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Log Cabin Democrat’s

SUNDAY, JANUARY 24 www.thecabin.net/howto


 — Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

banking

How to The Top Five Things You Should Know...

•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 will give you the option to bank online or receive statements by e-mail. • Customer Service may be important to you that a person locally can handle a problem for you. Some customers don’t like calling 1-800 numbers for customer service or bookkeeping. • Select a bank based on the type of checking 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. •Choose a bank that offers loans with 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.

See our ad on the back page.

S

Choose a community bank

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.


Log Cabin Democrat • Find our online edition at www.thecabin.net/howto

How to Guide • Sunday, Jan. 4, 010— 3

Table of Contents How to choose a community bank ...........page 2 How to choose a mortgage lender ............page 4 How to choose a wrecker service ............page 8 How to choose a collision-repair shop ....page 10 How to choose a new car ..........................page 12 How to choose a recreational vehicle .....page 14 How to choose a used car ...........................page 16 How to choose a retirement community. page 18 How to choose a college..............................page 20 How to pre-plan your funeral ....................page 22 A Morris Communications Co. product. Published at 1058 Front St., P.O. Box 969, Conway, Ark., 72033, by the Log Cabin Democrat Inc. a division of Morris Communications Corp.

Rick Fahr • Publisher Waylon Harris • Managing Editor Cynthia Crabb • Business Manager Nick Stahl • Online Services Director

Rhonda Overbey • Retail Sales Manager Amanda McAnulty • Circulation/Marketing Director Ronnie Mitchell • Press/Distribution Manager

Member of the Associated Press. The Associated Press is entitled exclusively to the use of the republication of all the local news printed in this publication as well as all AP news dispatches.


 — Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

finance

How to The Top Five Things You Should Know...

• Check with a mortgage professional before starting a house search so you know what you can afford. •Check options to find what special loans you may qualifiy for. •Examine all costs that are involved with buying a home. •Review your credit report for any inaccuracies and to explain any negative information to lenders. •Be prepared for the closing process by talking in depth with the lender about what is needed for closing.

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Choose a mortgage lender What to do before shopping for a house

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 of the loaned amount, lenders can require private mortgage insurance. The home buyer purchases this to protect the lender in case of default. Determine how much the insurance costs, how much your monthly house payment will be with the insurance and how long you will be required to carry the insurance. 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. As of February 1st, 2003, the First time Homebuyer fixed rate was 4.95%. 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. As part of your search for a mortgage lender, ask if they will offer you a written “lock-in.” This may require the payment of yet another fee 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 appli-

cant’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 Before looking for a mortgage and a lender, check your credit report. If you mortgage has accurate but negative information, be sure to explain the reasons for that to your lender or broker. Credit problems may cause you to pay more than other borrowers, so ask how your credit history influences the price of your loan. You may be able to improve your rating, but in order to do so, you have to know the problem. For anyone, the Federal Housing Administration recommends reviewing your credit report for accuracy and completeness before you start your mortgage search. To order a copy of your report, call Equifax at (800) 685-1111, TransUnion at (800) 916-8800 or Experian at (800) 682-7654. 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.


IT PAYS TO FIND YOUR DREAM HOME At Centennial, we’ll help you make it all come true. Apply for a mortgage from us and you’ll get the personal service you want from one of the strongest banks in the nation. Plus, the government has extended its $8,000 tax credit for first-time buyers until April 30 and added a $6,500 credit for existing homeowners. Call one of our mortgage lenders today at 501-328-HOME to get started and see if you qualify. This isn’t a dream. Close your mortgage with Centennial and get a $200 Visa gift card to help you move.

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 — Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

Automotive

How to The Top Five 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 further damaged in the process.

T

Choose a wrecker service Knowing about towing saves money

owing is a 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 out 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.


Voted #1 Wrecker Service by Log Cabin Readers for the 5th Consecutive Year!


10 — Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

AutoMotive

How to The Top Five Things You Should Know...

• Realize how much damage a minor accident can cause. • Be sure to contact your insurance company. • Make sure you select a qualified collision-repair shop. • Be aware that not all damage is visible. • Ask friends and relatives for a referral.

