April is Stress Awareness Month!

Stress Awareness .jpgEveryone has to deal with stress occasionally. It is an unavoidable part of life. In small doses stress can act as a stimulant, encouraging hard work and completion of tasks. In large or constant doses, though, stress can be a very negative influence on your health. 

Stress can manifest itself for a number of different reasons. New responsibilities at work, moving to a new place, and changes in relationships are just some of the reasons that adults succumb to stress. Children can also suffer from anxiety when they change schools, get too little sleep, or have trouble with friends or classmates. No one is exempt from the dangers of stress.

People who suffer from high amounts of anxiety can suffer from symptoms that include:

  • Headache
  • Upset stomach
  • Low energy levels
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Overwhelmed feeling
  • Low self esteem

The items listed are just a small portion of the full list of the possible signs of stress. If you notice that you are suffering from these symptoms because of a high level of stress, talk to your doctor about what you can do to decrease your stress levels. Your doctor may suggest some stress relief methods and coping strategies. These typically come in two distinct families:

Relax your Mind

There are many ways that you can relax your mind. The key to helping relieve your stress is to find out what works best for you. Some people find relief in cathartic methods, such as talking to people about their stressors. The person you talk to can be almost anyone – a family member, a friend, a counselor or therapist, or a clergy member can all provide a listening ear. 

If you need to express your feelings, but don’t feel comfortable divulging your feelings, you may find a journal can provide you with a sense of release as well.

You can also relax your mind with other activities, such as:

  • Meditation
  • Guided imagery
  • Volunteering
  • Creative outlets
  • Hobbies

Try a few of these stress relief methods, and see which become part of your routine. 

Relax Your Body

In addition to relaxing your mind, relaxing your body is an important part of stress relief. One of the most common means of body relaxation is regular exercise. In addition to making sure that you are in good physical condition, exercise can be a great way to release stress.

Other techniques that can help relax your body include:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Everyday physical activities (housecleaning, yard work, etc.)
  • Yoga, tai chi, or other mind and body exercises

In addition to these ways to de-stress, there are a few things that you can do now that will help you avoid some stressors all together. Make sure that you have healthy eating and sleeping habits, and try to find a healthy work/life balance. Get yourself organized, and make sure that you and your family are protected, even in your worst-case scenarios.

One of the best ways to make sure that you avoid stress later in life is with insurance policies! They can provide peace of mind that you just can’t find anywhere else, and they can help you protect every part of your life – your health, your home and car, your business, and much more!

If you want to learn more about how you can achieve serenity with insurance protection, call 877-550-0025 now. A Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent can help you through the process of protecting yourself and your family against the possible stresses of the future.

How Does ObamaCare Affect You?

Health Reform.jpgSince its enactment in 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, has been steadily changing health care throughout the country. By the time it is fully implemented in 2014, every American will be affected. While the reform’s aspects are expansive – and seemingly complex – it is important to understand how its changes affect you and your family.

ObamaCare’s goal is to provide affordable, quality health care to all Americans. To do this, the following are some of the changes taking place in our country’s health care system:

New Protections: Health insurance policies used to have lifetime limits on how much insurance companies would pay for an individual’s medical bills. This often meant people with serious or long-term illnesses would go into debt because their coverage would run out. Now, these lifetime limits are illegal. Additionally, if you get sick or have a pre-existing condition, insurers can no longer choose to cancel or deny your policy. 

However, it is important to note that insurers still can place limitations on other aspects, such as length of hospital stays and office visits, and you should review your specific policy to know what restrictions apply to you. 

Broader Benefits: To help keep long-term medical costs down, ObamaCare focuses on making prevention and primary care accessible to all. Now, all preventive care and annual check-ups are fully covered at no cost to you within your health plan’s network. Examples of preventive care include free cancer screenings, wellness visits, personalized prevention plans, vaccines and flu shots. Additionally, the cost share will be waived for certain prescriptions, such as birth control, should your program allow it. 

Expanding Coverage: Under ObamaCare, millions more seniors on Medicare are going to be able to afford their prescriptions. This is because the reform is striving to eliminate the “donut hole”, which has hindered many seniors’ ability to purchase necessary prescriptions. In addition, children can stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26. This gives them more time to establish themselves financially before taking on the responsibility of paying for their own insurance. 

