Gratitude is one of those parts of our world that is free to everyone, prized by those recognized to carry it, and yet exceptionally easy to skip over in the daily rush of life.
The data has come back pointing to gratitude as a key to reduce burnout, materialism, and increase general happiness.
We, as a culture, are good at critical analysis. This actually functions like a human’s superpower. This type of critical analysis also prizes efficiency. That is where gratitude often gets squeezed out. There is not much in expressing gratitude that is efficient, but it is good. While it may not be completely efficient, thankfulness can change a life.
Here are three actions that help grow gratitude; in those who use them, and in those who are acted upon.
1. Handwritten notes:
While there are not many points of efficiency to writing something by hand to be read and discarded, the stickiness of this type of communication is beyond compare. There is a personal touch that comes along with a handwritten note.
If you are like most of us, you are not a huge fan of your handwriting. This doesn’t matter, outside of being readable. Handwritten notes are so rare in our culture that the personal act of reaching out in that format will fundamentally separate you from your competition. It will also make the person’s day who is being thanked.
2. Daily reminders:
If you write a note on a post-it and stick it to your mirror, or if you keep a thankfulness journal or merely take a weekly walk and designate the time to remember what you have to be thankful for… these consistent reminders can keep the busy-ness of daily life from distracting us from the myriad of reasons we have to say, “thank you.”
There is not a person living in the USA who doesn’t have a leg up on the majority of humans living in our world today. Comparisons confuse us, and a daily or weekly reminder can keep our eyes on the ball.
3. Small kind actions:
We typically consider this type of action requires money, through “pay it forward” stories, and the like. Genuine small actions of kindness rarely require money. There are a couple pieces that go into turning small kind actions into a habit.
With these two boundaries, you may be surprised at the opportunities daily life will open opportunities to act kindly toward someone. Give it a try; you might like it?!?
- Pay attention to others
- Take your time
Thanksgiving Games that will make this wild and crazy holiday a little wackier!
Did you know that the author of the first song recorded by phonograph fought (lobbied) for 36 years before Lincoln declared the November national holiday named “Thanksgiving”?
Move over gravy, it’s time to spice up this Thanksgiving holiday with some fun games and facts sure to make this year the best holiday in memory (or at least different than the last few in memory). In case you’re in a hurry, we’re including a link to this blog in Word and image format, because not every Thanksgiving dinner table has WiFi or cell service. Even though the 1600s witnessed the Pilgrims celebrating Thanksgiving after a drought, their thanksgivings were days of religious fasting (rather than feasting). The 1700s watched George Washington issue the USA’s first Thanksgiving proclamation. John Adams, and James Madison (Washington’s successors) also dedicated thanks days.
How Thanksgiving came to be a national holiday:
- In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale started her quest for an official Thanksgiving holiday. It wasn’t until three years later that she would write the nursery rhyme (based on a true story), “Mary had a little Lamb”. Being a woman with no right to vote did not stop this powerhouse of tenacity from making her voice heard. Lacking email, social media, and telephones – it was paper and pen. Letters written to politicians of all types from the governor’s mansion to senator offices, and all the way up the street to the President of the United States.
- In 1863, Lincoln scheduled the last Thursday of November a national holiday. Yes, you’re right. It’s currently the fourth Thursday, but that is because in 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week. The Great Depression was at the end, and an extra week of Christmas shopping could only help to build the economy. As with most political changes, it was given a nickname – “Franksgiving”. By 1941, the president signed a bill compromising for the fourth Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving. Now you know how we got here – let’s get to the games.
Thanksgiving games to start before eating:
- “Gratitude Jar” upon arrival, set out a jar or bowl (or container of some type) with a pen and paper next to it. Through the day, anyone can write their note and leave it for later. At the end of the dinner, have each one read. Enjoy being thankful together.
- Schedule to Volunteer together. The timing of this one is rather important. If you wait until during or after the feasting, all that nervous energy (which will inspire people to sign up to volunteer together before the dinner) will probably be gone once our tummies are full. If you all agree on a scheduled volunteer together event – promise each other you won’t cancel it when you’re all sleepy after dinner. Look for opportunities to give.
Thanksgiving Games to play at the table:
- “I’m thankful for this small thing” Certain days are easier than others to recognize the small stuff and tell yourself that you’re thankful for it. As the food’s being passed, take turns completing the statement, “I’m thankful for this small thing….”
