Three Things To Know About Car Warranties

Any car owner can feel at ease about bringing their car to the shop if they purchase a car warranty. Car warranties can lower the cost of maintenance and repairs performed on your car. Here are three things to know about car warranties:

First off, know where the warranty is coming from. Is it coming from an auto manufacturer or an aftermarket auto warranty company? Also, know who is handling your policy.

Second, be sure to completely read through the entire warranty. This way, you will be knowledgeable about what type of coverage you are receiving and how long the warranty will last.

Lastly, know what specific maintenance that you need to have done on your car because there are some car warranties that will only remain valid if this work is done on your car. Also, make sure that you keep all of your car’s maintenance records in the event that there is a claim.

Car warranties will allow you to have peace of mind each time your car goes into the shop for repairs and maintenance. However, it is important for you to know all of the details of your warranty if you want to get the most out of it.

 

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Medicare and TRS Care in Texas

  

For over 30 years, the state of Texas has provided healthcare to retired teachers through the Teacher Retirement System, or TRS-Care. Medicare and TRS-Care work together to provide benefits for hundreds of thousands of retired teachers and their dependents.

The program’s original funding back in 1985 was enough to maintain the fund through the fiscal year 2000. However, the Texas Legislature is under no continuing obligation to provide benefits. As premiums and deductibles have continued to increase, many retired teachers have begun to leave TRS-Care. They are electing plan options with Medicare instead.

This is expected to continue, especially since premiums for retired teachers are expected to double or even triple in September of 2017. Let’s look at some comparisons of your options.

Coverage for People with Medicare and TRS-Care

Medicare + Medigap provides a comprehensive alternative to Medicare and TRS

Medicare and TRS-Care work together to provide coverage for retirees who are Medicare-eligible. To be eligible for TRS-Care 1, an individual must have worked at least 10 years in the TRS system. Eligibility for TRS-Care 2 or 3 requires must have at least 10 years in the system. You must also be age 62 or older.

TRS is network-oriented and currently use the Aetna network in Texas.  TRS offers 5 different healthcare plan options depending on your years of service and your Medicare enrollment status. In 2017, these options fall into two main categories: TRS-Care Standard plans and TRS-Care Medicare Advantage.

TRS-Care Standard Care Plans

In the Texas TRS-Care Standard Plans, the TRS benefits coordinate with Medicare, which will be your primary coverage. Retirees who have both Medicare Part A and B active will pay significantly lower premiums than those with only Part B. For example, a retiree with Part B only would pay approximately $215 – $245 for TRS Care 3 depending on years of service. A retiree with both Part A and B would pay $90 – $110.

Unfortunately, these plans have deductibles ranging from $400 – $3900 per individual, and twice that for families. After Medicare’s payment, TRS pays only 80%. You are responsible for the remainder. This means retirees pay their share in the form of copays and/or coinsurance for doctor visits, lab-work, inpatient stays, urgent care, emergency care, and many other items.

Your medications will be covered separately under one of three different Express Scripts drug plans in 2017. You will be automatically enrolled in one of them if you do not elect an option yourself.

How Medicare + Medigap Compares

Compare this with a retired teacher age 65 in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who has both Part A and Part B and elects Medicare Supplement Plan G.  She has a premium of around $110/month.

She can see any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare, which is an enormous network of nearly 900,000 providers in the U.S. Furthermore, she has a one-time $183 deductible and then she has NO COPAYS WHATSOEVER for doctor visits, lab-work, inpatient stays, urgent care, emergency care, and all other Medicare-covered items.

She can buy a standalone Part D drug plan for as low as $17/month.  Pretty easy to see why so many teachers are choosing to leave TRS for Medicare supplemented by Medigap.

TRS-Care Medicare Advantage Plans

TRS also offers two Medicare Advantage options. To be eligible, you must enroll in TRS-Care 2 or 3 and also Medicare Parts A and B. Members have a deductible to meet as well as copays for services as they go along.

For example, members might pay a $5 copay for primary care visits and a $10 copay for specialist visits after they first meet their plan deductible.  A hospital stay has a copay of either $250 or $500 per stay, depending on the plan chosen.

