Gunning Daily News

Keeping Pets Safe in Furr-eezing Weather

January 16, 2014 12:30 am

Frigid weather is as tough on our pets as it is on us. The simple fact is that we are cold, they are cold. That’s why veterinary experts suggest limiting the time your pets spend outdoors in the cold – and most agree that a doggie sweater is no laughing matter. They also recommend these timely tips for keeping pets safe this winter:
 

  • Give puppies some slack – Potty training can be tough on puppies, who may not want to go out in the cold and snow. A little extra attention and some forgiveness may be necessary to keep the training on track.
  • Leash and collars are necessities – Make sure collars are secure and don’t let dogs off the leash. Their scent trails are compromised in the snow, and frostbite and hypothermia can set in quickly, leaving them unable to find their way back home.
  • Watch out for frostbite – Frostbite most commonly occurs on a dog’s thin, exposed areas such as their ears, tail, scrotum, and paws. The skin may look blue or white but will appear red and inflamed when circulation comes back. The surface of the skin may peel and eventually turn black. Treat with warm (not hot) compresses on the affected areas and then seek medical care.
  • Cars can be death traps – It’s worth remembering that a cold car can be just as deadly as a hot car for a dog. Because cars can act as a refrigerator, keeping all the coldness inside, dogs left in a vehicle with no heat can easily freeze to death
  • Stay away from salt – When walking your dog, steer clear of salted sidewalks and driveways, which can irritate and even burn your pet’s paws. When you get home from a walk, be sure their paws are salt-free by wiping them off with a paper towel or a warm cloth.
  • Check on neighboring pets – When neighbors are not at home, be alert to sounds of distress from their pets, especially during freezing weather. If you notice strange dogs out on their own in your neighborhood, secure their welfare by reporting their presence to the proper authorities.

Did Your Credibility Crumble in 2013? Top 10 Credibility Repair Tips

January 16, 2014 12:30 am

Was 2013 a bad year for your credibility rating? If you’re honest, you might have to admit to a slip-up or two. (Maybe not on par with the most notorious celebrities and politicians, but bad enough!) Perhaps you were late more times than you would like to admit, you missed several deadlines, you told a few white lies to clients, and somehow you turned into one of the office’s top gossips. There may even have been a couple of bigger transgressions: like promising to increase your sales by 50 percent and then coming in way under the mark (tanking your department in the eyes of the higher-ups).

Now, you’re dealing with the fallout. You have a sneaking suspicion that your fellow employees would rather not have you on the team. Water-cooler whispers tend to stop when you arrive—and start again when you walk away. And when the time comes to suggest names for a project, yours is no longer on the short list. Is it too late to redeem yourself?

Probably not, say Julie Miller and Brian Bedford, coauthors of Culture Without Accountability—WTF? What’s the Fix? Chances are you haven’t hit the credibility point of no return just yet—but salvaging your image requires making a herculean effort to be more accountable in 2014.

“Credibility is a bit like Humpty Dumpty: easy to crack and substantially more difficult to put back together after the fact,” says Miller. “That said, restoring your credibility isn’t impossible, either, as long as you’re willing to follow a specific set of rules from now on.”

Here, Miller and Bedford share 10 rules to help you repair your credibility after it has taken a hit:

Cop to it when you screw up. It’s only human nature to make excuses when things go wrong. How often have you said, “It wasn’t my fault,” or worse, “It was his/her/their fault, not mine,” when you knew perfectly well that the blame should be placed at your feet?

It’s always best to “fess up” as soon as possible and take the heat, because as Miller and Bedford write in their book, “The truth almost always comes out, and the impact is worse than it would have been if the person had owned up to it in the first place.” Plus, points out Bedford, the way you handle your screw-ups defines the kind of person you really are. Are you credible, or are you a lying weasel?

Always do what you say you’ll do. Doesn’t it make you crazy when someone says, “I’ll get back to you tomorrow on that,” and days later you haven’t heard a word? Or, “We’ll make sure you get it on Monday,” and nothing happens?

