Your Spring Cleaning Checklist

Now that the temperatures have climbed and the breeze has lost its chill, you can finally open the windows and let the fresh air in.

But when that first gust of wind blows in dirt from the sills, and the bright beautiful sunlight reveals a layer of dust on your baseboards, you’ll know it’s time for spring cleaning.

Spring cleaning is a necessary evil and a chore that most of us dread doing. If you’re looking for a simplified checklist that covers the main chores of the season, we have compiled a list for you:

  1. Wash your baseboards. Working one room at a time, sweep the top layer of dust off of your baseboards with your sweeper attachment. Then wipe them down with a wet soapy cloth. Take a few extra minutes and muscles to move furniture away from the walls so you have access to the entire room.
  2. Sweep behind all of the furniture, and under it. While you’ve got the furniture pulled away from the walls to do the baseboards, run a vacuum over the carpet or flooring that the furniture usually covers.
  3. Clean your window treatments and blinds. You can clean your curtains and drapes with sweeper attachments, or depending on the fabric, you can run them through the washer. Wipe down your blinds with a wet cloth.
  4. Wash your windows. Not all of us can say, “I don’t do windows.”  If you can’t either, wash the sills and glass, inside and outside.
  5. Wash your light fixtures. You’ll be surprised how much dirt and dust collects on light fixtures and fan blades over the course of a year. Sweep them off, then gently wash them.
  6. Clean your furniture. Wash down your kitchen table and chairs, and sweep the crumbs off your couches. Don’t forget to remove the cushions to reveal lost treasures. You may find a set of keys, spare change or a missing TV remote.

While spring cleaning is a lot of work, it definitely has its benefits. There’s complete satisfaction in a job well done, you’ll know where everything is, and your home will be fresh and clean – at least for now.

Give Your Grill a Checkup

Spring has arrived, and as you prepare the inside and outside of your home for the warmer weather, don’t forget to inspect one of the main focal points of every patio or deck: the Grill.

Your grill probably got a good workout last summer and fall, but has likely gone dormant in the winter months. So while you are sweeping off the patio and moving your outdoor furniture back to its place in the sun, take a few minutes to give your grill its annual checkup:

  1. Clean the exterior. Use warm soapy water to gently wipe down the outside of your grill. Be sure to wash in the same direction as the finish to avoid streaks in the stainless steel.
  2. Clean the interior. Scrub the inside surfaces, grates and burners with a nylon brush, a wire brush or a non-scratch sponge. Use a dish soap and water combination to more thoroughly wipe down the interior, and dry it completely.
  3. Inspect the condition of the grids and heat shields. Since you place the food on the grids, you’ll want to make sure they are free from rust. If you see rust or holes on the heat plates, your food may be cooked unevenly. Replace them if they are not in good condition.
  4. Check your propane tank. Check for leaks by applying soapy water and watching for bubbles. Be sure the tank is full. We recommend having a backup tank on hand in case you run out of gas in the middle of cooking.
  5. Consider replacing parts instead of the entire grill. Ordering replacement parts can extend the life of your grill, and make an older grill cook like its brand new.  Grillpartssearch.com is a great resource for replacing hard to find parts.  

So take a few minutes to be sure your grill is safe and in working order. Then enjoy being outdoors and the fun times grilling out with your family and friends this season!

Boating Safety Tips

Spring will be here soon, and the pleasant weather and warm sun will follow. Those who own boats will likely spend a weekend or a day at the lake with friends and family.

While boating is fun and relaxing, it is also a big responsibility. Be sure to enjoy it while keeping the following safety tips in mind:

  • Check the weather before you go. Save your boating for a day when the forecast is clear and warm. If you’re out on the water and the clouds start to get dark or the temperature drops suddenly, head back to safety.
  • Designate an assistant. Make sure at least two people on the boat know how to operate it. If one becomes ill or incapacitated, the other can bring the rest of the boaters to shore.
  • Take a Boating Course. Boating education requirements vary, but most states require at least one boating safety course. Classes are also available online to help you prepare.
  • Safety Checks. Have your boat checked at least once a year by a qualified technician, and get a vessel safety check from the United States Power Squadrons or the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
  • Save the Alcohol for Later. Alcohol doubles the chances for a boating accident (http://www.boatus.org/alcohol-and-boating/), and alcohol effects are heightened in the sun and wind. Stay safe and have a drink when you get back to dry land.