However, many people are concerned about how these changes affect them financially. Beginning in 2014, an “individual mandate” will require most Americans to have qualifying health insurance or possibly pay a tax if they do not comply. The reasoning? Because insurers cannot exclude anyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions, not requiring insurance would drive the cost of coverage up even higher, according to Consumer Reports.

Visit the NFIB for more information about the mandate and its exemptions.

So, how is ObamaCare striving to make the required health care affordable?

Personal Tax Breaks: Many Americans will receive tax breaks when purchasing health insurance on the upcoming online marketplaces called the ObamaCare Exchange. Shoppers will be able to use a price calculator to find the best deal for them and their families. Furthermore, the marketplaces will streamline and simplify the application process.

New Discounts: For those who qualify, discounts and subsidies will be offered to help pay medical expenses. Medicaid will be offered to more individuals, and young adults in particular will have more options to afford care. For example, they will be able to buy subsidized private insurance or health plans that cover essential benefits and three primary care visits a year. While these plans may have higher cost-sharing expenses for certain services, annual premiums are likely to be lower. 

To get an estimate of the discount you might have coming to you and review your qualifications, visit the Kaiser Family Foundation.

However, it is important to note that ObamaCare’s changes are ongoing and not fully implemented as of 2013. Therefore, for individuals whose employers do not offer insurance or are self-insured, it is a good idea to discuss options for personal health insurance policies with your insurance agent.

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is committed to helping you understand and meet all of your insurance needs. Call today at 877-550-0025 and work with one of our agents to get the coverage you need at a price you can afford.

Are You Using Apps to Increase Your Productivity?

Apps and Productivity.jpgA few decades ago, having a 12″ black and white television in your home meant that you were on the cutting edge of technology. Nowadays, though, it’s hard to imagine life without a computer, a tablet, and at least one smartphone!

It is natural to use these devices for personal reasons, like checking your email, keeping up with friends on Facebook, and even playing games. Did you know that you can also get apps on your phone or tablet to organize your professional life as well?

Both Google and Apple have basic business suites – apps that can help you with your email, calendar, contacts, and more. Once you have mastered the basics, try moving on to more advanced applications, such as:

HootSuite: It’s said again and again – social media is a must have for businesses. With the HootSuite app, you can use your mobile device to publish to Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn! This tool is a one-stop-shop for businesspeople who are on the go, but still wish to keep up to date with their customer base.

Brewster: These days, it is so easy for a contacts list to get out of hand. Between your email contacts, and the connections you have on all your social media platforms, keeping track of everyone can be near impossible. With Brewster, you can import all of your contacts, and search for someone by name, location, or even keyword! 

Expensify: Keeping up with a business’s expense reports is a hassle. With the Expensify app, you can automate the process, and keep all your business’s receipts in one place: the cloud! They are also a piece of the “paperless2013.org” initiative, which encourages businesses to use a collection of apps to eliminate paperwork from the office environment altogether. You can read more about this program on TechCrunch!

Dropbox, SugarSync, or Box: Sharing files between devices used to mean emailing them to yourself. Now, there are a bunch of apps that can help you share all of your important documents between your computer, tablet, and smartphone. This will ensure that you can always access the files you need, anywhere you go.

Evernote: Before technology became so prevalent, businesspeople would carry around some sort of journal – a legal pad, or some similar device, whose sole purpose was to jot down thoughts and important information. In the same fashion, Evernote is a veritable “junk drawer.” Use it to jot down ideas, notes, and anything else you may deem important. Then just file it away so that you can access it later!

If you give any or all of these applications a try, you may find that your professional productivity increases, which is not an easy feat nowadays. In addition, these are just a small sample of the apps available to help your business. Try searching through your provider’s app store to find other programs to make your business more efficient!

Did you know that a business insurance policy can also help your business? Find out how by talking to a Vargas & Vargas Insurance representative now – our phone number is 877-550-0025.

Do You Have a Home Inventory?

Home Inventory.jpgSo, you have taken the first step: you have a home insurance policy! This guarantees that you will be covered in case of a covered peril. But wait – if your personal property is destroyed, do you have a record of what you own, and how much it is worth?