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Choose a collision-repair shop Be ready on the day an accident does occur

o one wants to think about auto accidents. However, chances are that, if you drive a vehicle, you will be in an auto accident sometime in your life. Because of this knowledge, it is important that car owners be aware of all of the repercussions of an accident. One of these repercussions is damage to one’s car, and this entails choosing a collision repair shop to restore it to its pre-accident condition in terms of safety and appearance. This can be a confusing process for the consumer, especially for first-time accidents. Thousands of dollars can be saved by making educated and informed decisions about which repair services center to choose. Be prepared The first step in making educated decisions is to be prepared. Before ever having to think about repairing your car in the event of an accident, be a safe, defensive driver. As a careful consumer, there are some things you can do which may help you to avoid or minimize injury and loss. Firstly, never drink and drive and obey traffic laws. Perform regular maintenance on your vehicle to diminish costs of repairs in the event of an accident. Drive defensively by being aware of weather conditions and other motorists. Finally, obtain adequate insurance coverage through a reputable agent and read and understand your policy. Post-accident, contact your insurance company for damage assessment and a list of local qualified shops. The insurance company will give you an estimate for the amount of damages. However, it is important to remember that it is your vehicle, and always your choice as to where you go for repairs and what repairs are made. An estimate, or damage report as it is sometimes called, is based on the damage that’s visible. If you are shopping for price by obtaining several estimates, remember that price is not the only consideration. Anyone, either a shop estimator or an insurance appraiser, can write a lower estimate or charge a lower price simply by leaving something out. Your primary concern should be selecting a shop qualified to restore the safety, function, appearance and value of your car. Also, additional damage is sometimes found after a repair is started, and the actual cost to repair may be higher than the initial estimate. Any additional repairs necessary to truly restore your car to pre-accident condition should also be included in your insurance claim, and a supplement may be needed. Choose a shop which will repair your car correctly and follow up the initial estimate with a supplement to the insurance company if needed. Licensing, certification is important In most states, body shops must be licensed by the state. But licensing alone does not make a shop qualified to restore the safety, function, appearance and value of your car to pre-accident condition. You must consider certain factors in selecting a shop qualified to restore your car to its original condition. Look for certificates displayed and ask questions to be sure technicians have received advanced training and certifications from organizations such as I-CAR (The Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair) and ASE (The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence), or from car manufacturers. Proper structural repairs are essential to maintain the safety of your car. For this, special equipment and repair methods are necessary. Proper wheel alignment for safe handling and normal tire wear also depends on correct structural alignment. Look for a three dimensional unibody measuring system, and a unibody and frame straightening system. With the right equipment,

training, and skills, technicians can identify hidden structural damage that might not otherwise be detected, and proper repairs can be made. Ask what type of paint system the shop uses, what type of warranty is provided and to see a copy of the warranty. To maintain the appearance and value of your car, the color, texture, gloss, and durability of the factory paint finish must be duplicated. Pay attention to the details Proper restoration of your car to pre-accident condition involves far more than structural repairs and painting, however. Air conditioning systems are charged with pressurized refrigerants which require highly specialized equipment for servicing. Safety systems such as air bags and anti-lock brakes can be damaged by improper repair methods. Mechanical components which used to be very simple are now electronically controlled. Be sure the shop you select is prepared to handle these more complex repairs. Finally, one of the most important factors in finding a good collision repair shop is simply to ask around. The vast majority of the typical collision repair shop’s business comes from repeat and referral business from past customers. Ask friends and relatives for recommendations on shops that have performed quality work for them in the past. Also, check for signs of participation in advanced technician training such as ICAR certification.


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12 — Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

Automotive

How to The Top Five Things You Should Know...

• Determine your wants and needs before going to a lot. • After you pick your brand, visit a local dealership. • Determine your insurance costs before purchasing a vehicle. • Tour the service department. • Buy the vehicle that fits your personality.

Choose a new car Doing your homework pays off

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ext to a home, a car is one of the larger items you will purchase. So, before you step foot on a car lot, take out a blank piece of paper and a pencil and determine your needs.

Draw a vertical line down the page from top to bottom -about two inches from the right edge. Inside that two-inch, right-side margin, vertically list these vehicle categories: a. Sub/compact b. Family sedan or station wagon c. Sports car - sedan/coupe/convertible d. Minivan e. Sport utility vehicle f. Pickup truck g. Full-size van or conversion van h. Luxury sedan Next: On the left side of that vertical line, write down your answers to the following five questions: � How many miles a year do I think I’m going to put on this vehicle? (eg. 15,000 miles/year.) � How much time, on average, per day, will you be spending in the vehicle? (Eg. three hours) � What type of driving will the vehicle be used for? (Eg. 60 percent city, 30 percent highway, 10 percent off-road.) � Write down the budget numbers you came up with. (Eg. $5,000 down, with a max of $350 per month over three years.) � Write down all the reasons that you want and need

this vehicle. The longer the list, the better. Use the following as a guideline for your potential choices: commute to and from work, carpooling, vacations, daily errands, etc. Now underline the most important points. Then, cross out vehicle groups that don’t fit your vehicle use profile. In other words, if one of your key uses is carpooling the kids then cross out “sports coupes” because these vehicles are designed as two-seaters. This elimination process is very effective in helping match a vehicle group to our needs. Insurance

