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Five crucial things to consider before purchasing a pre-owned vehicle


urchasing a pre-owned auto is a great option for many people in the market for a vehicle. “New” doesn’t have to mean “brand new.” Often “new-to-you” is the best way to go! You can get more car for your money, keep within your budget, or even restore less-than-perfect credit. There are lots of reasons to buy a pre-owned vehicle. However, there a few things to consider and a few steps to take before making any car purchase. Don’t put one penny on the table without doing these five things. Get a vehicle history report. A vehicle history report will give you all kinds of important information about your potential purchase. The most well-known vehicle history report is CARFAX, but there are others. Just make sure the report contains information about previous owners (private owner, lease vehicle, corporate fleet use, etc.), service records, damage history (if any), vehicle highlights, and odometer discrepancies. A vehicle history report should always be free to you and the dealer should always be pleased to give it to you. If they balk at this simple step… walk away. Determine fair market value. Fair Market Value can sometimes be a hard thing to determine. A true Fair Market Value takes several things into consideration. You want to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. You want to find the value of a comparable vehicle. A comparable vehicle is one of that same year, make and model with similar trim level, options, mileage and condition. Don’t forget that you also want to compare prices within your geographic area. The exact car you are looking at may have a radically different cost in Florida than it does in Arkansas. Most people check one place when they are looking for how much a vehicle is worth… Kelley Blue Book. However, there are several other sources that, when taken together, will give you a better picture of the value of the vehicle. Check NADA,, and, of course, Kelley Blue Book. The more information you have, the better your knowledge of the true value. Research the dealership’s information and background. You work hard for your money and it’s always good

to check up on businesses that are going to get a piece of it. Here are some important questions to ask the dealership: How long have they been in business? What community activities do the dealership or employees participate in? Are they a member of the Better Business Bureau? What about the local Chamber of Commerce? Probably the most important thing you can ask a dealership for, though, is references. Any reputable dealer should be proud to put you in contact with others that have purchased from them. If they hesitate, or balk completely, it is time to head out the door and find another dealer! Find out if the dealer will stand behind the automobile after the sale. Even with pre-owned vehicles, a dealer worth doing business with will stand behind the automobile they sell you even after you drive off the lot. Does the dealer have a service department in house so they can service every car they sell? If so, that is a good sign. Have they run every car on their lot through a rigorous inspection to make sure everything is in tip top shape? They should. Do they include a warranty

of some kind on every car without asking you to pay for it? They should, if they are selling you a quality product. They should also offer additional warranty options (that you WILL pay for) so you can make a choice about what you want to buy. Ask if they include a maintenance plan at no cost to you. Some dealers are doing this right now and it is a great value for you. Explore all your financing options. Let’s start with the biggie in financing. If they offer you a cheaper price on your car if you finance with them (rather than paying cash or financing through your bank) there is a good chance you might not be getting the best deal possible. This could make your overall out of pocket expense on the car much higher. A reputable dealer will give you the same price regardless of how they get their money. Ask the dealer about what your financing options are. Do they have several companies or banks that could provide competitive financing alternatives? Be sure to explore all your financing options and choose the one that makes the most sense for your financial and credit situation. LOG CABIN DEMOCRAT | HOW-TO GUIDE 2013 • 3



The sale of your home should involve a professional agent Important Things You Should Know...

• Look for an agent who is a member of the local board or association of REALTOR®s.

• An agent should explain and disclose their role and who they represent at the first contact. • The agent should advise you on how to prepare your home for the market, including proper pricing. • The competitive market advantages this agent will give you. • What you can expect in the way of ongoing communication throughout the selling process • Selling a home is no easy process. There are over 20 steps involved from beginning to end, and successfully accomplishing each step requires not just expertise but also time. According the National Association of Realtors® (NAR,) sellers are turning to real estate agents at historically high rates. In recent transactions, 88 percent of home sales were agent assisted. Only nine percent of recent sellers reported selling on their own. • According to an NAR analysis, the buyer’s market window is starting to shrink. Data from NAR surveys show houses are selling faster with less time on the market. These findings demonstrate a general balance between home buyers and sellers in much of the country. • The home search process can be exciting and extensive as buyers take steps toward investing in their futures. The length of time it takes to find that special home varies from buyer to buyer, but on average the search takes about 12 weeks, according to the National Association of Realtors.® • According to NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, the steady recovery is expected to continue over the next few years.

Who Is A Realtor®? The terms agent, broker and REALTOR® are often used interchangeably, but have very different meanings. For example, not all agents (also called salespersons) or brokers are REALTOR®s. As a prerequisite to selling real estate, a person must be licensed by the state of Arkansas either as an agent/ salesperson or as a broker. Before a license is issued, minimum standards for education, examinations and experience must be met. After receiving a real estate license, most agents go on to join their local board or association of REALTORS® and the National Association of REALTORS®, the world’s largest professional trade association. They can then call themselves REALTORS®. The term REALTOR® is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of REALTOR®s and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics (which in many cases goes beyond state law). In most areas, it is the REALTOR® who shares information on the homes they are marketing, through a Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Working with a REALTOR® who belongs to an MLS will give you access to the greatest number of homes.

How To Evaluate An Agent Without any obligation, you can invite local REALTORS® to visit your home and give you a “marketing presentation” describing why they’re the best ones to market it for you. Two to three presentations will probably give you a good opportunity for choice. A marketing presentation includes having the REALTOR® review with you the reasons why you should list with that particular individual, and providing you with information that will assist you in making initial decisions


about selling your home. Recent laws in every state have defined the duties of someone specifically retained as a real estate agent including the disclosure of whether they represent a buyer and/or seller.

Look For An Agent Who • Is a member of the local board of association of REALTORS®. • Explains and discloses agency relationships (the role of the agent, i.e., who they are representing (the buyer or the seller) early on in the process, • Advises you on how to prepare your home for the market. • Shows some enthusiasm for your property, listens attentively, instills confidence, operates in a professional manner, and has a complementary personality style to yours. • Has already researched your property in the public records and the MLS. • Brings data on nearby homes that have sold (or failed to sell) recently. What a Realtor® will do for you Some of the duties your REALTOR® will perform for you include: • Walk through the process of selling your home from beginning to end. • Providing the prices of other properties that have sold, and analyzing data to gain a true comparison. • Share information about your home through the Multiple Listing service and on the Internet. • Place advertisements for your home. • Field phone calls. • “Qualify” potential buyers to make sure they would be financially able to buy your property. • Negotiate the sales contract. • Alert you to potential risks. • Comply with the disclosures required by law including lead paint, mold, and property condition disclo-

sures. • Help you prepare for a smooth closing of the transaction.

Selling On Your Own “You can get rid of the broker, but you cannot get rid of the broker’s work” is an old caution for those who intend to offer their homes “For Sale By Owner.” Selling on your own is not an easy undertaking. Often the primary reason (saving the commission) is “hi-jacked” by the buyer who expects the same savings. It requires a significant amount of time to study the process, understand your obligations, and do some of the complicated work that a real estate agent does. In addition, selling on your own requires extra help from outside professionals, such as REALTORS®, accountants or attorneys, for some of the jobs that require specific expertise. Questions To Ask An Agent • Are you a REALTOR®? • Do you have an active real estate license in good standing? • Do you belong to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) • What have you listed or sold in the area lately? • Do you cooperate with buyers’ broker? • What share of the commission will you offer a cooperating broker who finds the buyer? • What is your marketing plan (i.e. advertising, internet, virtual tours, open houses, etc.)? • Do you prequalify potential buyers before showing the property? • What separates you and your company from your competition? • What is your success rate (also called sales rate)? • Where do you get your buyers? • What is your list/sale price ratio • What is your median days on market?



t’s morning, and you wake up with a stomach pain, a sniffle or a sore throat. The symptoms expand and worsen as the day goes by. A visit to the doctor confirms your suspicions: you have the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests three steps you can take to prevent an outbreak of the flu in your family. • First, take time to get a flu vaccine. This is a simple step to take to give yourself one huge weapon against this illness, especially if you live in Faulkner County. Each fall, the Faulkner County Health Department holds an all-day flu shot clinic, where people of all ages are able to receive the vaccine free of charge. The Health Department employees and volunteers have this clinic organized down to a fine science, and you should be able to get in and out of the clinic in less than an hour, even at the most crowded times. The clinic is normally held at the McGee Center in west Conway. Keep your eye on the Log Cabin Democrat newspaper or call the Health Department for the dates in 2013. It is recommended that people of all ages who have chronic illnesses (asthma, diabetes, lung disease, heart disease) take a flu vaccine each year. Please check with your primary physician for more information and to set up a time to have the shot. Many health insurance policies will pay for some or all of the cost of a flu shot. Caregivers and those who work in the health-care industry or child-care industry are particularly encouraged to receive a flu shot. • Take every day preventive actions to stop the spread of germs. As a little child, how many times did your parents tell you to wash your hands? It’s a good practice to be in if you want to stay free of the flu. If you come in contact with someone who may have the flu, make sure you thoroughly wash


your hands with soap and hot water. When you sneeze, cover your nose with a tissue or sneeze into the crook of your elbow. Promptly dispose of any soiled tissue so others don’t accidentally touch it or use it. Limit your contact with anyone who has flu, and if you are the one who is sick, limit your contact with others who are uninfected. If you’re sick, stay home from work


or school. • Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. According to the CDC, if you get the flu, antiviral drugs can treat your illness. These are different from antibiotics — they are prescription medicines that are not available over the counter. The drugs can give you a milder form of the illness or shorten your sick

time. The CDC says it is very important that antiviral drugs be used early (within the first two days of symptoms) to treat people who are very sick/hospitalized, or are at an increased risk due to pregnancy or age. Visit the CDC web site at www.cdc. gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm for more information about preventing and treating the flu.

How to: LAW

The Top Five Things You Should Know... 1. Clarify your objectives to better match your needs and expectations with the right attorney for you.

2. Use the referrals of personal and business acquaintances and the state Bar Association to make a list of potential candidates. 3. Narrow your list by finding out about attorney reputation and experience. 4. Interview potential candidates by including in your discussion questions about their experience and success with cases of a similar nature, as well as fee structures and costs generally associated with your kind of case. 5. Feel confident in your decision, knowing that you have researched the options open to you thoroughly!



Evaluate your needs, then do your homework

electing an attorney who can effectively represent your personal or professional interests is one of the most important decisions you will make. Naturally, you will want to be able to trust your attorney with some of your most significant and sometimes sensitive issues; your confidence in the attorney you choose is critical. Having a clear understanding of your objectives is an integral part of finding the attorney who is best equipped to help you achieve your desired results. By keeping a few general guidelines in mind, you could be well on your way to making the most informed choice possible.

