South America 101-: Interesting and Little Known Facts

South America 101-: Interesting and Little Known Facts

South America is full of surprises, not the least of which is its location. Many of us believe South America is directly South of North America and the United States, when in fact it is further to the Southeast. Most, for example, don’t realize that Cleveland, Ohio is further west than most of South America. That’s just the start of some interesting and little known facts about South America.

  • South Americas major exports aren’t manufactured products but primary commodities like fuel, plants and food.
  • Brazil is the 8th largest auto producing country in the world.
  • The two most spoken languages in Brazil are Portuguese and German.
  • South America consists of twelve countries with Portuguese and Spanish being the primary languages.
  • In Paraguay visitors don’t knock on doors or ring door-bells. Instead, they announce their arrivals by clapping hands.
  • South Africa’s Andes mountain range is the world’s longest at over 4,300 miles.
  • Bolivia is home to the world’s largest salt flat.
  • Charles Darwin was only 26 years old when he first visited the Galapagos Islands.
  • Every country in South America borders Brazil with the two exceptions being Chili and Ecuador.
  • The highest point in South America is in Argentina in the Andes Mountain.
  • There are still indigenous ethnic groups in South America that have no contact with civilization.
  • At almost 12,000 feet, La Paz, Bolivia is one of the highest elevated cities in the world and is the world’s highest capital city.
  • About 70% of South Americans have smartphones with that number expected to increase to 80% by 2025.
  • Venezuela is the largest oil-producing country in South America and one of the largest producers of petroleum on the planet.
  • About 76% of all South Americans have access to the internet. That compares to about 54% of those across the globe.
  • Argentina was one of the first countries in the world to have radio broadcasting. It also has had two female presidents.
  • The southernmost point of South America is known as Cape Horn, and is noted for its unpredictable and dangerous weather and waters.

With over 300 languages spoken, South America is a large and diverse continent that has some of the planet’s driest areas, the tallest mountains, the largest rain forests and the longest river. It is worth knowing more about.

Incredibly Successful Businesses Started by Women

Incredibly Successful Businesses Started by Women

It is estimated that there are over 11.5 million businesses in America that have been started by women, creating about $1.7 trillion in sales. Here are some of the most successful businesses that have been started by women.

Rent the Runway

This company was started after one of the founder’s sisters paid over $2,000 for a dress to be in a wedding. Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss started the huge fashion dress rental company in 2009 as an alternative to buying expensive formal gowns. Today it is estimated to be valued over $1 billion.

Bumble

This dating app company was started in 2014 by Whitney Wolfe Herd. Her story is unique in that she was a co-founder and VP of marketing at Tinder, but sued the company for sexual amassment and was forced to leave. Bumble is estimated to be worth in excess of $1 billion.

23andMe

Who would have thought this genetic testing company would turn into a $2.5 billion company?

The idea was launched by Anne Wojcicki as a way to determine a person’s risks to contract certain diseases. Today it reunites long-lost or unknown relatives and even has been responsible for solving crimes.

Eventbrite

Julia Hartz and her husband started the meeting planning in 2006, and it is now estimated to be worth in excess of $2.5 billion. They got a nice boost by selling some 60,000 tickets to a Black Eyed Peas concert in Central Park. They continue to promote and sell tickets to a wide variety of events.

Along with the many successful businesses started by women, women have lead and continue to lead some of America’s largest and most successful companies including Regal Cinemas, General Dynamics, Hershey Company and General Motors.

If you are a woman starting a small business, even from home, we can help protect your efforts and your assets with a small business insurance program to fit your budget. Getting started is as simple as contacting one of our independent business insurance specialists and having a conversation about your company. They can help design a program to fit your company, your goals and your budget. Contact us for a no obligation quote today.