It is for exactly this reason that you need some sort of home inventory system. This document will help you keep up to date with all the valuables in your household, and will be critically important if you ever need to make a home insurance claim on your personal property.

The process of creating a home inventory is actually simpler than it may seem. All you need is a computer, a camera, and a free weekend! Get started by following these steps:

1. Choose your method of documentation.

There are many different ways that you can record your home’s inventory. You could always go ‘old school’ with pen and paper, but nowadays we would suggest more modern methods. For example, you could use a spreadsheet program such as Excel or online documents such as Google Documents. There is even software made specifically for creating a home inventory, such as Know Your Stuff®, presented by the Insurance Information Institute.

2. Visually document your entire household.

Once you know how you are going to keep track of your belongings, it’s time to get a feel for everything you have. With a camera in hand, take photos or video of everything in your home. Don’t skip anything – every nook and cranny is important. Make sure that you don’t forget your garage and your backyard!

3. Make your list’s first draft.

Now that you have your visuals, it’s time to craft your list. Go back through what you just captured, documenting everything worth over a certain dollar value (typically $50 or $100). Your list will be long, but that’s ok! You have a lot of stuff in your home that is worth protecting!

4. Fill in all of your details.

After you have a list created, you need to fill in the details. For every item on your list, record information about the item, such as:

  • Brand Name or Manufacturer
  • Model Number
  • Serial Number
  • Approximate Date Purchased
  • Purchase Price
  • Notes About the Item

This can get a little tedious, but in the long run, you’ll be glad that your information is thorough. 

5. Keep it in a safe place.

When your home inventory is finally done, make sure that you keep it in a secure location. The purpose of this document is to serve as a record if your home is damaged, so keeping it in your home is ill-advised. Save a copy on the internet, and have one printed out to put in your safe deposit box or with a friend or family member.

6. Make sure it stays up to date.

Congratulations! You’re finally finished. But you can’t fully relax just yet – your belongings will probably evolve over time. You will get rid of some things and add others. If you don’t want to update your inventory with every big purchase, make an appointment every six to twelve months to ensure that your inventory stays current.

If you follow all of these steps, you will no doubt thank yourself if you ever need to file a home insurance claim on your personal property. This list has the potential to make a what can be a very stressful situation much less traumatic.

Also remember, if you have any questions about your Massachusetts home insurance policy, Vargas and Vargas Insurance is ready to assist you! We are always around to address concerns, and we are always glad to help! 

All you have to do is call – our phone number is 877-550-0025.

What Causes Car Accidents?

Wrecked front end.jpgEvery time that you get behind the wheel, you are putting yourself at risk for a car accident. While it is impossible to prevent accidents completely, being informed and prepared can help you minimize your risks while on the road.

Collisions can happen for a variety of different reasons while driving, and we have seen all of them here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance. We have narrowed the main causes of impact down to four main categories, and have some advice as to how you can avoid accidents caused by these issues.

Driving While Distracted

Many accidents occur when a driver is focused on something other than the road. Any of the following can easily cause you to veer out of your lane or miss a stop sign:

  • Using a cell phone
  • Eating
  • Applying makeup
  • Drowsy driving

When you are driving, your full attention should always be on the road and the cars around you. Always pull off the road if you need to divert your attention.

Automobile Troubles

Your vehicle can also be the cause of accidents! Tire blowouts and defective parts are the two main types of vehicle malfunctions that cause accidents.

Minimize your risk of a vehicle failure by making sure that you abide by your manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule, and by performing routine vehicle check-ups.

Weather and the Environment

The conditions in which you drive can be a huge influence on your safety. Many people get into accidents every year because of elements like these:

  • Rain, snow, fog, or ice
  • Nighttime low visibility
  • Potholes in roads
  • Pedestrians, cyclists, and animals

If the weather is bad, consider postponing your car trip until it clears up. If you absolutely must drive, take all the necessary precautions. Use your headlights, stay alert, and stay at a safe and reasonable speed. 

Also, take notice of the signs on the side of the road. Cautionary signs such as a crosswalk or “Animal Crossing” can alert you to the fact that you need to be ready to stop short if someone or something appears.