- Count-up your blessings. The first person to start points out one (1) thing that they are thankful for. The person next to them points out two (2) points of gratitude, and 3 and 4 and so on. The fewer rules on how to come up with the next number – the better. What am I grateful for right now? People and things and events and experiences are good to remember together.
- Diamond Award – We are often most grateful for those things which came through a struggle. Look back at past struggles and trials which have turned into diamonds through pressure. Mention challenges which have helped you.
Thanksgiving Games to play just before turkey coma:
- “Silent appreciation” We all know the time between turkey and sleeping to football. When you’re still awake, find someone on social media or email or text, and tell them that you are thankful for them. It’s not hokey, because it’s Thanksgiving – that’s what we’re supposed to do.
Thanksgiving Games to play while you’re eating cold turkey that night:
- “Thank your network” There are people we all work with each day and there is often not a reason to thank them, because they’re just doing their job. Even business is based on relationships, and an unsolicited kind word on one day can stop a confrontation in the future. Tell them that you appreciate them.
Whether you play any of our games, or not – we want to thank our clients for allowing us the chance to serve you. Of course, we would not be in business without our clients, but it is knowing we are helping care for you for which we are grateful.
Yes, “Mary had a little Lamb” was the first words recorded by phonograph. Although that “phonograph” was a tinfoil sheet wrapped on a cylinder that Thomas Edison figured out while working on improvements to the telephone and telegraph – when you can’t think of anything to say, it’s usually a nursery rhyme that comes to mind. Since nursery rhyme’s intent are often missed by the first few verses we all remember, here’s the entire “Mary had a little Lamb” verse to kickstart thinking of the people we can say thanks to.
Mary had a little Lamb
(it’s more fun if you sing it)
Mary had a little lamb,
whose fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
the lamb was sure to go.
It followed her to school one day
which was against the rules.
It made the children laugh and play,
to see a lamb at school.
And so the teacher turned it out,
but still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about,
till Mary did appear.
“Why does the lamb love Mary so?”
the eager children cry.
“Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know.”
the teacher did reply
Happy Thanksgiving from Insurance Town & Country.
Stay out of self-imposed exile (debt)
Whether we have a little money or a lot — it is the commodity of our time. One of the great trials of handling money is it that it is a science which can be learned, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you have had past (or present) troubles with saving money and handling debt, here is a quick and simple guide to get you started.
Money uses Math — the addition and subtraction kind of math.
Be encouraged — you have the skills! There is nothing about budgeting that is too complex… it just takes time and will power (and usually a written plan). Budgeting uses the same calculation as dieting, because it’s all about how much you take in and how much you give out. If we want to lose weight we have to burn more calories than we take in. If we want to have more money left over the day before we get our paycheck, then we will need to spend less than we make. Even though it is simple — it’s not always easy. This is where our will power comes in to play, but that’s a whole different blog post :-).
To ease the planning part of this, here is a simple guide to help get us started.
Income minus expense = money you are supposed to manage (and management includes more than spending)
- Know how much money you give out each month. Whether your goal is a trip next summer, or just that you’re tired of having to make your decisions based on how much money you have available at that moment. It is vital to know how much you’re spending. It is one thing to lower your debt, but knowing how much money you have going out (expenses) every month must be controlled, or debt will continue to sneak up on you. You can’t ever make more than you’re capable of spending.
- Know how much money you make each month… exactly. We realize this sounds silly, because — how can anyone go to work every day and not know what they’re making. The reality is that most of us don’t track what is on our paychecks. We are typically so happy to see money in the account that we don’t take the two minutes per paycheck to look at the stub and make sure the amount is accurate. Know how much you put in your bank and what frequency it is delivered.
Even though there are a number of other tools that help with budgets and tracking money, the above info is what goes into a budget. This is as simple as what you make (income) minus what you spend (expenses), and the remainder is what you have to give and save and spend.
**if you are finding that you have less money than you need after doing this “money earned & money spent” equation — that is when you need to bring your expenses inline with your income. Sometimes budgets aren’t fun to do, because we want to pretend that we should live like we are richer than we actually are*** (sorry)
Here’s the scenario; You were in a car accident, and it’s not your fault! (that felt more like a commercial?!?) — the other person wasn’t able to pay their bills the last couple months and doesn’t have any insurance. Often it’s not only the uninsured individual who can cause risk, but also the under-insured individual. If someone has the bare minimum insurance and your accident has more than the bare minimum of costs — this is not the situation any of us want.
