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Setting smart goals in the New Year


Where will you be celebrating New Year’s eve in Keokuk? A fun night out at Shooters Lounge or a relaxing weekend at the River’s Edge Bed and Breakfast? Maybe you plan on a night in with family and friends to watch the ball drop. Whatever your plans are, we wish you a cheerful one!


Other than “what are your plans,” another question always seems to come up at the end of the year, “do you have a New Year’s resolution?”


piggy bankWhether or not the answer is yes or no, why not make 2016 the year to focus on setting goals and saving money? The two really go hand in hand. Of course, other great resolutions include joining Anytime Fitness and pledging to shop local, but why not pledge to make small financial changes that will improve your lifestyle in a big way?


We talked about getting out of debt in our last blog, but we wanted to re-emphasize six tips for smart goal setting and financial planning in the New Year:


1. Record what you spend

The most important step in saving money is understanding what you’re spending your money on. For the month of January, keep a record of everything you spend, including coffee, snacks and random knick-knacks. After one month, organize everything into categories–groceries, gas, clothing–and see where you spent most of your money. Find a cool notebook at McFarland Swan Office Supply Company to record all your purchases in!


2. Create a budget

Now that you have an understanding of where you spend your money, build a budget for February. Factor in regular expenses, planned events, savings and emergency funds. The general rule for saving is to try to take at least 10-15 percent from your paycheck and put it into a savings account. If your expenses don’t allow for you to save that much, cut back and look for areas in your spending to save money, like only eating out at Angelini’s Pizza once a week (even though it is so good).


3. Make savings goals

Creating goals makes it easier to know where to start. Think about short-term goals, like saving money for a vacation, or buying a new car. Also keep in mind long-term savings goals, like saving for retirement or putting money away for your child’s college education. Don’t have a savings account set up? Set up an appointment with a few different banks to see which is right for you. Check these Keokuk banks out: First Community Bank, State Central Bank or Pilot Grove Savings Banks.


4. Bundle your insurance policies

Insurance companies often offer discounts to attract customers needing more than one type of insurance. For example, it may end up being cheaper to insure both your house and your car with one company, rather than insuring your house through a one company and your car through another company.


Bundling insurance isn’t always the first thought that comes to mind when setting financial goals, but the bottom line is bundling your policies can save you money compared to having a variety of carriers at once. Also, another plus, when one insurance company is handling all your insurance policies, that’s less time for you to spend sorting through and paying each policy. Afterall, time is money!


5. Set up automatic transfers

Check in with your bank and set up automatic monthly transfers to your savings account. If the money isn’t in your checking account, it is harder to spend!


Start the New Year off right!

By making just a few smart financial decisions, you can make a big different in your spending and saving habits. Having a better handle on your money can help you achieve other life goals – like traveling, affording college or finally enjoying a weekend stay with your significant other at the beautiful Grand Anne Bed & Breakfast.


Give us a call (844-272-3420) and we can help look over your insurance policies to look for any savings opportunities. It never hurts to ask!


What other goals are you setting for 2016?




How to get out of debt in the New Year

new-yearresolutionslistThe best thing about goal setting and starting fresh in the New Year is that everyone can do it. Regardless of income, if someone sets a goal and determines simple actions needed to accomplish that goal, it’s possible!


One resolution that most people seem to make every year is to get out of debt, which is a great goal to have. But, without the proper goal setting strategy, it’s easy to give up or revert back to old spending habits.


This year, stick to your resolution and your goal of living debt free with these simple and effective tips:


  1. Save loose change. Think about it this way, putting aside $.50 per day will allow you to save nearly $250 a year!
  2. Keep track of your spending. Determine what type of method works for you – from online options like that automatically track your spending, to keeping an envelop with receipts. Tracking your spending will help show where your money is going and in what areas you can save.
  3. Start a budget. Once you have an idea of what you are spending (see tip 2) create a budget that can help guide your spending and saving decisions in the future.
  4. Think over each expensive purchase for at least 24 hours before actually buying something. This will help eliminate impulse purchasing and will leave you with far fewer regrets and far more dollars in your savings account.
  5. Bundle your insurance. Most people may not know that bundling their insurance policies can save money! Contact your insurance agent (844-272-0525) and discuss the kind of rates you can receive if you move all your policies to one insurance company.

Reach your goal

Reaching a goal, or in the case of this blog, the goal of financial independence, has nothing to do with luck or magic. It’s simply a matter of setting good financial goals and making simple changes that will help you reach them. Working towards your goal will become part of your life, as will achieving financial freedom.
How do you plan to reach your New Year’s resolutions this year?




7 Tips for maintaining a wood burning fireplace in Keokuk


Who here still uses their wood burning fireplace? To us there’s nothing like the warmth that comes from a fireplace. There can be many advantages to using a wood burning fireplace. Not only does it add to the festive feelings of the holidays, but it can save money on heating costs and supplement your main source of heat.


