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4 days ago · by · 0 comments

Tax Prep Tips

It’s tax season folks!  I know, I know, you’re scared of it but you shouldn’t because with these tips you’ll be able to tackle your taxes better than a professional, and not have to pay someone else for the displeasure of the upcoming tax season.

 Do you need to file?

It may surprise you to learn that not everyone is required to file a tax return. If you are disabled, or made under $12,000 in 2019 then you may not be required to file. The requirements to file/or not file are complex and assessed on a case by case basis.

Collect your documents

The average American has 2-5 tax documents to file; W2s, 1099s and mortgage documents and banking interest earned and other details.

If you are not sure what documents you will need, then consult tax software sites like tax slayer etc. Here is a link to a great checklist to get you ready!

File by paper and/or on the internet

If you make under a certain amount of money (around $50k a year) then you have the right to file for free. No fees, period.

If you don’t have a computer then you can file by paper. Forms can be obtained at the local library or by request by calling the IRS.

If you can’t do it on your own, get help for free; if you qualify

If you can’t file your taxes on your own, there are many free services out there that can help you file your taxes. If you want to and can afford it, there are paid services out there as well. Please note, if you hire someone, or ask someone else to file your taxes – and there is an error on your return – it is your fault, and not theirs. All liability for the prepared return is yours alone.

The Takeaway

The process of filing taxes is not hard, and with the right preparations the process can take as little as 20 minutes for less complex tax situations. So, stop worrying, gather those documents and get this little pest out of the way, so you can enjoy the rest of 2020!

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3 weeks ago · by · 0 comments

Snow Shoveling Safety Tips

Some places are well known for having long cold winter days with significant amounts of snowfall on their walkways and driveways. In fact, after a snowstorm, there may be several feet of snow around your home that must be cleaned up as soon as possible. However, before starting these kinds of jobs, everyone in the household needs to know these snow shoveling safety tips

 

Tip #1 – Prepare to Shovel Snow Properly

Putting on your coat and walking out the door to get started without any preparation can be a huge mistake. In fact, if you have not shoveled large amounts of snow before, you need to take the time to familiarize yourself prior to picking up the snow shovel. Because the weather is usually still frigid and freezing cold, you need to make sure that you are dressed for this type of weather from your head to your toes. For instance, you should always dress warmly by dressing accordingly. To follow the advice of old veteran snow shovelers, you should dress with several layers of loose clothing. Your feet should be kept warm with the use of water-resistant and slip-resistant boots so that you do not fall down in the wet icy snow. Don’t forget to wear gloves or mittens to warm to keep your heads warm and a hat

 

Tip #2 – Use the Right Form

Though you may think that shoveling snow is an easy job that can be done by anyone who is handed a shovel, this is far from true in many cases. For instance, to protect your health and your heart, these are jobs that can place a lot of unnecessary strain on the heart. So, you need the proper form when you are tacking a minimum to a huge shoveling job.

 

Keeping these things in mind, you should make sure that you are pushing the snow rather than lifting. By pushing the snow down the driveway or walkway, you reduce the strain on your body significantly. Also, when you are lifting small amounts of the snow at a time, you should make sure that you are being your knees versus keeping them straight.

 

Tip #3 – Stay Hydrated

Just like performing any outside job in the summertime, winter snow shoveling can easily cause you to become dehydrated, while also suffering from other associated risk factors. Therefore, you should always make sure that you are well hydrated for the job that you are trying to do. These winter safety tips can save you from compromising your health, especially if you are on the outside shoveling for long periods of time.

 

Tip #4 – Use Pre- Treatments for Snow and Ice Removal Projects on Your Property

To minimize and eliminate the risks of anyone slipping and falling on your property, you may want to get ahead of the ice and snow that can form on your sidewalks and driveways. You can do this by pre-treating any paved surfaces on your property and all walkways prior to an ice or snowstorm. With the use of the most effective anti-icing products, you can better prepare for all your snow shoveling safety tips for everyone around you.

 

Tip #5 – Don’t Overexert Yourself

Understand your limits and how much strength that these jobs really take. Even though you may start off strong, long extended periods of snow shoveling can be a disaster waiting to happen. To prevent unnecessary health problems during these times, you should do the following:

 

– Don’t push yourself too far, avoid the point of exhaustion

– Stretch before you start these jobs and pace yourself at a slow rate

– If you have a history of heart trouble, you may want to consult with your physician before you get to work.

