Tips to Stay Cool during a Power Outage

2.22.16 - Stay Cool in Summer

Unfortunately, power outages are always a threat here in Massachusetts. During the winter, heavy snow can bring down power lines, and in summer strong storms (even hurricanes) can cause a loss of power. It’s important to know how to handle power outages that happen during the year. In this post, we will cover a few tips for how to stay cool during summertime power losses that would otherwise be unbearable.

Stay Hydrated

Did you know that if you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already slightly dehydrated? Everyone needs to make sure that they drink enough water year-round, but hydration is especially important during the heat of summer. If anyone starts to feel dizzy or weak, have them sit down and have a cool drink. If they don’t recover quickly, get medical attention.

Dress for Success

Now is not the time to primp – if you’re suffering through a power outage, pick clothing that is loose-fitting and light-colored. Cottons are great at keeping you dry and cool. A damp towel on the back of a person’s neck can also be a great tool for beating the heat when it starts to get overwhelming.

Get Out of the House

If you have the opportunity to get out of the house, take it! No need to sit and mope about the loss of power and the fact that you can’t watch TV or access the internet. Instead, find something to do either outside (did someone say pool party?) or somewhere outside of the power outage zone. There are plenty of things to do here in the Greater Boston Area – in fact, you may have trouble picking just one activity!

Just remember to follow the rules of sun safety if you do decide to spend the day outdoors. Cover up skin, wear a hat and sunscreen, and know the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. As mentioned earlier, also make sure to stay hydrated with frequent water breaks.

Leverage Your Windows

If your power outage lasts more than a few hours, you may be forced to sleep in a house with no air conditioning. Anyone that has been in this situation will tell you that it’s no fun, especially in the summer months. Make sure that you take advantage of the cool night air while you sleep by opening your windows. Take this a step further by closing all of your windows at the first sign of warm air in the morning, effectively trapping some cool air in your home.

Talk to Your Insurance Agent

If you are suffering due to a power outage, take a few minutes to call your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent. Depending on your home insurance coverage, we may be able to cover any lost food from your fridge and freezer for an extended outage. If you’re trying to stay cool because of an AC failure, we can see if you are covered for equipment breakdown to cover the cost of repairs. Regardless, it never hurts to call 617-298-0655 and have a chat with your local insurance experts at Vargas and Vargas Insurance.

The Financial Checklist for Newlyweds

1.26.16 - Newlywed Financial Checklist

You have gone through quite a journey with your significant other just getting to the point that you’re ready to walk down the aisle. At that point, though, the real trip begins. You’ve just committed to spending the rest of your life with someone, so it’s important to set yourself up for success. One of the best ways to do this is with the following financial tips for newlyweds:

Make a Joint Budget

Getting used to coordinate with someone regarding your spending can take some getting used to, but communication about spending and saving is critical to the financial success of a marriage. Even if you decide to keep your finances separate, you will need to discuss how to handle joint expenses, and how you will contribute to savings for your future. Also make sure that you decide on the definition of a ‘big expense’ – a purchase amount that must be discussed and agreed to by both of you. Usually there isn’t a problem spending $20 or even $50, but $1,000 is definitely something that most couples would agree to discuss.

It’s also important to remember that this is not a one-time discussion. Set aside time to discuss your budget and your spending with your spouse, and do it often – the more communication that you have regarding your money, the better off you will be going forward.

Contribute to an Emergency Fund

Speaking of contributing to savings account, you should discuss how much you would like to have set aside in an emergency fund. Experts recommend having between three and six months’ worth of expenses saved for a rainy day. This should include enough to cover your housing, food, utilities, health care, and debt payments.

Balance Your Investment Allocations

Now that you’re married, you have joint financial goals. It only makes sense to take another look at your existing investments to ensure that they are contributing to those goals. You may also want to show your investment allocations to a Massachusetts financial planner. They will be able to assess your desired level of risk and make sure that your investments are balanced and working toward your marital success.

Re-evaluate Health and Dental Insurance Benefits

Once you’re married, you have many options when it comes to health and dental insurance coverage, especially if both you and your spouse’s workplaces both offer coverage options. Take a look at all of your options, considering both the coverage options and difference in pricing. Figure out what’s best for your situation, and make sure that you reassess your situation occasionally – if benefits change, you may be better off switching your coverage.

Check Your Insurance Coverage

As the Massachusetts insurance experts, your local Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent will be happy to guide you through the process of updating your insurance portfolio for married life. We can update your home or renters insurance to cover your spouse’s belongings (also ask about how to add a rider to your insurance to cover your wedding and engagement rings). You can also add your spouse to your Boston auto insurance, and set up or update your disability and life insurance policies to protect your loved one.