How Do I Know if I Need an Attorney? There are many instances in life in which you might need to engage the services of an attorney, and as with many other professions, attorneys generally choose an area in which to practice. For example, if you are writing or revising your will, you may want to seek the advice of an attorney who practices in estate planning. If you (or a loved one) has been seriously injured in an accident through no fault of your own, or if you have been the victim of medical malpractice, you may want to consult an attorney who has a proven track record of experience and success in trial law. In any case, you should first evaluate your specific needs and objectives and then seek to match those requirements with an attorney who has the appropriate qualifications and with whom you feel comfortable. How Can I Find an Attorney who Can Help Me? Once you have clarified your objectives, you are ready to make a list of potential candidates. This list can be compiled using information based on personal referrals from others you know who currently have or have had needs similar to your own. If you are already acquainted with


an attorney, ask for recommendations. Today, many attorneys utilize advertising as a means of “getting the word out” about their skills and areas of practice. Additionally, you can research attorneys who have established a presence on the worldwide web. Bear in mind that, as with any brochure or paid advertisement, Web sites promote the services of a specific attorney or firm and may contain information of a semi-objective nature. Another valuable resource is the Arkansas Bar Association. Although the Bar Association does not provide referral resources, the organization can provide you with a list of attorneys who practice in the area of emphasis for which you need expert advice. You Have Your List. Now What? Now that you have a list of candidates, you can begin the process of choosing the right attorney for your purposes. You have already researched the attorneys and firms on your list using the resources at hand such as brochures, personal/professional references and web sites. Armed with that knowledge, you should begin contacting the attorneys in whom you are most interested and schedule interviews with them. The interview process is the appropriate time for you to ascertain the particulars of your potential working relationship, should you choose that attorney or firm. As you detail your needs and expectations, firms should be able to let you know such things as the name of the attorney who will be charged with handling your affairs, the last time a similar case arose as well as its outcome, and how the firm stays up-to-date in that area of the law. Be mindful that experience matters in important legal issues. Additionally, if more than one attorney will be assigned to your matter, ask to speak with all the members of the team who will be of counsel. Further, ask for a general timeline for the expected resolu-

tion of matters of the kind for which you are seeking services and convey your expectations for being updated periodically during the process. Finally, be sure to discuss the fees and costs associated with the type of work you are requesting. Many attorneys and firms bill hourly, while others utilize a flat-fee payment arrangement. For some cases, a retainer fee (a lump-sum payment) is required; thoroughly investigate the costs covered by a retainer agreement so there are no surprises down the road. Other costs of which you should be aware include long-distance phone, copy and deposition charges as well as mailing or expert witness fees. Do not be alarmed if an attorney cannot provide you with an exact, to-the-penny cost; however, do ask him or her to identify the types of services your case generally requires. Other attorneys only charge on a contingency basis and charge a percentage if they actually win a lawsuit on your behalf. Choosing the Right Attorney At this point, you have conducted your research and met with prospective firms and attorneys. Hopefully, you have been able to gather enough information to make a selection with which you can be completely satisfied. The time you have invested in finding the right attorney to handle your needs is about to pay off. As you make your decision, you will want to keep in mind such things as your budget, your timeline for resolution if applicable, the number of similar cases with which your prospective candidate has experience and success, and the rapport you established during the interview process. All of these aspects will combine to help create your level of confidence in your chosen attorney’s abilities and will hopefully result in a mutually advantageous relationship. Now that you have made the most informed choice possible, you can enjoy the benefits of having selected an attorney who meets all of your needs.




Picking a restaurant you’ll like can be easy and fun

ating out can be an adventure, but finding a restaurant shouldn’t be a chore. To find a restaurant in a new town, people used to suggest that you “eat where the truckers eat” because these professional travelers supposedly shared tips with their colleagues. But unless you crave truck stops, that advice isn’t very useful any more. Besides, truckers primarily eat where they have room to park. Still, it pays to consider the type of audience a restaurant caters to. Years ago, a Jacksonville, Fla., establishment advertised “the best burgers in town,” which might be tempting to a hamburger lover until you consider the place was a topless bar. How good does the food really have to be to keep their customers happy? One wag claims restaurants are best sized up in the parking lot -- not by counting the cars but by sidling over to the kitchen door. Get a whiff of what’s being cooked for an advance taste. Listen to see if the waiters in the Chinese restaurant really speak Mandarin to the chef. And even open the back door -- by “mistake” -- to peek in to see how clean and orderly it is. Of course, this joker argues that the kitchen should be a little messy, the exhaust fan puffing out greasy aroma, and the kitchen staff arguing loudly to draw his interest. A little fat on the cooks makes him feel better, too, because he claims to never trust a skinny cook who obviously can’t even tempt himself. A news item once reported the arrest of a pizza chef for stabbing another cook in the same shop during an argument over the proper way to cook a pizza pie. Now that’s the kind of passion you hope to find in a kitchen, but maybe with less bloodshed. Short of combing the arrest reports or poking around parking lots, how

do you find a place to eat among the 878,000 restaurants in America? First, be open to something new. Even picky eaters should experience varied atmospheres and scenery. A well-run restaurant will have some selections for any pallet or age, regardless of its main theme. Old reliables, like a juicy steak or chicken breast, can be found in just about any restaurant. And often, they are prepared with considerable care since they’re not the routine order. One college student backpacking through Europe ordered spaghetti and meatballs at every stop, from London to Paris to Rome. He never got bored because they were always just different enough, yet familiar enough at the same time. For folks with a broader range of tastes, nothing is more fun than exploring a new menu. One approach is to have each guest in your party pick a different one of the nightly specialties and then ask for extra salad plates so everybody can share. Another plan is to ask the maitre d’ about the chef ’s signature entree so you can find out for yourself how the reputation was built. A third technique is to order a personal favorite to compare the preparation to your family recipe or with another restaurant. Just as there must be hundreds of versions of stew, there are an infinite number of ways to season, sauté and cook most dishes. After


all, there are several cable channels dedicated to the topic. And don’t be shy about asking your waiter or waitress to fix your order your way. Hamburger chains didn’t invent special orders, they borrowed the idea from traditional made-to-order establishments. Hold the salt or monosodium glutamate. Add extra croutons. Slice the roast beef from the outside where the spices are or from the inside where it’s the most rare. Your dining experience is more enjoyable when you participate. No one would plop down in a barber’s chair and ask for a haircut without explanation. So be just as specific in your restaurant. If you’re on a diet, you no longer have to eat every meal at home. Restaurateurs today typically highlight on their menus dishes that are low in carbs for Atkins Diet followers, dishes that have reduced calories or those that fit diabetic needs. Plus, most are happy to prepare a special order without dairy products, or nuts or salt or whatever you may be allergic to. According to a survey by the National Restaurant Association, seven out of 10 adults agree that there are more nutritious foods available to them in restaurants now than there were five years ago. That means you don’t have to get a “salesman’s paunch” any more just because you eat out a lot. Your social conscience can also feel good since you’ll be patronizing the industry that employs the highest percentage of women and minorities in management positions, according to the association. The number of African-American-owned and womenowned eating-and-drinking-place firms increased at double-digit rates during the past decade. When picking a restaurant, think

about what sort of experience you envision. A romantic dinner calls for someplace on the quiet side where children aren’t going to remind you of the consequences of, well, romance. If you’re dining with kids, you want someplace where they’ll be welcome and won’t be bored. Ads and restaurant listings give you hints about atmosphere, but a call or visit is best. That’s because many restaurants have different environments -- candle-lit tables inside for couples, grill rooms for relaxed parties, and scenic gardens perfect for families. It also helps to have a budget in mind. Most guides list average entrée prices. But an average that seems higher than your budget shouldn’t always discourage you. Perhaps you could be happy skipping the appetizers and dessert. Have a cocktail before leaving home or your hotel room to save money. Also keep in mind that nowadays restaurant portions are usually large enough for a doggie bag that makes terrific leftovers for lunch the next day -- effectively halving the entrée price since you get two meals. Here’s a tip if you have young children. Stop at a fast-food place first to get them fed cheaply and quickly. They’ll be more settled and patient when you eat in a “grown up” restaurant, and you won’t be paying for a fancy meal they likely won’t eat anyway. If nothing else, it’s sometimes fun to go to a pricier restaurant just for coffee and dessert. You can soak up some atmosphere and enjoy the pampered service without feeling guilty about breaking the bank. The bottom line is, to find your next favorite restaurant, go out and try some. You could wind up with several favorites.


Important Things You Should Know... • Look for a practitioner that displays qualities that make you feel safe and that you can trust. • Beware of skin care consultants providing treatments with non-licensed or non-certified training. • Experience counts and Quality matter. It’s not about finding the best deal and saving a few dollars. • More frequent visits to a professional skin care facility increase your overall wellness. • Word of mouth is the best reference when searching for a facility that will provide answers to your questions and concerns… .. DO YOUR HOMEWORK.



How to find a professional skin care business

his year looks more promising for clients looking for noninvasive anti-aging solutions — as they cast their sights on skin care facilities offering more equipment-based services and cosmetic procedures that show them visible benefits. PROGRESSIVE SKIN WELLNESS Women of all ages are beginning to understand that skin care isn’t just a once in a while pampering experience. — It’s a lifestyle choice. EMPHASIZING EDUCATION AND TRAINING First and foremost, make sure whatever services you are considering — your practitioner is licensed, experienced and has up-to-date education. There is power in information that is critical to increase your chances of a successful outcome. Find a facility that specializes only in skin care services rather than those that try to do it all. It is important that these businesses know what they specialize in and are focused on that. QUESTIONS TO ASK Skin care consumers are continually looking for the “next best thing,” so it is crucial when you visit a skin care facility, that they take the time to answer all questions you may have and devise an individualized treatment plan that reflects and incorporates


your desired goals, expected down time and cost. Above all, these recommendations must keep your best interests and personal objectives at the forefront. Regardless of the type of changes you are anticipating — expectations are an important part of a proper evaluation. Don’t wait until you have a big problem to see a skin care specialist. If you wait until you have a big problem, it’s going to take a big procedure. However, there are a few quick fixes if you choose Botox and do laser pro-

cedures, you can delay the big bucks for a very long time. HOW TO ENSURE EFFICIENT SAFETY Safety starts with making sure the client is well informed of the risk involved with their procedure and well informed of what to expect after the procedure so there aren’t any surprises — regardless the number of treatments the facility has performed previously. Expect to review a list of precautions.