Unless you live in Virginia, it’s illegal to drive a car without insurance. Every state has their own laws. From Maine’s 4.5% to Florida’s 26.7%, our country’s uninsured motorists are present (and should be accounted for). Colorado’s uninsured motorists are not in the top or bottom few, but that placed Colorado’s drivers in the mid-percentages of risk.
In this article we want to give a shout out to New Mexico for dropping from 29.8% in 2006 to 20.8% in 2015; well done. We’re all better if we can play by the same rules. There are some stand-outs, but the rates for uninsured motorists in most states increased between 2010 and 2015.
Elizabeth A. Sprinkel (senior vice president of the IRC) stated, “While some states saw significant drops in their uninsured motorists rates, overall, the rate is increasing nationwide”, and “This can mean added risk for all motorists.”
“Nearly one in eight U.S. motorists is driving around uninsured and putting insured drivers at greater risk in the event of an auto accident”, according to a study. In 2003, uninsured motorists percentage peaked at 14.9%. By 2010, we dipped to 12.3% after seven years of going down. This bounce in 2015 that found 13 percent of all U.S. motorists were uninsured is not what many hoped to see.
The president, personal lines, at The Hanover said, “The results of the survey sound an alarm. Uninsured motorists represent a significant risk to insured drivers.” According to Halsey, the average cost of an uninsured motorist claim is about $20,000 (and that doesn’t include physical damage to the vehicle).
We at Insurance Town & Country would hope all of our community’s drivers discuss uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage with their independent agents. It’s not a bad idea.
A good rule of thumb is to have equal uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage as bodily injury coverage, according to the insurer.
- The research was directed by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) and co-sponsored by The Hanover Insurance Group.
- The IRC study, Uninsured Motorists, 2017 Edition, examined data collected from 14 insurers representing approximately 60 percent of the private passenger auto insurance market in 2015.
Fireworks and the Fourth: 9 Tips For Safe Celebrations
I love a good professional fireworks show. I’ve watched the 4th of July Fireworks from the FDR highway in NYC. I’ve witnessed the pyrotechnics for what used to be the Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival from high up in a building on Woodward Ave.
But I’ll admit—I’m not a huge fan of consumer fireworks. It’s probably because my only experience with them resulted in me having to jump out of the way of a firework that fell right in my direction. That pretty much scared me from using anything more than sparklers.
I’m really lucky that I wasn’t injured that day, because as U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC) statistics show hundreds of people are injured every year by fireworks. The CPSC has put together a pretty great infographic on the subject.
Some key statistics:
- On average, 200 people go to the Emergency Room per day for fireworks-related injuries in the month surrounding the 4th of July (June 17–July 17).
- Hands and fingers are the most injured body parts, followed by the head, face, ears and eyes.
- 40% of the injuries happen to adults ages 25–44, 45% happen to people under age 24.
- 68% of those injured were male.
Surprised? I’m guessing you’re probably not. The numbers fell mostly where I thought they would. These numbers really illustrate how important it is for people of all ages to treat fireworks with respect. Read all of the warnings and use common sense.
On average, 200 people go to the Emergency Room per day for fireworks-related injuries in the month surrounding the 4th of July
- Think twice about using fireworks if you currently live in an area experiencing very dry weather and elevated fire risks.
- Follow all laws! If fireworks are illegal in your area, don’t use them.
- Never allow young children to play with fireworks. Young children can very easily suffer burns from sparklers, which burn at 2,000 degrees.
- Have an adult closely supervise any older children using fireworks.
- Be careful when lighting the fuse. Don’t place any part of your body over the firework. Light only one firework at a time and back up to a safe distance immediately.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have malfunctioned. Soak them and throw them away.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- After fireworks stop burning, douse it with plenty of water before discarding it.
Your safety is important to us. Enjoy the Holiday safely!
The 11 Steps to Start your Small Business!
Starting a small business can seem overwhelming at first, but if you are reading this article, chances are you are brave enough to consider it or already have. Since small business make up 99.7 percent of the U.S. economy, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, it seems like you aren’t the first and won’t be the last. But, if you have that entrepreneurial hunger, what you probably want to be is the best.
Whether you want to start a business with five employees or 300, the fundamental and basic steps are essentially the same. The SBA lays out the 10 steps to starting a business that might just be the beginning of a beautiful relationship between you and your dream.