Maintaining your fireplace regularly will ensure that it operates in the safest, most efficient manner possible.

Here are 7 tips to properly maintain your wood burning stove:

  1. Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and keep them in working order.
  2. Keep combustible materials like carpets and furniture away from the fireplace when a fire is burning. Having a guard in front of the fireplace will help keep children and pets away from harm. Be sure there are no combustibles within one foot of all sides of the fireplace.
  3. Clean ash from the fireplace whenever it reaches the bottom of the grate where it can get in the way of airflow. Remember to wear a dust mask and gloves for safety.
  4. Have your wood-burning fireplace and chimney cleaned and inspected by a certified sweep at least once a year, at the end of the burning season, or more often if you notice creosote and soot build-up on the inside of the chimney. Here are a few fireplace companies to help you inspect and maintain your wood-burning stove or fireplace: Dedert Construction or Tri-State Stove Works (319-837-6992)
  5. Test out your fireplace by lighting a few small pieces of wood. If smoke doesn’t exit upward from the fireplace into the chimney, but enters the room, immediately correct any problems – potential causes include creosote/soot build-up or other debris in the chimney like bird or animal nests.
  6. Burn seasoned, not “green” wood. Seasoned wood has been cut and dried under cover for at least 6-12 months. Split wood dries more thoroughly and burns better than whole logs. Green wood will not burn as thoroughly, creating more soot and creosote.
  7. Burn hardwoods like oak, ash and maple. These woods are denser and heavier, delivering more heat than lighter softwoods like pine, poplar and cedar.

Safety first

Stay warm and safe this winter by incorporating these easy tips for maintaining a safe wood-burning stove or fireplace into your wood-burning practices. Have you had your fireplace or wood-burning stove inspected yet? What other safety tips do you have to share? We’d love to hear from you!




Winter hunting safety tips in Keokuk

katnissKatniss in “The Hunger Games,” had an eye for her target.  If you are a natural, or expert hunter, it also means you have a deep respect for hunting rules and safety. 


With a rough winter headed our way, the normal hunting routines are going to need some updating. Severe weather means unexpected changes, and creating new hunting plans that involve more gear, warmer clothing and smarter camping plans.  


Whether you are planning on staying local in the Keokuk area or will be hitting the road for an outdoor excursion, winter hunting safety is more than just hearing protection and an orange vest.


Here are three tips for staying safe during the winter season while out in the field.


  1. Layer up!
    Dress for the elements using layers that help insulate, wick away moisture and are water proof. Find high quality clothing items that work well in cold weather, are lightweight and enable you to still be agile and easily move around. Need some new duds? Check out these sporting goods stores in Keokuk: Keokuk Farm and Home Supply or Cabelas.


  1. Keep your eyes peeled!
    Be aware of other outdoorsmen. While this tip may go without saying, hunting brings unique participants and some of them are new and inexperienced. Check your surroundings to ensure there are no other hunters or hikers in the area; awareness is key to a safe hunting experience.


  1. Share your hunt plan
    Share your hunting plans with someone else. Leaving a schedule of how long you will be gone for and where you will be is extremely important in case there is an accident and you aren’t able to call for help. If an emergency contact knows when you should be home, they can call for help if you don’t return home at the planned time.


Hunt Smart

Common sense can keep you and your group safe and sound during the winter hunting season.  Wearing the proper gear and setting up your campsite with harsh weather elements in mind can help lay the foundation to an enjoyable weekend.


What are some of the things you do to make the outdoors safe and enjoyable during the winter?




Black Friday and Parking Lot Wars

parking lot warsEach year Black Friday specials are beginning earlier with stores like Walmart opening at 6pm on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.


When did the Thanksgiving holiday become such a rush for shopping madness? While we’re all in the business of saving money and taking advantage of great deals, remember that nothing is more important than safety and the value of time.


Before you head out on Black Friday, we wanted to remind you to take caution while driving, especially in parking lots. It’s not uncommon to get little fender benders around the major holidays. What’s worse is that these fender benders are often not worth the deductible on your insurance, and in some cases, people don’t even have car insurance.


So here’s a stealth reminder for everyone as you head out on Black Friday:
  1. When finding a parking spot, don’t be too attached to parking close to the entrance. We know it’s cold in the early morning and late night hours, but walking a slight distance will work off the Thanksgiving meal you just had, and besides, exercise is always good for you.
  2. Beware of motorists who speed through lanes to try and grab easy parking. Use your “Driver’s Ed 101” knowledge: use your mirrors and watch your corner.
  3. Keep all your purchases inside your trunk, or away from view.
  4. Avoid parking near or between cars that are awkwardly parked.