THE END RESULT Above all, your practitioner should always strive to go above and beyond your expectations to determine your goals, giving you the results you are seeking and to help you find good solutions to look your best at any age. Whether you’re seeking a natural look or enhanced results, it is important you both reach the same outcome. In addition, you will become more knowledgeable about your options. It should be a rewarding experience for you and your practitioner.




o you wake up tired and stiff in the morning? Your body might be telling you that it’s time to purchase a new

mattress. Choosing a mattress is a long-term commitment that has a lot to do with how you will feel in the years to come. If you choose a mattress that doesn’t fit your body or your lifestyle, your health can suffer due to fewer hours of sleep and tossing and turning on an uncomfortable bed. There are many things to consider when choosing a mattress. It is imperative that you do your research before you purchase … or even before you shop. Price, comfort level, type of construction and size are all considerations when determining the mattress that can give you the best night’s sleep. An easy question to get out of the way first is: What size mattress do I need? If you already have a frame and want to use it again, your question is easily answered. If you would like to change or upgrade, you must consider the amount of space you have in your room. Newer homes with larger bedrooms can easily accommodate queen- and king-sized beds, while older homes tend to have smaller bedrooms with room for a full-sized bed. Children may need a twin-sized bed, and some parents will even add a second bed (bunk beds are fun!) for sleepovers. Remember to consider the number of people who will regularly use the mattress -- a couple might need a larger mattress (especially if the dog or cat plan to squeeze in, too!) Once you know what size mattress you need, it’s time to think about comfort and fit. There are many comfort levels to consider, ranging from firm to soft. Different materials are used to provide these comfort levels. Innersprings, for instance, give a firmer sleeping surface that can be better for larger people or anyone needing more support. Memory foam is a newer

option in construction, and features layers of foam that provide support by conforming to your body as you turn over and move during sleep. Latex foam is also available, and it also conforms to your body. Another option is an adjustable mattress. This type allows you to adjust the firmness level for each person or perhaps even move the head up and down for anyone with health problems (such as asthma or acid reflux). Consider all the mattresses you have slept in over the years and think of your very favorite. Try to determine if it was hard, soft or somewhere in between, and think about how your body felt in the morning after a night of sleeping on that mattress. So, now it’s time to take a trip to a


mattress shop. Most mattress retailers will let you try out a mattress in the showroom. Wear comfortable clothing while shopping to make it easier to stretch out on different mattresses. Make sure you lay on the side you normally sleep on and turn over a few times to get a true feeling of the mattress. Another thing to consider is the height of the mattress. Will the combination of the mattress and box spring make the bed too high to comfortably slip into and out of? Some types of beds (such as platform beds) don’t need a box spring, while others require one. Take this into consideration when looking for a mattress. There are different heights for both mattresses and box springs.

Now that you have found the mattress you like, it’s time to consider its price. The larger the mattress, the more it will cost. You can spend as little or as much on a mattress as you desire – prices can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the size and the optional features. Consider purchasing your mattress during one of the traditional sales times – the beginning and end of summer, July 4 and Black Friday/ Christmas. Deep discounts can be found both in stores and online during these sales. Once you bring your mattress home, make sure to protect it with a mattress cover. This purchase, while expensive, will last your family for years to come. Now, have a good night’s sleep!




efore you shop for a house, see your mortgage professional. Get pre-qualified to find out the amount of a mortgage your mortgage professional says you can afford. Pre-qualifying will determine what — if any down payment will be required. If the down payment is less than 20 percent your lender will require private mortgage insurance. Private mortgage insurance is purchased in order to protect the lender in case of borrower default. Determine how much your homeowners insurance and property tax will be. Add 1/12 of the total cost of the homeowners insurance and property tax to the principal and interest portion of the payment to determine your overall house payment. Be sure to include this cost with any other costs before making comparisons. As you ask for a comparison, make sure you are speaking with a loan officer and not a receptionist or a clerical person. Interest rates change constantly. The rate may be fixed or adjustable. If the rate is adjustable, ask how your loan payment will vary as the interest goes up or down. Look At Your Options Take a look at the different mortgage options and find out if you qualify for one of them. Special loan packages exist for those who qualify under guidelines set by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), Veteran’s Affairs (VA), or USDA Rural Development (RD). These packages may offer a better mortgage rate, better terms of payment or even money toward the down payment. First-time homebuyers, for example, may be eligible for special incentives, including a lower interest rate, assistance for the down payment and sometimes even employer assistance. Generous income guidelines make this

program available to a very large number of homebuyers. A good lender will be able to help you determine if you qualify for one of these mortgage options. Check Out All Costs There are a variety of other costs that may be associated with buying a home. Charges may include the cost of a credit report, an application fee or an appraisal of the property. Some of these fees must be paid in advance. Other expenses may include the cost of a title insurance policy from a title company, a professional survey by a licensed surveyor, home inspection fees and pre-paid taxes or property insurance on your new home. Some of these


fees will be due at the time that you close on your property. Determine what types of “lock-in” terms the lender offers. Locking your rate protects you from increases in rates as your application is processed but locks in the interest rate for a predetermined period of time. It protects you from increases in rates as your application is processed but also could leave you with a less-favorable rate should rates decline. Keep in mind that the companies you are comparing are required by law not to discriminate against applicants in any way because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, handicap or whether some of the applicant’s income comes from a

public assistance program. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and Fair Housing Act, a company cannot refuse to lend based on these characteristics, charge more for a loan or give less-favorable terms based on such considerations. Review Your Credit Report A good mortgage lender can help you determine some of the things you can do to dress up your credit before applying for a home loan. For example, you might pay down existing debt, close inactive credit accounts, develop a stable employment history and avoid other large purchases such as a new car, according to Consumer Credit Counseling Service.


Important Things You Should Know... • Make sure your jeweler is the owner of the store.

• The staff should be willing to educate and help the store’s customers. • The work should be done on the premises. • The store should handle well-known lines of watches and jewelry. • The store’s staff should be able to help you design and create fine jewelry.



isiting a jeweler can be an overwhelming experience because most shoppers simply don’t know enough about the intricacies of gemstones and precious metals to make their choices easily. That’s why finding a reputable and competent jeweler is so important. Any jeweler should be willing and able to show customers a variety of gemstones and jewelry in different shapes, sizes and qualities and should stock a broad selection of ring styles to enable you to decide which best fits your pocketbook. Your jeweler also should be able to help you learn to see with your own eyes why some diamonds of similar size differ greatly in value, or from a practical perspective — how you might reasonably select from a variety of different sizes, all priced similarly to fit your budget. All of us like to feel that we receive a good value when we make a major purchase. Take time to find what you want and where you want to buy it. Diamonds, for instance, can be confusing. Even if two diamonds are the same size, color and clarity, differences in the way they were cut, their finish and fluorescence can cause one to be worth much more than the other. Buying Gemstones Gemstones have been sought after and treasured throughout history. They have been found in ruins dating several thousand years. They are valued as gifts symbolizing love. Generally, the price of any gemstone is determined by size, cut, quality — which includes color, clarity, and treatments — and type. Here are some simple questions to ask about quality: • Has it been heat treated? • Is the stone natural or synthetic? • Are there any noticeable scratches, chips or inclusions? • Is the color even throughout the stone? • How strong is the color? Is it vivid? • If you are buying the stones for ear-


rings or cufflinks, are the stones wellmatched? Simple Advice to Protect Jewelry Try to protect any jewelry from scratches, sharp blows, harsh chemicals, extreme temperatures and sunlight. Here’s some advice about how to keep your jewelry in good condition: • Store jewelry separately so it doesn’t scratch other jewelry. • When doing household tasks such as gardening and cleaning, be certain to remove rings. • Put your jewelry on after washing or bathing and applying any makeup or hair spray. • Never wear jewelry while swimming in a swimming pool. The chlorine can cause damage to various gemstones and gold. • Avoid storing your jewelry next to a heating vent, window sill or on a car’s dashboard. Store jewelry away from sunlight (sun may fade the gemstones). • Always store bead necklaces (such as lapis, pearls, etc.) flat; silk stretches over time. Do not store pearls in plastic bags. • Gemstones may become loose in their settings (and possibly fall out). Be certain that stones mounted in rings are not loose and don’t rattle. The prongs of a ring can and do wear down. If the prongs wear down too much or break, you can lose the stone. Prongs are easily “retipped” by most jewelers to keep the stone secure. • Most jewelers will restring necklaces or reset stones (for a fee). • Sterling silver will polish up by rubbing or buffing it with a soft cotton cloth. Store silver in plastic bags with an interlocking seal to make it less prone to tarnish. Remember, also, that the hardness of stones plays into how they can be treated. Hardness is based on a gemtrade standard called the Mohs Scale. The higher the Mohs Scale number, the harder the stone. The highest Mohs Scale

rating is 10, for diamonds. Anything rated less than 7 on the scale can be easily scratched -- coral, lapis lazuli, opal, pearl, turquoise, for instance. Gold, silver and platinum are at the soft end of the scale. Keys to a Fine Jeweler When you’re searching for a jeweler, remember that you may spend thousands of dollars over time at this business. It’s imperative to find someone you feel comfortable with and someone who is willing to work with you when you have questions about jewelry, repairs or perhaps special orders. Find a store where the owner is the jeweler, someone who works in the store on a regular basis and who knows his clientele and the business. Your chosen store should be able to design and create fine jewelry. The staff should be happy to spend time with customers to educate them about jewelry and what’s currently available on the market. Work should be done on the premises. After all, you’ve chosen your jeweler because of his or her expertise. Look for well-known jewelry and watch lines while you’re shopping. Your jeweler should offer free gift wrapping, in-town delivery and above all superb customer service combined with an expert staff.


The Top 5 Things You Should Know...

1. Floor treatments play a key role in the interior design of your home. 2. Consider selecting distinct floor coverings for each room, instead of choosing one treatment for the entire house. 3. Mix and match elements — carpet and ceramic tile or woods and carpet — for a custom look. 4. Have your floor treatment properly installed according to the maker’s instructions (or you’ll risk an ineffective warranty). 5. Shop for floor coverings at a locally owned supplier for personal service and a wide selection.


For best results, work with an experienced flooring professional


n recent years, floors have shifted roles from a neutral necessity to striking design elements in a home’s decor. Several trends remain on the leading edge of this transformation. One direction designers and homeowners have begun to take involves selecting distinct floor coverings for each room, rather than choosing one or two versatile options to pave the floor of the entire house. Various floor treatments, patterns and designs can be chosen to complement the style of furnishings, direct attention to architectural features or highlight pieces of art. Another approach integrates several types of floor coverings in the treatment of each room. For example, you can create the appearance of an area rug by using carpet with a decorative ceramic tile border. Or you might try framing a room’s carpeting with a warm wood border. The opportunity to mix and match a variety of combinations exponentially increases your ability to craft a look that’s customized to your home and your lifestyle.

Choosing Carpet With Confidence Frieze, plush, Berber, nylon, polyester. The wide range of colors, styles and composition of carpeting make it easy to feel intimidated when you start shopping for carpet. But some basic information can equip you to select a carpet that will look great, wear well, and give you the best value for your investment. Before you get your search off the ground, consider everything that will affect your carpet choice. First review your lifestyle. If you have young children, a large family, pets, frequent visitors, or if you’ll be eating and drinking in the rooms, durability should be a key issue in your hunt. Then evaluate your decorating style, color scheme


and furnishings to help you zero in on the style of carpet you’ll want. Taking paint chips and swatches along while you shop can help take the guesswork out of your decision-making. As mentioned earlier, consider selecting individual floor treatments for each room or area of your home, rather than trying to find a “one-look-fitsall” carpet. That way you can not only tailor the design to each room, but also custom-fit the degree of durability to the use of the room. It makes economic sense to pay a little more for placing heavier weight carpet in high-traffic areas, such as hallways and the family room, and to pay a little less to install lighterweight carpet in low-traffic bedrooms.

