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Phone: 563-359-0854

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Friday, Jan 29, 2016 10:01 AM
Insurance to Value


Imagine how devastating it would be to lose your home in a fire. Now imagine not being able to rebuild it completely because you didn’t have the correct amount of insurance.

 

Selecting the proper amount of coverage is the single most important decision you can make with your Homeowners policy. Without it, you may not have enough coverage to rebuild after a total loss. This is called “insurance to value.” Below are some explanations and tips to help you make the right choices for your needs — and remember, if you need help, we’re just a phone call away!

 

What is insurance to value?

Insurance to value is the relationship between the amount of coverage selected (typically listed as “Coverage A” or “Dwelling Coverage” on your policy declarations page) and the amount required to rebuild your home.  Insuring your home for anything less than 100% insurance to value could mean you wouldn’t have enough coverage to replace your home in the event of a total loss

 

Why is the cost to rebuild different from the market value?

A home’s market value reflects current economic conditions, taxes, school districts, the value of the land and location, and other factors unrelated to construction cost.  The cost to rebuild your home is based only on the cost of materials and labor in your area.  It is important that you insure your home based on its reconstruction cost, NOT its current market value

 

Why is reconstruction more expensive than new construction?

New-home builders typically build many homes at once, and solicit bids from various sub-contractors to receive the best pricing. Their business model is based on economies of scale. For example, they may purchase 20 bathtubs at once, securing a lower unit cost. These economies of scale don’t exist when building a single home.

 

How can I make sure I have the correct amount of insurance?

Work with your agent to provide detailed information at time of purchase to be sure that you receive a thorough and accurate quote.

Ask us about additional coverage options that may be available.

Review your insurance to value calculation on a regular basis with your agent.

Tell your agent about any changes or improvements that you make to your home.


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Monday, Jan 25, 2016 8:56 AM
Insurance Savings Do's and Don'ts


In today's unsettled economy, many people are looking for ways to stretch their money—but sometimes this includes altering insurance  coverage to dangerously low levels or eliminating coverage entirely. If you’re thinking about changing your coverage to save money, consider these key issues below — and give us a call. We can help make sure you’ve got the right protection at a price you can afford.

 

  • Make sure you’re getting the appropriate discounts and credits:  Most insurers offer a variety of policy credits and account discounts that can translate into significant savings — without endangering the level of protection you need for your home, autos and other valuable property. And often, if you purchase multiple policies through the same insurance company, you’ll receive further discounts. People who own motorcycles or boats and who complete approved safety courses can qualify for discounts, and families with teen drivers who earn good grades in school may qualify for auto policy discounts.

  • Increase deductibles for cost savings: Only a small percentage of homeowners have claims in any given year, so you might consider increasing your deductible.

  • Specialty lines coverage options:  Own a classic car or RV?  If their use is seasonal, you can typically reduce your coverage to liability only during the off-season, then add full coverage only when you are actually using the vehicle

  • Full payment on policy: Depending on your financial circumstances, you may be able to make lump-sum payments instead of partial premium payments, such as monthly or quarterly. Partial payments often include small transaction fees, so paying the full amount can eliminate those extra costs.

     

    Some decisions to avoid
    It is just as important to understand what not to do as you look for cost savings. Here are some scenarios you should avoid:

  • It may be unwise to carry only the minimum state-required amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on auto policies, or to cancel it entirely if it is not required in your state: when the economy is struggling, more people go without insurance. You want to make sure you’re protected in this instance.

  • Ignoring renters insurance: This coverage is often overlooked no matter what shape the economy is in. Landlords’ policies generally only cover the structure, not the individual renters’ contents. Imagine having to replace furniture, clothing and other personal property out of pocket because you excluded this essential, affordable coverage and then suffered a devastating loss from a burglary or other covered event.




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Tuesday, Jan 19, 2016 11:53 AM
Your Car VS Animal


America’s roads are full of cars but often, they’re also full of wildlife. That’s why an estimated 2 million vehicle-animal collisions happen each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Winter constitute the most dangerous periods for these incidents. Visibility is reduced, thanks to the shorter days and inclement weather, and it’s also migration and mating season for many animals. But, you can still take steps to decrease the chances you’ll hit an animal. Here are five things to do: 

  1. Be particularly alert at dawn and dusk. Visibility is low at these times, and animal activity is high.

  2. Keep an eye out for signs. If you’re in an area where wildlife is common, you may see posted warnings.

  3. Watch your speed. Avoiding any kind of collision is easier if you’re travelling at an appropriate rate of speed. And, it’s not just about the speed limit. In certain conditions, driving under the speed limit is more optimal.

  4. See an animal? Look for more. Missing one animal doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods, so to speak. There are probably others around.

  5. Don’t swerve. If possible, don’t make any wild maneuvers. You could end up hitting something worse than an animal — like another car — or going into a ditch or down an embankment. Use your brakes, use your horn, and use your good judgment.



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Wednesday, Dec 9, 2015 7:48 AM
Holiday Giving


The gift of time could be the best gift of all this holiday season

 

For many, the holiday season is a time for celebration and fun with loved ones. But for others in Quad City Area, the season can be one of the loneliest times of the year. 

 

At Cities Insurance Group we know how precious the gift of time can mean to someone in the QCA during the holidays. Here are a few ways you and your family can share the spirit of the holidays with others.

Share a holiday dinner with local heroes. Many firefighters, medical specialists and law enforcement professionals spend their holidays on the job in the Quad Cities. Bring a holiday dinner or treats to your local hospital, fire station or police station, and share the gift of thanks with local heroes who protect and serve our community every day.

Offer comfort to those in need. Connect with local organizations in Iowa and Illinois that help to feed the hungry or provide warmth and shelter for those out in the cold. If you’re not sure where to start, spend just a little time researching the websites of our local volunteer organizations like United Way or our Local homeless shelter. Find out how and when you can help - and make it a family affair!

Make some new friends at our local retirement homes. While many of our senior citizens are included in holiday celebrations with family and friends, some spend the season without anyone. Call your local retirement home and check into the volunteer opportunities they offer for helping with crafts, special events, playing cards or just spending time visiting.

At Cities Insurance Group, we know that giving the gift of time is sometimes the best gift of all. We hope you find time to share your time this holiday season - you’ll be glad you did!