RV Safety Tips for Your Road Trips

Super C Motorhomes - Class C Diesel Motorhomes

Having your own Recreational Vehicle is a great way to take road trips in comfort. If you’ve had an RV for several years, or if you are thinking of getting into the game, we would like to share a few tips that will keep you safe while on the road. As with most aspects of life, a little bit of preparation goes a long way, so take a few minutes to brush up on your RV safety with these guidelines:

Have the Right Tools

Recreational vehicles are larger than the typical car, and that makes it more difficult to plan your route. You need to know the clearance of bridges and tunnels along your route to know whether you will fit under them. That’s where a road atlas made specifically for large vehicles like RVs and semi-trucks can come in handy.

Another important tool to have on hand in your RV is a first aid kit. You never know what might happen while you’re out having RV adventures, so make sure that your kit is stocked with the essentials – especially if you plan on doing any RV camping.

Realize the Value of Maintenance

An RV is like a car and a home in one – and that means that maintenance is doubly important. To make sure that you follow your manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule, write it down in your calendar. Make sure to include checking under your hood, as well as your lights, tires, and hitch. Also remember to maintain the living area of your RV, including cleaning your cooking vent and changing the batteries of your smoke detector and checking your fire extinguisher.

Make Your Plans Adjustable

Weather can be dangerous, even for regular sized automobiles. Your RV’s size makes it even more susceptible to the dangers of heavy rain, fog, and ice. If you know that you’re heading for an area that can fall prey to bad weather, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to make the trip. That way you won’t feel rushed, and can decide to postpone your trip if the weather gets bad.

Have a Breakdown Plan

You never expect to break down, but having a plan will make the situation much less stressful if it ever occurs. Have emergency telephone numbers (including the ones for our agency) saved in your cell phone, as well as written in an accessible location in your vehicle. Also make sure that a friend or family member knows your travel plans in case of emergency.

And remember – the best way to protect your RV and its precious cargo is with a Massachusetts RV insurance quote from the insurance experts here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. One quick call to 617-298-0655 will get you on the path to the protection that you deserve. Don’t even think about hitting the road again without at least calling for a free insurance evaluation from our experts – we can evaluate your current policy and alert you if there are any gaps in your coverage. Don’t leave yourself open to disasters, call our agency today!

Five Ways to Increase Your Household’s Net Worth

2.01.16 - Increase Net Worth

Your net worth is simply the value of all of your family’s assets. Those people that are living paycheck-to-paycheck probably don’t have a very high net worth. On the other hand, those people that wish to retire comfortably will focus on building their net worth and achieving financial freedom.

If you’re interested in increasing your net worth (and, truly, who isn’t?) here are five ways that you can do so:

Earn More and Spend Less

One of the simplest ways to improve your finances is to leverage your budget. Most people know that spending less means that you have the opportunity to put more into savings. You can also do this by increasing your earning. Ask your boss for that long overdue raise, or explore other earning opportunities. If you do both, you will be well on your way to increasing your net worth.

Reduce and Eliminate Debt

Once you’ve got some extra money around, you can begin putting it to work for you through many different types of investments. Remember, though, that you should also focus on paying down your debts, especially those with high fees and interest rates. When considering your net worth, all types of debt will be deducted. This includes student loans, car loans, mortgages, and credit card balances.

Purchase a Home

Don’t make this decision lightly – owning a home can be a huge commitment. When it comes to net worth, though, owning a home is definitely a plus. Instead of ‘throwing money down the drain’ paying rent each month, you can own a home and build equity in an investment each month when you pay on your mortgage. And when you pay off your mortgage, the value of your home will be a huge part of the net worth of your household.

Maximize Your Retirement Contributions

If you were offered free money, wouldn’t you take it? You would be surprised how many people don’t take advantage of money offered by their employer via a 401K match program. Make sure that you read the fine print of your workplace’s retirement account, and contribute at least the percentage required to receive a full company match – typically somewhere around 3% of contributions. Also remember that the money that you contribute to a 401K is tax deductible!

Protect Yourself with Insurance Policies

Once you’ve begun building your household’s worth, don’t leave it exposed to emergencies. It would only take one accident to completely wipe out all that you have built. Alleviate this stress with an insurance portfolio. Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency can help you get the proper coverage for your home, car, valuables, and more. Just call 617-298-0655 to talk to one of our expert Massachusetts insurance agents about protecting your assets with top of the line insurance.

To learn more about achieving financial stability and getting on the right road to retirement, talk to a financial planner. Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance, we have financial planning professionals that would be happy to review your current financial standing and help get you on the right track to financial success.

Small Business Insurance that Every Business Needs

1.15.16 - Small Business Insurance

Insuring a small business is a complicated affair. Thankfully, you have Vargas and Vargas Insurance in your corner – we will work with you to make sure that you have all of the coverage that you need (and none of the coverage that you can do without).