Tips on Tile The prices and the selection of tile have never been better than they are today. But buying tile involves much more than knowing what style you want and how much you want to spend. Professionals recommend that you ask the following questions when scouting out tile for your home: *What’s it made of? Choose porcelain over ceramic for strength and resistance to cracking. *What’s the rating? The industry rates tiles according to slip resistance (especially important in areas such as bathrooms, entryways and kitchens) and strength. *How is it made? If the decorative tile you’re considering was painted, you’ll want to know because there will be a higher risk of the design chipping off. The Wonder of Wood Wood floors remain a classic choice for homeowners and designers. While traditional finishes such as clear oak, golden oak and dark walnut remain popular, consider checking into the palette of fresh, new colors on the

market, including spices, cinnamons, off-whites and grays. In keeping with the trend of combining products, many designers are bordering a standard wood floor with a decorative or contrasting color. Unique widths have also returned to the scene, with the random-width strips lending an inviting, old cabin look to a room.

Vinyl Re-Vamped Vinyl, traditionally the most inexpensively priced treatment for floors, has staged a comeback recently because of dynamic changes in the style, durability, warranties and installation. New designs offer consumers the ability to achieve the look of virtually any floor treatment -- from ceramic tile to granite or wood. The development of durable materials has enabled manufacturers to offer better warranties against ripping and tearing, as well as making vinyl flooring easier to install than in the past. Shopping Smart Whether you’re shopping for carpet, tile, wood or vinyl, it pays to be picky when it comes to the warranty offered on the floor treatment you’re considering. Look for a 15-20 year warranty, and make sure you have the floor treatment installed by a professional according to the manufacturer’s specifications; otherwise, the warranty may be affected. To get the best service and selection, steer clear of national chains that stock only the products that suit the tastes of the majority of customers nationwide. Instead, head for smaller, locally operated stores where flooring professionals can offer you a specialized selection of floor treatments, answer your questions, and give you the personal service you need to make decisions with confidence.


Important Things You Should Know...

• Tow services and their employees must be certified. • Technology has become a big part of the towing industry • Talk to other people about the reputation of a towing firm. • Be aware of what towing services are used by your local government. It is a good indication of their reliability. • Inspect your vehicle before it is towed so you will know if it becomes damaged in the process. • Be aware of which local wrecker service is the preferred service provider for AAA roadside assistance.



Knowing about towing saves money

owing is big business. The industry accounts for more than $7 billion in annual revenue. More than 85 percent of all tows involve passenger cars and small trucks. Approximately 60,000 towing companies exist across the United States, many of which are family-owned towing businesses. So when your car breaks down, deciding which towing service to call can be a major headache unless you know what to look for when choosing a wrecker service. WHO IS RIGHT FOR YOU? Towing and recovery services must follow strict guidelines set by federal, state and local governments. Incident management is a major priority of the Department of Transportation to keep a steady flow of traffic on our country’s highways. Towers play a key part in clearing up accidents to keep the traffic going. The equipment used by towers has changed drastically over the last 20 years. Drivers receive intensive training to use their equipment properly, including hydraulics, car carriers, air cushions, dollies, electric winches, rotators, wheel lifts and computerized equipment. The towing industry has become more technically driven. Towers have become skilled in using computer technology. CHECK FOR CERTIFICATION All drivers must be state certified each year and have their equipment pass a thorough inspection. Those driving big rigs must receive special training to secure trucks. The drug and alcohol testing used for drivers in the trucking industry also applies to tow truck drivers. When the truck arrives to tow your car, look for the state certification


sticker on the left side of the front windshield. Companies with state certification will have a good insurance policy. Choosing which tow service is for you comes down to one thing, reputation. If a company has been in business for many years, then they should be a very reputable organization. Ask around to friends for recommendations. Also, check and see if the company has done any work for the city. If your local government trusts them, they will probably do a good job. Before your vehicle is towed, check for any damage to the front and tell

the towing service about this when you call. This way if damage occurs, the company can’t deny it. Also, if you believe your vehicle has been damaged, take it to a different, reputable towing service and ask them to examine it. If your car was damaged during towing, they will be able to tell you about it. By selecting the proper service, your towing experience should be headache free. For more information about the rules and regulations for towing services in the state, visit www.artowing. org.


Important Things You Should Know...

• Location Location is very important when it comes to convenience of making a deposit, cashing a check or even meeting with a banker for a loan or customer service problem. • Technology This will give you the option to bank online or receive statements by email. • Customer Service It may be important to you that a person locally can handle a problem for you. Some customers don’t like calling a 1-800 numbers for customer service or bookkeeping. • Checking Select a bank based on the type of account you want from the bank. Most banks offer similar accounts but the charges and fees vary based upon researching checks, overdrafts or other services routinely needed by customers. • Loans Choose a bank that offers low rates and fees with great personal loan service. Make sure you are aware of any fees or points or terms that may affect your loan during its term.



electing a bank seems like an easy assignment. Many times the bank we select is chosen because it’s closer to where we live or work. Convenience of location has always been the number one reason customers select a bank. Convenience is important and should be considered when making a banking decision on where to bank. But, you should expect more from a bank than a good location. Banks today are technologically superior and offer products that are key elements in selecting a financial institution or bank. What do you need from your bank and what do you expect your bank to provide you should be questions asked when making a decision to select a bank. Customers expect more from a bank that offers technological solutions. Suddenly the “free” checking account with no services or options is not as important as being able to access an account online and to see visually if a check has been cashed. Online banking is another technological product worth comparing. Not only the availability of researching a check online; but the development of cash management services for businesses and the development of unique financial services available to customers such as calculating a loan or mortgage on a web site or researching the value of a new or used car or simply reading the local newspaper online or checking a stock price. Checking products and how they are marketed to customers is another important difference to compare when selecting a bank. Most banks offer checking products that range from “free” checking to club accounts. These two types of accounts are the extreme examples of relatively no service or features from a bank with a “free” account and an account with many features that are paid for on a monthly basis. Overdraft fees and protection vary from bank to bank as well. No customer


wants to be overdrawn, but it happens from time to time and a bank may charge $15 to $30 dollars per item for an overdraft fee. Some banks have a maximum charge per day while other banks do not. Know what you’re getting into before you open the account. You may also want to know how to visit with a customer service or bookkeeping person to answer a question or solve a problem. Most banks have local people handling your problems such as a lost deposit or missing check or even to help balance your checking account. If the customer service is a 1-800 number, you might think twice before selecting this bank. Lending is another product that customers expect and need from banks. Most people need a loan for a car, business or home and rely on their bank to provide this service. All banks make loans, but their process of approving an application may differ, or how they handle a customer may differ, or if they keep the loan or sell the loan to another financial institution. These questions may not seem important when you open an account at a bank, but when you need a loan it will matter. Most local banks make decisions locally and have continuity in their lending staff as officers move up through the ranks in the same bank. This allows you to keep the same loan officer as you

grow with the bank. In a regional bank the decisions many times are made in lending centers where applications are sent. They use formulas and credit scores to approve loans. The loan officer for a regional bank may work in the community for a few years and move to another community as they are promoted within the bank’s system. Comparing interest rates and fees are also important in deciding on a bank as banks may differ. This would include document preparation fees, late fees, extension fees and other fees that might relate to the type of loan you are requesting. Rates and fees are disclosed and can be compared before signing a loan application. It’s good policy to always ask what the fees and rates on a loan are before applying. Bankers do like customers who are concerned about lower rates and fees as they feel the customer will pay the loan back. The location(s) of your bank is important. But also be sure to consider the technology the bank has installed and the products you might use such as online banking, checking services, researching a problem, or just working with a loan officer to get a fair loan at a low interest rate with reasonable fees. These factors will help you to know your money is secure, and access to it when it counts.



nfortunately, accidents do happen, and sometimes they involve motor vehicles. When choosing the professional you would like to use, there are many things to consider. You have invested a lot of money and time into your vehicle, so it is imperative to do your homework and find the shop that will best fit your needs. Also remember that your vehicle carries the most important people in your life — your family — throughout the world each day. A decision on who will fix your vehicle is not to be taken lightly. First, get a police report, this is the only way to “prove” damage has occurred. Then you can decide if you need to involve the insurance company. Second, once the initial police reports and insurance claims are filed, it’s time to choose a collision repair shop. We suggest stopping by and meeting the staff- see who you will be dealing with. It is always easier if the repair shop and the customer have the same mind. Some insurance companies have lists of shops they recommend to do collision repair on their insured vehicles. This is fine, but don’t let the insurance agency insist on the use of any particular repair shop. Ask your agent how they determined which shops to approve and if they guarantee their work. Also ask if the guarantees will not exist if you use a shop that is NOT one they recommend. By obtaining a list, you may have fewer shops to investigate, hopefully meaning you’ll be on the road more quickly. Third, be sure to ask any questions that you may have: • Do you offer a warranty? • I will need a rental vehicle to drive, what do you suggest? • How Long will repairs take? • I am uncomfortable driving, or my car is not drivable, can you pick it up or have it towed?


• I have an estimate from my insurance company, why is it different from yours? Don’t hesitate to ask for a tour of the facility!Get estimates from each shop, and get the estimate in writing to avoid misunderstandings later. This is important for you, the customer, so you aren’t charged for unexpected work, and also for the auto shop, so they aren’t bombarded with unexpected complaints about the outcome of the repairs. Three or four estimates should

be sufficient to find a reputable repair shop. Always ask if there are repairs that need to be done to the car that will not be covered by your insurance agency. If so, get a separate estimate for those so you know what you may need to spend out of pocket. Never make your decision based on price — just because a shop gives you the lowest estimate doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best choice for you. Make your choice based on your visit to the shop, recommendations from

friends and even the advice of your insurance agent. Ask co-workers and friends what shop they use; why they use that particular shop; and will they use it again if needed. You can also contact the Better Business Bureau to find out more about the repair shops vying for your business. Check out the National Auto Body Council web site at for more help on how to choose a reputable auto collision repair shop.



Important Things You Should Know...

• The funeral ritual helps us focus our emotions and brings a sense of meaning to death. • A pre-planned funeral can prevent your family members from having to make a number of significant decisions when they are confused and upset. • A call to a funeral director is a good beginning in making sure you have covered all your bases in your planning. • Things to discuss with a funeral director include ranging from visitation, the memorial service and alternatives from burial, cremation, or entombment. • Another important component in your plan is to make sure your loved ones know where your recorded wishes can be found.