The ABC’s of Policy Loans

The ABC’s of Policy Loans

Life insurance policies contain a variety of features and benefits that many insureds may not even be aware of. These can include a waiver of premium benefit that covers the premiums in case of disability or dismemberment. Policies may have an accidental death benefit, it can accrue cash value and dividends and build into a valuable asset for the future. A policy that builds cash value like whole life insurance may also have a policy loan provision. What is a policy loan, and how can it be a valuable aspect of a life insurance policy?

What Is a Policy Loan?

A policy loan uses the cash value of a life insurance policy to make cash available to the policy owner without having to “cash-in” the policy. This keeps the balance of the policy in force while making needed funds available.

Do All Policies Have this Feature?

No. Only cash value type insurance policies (like whole life or universal life) will build value that can be accessed through a policy loan.

What Can I Use a Policy Loan For?

Funds from a policy loan can be used for any purpose. They can be used to pay other debts, handle emergencies or be used for opportunities. You do not need to justify your use of a policy loan.

What Costs Are Associated With a Policy Loan?

There is usually a small interest rate associated with a policy loan from an insurance policy.

How is the Loan Paid Back?

The loan may be paid back directly through payments to the insurance company. It also may be paid out of the proceeds of the policy upon the death of the insured.

How Do I Know If a Policy Has a Loan On It?

You should receive a status report on the loan at least annually. This should show how much the original loan was and the accrued interest to date. You can also contact an insurance company and speak with an agent to request a policy status report.

II you have any questions about your life insurance policy or its benefits, contact one of our independent life insurance agents. Because we are independent, we are able to review the policies of any company. We can also quote you insurance rates from multiple insurance companies with just one phone call. Contact us and learn more about your life insurance today.

Six Critical Fluids for Your Car

Six Critical Fluids for Your Car

We tend to view our cars as a combination of metal, plastics, cloth, leather, glass and rubber. We often forget the critical role fluids play in the operation of our vehicles. At any given time, our vehicles can easily have 20 or more gallons of liquid in them. Here is a closer look at those liquids, what they do and why they are critical.

Gas

Gas is, of course, what creates the energy for your car’s engine to run. The average gas tank in a car holds about 12 gallons; with vans, mini-vans and trucks having larger capacities. Gas is stored in the vehicle’s gas tanks and moves toward the engine through a pipe or flexible tubing known as the fuel line, propelled by the fuel pump. The fuel injector pushes the gas into the engine where it is ignited in a car engine’s cylinder.

Engine Oil

Generally, cars have an oil capacity of about four or five quarts that should be changed every three months or three to six thousand miles. Small pieces of metal and other debris are strained through an oil filter to keep the oil clean. Clean oil is one of the most underestimated ways in which to keep a car engine running efficiently and extending its lifespan.

Anti-Freeze/Engine Coolant

Today, antifreeze and engine coolant frequently comes premixed and can stay in a vehicle’s coolant system year around. Coolant is air cooled through the radiator and circulated through the engine through the water pump. Levels should be checked and systems should be flushed with the coolant changed annually. Coolant capacities for most radiators range from 10 to 28 quarts.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid provides multiple benefits to a vehicle’s transmission, serving as a lubricant, hydraulic fluid, and a coolant, all designed to facilitate a smooth shifting transmission. Cars have a greater capacity of transmission fluid than most realize, carrying 12-16 quarts of the fluid.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is a chemical critical to the function of your cars hydraulic braking system. Foot pressure on your car’s brakes creates pressure in your brake lines, causing pads and shoes to apply pressure to the rotors. Without brake fluid, you would need to stop your car in Fred Flintstone fashion. Cars have a brake fluid capacity of about 1 quart.

Windshield Washer Fluid

If you don’t believe windshield washer fluid is critical, you may never have driven on snow covered or slushy streets. Those in the south can get away with water in the fluid containers, while an anti-freeze will need to be included in washer fluid in the north. This fluid is usually a blue color. Car’s have about a one gallon capacity of windshield washer fluid.

It can pay to be fluid about your auto insurance coverage. Compare rates annually and adjust your coverage accordingly. We can help. Contact one of our independent auto insurance today for a free review and price quote.

