Gunning Daily News

Don’t Be Dumb with your Smartphone

January 7, 2013 5:22 pm

Smartphones are terrific. They keep you connected to friends, can help you find directions when you’re lost, take and post artful photos, and find local restaurant reviews when you’re starving and stranded. But for all the good that comes with your phone, there is also a whole lot of bad—specifically when it comes to identity theft. A recent study found smartphone users are at a 33 percent increased risk for identity theft. However, there are things you can do to stay one step ahead and protect your identity.

The following strategies, courtesy of BMO Harris Bank, will help you to keep your information from falling into the wrong hands:

Password protect your phone. This is the first step you should take toward protecting your identity. In the event your phone is lost or stolen, a password creates a barrier against thieves trying to access your information. Make sure the password you select is unique and not associated with other personal information (i.e. your address, phone number or birthday).

Be selective when downloading apps. While many programs are safe to use, some are actually tools created by identity thieves to collect and distribute your personal information. Before downloading an app, make sure it's from a secure source and read the description to find out what personal data is collected. If it seems suspicious, skip it.

Be careful using public Wi-Fi. Although it's tempting to tap into public Wi-Fi zones, these hotspots are frequently targeted by hackers looking to gain access to your personal information. A better bet is using your network provider connection, even if it dips into your data plan. If you must use a public connection, avoid email, online banking or buying anything with a credit card number.

Use basic computer smarts. Just as you wouldn't visit suspicious websites or open questionable links on your personal computer, you shouldn't do these things when using your phone. Also, remember to check that a site is secure before providing personal or financial information for logging in or purchasing items. The easiest way to check is by looking for "https" versus "http" in your address bar.

Use social media with caution. Many people use their Smartphones to update their social media accounts. But don't forget that in addition to your family and friends seeing these updates, identity thieves are also tapped in. Remember that anything you post on a public site can be seen by other people so you should make sure that you don't include personal information in these updates.

Source: BMO Harris Bank

Choosing Health Insurance That Meets Your Needs

January 7, 2013 5:22 pm

(Family Features)--Millions of working Americans are still without health insurance, and many more worry about whether they'll be able to afford their existing coverage due to rising health costs.
"With the rising cost of care, individuals want more affordable options when it comes to health insurance," says Scott Krienke, senior vice president, marketing and product lines at Assurant Health. "Consumers want coverage tailored to their budget and how they manage their health. Before choosing a health insurance plan, it's important to understand all the options to find the best fit for your needs."

What You Need to Know
Whether you're looking for additional coverage to supplement your employer's plan, or want an individual plan because you're self-employed or uninsured, here are a few tips to get you started.

Major Medical
Under the Affordable Care Act, major medical plans now cover 100 percent of many preventive services. Many people are familiar with major medical insurance, which can be offered by employers and which is usually most comprehensive in covering serious illness or injuries. Major medical plans generally offer the broadest protection and protect against large, unexpected medical expenses.

Fixed-Benefit Plans

In general, fixed-benefit plans pay a set amount of money when you have a covered medical service, regardless of the actual cost. For example, if the plan pays $50 when you have an X-ray, but it costs $125, after applying the plan payment of $50, you would owe $75.

Unlike a traditional plan that has deductibles, coinsurance and copays, fixed-benefit plans pay a benefit for covered services immediately. Some provide access to network discounts that can significantly decrease the total cost of care. These plans can cover a range of services from everyday office visits, preventive care and prescriptions, to hospitalization and surgery. Check to see if there are pre-existing condition limitations for the first 12 months of coverage.

Fixed-benefit plans can offer significant coverage. For example, hospitalization reimbursement can be as much as $6,000 per day depending on the plan. Some even offer tools to help manage costs, like guaranteed cost estimates for common services and treatments.

Analyzing Your Insurance Needs

How do you decide what type of plan is right for you? It depends on your needs, what's most important to you, and sometimes the tradeoffs you are willing to make to get the coverage you want at an affordable price. Here is information on those types of plans to help in your decision-making:

Fixed-Benefit Plan

  • Gives you help with everyday, common medical needs that you are more likely to have.
  • Helps you pay for immediate expenses that you are most likely to encounter.
  • Gives you more control over your monthly medical expenses. You are willing to take the risk that out-of-pocket costs may exceed the amount of the fixed benefit, and that you would be required to pay remaining balances.

Major Medical Plan

  • Provides major medical protection and coverage for your unexpected health care expenses.
  • Protects your assets and income while you pay for everyday smaller costs.
  • Helps you prepare for unexpected medical expenses. You pay premium, deductibles and coinsurance in exchange for knowing your costs are capped.

Identify Supplemental Insurance Plans

Once a decision is made to purchase a major medical plan or fixed-benefit product, supplemental plans can be used to fill gaps in coverage and create additional protection. Supplemental insurance, which can be offered through the workplace or sold individually, offers limited coverage for specific health care needs such as in-hospital care, dental checkups or vision.