 

Tip #6 – Use the Proper Snow Blowing Safety Procedures

If you have snowblower to help you with your snow shoveling jobs, you should make sure that you know exactly how to use the appropriate safety features and procedures.

 

Wrapping It Up

 

Some winters are tougher than others. Regardless of how harsh winter can be, safety should still be taken when doing simple tasks such as shoveling snow or laying down salt.

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2 months ago · by · 0 comments

Creating Your Own Roadside Emergency Kit For the Winter

The winter time can bring unpredictable weather. Although no one likes being stranded on the side of the road, being stranded in the winter time is even worse. If you have auto insurance, chances are you have a roadside assistance option in your policy. But let’s face it, who enjoys waiting hours for help to arrive? What if you have a baby on board? Kids?

Therefore, creating an emergency kit to keep in your car is crucial to help pass the time. We’ve compiled a list of the essentials that everyone should have in their vehicle to prevent bad situations from escalating.

Basic Emergency Kit Essentials

Your emergency kit will always differ from others. For the most part, everyone should have these basic essentials:

  • Bottled Water
  • Can of tire inflator (Fix a flat is a popular one)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Nonperishable foods
  • Jumper Cables
  • Blankets for the cold weather
  • Spare Tire W/ a wheel wrench and jack
  • Ice Scraper
  • Tool kit

Customizing Your Kit

Now that you have all the essentials, you may want to consider adding a few additional items depending on your situation. For example, if you have toddlers you may want to include:

  • Diapers
  • Baby Formula
  • Baby Wipes
  • Bottles
  • Medicine

 

This application can be applied in other scenarios. If you typically have pets traveling with you, be sure to pack food for them as well.

When storing these essentials in your trunk, it’s best to place them in a backpack to keep them all together and stop them from rolling around.

Don’t feel like purchasing each item? A quick Google search or Amazon search can lead you to roadside emergency kits already assembled for you!

 

While we hope for the best when taking road trips or traveling somewhere near, there’s nothing wrong with being prepared in case the worst-case scenario occurs. Stocking these essentials in your car will give you peace of mind when traveling with loved ones this winter.

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3 months ago · by · 0 comments

Carbon Monoxide Safety During the Winter

Winter is among us. During these cold months we tend to utilize our heat a lot more than other months. Because of this, we urge everyone to be cautious and remember to maintain their carbon monoxide alarm.

 

Utah Poison Control Center reports that “Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is responsible for more than 50,000 emergency department visits1 resulting in more than 400 deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

What’s even worse is that Americans aged 65 and older are the most susceptible to CO poisoning.

 

In order to avoid these tragedies, we must educate ourselves on the different ways we can prevent and recognize Carbon Monoxide.

 

Prevention Tips

 

  • Ensure your heating system, water heater, and any other appliances are well maintained and serviced each year by a technician.
  • Remember to avoid having any running cars/trucks running in your garage that’s attached to your home, even if you leave the door open!
  • Do NOT heat your home utilizing a gas oven
  • If your CO monitor consistently makes noises, move to fresh air and call 911 immediately! If the alarms’ chirping is only intermittent, simply change the batteries.
  • Keep generators at least 50 feet from your home
  • If heavy snowfall occurs, ensure you check for blockage around fresh-air intake, vents, exhaust stacks, and vents
  • Ensure each level of your home has a CO monitor installed
  • Do not utilize a charcoal or gasoline burning device in your home

 

 

 

Symptoms of CO Poisoning

 

Anyone can experience CO poisoning. However, infants, unborn babies, and elderly individuals are especially at risk. If you notice any of these symptoms, get to fresh air and then seek medical attention immediately.

 

Symptoms can include, but not limited to:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches that are severe and persistent (Usually affects more than 1 individual in the house)
  • Dizziness (Usually affects more than 1 individual in the house)

 

If you or multiple people in your household experience these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately after moving to fresh air. You can also call the poison control center at 1-800-222- 1222. We want you to be safe this winter when warming your home. The safety of you and your loved ones are crucial to us.