It goes without saying that every business is different, but in general, every business owner should consider adding the following seven types of business insurance coverage to their insurance portfolio:

Commercial Property Insurance

The first type of insurance policy that almost all businesses need is a commercial property insurance policy. This insurance will protect your company’s property from a wide variety of potential perils, and can also protect your furniture, equipment, and inventory – depending on your needs, of course.

Business Interruption Insurance

What would happen if your business were forced to close due to a natural disaster? Do you have enough savings to cover the bills that you would need to pay in the event that your sales skidded to an unexpected halt? With business interruption coverage, you would have financial protection in these cases so that you could relax knowing that you won’t have to permanently close your doors in these situations.

Data Breach Insurance

Imagine for a minute how much time and money your business would spend recovering from a data breach. It could easily cost thousands of dollars and dozens (if not hundreds) of hours depending on the severity of the breach. While you should definitely implement cybersecurity protocols to prevent any possible breach, also cover all of your bases by having data breach insurance coverage.

Trade Credit Insurance

Does your business run on a credit system? If you have a large Accounts Receivable, you need to have coverage for all of the debts that you are owed, and that’s where this coverage comes in handy – a trade credit insurance policy will insure you against risks like protracted default and insolvency.

Workers Compensation

If your business has employees, then those employees need insurance. Workers can get injured in any line of work, so make sure that your business is protected just in case – workers comp will typically cover medical expenses, lost wages, and much more. Also inquire about getting group benefits for your employees to improve recruiting, retention, and satisfaction in your workplace.

General Liability Coverage

No one expects to be involved in a lawsuit, but unfortunately it’s always a possibility. Don’t let the thought of costly legal expenses keep you up at night – a general liability insurance policy can provide protection in a variety of legal situations. Also consider excess liability insurance for added protection.

Errors and Omissions Coverage

While having general and excess liability insurance provides your business with increased levels of protection, there still may be a few gaps in your coverage. That’s where Errors and Omissions Insurance (aka Professional Liability Insurance) comes in handy – it provides even more liability protection for your business in the case of certain situations, including claims of negligence.

If you’re worried that your small business is missing any of these types of insurance, just call your local Massachusetts business insurance experts at Vargas and Vargas Insurance. One quick call to 617-298-0655 can help you ensure that your business has the protection that it needs.

Keep Your Car Running with This Maintenance Schedule

2.08.16 - Car Maintenance Schedule

Whether your car is your ‘baby’ or just a way to get from Point A to Point B, you need to make sure that it stays in shape. The only way to do that is with regular maintenance. While it’s true that every make and model of car will have slightly different needs when it comes to their occasional tune-ups, the following maintenance schedule is a good basis for most automobiles.

Whether you perform these tasks yourself, or prefer to trust a professional, this maintenance schedule is the starting point to keeping your vehicle properly cared for:

Check Often:

  • See if any dashboard indicator lights are lit.
  • Check to make sure that all the car’s lights are working. This includes your headlights, turn signals, tail lights, and brake lights.
  • Inspect your tire’s air pressure, making sure the PSI is within your car’s suggested range.
  • Evaluate your tire’s treads, replacing if there is significant wear.
  • Top off your windshield wiper fluid and engine oil, if needed.
  • Check your car’s windshield for cracks and chips – repair or replace as needed.

Check Every 3 Months:

  • Check your automatic transmission and power steering fluids. Instructions for checking these fluid levels is often included in a car’s manual.
  • Test your car battery and cables.
  • Inspect belts and hoses for wear and tear, or have a professional do so.
  • See if you need a new air filter for your engine or cabin.

Check Every 6 Months:

  • Ensure that your chassis has the proper lubrication.
  • Replace your windshield wipers, if they are beginning to show wear or streak.
  • Check your car’s exhaust.
  • See if you need a tire rotation – these can significantly extend the life of your tires.

Check Every Year:

  • Make sure that wheels are properly aligned.
  • Check your vehicle’s steering and suspension.
  • Examine your coolant level.

While this general maintenance schedule will keep most cars up to date on their routine maintenance, it is important to follow your manufacturer’s instructions when servicing your vehicle. Also make sure that you ask a professional for advice and assistance in any job you are not comfortable performing yourself.

And don’t forget – the state of Massachusetts requires that all vehicles registered here receive a yearly safety inspection. Mark your date on your calendar, and when the time comes, find an inspection station near you!

It is also important to remember that the weather fluctuations that we get here in New England can wear on a car. Prepare your car for incoming warm weather in the summer, and the frigid winter temperatures in the fall. Doing just a little bit of preventative seasonal maintenance can significantly increase the lifespan of your vehicle!