“Don’t be that person,” instructs Miller. “If you make a commitment to do something, move heaven and earth to do it, or if you can’t—because circumstances beyond your control have impacted you—let people know immediately, with a plan to fix it. You’ll find that generally others are pretty understanding when you give them legitimate advance notice.”

Tell the truth. Remember those little white lies you told to get out of a commitment (“Oh, that email must have gotten lost in my spam folder!”) or those misleading statements you made that contained enough truth to sound legitimate?

“Do that too often, and you’ll become known as someone whose word isn’t worth much,” comments Bedford. “Telling the truth can be hard, but it’s always worth it in the long haul.”

Speak up when you see something wrong. Remember that time when one of your peers was throwing his weight around and bullying one of his employees? Not wanting to get involved in the drama, you took the “none of my business” approach to dealing with the problem. You chose not to speak up about the guy’s bad behavior to keep yourself out of the line of fire.

“Here’s a reality check,” says Bedford. “Ignoring someone else’s bad behavior is just as bad as committing the act yourself. When people see you ignoring these problems, especially when you’re in a position to do something about them, they think you’re approving the bad behavior. They assume you’re the same kind of person as the manager yelling at his employees. Don’t be guilty by association. Speak up and show that you value fairness and respect.”

Give constructive feedback (and do it thoughtfully). Miller and Bedford say, “Most people don’t like giving feedback and like getting it even less.” That’s because feedback usually involves suggestions for improvement. (Ergo, your work isn’t currently up to snuff.) That’s why it’s important to give helpful feedback and to do so in a way that won’t offend the recipient.

“When you decide that feedback is required, give it some thought and plan what you’re going to say,” advises Miller. “Don’t just blurt out your spur-of-the-moment thoughts—chances are, you’ll make a mess of them. You may even come off as superior or hostile. Instead, choose a time and place when the recipient will be most receptive. By showing that you truly care about the other person’s feelings and performance, you’ll reinforce your credibility as a coworker, supervisor, friend, or mentor.”

When you’re on the receiving end, accept feedback gracefully. Hopefully, if someone has chosen to give you some feedback, it’s the product of a lot of thought and is meant to make you better.

“Feedback should be considered a gift,” says Bedford. “Treat it that way—even if the person delivering it isn’t as gentle as you would prefer. Pay attention, learn, and improve your performance going forward. A willingness to accept and incorporate feedback also helps your credibility, because it shows that you put your work, not your pride, first.”

Be respectful. No matter how many other things you get right, if you’re a total jerk, people aren’t going to think very highly of you.

“You might be having a bad day, but that doesn’t give you the right to lash out at someone,” says Miller. “Turn the scenario around whenever you’re tempted to be curt, condescending, or nasty. If you were in a service position, for example—say, a bank teller or grocery store cashier—you’d dread dealing with those inevitable customers who dumped their frustrations on you. Yes, being respectful can sometimes require effort and restraint. But it costs nothing, helps maintain and build relationships, and makes you a better person.”

Say yes only when you mean yes. There are a lot of reasons why you might say yes to another person’s request when you truly don’t feel comfortable doing so. Maybe you’re a “pleaser” who hates disappointing others. Perhaps you want to avoid conflict. Or maybe you simply want to shut down an interaction that’s dragging on and on.

“Whatever your reasons, ‘yes’ doesn’t ultimately work unless you mean it,” points out Bedford. “You’ll either have to perform a task you don’t believe in or don’t want to do (which is bad), or you’ll have to break your word (which is worse). Say yes only when you mean it. Even if others don’t like hearing ‘no,’ your credibility will stay intact.”

Over-commit and over-deliver. The world is full of people who want to do only the bare minimum. When you push yourself to commit to just a little bit extra, then make sure you get it done, you set yourself apart in the best possible way.

“Take the opportunity to differentiate yourself, even if it means staying at work a bit later or learning a new skill,” advises Miller. “Pretty soon, you’ll have a reputation for being someone to rely on, someone who’s good to have around.”

Be on time. Sure, there are legitimate reasons why even the most responsible person might be running late: a fender bender, a sick child, or an unfortunate coffee spill, to name just a few. And yes, everybody gets a pass on this one from time to time when life’s curveballs happen.