- Write a business plan
- Get business assistance and training
- Choose a business location (We found a great list from CNN naming the 10 most entrepreneurial states in the US)
- Finance your business
- Determine the legal structure of your business
- Register a business name “doing business as”
- Get a tax identification number
- Register for state and local taxes
- Obtain business licenses and permits
- Understand employer responsibilities
Whether you’re starting a flower shop or an auto body repair shop, having the right insurance for your business and following these simple and fundamental steps is bound to set you up for success.
Boat Launching Tips
When you trailer your boat to a lake, there’s only one thing between you and the water—a boat ramp! I know you’re eager to go, but be patient—you need to practice the art of boat launching first.
Some people make boat launching look easy. But it’s a touchy, tricky business, especially for new boaters. If you’ve struggled in the past, don’t give up in frustration. Practice makes progress! And with a little more experience, you’ll soon be the Captain Jack Sparrow of the boat launch.
Here are eight tips for getting your boat back to its natural habitat!
- Practice, practice, practice.
With experience comes confidence. Instead of getting this experience at a crowded boat ramp with an overabundance of impatient, opinionated spectators, consider going to an empty parking lot—you can practice by backing the trailer into a parking space.
- Nonverbal communication is key.
Sometimes the sounds of engines, stereos and other noises drown out verbal directions from your co-captain. Avoid this frustration by agreeing on a few common hand signals for “stop,” “left,” “right,” “start over” and “perfect.”
- Slow and steady’s the way to go.
Take a deep breath and disregard the pressure to move fast. This will only lead to mistakes. Take it slow—there isn’t a time limit—and control the majority of vehicle movement with your brake pedal.
- More brake, less gas.
Backing down a ramp requires only a little gas. Instead, focus on using your brakes and checking your mirrors. For optimum maneuverability, make adjustments with your brake applied—hold the brake, turn the wheel to where you want it and then release.
- Consider 8–4 instead of 10–2.
Backing up with your hands in the traditional 10–2 position is OK, but many prefer switching to 8–4 instead. With hands at the bottom of the wheel, you push in the direction that the trailer moves, which can feel more natural.
- Get used to different trailer sizes.
Recognize that not all trailers and boats behave the same when being towed. Generally, a longer boat trailer is easier to back up and harder in forward turns; a shorter boat trailer is the opposite.
- Try correcting a jackknife before restarting.
While holding the brakes, turn your steering wheel all the way in the opposite direction of the jackknife. Then pull forward slowly—if effective, your tow vehicle and trailer will realign.
- Don’t forget the guide poles.
Placing guide poles on your trailer will increase visibility, making it easier to maneuver. Try using them and see if they give you the confidence of a boat-launching pro!
Now that you’ve brushed up on boat launching, jump into another refresher with our blog about boat trailering.
Protecting Your Noggin
I remember getting the opportunity to ride on the back of my grandpa’s motorcycle for the first time as a child. Traveling quickly and close to the ground without any walls or doors was such an exhilarating experience! I also remember the helmet that squished my cheeks right into my nose and eyes. At the time, I just giggled because I felt like a chipmunk, but now I understand better. That helmet was not suitable for the size of my head (which has always been pretty large) and wouldn’t have protected me as well in an accident.
Motorcycle helmets come in many different shapes and sizes because everyone has a unique noggin. Whether you like to hit the road with a sport bike or cruiser, scooter or moped; taking care of the most delicate part of your body is an essential part of preparation. Here’s a list of four things to consider when purchasing a DOT approved helmet:
But wait, what’s a DOT approved helmet?
I’m so glad you asked! According to Leather Up, the Department of Transportation (DOT) assesses each helmet by placing it on a head form that’s equipped with sensors. The helmeted head form is then dropped from a specific height onto a steel anvil, and the severity of the impact is recorded. These standards are important because they outline the minimum requirements all motorcycle helmets must meet, which has already saved countless lives. However, if you would like to get a helmet that has been tested impartially and will provide more protection, SNELL has you covered.
Type of bike
Adventure touring? Cruiser? Sport bike? Generally, adventure bikers prefer using modular helmets which allow you to raise the face shield, while cruiser riders enjoy a half-shell helmet and sport bike riders like a full face helmet that will provide great all-around protection.
According to the CDC, more than 41% of operator and passenger fatalities could have been prevented with proper helmet usage.
Size/Shape of head
There’s more to a properly-fitted helmet than just one that can slide onto your head! Check out this article from Helmet Check for an in-depth description on how to determine your head shape, size, and preference.
It’s important to find a properly-fitted helmet so the three to four pounds of weight are distributed evenly around your head and shoulders to reduce neck strain. Consider also whether you would like additional features like integrated sunshade, wind reduction, and communication technology.