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Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 8:01 AM
Winter Tire Tips


So how do you figure out what’s best for your vehicle? Here are five things to know about winter tires:   

  1. Winter tires really are different than regular tires.
    Winter tires have deeper tread, along with siping (slits in the tread blocks). This increases the number of edges that touch the road, resulting in better traction and handling. They also stay softer than other tires do in cold weather, thanks to special rubber compounds designed specifically for winter use. That helps increase traction as well.

  2. If your area regularly drops below 45 degrees, you probably need winter tires.
    Winter tires don’t just perform better in snow and ice. They are better for cold weather in general. So if you get some chilly days where you live, consider a set – a full set. Installing just two winter tires can cause handling problems.

  3. There are two main categories.
    Stud less snow and ice tires are designed for extreme conditions. They are better in deep snow than performance winter tires, which are for light snow and ice. What about studded tires? Well, they give you great traction on ice but also damage roads. And some experts say chains do just as well.

  4. You still need to check the pressure — once a week.
    If your tires are underinflated, they are at risk of failing. In winter, if they’re overinflated, your traction will be significantly reduced.

  5. You still need to check the tread, too.
    An inexpensive tool found at auto-parts stores can be used for this, or you can use a penny. Stick the coin into the groove of the tire, with Lincoln’s head down. Is some of his hair hidden? Good. Can you see all of Abe’s hair? It’s time for new tires. Right now.




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Monday, Nov 23, 2015 2:10 PM
Shovel Snow Safety


Shovel snow safely this winter

 

Winter is here, and with it comes many traditions and activities: Holiday celebrations with loved ones in the Quad Cities, skiing and snowboarding outings in the mountains, fireplace-lit living rooms, homemade batches of soup… and shoveling snow.

 

Should you live somewhere in Iowa or Illinois when snow storms hit and your driveway and walkways are covered with the cold white stuff, you might want to just stay inside. But if your work and personal commitments make that impossible, you’ll need to first dig out the snow shovel - or make sure it’s handy before the snow flies!

 

For many people across the Mississippi Valley Area snow shoveling will be both a reality and a necessity this winter. At Cities Insurance Group we want to ensure your efforts will get you on your way while also keeping you safe, so here are some snow-shoveling tips offered by the Boston Herald.

  • Warm-up! Never jump right into an activity. Start by cleaning off your car.

  • Place your hands a good distance apart on the shovel - it helps with leverage.

  • Never bend at your waist.

  • Push the snow when you can.

  • Scoop smaller loads of snow.

  • Use your legs, core and arms to help scoop and throw snow.

  • Always step in the direction you throw snow to avoid excessive twisting on your lower back.

     

    If snow shoveling is on your winter task list, we at Cities Insurance Group wish you both a clear sidewalk and a healthy body. 




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Wednesday, Nov 18, 2015 8:59 AM
Holiday Home Safety


The holidays can be a great time to get out of the Quad Cities to visit family you rarely get to see, hit the slopes or flee to the beach. Regardless of how you spend your time away, you need to ensure your house stays safe while you’re gone. 

 

A house left empty can be an opportunity for burglars, so before you pack your bags, prepare to protect the stuff that’s staying at home in Iowa or Illinois.  

 

At Cities Insurance Group we want to make it a little easier for you to get out of town with peace of mind and return to everything you left behind, so here are some pointers for prepping your Iowa or Illinois home before you travel.

Lock it up. Check and double-check that you have locked all the doors and windows.

Check under the mat. If you store an extra key outside your house, remove it.  Instead, give the key to a trusted friend or neighbor in case someone needs to enter in an emergency.

Communicate. Inform a friend or neighbor that you will be away. Ask them to keep an eye on the house, and give them a way to reach you to report any suspicious activity. But don’t communicate your absence on social media!

Forego deliveries. Make sure to stop delivery of packages, mail, newspapers, and anything else that could pile up on your porch. Ask your trusted friend or neighbor to pick these items up every other day.

Remove temptations. Do not leave wrapped gifts or expensive electronics visible through windows and doors.

From Cities Insurance Group we wish you, your family (and your home and belongings) a very safe and joyous holiday!

 

 

INSURANCE SIDEBAR:

If you are the victim of a theft this holiday season, your homeowners and umbrella policies may offer protection. To know for sure, review your insurance policies with us at Cities Insurance Group.




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Friday, Nov 13, 2015 11:02 AM
Black Friday


If there’s anything more satisfying than melting into the couch following a multi-course Thanksgiving dinner complete with all the fixings, it has to be shopping for the best deals of the season the day after in the Quad Cities.

Hitting the shops on Black Friday has become a ritual that is as all-American as watching fireworks on the Fourth of July. And why wouldn’t it be, considering what a win-win it is for Quad Cities Area customers and retailers alike? 

Over the years, however, Black Friday has evolved. Stores that used to open at 6 a.m. now open at midnight, and Cyber Monday has entered the picture, offering bargain prices online the Monday following Black Friday. All of this means that getting the best deals now requires a bit of strategy. 

At Cites Insurance Group, we want you to get the best deals for your holiday shopping, so here are a few pointers for maximizing your experience.

  • Be willing to forego the shut-eye. It’s a fact: stores open early. Accept that you will not get eight hours of sleep Thursday night (and remind yourself that your wallet will thank you).

  • Do your research. Go online before the holiday and note who has deals on what and when. Remember to factor in your opportunities for Cyber Monday.

  • Pick your favorites. You probably won’t have time or energy to go everywhere, so narrow your shopping store list down to focus only on your favorite stores or those that are offering sales on exactly what you’re looking for.

  • Create an itinerary. Before you go, make a list of stores in order of priority based on times they open and items you want to snap up.  Then, map it so you know your route.

From the Cities Insurance Group family to you, we wish you a very productive and enjoyable Black Friday!

Fun fact:

Considered as the kick-off to the Christmas holiday season, Black Friday is often described as the busiest shopping day of the year. This has been true since 2005. The millions of Americans who shop on Black Friday have been keeping the streak alive for nearly seven years.


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Friday, Nov 13, 2015 10:59 AM
5 Tips for Deep Frying a Turkey This Thanksgiving


With a little common sense, though, you can safely enjoy that great taste and fast cooking time. Here are five tips for cooking a great deep-fried turkey — without doing any damage (except maybe to your waistline): 

1. Find a safe place to cook. Don’t ever set up a fryer any closer than 10 feet from your home, garage or any other structure. Make sure the area is flat to keep the fryer from tipping, and never put it on a deck or other flammable surface.  