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5 months ago · by · 0 comments

The Downside of Buying Insurance Online: Why You Need an Independent Agent

Buying insurance is simple now days. You can literally open your browser on your phone or desktop and shop insurance policies and receive multiple quotes in a matter of minutes.

What’s the first thing that individuals do whenever they buy a car? They go online and request quotes from popular insurance providers before they drive off the lot. Whichever policy is more economical and provides sufficient coverage, they’re usually happy with that choice.

The only issue with this process is that you’re missing out on better prices and coverage by limiting yourself to online insurance instead of sitting down with an independent agent.

 

Why Independent Agents Offer More Flexibility

 

All Your Needs Will Be Handled

 

Having an agency that’s a one stop shop is more convenient. Many shoppers purchase insurance from one agency, while purchasing a different policy from another due to costs. With an independent agent, we shop for policies by going through various providers. By doing this, you only have one point of contact whenever you want to discuss your policies.

 

We Care About Your Finances

 

Independent agents run through various providers and ensure you receive quality coverage for a price that takes your budget into account. Big agencies offer discounts; however, those discounts are not as enticing as they could be if you considered other providers. Independent agents ensure you receive as many applicable discounts as possible.

 

Sense of Family

 

When you purchase insurance with an agency, you’re another client in their books. When going with an independent agency, you’re able to build a relationship with your agent, who will come to know you by name and ensure you’re always taken care of. If any red flags or concerns come about, they’re able to personally reach out to you!

 

Online insurance isn’t a bad idea. It’s very convenient and fast. However, it doesn’t consider your budget and ensure you’re getting the best price for your sought-out coverage.

 

Interested in getting a quote from an independent agent who puts your needs first? Contact us at 217-345-7063 at your earliest convenience. Or, if you prefer to schedule an appointment online, contact us on our online form!

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7 months ago · by · 0 comments

Vacation Home Rental Tips

Thinking about renting a vacation home sometime soon for the family? Vacations are awesome! There is nothing better than enjoying family time in the comforts of an attractive vacation home for a few days. Of course, caution should always be taken when choosing a rental property. There are a few things we want you to consider before finalizing your payment and moving on with a vacation home rental.

 

Read the entire contract

We’re sure you heard the saying, “read the fine print.” As cliché as it has become, it couldn’t be further from a lie. Rental agreements should be taken very seriously. You’re renting something that belongs to someone else. You’re on the hook for any expenses that occur during your stay there. The contract should outline any charges that can occur due to leaving a mess, breaking personal property, high utility usage, and more.

 

Take Day 1 Photos/Videos

Have you ever rented a car and was required to do an initial check for damages before driving off the lot? The same procedure is required when renting a vacation home. You need to ensure photos are taken before getting started with your vacation. If not, you may have to cough up some serious money for incidentals.

 

Get a number for emergencies

What if something breaks down while you’re renting your vacation home? You need an emergency number to contact in these cases. Many families rent homes from individuals and forget to ask for a number that they can call 24/7 in case of emergency. What if the power goes out overnight? Something breaks? Furnace goes down? You need the owner to be accessible for these situations.

 

Ask for their insurance

The property owner should an insurance policy that covers any damages/injuries that may occur during your stay. If this isn’t the case, this is a huge red flag. They should also have property damage coverage in case of fires or other loss that isn’t caused by you.

 

Weapons

With concealed carry being a popular topic in society today, you should always ask if there are any rules and restrictions on bringing weapons on the property. Better yet, you need to know if the owner themselves has weapons on the property. Why does this matter? Knowing if there’s weapons or not can prevent a tragic situation. The last situation you want to be in is having your children or loved ones getting a hold of a weapon unknowingly. This can be dangerous.

 

Call Your Agent

We mentioned the property owner should have liability and property damage coverage earlier on. However, you should have coverage as well. You can always get a short-term renters insurance policy. This will save you money just in case your family damages anything of the property owners.

 

Renting vacation homes should be an enjoyable experience. Therefore, we want to make sure you cross your T’s and dot your I’s before going all in on one! Contact us today to learn more about coverage’s we offer specifically for rental homes.

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10 months ago · by · 0 comments

Protecting Your Home While on Vacation

A vacation is a perfect time to spend time with loved ones while creating distance from life’s troubles. A break-in does the opposite. Along with rushing home to figure out what’s missing, feelings of regret will consume the mind. While it’s difficult to prevent a break-in from occurring, do your part in preventing a break-in by following these strategies.