Stay safe while enjoying the boating season, the peaceful tranquility of the water, and the time together with your friends and family. If you have any questions about boating safety, insuring your boat, or insurance for your family or business, feel free to contact us.

Motorcycle Safety Tips

As spring arrives and the warmer weather hits Ohio, we’ll likely see more motorcycles out on our streets and highways. If you’re a motorcycle owner ready to experience the open road, here are some tips for staying safe:

  • Take a class. Find a Motorcycle Safety Foundation riding course in your area. It will teach you both basic and advanced techniques, as well as how to perform emergency maneuvers. You may even be eligible for discounts on your motorcycle insurance.
  • Wear protective equipment. A helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment for motorcycle riding. Choose one that fits properly and meets the Department of Transportation standards. Don’t forget about gloves, boots, goggles and a face shied, which will protect you from wind chill, flying bugs, debris and road rash.
  • Watch the weather. Rain can make the roads slippery and reduce your visibility. If you have to ride in the rain, avoid sliding by being gentle with the breaks, throttle and steering. Remember that you have two wheels – not four – so you have half the traction you are used to.
  • Ride defensively. Ride at a pace that is comfortable for you. Keep your distance from other bikes and vehicles, and use your turn signals to let the other drivers know your intentions. A study of the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research (http://www.alertdriving.com/home/fleet-alert-magazine/north-america/Florida-study-shows-cars-cause-majority-of-motorcycle-accidents) found that car drivers were at fault 60 percent of the time in motorcycle-car collisions.
  • Beware of road hazards. Bumps, potholes and road signs can be dangerous when on a motorcycle, and wet leaves, pebbles and ice can make your bike slide. Be aware of the condition of the roads, and what debris or substance may be on them.

The best way to avoid problems on a motorcycle is to be prepared. So take the extra precautions to make sure your ride is safe and enjoyable.

For more information about motorcycle safety tips, insuring your motorcycle, or insurance for your family or business, feel free to contact us.

Protect The Ones You Love This Valentine’s Day

While you’re preparing to celebrate Valentine’s Day for the ones you love, it is also important to make sure they are protected.

It’s unpleasant to think about, but we want our families to be taken care of if the worst were to happen. Life insurance can give you the peace of mind you need to know that your family’s basic needs will be met.

Here are some of the things your life insurance may cover:

Loss of income

Education costs for your children

Paying off your mortgage

End of life expenses

Additional benefits are available beyond the death benefit on some types of insurance you buy, such as universal life or whole life.

How much life insurance do you need?

Life insurance amounts vary from person to person. You’ll need to consider the amount of debt you have, the number of dependents, your spending habits, your savings goals, and how much you want to leave to your family.

Online life insurance calculators can give you an estimate, or we’d be happy to talk with you about your specific needs.

How often should you review your life insurance?

Since life constantly changes, Rivers Insurance Group recommends an annual review of your life insurance policies, or whenever you experience a major life event such as the birth of a child, the purchase or a home, or a change in your marital status.

Contact us today for more information about life insurance options, and enjoy the peace of mind with your family this Valentine’s Day.

Giving the Gift of Jewelry This Valentine’s Day? Here’s Some Advice

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and many people will be looking for the perfect gift to give that special person in their lives. Along with flowers, candy, and a fancy dinner out, one of the most popular and much loved Valentine’s Day gifts is jewelry.

But if you’re going to make the investment in jewelry, Rivers Insurance Group offers you two important pieces of advice:

(1) Buy from a reputable jeweler and

(2) Have the jewelry insured

Buy From a Reputable Jeweler

Since jewelry can be expensive, you’ll want to buy from someone you can trust. Ask your network of friends and coworkers for a referral, and look for someone who has been in business for a while.

A jeweler should listen to what you are looking for and want, and should not try to steer you towards a particular item. Always buy jewelry you can see in person, and avoid buying jewelry from the Internet or off of the TV.