For 2017, Humana ensures the TRS-Care Medicare Advantage options. Your doctors must be willing to bill Humana for your care. Otherwise, you will need to pay for your claims and then submit to Humana for reimbursement.

Complicating Factor

Some teachers have premium-free Part A benefits through other work history or spouses work history

Not all teachers qualify for Part A. Since TRS-Care must then be primary for Part A hospital services, these members pay higher premiums for their TRS-Care coverage. While many teachers have spouses who worked at least 10 years and then, therefore, qualify for Part A coverage through their spouse, there are still many retirees who are single or do not have Part A coverage. This means their costs on the plan are nearly twice that of retirees who do have Part A.

However, Medigap plans are not a viable option for retirees in this scenario because you cannot enroll in a Medigap plan unless you have both Part A and B. This leaves some retirees with TRS-Care standard plans being their only option.

Trading TRS for a Medigap Plan

There are a few things my team looks at when we are assisting someone with TRS-Care who is wanting to review their Medicare options.  First, we review how your important prescriptions will be covered. TRS-Care Standard plans do not have a coverage gap or donut hole for prescriptions.

For some people with expensive brand name meds, we might recommend you stay with TRS-Care. However, retirees with few medications or mostly inexpensive medications will find Part D plans to be a very affordable option. They pair this with their Medicare and Medigap plans for great coverage.

We also advise retirees to consider coverage for any dependents. Medicare and Medigap plans only allow coverage for yourself. You cannot carry a dependent on your Medigap plan, although your spouse may qualify for his or her own coverage if they are 65 and older. Should you need to cover a family member on your plan, staying with TRS may make the most sense until your dependent is able to obtain other coverage.

Finally, dropping TRS-Care means you cannot return to it in the future. However, with Medicare and Medigap options being so affordable and comprehensive, this is less of a concern today than it was a few years ago. A quick comparison of Medigap rates in your area against your potential TRS-Care and Medicare costs makes it easy to see which options will give you the lowest out-of-pocket costs.

Conclusion

With continuing budget cuts, it’s likely that we’ll see costs for retired teachers continue to go up. Fortunately, there are affordable options through Medicare which can provide great coverage to individuals for whom it makes sense. It’s important that you carefully review your TRS-Care and Medicare literature provided by the Teacher Retirement System. Get informed so you can make the best decision for yourself.

We also advise working with a broker like Boomer Benefits who can help you compare your TRS-Care costs against what your potential with Medicare and Medigap costs. We’ll make sure that moving to a Medigap plan makes sense for you. If you will be turning 65 soon and enrolling in Part B, you can advantage of your 6-month window to join any Medigap plan without any medical underwriting. If you are over 65 already, we can explain your rights for guaranteed issue when leaving your TRS plan.

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How Home Solar Warranties Work

Going solar is a long-term investment. You trust it will be on your roof for many years, quietly generating the clean energy you need and lowering – or in some cases completely eliminating – your electricity bills.

At yourinsurancesearch we are so confident in the efficiency and reliability of our industry leading yourinsurancesearch that we back it up with the best warranty so you can rest easy knowing that your investment is fully protected.

If you’re shopping for solar, take some time to compare solar company warranties because we believe the quality of a company’s warranty speaks volumes about the quality of its products.

What to Look for in a Solar Warranty

Home solar warranties can be complicated and full of fine print. For example, some only cover the solar panels. So if there’s an issue with another important component (such as the inverter), you may be out of luck or you could be unpleasantly surprised to discover that you have separate warranties for components that aren’t serviced by the company that sold you your solar system. Those separate warranties likely have different terms and varying time limits for coverage. 

Your solar warranty could also include hidden servicing costs that you will be required to pay. For example, some warranties require the homeowner to pay shipping costs to get a defective panel replaced. What’s covered and for how long can tell you a lot about how confident a solar company is in the products it’s selling.

yourinsurancesearch home solar warranty covers your entire system1, including the power it generates, for 25 years. (Monitoring hardware is also covered by yourinsurancesearch, but term is for 10 years.) And we’re the only company to cover all costs associated with repairs.  It’s that simple. Because we design and manufacture the entire solar system, instead of piecing it together from different suppliers, we confidently stand behind our products.

There are no pass-through warranties to worry about. If you ever need something fixed, which isn’t common, you just make one phone call to SunPower.