Increasing the Odds of Getting Your Rent Deposit Back

Increasing the Odds of Getting Your Rent Deposit Back

We’ve all either heard stories about or been a part of a situation where a landlord has kept all or part of a rent deposit for one reason or another. What can you do to maximize the odds you will not be in a similar situation? Here are some steps you can take to make sure you get back what you should reasonably deserve.

Understand the Terminology

Landlords may use a variety of terms when leasing space. They may call a fee an application fee, deposit, security deposit, cleaning fee, or first or last month’s rent. Here’s a quick definition of each:

  • Application Fee. This is what a potential landlord charges you just to consider you as a tenant. It usually covers the costs of a background or credit check and the time it takes to confirm employment, rental record and/or personal references. This is not refundable.
  • Deposit or Security Deposit. A fee a landlord charges to ensure the property will be reasonably taken care of, subject to reasonable wear and tear. If the property is damaged, the landlord can deduct the costs of repairs from this deposit.
  • Cleaning Deposit. This is intended to cover the costs of returning the property to the condition it was in when initially leased.
  • First and/or Last Month’s Rent. This can only be used for rent and not to cover the costs of damage unless stated so in the lease.

Document the Condition of the Property Upon Move-In

Note any items that are in disrepair or non-working through notes and images. Send a copy to the landlord.

Ask Your Landlord

At the outset and upon notification that you will be moving out, simply tell your landlord it is your intention to get all of your deposit back at the end of the lease, and for any final instructions on what you need to do that.

Document the Condition of The Property at Move Out

Take an additional set of images once you have moved your belongings out and have cleaned it. Include interior photos of cupboards and closets. Include these images in a dated, written request for the full return of your deposit upon move-out.

Although you may still have issues getting your full deposit returned to you, you will certainly improve your odds of doing so by taking the above steps. If the landlord still holds back your entire deposit you can file a claim in small claims court using your images and notes as evidence.

Protect your investment when renting by securing affordable renter’s insurance. Renters insurance can cover your furniture, personal property and even cover you from liability claims. Some personal electronics may be excluded, ask your independent agent for details. Contact us to get a no obligation price quote on renters insurance and get your coverage today!

Tips to Making the Most Out of Your Garage or Yard Sale

Tips to Making the Most Out of Your Garage or Yard Sale

If you are interested in downsizing while making some extra cash, staging a garage or yard sale is an excellent idea. Make no mistake, preparing for and operating a garage sale can be work, but it can pay off with some extra space in your house and some bonus money in your wallet.

The key in staging a garage sale is making sure it as successful as possible. Here are some ways to make the most of your sale.

  • Make lots of signs. Use day-glow poster board to make signs for every major corner near your sale. The word “Sale”, the address and a large arrow are important in directing drivers to your sale. Make the large enough to see from 20 to 30 feet away.
  • Price items individually. Don’t leave your guests wondering what an item costs or having to ask. If you have a box of books, it is fine to have a sign that says $1 each, but otherwise put a price tag on each item.
  • Show items at table height. Many shoppers either won’t or don’t want to lean over to ground height to view or inspect items. Placing them at table height increases the odds your items will be seen and purchased.
  • Don’t take your sale personally. Your goal is to sell items. Don’t take it personally if someone makes you a “low ball” offer on an item. Simply decide whether you wish to take the offer or not.
  • Have some bags for shoppers. Start collecting disposable plastic shopping bags when you go shopping in the weeks prior to your sale. These will come in handy for shoppers who buy multiple items.
  • Have plenty of change on hand. Make sure you have plenty of five dollar bills, singles and quarters to use for change. Price items in 25 cent increments (.25,.50, .75., 1.25 etc.) so you don’t have to deal with pennies, nickles or dimes.

Be prepared for early shoppers and allow for as much parking as possible. Keep a book handy for those slow periods, and most of all, have fun with it.

A garage sale can help you clear up unused items, free up space, downsize and generate some extra cash. Make the most of yours!