Disobeying Traffic Laws

This one should be obvious. Traffic laws exist to keep you safe, and breaking these rules puts you at especially high risk for trouble:

  • Speeding
  • Driving recklessly
  • Running stop lights or signs
  • Improper turns

Even obeying all these rules yourself won’t suspend all your risk – there’s always the chance that you could be the victim of another driver’s carelessness. If you see another driver that is acting reckless, do your best to stay away from them.

Another great way to protect yourself and your vehicle is with automobile insurance from Vargas and Vargas Insurance. With the right policy, you can ensure that you are taken care of if you ever get into an accident. 

We offer auto insurance with liability, medical, collision, and comprehensive coverage tailored to fit your needs. Want to find out how you can get a policy with us? Just call! 

Our phone number is 877-550-0025, and we have agents ready to talk to you!

Is Renting a House Right for You?

House for Rent.jpgWhether you are a first time house hunter or an experienced mover, searching for that perfect place to call your own always is a big adventure. While it is hard not to get caught up in the excitement of decorating your new home, it is important to take time and consider whether renting may be right for you.

According to MSN Real Estate, nearly one-third, or 100 million, of Americans are choosing to rent instead of own their home. While The Wall Street Journal Real Estate reporter Dawn Wotapka cites on The Diane Rohm Show that this choice for many has stemmed from the foreclosure crisis, leaving people at the mercy of landlords. National Association of Home Builders’ David Crowe asserts that rental homes now have become the “bright spot” in housing construction. About 300,000 rental home units are being built this year to keep up with increased demand. So, why are people looking to rent?

Fewer Financial Responsibilities: Building more rental homes gives more people affordable housing options and helps stabilize rental prices. The cost of paying rent typically is less expensive than a monthly mortgage, even including initial security deposits. People do not have to worry about not having enough money for a down payment or their credit availability when it comes to renting a home. In addition, tenants are not required to pay property taxes or foot the bill for costly maintenance repairs. They do not have to worry about unexpected large expenses that often can come with buying a home.

However, it is important for renters to budget for and purchase renters insurance. While the landlord will have insurance to cover the house itself, it will not protect the renter’s personal belongings or their liability for accidents. Additionally, renters insurance can cover the expenses associated with temporary housing, should tenants need to move out during repairs. 

Time to Repair Credit History: An article in Forbes Magazine states that people with low credit scores and poor credit history are finding it hard to come up with the finances needed to buy a home. Therefore, renting is more appealing to them. It offers an immediate solution, giving them time to repair and rebuild their credit. Renters are able to budget monthly costs and set aside the same amount toward living expenses each month. 

MyFico offers tips and insight on how to improve credit scores.

Flexibility and Mobility: Stan Humphries of Forbes Magazine writes that how long people plan to stay in their house is a major factor in deciding whether renting or buying is best. Buying a home is a big commitment. Renting gives people the flexibility to move around – without losing invested money – before they are ready to settle in a given area. Typically, buying a home is financially worth it after five years, which Humphries cites is the average amount of time needed in order to overcome the transactional costs associated with purchasing a home. For people who are likely to change jobs or want to move in under two years, renting is a better financial decision.  

For information on how rent-to-own works, visit MSN Real Estate.

Vargas & Vargas Insurance specializes in getting you the right renters, home, auto, life insurance policies and more. Call today at 617-298-0655 to see how our dedicated agents can help save you money without sacrificing the coverage you need.

Do You Know What Your Homeowners Insurance Policy Covers?

Blue House.jpgProtecting your home with homeowners insurance not only is prerequisite to obtaining a mortgage; it also is an investment you can’t afford not to make. Therefore, it is important that you understand exactly what your policy covers before disaster strikes.

What is covered?

There are six basic types of homeowners insurance policies. A standard homeowners insurance policy, referred to as an HO-3, provides coverage for the following areas:

  • Dwelling: With an HO-3 policy, you are covered if there is structural damage to your home. However, it is important to note that you are only covered up to the limits of your policy. If the cost to repair the damages extends beyond those limits, you will be responsible for paying the rest.

EHow explains how you can determine if your home has structural damage.

  • Other Structures: Common structures that are covered if damaged include detached garages, fences and work sheds. To learn more about other structures coverage, visit homeinsurance.com.
  • Personal Property: This aspect of the HO-3 policy protects your personal items such as clothing and sports equipment from theft, fire or other perils. While it covers your items even when you’re on vacation, certain policy limits apply.
  • Loss of Use: If you are unable to live in your home due to a covered claim, your HO-3 policy will cover hotel, living expenses and restaurant bills incurred while your home is uninhabitable up to the limits provided on your policy. 