"Do your homework, and weigh your options -- there are affordable plans that can fit into your budget and give you the coverage you need to help protect yourself and your family," says Tim Knott, senior vice president of strategic markets and product management for Assurant Employee Benefits. "Supplemental insurance provides a wide array of benefits that can help employees cope with out-of-pocket expenses including those associated with serious accidents or illnesses."

Plans may include:

  • Dental - Provides benefits for dental checkups and treatment, which can contribute to better overall health. Many plans provide benefits for additional services such as crowns and orthodontia.
  • Vision - Generally will cover vision exams and pay a portion of glasses and contact lens expenses. Some also provide network discounts.
  • Accident - Provides benefits for medical care necessary due to an accident. Some also provide benefits for death expenses, dismemberment and disability.
  • Critical Illness and Cancer - Provides benefits for diagnosis and treatment of specifically named diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke. Many provide a lump sum payment upon diagnosis.
  • Hospital Indemnity - Provides benefits for a period of continuous in-hospital care. Some provide benefits for certain outpatient services and costs associated with necessary surgery.

Source: www.assuranthealth.com

Grandparents: Protect Your Grandchildren from Medication Accidents

January 7, 2013 5:22 pm

(Family Features) Grandparents know children are curious and do everything possible to keep them safe as they explore. Grandparents love when their grandchildren come to visit, but they do not always remember to take extra precautions to put their medicines and vitamins up and away and out of sight before their grandkids arrive. In fact, in a recent survey from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, nearly one out of every four grandparents said they store prescription medicines in easy-access places, including daily-dose boxes that children can easily open, and 18 percent said they store over-the-counter medicines in easily accessible spots.

Annually, more than 60,000 young children -- or roughly four school busloads of children per day -- age five or younger are treated in emergency departments (ED) for accidental ingestion of household medicines, according to Dan Budnitz, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC's Medication Safety Program.

"Grandparents may not be aware that their next dose of medicine left out on the counter is a potential source of harm for their curious young grandchildren," says Budnitz. "A few simple steps -- followed every time -- can keep their grandchildren safe from harm."

In partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) PROTECT Initiative, CDC and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) Educational Foundation created the Up and Away and Out of Sight educational program to help parents, grandparents and caregivers understand how to best store and safeguard the medicines they use so young children cannot access them.

The following tips and resources can help to make sure your grandchildren are always protected:

  • Keep all medicines and vitamins up and away and out of sight in a high cabinet or other place inaccessible to your grandchildren.
  • Keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicines or vitamins in them out of their reach and sight.
  • Remember to never leave medicines or vitamins out on a table, countertop, or bedside table where your grandchildren could reach them -- always make sure the caps are locked and put them away every time they are used.
  • Set a daily reminder to take your medicines and vitamins on your refrigerator or a location you check on a daily basis, since they will be safely stored up and away and out of sight.
  • Program the national Poison Help number, 1-800-222-1222, along with other emergency contact numbers into your home and cell phone, so they are available in case of an emergency.

"Spending time with grandchildren is so special, and no grandparent wants to unintentionally put young children in harm's way by leaving medicines and vitamins out. When grandchildren come to visit, it is important to be vigilant about making sure all medicines and vitamins are safely stored in 'up-and-away' places, rather than places kids can easily reach or rummage through," says Emily Skor, vice president of Communications and Alliance Development at CHPA.

Safe medicine and vitamin storage should be practiced year round at home and away from home. Grandparents often take a variety of medications. They must be cautious about safe medicine storage when their grandchildren stay with them. Returning medicines and vitamins to a safe location every time they are used can help prevent the accidental ingestions and ED visits by young children each year.

Explaining Medicine Safety to Children
Families take medicines and vitamins to feel well or stay well. However, any kind of medicine or vitamin can cause harm if taken in the wrong way or by the wrong person, even medicine bought without a prescription. It is important for parents, grandparents and caregivers to teach children about medicine safety to avoid accidental ingestions.

Talk to children about what medicine is and why you must be the one to give it to them.
Never tell children medicine is candy to get them to take it, even if your child does not like to take his or her medicine.

Source: www.UpandAway.org

Word of the Day

January 7, 2013 5:22 pm

Deed restrictions. Provisions placed in deeds to control how future landowners may or may not use the property. Also called deed covenants.

Q: What Are Some Costs Associated with Selling My Home?

January 7, 2013 5:22 pm

A: Besides the costs related to making repairs and improving the overall appearance of the home, as the seller you will also need to pay the following:

  • A real estate commission, if you use an agency to sell.
  • Advertising costs, marketing materials, and other fees if you sell the home yourself.
  • Attorney, closing, or other professional fees.
  • Title insurance
  • Excise tax for the sale.
  • Prorated costs for your share of annual expenses, such as property taxes, homeowner association fees, and fuel tank rentals.
  • Any other fees normally paid by sellers in your area, including points, survey, and appraisal fees.