Commercial Building Fires: The Five Top Causes

Commercial Building Fires: The Five Top Causes

Even in larger communities, commercial fires are almost certain to make headlines. While structures, alarms, safety equipment and response times are far superior to those of just decades ago, commercial fires are still costly. What are the likely causes of these fires in commercial structures like offices, stores, hotels, warehouses and manufacturing plants? Here are the top five.

  1. Arson

Intentional fires, or arson are the fifth leading cause of fires in the United States. Fires of a suspicious nature are not necessarily arson.

  1. Smoking

While tobacco use is down, smoking materials are still a major cause of commercial fires. Businesses should have proper containers in designated smoking areas for cigarettes to be properly extinguished.

  1. Electrical and Lighting

It is somewhat understandable that the amount of electrical wiring and lighting in a commercial building can make a structure susceptible to fires. Wiring and lighting fixtures should be updated in older buildings and wiring and circuit breakers need to be sufficient to meet today’s demands.

  1. Heating Equipment

Heating equipment in commercial buildings, like homes, is a major contributor to fires in the country. Older equipment and space heaters are problematic in commercial structures, especially in buildings that remain empty overnights and on weekends. Never use household extension cords with space heaters and make sure they are turned off when not in use.

  1. Cooking

At first, it may seem surprising that cooking would be the greatest cause of fires in commercial buildings, until you realize that at least some cooking is done in just about every commercial structure. Even small offices are likely to have a small kitchen or area where there is a microwave and coffee machine. When you add in the fact that restaurants, hotels, hospitals and other commercial buildings have a significant amount of cooking that takes place, the problem is easier to recognize.

Damage from fires is one of the calamities that are usually covered by even the most basic business insurance program. An exception to fire damage that would be covered would be that related to arson, where there is significant evidence the fire was intentionally started.

Your business and commercial structure faces multiple threats each day, with fires just being one of them. Are you properly covered? Contact one of our business insurance specialists and get your no cost, no obligation business insurance review and price quote. We are here to help protect your business.

Keeping Important Documents Safe

Keeping Important Documents Safe

More documents than ever are being stored in digital form, but paper documents still play an important role in our lives. Is it safe to keep these paper documents in a file at home, or are there other steps that could be taken? Here is a look at some important documents in our lives and how we protect them from fire, theft and natural disasters.

Tax Forms and Receipts

You should keep tax records for seven years. Along with a copy of the forms you filed, you should also keep a copy of other tax documents and receipts. While these forms contain valuable personal information, it is unlikely someone is interested in stealing your tax documents. You will want to keep these in a safe dry place. As you keep the newest year’s records, destroy the oldest years documents.

Home Ownership Papers

These would include any papers related to your mortgage, title, insurance and major improvements. If you should have to evacuate your home due to a pending hurricane or other natural disaster, it may be a good idea to take your homeowners insurance policy with you in case you would need to file a claim. A file is usually sufficient to store these documents, although if you have a fireproof safe, you may want to consider storing them there.

Stocks, Bonds, Emergency Cash

Keep any stocks, bonds or cash in a fireproof safe in your home, one that is ideally attached to a floor or built in a wall. A safe deposit box at a bank is also a good choice for storing valuable papers like stock and bond certificates.

Important Personal Documents

Personal documents like a passport, birth certificate, original social security card and marriage certificate should be kept in a safe at home or at least, a locking file cabinet. This is also a good place for important military records that may be needed to apply for benefits in the future.

Final Plans, Life Insurance

As we get older it is a good idea to keep a file regarding final arrangements and any life insurance policies you have. These plans may include everything from your will to certain meaningful possessions you want to see go to a specific friend or relative. Make sure someone you trust knows where these documents are and how to retrieve them in the event of your death or incapacitation.

Now may be good time to consider a life insurance review. When you contact one of our independent insurance agents, we help you determine just how much and what type of coverage you currently have. They also can secure quotes from multiple companies should you choose. There is no cost or obligation. Contact us today.