 

Keep the Home Secure

A home security system protects the house on vacation, but only when the system is on. Along with activating the security system, lock access points. Lock entry doors, garage doors, doors leading to the garage, patio doors, first story windows, and second story windows. Use deadbolts, padlocks, window locks, and door security bars for extra security. Disable automatic functions on the garage door. Don’t forget to seal pet slots and mail slots on entry doors. Lock jewelry, financial information, ID, social security card, and electronics in a safe or unusual hiding space. Never leave money around. Conversely, turn off sprinkler systems, clean storm drains, close curtains/blinds, and change the smoke detector batteries.

 

Adjust the Thermostat

Why cool or heat a home that’s vacant? It’s pointless. However, the thermostat must be on so the house pipes don’t freeze in the winter or become stuffy in the summer. Set the thermostat four degrees above or below the normal temperature so the house is comfortable upon return.

 

Maintain Home Occupancy

Burglars immediately notice vacancy when daily routines suddenly stop. To keep burglars at bay, the routines must continue while on vacation. Halt mail delivery and/or have a friend pick up the mail. The same friend can park his/her car in the driveway, water plants, and take the trashcan to the curb weekly. Hire professionals to continue lawn and snow maintenance while away. Keep lights, radios, and televisions on OR set a timer to turn it on at various times of the day.

 

Don’t Give an Inch

If a burglar ruins a vacation, do everything humanly possible to make the burglar’s job difficult. Besides locking doors and windows securely, don’t leave curtains open because a burglar can view valuables. Never leave ladders on the lawn or spare keys under the mat. The burglar will use these items to enter and exit the home with ease. Don’t leave items on the lawn as these items can shatter windows or pick-lock doors.

 

Avoid Social Media

It’s exciting to share vacation photos on social media while on vacation, but don’t do it. By default, all profiles are public, and not everyone who is viewing the photos online has good intentions. Consequently, burglars view it as an opportunity to steal valuables from the home. Share those photos online when you return. Additionally, change sharing settings to private or Friends only, never disclose the vacation dates, and delete past posts containing an address or phone number. Disable the GPS on social media accounts too. Besides social media, never vocalize your vacation plans in the email, on voicemail, and on the answering machine.

 

We want you to be able to enjoy your vacation without worrying about the safety of your home. It’s not fair that you have to worry about these things, but life can be unpredictable. Be sure to follow these steps to  ensure your vacation goes well!

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12 months ago · by · 0 comments

Spring Gutter Cleaning & Repair

Gutter cleaning may not be your favorite task on your post-winter to-do list. However, it’s a small task that can prevent costly problems. This should be during the spring and fall months. The last thing you want are downspouts clogged with leaves, which can lead to water damage to your food. Once the water starts pouring over the gutters, it can end up in the basement or crawlspace.

 

Safety First

Never attempt to clean gutters while standing on top of the roof! This approach is extremely dangerous. Instead, utilize a ladder that is firmly placed on even ground. To keep the process organized, utilize one bucket for gutter debris and another for the tools needed for cleaning.

 

Let’s get to the cleaning

  1. Always wear long sleeves…you don’t want to scratch or cut yourself when cleaning them
  2. Utilize a small plastic scoop to remove the gunk. You can find one of these at a local hardware store.
  3. Utilize a plastic tarp. This is to avoid throwing the debris onto your lawn.
  4. Flush your downspouts with a water hose after clearing the muck. After flushing the downspouts, your visibility should be better to spot any leaks. Once spotted, immediately act to fix them to avoid water damage.

 

 

Not a fan of cleaning gutters? That’s fine! You can always hire a professional to do the job for you. The price will depend on the size and height of your home.

 

Slow Down Clogging

Prevention helps! Your gutters will become clogged. It’s inevitable. That doesn’t mean you can’t slow down the process. You can purchase gutter covers in the form of clip-on grates or mesh screens. This can be a little pricey, with $6-$8/running foot being the average for these covers. They also require a regular maintenance to keep them clear.

 

We hope these tips help you clear your gutters for the spring.  This process should be done before the spring, during the spring, and during the fall as well. Want to learn more about spring cleaning? Take a look at our blog that discusses more than just cleaning gutters!

