How to Secure Your Home on a Budget

July 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Home & Garden

how to secure your home on a budgetHome security systems can be expensive. If you are working on a tight budget, but would like to be sure your home is as secure as possible without expensive alarms and cameras, you can. Here’s how to secure your home on a budget.

Secure Your Locks

The least expensive way to secure your property is to be sure the locks that are supposed to be keeping people out are up to par. Check all of your locks to be sure none are broken, and then invest in new locks for the front and back door. If you have a sliding door, be sure you have a bar to prevent the door from sliding open without your permission should the lock be jimmied.

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Backdoors are often less secure than front, and most intruders know this. Purchase a chain, deadbolt, or combination of locks for the backdoor as well as the front. This is your first measure of defense, and you want it to be a good one. Check your window locks and see about installing additional locks on these as well.

Set Up Surveillance

Notable cameras are off-putting to intruders as they don’t want their actions recorded. Fake security cameras are inexpensive and may provide an excellent deterrent. If you’d rather have the real thing, but can’t afford a full-blown security system, a simple webcam or nanny cam hooked up through your computer can record short bursts of activity for you to monitor while you’re away or at the end of the day. Just be sure you set up the camera in a location where it can “see” as much as possible.

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Install Lights

A motion activated floodlight in the backyard or along the driveway is another good deterrent to intruders. Someone sneaking up in the dark would suddenly become flooded with light making it hard to act nonchalant. Of course, the neighbor’s cat would also become flooded with light, so consider your wattage and sensitivity when installing these.

Decorative lights that illuminate the yard in both the front and the back can also provide a measure of security by eliminating the darkness that makes it easy for intruders to sneak through. These lights are also attractive, so you’d be killing two birds with one stone.

Be Vigilant

Once you have your locks, lights and cameras in place, you must be vigilant about maintaining them. Don’t get lazy and forget to lock up at night or sleep with a window open if you’re on the first floor. Locks and lights are terrific at helping to keep intruders out, but you must utilize the systems properly for them to work correctly. Be vigilant and be your home’s best protector.

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How to Protect Your Home

July 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Electronics

how to protect your homeYour home is your biggest investment, and your most precious items, including your family, are kept inside it. You want your home to be secure and here’s how.

A Professional Security System

Have a professional come to your home to consult with you about a security system. A system can be as simple as wiring the windows and doors so you know when one opens to a system of motion activated cameras and sensors. A security system uses a keypad that lets you set the alarm in the evenings and while you are away. If a door is opened, the alarm will trigger, but a quick code will stop it.

Security Monitoring

If the alarm is triggered, but the intruder doesn’t have your code, the system will continue blaring letting neighbors know something is amiss. You can also have your security system monitored by a company. With security monitoring, a company will call your home after a set amount of time following an ongoing alarm. If you turn the alarm off in less than two minutes, the company will assume you are present and all is well. If, however, the alarm goes on for more than two minutes, the company will call your home.

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If there has been some sort of honest mistake you can let the company know and they may be able to stop the alarm remotely with a pin or password. But if you don’t answer the phone or claim you need assistance, the monitoring company will immediately alert authorities to come to your home and investigate.

Outside Protection

Some of the best ways to protect your home are to keep intruders well away from it. A privacy fence and locking gate will help to provide a buffer around your home. Backdoors and sliding doors are often less protected than front doors, so a locking gate will help to keep intruders away from these more vulnerable access points.

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A camera and intercom system at your front door will allow you to see visitors before you approach the front door. The intercom will allow you to speak to them without having to crack the front door which might allow an intruder to force his way inside. Driveway alarms can signal when a car or person has entered your property giving you time to inspect your visitor for any suspicious signs.

Vigilance

Even the best security system is worthless if you fail to use it correctly. Set your alarm, maintain your monitoring service, and be sure you always close and lock all gates, windows and doors. Keep your car doors locked as well as these are easy access points and be sure to periodically test your alarm as well as all locks to see if anything has come loose or broken.

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How to Plan Your Estate

July 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Business & Finance

how to plan your estateIt can be depressing to think about, but every adult should spend time planning and preparing their estate. When you are ready, here’s how to plan your estate.

Retirement Planning

Retirement planning and estate planning overlap, but are not necessarily the same thing. Your estate is the bulk of your assets when you die. Presumably, those assets helped sustain you during your retirement. So when planning for retirement, you must also give some thought to your estate as well.

Assess Your Situation

The first place to start in estate planning is to assess your situation. How much money do you have in retirement funds? How much will you realistically be spending each year? Are you trying to retire early? Will your retirement funds be enough to last through the end of your retirement?

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Tally up all of your assets. If your total net worth is over one million dollars, you should strongly consider a trust. Even if your total is less than one million, a trust will allow you to set conditions on how your money is distributed after your death. It also offers protection from government taxes.

Set up Your Will

If you do not already have a will in place, set one up immediately. This will save time and legal proceedings when you pass, even if you have no funds left in your retirement accounts. A will specifies who receives what from your estate. Speak with a lawyer or financial planner to have a will set up to maximize your estate.