Automobile Racing in America: A ‘Checkered” Past

Automobile Racing in America: A ‘Checkered” Past

The first recognized automobile race in the world was an 1895 event with a course that went from Paris to Bordeaux, France and back. The race was won with an average speed of just over 24 mph. In comparison, riders in cycling’s Tour de France complete the course with average speeds of over 40 mph.

In the United States, auto racing history began with a race from Chicago to Evanston, Illinois and back on Thanksgiving Day of 1895. An early snow kept average speeds to just over 7 mph.

Many early auto racing tracks also served as horse racing facilities in the 19th century. The first closed-course auto racing event took place in 1896 at the Narragansett Trotting Park; located in Cranston, Rhode Island. Auto racing also began at another horse track, the Milwaukee Mile in 1903 and continues to this day. Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa,is the oldest racing venue, and one of the most prestigious, in the United States. It was built in the late 1800s at the Marion County Fairgrounds in Iowa. Like the Milwaukee Mile, it too was initially built as a horse racing track.

One of the longest-serving and legendary multi-purpose racecourse in the United States is the 2.5 mile track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Constructed over 6 months in mid-1909, when it was completed, it was the largest capacity sports venue in the world. The original surface was bricks, providing the nickname “The Brickyard”. Today a strip of original bricks remains at the start-finish line.

A uniquely American style of racing, stock car racing rapidly gained in popularity with the formation of The National Association for Stock Car Racing in 1948. NASCAR began racing modified cars from the factory on the beaches of Daytona, and rapidly expanded in the 1950s to tracks across the Southeast. The massive Daytona International Speedway, home of the Daytona 500 NASCAR race was built in 1958. Like Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the racetrack is 2.5 miles long.

Of course, automobile racing is dangerous by nature. In NASCAR alone, 28 drivers have been killed while racing, the last of which was Dale Earnhardt in 2001. At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 73 people have lost their lives, 42 of which were drivers. The others included a motorcyclist, ride-along mechanics, pit crew and even track personnel and spectators.

If you are interested in comparing car insurance rates, one of our independent insurance agents can help. Simply contact us, answer a few questions, and you could potentially get a money-saving quote.

Pool Safety Tips

Pool Safety Tips

Whether you have a built-in or above ground pool, you’ll want to take the steps necessary to keep it safe while maximizing your enjoyment. It’s not difficult, but it does take diligence. Here are just a few pool safety tips.

Control Access

Whatever it takes, you must have control over access to your pool. It could be a screen, lock, removing stair access to an above ground pool, fencing or a variety of other barriers, a homeowner should keep the pool area secure.

Minimize Trip and Slip Hazards

Keep the deck area closest to your pool free from clutter and monitor the space for areas that get slippery when wet. Look for uneven or broken concrete and tiles and repair immediately.

Have Proper Lighting

If your pool is used in the evening or at night, proper lighting is essential. Lighting should illuminate the area around and in the pool.

Teach Children…

Make sure children know not to play near pool drains, to not run around the pool and to avoid jumping or diving in the pool.

Parents Should…

Parents should always closely monitor use of the pool by children, keep a cellphone handy and make sure pool toys are age appropriate. It may prove to be very beneficial for parents to learn CPR. Parents should also take the time to make sure children understand pool safety rules and what is and what isn’t appropriate safe behavior. It can also be a good idea to post a sign with simple pool safety rules. These can be found at pool supply stores, or you can produce a more personalized one yourself. This can help both children and parents understand rules regarding your pool.

In terms of homeowners insurance, a pool is known as an “attractive nuisance”, something that is tempting for children but also something that could harm them. Frequently, this causes homeowners with a pool to pay slightly more for their home insurance. The goal, however, is to provide a safe environment when the pool is and is not in use.

If you have a pool or are considering one, contact your independent homeowners insurance agent. We work with multiple companies who provide coverage for homes with attractive nuisances like pools. Get your free quote today!