“But by and large, being late—especially if it’s a habit—is disrespectful,” points out Bedford. “It communicates that you don’t value others’ time, and that you think you’re more important than they are. On the other hand, being on time just takes a little effort and a little planning, but will garner a lot of respect and appreciation.”

“Focus on these 10 things in 2014 even if your credibility is doing fine…but especially if it isn’t,” concludes Miller. “Soon, you’ll differentiate yourself from the credibility-optional pack, and you’ll be the first name picked when it comes time to assemble the team for the first big project of 2014!”

Source: www.millerbedford.com.


Word of the Day

January 16, 2014 12:30 am

Conventional loan. Real estate loan that is not insured by the FHA or guaranteed by the VA

 


Q: What Guidelines Should I Use to Find a Contractor?

January 16, 2014 12:30 am

A: Use caution. Your home is your most valuable financial asset. You will want someone who completes the job, not botch it up. It is important that you find a competent and reliable contractor who will successfully complete your home improvement project.


Social REALTOR® Takes a Snapshot

January 15, 2014 1:09 am

In a real estate market that reflects many nationwide, there is good news and bad news in 2014 for buyers and sellers in Southern California’s Orange County and surroundings.


“Inventory is increasing a bit and skyrocketing home prices have stalled in recent months,” says Orange County REALTOR® Leslie Sargent Eskildsen. “We anticipate a more balanced market as we settle into 2014.”


For good or ill, Eskildsen projects spring market conditions that look like this:
 

A more balanced market – Pricing will be more realistic. Sellers will not be seeing multiple offers overnight, and buyers will have a better shot of getting their first home choice.

Moderate interest rate rise – As the economy continues to improve, expect 5.2 percent to become the new normal. That’s still a good rate in the scheme of things, but smart buyers will get busy early, before they reach that level.

Slow but steady price rise – Prices will inch upward, but not as dramatically – as sellers keep their expectations in pace with the market and buyers respond to the still-low rates.

Affordability will be impacted – As prices and interest rates rise, however moderately, some buyers will be pushed out of their ideal home. They may have to settle for less house overall in order to keep the same monthly payment.

Lending guidelines will loosen up – Borrowers will need to toe less of a strict line as lenders relax requirements a bit. Qualifying won’t be a piece of cake – but it should be more doable than it was a year ago.

New housing will mean more options – New construction is up, boosting home inventory even more and giving buyers a greater number of houses to choose from in new developments and in a greater number of neighborhoods. 


How to Navigate Retirement in the 21st Century

January 15, 2014 1:09 am

While the world is still feeling the long ripples of the economic meltdown that began six years ago, our economic institutions remain “too big to fail” – at least in the minds of millions of retired Americans and those soon to join their ranks, says veteran financial advisor Curt Whipple.

“That’s what we see when we review their retirement portfolios,” says Whipple, a Certified Wealth Strategist, Certified Estate Planner and CEO of C. Curtis Financial Group. He recently published “Retiree Lifeline! How to Get Government Out of Your Pocket,” (ccurtisfinancial.com), a retirement planning guide.

“I see it all the time: a new client comes in with what they believe to be a ‘diverse’ portfolio. While it may be diverse in terms of Wall Street holdings, a solid retirement plan also requires diversity outside of a system that’s ‘too big to fail,’ which could fail yet again.”

When Wall Street falls, it shouldn’t mean that Main Street must as well. Whipple outlines the three kinds of money retirees should have available for enjoying the golden years with peace of mind.

• Red money … can be defined as that which is tied to Wall Street, by far the most popular kind of investment, including stocks, bonds and mutual funds. “I’ve been looking at the accounts of new clients for nearly three decades, and on average, 92 percent of their retirement plan is based in these investments,” he says. “That’s risky, especially as you get closer to retirement age or once you retire. You don’t want 92 percent of your retirement premised on that kind of potential volatility.”