One preparation many consumers fail to perform is the inevitable insurance question. As with loans, a great place to start is with someone you already know -- your current agent. Give him or her the exact listing of the vehicle you are planning to purchase, so that you can be given a quote on just what your insurance costs will be. Let your agent know your trade-in plans. In that way, you’re providing information on the number of vehicles you own. Question the agent directly on discounts. You may be able to receive discounts based on the trade organization to which you belong, and you may be able to shave off a few dollars from your theft portion if you purchase an alarm system. At this point you’ve prepared and you know all the particulars and you’re in the driver’s seat. You’ve done your homework and you’re ready to make your decision.


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14 — Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

Leisure

How to The Top Five Things You Should Know...

• Identify your family’s personal space and activity needs and find an RV type that can accommodate these. • Understand the differences in recreational vehicles • Establish a budget prior to starting your search so you’ll have a clear price range in mind. • Find out if the vehicle comes with a warranty and if so, what it covers and for how long. • Don’t forget to factor in fuel and insurance costs.

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Choose a recreational vehicle Take your home on the road

hen you’re ready to give up the expense of hotel rooms or the confines of tents and take your road trips from now on in an RV, there are a few things to think about. Before rushing to the dealership, take a little family survey first. Determine what you really need and want. There is a wide variety of recreational vehicles to chose from -- pop-up trailers to 40-foot motor coaches and lots in between. Each is ideal for someone’s family, but which is perfect for yours? Begin by deciding where you’ll go most of the time. Will you stay in camping resorts with full hookups and wide pull-through spaces or will you need larger freshwater and septic holding tanks for remote campsites or the RV lot at the football stadium? Then start counting beds. Young children may enjoy a sleeping bag on the floor, but older kids want a bed where they can stretch out. If they bring friends along on trips, the adventures multiply, but so do the number of beds. Perhaps you’re expecting another visit from the stork one day. That might make it a good idea to buy a camper with extra space or to get one with a high resale value so you can trade in for a bigger model after the blessed event. Next, consider basics like whether you’d be eating out, grilling or cooking in your RV kitchen. Skip the kitchen if you think you’d never use it, but be honest with yourself. Your favorite vacation activities should also factor into your plans. Some folks want to unwind around a camp fire while others prefer a little satellite TV in the air conditioning. Towing a fishing boat, car for sightseeing or even a rack full of bicycles all place different demands on the RV you’ll ultimately buy. By now, you should have an idea of whether you’re looking at a trailer or a motor home. Naturally, a trailer will require a vehicle to pull it. A separate vehicle could come in handy on vacations for trips to the store or other excursions. And if you have need of a truck, SUV or van when you’re back home, buying a trailer could save the expense of a power plant. On the other hand, many vacationers don’t want a separate pull vehicle, and they enjoy being able to relax, cook lunch or watch a DVD in the back of the RV while it’s rolling down the road. A motor home may also be more convenient for going to college football games or other events where pull-through spaces aren’t available. The next order of business is learning how to shop. A camping and RV show can be a good way to see a lot of models and talk to company representatives who are in town for the event. Plus, sometimes buying at a show can save you a delivery charge or dealer-prep costs since the dealer has absorbed those to get ready for the occasion. Before picking options, like satellite antennas and washing machines, you should consider what type of engine to get -- gasoline or diesel. A gas engine may give you quicker pick up, but it can’t beat the durability and hauling capacity of a diesel. Plus, diesels hold their value longer, though they cost a little