If you do get into a fender bender, do these things right away:
  1. Call security or the police. Filing a police report to the police after the fact, won’t do you any good. It’s best to contact law enforcement and get them to the scene.
  2. Ask for the other driver’s insurance information, ID, and contact information. Don’t feel shy to ask. It’s becoming more common these days to take a photo of their information.  driver as well as contact information. Don’t be shy to ask for an ID, and beware of drivers who show you their insurance card, but have cancelled policies.
  3. Take pictures and record what happened
  4. Report the incident to your agent and your insurance company’s claims personnel.


We want to help you before “we need to help you.” While accidents can and do happen, we also want to equip you with information that can help avoid risk and protect yourself.





Solar Panels in Keokuk



Solar energy isn’t a new concept, but it is a fairly new money-saving tactic that is now accessible to most homeowners.


Adding solar panels can add value to your home and keep your energy bill low. Plus, there are a lot of great tax write-offs that come along with running an energy efficient home and lifestyle.


Thinking about checking out solar panels for your home or business in Keokuk? Try giving Iowa Wind and Solar a call, they are one of the few solar power companies in the area and can answer any questions you may have.


Protect your solar panel investment


As with most home additions, solar panels require a decent investment in order to have them installed and need to be protected with the right insurance just like you protect the rest of your investments and belongings.


Solar panels are exposed to the elements — wind, hail, lightning, falling trees — which is why it’s important to make sure your home insurance plan includes coverage of solar panels.


Here are 4 things to consider when installing solar panels and finding the right insurance:


  1. Depending on your insurer, there may be restrictions on solar panel coverage. It’s important to look into the coverage differences for a ground-mounted solar system versus roof panels. Check before installing your panels or ground system to insure your type is protected.
  2. Solar panels aren’t a cheap addition, but luckily most can make up for the investment through the value solar panels add to a home. Depending on factors such as the state you live in, house and system, you can experience a jump of up to $25,000 in home value just by adding this great feature.
  3. You will need to raise your dwelling protection limits after installing solar panels. Your current insurance plan was created based on your home prior to installing solar panels. If you don’t raise your limits and there is major damage to your home due to a disaster, the cost to cover the gap between what your home was worth and what it is currently valued at will come out of your pocket.
  4. Solar panels can present an extra obstacle to firefighters when tackling house fires since the panels may still be generating electricity while a home is one fire. This risk of potential electrocution can sometimes slow or stop efforts to save a building, which is another reason to reevaluate your home insurance plan.


When to talk to an insurance agent about solar panels

There is no better way to learn about adding solar panels to your home insurance coverage unless you talk to your insurance agent. If you already have solar panels installed, it helps to have the following details at hand when asking about a new homeowners policy:


  • The number of panels
  • Contractor information
  • System type


By working with your insurance agent, you can come up with an updated plan that meets the new needs of your environmentally friendly home.


Do you have a home in Keokuk with solar panels? Did you have any insurance issues when installing solar panels? Tell us your experience in the comments below.




Don’t lose work before Winter

electricianRight now the weather is still pretty moderate and there’s still last minute home-improvement projects that can be done before the dead of winter. It’s still a productive time of the year for electricians and other home-related industries.


If you’re an electrical contractor in Keokuk, how do you make sure you take full advantage of this season? Well for one thing, you’ve got to make sure you have the right insurance in place.


If you’ve been putting it off, then take this as your omen to get the proper insurance in place.


Four types of insurance all electricians need to have:

  1. Property damage coverage: Property damage provides coverage in the event there is any damage to the office, warehouse or any other space you own or rent for your electrician business. In addition to having this policy, you can also add a clause covering tools and equipment.
  2. General liability insurance: General liability insurance will cover your business if a third party (someone who doesn’t work for your company) is injured or sustains property damage as a result of your company doing business.
  3. Workers compensation: Workers compensation is the best thing an employer can provide for their employees. This policy covers your employees if they are injured, become sick or are killed because of a work related accident.
  4. Business income or loss of income insurance: Business income insurance provides coverage in the case something happens, like a natural disaster, that prevents you from running your electrical contracting business.


Insure the Money You Make

With the right insurance coverage for your electrical contractor business you can maximize the stream of revenue that flows into your income. Your insurance agent can help you find the right mix.


Talk to your insurance agent today to make sure there are no gaps in your coverage and if there are, what policies need to be added to provide your electrician company with complete coverage.




Pizza delivery companies need insurance too!


horse-deliveryThe topics of pizza seems to becoming more and more popular by the day – from funny pizza memes, to hungry college kids and easy Pinterest recipes – pizza is everywhere!


What does this mean for pizza restaurant owners? It means that business is booming. People want pizza and they want it fresh and they want it fast.  