How much are you willing to pay? Generally speaking, price does not necessarily reflect quality or safety, but rather the materials used and the number of features. Good helmets can range anywhere between $40 and $900, so make sure you budget accordingly.
No matter what helmet you decide to wear, make sure you are wearing one, because your safety is number one!
Questions You Should Ask Before Signing a Lease
Moving into a new rental property is such an exciting process! Sure, it’s also super time-consuming and can be pretty demanding, but finally settling in can bring so much joy. I recently made the move from my college house into a full-on adult apartment and I was giddy with anticipation! Anything that came my way from the apartment complex was immediately completed and returned, all the T’s crossed and I’s dotted – including the lease. It didn’t dawn on me until after I had sent it back that I probably should have read it more thoroughly. Luckily, my lease outlined understandable guidelines and didn’t have any weird rules or vague statements releasing the complex from responsibility.
Before signing a lease, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Your lease is more than just a piece of paper with boring writing on it – it’s a legally binding contract! Most leases are pretty straightforward, but once you sign it, you’re locked in for the near future.
Here are nine important questions to ask your landlord or leasing office before signing the rental agreement.
How long is the lease term?
Most leases are a year long, but the timeline will occasionally change depending on the best rate or what’s convenient for both you and the property owner. You may also want to consider asking what the penalties are for terminating a lease early. You probably aren’t planning on breaking the agreement, but if you’re offered a job in a different state or extenuating circumstances arise, it’ll be handy information to remember.
Are utilities included?
Clarify which utilities you are responsible for and which are included in your rental agreement. The utilities included vary greatly depending on the owner and can dramatically alter your monthly rental fee if you’re not prepared. Ask about utilities like water, electric, gas, internet, cable, and trash pickup before signing a lease.
Do you allow pets?
If you already have a pet or plan to get one soon, this will be an important question to ask. Most rental facilities offer some kind of accommodation for pets but may still require an extra monthly fee to protect against potential damages. Some apartment complexes will also have a specific list of pets that are allowed, detailing what kinds of dogs they do and don’t allow on their premises.
Service animals, however, are a different story. You may be entitled to special accommodation for your service animal; consult your legal representative to know your rights prior to initiating a discussion with your potential landlord.
Where do I park my car?
Some facilities offer free parking in a garage or car port and some require a fee to access the parking amenities. Be sure to clarify where you can park your car, if it’s free, and how many cars are allowed per tenant on the property.
When is rent due and how can I pay it?
Rent is generally due on the first of the month, but you might want to clarify with the property owner to be sure. And is that rent taken in check form? Can you electronically transfer it? Ask before you move in to avoid any confusion or late fees in the future.
Is the security deposit refundable?The treatment of security deposits is typically regulated by law, but in general, security deposits are refundable as long as the property is in good condition when you move out. Your landlord may, however, be entitled to withhold part of your deposit for damages that were incurred during your stay or if you break the lease. As long as you keep the rented space in good condition, you should have nothing to worry about!
What kind of maintenance services are available?
Depending on whether or not you live in an apartment complex, you may have on-site property management that will fix any issues you may have. On-site management quickly swooped in and resolved an issue my sister had with her dryer after she realized that she had never emptied the lint tray. Of course, I would suggest that you regularly empty the tray (since it’s a fire hazard), but property management will be there for those types of mishaps.
If you’re looking to rent somewhere without on-site management, it may be more difficult to get someone on the premises to fix issues that may arise. In this case, you may consider renting elsewhere. Try not to end up with an overflowing tub at two in the morning and no one to help!
What kinds of amenities are provided? Are these complimentary?
Amenities like a community center, pool, fitness center, washer and dryer, and storage space can add that extra bit of value to your rental property. Which are the most important to you? Some properties have laundry facilities in each specific apartment, while others can be accessed through the basement of the building. Make sure to clarify if these amenities are included with the rental fee or if there’s an additional charge to access the spaces.
In what ways can I personalize the property?
If you plan on painting the walls or installing curtain rods or a wall TV mount, you may want to first discuss what kinds of customizations are acceptable and which are not allowed. My experience is that as long as you leave the property in the same condition as when you first entered, you should be good to go.
No matter what your landlord or leasing consultant says, make sure you read the entire lease. Yes, it will be time consuming, and no, it will not be particularly interesting, but it will make you well aware of the expectations the owner has for you as well as the things you can expect from your property owner.