It may be a gift to those you love

t was Ben Franklin who said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. This article does not deal with taxes, but rather, the other certainty of life. It is a fact that the ratio of death to the population is 1:1. Everyone dies, so a discussion of funeral planning is never irrelevant. When someone we love dies, there are varying stages of anger, confusion and numbness. The funeral is one of the most significant means we have of dealing with grief. The funeral ritual helps us focus our emotions and brings a sense of meaning to death. It confirms the reality of death and provides a catalyst for mourners to begin talking about the deceased. Experts tell us that being able to talk about the life of the deceased loved one is one of the first steps toward accepting death. Prearranging Your Funeral Prearranging your funeral is not much different than any other planning you have carried out during your lifetime. You buy insurance in case of fire, flood, theft or death. These coverages are purchased as an act of love and responsibility for those you love in case an unfortunate incident occurs. A pre-planned funeral accomplishes the same goals. A pre-planned funeral can prevent your family members from having to make a number of significant decisions when they are confused and upset. They will have enough on their minds dealing with grief without having to make several important emotional and expensive decisions in a very short period of time. Experts tell us that there are an average of 50 decisions to be made when arranging a funeral. Adding to the need for pre-planning is the fact that our lifestyle is more complex in today’s world. Family members often live in different states, complicating rapid decision making. Further complications stem from frustrations that occur when dealing with government agencies in different states. A solid pre-planning session can prevent these complications which can loom very large during time of pain and sorrow. Often, we have special wishes that others may not be known to even those closest to us. Discussing these wishes with your fam-


PRE-PLAN YOUR FUNERAL ily permits you to form logical, well thought out plans. Grief counselors say families are comforted by knowing that their loved one’s funeral reflects his or her own wishes. The Funeral Director’s Role A call to a funeral director is a good beginning in making sure you have covered all your bases in your planning. He or she can lead you through a process to ensure that you don’t forget vital information in your plan. Some funeral directors offer free booklets that provide a “punch list” of topics to think through and record your wishes. How To Plan Topics in these guides include funeral details ranging from visitation, the memorial service, and alternatives from burial, cremation, or entombment. These are the obvious decisions, but other important topics include categories that will provide an excellent helping hand to your family. These additional topics include organizations to be notified with phone numbers, persons to be notified, medical history, estate information, banking information, real estate holdings, and insurance policies. Many also include obituary information outlines, personal property inventories, and special instruction and information pages. There may also be information regarding the importance of your will and how to go about ensuring it is accurate and updated. You also need help in prompting answers to several practical questions which will make things much easier on your family members. These questions include: Have you selected a cemetery or memorial location? Are certain religious customs to be followed? Are there any special readings, biblical passages or musical selections you prefer to use in the memorial service? Do you want to have a military service? Do you prefer a specific charity or organization as the recipient of memorial gifts? Do you want to name pallbearers? Do you wish to be buried in particular clothing or jewelry? What type of casket do you prefer? What type of marker or monument do you prefer?

Prefunding your funeral is also an important consideration. Your funeral director can show you the options which will save your family from any possible financial burden later. You may take out a life insurance policy which would cover funeral expenses, or invest in a funeral trust account or final expense insurance policy. In most situations, funds invested today will be sufficient to cover the total cost of the funeral at the time of need, since interest earned by the funds will offset the effects of inflation. Government regulations safeguard your investment so funds will always be available for the intended use. Another important component in your plan is to make sure your loved ones know where your recorded wishes can be found. Each year millions of dollars in government and insurance death benefits go unclaimed because family members do not know where to find the information they need at the time of death. Some considerations that also need to remain in the forefront of the pre-planning agenda: Social Security: Upon death, dependents and survivors may be eligible for certain benefits such as death Payments, Survivors, Benefits, and Medicare. Qualifications depend on several factors such as age, marital status, number of dependents and whether employment was under Social Security. Your Social Security account should be verified periodically to ensure contributions are properly posted. All benefits must be applied for since payment is not automatic. Veterans Benefits: Honorably-discharged veterans are entitled to benefits that may affect decisions about funeral arrangements. For example, veterans may qualify for cemetery plot and burial allowances, a headstone and burial flag, as well as pension for survivors. Medicaid: There are provisions under Federal Title 19 that allow an individual to shelter funds to serve the family later by providing for funeral arrangements. Since qualifications vary for each of these options, it is best to discuss your particular situation with your funeral director.



othing beats the pride you’ll feel welcoming guests to your unique home, unlike any other. Every day, you’ll enjoy knowing the kitchen is laid out just the way you like it, the windows are the ones you picked and the bathrooms were built just for you. A custom-built home or your new addition provides comfort, style, a solid investment and a personal statement. You know all the reasons for building your own home, but you probably have heard a few reasons not to. Granted, there are a few builders whose work has sullied the reputations of others in the industry. You can avoid those simply by following a few common-sense steps. First, check out the reputations of prospective builders. Good ones should be willing to provide you a list of recent customers for you to call. Then actually call them. Ask about cost overruns, workmanship and customer service. Even your banker may have some observations since funds are usually doled out after a bank representative makes periodic progress inspections. A top-quality builder can work within your budget, offering choices on where best to economize and where quality is most important. Remember, you’re constructing a home that will shelter your family for years and cutting the wrong corners can be dangerous to both you and your investment. Look for a builder with a track record constructing homes similar to what you want. For example, a multi-story house requires more skill than a single-story structure. Basements and retaining walls demand special care to guard against unsafe cracking and water seepage. Remote locations, extreme slopes and working around trees you want to save add complications that builders of


tract homes don’t routinely face. You want a builder who won’t be learning on the job with your money. Experience not only brings the skills to provide quality but also the knowhow that streamlines the construction process -- an important consideration when you’re paying interest on a construction loan these days. As you are getting close to selecting a builder, conduct your own personal interviews to make sure you’re compatible. You’ll be working together very closely for months about countless decisions, and you have to have a frank and open relationship with one another. The builder will often be asking you to make decisions, you need his experience to guide you about where top quality will matter and where you can


safely economize. Being able to speak candidly will reduce miscommunication and costly errors. Plus, you and the builder should have a rapport that allows him to make suggestions that can improve on the ideas you have in mind for your house design. And the builder should be able to present honest choices to you with the information about how it will affect looks and your budget. Other considerations in selecting a custom builder are financial strength and the availability of a warranty. All of the construction should be warranted for a minimum of a year, but you may want to consider buying a longer warranty. The builder’s financial stability is an obvious requirement. Who wants to be in the middle of construction and have

something go wrong or a funding problem on another of the builder’s projects impact his ability to buy materials or hire subcontractors on your house? Don’t hesitate to ask for financial references when you’re requesting professional references. A builder who can’t run his business is likely to make a mess out of your project. Education, professional credentials and affiliation with trade associations that enforce a code of ethics are other pieces of information you should seek before picking a builder. By following these few steps, your dream home can become a reality and even a “homestead” that your family could treasure for generations. And the construction will be as pleasant as the memories you make living it in.


Important Things You Should Know...

• About 90 percent of all adult hearing problems are caused by problems in the cochlea of the inner ear and the auditory nerve. • Early intervention is very important when hearing loss is suspected. • Many people have the mistaken impression that nerve hearing loss cannot be helped. • Most experts agree that since gradual hearing loss typically occurs in both ears, it makes sense to fit both ears with hearing instruments. • Many times a hearing-impaired individual does not really know how much they are missing because much of the time hearing loss is gradual.


earing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States. It affects more than nine million Americans over the age of 65. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, it is more common in this population than cataracts, diabetes and orthopedic problems. Hearing loss affects another 10 million people aged 45 to 65. The National Council on Aging reports that a majority of those people do not use hearing aids. About 90 percent of all adult hearing problems are caused by problems in the cochlea of the inner ear and the auditory nerve. This can be caused by heredity, the aging process, some medications and exposure to loud noise. Symptoms of this type of hearing loss include not understanding what is said, accusing others of mumbling or speaking too softly and the inability to hear in the presence of background noise. This type of hearing loss, sometimes called nerve deafness, is treated by the use of hearing instruments. Many people have the mistaken impression that nerve hearing loss cannot be helped -- this is not true. The majority of individuals who wear hearing instruments have this type of hearing loss. Other Problems In addition to the obvious problems associated with hearing loss, a 1999 study



by the National Council on Aging states that there are other serious problems that are caused by a hearing impairment. The study found that untreated hearing loss can lead to problems such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, anger and insecurity. Those individuals in the study who wore hearing instruments reported improvements in many aspects of their lives, including family relationships, sense of independence and sex life. Additionally, close friends and family members of the hearing-impaired respondents have this type of hearing loss. Strained family relationships are another problem seen by hearing professionals. Communication with a hearing-impaired person can be very frustrating for friends and family members. A hearing-impaired individual has to work much harder to hear than people with normal hearing. To compensate for their deficit in hearing, they use facial cues, lip-reading and guesswork to fill in the gaps in conversation.

The Earlier the Better Early intervention is very important when hearing loss is suspected. A simple hearing test can help identify a hearing loss. That test should include a case history, ear inspection to check for wax build-up, tympanometry to check for fluid or infection in the middle ear, pure tone air and bond testing and a speech understanding test. The word-understanding ability of an individual is a good predictor of hearing aid success. While a hearing aid can deliver sound back to the ear, the brain interprets the sound. When a hearing-impaired person needs to wear hearing aids and does not, over time their ability to understand words diminishes. If true word understanding is lost, it cannot be regained even with a hearing instrument. Instruments Improve Hearing Hearing instruments do not give back the hearing

that an individual had at 18, but they can dramatically improve the quality of life if an individual does not wait too long to get help. Many times a hearing-impaired individual does not really know how much they are missing because much of the time hearing loss is gradual. Most experts agree that since gradual hearing loss typically occurs in both ears, it makes sense to fit both ears with hearing instruments. Amplifying both ears allows an individual to better localize sound. Additionally balanced hearing with both ears gives a hearingimpaired individual the best ability to disregard background sounds and achieve better hearing in noise. Family and friends play a very important role in the remediation process. They should accompany the hearing-impaired family member to the test if at all possible. Where to Seek Help Doctors of Audiology (Au.D.) or Audiologists are the health care experts to seek out with any hearing problems. Audiologists are specifically trained to diagnose and treat hearing loss. When beginning a hearing aid trial with your audiologist you should always seek a trial period to insure the hearing aid will improve your hearing. A competent Audiologist should be able to answer all your questions and put you in a position to improve your hearing.

How to: HEALTH


s it sometimes happens, your first encounter with an orthopaedic surgeon may be in the hospital emergency room after you have sustained an injury — a fractured ankle, for example, or a sprain. But how do you find an orthopaedic surgeon when there isn’t an emergency and you need a specialist to check out that sore knee or chronic shoulder pain? Here’s a look at what orthopaedists do and how to choose the one that’s right for you. According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “an orthopaedic surgeon is a physician devoted to the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of injuries, disorders and diseases of the body’s musculoskeletal system. This system includes bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves and tendons. While orthopaedic surgeons are familiar with all aspects of the musculoskeletal system, many orthopaedists specialize in certain areas, such as the foot and ankle, hand, shoulder and elbow, spine, hip or knee. Orthopaedic surgeons may also choose to focus on specific fields like pediatrics, trauma, reconstructive surgery, oncology (bone tumors) or sports medicine.” Some orthopaedists may specialize in several areas and may collaborate with other specialists, such as neurosurgeons or rheumatologists, in caring for patients. There are many musculoskeletal conditions that can be treated without surgery through the use of medication, exercise and other rehabilitative or alternative therapies. Who does an Orthopaedic Surgeon Treat? “Orthopaedic surgeons treat patients of all ages — newborns, children, athletes, baby boomers and the elderly — with conditions that range from bone and joint disorders and fractures to diseases or tears of the muscles, ligaments and tendons in all regions of the body.