To help make sure that your car is protected against anything the world throws its way, call 617-298-0655 to get an auto insurance quote from the Massachusetts insurance experts at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. We will ensure that you and your car have full coverage. We can even review your current coverage to see if you are sufficiently protected – and the insurance review is free! Don’t wait, contact Vargas and Vargas Insurance today.

DIY Home Improvement

3.07.16 - DIY Home Improvement

Improve Your Home in Just One Weekend

If your “Honey-do” list is all checked off, and you’re looking for a new DIY project to spruce up your home, look no further. We have gathered a list of five projects that you can do in just one weekend that will update, improve, and modernize your space. They vary in levels of difficulty, so find one that’s right for you and start shopping for supplies!

Increase Your Curb Appeal

Make a great first impression on everyone that comes knocking with a little TLC for the front of your home. Add a splash of color to your front door, and make an attractive seasonal wreath to display. Take it up an extra step with some eye-catching shrubbery or landscaping and add a bench or pair of chairs for a homey touch.

Replace an Outdated Lighting Fixture

It may seem like a daunting task, but replacing an existing lighting fixture is probably easier than you think. Make sure that you turn off the power at the breaker box, then it’s typically as easy as unhooking the old light and connecting the new one! For best results, watch a few online tutorials and read the new fixture’s instructions first.

Add Molding

Any room looks better with a few finishing touches, and molding is an inexpensive way to add a touch of sophistication to your space. Historic homeowners should make sure that their molding choice compliments their home’s style. Check out HGTV’s tips on installing crown molding here.

Inject a Pop of Color

Accent walls are becoming more and more popular – and there’s a reason! They are a fun way to add some color to a room without getting overwhelmed (with work or with too much color!) Choose any room in your house, and get inspiration from your current decorations. Any piece of art or even a pillow or tchotchke can help you decide on a color to use. Bring that item and the approximate square footage of the wall you want to paint to a hardware store. They will get you on the right track!

Update Your Kitchen and Bathroom Hardware

Want a simple project that will make a big impact? Why not replace the hardware on your kitchen or bathroom cabinets and drawers? Your local hardware store probably has several options in different styles and colors, and all you will need to install them is a screwdriver! If you want a more vintage feel for your home, scour antique stores and online retailers for an old-fashioned charm and elegance.

As with all home DIY projects, make sure that you feel 100% comfortable with the work before you begin, and have a professional on speed dial just in case you get in over your head. And if you pick a project that increases the value of your home (like the lighting or plumbing fixtures, for example) let your home insurance agent at Vargas and Vargas Insurance know – we can adjust your Massachusetts house insurance policy to reflect the change.

Five Tips to Be Happier at Work

1.22.16 - Be Happier at Work

 

The office is stereotypically a stressful place, but it doesn’t have to be. After all, your attitude is everything when it comes to your happiness. Make a promise to yourself now to make a small change and increase your happiness while you’re at work. You may be surprised how much difference even small adjustments can make in your day to day life.

Here are five small changes that you can make to increase your happiness while at work:

1 – Limit your Goals

Once you resolve to improve yourself, it’s easy to go overboard. You see it every year around the first of January – people make New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight, to eat better, and to save money. Usually, their new lifestyle lasts a month before it falls to pieces. You can avoid this by making one or two small goals that are specific and time sensitive. When those are accomplished, move on and make more small improvements.

2 – Get up and Move

It’s easy to get absorbed in your work, but make it a point to get up from your desk a couple of times every day. Sit in the break room for lunch, or just take a stroll around the office. Sitting in a chair may be hurting your body, and staring at a computer screen can cause eye strain or computer vision syndrome.

3 – Socialize More

This tip goes hand in hand with the last one – while you’re up and about stretching your legs and resting your eyes, make some friends in the office. It never hurts to have a few more contacts, and you never know – being friends with people in other departments may pay off in the future. It especially helps to make new hires feel welcome. So ask the new guy out to lunch, or bring the receptionist a coffee… you never know where it may lead, whether it be additional professional contacts or new personal connections.

4 – Go Green

If you’re interested in respecting the environment, a little effort can go a long way at the office. Start small – use a reusable water bottle instead of disposable cups, and shut off your computer when you leave instead of just putting it in sleep mode. When you’re the last person to leave a conference room, turn off the lights. If you want to make a bigger impact, think about starting an office recycling program.

5 – Be Open to Change

One of the best tips that we have for being happier while at work is to be ready for anything, and to be adaptable. Every workplace has its challenges and pitfalls, and you’ll be less stressed if you’re able to roll with the punches and be flexible in your plans.

If you make even a few of these changes while you’re at the office, you may find that you are happier at work. If you want to learn more about how Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency can help you do more with the money you earn, just call 617-298-0655. We have financial planning professionals on staff that will help you allocate your assets so that you are ready for retirement.