2. Don’t use too much turkey. You don’t want to drop a 20-pound bird in your fryer; it’s just too big. Keep your turkey to 12 pounds or less, don’t stuff it and make sure it’s completely thawed and dry.  

3. Don’t use too much oil, either. When it comes to the oil, use something with a high smoke point (for example, canola or safflower) and do a test with water beforehand to figure out how much you need. Put the turkey in your fryer and fill with water until it is covered. Then take the turkey out and make a mental note of the water line — that’s how much oil to use. Be sure to dry everything completely after your test. 

4. Use caution when it’s time to cook. Don’t just drop the turkey into the fryer, unless you want to splash hot oil on yourself (bad) or the burner (even worse). Gently lower it into the oil, and then monitor everything as it’s cooking. Keep an eye on the oil temperature to make sure it doesn’t get too hot. Keep an eye on the clock, because you want your turkey to cook for about 3-5 minutes per pound. And, watch kids and pets so they don’t get too close to the fryer. 

5. Be prepared for disaster. If you’re cautious, the odds are you won’t need a fire extinguisher, but you should have one on hand anyway – a multi-purpose model with dry powder. Don’t ever spray water on a fryer fire. If you don’t have an extinguisher, either cover the oil or dump a large amount of baking soda on the blaze. And, if all else fails, call 911 – quickly. 

Of course, there’s one way to get a deep-fried turkey that can’t fail: Buy one from a professional. They’re available at some grocery and specialty stores, and even restaurants are getting into the act now.

Whichever you choose, we here at Cities Insurance Group wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving!


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Thursday, Oct 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Halloween Safety Tips


Make your house a haven for trick-or-treaters

Halloween is one of the fall season’s most treasured holidays. Kids love to dress up, get together with friends, and go door-to-door in search of the biggest and best goodies.

If your neighborhood tends to be teeming with little ghosts, goblins, superheroes and princesses, you’ll want to be sure your yard and stoop are safe and welcoming. A little pre-planning can prevent unfortunate accidents that could turn out to be tragic for kids and trying for you.

Here are some pointers for ensuring your house is a safe place for trick-or-treaters on Oct. 31.

Pets first. Many dogs, cats, and other furry family companions get scared when oddly dressed strangers approach their door in droves. Make sure your pet is in a safe and comfortable space or take them to a secure, relaxing offsite location for the evening.

Clean it up. If your yard gathers stuff - like toys, rakes and other yard tools, hoses, tree branches, you name it - take the time to clean it up. Make sure your yard is free of potential hazards and create a clutter-free walking path well before dusk falls this Halloween.

Light it up. Make sure you offer a well-lit path. You can do this using any type of yard lights, from solar, string, LED, existing outdoor lighting or glow-in-the-dark.

Turn it off. When you’re done for the night, make it obvious by turning any and all inviting lights off. However, if you’re still offering candy in a bowl outside, do make sure to keep the path well-lit until your sweet treats are tucked away inside the house.

At Cities Insurance Group we hope you enjoy a safe Halloween devoid of tricks and full of treats!



Last Updated: 10/29/2015 9:59:01 AM


Thursday, Sep 3, 2015 12:29 PM
Fall and Watercraft Insurance-What you need to know!


Now that summer’s over and the weather is cooling down, it’s time to think about pulling your boat out of the Mississippi and putting it away until next year.

As you begin to prepare your boat for the winter, take the time to make sure it still has the right insurance protection. After all, we here at Cities Insurance Group want to make sure you’re ready for the next boating season! (And maybe, just maybe, you’ll also be ready to invite your favorite insurance agent out for a day on the lake. Just a thought.)

First things first: Insurance

If you have a small boat with limited power, you may have some coverage under your Iowa and Illinois homeowners or renters insurance policy. If you aren’t sure, please check with us. Of course, larger and faster boats, along with personal watercraft, require their own policies. And we can help with those, too!

But do you even need boat insurance during the offseason when your boat won’t even be in the water? Well, that depends. Keep in mind that your boat can still be damaged no matter where it is. Often, damage from fire and theft isn’t covered unless you have a watercraft policy. And there always is the chance that we could get a streak of great weather in November that lures you to take the boat out on Mississippi for a day or two! There are plenty of reasons to keep year-round coverage, but if you have questions about seasonal policies, give us a call: 563-359-0854.

And while you’re thinking about insurance, consider your current watercraft coverage. Is your boat older? It might be time to move to cash-value coverage instead of agreed value. Do you have a lot of expensive fishing equipment? Make sure you have enough optional coverage so your gear isn’t at risk. You might also want to consider uninsured boater coverage and a personal umbrella policy, which provide more liability protection than a standard watercraft policy.

And remember, you might be able to save money on your insurance by taking a boating-safety course, increasing your deductible or bundling your policies with one company.



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Thursday, Aug 13, 2015 7:59 AM
Back to School Insurance Tips


It's important to keep in mind that policy language varies from state to state, and there are never "one-size-fits-all" situations, but below is a general guide. If you have questions, or want to go over your insurance needs, don’t hesitate to contact us!

HOMEOWNERS

          Coverage of personal property: Most homeowners policies provide 10 percent of Coverage C (Personal Property) for property owned by an insured that is at a residence other than the insured’s.  For example, if the contents of a policyholder’s home are insured for $100,000, a student’s property up to $10,000 would be covered if living in a dormitory – provided the damage is caused by a covered peril and the student meets the definition of an insured.

          For apartments or houses off-campus, the same coverage generally applies. Certain items, such as jewelry or expensive electronics, may require special coverage, or a “rider.” Renters insurance is strongly recommended if a particular policy does not cover a student’s personal property.

          Liability coverage: There usually is an exclusion for damage to property rented to an insured, so generally damage to a dorm room or apartment would not be covered.

          Renters insurance: If your student’s needs can't be met under your current policy, don't forget renters insurance. Landlords’ policies generally only cover the structure, not the possessions of renters.  

AUTO

          Coverage without a car at school: If your student will continue to drive while at home on school breaks, they should continue to be listed on your auto policy. If they are attending school more than 100 miles from home, and are not taking a vehicle with them, the policy may qualify for a distant-student discount.