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1 year ago · by · 0 comments

Keeping Dogs Warm During the Winter

Our furry friends are our best friends! I think everyone can agree with this statement. Dog walks during the spring, summer, and fall months are amazing and keeps our little friends active and playful. But, what about winter months? During the winter months, we’re more skeptical about giving walks during freezing temperatures which force us to lessen our walks.

 

You can’t avoid dog walks so you bundle up and make it happen. You’re protected from the cold weather, but, is your dog protected? Ensuring your dog is warm and safe during the winter time is crucial. Here are some tips on how to make that happen.

 

Tips for Dog Safety

Don’t leave your dog in the car

It’s common to see dogs hanging out in the car while their owner is grocery shopping or making a quick stop before they head home. You may have done it before as well while running errands. You may have even done this during the hot months. Both are BAD ideas! Your vehicle immediately cools down once the car is turned off. Do not leave your pups in their while running small errands…. even if the errand will take a few minutes. You don’t want to take a chance.

Keep your pup on a leash

Seems obvious, right? Believe it or not, this rule is not followed by dog owners as much as it should be. Imagine taking your dog for a walk and they are not on their leash. There’s also inches of snow and let’s say your dog is white. Dogs are more likely to get lost in the winter months because they lose their sense of smell in the snow. This makes it difficult for them to find their way back to you. How easy do you think it will be to find them? Not easy at all! Keep them on a leash in the winter months.

Clean off all snow

After taking your little one on a walk, ensure that you clean them off when returning home. You should never leave salt, antifreeze, snow, or any other dangerous chemicals on them.

Avoid overly shaving

We love seeing our dogs trimmed and adorable looking! However, removing most of their fur during the winter months isn’t recommended. The more fur…..the better!

Purchase warm clothing

Dogs may not be too fond of clothing or booties on them. They may even attempt to take clothing off (which is funny to watch). However, you want a covering to keep them warm and dry, especially on their feet. Booties can prevent cracked paws from salt. This can be extremely dangerous for dogs!

Give walks during the daytime

Simple tip but it’s not followed as often as it should be. We have seen many individuals who give their pups a walk in the late evening or nighttime. The same time temperatures drastically drop! This is not a good idea. It’s best to give your pup a walk during the daytime when it’s not as cold.

 

We love our furry friends and we want nothing but the best for them. Keeping them warm and safe during the freezing temperatures should be your biggest priority during the winter months.

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1 year ago · by · 0 comments

Importance of Umbrella Insurance

Business owner? Freelancer? Own rental properties? Have teenage drivers? You’re one of the many people who could use Umbrella Insurance. Unfortunately, we live in a society where many people are prone to sue for financial gain over the most trivial things. Because of this, you should always be prepared for this type of thing.

Umbrella insurance can add an additional $1 million and up to your existing coverage’s. Not bad, right?

Millionaires aren’t the only people who need umbrella insurance, contrary to popular belief of course. You’re always at risk if you fall into any one of these categories:

 

  • Entrepreneur/Freelancer
  • Have a teenage driver
  • Own a firearm
  • Entertain guests in your residence
  • Own recreational sports vehicles
  • Utilize social media
  • Own a home
  • Have children parties or sleepovers at your home
  • Own pets
  • If you breathe (just joking…kind of)

 

The more of the above-mentioned things that apply to your life, the most at risk you are. Basically, if you’re alive, you’re at risk. This is the sad and harsh reality.

It’s also very important to remember that auto insurance and homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover every single liability there is, as you would expect it to. There are limits to these policies that you need to be aware of. You can do this by having an in depth conversation with your insurance agent.

 

Having this additional coverage guarantees that you’re ready for any unnecessary lawsuit that comes your way in the future. Having a peace of mind shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg, as umbrella insurance isn’t as costly as you would assume for a good coverage.

 

Feel free to give us a call at 217-345-7063 and speak with an agent on purchasing Umbrella  Insurance.

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Company information

Bob Oetting & Associates Insurance

905 W. Lincoln Ave
Charleston, IL 61920

Contact details

Phone: (217)-345-7063
Fax: (217)-348-5241
Email address:
KarenPitcher@oettinginsurance.com

(217)-345-7063

Available Monday-Friday 8:00am - 5:00pm