Find out about the jeweler’s policy on returns, and have the item appraised by an independent, third party appraiser.

Have the Jewelry Insured

Because your jewelry can have both a monetary and emotional value, we recommend having your jewelry insured. Insurance can protect you from loss, theft and damage.

Most insurance companies need an appraisal, your sales receipt and a photograph of your item in order to insure it. If your jewelry has been passed down from a relative or is an antique and you don’t have the sales paperwork, we recommended having the item appraised.

The reality is that we live life with our jewelry, and things are bound to happen. Have your jewelry insured, and if your stone washes down the garbage disposal or your necklace comes unclasped while chasing your toddler around the park, you’ll be protected. Call Rivers Insurance today for more information.

Like the New Year, Open Enrollment offers New Beginnings

We hope you’ve had a safe and enjoyable start to 2016! A new year brings a fresh start, a promise of positive changes and important decisions to be made. The deadline for coverage starting February 1st is January 15, so your first important decision of 2016 may be your health care plans for the year. And we’re here to offer guidance and support.

 

Health Plans

Although there are lots of plans to choose from, individual has four plan categories that they refer to as “metal” categories. Each category offers different coverage percentages, so you can pick the plan that works best for you. The metal categories and average percentages are as follows:
  • Platinum: You pay 10%, your health plan pays 90%
  • Gold: You pay 20%, your health plan pays 80%
  • Silver: You pay 30%, your health plan pays 70%
  • Bronze: You pay 40%, your health plan pays 60%
When shopping for your plan, be sure to consider your pharmacy copayments and any other copayments you’re responsible for, as well as your total health care costs. For more information or to sign up, visit our website www.RiversInsGroup.com.

 

Dental Plan Options For Your Entire Family

Taking care of your teeth and gums is an important part of your overall health. We offer affordable, reliable, and easy-to-use plans for everyone in your family. They have a large network of dentists and a variety of plans for you to choose from.
Our featured provider, Dental Care Plus Group, has four HMO plans and four PPO plans. A comprehensive chart on their website lists the deductibles, coverages for preventative, basic and major services for each plan, and a situational description to help you determine the amount of insurance you need.
With Dental Care Plus Group, your plan is rounded out with discount vision and hearing programs, called Total Vision Services and EPIC, respectively. The programs offer discounts on eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing hardware, name brand hearing aids, medical exams, and surgical procedures, at no additional cost to you.  Get an instant quote at https://www.mydentalcareplus.com/Broker/Home/5695865

 

Rivers Insurance Group is Here to Help

If reviewing and selecting the right insurance plan seems overwhelming and confusing, we can help. You can select your insurance plans from our website, or we can assist you by recommending the plan that offers just the right amount of insurance, giving you the coverage you need at a price you can afford.

December 15 is your deadline!

While Open Enrollment doesn’t officially end until January 31, 2016, December 15 is the most important deadline you should know now.

If you enroll in Obamacare on or before December 15, your coverage can start as early as possible on January 1, 2016. But if you enroll any time after December 15, your coverage will be delayed well into the New Year.

Now that you know to find a health plan before December 15, here’s a second piece of important information: You must pay your first premium in order to activate your coverage. That means you cannot use your health plan until you make your first payment.

The same goes for the months to follow: If you fail to make any of your monthly premium payments, you could lose your coverage. And even if you’re allowed to pay for your first month with a credit card, you’ll need to contact your health insurance provider with your bank information for all subsequent payments.