          Coverage with a car at school: In most instances, a car registered to parents and listed on their policy will be covered if used by a listed student away at school. But you should make sure that your insurance carrier writes coverage in the college’s state and location. And note that a change to the principal location of the vehicle could result in a change in premium.

          Driving a friend’s car at school: Students generally would be covered while driving a friend’s car if the students are listed on their parents’ policy and do not have regular use of the vehicle. The coverage would likely be secondary in this case, as the carrier for the friend’s vehicle likely would be the primary coverage.

          Coverage discounts: In addition to the possible distant-student discount mentioned above, students may qualify for a good-student discount. To qualify, most insurance carriers require that a student must be enrolled in at least four courses per term as a full-time student at an accredited college or university and meet certain academic qualifications. Also, drivers under the age of 21 who complete a driver education course may be eligible for a policy discount.  



Last Updated: 8/13/2015 7:59:49 AM


Wednesday, Jul 15, 2015 4:08 PM
What you Should Know About FLOOD Insurance


You’ve probably heard this horror story before — someone loses a home due to a flood and learns after the fact that standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood damage.
At Cities Insurance Group we want you to be educated about all of the risks you may face – before a loss occurs – so you can determine what insurance coverage is appropriate. Spring is a prime season for flooding, so now is a good time to review your options.
Because very few companies offer flood insurance, the U.S. government created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1968. Available to homeowners, renters and business owners, this insurance often is required to obtain a mortgage in areas at high risk of flooding.
But you might want to look into a policy just for peace of mind, even if you don’t live in the Mississippi Valley area According to the NFIP, nearly 25% of the program’s claims occur in moderate- to low-risk areas. Check out the questions and answers below to help determine if flood insurance is right for you.

Is flood insurance available in my area?

To participate in the NFIP, a community must adopt and enforce a floodplain management ordinance with rules regarding construction in certain flood-prone areas. In exchange, the government makes flood insurance available within that community. We’re happy to help you find out if you’re eligible for flood insurance. Just give us a call at 563-359-0854. You can also visit http://www.fema.gov/fema/csb.shtm.

What does it cover?

The NFIP provides coverage for both the structure and its contents. Coverage for contents is optional in some cases, so you may want to give us a call to discuss other coverage for your personal property.

Keep in mind that you typically can’t purchase flood insurance and have it take effect the next day. There is usually a 30-day waiting period. (Exceptions to this rule apply, however, particularly when the insurance is required by a lender and is purchased during the process of securing a mortgage.) If you think you need flood insurance, don’t wait to buy a policy!

What doesn’t it cover?

Generally, government-issued flood insurance will not cover the following: Buildings entirely over water or principally below ground, gas and liquid storage tanks, animals, aircraft, wharves, piers, bulkheads, growing crops, shrubbery, land, roads, machinery or equipment in the open and most motor vehicles.

How much does it cost?

As with all insurance policies, the cost of flood insurance varies depending on your situation. If your home or business is in a high-risk area, such as a “special flood hazard area,” your premium naturally will be higher than those in low- or moderate-risk zones. Premiums are based on how old the building is, how many floors it has, the location of its contents, your deductible and more. Renters insurance is typically less expensive, as renters generally insure their belongings and not the building.



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Tuesday, Jun 30, 2015 10:02 AM
Fourth of July Pet Safety


For most of us, the Fourth of July is a time to enjoy the pyrotechnics that mark the holiday. But for our pets, fireworks are another story. Many pets can be traumatized by the noisy rockets and firecrackers so many of us enjoy.

 

At Cities Insurance Group, we hope your holiday is happy and safe for you and your pets. So along with our other story about fireworks safety, here are some tips to help you protect your pets on the Fourth in Iowa/Illinois or elsewhere.

 

Protecting your pets

Many pets are very frightened by the loud noises caused by fireworks. If you can’t take them away from the noise, here are some pointers from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that will help them have a more peaceful holiday.

·         Don’t take your pet to a public fireworks display. In addition to the noise, they may be spooked by the crowds.

·         If possible, leave your pet inside in a safe, secure room. Do not leave them outside, even if your yard is fenced. They may try to flee, and they may succeed; July 5 is a busy year at many animal shelters in the Quad Cities, as dogs and cats are frequently found miles from their homes. Taking your pet on a walk early in the day can help tire them out.

·         Give your pets a comfortable place to rest, as well as plenty of food and water. You might even leave a TV or stereo on to drown out the fireworks. Provide soothing music, if possible. A favorite toy (or their favorite owner!) can help comfort them, too.

·         Make sure your pets have an ID tag or microchip, in case they get scared and escape.

·         Check with your veterinarian before giving your pet any medication intended to calm them. They may be able to provide you with a prescription or suggest alternatives.

·         And, of course, keep your pet away from used and unused fireworks.

 

With some common sense and planning, the Fourth of July can be both safe and enjoyable for everyone - and less scary for your pets.



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Wednesday, Jun 3, 2015 8:28 AM
Father's Day Gift Idea's


With summer drawing near and the weather warming up, in the Quad Cities neighborhoods come alive with the sights and sounds of the season: lawnmowers, power tools and backyard barbecues, to name a few.

For many people, those things all bring to mind one specific person: Dad. And since Father’s Day is just around the corner, we at Cities Insurance Group thought we’d give you some gift ideas - and some fun history trivia, too!

What to get Dad?

Once you’re past the age of, say, 10, the “Old Spice and a tie” routine probably won’t cut it anymore when it comes to getting a gift for your father. Here are some better ideas from AskMen.com:

·         Grilling tools (this way, perhaps he’ll even cook for you on Father’s Day!)

·         Alcohol (to be enjoyed in moderation, of course)

·         Fishing gear

·         Golf clubs, balls or other sporting goods - or take him out for a round of golf

·         Books (particularly grilling cookbooks)

·         Gadgets (such as a GPS; after all, many dads don’t like asking for directions)

·         Landscaping services (so he can take a break from mowing the lawn)

Aside from ties and cheap cologne, you’ll probably want to avoid the most clichéd gifts, especially “World’s Best Dad” items (even if it’s true!) and socks.

As with all gifts, though, it’s the thought that counts. And we’re sure your dad will appreciate simply being appreciated. And if you’re a dad yourself – Happy Father’s Day! We hope you’ll enjoy your day.