The Nest details the restrictions and limitations with loss of use coverage. 

  • Personal Liability: Liability protection is comprised of two parts: personal liability and medical payments. Personal liability covers claims or lawsuits against you arising out of bodily injury or property damage to others caused by an accident on your property, or by accidents away from your property, caused by you or family members who live with you. The coverage also pays for your legal defense should you be sued for a covered claim. However, coverage does not extend to losses caused by intentional acts, business related incidents, accidents covered by auto insurance, or claims covered by worker’s compensation insurance.

However, it is important to note that there are increasing exclusions for claims associated with animal liability and injuries caused by trampolines and swimming pools. Talk to your insurance agent to understand the distinctions.

The Legal Examiner provides further information on legal issues and liability. 

What is not covered?

While the standard HO-3 policy includes extensive protection against perils that are out of your control, the following disasters are not covered:

  • Earth movement: earthquakes, sinkholes, landslides, mudslides, etc.
  • Water damage: In addition to floods, this exclusion includes sewer back-ups and water that seeps through the foundation.
  • Faulty construction and the costs needed to bring your house up to code.

Fortunately, you are able to purchase additional insurance to protect against earthquakes and floods should you qualify. For more information on earthquake and flood insurance talk with our great team at Vargas & Vargas Insurance. 

Furthermore, you may want to talk with your agent about hurricane deductibles when reviewing your policy. Massachusetts is one of 18 states that permit insurers to charge to lower hurricane deductibles, according to the Insurance Information Institute

Vargas & Vargas Insurance is here to help you understand and fulfill all of your insurance needs, providing you with the most complete protection you deserve. 

Give us a call today at 877-550-0025 to learn more about what we can do for you.

How Does Weather Elsewhere Affect You?

Hurricane.jpgIt doesn’t matter if you are a business owner or simply a homeowner. You can be affected by adverse weather conditions in all parts of the country and the world. Even if the weather in your part of the country is warm and sunny, there may perhaps be a storm brewing elsewhere that could end up costing you.

There are two main groups of people that should take this concern very seriously; people who own seasonal or vacation homes, and business owners of all types.

Seasonal or Vacation Home Owners

Being in the northeast in the winter can be trying at times. Dealing with the cold and wind (not to mention all the snow we’ve been getting lately) is tiresome, to say the least. That is why some people opt to have vacation homes in sunnier locations as a respite from these harsh winter months. 

In this example, a seasonal homeowner would need to make sure that their southern residence is prepared for all the catastrophes of that region. Flooding and hurricanes are especially prevalent in costal areas, and they can also suffer from the occasional tornado or hail storm as well.

This is also true for second homes in other parts of the country. As a vacation homeowner, it is your duty to ensure that your property is protected from all different types of misfortune. Check with your home insurance provider to make sure that you are protected from any calamities your abode could suffer!

Business Owners

As a business owner, you know that having comprehensive business insurance coverage is an absolute must for protecting and preserving your livelihood. It is likely that your insurance agent has double and triple checked to ensure that your business location is protected from any and all disasters that could befall it.

Have you considered, though, that adversity could also develop in other parts of your supply or distribution chains? What would happen, for instance, if your gingham supplier in Kansas were to suddenly be carried off by a twister? Would you be covered?

There are two types of business insurance coverage that can help ensure that this kind of loss doesn’t affect your business’s bottom line:

Contingent business interruption coverage provides coverage if and when any of your suppliers suffers property damage that results in your business being unable to accept their goods.

Contingent extra expense coverage provides coverage when you need to minimize your business’s losses because of damage done to your supplier. In simpler terms, it will typically cover any expenses you incur that are above and beyond your typical outlay to make up for the fact that your regular supplier is unavailable.

So, no matter if you are a business owner or a home owner, make sure that you are covered for all types of weather related events that could affect you by calling and speaking to a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent today. We can help walk you through your coverage, and we will help make certain that your home or business will never be ‘under the weather.’

Call now! Our phone number is: 877-550-0025