more up front. An RV is a home and a vehicle. So you need to think about the features of each when you shop. While location is a key factor for traditional home buying, obviously that’s not the case with a residence you can take anywhere. Other factors, though, are similar: The reputation of the manufacturer, the quality of construction, and the layout and design. Only you can tell if the design appeals to you, but think about how well it will wear and stand up over the years. Will dings stand out or a little road dust make it look like an abandoned relic? When you consider the layout, remember the tradeoffs necessary in any design. Floor space impacts storage space. Storage impacts weight which impacts fuel mileage. Everything impacts cost. Just the construction soundness by looking and touching. Open cabinet doors and drawers to see what they’re made of, how they’re held together and what’s behind them. Solid mahogany paneling and inlaid marble may describe quality in a conventional home, but they add weight to a mobile one. So, don’t simply assess quality by the same materials you would expect in a house. Everything should fit together and hold together through thousands of miles of road bumps and potholes. At the same time, you need to think about buying a vehicle. The reputation of the dealer and professionalism of the staff are as important with an RV as with any other vehicle. And the value of the deal and financing are also important. After the sale is just as important, for maintenance, repairs and extras like driving lessons in your new land yacht. Stick your head below to check out the chassis. Look at the engine. Listen to see how loud it is. See how accessible things are, like oil filters and air filters and other aspects of routine maintenance. Ask about the gross vehicle weight rating, how much the vehicle can handle fully loaded with tanks topped off. Then subtract the unloaded vehicle weight to determine the net carrying capacity. This will tell you how much stuff you can pack. Don’t forget that water alone weighs 8.35 pounds per gallon, meaning 30 gallons of water and gray water add another 250 pounds before you add food, clothing or passengers. Finally, don’t overlook insurance. Generally, an RV policy is going to provide better coverage than an automobile policy. A good dealer or Internet search should be able to provide a list of agents who specialize in RV coverage which would include road hazards as well as a stolen TV set. Owners of RVs often enjoy family togetherness and a renewed sense of adventure, just like the commercials show. And they find themselves making new friends as they travel in ways that just don’t seem to happen when traveling by car or plane.


16 — Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

Automotive

How to The Top Five Things You Should Know...

• Pick a local dealership; this will give you several consumer-driven options. • Tour the service department. Meet the people you will be dealing with. • Check that the vehicle has a warranty that meets your needs. • Choose your vehicle wisely. Stay within your budget. • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

C

Choose a a used car Stick with local dealerships

onsider all the options when looking at pre-owned autos.

From the first vehicles that came off the assembly line, to the ones that were born yesterday, there has been the age old question...new or used? I found at one newspaper they had original publications from 1921 with a dealer wanting you to trade your old motor car for their new one. Certainly one could make a case for both, but the real question is “which one will be the best investment for me?”. First things first, there are several reasons why you might choose the pre-owned vehicle market, and the biggest reason might be cost. Many times, a new car will have a large rebate to bring the price of the car way down, but a new automobile loses value as soon at leaves the lot. Often times you can purchase a pre-owned automobile of the same year with low miles for significantly less money. Another very important thing to think about is a warranty. Most buyers know that new car warranties are great things to have. Buyers should no longer assume that buying a pre-owned automobile means buying it ‘as is’. Upon research, buyers will find that many pre-owned vehicles have a large portion of the original manufacturers’ warranty still in effect, and many automobiles come with an extended warranty.

You may also consider the automobile dealer’s certification process. Many dealers certify their vehicles and put the autos through an extensive inspection process, whereby the vehicle is ‘certified’ by the dealer or manufacturer. In the end, you might walk out with more warranty than you expected. When you decide it’s time to search for your next vehicle, explore your options and choose a solid reputable dealer with a complete service department, a full financing department, and quality dependable pre-owned vehicles. There are many local honest dealers who want to earn your business and service your vehicle for years to come. Here are some tips on searching for a pre-owned dealer: • Pick a local dealer with a solid name in the community. • Check out the service department; see if they are capable of fully servicing your vehicle. Meet the service people you will be dealing with. • Ask questions. • Choose your vehicle wisely. •Make sure the dealer has financing that will accommodate your needs; try to stay close to your budget.


18 — Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

retirement

How to The Top Five 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.

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Choose a retirement community Be informed of all aspects

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-termCare 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.


20 — Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

education

How to The Top Five Things You Should Know...

• If you are an urban type, don’t select a school in an isolated rural environment or vice versa. This prolongs the time it takes to adjust to college life. • If you like a small intimate setting, selecting a university with 52,000 students is not a good idea. Focus on colleges with a small student body. •The networking connections you make in college can be more valuable than the quality of education you receive. Prestigious colleges and small, close-knit colleges generally offer the best networking and career service opportunities. Make sure to find out what you can expect from the career services office and what type of organized career networking opportunities will be provided. • Is living on campus important to you or do you want to live on your own? Some colleges have strict residential requirements where others do not have housing at all. • Make sure to ask what the college’s plans and policies are for tuition increases and check to see how often and by how much tuition has increased in the past.