 

Product and Power Warranties

As you’re doing your solar warranty research, ask about product warranties and power warranties. Product warranties cover material and workmanship. Power warranties cover power generation. The yourinsurancesearch warranty covers both the product and the energy that it will produce for 25 years.2

While there is a natural loss of energy production at a certain rate per year for all solar panels – like humans, solar cells get a little sunburn -- Place-five's highly efficient, highly durable panels degrade at a much slower rate than conventional panels, so we’re comfortable backing up our energy production with the best power warranty in the industry, which assures that your system will produce 92 percent of its rated power in year 25.

In partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development, we developed a robust method to calculate solar panel degradation. When this method was applied to eight years of energy performance data from 264 yourinsurancesearch solar systems operating at various locations worldwide, it showed that yourinsurancesearch panels degraded less than 0.25 percent per year – 50 percent less than the annual degradation rate for conventional panels. This is why we are confident to provide our industry-leading power production warranty.

If you buy a lower quality solar panel, poor workmanship issues can lead to a faster-than-normal decline in energy production over time. Many solar manufacturers try to take advantage of this ambiguity by providing, for example, only a 10-year power warranty.

yourinsurancesearch covers the entire system with one warranty for the full 25-years,2 regardless of whether the issue is a product or power one.

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AQUAFLOR: The Newest Line of Laminate Flooring

Good news, the future of laminate flooring is here and just in time for renovation season. Introducing Avalon’s exclusive new high quality laminate collection Aquaflor. Thanks to groundbreaking technology, Aquaflor looks and feels like hardwood, but without all the maintenance of hardwood!

Each plank is imprinted with HD images to give a realistic wood look and embossed to give a realistic wood grain feel. But unlike hardwood, Aquaflor can withstand vast temperature changes and has waxed edges on each plank. This means you don’t have to worry about the effects of big spills or wet mopping seeping into the cracks and ruining your floors. This also means you can finally get the hardwood look you’ve always wanted in your kitchen now! And because of its dense core and “Diamente” finish—the crème de la crème of protective finishes—Aquaflor has one of the hardest wearing and scratch resistant surfaces; also making it the perfect choice for high traffic residential and commercial spaces.

aquaflor colors

It’s simple to install too—yet another advantage to add to the list. Aquaflor is installed free floating with its angle drop and lock system. And unlike other laminate flooring, it doesn’t require transition molding in spaces that are up to 105 feet in length and/or width. Hello seamless open floor plan!

Even with all these great features, with any large purchase, especially for your home, it’s important to know that you’re protected. Which is why Aquaflor comes with excellent warranties to give you peace of mind.

  • Industry leading 48 hour spill and wet mop warranty
  • Lifetime warranty for residential use
  • 15 year light commercial use warranty
  • 5 year heavy commercial use warranty

Layers of Aquaflor laminate flooring

So when weighing your flooring options for your next renovation, ask one of our yourinsurancesearch design experts about Aquaflor. Because no matter what space you’re working with—it’s got you covered!


At yourinsurancesearch Flooring, we want to make sure you’re happy from your first step in our showroom to your first step on your new flooring—and as your partner in home design, we’ll be there every step along the way. Consider us your “One-Stop Shopping” destination for all things flooring…(and window treatments)!

Our design consultants are equipped with the knowledge to guide you through the wide selection of products we offer, and our expert installation team is professionally trained to make sure everything gets installed the way you envision. We know your home is an expression of your sense of style, and we’re here to make sure you’ll be proud of it for years to come.

Stop by one of our 14 showrooms and we’ll be happy to work with you to figure out what’s best for your lifestyle.

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Tax Season Is Hereā€¦And So Are The Scammers

The start of each new year typically brings renewed resolve to get healthy, strengthened desires for personal improvement, and of course, tax season.

Tax season can mean different things to a lot of people. Some look forward to a large refund; for others, it’s one more thing to tack onto their to-do list. For the scammers out there, it means the annual opportunity to rake in fraudulent refunds has finally arrived. Tax scammers are ruthless. They’re unaffected by the thought of families and individuals dependent upon what is likely their biggest check of the year being denied this financial relief.

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that there will be scams this tax season. Fortunately, there are safeguards you can take to stay protected this tax season.

