What Every Mom Needs to Know About Insurance

As parents, it’s our responsibility to make sure our kids are cared for. We go out of our way to keep our kids safe, from buying bicycle helmets to Band-Aids to winter coats, right down to holding their hand when they cross the street.

Most of us worry endlessly about our kids’ well-being. I know I do! But as much as we worry about the little things, it’s sometimes easy to let the big things, those risks and dangers that are a little more intangible—slip by ignored or unattended to.

A big part of protecting our kids, as well as securing financial peace, is making sure our families are covered for the big things including natural disasters, an injury or illness, job loss, or worse. Even so, it can sometimes be hard to determine exactly what coverage you need, especially when it seems like most insurance salesmen only want to play on your emotions.

When money is tight, you certainly don’t want to overspend on coverage that you don’t need, but you need be protected from major catastrophe. The best approach is to do your research ahead of time and be aware of the state of your family’s finances before you get a sales pitch.

It is important to remember that it’s not the insurance agency’s role to make sure you’re getting the best deal on insurance. It is up to you to be your own advocate and to get the best rate. Insurance isn’t something you can put on the back burner and just pay each month.

To get the best rates, you must continuously (at least once a year) revisit your insurance policies and do some comparison shopping. Plans and offers are constantly changing to meet the needs of the market. Rates can fluctuate as your family’s needs and situation change as well. Adding another driver, building on an addition to your home, changing your security system, or bringing a new member of your family into the world can all raise insurance questions and call for a little guidance.

There are seven types of insurance that you NEED: Homeowners/Renters, Auto, Health, Disability, Long-Term Care, Identity Theft, and Life.

Other insurances you should consider is also boat, farm and travel.

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Home

If you’re paying a mortgage, the lender requires homeowner’s coverage, but even if you’re lucky enough to own your home outright, you want to be sure that you’re protected.

For renters, insurance protects your possessions in case of fire, theft and, in some cases, flood. Renters insurance is often thought of as optional, but as a parent, you must cover yourself in case of tragedy. Renters insurance is often really quite inexpensive (less than $20/month!) and it’s very important if you have big-ticket items that might be difficult to replace, such as audio equipment, collectables, exercise gear, televisions and appliances. Take inventory of your household and make a list of those larger items that could be damaged or stolen, and would result in major financial hardship if you’d have to replace them.

There are several ways to save on homeowner and renter’s insurance. You can raise your deductible, combine policies and do some home improvements and emergency preparations to raise the protection level on your home. Improvements to home security can also help you save, as can new windows, doors, and extreme weather protection.

Auto

 When we think insurance, auto insurance is often the first thing that comes to mind. Driving is possibly the highest risk activity that any of us do almost every day, and we all know the importance of having liability coverage. In many states, it’s now illegal to operate a vehicle without liability insurance or proof of financial responsibility.

In our litigious society, unfortunately, coverage is mandatory to protect yourself from financial ruin in case of an accident or driving mistake. One moment can change your life and the life of another driver forever. Trust me, your mind will be at ease when you know you’re protected.

When it comes to auto insurance, the value of your vehicle is important when you’re determining the amount of coverage and type of insurance you need. If your car is in its twilight years, you may feel comfortable with less coverage or just liability. If you have a newer car (or if you’re paying off a car loan), you need to have full coverage to keep your investment safe.

There are several other ways to save on car insurance. Shop around, compare rates, and don’t become too loyal to just one agency or provider. There are good driver discounts, multiple car discounts, and even good grade programs for driving teens and students. Installing safety upgrades or attending defensive driving courses can also help lower your monthly payments and save you when it comes to paying for coverage.

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Health

Health insurance is so important. As parents, we know we must take children to the doctor for regular checkups. We also know that serious health issues can come out of nowhere, and without coverage they can leave households financially devastated. For the many of us just surviving in todays middleclass, we make enough to pay all our bills, not enough for the extras, and too much for any assistance such as government plan health insurance such as Medicaid, family health plus and their attached HMO plans.

Many employers offer health insurance at a cost which also requires deductibles and co-pays, but if yours does not, or if you’re independently employed, private insurance providers are available. Under the Affordable Care Act, you may qualify for low-cost coverage based on your income. Keep in mind though, low-cost means anywhere from $200-$400 per person a month with deductibles and co-pays which is low cost for health insurance.

Consider a Health Savings Account and/or a high deductible plan to save the most. An HSA can save families thousands of tax-free dollars every year, which you can use toward your deductible, so your monthly premium will be lower. You can use your HSA for prescriptions, and depending on the plan, eye exams and preventative care.

Disability

Disability insurance should cover 65% of your income, and most employers offer disability coverage. It’s often something that’s overlooked, but one in seven workers will face a disability before retirement.