2016 Health Insurance

As we celebrate the holiday traditions that come with this time of year – hanging Christmas lights, sending holiday cards and gift shopping – there is one other tradition we must complete that is not quite so festive: Open enrollment has started, and it’s time to select your insurance plan for 2016.
What’s Going on With Obamacare?
Obamacare has covered more people and benefitted those with preexisting conditions, but it hasn’t been without its challenges. Premiums are rising, enrollment projections are down, and many of the insurance co-ops associated with the program are losing money or going out of business. United Health Group, the nation’s largest health insurer, said it may withdraw from the marketplace next year.
It’s unclear what the future holds but one thing is for sure –it’s inevitable the health insurance market has and will continue to change.
For the short term, there are options to consider, and I am here to help.
Your Options
Insurance options outside of Obamacare are available, and it’s not worth it to not be insured. If you can afford health insurance but choose not to purchase it, you will have to pay a penalty. For 2016, the penalty is 2.5 percent of your household income, or $695 per person and $347.50 per child, whichever is higher.
I can help you select an insurance plan or program that is right for your and your family. Consider these options:
Sign up through RiversInsGroup.com website. You can avoid the marketplace altogether and sign up for the insurance you need on our website.
Health Savings Accounts (HSA).  HSAs offer more tax benefits than most other plans, and is an incentive to save for future health expenses. 
Supplemental plans. Supplemental plans with high deductibles and catastrophic coverage are increasing in popularity. These plans give you a way to pay for health expenses resulting from an illness or accident.
Dental, vision and prescription drug networks. These plans offer coverage and discounts for dental, vision and prescription drug services. While they are not considered insurance, they can sometimes be less expensive than insurance prescription drug programs and provide cheaper protection for expensive dental procedures.
Don’t let the uncertainty of our health care climate affect your holiday traditions. Check a to-do tradition off your list and sign up for your health insurance today, or contact us for more information.

Save Money and Energy with These Eight Home Winterizing tips

Old Man Winter is knocking on our door, and whether we like it or not, we’ll soon be living with cold temperatures, ice and snow.

But the plummeting thermometers don’t necessarily mean a spike in our electric bill. Here are eight tips you can use to take to control your energy usage, save money, and prepare your home for winter:

Tip #1: Insulate. Insulate. Insulate.

The purpose of insulation is to keep the warm air you’ve already paid for in your house, and the cold air out.

To insulate your windows, install bubble wrap or plastic over them, which will let the sunlight in, but protect you from drafts. To insulate your doors, roll up a towel or fill a pouch of fabric with sand. Lay it on the floor against your door to block the cold air that seeps in during the cold winter months. You can also install a storm door on your exterior doors for further insulation.

Don’t forget to check the insulation between your walls, on your attic floor and in your basement ceiling, and add more if needed.

Tip #2: Use Caulking and Weather Stripping

Use caulk to seal the gaps in your windows, or cracks you have in your walls. Inspect any areas of your home where two materials meet – such as the chimney, the wall corners or where pipes or wires exit your walls – and close these tiny openings with caulk. Use weather stripping to seal any openings on your doors.

Tip #3: Inspect Your Furnace and Air filters

Dirty filters restrict the airflow to your home, and require more energy to keep your home comfortable. Change your furnace filters each month, or invest in longer-lasting filters such as the HEPA or electrostatic filters that trap more debris.

Schedule a tune-up for your furnace to be sure it is working order for the season. If your furnace is old or it’s having problems, consider investing in an energy efficient furnace. Over time, it will pay for itself in energy savings.

Tip #4: Reverse Your Ceiling Fan Direction

Switch the direction of your ceiling fans to spin clockwise. This will circulate the warm air near the ceiling into the living space.

Tip #5: Drain Outdoor Hoses & AC Pipes

Winterize the exterior of your home by detaching, draining and storing garden hoses in your garage or basement for the winter. Turn off the water spigots, and remove any window air conditioning units. If your air conditioning unit has a shut off valve, turn that off and drain all the hoses and pipes. 

Tip #6: Check your detectors. Early winter is the perfect time of year to test and change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. You’ll also want to inspect your fire extinguishers, and replace them if they are over 10 years old.

Tip #7: Control Your Thermostat

You won’t need the house to be warm when you’re not there, or when you are sleeping under a nice, thick blanket. Turn the thermostat down when you leave, and turn it down before you go to bed. You may want to purchase a programmable thermostat, which can make these adjustments for you.

Tip #8: Layer Up. Save yourself money this winter by keeping your home a little cooler and throwing on a sweater. A light sweater will give you 2 degrees of warmth, and a heavy sweater will give you 4 degrees of warmth.

All of us at Rivers Insurance Group wish you a safe, warm and healthy winter. Contact us if you have any questions about winterizing your home, or need assistance with your home, health, life or auto insurance needs.