• Blue money … is often referred to as “alternative investments,” which typically include Real Estate Trusts (REITS), equipment leasing programs, precious metals such as gold and silver, high grade rare coins and collectibles. “This ‘color’ of money has been an important portion of the pie for success in my clients’ investments; they were essentially unaffected by our recent economic collapse because they were so well diversified.” This is a highly advantageous part of a portfolio because it historically creates good income with a low correlation to the stock market.

• Green money … is accounts that come with a guarantee of some sort. They are either backed by the FDIC, the Legal Reserve System, which is supported by the insurance industry, or insurance companies themselves. “Not all wealth is created equally, and this is the safest kind of money you can have in your retirement plan,” he says. Green money includes investments in one’s portfolio that have guarantees to not lose one’s principal and, sometimes, one’s earnings.

“Investment in Wall Street should be much lower for those who are either retired or are about to be retired,” Whipple says. “Depending on a person’s age, a good investment portfolio could include about 36 percent red money, 32 percent blue money and 32 percent green money.”


Word of the Day

January 15, 2014 1:09 am

Contractor. One who contracts to do something for another. For example, in construction, a specialist who enters into a formal construction contract to build a real estate structure or handle renovations, improvements, and additions to an existing structure.


Q: Should I Always Get a Permit Before Making Home Improvements?

January 15, 2014 1:09 am

A: To save both time and money, some people avoid getting building permits. But most cities require them. Besides ensuring safety during construction – housing inspectors sometimes stop by to check on the progress of projects at key points – they are also a source of revenue.

Cities charge a fee when a building permit is issued. Also, work done with a building permit can result in an increase in the homeowners’ property taxes because, in general, a home improvement increases the assessed value of the property.

Permits are usually required when any structural work is planned or the basic living space of a home is altered. They generally cover new construction, repairs, alterations, demolition, and additions to a structure. Some jurisdictions require the permit to be posted in a visible spot on the premises while the work is being done.

Besides structural changes, permits also may be needed to cover the installation of foundations for tanks and equipment, as well as the construction or demolition of ducts, sprinkler systems, or standpipe systems.

By law, all buildings must have a building permit and a certificate of occupancy before they can be used. 


Prevent Your Travel Insurance Claim from Being Denied

January 13, 2014 7:15 pm

With all of the cancelled or delayed flights and travel plans due to the recent super storms and polar vortex, it's important to be well informed on how to get the most out of their travel insurance plans.

As is the case with any conventional insurance policy, a travel insurance policy serves as a legal contract. Travelers pay a fee to insure that their risks are covered, and the insurance company agrees to pay for damages in the event of a cancellation, delay, injury, illness, accident, and more; however, the insurance company will only reimburse a traveler if what occurred is specifically included and covered by the policy. 

Numerous travelers are not clear on what a travel insurance policy covers and after reading a few stories from other travelers, some believe that if they file a claim for reimbursement they will ultimately be denied. The following is a list of the most frequent reasons that travel insurance claims get denied and how to ensure that you receive the reimbursement that you're entitled.

Claim Denial Due to a Non- Covered Reason:

It's important to recognize that most travel insurance policies are "named peril" policies which means that simply having the trip cancellation included in your coverage does not automatically mean that you're covered; if your reason for cancellation is not listed in the policy, then you will not be covered. While most travel insurance companies cover the same major perils, there can be slight differences so it is important that you carefully review what is and is not covered before making your final purchase decision.


Claim Denial Due to Lack of Documentation:

Travel insurance companies will require a paper trail to prove that you incurred a loss or expense and won't simply take you at your word. Because of this it is extremely important that you make sure that you keep all of your receipts and get proof of any incidents in writing.

Following are a few tips on what to do in these particular situations:

  • When a flight is cancelled, ask the airline representatives to give you a printout of the cancellation or get an email from the airline confirming the flight cancellation. 
  • If your luggage is lost, stolen or delayed keep all of your receipts for any necessary purchases that you had to make. Also, get documentation from the airline if luggage is lost in transit. If items are stolen make sure you get a police report.
  • If you lose your travel documentation such as your passport, identification or driver's license, file a report at the nearest embassy or police department and ask to receive a copy for insurance purposes. 
  • If you cancel your trip due to an illness or injury, be sure that you visit a doctor and get a note stating that he or she recommends that you cancel the trip or that you are not fit to travel.
  • Whenever anything happens during your trip that you may want to file a claim for, be sure that you receive proof in writing.