You should be sure your disability insurance is long-term. My personal opinion is that you should have 3–6 months of expenses saved up, which would cover your needs in the case of a short-term or minor disability. It’s the long-term scenarios that you should plan for. Most disabilities (90%) are not covered by worker’s comp or social security.

The effects of a disability can financially ruin a family if you’re not properly prepared. Many workers facing disabilities can be out of work for three years or more. Consider what would happen to your family should they face an unforeseen accident or tragedy that leaves you unable to work.

Long-Term Care

As a parent, long-term care is not necessarily something that’s on any of our minds, but it’s a necessity for anyone over age 60. If your parents cannot afford long-term care insurance, this may be something you want to consider.

Consider the scenario of a parent who is facing a condition like dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, and requires long-term care. This situation can quickly eat up your parents’ retirement savings and even dip into your own savings and accounts. Those who qualify for Medicaid will receive some assistance, but it often leaves patients with limited options and plans for complete care.

As you near your 60s, long-term care should be on your horizon and part of your post-retirement financial plan. It’s a way to make sure you don’t financially burden your children or spouse and ensures you won’t leave them unable to make ends meet.

Identity Theft

If you’ve never faced the horror in dealing with having your identity stolen, then consider yourself very lucky. With data breaches on the rise among major retailers, it seems like everyone is at risk. Identity theft can cost you big-time in terms of time, money, effort, and just general headaches. In a worst-case scenario, identity theft can damage your credit and make recovery very difficult—even if you’re an innocent victim.

Part of your insurance portfolio should include identity theft protection. You should be sure it includes an identity restoration service that can fix the damage and get your identity restored and safe once again. Teaching your family good identity-safety habits such as limiting your exposure online and protecting your passwords can help protect you as well, but should the worst happen, insurance will be a lifesaver.

Long Island Insurance Company

Life

Life insurance can be a little confusing. The general rule of thumb is you need term, not whole life. Cash value insurance can sound like a great way to invest and save money, but truth be told, it doesn’t offer high returns at all and generally is a poor performing product.

Term life insurance, on the other hand, is a way to cover yourself until you’re debt free and in a position to invest. It offers a way to help your spouse or children settle your estate and survive in relative comfort should something happen to you.

Term life insurance can help you cover burial costs and the costs of paying off your debt, plus further support of your family, particularly if you’re the sole breadwinner.

Facing uncertain scenarios in life is always unsettling, but having the proper insurance coverage can ease your mind and allow you to sleep a little easier at night. Look into the faces of your children and think of all the ways you would love to keep them safe. Insurance is one of the most simple, practical, and logical ways to protect your loved ones. 

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Don’t Sign That Lease Yet

When looking for a living rental, whether being an apartment, loft or house; you may have a lot lingering in your head such as, questions, expectations, plans and maybe even excitement or stress. Perhaps you’re excited about turning your new place into a home and decorate (which is my favorite), or you are nervous about your move. No matter what your situation, when shopping for living rentals, the most important thing you must do is to thoroughly study your lease before signing it. Aside from reviewing the lease, always ask your landlord or apartment manager questions about renting, or about any other aspect of life in your perspective new dwelling. He or she should be helpful and must address all your queries, and more importantly, put what you’ve discussed into writing in case you have to return back to it for reference. Whatever you do, always read your lease, and don’t adjourn it for after you sign it.

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So, what are some important questions to ask when looking at rentals before signing a lease???

  • How much is the rent?
    • Questions about rent cost are very basic yet very crucial, as the apartment must fit your budget of course. You may be able to even negotiate a change in the rents price, but some landlords are settled for what they want to rent their property for. Keep in mind that it may send a red flag that you may have difficulties in paying your rent if you ask to lower the price.
  • When is the rent due?
    • Usually rent is due on the first of every month, but it may be different due to your move in date. Sometimes an extension is available, so ask if there is one, and if there is interest or a fee attached to your late payment.
  • What is the length of the lease?
    • Some leases are month to month, every half year or yearly. If you are renting a room, a lease is normally weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or yearly. It is also important to be aware of what happens when your lease is up since some landlords do renew the lease, and some may just void it and allow the tenant to stay as long as they continue to pay their rent.
  • Under what circumstances can I break the lease?
    • Some landlords allow their tenants to break their lease once they prove that they have been relocated for work or have purchased a house, keep in mind that not all do. Some landlords or agencies may even allow you to break your lease due do crime such as a burglary. A few years ago, my apartment was robbed while I was at school, and my landlord allowed me to break my year lease since I was worried I may be targeted again because I was barely home and lived by myself. Leases can also be broken if the landlord does not keep their end of the bargain as well.
  • Which utilities am I responsible for?
    • Utilities make a big impact in apartment costs, so be sure to gather as much information about them as possible. If you are responsible for electricity, heat, trash and/or water, you want to make sure you can afford those payments within your budget. If utilities are included, you should know if there are any limitations. Some places have a set thermostat with a limit temperature and timer included when heat is included.
  • What is the cost of the utilities for the apartment I would like to rent?
    • To help budget your cost, ask the property owner what is the normal monthly rate for utilities. If he or he is unaware, you have the ability to call your local utility companies, and request an estimate based upon the past usage of previous tenants.