Last Updated: 6/30/2015 10:01:24 AM


Wednesday, Jun 3, 2015 8:27 AM
History of Father's Day


 

The history of Father’s Day

Marked on the third Sunday of June in the United States (and in many other countries), Father’s Day was first celebrated in 1910 to complement Mother’s Day. According to Wikipedia, the day was created by Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Wash., who wanted to honor her father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart.

 

Although Dodd originally suggested her father’s birthday in early June, she had not provided organizers with enough time to arrange the event - and the celebration was delayed until the third Sunday of the month.

 

Although Mother’s Day has been an official national holiday since 1914, Father’s Day had a tougher road. Congress refused to make the celebration official in the years immediately following Dodd’s first observance, fearing that the day would become commercialized. (Some would say those fears were well-founded; the creator of Mother’s Day later came to regret the commercialization of that holiday.)

 

It wasn’t until 1966 that Father’s Day received an official proclamation, thanks to President Lyndon B. Johnson. And six years later, President Richard Nixon signed a law making the day a national holiday.

 

Facts and figures (from government website USA.gov)

·         There are an estimated 70.1 million fathers across the nation

·         An estimated 1.7 million men are single fathers

·         Approximately 176,000 fathers are stay-at-home dads



Last Updated: 6/30/2015 10:01:11 AM


Wednesday, Jun 3, 2015 8:24 AM
Fishing Safety


No matter what season is winding down, the next season is just another reason to spend on the water in the boat with rod in hand. One of the best ways to enjoy boating and fishing in the Quad Cities is to share the fun with others - especially your kids or grandkids.

While expert anglers tend to know the ropes of both boating and fishing on the Mississippi River there are still many mishaps that can occur if the excursion is not well-planned and strategically executed. This is especially crucial when you have little ones along for the ride.

The next time you’re gearing up with your offspring to go after the ‘big one,’ make sure that it’s as enjoyable as you anticipate by considering the following guidelines.

Only if weather permits. Check the weather forecast in detail, using your favorite app, before you head out onto the water. In many climates, weather can change quickly and drastically, ushering in unexpected storms that could scare your children and put you all in harm’s wayDress yourself - and your little ones - for the adventure. Though it may seem obvious, it can get slippery out on the boat or the dock! Ensure stable footing for all by making sure you and your kids are wearing shoes that grip boat floors and slick rocks and docks.Make safety a game. It’s important to be equipped with everything you need for safety and protection - from flashlights and sunscreen to plenty of water and life preservers - but you can also make it fun for the kids. For example, make them the keepers of the radio or the person who makes sure everyone is wearing a hat or sunglasses for protection from the sun.Be hyper-vigilant about dangerous items. The sport of fishing is accompanied by some sharp items - hooks and knives to name just two. Make sure you have these items in a locked tackle box to ensure no one accidentally gets hurt.Follow boating rules. Make sure your boat is in good standing by adhering to all the laws of the lough. To find these, research the body of water you’re going to be fishing on before you head out.  

At Cities Insurance Group we hope your fall family fishing outings become lifetime memories!

Contact Us!

At Cities Insurance Group we can work with you to make sure you've got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable. Just give us a call at 563-359-0854 or send us a note at insurance@citiesig.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what's important to you is protected!

Last Updated: 6/30/2015 10:00:59 AM


Wednesday, Jun 3, 2015 8:15 AM
Vacation Travel Smarts Part Two


When you’re there

Once you arrive at your destination, it’s time to relax! But don’t let your guard down completely. After all, tourists often are targets for those looking to separate you from your money. We’re talking mainly about thieves, but don’t forget, you also lose money when you spend more than needed. Here are some ways to protect your wallet from criminals and other money traps:

·         Don’t carry much cash. Most places accept credit cards, and those that don’t often have ATMs on site. f you carry a wallet, keep it in your front pocket. For a purse, hang it across your body. Both will make it more difficult for a thief. You could also consider carrying a money belt, which is a good way to conceal cash and cards. Staying at a hotel? Check to see if they have “resort fees.” More and more hotels are charging these, which often provide things that used to be included in your room rate (such as access to the fitness center). Some will waive it if you complain — and it can be worth complaining because the fee can be $10 – $25 each day. Eating out too much? If your hotel room has a refrigerator, you can easily purchase and store sandwich ingredients for a cheap lunch or dinner. Many people find it more economical to rent a condominium or house for their vacation and cook most of their own meals. The money saved on restaurants can make up for any cost difference between a condo and hotel.Think about travel insurance. Yes, this costs money up front. But if you have a long and expensive vacation planned, travel insurance can end up saving you a lot of money if something goes wrong and you need to come home early or even cancel your entire trip. Depending on the coverage you purchase, you could receive reimbursement for additional airfare, hotel charges and more.

Finally, remember that you’re on vacation to relax and escape everyday life. So when you get there, get out there! Meet some locals, do some things off the beaten path. In fact, the locals usually have the best recommendations. And you just might make some new friends, too!



Last Updated: 6/3/2015 8:15:44 AM


Wednesday, Jun 3, 2015 8:14 AM
Vacation Travel Smarts Part One


We here at Cities Insurance Group want your vacation to be relaxing. It’s a getaway from work, not to mention your day-to-day life. So we’ve got some tips - from packing smart to protecting yourself from pickpockets - to make your trip the best it can be.
Before you go
Even if you’re only headed across the state a packing list is a must. How many times have you left the Quad Cities and arrived at your destination, only to find that you forgot your most comfortable walking shoes? Or your swimsuit? Put everything on this list; even if you think you would never forget it. A toothbrush is easy to replace when you get there - your prescription medication isn’t.
Be sure that you have printed itineraries for everyone in your party, and make color copies of important ID documents as well. Keep the copies in your bag, separate from your passport and other IDs. It’s also a great idea for each person to have a list of emergency numbers, either for them to call or for someone else providing assistance.
Of course, packing light can make travel a lot more enjoyable. Who wants to lug 100 pounds of luggage through the airport? Not us. Here are some ideas to help you lighten the load:

·         Do laundry at your destination. Nobody wants to do laundry on vacation, but if you’re willing to sacrifice a little time, you can pack far fewer items of clothing. If you won’t have access to facilities, you can wash clothes in the hotel sink and hang them up to dry.