Claim Denial Due to a Pre-Existing Condition:

Pre-existing conditions are generally defined as "any injury, illness, disease, or other medical condition that occurs prior to the travel plan's effective date and for which you had symptoms and sought diagnosis, medical treatment, and/or new prescription medications or a change in your current prescription."

If you or any of your travel companions have received changes in your medications, or if you have visited a doctor for treatment within the last 60 to 180 days, then you should seriously consider purchasing an insurance policy that includes a pre-existing condition waiver. 

Most insurance companies offering the pre-existing condition waiver will only cover the traveler if he or she has met all of the criteria. This criterion varies between companies, but generally requires that the traveler purchases the insurance policy within 14 days of the initial booking deposit, is medically able to travel at the time of the policy purchase. Make sure that you check the criteria required by the insurance company that you purchase your policy from.

For example, InsureandGo USA automatically includes a pre-existing condition waiver to travelers under 70 years old as long as you purchase the policy within 14 days of the initial trip deposit and cover the full cost of the trip.

Claim Denial Due to Misrepresentation on the Insurance Application:

While not technically a claim denial, a traveler could have their policy voided or "rescinded" if the information reported on the application for coverage is inaccurate whether intentionally or not. It's important that you review all of your information to make sure that you accurately presented all of your travel dates, age, trip costs, and personal information on your insurance policy application. That online application that you fill out becomes part of the insurance agreement, so taking the extra couple of minutes to review it is well worth it. 

Is Travel Insurance a Case of Buyer Beware?

As travelers, we should take the time to review the policy documents to make sure that we are buying what we think are buying. By not reviewing the insurance policy we can set ourselves up for false expectations and then be terribly disappointed when a claim is denied.

Source: http://www.insureandgousa.com


How to Maintain Home Comfort during a Cold Winter

January 13, 2014 7:15 pm

As the chilly arctic air makes its way across the country, the Farmer's Almanac warns that winter's blast is far from over and bitter cold temperatures will return. News reports suggest all 50 states, even Hawaii, dipped below 32 degrees at some point owing to the arctic air. The cold snap left many thinking about keeping their homes warm.

Honeywell, a thermostat provider with more than 150 million customers, offers the following tips to maximize safety, home comfort and peace of mind this winter:

  • Be Wary of Fireplaces: Many people don't realize that while a fireplace can provide warmth to those sitting near it, in reality they allow the warm air to escape making your home less comfortable. At the same time, cold air is also seeping into your house. If you don't regularly use your fireplace, seal the chimney flue to prevent this heat loss. If you do regularly use your fireplace, make sure to keep the damper closed whenever the fire isn't going;
  • Opt for maximum personalized home comfort: Precision in temperature, humidity and air quality control is key to home comfort and for energy savings during winter months. While thermostats have become a trendy gadget, the bottom line is that they control one of the most expensive and critical systems in the home.  Be sure to look for a thermostat that is both stylish and reliable with an accuracy of +/- 1 degree for optimum home comfort and energy savings;
  • Utilize Ceiling Fans: By reversing the fan's direction to clockwise, the blades will create an updraft, effectively pushing down the hot air that rises to the top of the ceiling;
  • Evaluate your existing thermostat: Programmable thermostats are especially beneficial if your home is unoccupied all day. If you have a programmable thermostat, review schedules to customize it to your lifestyle and extreme weather conditions to ensure that it not only maximizes your comfort 24/7 but also effectively manages energy use. If you have a non-programmable thermostat and you're thinking about an upgrade, consider a programmable or Wi-Fi programmable thermostat that will allow you to set different temperatures for different times of the day;
  • Purchase a connected thermostat: A Wi-Fi programmable thermostat offers maximum flexibility and allows you to monitor and adjust your home temperatures directly from an app anytime, anywhere. This feature can offer greater peace of mind when you are away from home, as it alerts you of a malfunction so you can take action during a cold snap.

Source: www.wifithermostat.com.