Set up a Power of Attorney

You must also have a power of attorney to execute the will. Your power of attorney allows someone to act on your behalf, so it is necessary to have a power of attorney in place before you become incapacitated in any way.

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Set up a Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will

You need to specify your plans for hospitalization and life support. You can set up a plan telling doctors to keep you on life support as long as humanly possible, or you can ask to not be resuscitated or kept alive solely by machines. A medical power of attorney or healthcare proxy will act on your behalf when you become unable to make your own medical decisions.

Start Distributions

The government has powerful estate tax laws that are changing a bit now, but will solidify in a few years. This means that any estate over $1-3.5 million can be taxed at almost 50% by the government. It is important to set up a trust to protect the assets when you are gone, or you can begin distributing funds now to avoid the tax burden. You can currently give an individual $12,000 a year (or $24,000 if you’re married) tax free. You can also pay unlimited amounts of education and medical bills on behalf of someone else or set up charitable donations tax free.

Explain Your Plan

Finally, you need to explain your plan to your family. Be sure others have a copy of your documents and explain your desires and rationale. This will help avoid confusion or even conflict at the time of your passing.

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How to Maintain Your Life Insurance

July 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Business & Finance

how to maintain your health insuranceLife insurance is critical for most adults, and especially those with dependents. Many adults have little or no difficulty selecting one form of insurance or another to suit their individual needs, but over time, the policies might lapse for one reason or another.

Even as your children grow up and leave the house, it is still important to maintain your life insurance until you are sure you no longer need it – which for many of us, will not be until the policy payout has been collected by our dependents.

Select the Right Plan

The first step in maintaining your life insurance is to select a policy that will last the longest and be affordable. There are various kinds of life insurance including whole life and term, and each has its benefits and drawbacks. Research your options and discuss various policies with your dependents and financial advisor. Then select a plan that has the maximum amount of coverage with a premium you can afford.

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Pay Premiums

The easiest way to maintain your life insurance is to meet the requirements of the plan. Pay the premiums on time every month. If you selected a plan whose premiums are too high to make comfortable, discuss your options with the company. It is far better to have even a little bit of life insurance than none at all, so find a plan whose premiums you can afford – even if you have a plan worth only $15,000. It is much more advisable, however, to find a plan with adequate coverage and find a way to meet the premiums.

Know Your Limits

Many life insurance plans are offered based on the assumption or even signed intent of remaining healthy and not engaging in life threatening activities. Most plans are intact for the life of the contract, but have disclaimers. If you are seen to have taken unnecessary risks and perished, your life insurance company may be able to avoid paying your dependents.

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Study the plan and read the fine print. Are there exclusions? What if you gain weight? Are terminal illnesses covered? Some things, such as terminal illnesses, can’t be avoided and should be included in the plan. Others, such as sky diving accidents and drag racing are certainly avoidable and might void your contract and are inherently dangerous as it is.

Get Insurance Early

The earlier you arrange life insurance, the better your terms will be. Term life insurance especially has tremendous benefits if you set up a plan early in your adulthood. As you age and more health conditions develop, it becomes more difficult to qualify for plans and this can make them that much harder to maintain.

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How to Buy Independent Health Insurance

July 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Business & Finance

how to buy insuranceIf you’re self employed or your employer doesn’t provide a health insurance package, you must arrange your own health insurance coverage. While it may seem easier and much less expensive to skip health insurance if you are young with no complaints to your record, you should always carry health insurance. Not only will you be protected should you become ill or be involved in an accident of any kind, you’ll also have a consistent record of health coverage which can be critical down the road.

Research Your State

Each state might have different rules and regulations when it comes to health insurance. For example, independent Texas health insurance can not allow maternity coverage, but Pennsylvania health insurance might. Even individuals cities might have different options or plans available. Philadelphia health insurance, for example, might be easier and less expensive to obtain through the many local hospitals and health centers than health insurance in a more rural setting. Speak with an agent or research online to see what limitations and options are available to you.

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Determine Your Needs

There are almost endless options available with health insurance, but many websites will help you work through your priorities to establish the sort of health insurance you need. If you plan on just going to the doctor for an annual physical and you like the protection of having some sort of insurance in case of accidents, you can most likely get away with a high deductible plan that allows a limited number of visits. This plan will be much less expensive than a health insurance plan with low co pays for unlimited visits and a low deductible.

Healthy single individuals need much different protection than families with young children or older individuals who have health conditions. Determine first what is important to you and then prioritize those needs.

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Research Available Plans

You can research available health insurance plans online or by using a health insurance representative or agent. Spending time online might help you find lower rates on insurance, but an agent will be able to guide you through the process to get exactly what you need. Spend plenty of time considering your options and begin your research at least a month before you actually need coverage.

Select and Apply for a Plan

Once you have a plan selected, apply for the program and sit back and wait. The approval process for full health insurance includes underwriting and may include a physical. You’ll be kept appraised of your status as the health insurance application is processed. Eventually you should be approved, but if there is a problem, try speaking with the company or start the process again with a different company who will have another set of underwriters perhaps with different guidelines. Temporary insurance might help bridge the gap if you’re denied due to a recent condition, but it is limited to only a few months at a time.

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