It is essential that patients and their families develop partnerships with their physicians. This will help ensure that decisions about medical treatments honor the patients’ wants, needs, preferences and values. Orthopaedic surgeons respect the value of diversity and are committed to serving communities and individuals with unique needs.” (AAOS, tyyp:// about/public/definition.cfm) Things to Consider when Choosing an Orthopaedic Surgeon One of the first things to consider is the doctor’s level of education. An orthopedist may have completed up to 14 years of formal education, including four years of undergraduate education, four years in medical school, five years of concentrated study in an orthopaedic residency at a major medical center, and an additional year of specialty training. After becoming licensed to practice medicine, an orthopaedic surgeon completes board certification. To become board certified, an orthopaedic surgeon must undergo a peerreview process, and then demonstrate his/her expertise in orthopaedics by passing both oral and written examinations given by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. It is important to visit orthopaedic surgeons who are either board certified or in the process of becoming certified. Because orthopaedic surgeons complete a rigorous re-certification process every 10 years, they spend many hours studying and attending continuing medical education


courses to maintain current orthopaedic knowledge and skills. Next, make sure the orthopaedist you choose has experience in your injury or condition. Chances are your primary care physician has already diagnosed your problem and has made the referral, but when you contact the orthopaedic clinic make sure to ask for the orthopaedist with experience for your problem. If your primary care physician hasn’t made a referral for you, ask for a recommendation of the best local orthopaedists. Talk to your friends. For common conditions, such as arthritis, ACL surgery, carpal tunnel, etc., you are likely to have co-workers, friends or family who know a good orthopaedist and will have firsthand experience. In addition, an excellent source of information is the AAOS website: www. Once you have made a selection, think about what you want to ask the doctor. During the course of an appointment, an orthopaedist will obtain a complete medical history, prescription drug/medication inventory, and description of the problem. Orthopaedists are skilled in the diagnosis of an injury or disorder, prescribing treatment, recommending rehabilitation, and offering information on prevention. But, it’s still important to ask questions. Consider bringing a friend or family member with you to help you remember questions. Don’t be afraid to ask

about your doctor’s credentials and experience. Here are some questions recommended by the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons: • Do you have written materials or videotapes about this surgery that I can review? • How much improvement can I expect from this surgery? • What is your experience doing this type of surgery, and how many have you done? • Are you board certified? • What are the risks involved? How likely are they? • What type of anesthesia will be used? What are the risks? • What type of implant will be used? What is the track record for this type of prosthesis? • Will I have to stop taking any of my medications before surgery? • What options are available to avoid a blood transfusion? • How long will I have to stay in the hospital? • How much pain is normal to expect and how long will it last? Will I receive medication for the pain? • When will I start physical therapy? Will I need home or outpatient therapy? • Will I need to arrange for some assistance at home? If so, for how long? • What limits will there be on activities, such as driving, bathing, climbing stairs, eating, etc.? • How long will I need to be off work? • How often will I need to return for follow-up visits? • What complications, if any, can arise after surgery? What are the signs to look for? Look for an experienced, well-regarded surgeon. Meet your orthopaedist to make sure you can work well with him/ her. Trust your instincts. If a meeting with a doctor does not go well, it doesn’t mean he/she is a bad doctor or you are a bad patient. It simply may mean the two of you are not a good fit.


Important Things You Should Know...

• Consulting a personal financial planner may be indicated at various times in a person’s life, for people in specific financial categories and for anyone within 30 years of retirement. • No specific education levels, licenses or certifications are required to become a financial planner. • Planners can seek and obtain certifications • Planners who offer investment products for sale may be required to obtain state licenses to perform such tasks. • Ask friends and colleagues for recommendations, and interview a prospective planner as you would an accountant, attorney or other professional who will be handling confidential financial information.



inancial decisions have become more complex for most individuals. Two-income households, increasingly complex tax laws, financial deregulation and a greater variety of saving and investment options have increased the number of decisions an individual or family must make and the difficulty of those decisions. Today both middle- and upper-income families may have a need for a financial planner either at specific times or throughout the life span of the family. Personal financial advisers - also called financial planners or financial consultants - generally assess the financial needs of individuals and provide them with a wide range of options, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Handbook, 2002-03 Edition. Personal financial planners are professionals who design an overall strategy to meet specific financial objectives. Some of the issues they address are retirement planning, estate planning, tax law changes, funding for college and general investment options. Most planners are generalists and offer advice on a wide range of topics. Some specialize in areas such as estate planning or risk management. When to consult a planner Major life changes, such as a new job, a raise, marriage, parenthood, divorce, widowhood, or substantial inheritance or other windfall, are events that may prompt consultation with a financial planner. If you are within 30 years of retiring, a financial planner can help you plan for adequate retirement income. Or, if your financial affairs seem generally disorganized and without direction, a financial planner can help you measure where you are now, help you decide where you want to be and design a plan with options to meet your goals. Generally, single persons with an annual gross income more than $30,000 and married couples with a combined income of $40,000 or more may find a financial planner useful. If you earn substantially more, it is likely a financial planner could help you coordinate the advice you receive from other professionals and consultants such as your stockbroker, accountant and/ or attorney.


The planner’s job An adviser’s work begins with a consultation with the client, where the adviser obtains information about the client’s finances and financial goals. Based on the information provided by the client, the adviser draws up a comprehensive financial plan that includes an identification of problem areas and recommends steps to improve the financial status of the client. The plan will contain the adviser’s description of investments that would help the client meet goals, taking into consideration the client’s tolerance for risk, longand short-term goals and current financial status. The plan may be discussed verbally, but most often it is presented to the client in writing. Financial advisers recommend an update at least once a year to evaluate the success or shortcomings of the plan and to review any changes that may be indicated. Normal and unexpected events in the client’s life can affect the overall plan, as can changes in the viability of the investments. According to the Department of Labor’s job description, personal financial planners may be involved in buying and selling financial products, such as mutual funds or insurance. Some also assume the management of their clients’ investments. Education and certification A college degree is not a prerequisite for becoming a personal financial adviser, although many in the profession hold bachelor’s degrees or post-graduate degrees. Certification is not required, but obtaining certifications, such as certified financial planner (CFP) or chartered financial consultant (ChFC) designations, can enhance professional standing. Certifications also assure prospective clients that the planner has extensive training and has demonstrated competency in the area of financial planning. The certified financial planner designation is issued by the CFP Board of Standards, which reviews relevant experience, education requirements and performance on a comprehensive examination. The certifying board also requires adherence to an enforceable code of ethics. The chartered financial consultant designation is issued by the American College in Bryn Mawr, Penn. This designation in-

dicates that the planner’s experience and completion of an eight-course study program have met the board’s requirements. Both designations carry a requirement for continuing education for maintaining standing with the certifying boards. There are no requirements for licensure for personal financial planners who limit their professional activities to evaluating their clients’ finances and making recommendations to reach financial goals. Financial planners who sell stocks, bonds, insurance or real estate as part of their professional activities often are required to obtain professional licenses from the state in which they practice. Fees Generally, financial planners charge the client an hourly fee for services, or they may charge a specified fee for the specific service performed. A fee for a comprehensive plan may vary depending on the complexity of the plan. When a planner manages a client’s assets, the fee for services may be a percentage of the assets under management. The purchase of any stocks, bonds, insurance, real estate or other investment instruments is a charge incurred by the client in addition to service fees. Selection process Selection of a personal financial planner requires the same careful process as choosing any professional service provider. Solicit recommendations from your friends and colleagues. Schedule an introductory appointment with at least two professionals so you will have a basis for comparison. Ask about education, experience, specialties, fees and scope of services provided. Assure yourself that the person you select is someone you trust and with whom you feel comfortable discussing personal financial matters. Conduct an interview in much the same way you would conduct an interview with a prospective employee. In effect, this individual, although an independent contractor, will be working for you. After you have selected your personal financial planner, continue to monitor your investments and financial status, working with your planner to evaluate your progress toward your goals and to make adjustments if necessary. In the final analysis, it is your money, your decision and your future.



well-maintained yard can improve your property values, provide wonderful curb appeal, give your family some extra usable living space and bring a relaxed feel to your lifestyle. Maintenance is crucial to keeping your lawn and garden healthy and beautiful. No matter the season, yard work is a part of life every week. Lawn care specialists can set you up on a lawn care program, which will consist of timely applications of fertilizer and herbicides to help control weeds in your lawn and keep it green and healthy. In the spring and summer you may be picking flowers or trimming shrubs. Local professionals can also help you learn which jobs need to be done at which times of the year — caring for flowering plants in the summer and spring and raking leaves and applying pre-emergents in the fall and winter, for instance. Lawn care services can be hired to do as much or as little maintenance as you would like. If you love gardening, have a green thumb and have some free time each week, you might decide you can do the majority of the maintenance yourself. If you have time constraints but still want to contribute some sweat equity, you may want to consider doing the lawn mowing and watering yourself, and hiring a lawn care service to do the mulching, leaf blowing and bagging and tree trimming. Some people may want to just play in their garden and leave all the maintenance to the professionals — and that’s great, too! Keep your family’s busy schedule — and your budget — in mind when determining what maintenance projects you can perform and which ones you need to leave to the professionals. In general, lawns should be mowed no less than weekly and should be cut no more than 1/3 of the blade at a time. That is, if it is 3 inches tall, only


cut 1 inch off. By not mowing, weeds become immune to herbicides which can make them impossible to remove. Just like people, lawns need water to keep them hydrated and healthy. If possible, water one inch per week for best results. By raking leaves, you will keep your lawn beautiful. Leaves can form a barrier between your lawn and the fertilizers and herbicides meant to keep them plush and full. Make sure you ask your lawn care specialist about any chemicals they might use on your lawn.


Timely applications of fertilizer and herbicides are necessary to control weeds and keep your yard healthy. There may be regulations on types of chemicals that can be used in your city, or on the frequency of applications allowed. Make sure you check with your specialist on these issues, and definitely tell them if you have young children or pets. As with any chemical, it can be harmful to consume them. But, if you allow chemicals to dry before sending your children or pets outdoors, they’ll be safe and free to play.

Ask your friends, co-workers and neighbors for recommendations of good lawn care service providers. If you see a yard with beautiful grass, see if they will give you the name of the company they use. Word of mouth is invaluable in finding good, reputable companies. Many times, several families in your neighborhood will use the same lawn care service because of positive recommendations. Don’t be afraid to ask around, and make sure you find someone who makes you feel confident in their abilities.

