Traveling? Use these 6 tips to keep your home safe and sound

While you’re on vacation you want to be able to relax, and it’s a lot easier to do that when you know your home will be safe in your absence.  Before you hit the road, here are a few simple home safety solutions that can help you keep burglars away:

  • Ask the post office to hold your mail while you’re traveling.  Nothing says “We’re not home” like an overflowing mailbox.  If you have a newspaper delivered, ask to have delivery suspended as well.  If you have a neighbor you really, really trust, you might ask them to bring in your mail and paper each day instead.

abney june

  • Stay off the Internet.  You may be excited to be going on vacation, but posting about your traveling plans on Facebook and other social sites or on your personal blog is like an open invitation to would-be burglars.  Studies have shown burglars regularly scan online sites for people announcing their vacation plans to family and friends, so wait to post until you get back.
  • Make your alarm company aware of your plans.  If your alarm company knows you’re not home, they’re more likely to take alarms more seriously, knowing you haven’t accidentally tripped them.  Make sure your alarm is fully operational and set before you leave.
  • Install security cameras.  If you can’t afford to install real ones, buy some fake cameras and install them where they can be seen around your doors and windows.
  • Invest in a few timers or program your smart hub to turn your lights and TV on and off throughout the day.  Lights and television or radio noises indicate someone is home, and using timers lets you create the same illusion even when you’re not there.
  • Keep your lawn landscaped.  If you’re going away for a long vacation, hire someone to mow your lawn while you’re traveling so it doesn’t become weedy.  While you’re at it, ask your neighbor to park in your driveway or to move your car from one spot in the driveway to another to make it look as if someone is around.
  • Gather up your spare keys.  Don’t leave spares under rocks or mats or in flowerpots for crooks to find.

Enjoying yourself while you’re on vacation begins with the peace of mind that comes from knowing everything’s OK back home.  These safety solutions can help you rest easy so you can focus your attention on having fun.

6 Life Events that Should Trigger a Life Insurance Policy Review

Your life insurance policy plays a critical role in your financial planning and in the welfare of those you love.  Because your life changes over time, you need to revisit your policy from time to time to ensure it also evolves.  Changes in relationship status, work and other life events all need to be weighed to determine if a policy change is in order.  Here are six life events that typically require policy updates:

  • Marriage: Getting married is an exciting time, and it can be easy to overlook details abney may bloglike updating your insurance policy. Failing to update your policy can make it very difficult, or even impossible, for your spouse to collect benefits when you die.  Make sure your insurance benefits are distributed the way you intend them to be by updating your policy as soon as you get married.
  • Divorce: Divorce represents a change in your relationship status that needs to be handled as soon as possible in order to make sure your benefits are appropriately distributed. While some divorce decrees may mandate a certain portion of insurance remains in place for your spouse, most settlements do not include those stipulations.  Ask your divorce attorney how soon you can remove your ex from your policy.
  • Births and deaths: Having a child or grandchild is a major life change that often requires a policy update. Life insurance can pay for the needs of children through college and beyond, and they can also be used to leave a legacy to grandkids.
  • Taking out a mortgage: Life insurance can relieve your spouse from the burden of making mortgage payments on their own; likewise, when your mortgage is paid off, you might decide to reduce your benefit amount.
  • Job change or starting a business: Business expenses and responsibilities require careful financial planning, including updates to personal life insurance policies, especially when business loans are involved.
  • Other life changes: As we get older, our priorities can change significantly, and your life insurance should reflect that. Sometimes, a change in relationship status with relatives and friends can trigger a change in beneficiary or benefit amount.  Perhaps you’ve become close to a niece or nephew or you have a friend who’s meant a lot to you through the years, and you’d like to name them as a beneficiary.  Maybe there’s a charity that’s become very important to you, and you’d like insurance proceeds to benefit those needs.  Some people even decide to use their life insurance benefits to fund a scholarship or foundation.

Remember: your life insurance is part of your legacy, and it needs to be continually updated as your life changes.  Decide carefully when it comes to benefits and beneficiaries, and then discuss your goals with your agent to make sure your policy reflects your true wishes.  If you haven’t updated your policy in a while, call us at (407) 877-6110 and speak with an agent today.

Confirming Medication Information Is Essential for Avoiding Serious Medical Errors

For most people, drug overdoses are associated with people who regularly and intentionally abuse drugs.  Most people don’t know that in the U.S., the vast majority of drug overdoses are unintentional, occurring because of prescription errors or mistakes made while taking the drugs.  In fact, the CDC reports that in 2013, more than 80 percent of drug overdoses were unintentional: that’s nearly 36,000 deaths that occurred that year because of medication errors.  What’s more, about 700,000 emergency room visits and 120,000 hospitalizations occur each year as a result of “adverse drug events,” also known as ADEs, caused by errors in prescriptions or dosing, making unintentional overdoses a major personal safety issue.

