Gunning Daily News

How to Shop for Dental Insurance

January 24, 2014 8:00 pm

(BPT)—Dental health is essential to overall health, affecting everything from our hearts to our mental well-being. Yet despite ample research that underscores the importance of taking care of our teeth, millions of Americans never go to the dentist. A lack of dental insurance is one of the top reasons Americans don't keep up with their dental care.

"In 2008, the last year for which statistics are available, the National Center for Health Statistics estimated that 45 million Americans were without dental insurance," says Stacia Almquist, senior vice president of dental for-Assurant Employee Benefits. "Five years and a recession later, it's reasonable to assume that number has stayed the same or grown. While at the same time dental insurance is as important—and affordable—as ever."

Most people covered by dental insurance today receive the benefit as part of an employer-sponsored benefits package. And as awareness of the importance of dental health grows, more people are urging their employers to offer the benefit or are looking at buying individual dental coverage.

Not all dental plans are created equal, so it is important to understand what you are purchasing. "Changes in health care law and increased opportunity for people to purchase their own health coverage have made many consumers more aware of the need for informed decisions when choosing health insurance," Almquist says. "Choosing a dental plan should also be an informed decision."

If you're in the market for stand-alone dental coverage (and if you don't already have dental insurance, you should consider it) or get to pick a plan through your employer, keep these points in mind when comparison shopping:

* Understand the alphabet soup of dental plans - Two common insurance acronyms include PPO (preferred provider organization) and DHMO (dental health maintenance organization). Most PPO plans have a large dental network of providers and provide 100 percent benefit coverage for preventive care, cleanings, check-ups, protective sealants and X-rays, while major services such as crowns and bridges are usually covered at 50 percent. A DHMO usually has a smaller network of dentists than a PPO network, with the trade off being that members typically pay less out of pocket for services.

Dental discount plans are also available. Discount plans are not insurance, but are similar to wholesale store plans where you pay a discounted fee for products or services.-

* Look for options and extras - Look for a dental plan with a network that offers the options that you need. Your relationship with a dentist is as valuable and personal as one with your primary care physician. Make sure the dental network you choose includes a dentist you are comfortable seeing or one that has dental recruiters who are willing to try to recruit your dentist. Ultimately more dentists in the network mean more options for you and your family.

Also look for ancillary services such as dental hotlines similar to Ask-A-Nurse lines where you can get 24/7 answers when dental emergencies arise.

* Maximize your dental dollars - Most dental plans limit the amount they will pay in a given year. It's important to know what that cap is because you will need to pay full dental costs after you reach that limit in a year. Some dental PPOs let you share unused dental dollars with family members. Programs such as Family Share Max replace traditional individual maximums and allow families to pull from one shared dental coverage pool in a way that most effectively meets their specific needs and budgets.

Ultimately taking care of your teeth today keeps costs down for you and your family in the future.

"Poor dental health has been linked to a range of other health issues, from cardiovascular disease and premature birth to increased risk of Alzheimer's and eating disorders," says Almquist. "Fortunately, it's possible to help protect your dental health with the right insurance coverage."-

Still confused? Don't hesitate to seek the advice of an insurance broker who offers a variety of dental insurance products.


10 Best Diet Tips Ever

January 24, 2014 8:00 pm

Even if you are determined to lose a few pounds before swim suit time rolls around, you may already be tired of your New Year’s resolution diet.

The editors of Prevention magazine urge us to keep it simple with what they believe are the best ten diet tips to follow:

