buildings built on 127 beautiful acres with lush terraced gardens. The castle has 165 rooms.

The Breakers, Rhode Island

Built by the legendary Vanderbilt family, in the late 19th century, The Breakers was constructed at a time when Newport Rhode Island was considered the coastal playground of America’s richest families. It was beautifully constructed and looks like it is right out of a storybook.

It is said a person’s home is their castle, so whether your “castle” is a 1500 square foot Cape Cod-style home or a 2200 square foot Victorian, insure it with sufficient homeowners’ insurance from one of our independent agents. Homeowners’ insurance can be the forgotten policies for homeowners, and that means your coverage may be outdated, overpriced, or you may even be underinsured. Contact us today your you home insurance review and price quote.

Seven “Must Do’s” When Visiting Florida

Millions of people visit Florida each year. Some come for the beaches, others for the theme parks and still others just to visit family and friends. Here are seven things everyone should try to do when visiting the Sunshine State.

  1. Watch a Rocket Launch

Rocket launches are occurring more frequently than ever from the Space Coast near Titusville. Odds are pretty good there may be a launch scheduled during your visit. Night and early evening launches can be particularly spectacular. There are plenty of free viewing areas along the coast.

  1. Experience a Sunset in Key West

Every evening is a festival in Key West with stunning sunsets common in the city. Street musicians and abundant pubs add to the experience.

  1. Drive Across the Skyway Bridge

The Skyway Bridge south of St. Petersburg soars into the sky above Tampa Bay offering inspiring views to the east and west. The bridge is so long and high it can be closed due to fog and high winds in the area.

  1. Take a Trip on The St. John’s River

Flowing from Southeast Florida up to Jacksonville, the St. John’s River is one of the world’s largest south to north flowing rivers. It also connects a series of lakes through the state, providing a multi-layer boating experience. Boat rental, air boat, and eco-boating tours are available along the length of the river and its connected lakes.

  1. Drive on the World’s Most Famous Beach

You can actually drive your vehicle along the hard packed sandy beaches in Volusia County near Daytona. New Smyrna Beach, just south of Daytona, also offers beach driving and is considered one of the best areas for surfing in the state.

  1. Catch a Professional Sports Game

Many forget Florida is home to multiple pro sports franchises including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, Tampa Bay Lightning, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays and others. Both Orlando and Miami also have Major League Soccer franchises.

  1. Get Off the Beaten Path

There are some very interesting rural and beach side areas of the state if you are willing to get off of the freeways and explore. The Lake Okeechobee area in Southern Florida is loaded with large sugar production plants and farms. The Polk County and West Central Florida region has abundant orange groves. The Panhandle area is filled with charming coastal towns and homes.

While the beaches and parks are a huge draw, don’t underestimate the value of exploring beyond the traditional tourist areas in Florida. It can make your visit just a bit more unique.

How to Handle Negative Online Feedback

Any business that deals directly with the public knows the frustration. Satisfied, happy customers rarely make a comment. The occasional unhappy customer is all to willing to tell the world. Today, that includes the possibility of leaving a negative review online. For a while, businesses felt it was better to just ignore the haters and focus on more pleasant interactions. That, however, can be a mistake. Here are some of the things you can do to handle negative online feedback and comments.

Don’t Ignore Them

Negative comments can have a long shelf life online. It is generally not a good idea to ignore negative comments or feedback. At the very least you want to acknowledge these comments. This acknowledgement accomplishes several things, including demonstrating that you are paying attention to your reviews and are responsive to your customers.

Reach Out and Have Them Contact You

Don’t try to win a debate online. Instead, acknowledge the experience and ask that the person reach out directly to you. This way you can handle the issue one-on-one, away from a public forum.

Ask What They Want

Once someone with a negative experience reaches out, hear them out. Part of the conversation may include “What would you like me to do?” If it is a simple and reasonable request that seems like it will resolve the issue, do it. If it is an unreasonable request, counter with an offer that you are comfortable making. Let them know you would like to resolve the issue.

Encourage Positive Feedback

Don’t be afraid to ask satisfied customers that you would appreciate positive feedback online. Many are willing to share positive experiences when they are politely asked.

Business owners, especially small business owners, have to wear many hats. This may include online reputation management. If you haven’t searched your business name or category online recently, you should know that your competitors and potential customers likely are. Be proactive in managing your online reputation or find a trusted employee who can.

Business insurance can’t protect you from negative online feedback, but it can help protect your business from a series of other unfortunate events. Let us help find you an affordable business insurance plan. Contact one of our independent insurance agents for a quote today. We will be happy to do the shopping for you.