AbneyWhy is the number rising? The CDC points to several possible causes:

  • More rapid development and introduction of new medications
  • New applications for existing medications
  • Increased use of medications for preventing disease

The CDC also points to the burgeoning population of older Americans who are far more likely to take multiple medications, leading to interactions or misdosing that can in turn cause serious injury or even death.

The CDC also notes that many insurance companies are providing more coverage for additional medications – that’s a good thing, but it also means patients need to be extra vigilant.  When taking multiple medications, it is crucial to get all of the medication information from the doctor to avoid errors in dosing.

Drug interaction has become a significant personal safety issue in recent years as more and more Americans turn to drugs to treat and prevent illness.  Today, about 82 percent of Americans take at least one medication – that’s more than eight out of every 10 people – and nearly a third take five medications or more.  Many people who take medications also take vitamins or herbal supplements, which can also cause dangerous reactions.

More than 40 percent of ADEs are preventable as long as patients and caregivers have access to the correct medication information.  That means patients or caregivers must be sure to tell doctors about every medication they’re taking, even nutritional supplements and over-the-counter pain relievers.  Preventing ADEs requires patients ask questions about dosing, and when prescriptions are sent electronically it means getting a printout of dosing instructions to check dosing and medication information against the label once they get home.

For parents and caregivers of small children, it is important to store prescription drugs properly, preferably in locked cabinets out of reach, and it is also important to properly dispose of all prescription drugs.

Used correctly, and safely, today’s medications can do wonderful things for treating and preventing illness and improving quality of life.  To protect your personal safety, whenever you’re given a prescription, be sure to review medication information with your doctor or pharmacist and discuss any other medications or supplements you’re taking to avoid accidental overdose.  If a medication makes you feel odd, call your doctor immediately to avoid potentially serious problems.


Looking for Something to Do This Spring? Check Out These Upcoming Events.

With warmer weather just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to enjoy the Florida sun. There are plenty of upcoming events to add to your spring “to-do” list:

Downtown Winter Garden will have plenty of activities for both children and adults on April 11th and 12th at the Spring Fever in the Garden.  Sponsored by the Bloom and Grow Garden Society, the festival is a fun way to learn about protecting the environment and local wildlife.  Homeowners can learn more about landscaping and planting a wildlife-friendly garden.  Admission is free, and the pet friendly festival includes a raffle, a natural market and a chalk art contest.  The festival will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Abney march blogCelebrate National Nutrition Month and healthy eating at the Windermere Farmers Market. Find local produce and seafood, fresh flowers and plenty of locally made treats such as jams and baked goods to fill your shopping bag.

The Windermere Spring Fest features three days of activities, games, food and live entertainment for the entire family.  From April 17th through the 19th at The Pines at Windermere, visitors can enjoy stage performances, product demonstrations, an interactive sports zone and even an appearance by residents of The Central Florida Zoo.  The events on Saturday and Sunday are free.

With your schedule full of fun activities, you won’t have time to cook. Instead, head over to the Winter Garden Pizza Company for a pie or another Italian specialty dish. The recipient of multiple awards, the restaurant is a favorite of both locals and visitors.

If you’re looking to give back this spring, you can volunteer with the Home at Last Project and build homes for wounded and disabled veterans. If you can’t volunteer your time, you can make a donation to help build a home.  Contact them here to find out how you can help make the dream of home ownership come true for local vets.

Finally, since March is Save Your Vision Month, it’s a great time to make a commitment to better vision health. Make an appointment with optometrist Amanda Steppers at The Spectacle Shoppe to have your vision checked or to upgrade your tired, old frames with something new and stylish.

We’ll be seeing you around Winter Garden this spring!

Handling a Food Allergy: Read Your Labels and Know Your Terms

Having a food allergy means that, every day, you live in constant worry you’ll accidentally ingest a food or beverage that contains some trace amounts of an allergen that will trigger your food allergy to become active.

About 15 million people in the U.S. have food allergies, including about 9 million adults and 6 million children. Some allergies cause relatively mild symptoms like bloating or gas, while others cause more severe or chronic conditions like itchy rash, sore throat, swelling in the mouth or throat, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting and even respiratory problems. The most severe reactions can cause anaphylactic shock and death.

Abney, PlacerGrocery shopping or going out to eat can be a nightmare, especially considering that these and other allergens can show up in some unexpected ways, especially in prepared foods. For instance:

  • Peanut butter is sometimes used as a thickener in chili, stews and even some soups and spaghetti sauces.
  • Foods containing hydrolyzed protein may contain nuts or gluten.
  • Many soy cheeses are processed in facilities that also process milk-based cheeses.
  • Instant mashed potatoes are often flavored with butter or milk during dehydration.“Natural flavoring” often contains peanuts or other nuts or wheat (gluten).
  • Crumb toppings often use peanuts as a binder or flavor enhancer or to add a crunchier texture.
  • Hot dogs and deli meats may contain milk products like whey used as fillers. Many delis use the same slicer for cheese and meats, so even those that don’t contain milk products can still be contaminated.
  • Chewing gum often contains calcium derived from milk and milk products.
  • Medicines may contain extenders made from milk products or gluten.