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  • Is the heating electric or gas?
    • Generally it is cheaper to heat water with gas than with electric. Electricity costs about four times as much as natural gas for the same amount of heat. If a dwelling is heated by electricity, it’s especially important to call the utility company to find out about past electric bills at that address.
  • Who is responsible for hot water?
    • Sometimes the landlord pays for hot water, and sometimes tenants pay. Hot water is often the second biggest part of your utility bill, so it’s important to ask this question before renting. Again, call the utility company to find out what past gas and electric bills have been for that address.
  • Am I provided with cable, satellite service or internet?
    • Some places include internet with a monthly limit of GB usage while cable may only include only certain channels.
  • Who is in charge of yard work?
    • Some rentals include yard work such as snow plowing, and mowing of grass as well as bush trimming in the rent. Not all rentals include these services and it is the tenants responsibility to care for the properties yard. My rent includes all yard work, except my own personal gardening of course 🙂

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  • What is the parking situation?
    • This is a very important question if you own a car. Check if you will be provided with your own parking spot, and ask whether your guests can use other parking spaces when they visit your place. If there are no off street parking spaces available, it’s good to know where parking on the street is available, the distance from there to your dwelling, as well as the city/town laws in regard to parking on the street. Some cities have alternating parking days while others may not.
  • Can I make improvements in the apartment?
    • We sometimes may not like how the sink or shower spits out water, and may want to change faucets. Check and see if there is anything in the dwelling that you would like to have changed, and see if you can change it. Some landlords may even deduct from your rent if you show proof of cost for your efforts.
  • Can I re-paint or hang décor?
    • This is important as well. You might have found the perfect location, but what if its walls are painted in a dreadful color? Some landlords will allow you to re-paint while others won’t. Some rentals also will not allow to have anything hanging on the walls due to the potential damage from drilling holes or hammering nails. Details about redesigning should be included in the lease.
  • Is there a lot of noise? Are there rules to noise?
    • If noise is a huge issue for you, you better make sure you know if other tenants or neighbors make a lot of it. If you are one who creates the noise, ask what are the limits, and if it will be a problem. You have to show neighbors respect no matter where you move. Having company shouldn’t be an issue, but when it’s loud company, it can be.
  • Can I have pets?
    • Ask about the pet policies. Each place will have its own set of rules and regulations about pet ownership. Some will allow pets while others won’t. Some communities are very particular and will even look into a pet’s breed type and weight. Additional security deposits may apply for your pet, and you should be aware, just as the landlord should be aware of your pet’s presence.
  • Can I sublease?
    • In some rentals, you will be allowed to take in a roommate or perhaps, add another name to the lease after moving in. Make sure this option is available in case you are in need for the extra help with expenses or just want to help out a family or friend.

When looking at rentals and asking questions, try to think in both the long and short term. There are lots of rentals out there, and asking the right questions is key to choosing the best one for you.

Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Keep Calm and Love Animals

“In order to learn it’s strength, purpose, and ability to build happy, healthy relationships, everybody deserves a chance to love and to be loved: so do animals”…..Samantha Jonas-Rongo

Keep calm and love animals

Keep calm and Love Animals                                                                                Samantha Jonas-Rongo 

I love all of the animals of my family. I don’t like to use the label or term, “pet”, so I don’t. They are my family and I love them as so. We have one dog and two cats.

Kaine, our entertaining and rambunctious 18 month American Red Nosed Pit-bull has blessed our lives when he was only 8 weeks old. He has grown very quickly and is filled with so much energy and love for all of us and those he comes across.

My eldest feline friend, who we have had since she was 4 weeks old, is now 5 months and is an intelligent and affectionate black and white Tuxedo cat, who I must say loves to cuddle and has the most softest fur to compliment. She’s one of the first things I see when I wake in the morning and of the last things before I go to bed.

Then the youngest member of our tribe; Kyra, is our cinnamon swirl, American Short Haired cat. She is now almost 4 months old and she has been a joy in our life for more than 3 of those months. She is still growing, learning and maturing but is doing it fairly quickly.