How to Encourage Kids to Have Healthier Eating Habits

Teaching children healthy eating habits has been a struggle for parents for generations. Steering kids toward healthier food choices can often lead to parents giving up, giving in or trying to create a whirlwind of rewards and punishments revolving around food.

It is likely you were either a member of or promoter of the “clean plate club”. Perhaps you were told or told your children about starving children in other countries. You may have even declared there would be no snacks or desert without eating compliance.

Isn’t it interesting that through all this, many of us don’t choose to eat healthier until we are adults?

You may even know people, just like you, who even today love or hate pasta, appreciate a rare steak or love or won’t try sushi. That doesn’t mean we can’t at least encourage our children to eat healthier.

Here are some things to keep in mind.

Some choices are Better Than Others

Eating isn’t necessarily black or white nor right or wrong. That being said, most would agree a fresh cup of fruit is healthier than a pre-packaged pudding cup or chocolate candy bar. Just try to make better choices for your child.

Keep Your Home Stocked with Better Choices.

If all you have in your pantry are sugar-coated cookies, pop and gummy bears, that doesn’t leave a lot of options. Make sure you have bananas, strawberries, peaches and grapes on hand. Even microwave popcorn may be a better choice than a peanut butter cup.

Teach Kids Food is Fuel

Who doesn’t want to be a superhero? Teaching kids that what they eat fuels their bodies can help them build that connection between feeling good and feeling bad. Food provides good energy and helps them develop their superpowers.

Grow Some Fruits and Vegetables

Growing edible plants can help children learn patience, the power of nurturing and how food is grown. Green peppers, tomatoes or green beans may never become their favorites, but it will be a terrific learning experience.

Cook with Them

Children are more likely to at least try something they had a hand in making. This can be everything from vegetable soup to a healthier pizza. Get them involved and to understand that foods are a magical blend of flavors and ingredients. They are helping to create something. They can then decide if they like it. If they don’t, talk about what might make the recipe more appealing the next time.

You can encourage better eating habits in children through availability and example. Make better choices for you and you may find your child following along. If not, you can head them in the right direction for later in life.

Healthier eating is all about doing the right thing. That is also the case with life insurance. It is not difficult. Should something happen to you, your children will be better off if you had life insurance. This is pretty black and white, but the decision is yours. Contact us for a no obligation quote to see how affordable life insurance can be.

How Are Your Driving Skills?

If you are an experienced driver, you may wonder to yourself where today’s drivers learned their craft. Drivers frequently roll or even accelerate through stop signs. They often refuse to use turn signals and seem to take pleasure in cutting you off. It is as if you expect to see Mario, Luigi, Yoshi and Princess Peach in the cars next to you. Drivers can’t seem to get to the next red light quick enough and a courtesy is when someone turns on their blinker after cutting you off, just to let you know “Yes I did.”

In a grocery store we seem to be more than willing to allow someone with just a few items ahead of us in the checkout line, but on the highway, we are accelerating until they run out of room on the berm. What gives?

Are we all using a different set of regulations? Did we all forget the rules of the road? How are your driving skills?

How Do You Approach a Four-Way Flashing Red Light?

A four-way flashing red light should be treated the same as a four-way stop sign. The driver who arrives at the intersection first, has the right of way. When in doubt, the driver to the right has the right of way after a complete stop. That being said, you should not move forward until any vehicles near or in the intersection has stopped, and you are sure it is safe to proceed.

How Far in Feet Should You Turn on Your Turn Signals When Approaching a Turn You Intend to Make?

With in-city driving, that distance should be about 100 feet, or about 10 car lengths. Your blinker should give those behind you the first indication you are turning, not your brake lights.

At what speed can a vehicle hydroplane and lose contact with the road?

Hydroplaning occurs on wet highways. It is one of the reasons maintaining appropriate tread depth of your tires is so important. In some cases, hydroplaning can cause you to lose control of a car at just 35 miles per hour. It is why you should slow down and heighten your defensive driving skills in the rain and on wet roadways.

You are the first car approaching an intersection to turn left, but there is oncoming traffic. Where should you stop and what should you do?

You should proceed cautiously into the middle of the intersection, and wait for the oncoming traffic to clear. This puts you in the best situation to make your turn through the intersection to the left when the opportunity arises.

Most people fail their driving tests today for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, not knowing how to properly merge into traffic and not knowing what to do at a four-way stoplight or stop sign. How would you do?

Safe driving is a critical component in reducing insurance rates. Perhaps a financial incentive could improve driving habits. It may not be incentive enough for others, but it could work for you. Contact us to get a no obligation auto insurance quote today.