  • Don’t get too hungry – We make poor decisions when our judgment is compromised, and hunger makes that happen. Plan ahead for three to five small meals or snacks daily, and always carry a little stash of nuts, whole grain crackers or raisins to ward off intense hunger.
  • Use the red, orange and green rule – Be sure every meal contains at least one food in these colors. It ensures you are eating fruits and veggies, leaving less room for less diet-friendly foods.
  • Drink more water – Drink 64 ounces a day if you can. Keeping hydrated is important to your body, and drinking copious amounts of water will help you feel fuller.
  • Start with soup – Starting the largest meal of the day with a bowl of healthy, low-cal vegetable soup has been proven to help people eat less overall.
  • Kick the salt habit – Salt can actually make you hungrier. Check nutrition labels for high sodium content and choose fresh foods over packaged or processed.
  • Spice it up – New studies suggest that spicy foods help curb hunger and may even elevate your mood. Try adding some extra spice kick to salads, soups, and veggies.
  • Lay off the diet soda – Artificial sweeteners can disrupt the body's ability to regulate calorie intake based on sweetness, so people who drink diet soda may be more likely to overeat.
  • Count more than calories – Everybody needs some carbs and protein. Be sure to include some – including their calorie count – at every meal to feed the need and help you feel full longer.
  • Don’t serve at the table – Filling your plate from serving dishes on the counter and then eating at the table can help stifle the urge to go back for seconds.
  • Take one less bite – Pushing your plate away before taking that one last bite can save you 75 calories per day, which can mean an eight-pound loss over the course of a year. 

Word of the Day

January 24, 2014 8:00 pm

Usury. Charging a higher rate of interest on a loan than is legally allowed.

Q: Do I Need an Attorney to Sell a Home?

January 24, 2014 8:00 pm

A: Although most sellers can handle routine real estate purchase contracts, some experts say it is a good idea to be represented by an attorney, particularly if you are selling on your own. You should choose one with expertise in real estate transactions. Before hiring someone discuss all the details of the transaction, including all legal costs you will incur. A good attorney will assist you in completing the deal swiftly and with confidence.

January Is the Perfect Time for Conducting a Home Inventory

January 24, 2014 8:00 pm

In recent years, I have touched on the subject of ensuring you are insuring your home and possessions properly. You don't want to pay for insurance you don't need - but in the unlikely event of a claim, you want to be sure you have adequate coverage to recover!

Now that the holidays are over, it is the perfect time to conduct an updated home inventory according to the Professional Insurance Agents of Connecticut State Inc. (PIACT).

Augusto Russell, CIC, and PIACT's president says homeowners and renters insurance can include coverage for valuable items they may have purchased or received as gifts over the holidays.

Russell says contents coverage is part of a typical homeowners insurance policy, but amounts of coverage vary, and holders may have special coverage limitations on items like jewelry, furs, and fine arts. Russell warns these limitations vary by company and may not be enough to cover the total value of these items.

Extra coverage called personal property “floaters” will provide specific insurance for the value of the insured property. Most insurance companies will require a homeowner to have the items appraised to determine the amount of coverage.

To make sure your items are protected adequately, PIACT suggests:

  • Contact your insurance agent immediately. Let your agent know you now have an expensive piece of jewelry or other costly items.
  • Have the item(s) appraised. It is important to have the expensive items appraised properly. If you purchase a floater or endorsement, your premium will be based on this amount. In the event of a claim, you will be compensated for this dollar amount.
  • Take a picture of the item or items and add them to your home inventory. Keep copies of any receipts, because you may need to forward a copy to your insurer.
  • Keep a copy of your insurance policy and the inventory of your home in a safe deposit box - preferably in a secondary location such as an office or relatives home if possible.


How to Engineer Your Financial Future in 2014

January 24, 2014 8:00 pm

Financial resolutions can be the most difficult to keep. They can include minute detail, number crunching, plenty of files and discipline that can affect a person’s entire lifestyle, says veteran investment advisor Paul Taylor, a member of the National Ethics Bureau.

“Many folks simply are not predisposed to combing through the details of their financial situation; for them, the financial world is abstract and filled with arbitrary rules, constantly changing interest rates and other complexities, but being more involved in your own money is well worth the investment,” says Taylor, an architect-turned-founder and owner of Capital Advisory Group & Tax Planners of Lake Norman and Capital Investment Advisors, Inc, (

“While professional help is recommended for many aspects of a person’s financial affairs, it’s ultimately up to the individual to understand his or her own money.”