·         Easy on the shoes. If you can, pack only one or two pairs of shoes. It’s best to wear the heavier pair during travel if possible, and pack the lighter one.

·         If flying, don’t check your bag. This will not only force you to take smaller pieces of luggage, but with most airlines charging checked-baggage fees, it will save you money! It saves you the hassle of baggage claim, too.

 



Last Updated: 6/3/2015 8:14:28 AM


Wednesday, May 20, 2015 9:17 AM
Boating Safety Guide


How smooth is the sailing in America's waters? According to the United States Coast Guard, there were almost 4,600 boating accidents in 2011, resulting in $52 million in property damage, 3,081 injuries, and more than 758 fatalities. Safety starts with planning, and this is true of boaters looking to chart a course to a safer boating season. “Boating is an exciting and relaxing way to spend an afternoon with family and friends, but it's important to play it safe while you're out there,” said Lindsay Cain Washington, Independent Property and Casualty Agent Cities Insurance Group. “By reviewing key safety precautions, you can reduce your exposure to boating danger and have a more enjoyable time on the water.”

To stay safe on the water this summer, Cities Insurance Group suggests the following:

Buckle up. Wearing a properly secured life jacket is one of the most effective ways to prevent accidental drowning, the number one cause of boating-related deaths. Check jackets annually for flotation and fit, especially for growing children. One size doesn't fit all.Leave the “swimmies” by the pool. For safety purposes, some floatation devices don't offer complete protection. Never use floatation devices, such as “swimmies,” in place of life jackets or life preservers on children. These toys are not intended to be personal flotation devices.Learn to swim. It's never too late to learn this potentially lifesaving skill.

Swimming classes for adults and children are available in many communities.Make plans public. Inform someone staying on land about the details of a trip—the destination, the participants, and the planned length of time on the water.

Eliminate alcohol consumption. Half of all boating fatalities involve alcohol. Just like being at the wheel of a car, if you're at the helm of a boat, don't drink.

For additional information in boating safety, visit www.uscgboating.org, for a wealth of information on many subjects, including how to properly use your life jacket, conduct a vessel safety check, or even report any accident that may occur.

For additional information about boating safety, or to schedule a comprehensive insurance review, call Cities Insurance Group at 563-359-0854 or visit at 2550 Middle Rd Suite 506, Bettendorf, IA.

Cities Insurance Group is open for business Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9:00 AM a.m. to 5:00PM p.m.



Last Updated: 5/20/2015 9:21:05 AM


Thursday, May 14, 2015 11:31 AM
Summer Boating Safety


Every summer, our team gets calls from customers after a fun weekend on the water takes a turn for the worse. Often, these accidents could have been prevented with just a few simple precautions. Here are a few tips we like – courtesy of our partners at Safeco.

Don’t let an accident wreck your fun!

Life Preservers Aren’t Just for Kids. It’s not enough to just have life jackets on board — wear them! In an accident, people rarely have time to reach for a life jacket. This rule applies to adults, not just children: More people in their 30s die in boating accidents than any other age group. Life vests have come a long way in style. Today, you can even get vests for your water-loving dog!

Watch the Back of the Boat. Carbon monoxide kills in minutes. So tell your passengers where your exhaust pipes are located and turn off your engine when people are in the water, and don't let passengers "ski" or “teak-surf” by holding on to the back of the boat. Both Washington and Oregon made teak-surfing illegal in the last few years, after several tragic deaths. Carbon monoxide detectors are standard on most new boats; older boats install devices for less than $100.

Alcohol and Boating Don't Mix. More than 50 percent of drowning’s result from boating incidents involving alcohol. You don’t drink and drive, so don’t boat and drink.

Boats Need TLC Too. When you're out on the water, make sure your gas tanks are vented and bilges are free of vapors, oil, waste and grease. Carry a charged fire extinguisher. Have your boat's operating systems checked yearly by a certified marine technician. The Coast Guard Auxiliary and United States Power Squadrons also offer free vessel safety checks.

Experience Counts! The U.S. Coast Guard says that operator errors account for 70 percent of all boating accidents. Make sure anyone who drives your boat is properly trained. You can also earn boat insurance discounts from Safeco and other insurers if you complete a safety course with the Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons.

Sites for Information:

Coast Guard: www.uscgboating.org

Coast Guard Auxiliary: nws.cgaux.org/

Safeco tips: www.safeco.com/insurance-101/consumer-tips/your-boat

Last Updated: 5/14/2015 11:31:35 AM


Tuesday, May 12, 2015 3:23 PM
Hail Storm Safety


Staying safe on the road during a hailstorm

It may sound surprising, but there are approximately 3,000 hailstorms in the United States each year. The size of hail can widely vary – from golf-ball size to softball size. And when it starts building up size, hail can cause not just severe property and vehicle damage, but also bodily harm and even death. On average, hailstorms annually cause over $1 billion in damage to property, approximately 1,500 injuries and 80 deaths annually.

One of the most frightening places to be during a hailstorm is on the road in your car. Obviously your vehicle is at great risk of damage, but even more importantly, you are in danger in the event you can’t see well enough to drive or your windows are broken in by the power of the storm.

At Cities Insurance Group we want to ensure you, your loved ones, and your vehicle stay safe this hail season. Here are some pointers for navigating a hailstorm while on the roads in the Quad City Area.

Ø      Make sure you have a blanket in your car at all times. It can help protect you from glass injuries in the event the hail breaks your windows or windshield.

Ø      Turn on your low-beam headlights, and slow down.

Ø      Make sure you have more distance than usual in front of you so you have ample space to brake  if necessary.

Ø      Turn on the local weather radio station to stay apprised of the status of storms.

Ø      If there is enough space on the shoulder of the road, pull over.

Ø      Turn on your hazard lights, regardless of whether you are pulled over or moving slowly; this will help other vehicles to see you and avoid accidents.

Ø      If there is a covered shelter to pull underneath, do so; this will reduce the damage sustained by your vehicle.  

At Cities Insurance Group we hope you stay hailstorm-free this season! 



Last Updated: 5/12/2015 3:23:18 PM


Wednesday, May 6, 2015 10:43 AM
Mother's Day Gift Ideas


Having trouble dreaming up a special idea for a Mother’s Day gift this year?  The second Sunday in May is fast approaching, and while traditional gifts like flowers, jewelry and breakfast in bed are always appreciated, why not give mom a gift that gives back this year… one that makes not just her day, but that of someone in need?