To get a better handle on all costs, ask a real estate agent. Agents deal with this information daily and can give you a pretty good estimate of the closing costs you can expect to pay.

Don’t Delay Winterizing Just because It’s Winter!

January 4, 2013 5:54 pm

I have talked about this subject before in times of fairer weather, but even the middle of winter is a good time to winterize your home to help maximize savings on heating until the sun shines warm again.

My friends at the Connecticut Better Business Bureau recommend that property owners can still take a number of practical steps to keep their home safe and warm during the remaining cold months:

1. Furnace checkup and cleaning:
Clean or replace your furnace’s air filters. Have a professional check the furnace and ensure the thermostat and other parts are working properly. A typical home furnace reaches the end of its useful life after 15 years and may need repair or replacement. A computerized thermostat can save energy and money by reducing the temperature at night or when you’re away from home.

2. Consider insulating heating ducts:
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that a centrally-heated home can lose as much as 60 percent of warmed air before it reaches vents if the ductwork is poorly connected, not insulated, or if it travels through unheated spaces. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust and dirt from vents.

3. Get a chimney checkup: Before lighting the first fire of the season, your chimney should be checked for animals, nests, leaves and other debris, as well as for any necessary repairs.

4. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors: Homeowners should routinely test these devices to make sure they work and install fresh batteries as needed. Detector units should be replaced every 10 years.

5. Clear gutters and ridge vents
: Clean gutters to prevent or remove any debris that could cause rainwater to clog, freeze and damage gutters. Ridge vents should be cleared to allow the house to “breathe” properly to eliminate stagnant inside air. Close any attic vents or windows that would allow heated air to escape and cold air to seep in.

And plug holes -- though they may not be large, they have a cumulative effect on home heating costs. The BBB suggests you:

  • Make sure windows close tightly.
  • Check for leaks around them and use caulking to plug the leaks.
  • Inspect all weather stripping for cracks and peeling.
  • Consider applying insulating film to drafty windows, and install a tight-fitting fireplace door or cover to stop day-long loss of heat through the chimney.

You can find other helpful consumer tips at: ct.bbb.org/consumers.

Fitness Fun for All Ages

January 4, 2013 5:54 pm

(Family Features)—Regular physical activity at any age can help you live longer, feel better and reduce health problems. But far too many people, including baby boomers, don't get the exercise they need. According to the 2012 Participation Report from the Physical Activity Council (PAC), 35 percent of Americans over the age of 55 are physically inactive. Since regular exercise helps control blood pressure, body weight, cholesterol and so much more, boomers need to find ways to get their bodies moving so they can live longer, healthier lives.

"Though any amount of exercise is beneficial, ultimately adults should work up to getting at least 30 minutes most days of the week, as long as they feel comfortable and pain-free," says world-renowned nutritionist Joy Bauer. "From taking a Zumba class to walking and stretching, getting regular physical activity helps the joints stay loose, maintains muscle mass, and gets the blood flowing -- all of which make everyday tasks easier."

The American Council on Exercise recommends older Americans choose exercise programs that include cardiovascular, muscle conditioning, and flexibility exercises. Low-impact, non-jarring exercises such as walking and swimming are good options. A key to sticking with a fitness program is making sure it's enjoyable.

A fun new program for older adults is Zumba Gold, a low-impact dance-based workout designed specifically for boomers and seniors. Workout routines combine salsa, merengue, flamenco and cumbia moves with fun music. For those that would prefer to work out in the comfort of their own home, there is also a Zumba Gold "Live it Up" DVD collection that offers 3 discs with workouts, as well as advice from experts in the fields of nutrition, brain health, enhancing your well-being and more.

Workout Safety Tips
  • Whenever beginning a new fitness activity or program, make sure you do it safely.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that fit well.
  • Stay hydrated with plenty of fluids.
  • Listen to your body. If it hurts or it feels like too much, stop.

You also need to be aware of danger signs while exercising. Stop the activity and call your doctor or 911 if you experience pain or pressure in your chest, arms, neck or jaw; feel lightheaded, nauseated or weak; become short of breath; develop pain in your legs, calves or back; or feel like your heart is beating too fast or skipping beats.

"It's important to see your doctor before beginning any workout routine to receive a thorough cardiovascular evaluation," says Bauer. "Once you've been cleared by your doctor, I recommend starting out slowly."

Pick an Activity that You Will Enjoy


The best way to find a regimen that will stick is to choose something that you enjoy. You'll be more likely to stick with it and reap all the benefits the physical activity has to offer.