C

Choose a college Getting ready for your future

hoosing a college is perhaps one of the most important decisions you will ever make. It can also be an extremely daunting task without the proper preparation. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take that can make choosing a college much less intimidating and more rewarding. Before you begin your search, it is important to remember that no single college is the best fit for everyone. The college that is right for you will not always be the biggest or most popular. Depending on your personal and career goals, you may prefer a large, four-year university or a smaller two-year school. Essentially, the best college for you is the one where you can get the education needed to succeed while feeling comfortable. Finally, it is essential that you enjoy being a part of daily campus life—taking part on campus, both in and out of the classroom, will make your journey through college much more meaningful. Begin early When thinking about choosing a college, start planning early. It takes an immense amount of time to gather the information you need, plan campus visits, apply for admission, and figure out how to pay for your education. While it might all seem like a big adventure (which it should be), you are moving into a new phase of your life and possibly moving to a whole new geographic place. It’s a good idea to begin applying to any colleges you are interested in as soon as you have your ACT or SAT scores. This way, you are sure to beat application deadlines and know which colleges have accepted you for admission early in your decision-making process. Apply to more than one school if you aren’t sure which one you want to attend. You should always leave your options open in case your first choice doesn’t work out. Sort out your interests If you’re not sure what you want to do with your life, you’re not alone. Most students don’t know what career to choose, and many change their minds while in college (sometimes more than once!) Nevertheless, it is important for you to think about what careers might appeal to you. If you are interested in a technical career field, you need to first be sure the colleges you are considering offer such degrees. Explore your interests by visiting your high school counselor’s office or by asking professionals you know about their careers, and find out what kind of education it takes to succeed in those fields. This should at least help you identify a general direction of study in sciences, humanities, or business. Narrow the search Once you have your educational goals in mind, call the colleges you are considering to request more information. Every college will be able to send you or direct you to plenty of information about the college experience they offer. Check out college web sites where you will find copious amounts of information. E-mail the admissions office staff for more information or to answer any questions. They should be eager to help you and respond quickly.

If you have a specific career goal in mind, it is important that you ask about accreditation. Every school strives to have its programs recognized by accrediting agencies. It’s their seal of approval from the professional world, showing that they offer the kinds and quality of courses you need to be successful in your journey after college. Class sizes can vary widely between colleges, so it’s an important subject to consider. Most students prefer classes that are small enough for instructors to recognize them in. Instructors are also often more able and willing to provide extra help outside of class if they have fewer students. If you think you may need tutoring or remedial courses, you should see if the colleges you are thinking about offer such services. Don’t forget about financial matters. Costs are another aspect of colleges that vary greatly. Talk with your parents about the cost of college and how much they can help, and investigate what scholarships, loans, and grants are available to help you. There are several web sites that can help you find financial aid options. Remember that the cost of college isn’t just tuition and fees. You also need to consider the costs of books, housing, and food. Many students find part-time jobs that can help them pay for college. Look and Listen After narrowing your choices to two or three colleges that seem to fit your needs, it’s time to take a first-hand look at each one of them. Contact the admissions office to find out when they offer campus tours or visitation days. You can learn more during one visit to a college’s campus than you can learn in months of researching. When you take your tour, be sure to get a feel for the atmosphere of the campus. The grounds should be attractive and most people you encounter should be friendly and helpful. It should be easy for you to know if you are seen as a stranger or an intruder by students and employees at a college. During a campus visit, don’t be afraid to take notes. Bring along a camera so you can remember what parts of each college you did and didn’t like. It’s also helpful to remember if any campus you visit is poorly designed or difficult to navigate. Write down your impressions of everything as you experience it. The college visit should give you a feel for what it would be like to attend the school, and the impressions you get could be the deciding factor between two possible colleges. If you can picture yourself as a student there when you visit a college, chances are that it will be a good fit for you. When searching for a college, remember that your time spent there should be a wonderful part of your journey to success. Use these steps to start your search with a good plan, and your college experience will be one of the most exciting and rewarding times of your life.


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22 — Sunday, Jan. 24, 2010 • How to Guide

To subscribe call (501) 329-2927 • Log Cabin Democrat

Planning ahead

How to The Top Five 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.

I

Pre-plan your funeral It may be a gift for 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 family 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 cometary 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.


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