There are many things the average person can do to take control of their financial life. Taylor offers the following suggestions:

• For your cash flow, keep in mind the four A’s: Accounting, Analysis, Allocation and Adjustment. The four A’s describe a systematic and disciplined approach to your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly spending habits. Accounting involves gathering all your relevant financial information – income, recurring bills, and other expenditures – creating a central list of each item, and pulling it together in a place where it’s easily accessible. Analysis is reviewing the information to determine whether you have a shortfall or surplus, and finding places to reduce expenses. Saving $100 a month on dining out, for instance, would allow you to apply $100 to your mortgage loan principle, saving you a substantial amount in interest payments. Allocation involves determining your financial commitments and priorities, needs versus wants, and distributing your income accordingly. Adjustment involves periodic reviews of your financial information and shifting assets to meet changing needs.

• Utilize estate planning tools such as wills and trusts; make sure the details are accurate. Wills and trusts allow you to spell out how you would like your property to be distributed, and much more. A will gives you the opportunity to nominate your executor and guardians for your minor children. If you fail to make such designations through your will, the decisions will probably be left to the courts. Bear in mind that property distributed through your will is subject to probate, which can be a time-consuming and costly process. Trusts, which are more complex, let you customize the distribution of your estate with the added advantages of property management and probate avoidance.

• Start planning your retirement sooner rather than later. There are a variety of retirement planning options that can meet your needs. Your employer funds some; you fund some. Bear in mind that, in most cases, early withdrawals before age 59½ may be subject to a 10 percent federal income tax penalty. The latest date to begin required minimum distributions is usually April 1 of the year after you turn age 70½. Withdrawals from tax-deferred plans are taxed as ordinary income. The top planning options include defined benefit pension; money purchase pension; profit-sharing plan; savings plan; employee stock ownership plan; tax-sheltered annuities; individual retirement accounts; self-employed plans; simplified employee pensions; and savings incentive match plans for employees.

• Remember the first commandment in safe investment: diversification. Virtually every investment has some type of risk associated with it. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversification is one of the main reasons why mutual funds may be so attractive for both experienced and novice investors. Many non-institutional investors have a limited investment budget and may find it challenging to construct a portfolio that is sufficiently diversified. For a modest initial investment, you can purchase shares in a diversified portfolio of securities. Depending on the objectives of the fund, it may contain a variety of stocks, bonds and cash vehicles, or a combination of them.

Word of the Day

January 24, 2014 8:00 pm

Convey. To transfer property from one person to another.

Q: What Are the Main Reasons Why Homeowners Remodel?

January 24, 2014 8:00 pm

A: There are many reasons. Home remodeling can improve the appearance of your home, enhance its value, add to your quality of life, and appeal to future home buyers. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders, the top four reasons homeowners remodel is to obtain more space, avoid buying a new home, enjoy more amenities, and adjust to lifestyle changes. 

Don't Be Hoodwinked by 'Gray Market' Goods

January 23, 2014 7:12 pm

Up until recently, I would hear whispers about gray market goods, but it was usually associated to knock off fashion accessories and designer jeans. Enter the Alliance for Gray Market and Counterfeit Abatement with a potent warning to homeowners when it comes to gray market home appliances, electronics and even certain building materials.


Gray market goods are manufactured abroad for sale in other countries and imported into the U.S. without permission of the trademark holder, according to the Better Business Bureau. In some cases, merchandise is manufactured under different specifications and may not meet US regulatory requirements, BBB notes.  


A larger problem for consumers, is that in an effort to stem the unauthorized sale of these items, manufacturers' warranties will not cover gray market goods, so if the product breaks the cost of repairs or replacement may eliminate any savings.


Gray market distributors sell through small websites and online auctions. So the Alliance for Gray Market and Counterfeit Abatement reminds consumers that these unscrupulous re-sellers may advertise products as new, authentic, and branded goods.


But customers may wind up receiving goods ranging from used or  re-marketed products, to those that have been wholly or partially  counterfeited or mislabeled. Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to avoid problems with gray market merchandise:

  • Check to see if the price is unrealistically low - beware of a brand name product that is being sold at significantly below the manufacturer's price.  
  • Ask the seller - Sellers are obliged to disclose whether they are selling a gray market product.  Your state or county Consumer Protection office may require such disclosure.
  • Carefully inspect the merchandise - Check to see whether the manual and other printed material is in English.
  • Ask about repairs - Gray market merchandise will most likely not be eligible for repair at a manufacturer's authorized service center.
  • Use a credit card - A credit card allows you to dispute charges for a purchase of gray market merchandise that was misrepresented at the time of sale.