Top Mother’s Day Gifts:

Flowers, Gift Basket, Personal Gift, Jewelry, Perfume, Spa Gift.

Luckily, options for gifts that care abound.  At Cities Insurance Group, we want to share some of our favorite feel-good gift ideas that both pamper mom and make a difference.

·         Weekend in LeClaire: Mississippi River Distilling Company-gives tours etc. Wide River Winery Tasting Room-for only $6 get a souvenir wine tasting glass and the opportunity to taste a variety of wines. 129-Great place to stop for a unique cocktail, endless wine options or a top of the line coffee. Chocoholic-One of my favorite stops something for everybody ranging from classic old time candies to the more adventurous chocolate covered bacon. The Pickers Store aka Antique Archeology is a must see for out of Towner’s. Grasshopper’s Store is one of my favorites-fine something unique and don’t miss the wine cellar basement. Tons of Bed and Breakfast options if you want to enjoy a weekend getaway. Also, many other restaurants and shops…as my Mom always says it’s all there in LeClaire.

·         Shopping with meaning. 31 Bits is Fashion for Good founded in 2008. 31 Bits sells jewelry made out of 100% recycled paper by women in North Uganda.  This Non for Profit Company uses fashion and design to empower women to rise above poverty. They do this by maximizing creative abilities and generating opportunities for sustainable livelihoods. In the 31 Bits program the women ear an income that allows them to provide for their families, receive financial and savings training, and maximize their creative skills and abilities. 31 Bits strives to build a loving community that cares for individuals’ spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs.

Love your Melon: Love Your Melon is a non-profit apparel company on a mission to end childhood cancer through therapeutic programming, immediate support and research charitable organization that funds childhood cancer research initiatives, provides immediate support for children and their families and donates a hat to every child battling cancer in America. ides immediate support for children and their families and donates a hat to every child battling cancer in America.


·         DIY: w/ the internet these days there are tons of ideas floating around. A cute gift basket with personal items is great as well as countless others.

Whatever you decide to give, and however you celebrate the second Sunday in May, we at Cities Insurance Group wish you and your mom a wonderful Mother’s Day



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Monday, Apr 27, 2015 8:54 AM
Prom and Graduation Safety


 Teen driving tips to keep prom and graduation safe

High school is full of defining moments for Quad Cities teens and two of the highlights for most are prom and graduation. However, this time of year often sees other, more tragic defining moments - serious car accidents involving teens who are distracted or even under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

At Cities Insurance Group we want to help make this season one to celebrate for you and your teen. So, with the help of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, here are some tips that can keep your teen safe.

First, encourage your teen to follow these general safe-driving rules:

Absolutely no alcohol

Always use seat belts

No cell phone use (including texting) while driving

Special circumstances

Of course, special events such as prom and graduation often present special circumstances. There may be dinner with dates before the dance, and parties before or after either event. It’s a good idea to discuss your expectations well before each event, putting some guidelines into place before your teen heads out for the night. Here are some ideas:

Make sure you know the itinerary of the evening, as well as who else will be with your teen. You should have contact information for everyone.

Have a way to contact your teen at all times. You may want to require them to check in with you once or twice over the course of the evening.

Set a curfew, whether they are coming back to your home or staying with a friend. If they are staying elsewhere, make sure the curfew will be enforced by a responsible adult.

Discuss with your teen how to handle difficult situations, such as facing pressure to drink, or accepting a ride with someone who shouldn’t be driving. It’s a good idea to provide your child with money for a taxi just in case.

Offer a “no-questions-asked” ride home, should they need one during the evening.

If you’re worried about your teen driving, consider alternate transportation. A car service or limousine will provide a responsible, experienced adult driver. You also will be able to limit changes to the itinerary and contact the driver.

Prom and graduation in the Quad Cities are special times in a teen’s life. And just a little common sense will go a long way toward making sure your young adult is around to enjoy the other milestones that are sure to come.



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Thursday, Apr 9, 2015 3:37 PM
Tornado Truths


Tornadoes have caused severe and irrepareable damage to tens of thoursands of Americans and their property in recent years. On top of the physical and emotional fallour, many ahve also lost their lives as a direct result of a tornado.

Although you can never control the weather or the outcome of a destructive storm, there are steps you can take to help you and your family remain protected in the event of a tornado. Those steps of action being with knowing fact from myth:

Here are some tornado Truths that could help you keep you and your loved ones safe:
1. When indoors, shut all the windows and doors. Do not leave them open in an attempt to follow the mythical need to pressurieze your home. The result of this increases the chances of flying debris and wind damage.
2. If you are inside your home or other structure retreat to the lowest level (a basement) or the room closest to the middle of your home/furthest from windows and doors. Do Not seek a corner of the structure for your retreat; instead go to the center most point, away from windows and anything heavy that could fall. 
3. If outdoors, find teh lowest spot, such as a ditch or dry river bed, and lie flat on your stomach, covering the back of your head with your hands.  Do Not follow the myth of seeking shelter under a bridge or overpass because it coudl collapse on top you or large debris and winds coudl come rushing underneath and potentially sweep you up into the tornado itself.
4 If in your vehicle, avandon the vehicle and find shelter in a structure or follow instructions for if outdoors.
5. Do not take shelter near a road or foothill and expect the tornado to miss you. Some myths say that tornadoes will reverse their directions when nearing a road or foothill, but a tornado doesnt discriminate and will keep on its path.

We at Cities Insurance Group want to help you know the tornado truths that will help keep you and your family safe.

Feel free to contact us any time by calling 563-359-0854!

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Wednesday, Apr 1, 2015 9:50 AM
College Graduation Insurance Tips


College graduation is an exciting time for students and their parents alike.  And, while it’s easy to be immersed in graduation parties and focused on first-job jitters, it’s a time of major transitions and big decisions, and it’s essential to prepare graduates for what comes next.One area new college graduates need to address is insurance.  As insurance professionals at Cities Insurance Group, we know insurance can be a confusing topic.  We also know that seemingly small missed details can result in very large losses.  We want to ensure your college graduate is protected before heading out into the real world, so we have compiled the following pointers.

·         Review your family’s current insurance. The first step when considering insurance for your new graduate is evaluating the coverage you currently have.  Make an appointment with your agent, who can advise on whether it’s appropriate given the pending changes, and whether it will cover your son or daughter.