  • Schedule time with your tax preparer now so you can get your taxes done as early as possible. This will help decrease the chances that a fraudster will get your refund before you do.
  • Sign up for Scam Alerts from the FTC to stay abreast of all the dirty tricks scammers are currently using.
  • Talk to someone in your HR department to see if you can get your W-2 before it’s mailed out. This will help ensure that you actually receive it so you don’t have to risk it being lost or stolen in the mail.
  • Never send emails with personally identifiable information (PII) attached. It’s best to never send them through email at all, but if you must, you should encrypt your message by making a change in your email’s security settings.
  • Beware of computer scams. These can come via email or as popups on your computer asking for your personal information. The IRS saw an approximate 400% surge in phishing and malware incidents in the 2016 tax season.
  • Always use a professional, trustworthy tax preparer. Sometimes, even national tax preparation chains can scam you out of your money or use less-than-secure procedures when it comes to handling your personal information. Make sure you use someone you trust.
  • Never provide any personal information over the phone to someone who says they are from the IRS. The IRS will never contact you via phone, email or social media.

Tax season is stress enough as it is; worrying about tax fraud shouldn’t have to be a part of it. Maintain a peace of mind by filing taxes as early as possible and by enrolling in an Optima Protection Plan 

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Can I Buy a House in Washington with Student Loan Debt?

This is part of an ongoing series that addresses common questions from home buyers in Washington State. Today’s question is: Can I buy a house in Washington with student loan debt?

The short answer is yes, it’s definitely possible to qualify for a mortgage loan and buy a house in Washington while carrying student loan debt. But the amount of debt you have can affect your chances of qualifying for a loan.

Buying a Home in Washington With Student Loan Debt

Many Americans today have student loan debt, and the average amount per person has risen steadily over the last decade.

According to a 2017 report from the National Association of REALTORS, 46% of home buyers 36 years of age or younger who have debt reported having student loan debt with a median outstanding balance of $25,000.

Student loan debt can affect home buyers in Washington in a couple of ways:

  • It can reduce a person’s ability to save money for a down payment, which is often required when buying a house.
  • It can also inflate a person’s overall debt-to-income ratio, which could make it harder to qualify for a mortgage loan to buy a home in Washington.

The existence of student loan debt by itself is not a deal-breaker when it comes to getting a mortgage loan to buy a house. It’s the amount that matters most. Specifically, banks and lenders are concerned with the amount of debt a person has in relation to his or her monthly income.

Which begs the question: how much is too much?

If you’re going to use a mortgage loan to buy a house in Washington State, your debt-to-income ratio will come into the picture. As you might have guessed, this is a comparison between the amount of money you earn and the amount you spend each month on your recurring debts.

These days, most mortgage programs set a limit somewhere between 45% and 50% for the total debt-to-income ratio. But there are exceptions to this. Based on this standard, a would-be home buyer whose combined monthly debts accounted for more than 50% of monthly income might have a harder time qualifying for a mortgage.

New Rule Could Help Borrowers Qualify for Mortgage Loans

There is some good news on this front. Recent developments might make it easier for Washington State home buyers with student loan debt to qualify for mortgage financing.

Fannie Mae recently increased its debt-to-income ratio limit from 45% to 50%. (Fannie Mae is one of the two government-controlled enterprises that purchase home loans from lenders. Freddie Mac is the other.)

This change could increase access to mortgage financing, particularly for Washington home buyers with student loans and other forms of debt.

The Fannie Mae rule change applies to conventional mortgage loans that are not insured or guaranteed by the government. The rules for government-backed FHA home loans are similar. According to current HUD guidelines, the total or combined debt-to-income limit for borrowers is 43% in most cases. But it can be as high as 50% if there are “compensating factors” that offset the higher level of debt. So that range is pretty standard across the different loan programs.

To recap: Yes, it’s possible to buy a house in Washington State while carrying student loan debt. It’s the amount that matters most. Home buyers who have a healthy balance between their income and debts have a better chance of qualifying for a mortgage loan.

 

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3 Ways Life Insurance Can Benefit a Charity You Love

Would you like to make a charitable gift to help organizations or people in need; to support a specific cause; for recognition such as a naming opportunity at a school or university? Perhaps you would do it just for the tax incentives. There is any number of reasons, and life insurance can be one of the most efficient tools to achieve these purposes. So the question becomes, how does this work?