How to: ATV


n recent years the ATV/UTV has become more than just a recreational vehicle. Today’s technology has developed these machines into the perfect tool for outdoor activities, work, and most importantly, fun! If you are in the market for an ATV or UTV, there are several things to consider before purchasing the machine that is right for you. There are several categories of ATV/ UTV’s to choose from including Youth, Utility, and High Performance. First you must decide the primary use of your vehicle. Will it be used for recreational riding, work, hauling, hunting, or farming? Also, who will be using the vehicle? Do you need seating for more than one person? Perhaps you need a vehicle that is capable of hauling up to 6 passengers. The number of passengers and rider age will play an important roll in deciding on the bike that is right for you or your family. If you are looking for something the kids can ride, check out the available youth model vehicles. Pay attention to the physical size of the machine as well as age restrictions, as these will play an important roll in determining the vehicle for your child. Youth model engine sizes typically range from 50cc up to 200cc, and physical sizes vary tremendously on these models. It is important to note that SVIA training courses are offered to develop rider skill and safety. Contact your dealer for more information. As technological advances continue to improve ATV/UTV performance, the difference between a sport and a utility vehicle is dwindling. For example, the Polaris Sportsman is considered by most to be a utility vehicle. Polaris offers the Sportsman in sizes from 400cc to 850cc, and horsepower ranges from 29 to 77. All Sportsman models have utility racks, all wheel drive, and towing capabilities making them a utility style vehicle; however, modern technology has given some Sportsman


models enough horsepower, speed, and handling to also be considered a sport vehicle. The broad variety of sizes and power make any Sportsman model great for recreational riding, working or hunting. The UTV is different from an ATV in that it has seating for two or more, side-by-side. The UTV (Side-by-Side) market has developed into a massive portion of the off-road industry. Pay attention to the number of seats available. Polaris, for example, offers a Ranger with seating for two, three, four, or six. Most UTV’s have some sort of bed or box in the rear of the vehicle, and are commonly used by farmers, work crews, or hunters. If you are a


hunter, I would highly recommend that you look into the Polaris Ranger because of its 1,000lb bed capacity, 12 inches of ground clearance, and versatile functionality. Engine sizes have the largest range in the UTV category, so be sure you get the right size for you. Don’t be fooled by the term “utility” because some models in this class can reach speeds up to 70mph. Perhaps the most recently developed vehicle market in the off road industry is the Sport UTV. These side-by-side vehicles are built for performance riding with responsive handling, high horsepower engines and extreme suspension designs. For example, the

Polaris RZR XP is the newest and most high performing UTV. The RZR XP is built for “sport” trail riding, but don’t expect to use it for much other than riding. This category of vehicle is typically designed with riding performance in mind and does not offer many towing or hauling options. Again, deciding the vehicle that is right for you is largely dependent on what you will use it for. When trying to choose the vehicle that’s right for you, the best advice is to go talk to your local dealer. There are so many vehicle types and options available, it may help to ask for advice from someone in the industry.



earching for a pediatrician for your beloved children is one of the most important searches you will make in your lifetime. You may need a pediatrician to care for your newborn, or you may need to find a doctor after moving to a new town. Whatever the reason, the best thing to do is ask others for recommendations. Ask your friends, your family, your co-workers – anyone who has small children will have an opinion on who is the most congenial, the most caring, the most compassionate pediatrician in town. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, pediatricians are trained to: * Help you determine healthy lifestyles for your child and useful ways to role model your choices. * Offer advice to prevent illness and injuries. * Provide early and appropriate care of acute illness to prevent its progression. * Treat life-threatening childhood conditions requiring intensive care. * Guide you in anticipating your child’s needs from newborn to 21. If you are looking for someone to care for your newborn, start your search while you are pregnant. Give yourself time to research the options in your area before the baby arrives. You can even ask your obstetrician to suggest names of good pediatricians. Other good sources for recommendations might be your childcare provider, if your child will be attending a day care or nursery, or the children’s minister at your local church. These folks come into contact with parents and children on a daily basis and normally have their ears and eyes open for information. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests visiting with the pediatricians you are considering. Both parents should attend the interviews and take notes, if necessary. Question


topics can range from billing matters to how the doctor handles emergency calls. Other recommended questions from the American Academy of Pediatrics include “how soon after birth will my baby need to visit,” “are you available by phone and e-mail,” and “who is your backup pediatrician when you are on vacation.” If you choose a clinic with multiple doctors, ask if your child will see the same doctor each time or will it vary upon the doctor’s availability. Also check to see if the pediatrician is certified at the nearest local hospital, and ask where you child would be hospitalized in case of serious illness. Some insurance companies have an approved network of physicians, so you might be required to choose from this


list – check early on with your insurance agent. If you have moved to a new town and don’t know many people, you can still ask questions in order to choose the best pediatrician. Hospitals and medical societies will have lists of pediatricians. And don’t feel ashamed to ask your new neighbors who have children – most parents are glad to share their knowledge in order to keep children happy and healthy. You can also ask your child’s former pediatrician for recommendations. Be diligent in your search for a pediatrician by looking at the credentials of those contending for the job. Pediatricians can be certified with the

American Academy of Pediatrics after extensive training, in addition to earning their medical degree at a reputable university. Most importantly, make sure that you feel comfortable with the pediatrician. Does he or she talk to you with words you can understand rather than medical “initials”? Does the doctor seem to be compassionate about caring for those who are ill, no matter the age? If you choose the best pediatrician for your child, he or she will have a friend and advocate for many years to come. By taking your initial search seriously, you can help shape your child’s life in a positive fashion from his or her first days.


Important Things You Should Know... • There are medical and surgical options to repair sinus problems. • Allergies may be the cause of chronic sinus problems. • Customized treatments are available for allergy sufferers.

• Snoring is not funny; it could be a sign of a serious medical problem. • Hearing loss is not something you have to live with, it is treatable.

Sinus problems inuses are air spaces in the bones around your nose and eyes. The sinuses make your skull weigh less and improve the sound of your voice. They also make mucus, a fluid that helps warm and moisturize the air that you breathe. Hair cells called cilia, in the sinuses continually sweep the mucus from the sinuses into the nose. Anything that block the sinus openings or keeps the cilia from moving can cause a sinus infection or acute sinusitis. Allergies, colds, pollution, cigarette smoke, and even hormone changes with pregnancy are among some things that can contribute to these problems. A professional ear, nose, and throat physician can provide outpatient solutions to sinus problems. Antibiotics, antihistamines, and decongestants are often used to help alleviate sinus problems. Irrigation of the nasal cavity with a saline solution has also been shown to be quite helpful. However, there are sinus infections that are resistant to medical management. In these cases, endoscopic sinus surgery can be used to reestablish the normal drainage pattern of the sinuses and relieve the infections. There is now even a method of dilating the sinus opening with a balloon much like the technique used to open clogged arteries in the heart. These offer much less discomfort and recovery time than methods used in the past.



Allergy care If you spend a lot of your time sneezing, draining, and congested, or your child has chronic cold, allergies could be the culprit. An ear, nose, and throat physician trained in allergy management is able to diagnose and treat upper respiratory tract problems caused by allergies. Because this physician is also an ENT surgeon and specialist, other non-allergic causes of upper respiratory tract problems can be diagnosed and treated. Medications and even allergy proofing one’s home may be helpful in treating allergies. When needed, testing using the Immunocap blood 46 • LOG CABIN DEMOCRAT | HOW-TO GUIDE 2013

test can be used to determine the specific offending allergen and tailor immunotherapy either as allergy shots or sublingual drops for treatment. Comprehensive allergy management can often provide lasting relief for allergy problems. Snoring problems Snoring starts when your breathing causes the soft palate to vibrate excessively. Snoring is sometimes a symptom of a more severe problem known as sleep apnea. An ENT physician can treat the soft palate with an outpatient and even in office procedure that can often resolve the problem of snoring. With sleep apnea, the airway becomes obstructed repeatedly during the night. These obstructions may range in duration of a few seconds up to a minute or longer. During these episodes the blood oxygen level can fall to dangerously low levels. This condition markedly increases the risk for heart attacks, strokes, and even car accidents. Diagnosing sleep apnea requires an overnight sleep study. Relief can be achieved using a small mask and machine to help one breathe at night or even surgery to re-

move obstructing tissue from the airway. Hearing health Because the health of your ears plays a vital role in how you experience the world, you need someone who can properly identify your hearing problems and provide sound solutions. Your medical professional can treat ear infections, perforated ear drums, and hearing loss. A trained audiologist is also available to treat problems with sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus. Hearing loss associated with aging and noise exposure is a treatable condition using state of the art, digital, programmable hearing aids. The newest generation of hearing aids provides exceptional sound quality and comfort unlike older technology. Head and Neck Surgery Other doctors often refer patients to an ENT professional. ENT physicians are trained to treat problems with tumors or masses in the head and neck, thyroid disease and tumors, hoarseness, swallowing issues, and salivary gland problems.


Important Things You Should Know... • Find out what retirement communities are located in the area where you or your relative(s) prefer to live. • Interview key staff, including marketing, dietary, housekeeping, security and transportation managers and directors, to name a few. • Tour the property to assess the living conditions, safety features and handicap accessibility. • Become informed about services, amenities and continuum of care. • Communicate with the residents, their families and friends. Plan an overnight stay at the facility.



he first thing is to find out what retirement communities are located in the area where you or your relative(s) prefer to live. The weather is an important factor and the proximity to hospitals, doctors, pharmacies, retail malls/stores is important. It is a good idea to ride around to the various retirement communities to get your first impression of the appearance, architecture and location. Once you know which retirement communities are to be considered, check the telephone yellow pages and contact the local Chamber of Commerce to inquire about which retirement communities are members. The more established ones will be listed in the yellow pages and the Chamber of Commerce directory. It is also good to check the internet web site of each area retirement community. The web site will provide key information about the services that are offered and the accommodations. Other pertinent information may be obtained from the Department of Human Resources Licensing and Survey reports. This information may be obtained via the Internet, at the local Department of Human Resources or at any retirement community that has a licensed nursing wing or assisted living unit. The Dunn and Bradstreet Financial rating, the State Nursing Home Association, The Better Business Bureau and Long-term-Care Ombudsman are four additional agencies where retirement community stability and historical information may be obtained. Interview with Key Staff Call for an appointment and meet the staff; each retirement community is run by an executive director and managers of multiple departments. These include nursing, marketing, dietary, housekeeping, laundry, social services, recreational activities, maintenance of the physical plant and the grounds, security, business and transportation. Make an appointment with the director of marketing or the admissions coordinator. The marketing director/admissions coordinator will explain about the history and ownership of the property, the age, permits and licenses and will provide you with brochures and price lists. The marketing director will show you around the property and introduce you to


the staff and management who will answer any questions you may have. It is important to assess the length of employment of the executive director and key managers, their educational credentials, experience and licenses. A strong retirement community staff is knowledgeable in the areas of geriatrics, the aging process, Medicare, rehabilitation, and all long term care issues. Tour Property and Accommodations A tour of the retirement community is imperative to assess the types and sizes of cottages, apartments and rooms associated with each level of care. Safety features, emergency response equipment and handicap access ability are important features of the tour. The tour allows a potential resident to evaluate the size or space needed for their furnishings, the closets and storage space. The cleanliness and maintenance or upkeep of the property may also be assessed on the tour. Staff-resident interaction, social activities and residents’ appearances may also be observed. Become Informed About Services, Amenities and Continuum of Care During the initial and follow-up interviews and tour, it is vital to be informed about the amenities, services and levels of care that are provided and included in the admission contract. It is imperative that a potential resident be advised about whether the retirement community is a buy-in or lease arrangement, the price, refund policy, pet policy, etc. All amenities such as meals, housekeeping and laundry/ linen service, telephone, cable television, transportation and social activities should be explained. A full service, multi-level continuum of care retirement community offers levels of care that range from independent living in cottages and apartments, to assisted living or personal care to skilled nursing care. It is preferable to move into a retirement community where a resident may “age in place” and not have to relocate to another property or facility if they should have changes in their condition or require personal assistance or nursing care. The social or recreational activity program should be assessed when making the decision about your future lifestyle.