And that’s far from an exhaustive list. It’s easy to see why reading labels – and educating yourself about what unfamiliar terms like hydrolized protein actually mean – is so critically important to maintaining good health when you have common food allergies.

Perhaps more worrisome than the list of foods that contain these allergens is the fact that even products that don’t contain the allergens themselves may still be processed by machinery or in a facility where gluten, nuts, milk or other allergens are processed. That means even so-called “safe” foods may be cross-contaminated by tiny particles left in processing equipment or floating through the air, and for many people with common food allergies, those tiny particles are just enough to trigger an allergic reaction.

If you have a food allergy or any other type of allergy that requires out-of-pocket expenses, like extra co-pays for doctor visits or medication for allergy management, you can help control your costs by identifying a policy or coverage type that helps limit these costs or provides better deductibles and prescription benefits. Your insurance agent can help you find the best plan to help you keep out-of-pocket costs as low as possible.

When Is Open Enrollment? NOW. Here’s What You Need to Do

Put on your thinking caps – it’s open enrollment time, and that means it’s time to decide which type of health insurance coverage is right for your needs and the needs of your covered dependents. Open enrollment lasts until February 15, which means you only have a few more weeks to make that all-important decision.

When is open enrollment?

Open enrollment occurs annually from November 15 to January 15, but if you’re like most people, you wait until the last minute to enroll. If last year is any indication, delaying your choice can mean you face down time on the government website that oversees the open enrollment process, so setting aside some time now to make your decision is a smart (and less stressful) choice.

AbneyWhat happens if I forget to enroll?

Then you’ll have to go without coverage until the next enrollment period begins in November. The only exceptions are for people who had a major life event, like getting married, getting divorced, having a baby, moving to a new area or losing your job. You’ll also be subject to a penalty – either $325 per person up to a maximum of $975 (162.50 per minor child) or 2 percent of your taxable household income for the year, whichever figure is higher.

Can I just keep the same coverage?

In most cases, you can, but you might want to check with your insurance company to make sure they offer the same type of coverage. In some cases, you may be automatically enrolled in your current plan or one that’s similar. That may work for some people, but if your circumstances have changed, simply rolling into the same type of coverage could mean you’re missing out on important benefits.

How can I make sure I have the best coverage for me and my family?

First, if you were covered in 2014, see if that plan is still available or if it’s had any changes to its coverage limits of insurance deductible amounts.

Whether you had coverage or not in 2014, the next step is to carefully consider the typical healthcare needs of you and your family members. Having an idea of what types of services you’re most likely going to need can help you decide which options are most important.

Next, look at all your options, and compare coverage levels, types of coverage, deductibles and copays to find the best fit. Is it a lot of work? Yes, but considering the costs of healthcare, making sure you get the right coverage is vital to your financial health as well.

Still have questions? We can help. Call Abney insurance Agency at (407) 877-6110 to discuss your options so you can get the best coverage for your needs.

5 Security Essentials to Keep Your Home Safe While You’re Away

The holidays are almost here, and for many people, that means holiday travel. Before you pack up and head out, consider the following holiday safety tips and home security essentials so you can relax and enjoy yourself knowing your home is protected even while you’re away:

  • Recruit a neighbor. If you have a trustworthy neighbor – one who won’t share your vacation plans with others – consider asking them to keep an eye on your home and report any unusual activity to the police. They may even agree to park a car in your driveway to make your home look more “lived in.”
  • AbneyDon’t post your plans online. It may be tempting to share your excitement with friends and family, but thieves also regularly cruise the Internet to read about vacation plans so they know when a home is empty. Just because you’re cautious about what friends you add to your network, that doesn’t mean your friends are as cautious. Be smart, and tell only those who need to know – and whom you can trust. Likewise with work – don’t gossip about your plans around the water cooler for everyone to hear.
  • Put your lights on timers. This is one of the most popular and effective of all holiday safety tips. Using inexpensive timers allows you to turn lights on and off no matter where you are. Units that let you control them over the Internet right from your smartphone or tablet are inexpensive and tech-savvy security essentials every homeowner should consider adding to their “must buy” list.
  • Have your mail held and newspaper subscription suspended. Nothing says “nobody’s home” like an overstuffed mailbox or pile of newspapers piled on your porch. You could ask a neighbor to collect your mail, but a more secure option is to ask the post office to hold it until you return. You can ask neighbors to keep an eye out for door hangers or advertising flyers and to remove them from your door or porch.
  • Update your locks. Today’s locks and security systems are must-have security essentials for every homeowner. Electronic locks feature advanced locking technology and even allow you to remotely monitor when someone opens your door. Security systems offer even more advanced features, and wireless models mean you don’t have to require your entire home to take advantage of their benefits. Plus, they also have the advantage of remote monitoring right from your smartphone, tablet or computer – and they may even lower your insurance rates.

Just a few simple tips can help ensure you have the peace of mind that comes from knowing your home is safe and sound, even while you’re away. Happy holidays from all of us here at Abney Insurance Agency!