But…did you know that delivering a fresh pizza can be a risky job? Cooks are rushing in the kitchen to get orders out the door and drivers are speeding to their delivery points – there is a lot of room for accident and error in this quick (and delicious) moving process. This is why pizza delivery business owners need to have insurance. Having the right insurance will protect the business, its employees and its customers.


Most pizza company insurance plans should include:


Car insurance: Auto policies can be for business-owned or non-owned cars and will protect your driver from liability risks while working. Every driver is required to be listed on a company-owned auto policy, which increases its cost, but insurance companies tend to prefer these policies because they know exactly how many vehicles your company’s employees are using to deliver pizzas.


Business owners policy: This policy is actually a combination of several types of coverages that are common for business owners such as general liability, property damage coverage and business interruption insurance.


Workers compensation: Workers compensation covers the driver in the event of any injury or illness that occurs while on the job. It provides for payment of medical expenses and lost wages.


Build your own pizza AND insurance

Just like you can build your own perfect pizza, business owners can build their own insurance plan. Talk to your agent (844-272-3420) to go over the policy options that are available and which provide the best coverage for your business and your employees.




Tips for a safe Halloween party


HalloweenCostumesHalloween is here! Kids (and adults) are piecing together their costumes (need a last minute costume idea?), buying their favorite candy, and getting ready for all the Halloween parties to share the excitement with friends and family!


Where will you be celebrating Halloween in this year? If you’re looking for a truly spooky haunted house or just a fun fall event, check these out.


Are you thinking about planning a spooky party of your own? Make it the best (and safest) one yet with these six Halloween party safety tips . . .


  1. DRY ICE: If you are going to use dry ice for spooky side-effects, use one large bowl and a smaller one that fits inside. The large bowl will hold the dry ice and the small bowl will hold the punch. Dry ice needs to be separate from the punch – it is not meant for ingestion and can cause serious damage to internal organs if swallowed.
  2. PARTY SPACE: If the party is in your home, make sure to clear a “party space” and move any breakable or valuable pieces of furniture to another room. A red punch spill on a family heirloom tapestry would certainly ruin the night!
  3. CHAPERONES: Planning a party for your kids? See if you can recruit any of the other parents to help with planning games, baking and decorations. Assign everyone a food item to bring so there are no repeats. Also, having a few spare parents around during the party will make it easier to keep an eye on the kids.
  4. BLOCK PARTIES: Consider asking your neighbors to partake in a block party! Set it up outside, in a low-traffic street or yard and get everyone involved.
  5. WALKWAYS: Make sure walking areas and stairs are well-lit and free of obstacles that could result in falls.
  6. USE OF CANDLES: Consider using battery-operated candle lights in carved pumpkins instead of actual candles.


Whatever you plan to do this Halloween, make sure to keep safety in mind. A great party can be ruined pretty quickly if someone gets hurt or sick.


Do you have any other Halloween safety tips or stories to share? We’d love to hear from you!





Drivers – don’t get stuck paying for an accident you didn’t cause!



This blog is about uninsured drivers and how to avoid paying for damages they cause in an accident.


Have you heard of underinsured or uninsured motorist insurance? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t. But we bet you have heard a variety of horror stories of someone who was involved in an accident with a driver who either didn’t have insurance and fled the scene, or didn’t have “good” insurance and wasn’t able to completely cover all the damages.


No one wants to get stuck in either of these situations. And it happens much too often.  How do you avoid it?


Avoid covering damages from an accident you didn’t cause with underinsured or uninsured motor insurance.


Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance (UM/UIM) is coverage that comes into play if an accident happens and the driver-at-fault either doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to fully cover the damages.


There are two different types of underinsured motorist policies – UIM bodily injury coverage and UIM property damage coverage.


If you are injured in an accident and the driver-at-fault doesn’t have insurance, or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover all the damages, then UIM bodily insurance comes into play and will pay for medical bills and other injury-related expenses. It will also provide coverage in case the at-fault driver can’t be identified, i.e. a hit-and-run.


UIM property damage covers the cost for vehicle repairs if the driver-at-fault doesn’t have enough insurance or any insurance at all. Unlike UIM bodily injury, UIM property damage won’t provide coverage if the driver-at-fault can’t be identified, so there is no coverage for a hit-and-run.


How does uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage work?


Let’s say you drive an $80,000 BMW and are in an accident with an insured driver with minimum state coverage. The damages total $30,000. While the driver at-fault does have insurance, they only have $15,000 in property damage liability coverage. If you don’t have UIM property damage coverage, you are responsible for the remaining $15,000 balance to repair the vehicle.


Don’t get stuck paying for an accident you didn’t cause.


Talk to your insurance agent and make sure the coverage you currently have will provide protection if you are in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. Without it, the cost to repair damages will come out of your bank account, which is something every driver who has been in an accident that wasn’t their fault wants to avoid.  




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