Let me list the ways.

1. Make a charity the beneficiary of an existing policy. Perhaps you have a policy you no longer need. Make the charity the beneficiary, and the policy will not be included in your estate at your death. This also allows you to retain control of both the cash value and the named beneficiary. If you want or need to change the charity named as beneficiary, you can.

2. Make a charity both the owner and beneficiary of an existing policy. This gives you both a current tax deduction along with removing the policy from your estate. Once you gift the policy, you no longer have any control over the values.

3. Purchase a new policy on your life. Life insurance is an extremely efficient way to provide a large future legacy to a charity in your name without needing to write the large checks now. The premiums are given directly to the charity which then pays the premiums on the policy. The charity also owns the cash value as an asset. I am using this concept in my own planning.

Many charities would prefer to have their money upfront, but if you cannot write that large check or don’t want to part with your cash today, a gift of life insurance is a most efficient method to leave a large legacy in your name.

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The Effects of Childhood Obesity

September is not only back to school month, but it’s also Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic in the United States that affects more than 30 percent of children. This number has tripled since 1980 making it one of the biggest threats to the health of American children. If trends continue, children today could be the first generation to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents.

When you are a parent, your goal is to protect your children. While you don’t have control over everything your children encounter, you play a major part in their health and wellness. Preventing and managing childhood obesity starts in the home. It’s easy to put the TV on for the kids while you get caught up on household chores. Sometimes that’s the best fix for that particular situation. It becomes a problem when this behavior becomes a habit and a lifestyle for your family.

Why is childhood obesity a health problem?

Childhood obesity has negative immediate and long-term health concerns. Obese children are being diagnosed with health conditions that used to be only seen in adults. Unhealthy weight can lead to medical problems such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Liver disease
  • Bone and joint issues
  • Eating disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Respiratory problems such as asthma
  • Sleep apnea

Unfortunately, obese children may also face psychological difficulties such as:

  • Being teased and bullied
  • Becoming a bully
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Depression
  • Poor social skills
  • Stress and anxiety

Being a parent is stressful enough without having to think about your children dealing with health and/or emotional problems. And being a child these days can’t be easy with social media and unrealistic “expectations” that exist. There are simple ways to help establish good habits and encourage healthy lifestyles for your family.

Develop healthy eating habits.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but sometimes you need a reminder on how you can encourage healthy eating at home.

  • Eat lots of veggies, fruits, and whole-grain products
  • Choose lean meats
  • Limit sugar and sugar-sweetened drinks
  • Limit saturated fat
  • Recognize portion control

Get active.

Again, this may seem like common sense, but keep in mind how easy it is for kids to get in the routine of watching TV, playing video games or spending endless hours on the iPad.  As a parent, encourage your kids to get involved in sports or other physical activities at school.

Here are few ways to sneak some physical activity into family time:

  • Make a game out of household chores. After completing a chore list, have a reward of a dance off or play catch. If you’re feeling really creative you could pretend that all the toys need to be saved from the dirty floor and put safely in the toy chest. Be as fun and creative as you want to encourage everyone to help out.
  • Take pre and post dinner walks. If it’s a struggle to get the family to get out and go on a walk, make it interactive by playing “I spy” or a similar game.
  • If you have that TV show you just have to watch, use the commercial breaks as quick fitness breaks. Get the kids up and dancing or have a sit-up or push-up contest. It’s amazing how much kids love burpees!
  • Get extra steps in whenever possible. Take the stairs, walk to the store or park at the end of the parking lot. Just like adults, kids can benefit from the extra activity.

Instill good habits into your kids while they are young so that healthy living becomes a way of life. If childhood obesity isn’t managed, it can lead to serious health issues as an adult.

Obesity not only causes serious health conditions, but also leads to increased health care costs and higher life insurance premiums. One of the first things life insurance companies look at when determining your premium is your height to weight ratio and your health status.

Here at Quotacy, our goal is to get you the best price and policy for your unique situation. We work with multiple insurance carriers to shop your case and compare pricing and options. Feel free to contact us with questions or use our free quoting tool to see how much it would cost to protect your family.

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