An activities or social calendar should be available for you to study. A varied program of activities offering mental or sensory stimulating activities, physical activities and cultural entertainment should be included so that a resident has multiple daily options and may be as active as they choose to be. Examples of popular activities include bridge and other card games, movies, bingo, aerobic exercise classes, exercise equipment for individual or group use, birthday parties, special theme parties and seasonal or holiday celebrations. Also, outings with provided transportation that include tours of the area, lunches at local restaurants and trips to cultural events should be included in the social calendar. Arts and crafts classes should be available for those who enjoy creative pursuits. A transportation program should be provided to assure transportation to doctor’s appointments and other essential pickups, deliveries or personal transportation to shop, obtain medications and other essentials since many senior citizens choose to stop driving. An established retirement community will have available vehicles that include cars, vans and/or a bus for individual and group transportation. The safety or security of a retirement community should also be assessed since this is a primary reason to leave one’s personal home. Twenty-four hour security is preferable and a gated community is a comforting asset. Communicate with Residents, Families and Physicians Another key way to assess that a retirement community is reputable and stable operationally is to communicate with the residents, their families and friends. Ask pertinent questions about the staff, services, amenities and day-to-day operations and activities. Also, ask your personal physician about local retirement communities, and which ones they recommend for their loved ones and their patients. Also, inquire about the possibility of an overnight visit that includes a few meals and social activities to see if a certain retirement community is a good fit for you. Inquire about the length of stay for most residents and this will give you a good idea about the care and morale of the resident population.


Important Things You Should Know...

• Newspapers reach the majority of adults daily and on Sundays. • Higher-income-earning adults are more avid newspaper readers. • People with higher education are more likely to read newspapers. • People in higher-responsibility professional positions read newspapers more frequently than the average person. • Newspaper advertising can be targeted by section -- and reader. • Newspaper advertising can target specific geographic locations. • You can select advertising alternatives from preprint inserts to full- or partial-page ads. • With short deadlines, newspaper advertising can be tailored for immediacy. • Newspapers are portable and convenient. • Newspaper advertising builds business credibility and momentum.



argeting customers in a media-fragmented marketplace is a continual challenge for many advertisers. The abundance of advertising sources has overwhelmed and divided consumer attention. This means media planners and buyers need the right tools to help them decide on the best allocation of advertising dollars. As advertisers strive for an effective media mix, they should know there is one medium that can deliver strength to advertising and marketing strategies. The newspaper continues to be a powerful medium for reaching shoppers in the market for a broad range of products and services. It is a portable and convenient source of advertising information — helping consumers decide where to shop and what to buy. The newspaper delivers customers unlike any other medium each and every day, reaching an array of traditional and emerging markets with unsurpassed advertising impact. Universal coverage, utility and power are the driving forces behind newspapers. And that is why they add value for advertisers! Newspapers offer advertisers alternatives to reach customers — new and potential — with effective messages for long-term awareness or immediate call-to-action responses. Whether it’s a preprint insert or run-of-paper (ROP) advertising adjacent to select editorial content, newspapers deliver the right message to the right people at the right time. If we combine frequency measures for ROP and newspaper preprints, we have 90 percent of adults who use one or the other or in combination — a powerful pairing. Opportunities in Newspapers ROP: Run of Press advertising means an ad placed on the pages of a newspaper. This best-known newspaper advertising option offers short


deadlines and proximity of editorial that enhances visibility. Preprints: Preprinted inserts offer advertisers the flexibility and control of creating and printing advertising that the newspaper distributes. Commercial Printing: Newspapers offer customers who need major printing the opportunity and cost efficiency of using their presses to print catalogs, inserts and other commercial print needs. Niche products/special sections: Newspapers offer a myriad of opportunities where a special marketplace is created to help in targeting an advertiser’s best prospects. These products may be inserted into the newspaper or may be distributed in other ways needed to best attract the niche audience. Highlights The compelling facts below underscore the strength of newspapers:

• The majority of adults (57 percent) read a newspaper on an average weekday. • About half of all adults read a newspaper on an average Sunday. • More than six out of 10 adults (64 percent) read a daily newspaper in the past five days. • About three-quarters of adults read a Sunday newspaper in the past month. • Newspaper usage is strong among emerging markets — teens and Hispanics. • Customers for many products and services are also the heaviest newspaper readers. • The newspaper provides advertisers with unique targeting opportunities. • The newspaper is the most-used advertising source for various store categories. • Newspaper Web sites are highly rated for being useful and informative.



ou probably think you only use insurance when you file a claim, but you’re wrong. We’ll go into why you’re wrong in a moment and show you why that misconception has made shopping for insurance needlessly unpleasant all these years. But first, let’s take three common situations: Lee was proud of his home, though it might have seemed simple to many folks. It gave him a good feeling to sit before the fire in the living room some times after his son and wife went to bed, just reflecting on how lucky he was. He’d had some tough times in his career and seemed to be finally getting ahead when his employer closed its doors. The time it took to get a new job had drained his savings and forced him to sell his truck for something more affordable, but he had kept his head above water somehow. One night, he pulled the screen across the fireplace as he always did -- a habit formed when he was a volunteer firefighter before he married. He climbed the stairs and slid into bed next to Linda. By the time the smoke alarm woke him, Lee only had time to get everyone out of the house and see the log that had rolled out of the fireplace before the smoke grew too thick. Of all the fires he had helped extinguish, how sad that he couldn’t save his own home. If not for the insurance check, he would have never been able to rebuild. Richard wasn’t a health nut, only a rabid tennis player who liked to hike with his sons’ scout troop. He stayed in good shape, though, and made a good pair with his wife, the prettiest woman among any of their friends and a popular teacher at her elementary school. Like most families, there was a mortgage, car payments and balances on several credit cards that Richard repeatedly vowed to pay down. Though he had a growing law practice, Richard could see how rewarding it could become with just a few more years of hard work. When he told his tennis partner his head hurt and he needed to sit for a moment, no one could have guessed Richard would die on the bench of a heart attack at age 41. Without



his life insurance, neither boy would have ever made it through law school to follow in Richard’s footsteps. Marty was divorced with a teen-aged daughter and a 10-year-old son with a learning disability. Money had been tight with only one breadwinner, and savings for college just hadn’t grown as fast as the kids did. A technical job in a medical lab produced a comfortable living, if not lavish. That is, it did until a tingling in Marty’s legs over a few weeks led to a doctor’s diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s Disease at age 38. Within six months, Marty was in a wheelchair. In another four months, the disability prevented any meaningful work, and suddenly the family had no paycheck. If not for disability insurance, Marty and the kids could not have survived. These true stories aren’t meant to sermonize, though they do illustrate three of the most critical needs for protection. Instead, they’re intended to demonstrate the role of insurance. Marty, Richard and Lee’s families didn’t just benefit from their insurance when they got a payoff check. They benefited everyday they were protected. If Marty, Richard and Lee had had to save enough money to replace their incomes or homes on their own, they would have never had any money left over for anything else, let alone trips with the kids, a nice car or even an occasional meal out. A manageable premium paid to their insurance companies allowed them to devote the rest of their money to other uses. Obviously, our first responsibilities are providing food, clothing and shelter for ourselves and loved ones who depend on us. Every moment you purchase that protection from an insurance company frees you to thrust your energy into other pursuits. Finding an agency that looks at insurance the way you do As long as insurance companies have paid commissions to agents, there have been a few bad apples motivated to sell what has the biggest commission rather than what makes sense for the customer. You’re right to instinc-

tively want to avoid these guys who don’t have your best interests at heart. You can avoid them by finding agencies focused on more than the next commission check. Smart agents recognize that they’ll be more prosperous in the long run by giving good enough service today to keep their clients coming back and referring their friends. Look for an agency that asks about your needs and goals rather than talking immediately about insurance products. An agency should share its know-how as a consultant of sorts to analyze your risks and design a program to manage them. You should ask what experience and professional training the agency’s staff has beyond the legally required continuing education. Professional designations such as charteredlife underwriter, certified financial planner demonstrate a commitment to comprehensive risk management beyond merely pushing the same products at every potential customer. That means that the agency should have a range of products so that the right option is available for your individual circumstances instead of having to convince everyone into buying the same solution. Professional agents tend to have professional outside associates, lawyers, accountants and appraisers, who round out their team. They are comfortable working with other professionals and aren’t afraid to refer clients to them. So shy away from an agent who can’t give you the names of professionals he or she has worked with. Finally, you want an agency that will be there in case you do have to file a claim. Purchasing coverage online or over the phone isn’t much of a bargain if no one is there to go to bat for you or to help you manage the proceeds during the recovery period. Stability and longevity are vital when it comes to longterm services like insurance protection. As you change your understanding of protection to something you benefit from daily, you can see how important it is to work with a professional agency. You wouldn’t pick your physician because of a flyer stuck under your windshield or an online ad. So, use the same care in selecting your insurance professional.



f your view on the world has become a little bit fuzzy, it might be time to make a visit to an eye doctor to make the future come into sharper focus. For children, eye exams that are performed routinely in many school districts can alert a parent to potential problems and encourage a visit to an eye doctor. Adults, however, are less likely to realize there is a problem until their vision becomes blurred. When it’s apparent that an eye care visit is necessary, where does one turn? One of the best ways to choose an optometrist is by asking your friends and family for recommendations. They can give you names of professionals in your community that have provided good – or bad -- service. Many people can find a health professional by checking inside their church membership, country club membership or social organization. You may also contact your state’s medical board to obtain more information about particular doctors. An important person to ask for references would be your family physician or general practice doctor. This doctor will have contacts in all specialty areas and will be able to steer you in the right direction to someone who can treat you specific eye needs. When selecting an eye doctor, you should be as diligent as you were when selecting your physician or dentist. All doctors have certifications in their specialty, so be sure to verify the education level of any prospective optometrists. Optometrists will have an OD – doctor of optometry – degree that was obtained after four years of specialty study. When you have narrowed down your search to a few optometrists, begin looking at their particular practice. Have they been in your town for many years or are they new to the area? Have they practiced for many years or just starting out on their own? There can be pros and cons to all of


these areas. Many times, established optometrists are not accepting new patients, but newly practicing doctors would love to have a new client. Also, doctors who have just graduated from college may have the upper hand in knowledge of new treatments, but older doctors will have experience in how to run a clinic. If possible, meet the optometrist before you commit to his or her services and make sure you can get along well and that you feel comfortable in their clinic.


On a more practical matter, check out the cost of services at each clinic under consideration. Make sure that your insurance is accepted and ask if they will file the insurance or if you will need to pay everything up front and then file on your own. In your decision-making process, look forward to after your exam. If it is determined that you need to wear glasses or contacts, will you have to go elsewhere to purchase frames and lenses or is there an on-site lab? If

there is an on-site lab, are the employees certified opticians? Convenience outweighs cost for some folks, while for other saving money can make the difference in whether or not they are able to afford good eye care. Overall, when choosing an optometrist, make sure you ask questions about credentials; find someone with whom you feel comfortable; and determine if the cost of this important health care factor is in your budget. The future will be much more clear.

How to Guide 2013  

How to Guide 2013