We have fed each one of these amazing animals by the bottle, had trained them, bathed them, played with them, cared for them, fed them, cleaned up after them, and still continue to do it all and are thankful for the opportunity and ability to do so. Not only are they all a part of our family, but our extended family loves them all as well.

One day my sister and I had been leaving our brother’s house and as we walked past his neighbor’s porch, we noticed there were about 9 kittens slowly walking and playing in and outside a large cage. We asked if they were for sale, they weren’t, but because the ASPCA was actually on their way to pick them up since the owner was unable to provide for all of them alongside the cats she already had. However, she agreed to let me choose one of my choice before they arrived. I chose Kyra, not only because I loved her cinnamon swirl fur, but I admired her effort and ability to make her way towards me, as if she knew right then and there I had to make that decision. Since then, our house has been her home.

Kaine had been given to me on mother’s day from my fiancé. He opened the door and there he was with his bright blue-collar, wagging his tail ready to play and be held. We love him and he returns the love gracefully. We don’t know much about his past before he entered our lives, but we know what the possibilities for his life could have been. He was put up for sale by someone in the neighborhood we use to live in, and we know that as a male Red Nosed Pit-bull, he may be forced into living a life of fear, violence and danger due to his breed, and never given the chance to be that loving and affectionate dog he is today. Unfortunately, pit-bulls are given labels and are stereotyped, but that’s not any different from an individual profiling and discriminating another due to their race or religion. Due to Kaine’s situation, Mothers Day in effect, and my fiancé knowing how I feel and my stance when it comes to less fortunate issues, he knew it would make my gift even more special.

I love them both so very much!

Kylie was abandoned after her birth when the woman who had once owned her mother had moved and left all of them there in the empty house. They were only 2 weeks old. The neighbor had found them, nurtured them as much as he could, and decided to give them away for free to those who he knew would take good care of them. He happened to be my mother in laws friend so we were both given a kitten of our choice. Kylie was, and still is very adorable. When she was a kitten, she had a wondering left eye that I was worried may have a detachment so I felt even more compassion towards her. I chose her due to the love I felt immediately after I seen her. I wasn’t too sure at the time if her eye would be like that permanently, or if it was just a birth effect that she would grow out of, but I knew she would be loved regardless in my family. I was told to give it time and her eye may set itself in place naturally, it did in fact just a couple of days later. If that man had never saved them , who knows where my Kylie would have been or treated.

Not everyone can care for animals though, some can’t afford too. I would say may not have the time, but c’mon, as busy of a super woman as I am, along with the many other busy bodies I know with animal(s) to care for, that can’t be possible or an acceptable reason. Unless of course you are always traveling and are never home, then maybe so.

In my personal opinion, cats do not need an owner, they just need a safe environment to live in, maybe food, but they’re capable of finding their own source. They can survive on their own and are very independent, cleanly and intelligent which is why I love their company. Dogs however, have a more immature state of mind and are in more need of attention and play. They seem to stay in a child’s mind set throughout their life but become able to grow more loyal, loving and secure relationships easier.

 Having animals isn’t much different from having children. They require both the same needs besides clothing, unless of course you live in Beverly Hills. Unlike humans, animals can only signal,and cant speak the same language to tell you what they want or feel so communication which is key in any relationship, is limited. However, with children, if needed, you can get assistance in the care and support of them for food, medical, shelter, cash, utility payments, job search, etc with available government programs, with or without more help by their other parent/guardian and even tax credit incentives. Having animals takes 100% independence to care for. So as a single pet owner, I guess it is correct to say you’re a real single mother/ father.  Their medical bills to food is of the owners responsibility, and it isn’t cheap.  Toilet paper and Pampers overtime are cheaper than forever needing kitty litter.

 If I didn’t enter their life, who knows what could have happened to them. They could have ended up in a shelter and then released or put up for adoption. Regardless, Kylie, Kyra and Kaine, along with all other animals around the globe deserve to be treated humanly. They could have actually ended up in a better home than mines that included more amenities but I know that what I have and can offer to them is more than they need and will always be available.

Animals deserve all the love and rights that we expect as humans to have. Throughout the year,  donations are needed to help with the shelter, and support of animals in shelters, and in the wild. You don’t have to donate a lot. Any amount is enough to add some assistance for an animal in need whether its money towards a shelter’s electric bill or food count, a private veterinarian practice, or food and fresh water for those who are stray . I have attached some links where you can also learn more about animals and how you can help in their survival and well-being.

Why not help those who would do anything for us?                                              Samantha Jonas-Rongo

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Click here to donate to the ASPCA

Click here to donate to The Humane Society

Click here to donate, adopt or learn more about the North Shore Animal League

Click for AllPaws and find a local animal shelter near you