10 Tips for an Affordable and Memorable Destination Wedding

January 23, 2014 7:12 pm

(BPT) - A flurry of congratulatory phone calls, social media announcements and sparkling ring pictures all mean one thing: engagement season has arrived. With approximately 39 percent of marriage proposals taking place between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, engaged couples are taking note of one of the fastest-growing nuptial trends - destination weddings.

These days, one in four weddings is a destination wedding, giving couples - and their guests - a reason to blend the joy of a marriage celebration with a fun and memorable vacation. Planning a destination wedding suitable for all your attendees is easier than you think, thanks to some key insights from Myrtle Beach-based expert wedding planner, Cheryl Cox.

Plan ahead. Cox says nine to 12 months is the optimum planning time, especially for a destination wedding. Many couples start planning a destination wedding as soon as they get engaged. While the summer months are typically most popular for couples, when choosing a date, Cox recommends considering a Friday or weekday wedding, or planning the big day during the less-crowded but still desirable shoulder seasons (spring and fall).

Select a destination that caters to all guests. Consider a location with something for everyone. Myrtle Beach, S.C., is the perfect example. The destination offers pristine greens for golf enthusiasts, museums and historic plantations for cultural buffs, delicious Coastal Carolina cuisine for the foodies, fun in the sun with a day at the beach or one of the many water parks, and for brides looking for some quality time with the girls, numerous spas for a day of pampering. Plus, there are plenty of lodging options for your guests including oceanfront resorts, beach home rentals and quaint bed and breakfasts.

Research ceremony locations. Beautiful and unique ceremony locations are one of the perks of having a destination wedding. "Research wedding venues, travel and accommodation options, and rates, then rank the venues you like best," suggests Cox. As a Myrtle Beach wedding planner, she notes that the area's 60 miles of stunning coastline make the perfect romantic backdrop. Whether you're looking for a beachside wedding outside a charming beach home or at the Myrtle Beach State Park, or a historic location like Litchfield Plantation or Pine Lakes Country Club, there are countless ceremony locations to choose from. You can even tie the knot 200 feet above the ground on the Myrtle Beach Skywheel. Visit for more information.

Help guests plan activities. Travel is the foundation for long-lasting memories. In fact, a recent Harris Interactive survey found 62 percent of adults said their earliest memories were of family vacations taken when they were between ages 5 and 10. Help your guests - particularly families with young ones - get the most out of their trip by suggesting activities or even making reservations for dinners, tee times, theme parks, museums, etc., before arrival.

Hire a wedding planner. Planning a destination wedding doesn't need to be stressful - hire a wedding planner. "Wedding planners know the local wedding professionals and venues including the city regulations for beach weddings," says Cox. The perfect beach wedding can be accomplished with the help of a wedding planner as they know the ins and outs of planning a beautiful beach wedding so couples and their guests can enjoy the true beauty of a beachside wedding.

 Consider a pre-wedding visit. "If possible, attend a local wedding show to meet wedding professionals one-on-one or plan a 'wedding planning trip' to visit venues and meet with wedding vendors," Cox suggests. "Remember to take notes so you can recall all the details when you're back home."

Get wedding insurance. Give yourself peace of mind by purchasing the appropriate wedding insurance. And, Cox notes, "Research to find the best coverage for your wedding - I highly recommend it."

Be mindful of budget. Start your marriage off on the right financial foot by keeping your wedding on-budget. Many couples planning destination weddings find them to be similar or even more affordable than traditional weddings back home. Myrtle Beach offers a variety of wedding venue options at various price points, so you can have your dream beach wedding and still stay on a budget.

Enjoy! This is perhaps the most important step of all. Don't forget to enjoy the experience of planning this memorable day and enjoying the company of your guests. Take pictures, sample cakes, pick out flowers and remember these moments and the beautiful destination you selected.