10 Important Parenting Goals for 2013

January 4, 2013 5:54 pm

One of my favorite quotes is “The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over expecting different results.” Same rule applies to parenting. If you want to build a better relationship with your kids, improve your child’s behavior and overall improve your family’s health, nothing will change unless you change.

The good news is that sometimes it only takes small changes to experience big results.
In a perfect world all of us would already be implementing all 10 of these goals below. Statistics show that most parents are not. So read through this important list of parenting goals and embrace 1 or 2 that you can implement starting today – and keep this goal for the entire year.

Hug your kids every day. Remember those bumper stickers from the ’80′s “Have You Hugged Your Kid Today”? In 2013 we need to plaster that sticker on our foreheads. Many kids are starving for emotional affection from their parents. So hug your kids every day. And don’t forget “I love you” a few times each week also!

Get rid of all sodas, fruit juices, sports drinks and any sugary beverage from your home. Why? Sugary drinks single-handedly contribute to mass numbers of cancer, obesity, behavioral problems, cavities, ADHD, ADD, sleep disorders…and the list goes on. If you make the simple dietary change for your family in 2013 to kick the sugary drink habit (and stick to water as your drink of choice), you will make tremendous positive changes for your family. And don’t be fooled by diet drinks. They are equally as unhealthy as the others.

Join your child for lunch at her school cafeteria unannounced. You will never see a happier look on your child’s face when they learn you have come to eat with them. Make a habit of doing this a few times each school year.

Learn to calm yourself down before you discipline your children.
We all lose our temper, raise our voices and feel outraged at the things our kids do sometimes. One of the best parenting tips I ever learned was to take a deep breath, count to 10 and even walk away from my child when I feel like exploding, yelling or spanking. Nobody wins in a situation when tempers are flaring. A calm, cool, collected parent has a lot more positive influence than an upset parent.

Read good parenting books. Then read more. Why? Parenting is the most important job in the world – but comes with the least amount of professional training. Most parents rely on friends, family or their sister for their best parenting advice. What if you were going in for heart surgery and the surgeon looked down at you and said, “I’m not a licensed physician and I’ve never been to medical school. But my dad was a doctor so I’m just going to call him and ask how I should operate on you.” You would be dumbfounded. We expect our doctors, teachers, pastors and even our hair dressers to be professionally trained and “with the times”. Why are we not expecting the same level of training and professionalism with parents? Be a coachable parent. Let parenting experts guide you through the most important job you will ever do. Your kids deserve it!

Limit media to 30 minutes each day. Many studies show that more than 1 hour of screen time (TV, computers, cell phones, video games, tablets, etc…) contribute to sleep disorders, obesity, poor physical activity, behavioral problems, ADHD…and more. No matter how much your kids try to convince you otherwise, your Play Station will never provide your kids equal physical or mental benefits to a bike ride, card game, jump rope or swimming pool.

Get your kids to bed 15 minutes earlier than you normally do.
Why? Next to poor diet, lack of sleep is the biggest contributor to physical and mental health problems. Po Bronson, author of “Nurture Shock,” found in his detailed study on sleep in children that even an extra 15 minutes of sleep in children increased their school grades, IQ scores and overall daily well-being.

Pack healthy sack lunches at least a few times each week.
Why? Well, simply put, school cafeteria food is some of the unhealthiest food on the planet. Even if your school boasts a “healthy menu,” more-than-likely your child is choosing the chocolate milk, the dessert and skipping the fresh fruit. (I would too if given the option!) So pack healthy lunches with whole grain bread, fresh fruit and bottled water.

Spend 20 minutes of one-on-one quality time with your kids every day:
Go bike riding/walking, play a board game, make art, cook together, throw a ball…etc. Sitting in front of the TV together is not quality time. Quality time is what kids are starved for. Quality time is free. It only takes minutes to fill a child’s emotional tank. Parents, stop making excuses. Carve out quality time for your kids every single day!

Do service projects together.
This is a win-win-win situation for you, your kids and a person in need. Volunteer work is one of the most memorable experiences your children will ever have – and it’s a great way for your teenager to build a work resume. This is something that can become a fabulous family tradition. Pick an organization that means a lot to you and serve them on a regular basis.

Word of the Day

January 4, 2013 5:54 pm

Deed of trust. Document resembling a mortgage that conveys legal title to a neutral third party as security for a debt. Also called a trust deed or deed in trust.

Q: How Can I Find Out How My Property Is Zoned?

January 4, 2013 5:54 pm

A: Zoning ordinances and maps are a matter of public record. Visit your local zoning office, city hall, or some other local planning board and get a copy of your local ordinance.

In some areas, if you have a legal description of the property (name, address, tax map, and parcel number), you can call the zoning office or city hall, or even e-mail your request for information.

Some communities also have their zoning maps and ordinances online and in local libraries.