        Read your lease. Many apartment, condominium and home rental properties require tenants to maintain a certain level of renter’s insurance, which covers the contents of the home in the event of a robbery, fire, or other loss. Make sure you know the terms of your son or daughter’s new lease, and insure them accordingly.

·         Don’t end up liable. Any home renter or owner is exposed to liability risk. To ensure there is adequate coverage in the event someone gets injured on your son or daughter’s property, speak with your agent about liability insurance.

·         Don’t gamble! Never go without. It’s simple: your son or daughter should always have insurance in place. Be sure to discuss with your agent what types they need.

·         Know your company benefits. Many college graduates move straight into the workforce, and most companies have benefits. Study the company’s human resources handbook to learn what benefits are available, when they go into effect, and what their limitations are.



Last Updated: 4/1/2015 9:50:10 AM


Thursday, Mar 26, 2015 9:06 AM
Spring Motorcycle


Is a motorcycle right for you?

As springtime approaches, you probably notice something in addition to the warmer weather and blooming flowers: more motorcycles on the roads of Iowa and Illinois.

Riding looks like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? Just imagine heading down I80 with the sun shining and the road stretching out to the horizon. There are other benefits motorcycle riders enjoy as well, such as lower fuel costs and easier parking; but riding a motorcycle safely requires different skills than driving a car.

If you’re thinking that this is the year you’re going to buy your very own bike, let us at Cities Insurance Group help you determine if a motorcycle is right for you. We’ve provided some questions below that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends you honestly answer before becoming a bike owner.

Are you a risk-taker? Or are you safety-minded?

Think about how you drive your car. If you have aggressive tendencies or do things like talk on your phone while driving, a motorcycle probably isn’t for you. Motorcycles lack the protection that cars can provide in an accident, so driver focus and caution are extremely important.  

How is your vision? What about your balance and coordination?

It’s extremely important that you see well – peripherally and in general – when riding a motorcycle. Motorcycles are not as visible as other vehicles on the road, so riders need to be alert and aware at all times. And, of course, riding requires balance and coordination, much like a bicycle. If you’re not great on non-motorized two-wheelers, you might want to think again about motorcycling.

Do you respect dangerous machinery?

When you use a chainsaw or other equipment that can cause harm, do you always follow the instructions and wear the proper safety gear? If not, a motorcycle probably isn’t right for you. Maintenance and protective equipment is vital to riding safely. What you might be able to get away with when driving a car or using power tools could lead to a tragic outcome on a motorcycle.

Are you willing to invest in riding safely?

The best way to stay safe on a motorcycle is to invest some time before you get on the bike. Take a safety course and learn how to ride the right way. Purchase the right gear, including approved helmets and padded clothing. And learn about properly maintaining your motorcycle.

If you’re prepared and commit to safe riding, motorcycling can be a great way to get around. The freedom you’ll feel on the road is different than driving any car, which is just one reason millions of people find riding to be incredibly rewarding.

And when you’re ready, we are too! Feel free to give us a call at 563-359-0854 to discuss your motorcycle insurance options as well as safety tips!



Last Updated: 3/26/2015 9:07:00 AM


Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 1:19 PM
Spring Cleaning Tips


 

Spring Cleaning Tips

Spring cleaning tips from Cities Insurance Group

Of course, because spring is a time for new beginnings, cleaning and organization around the house are very popular this time of year. If you’re ready to tackle that monumental chore, read on for some helpful information. (And if you’re so tidy and organized throughout the year that spring cleaning isn’t a big chore for you, well, keep that to yourself! Unless you want your friends and neighbors to be jealous, that is.)

Take it one room at a time. Deciding to clean or organize your entire home can quickly get overwhelming. If you focus on just one area or room, then move to another only when you’re finished, you’ll likely work more efficiently.

Follow the six-month rule. Generally, if you haven’t used something in six months (with the exception of seasonal items), it’s a good idea to consider throwing it away or donating it.

Don’t forget the kitchen. Just like other rooms, your kitchen likely has things that haven’t been used in some time — and this includes food in the refrigerator or freezer. Give those appliances a thorough cleaning and get rid of anything you won’t be eating.

Set yourself up for success. Paper clutter is something we all could probably cut back on pretty easily. Setting up a few recycling bins throughout the house gives you a convenient alternative to just setting that old magazine or paperwork down somewhere and watching the pile grow.

Make some money! Of course, the spring cleaning garage sale is a tradition for many homeowners, and can be a great way to bring in some extra income. Talk about a win-win situation — you get rid of stuff you don’t need, and someone pays you for it!

Stay safe. When you’re cleaning or maintaining your home, be mindful of the physical risks involved. Lift with your leg muscles, not your back. Avoid prolonged repetitive motions. Use ladders, lawnmowers and other dangerous tools with caution.

Contact Us!

For further questions and assistance, please contact Cities Insurance Group at 563-359-0854 or insurance@citiesig.com. Also, Like and Share us on Facebook at facebook.com/citiesig.



Last Updated: 3/17/2015 1:20:08 PM


Monday, Mar 9, 2015 1:26 PM
Spring Break Home Safety


Spring Break Home Safety

For many, the winter months are a welcome time to escape the short days and chilly temperatures by heading on vacation. And is there a better way to celebrate the end of winter than to take a spring break?

Whether you’re going to hang out on the Mississippi River, bask on a sunny, white-sand beach in the Caribbean or hit the slopes for some skiing or snowboarding, you have to take precautions to ensure your home stays safe while you’re away. After all, what could be worse than returning from a relaxing break or an active adventure to find a disaster has occurred, such as a break-in, or water or fire damage?

To ensure your vacation doesn’t end in tragedy, follow these tips before you go.

1.     Check for any leaks and fix them. For example, ensure your refrigerator ice maker is not leaking!

2.     Set your heater at approximately 50 degrees to ensure pipes and appliances don’t freeze. But if you have pets and they are going to be in the house, set it closer to 72 degrees.

3.     If you have pets, make arrangements for their comfort and safety: either board them or have a friend come over daily to care for them.

4.     Turn furnace and hot water heaters down.

5.     Unplug all appliances, such as coffee makers, toasters and exercise equipment.

6.     Leave a light or two on so the house doesn’t appear deserted at night.

7.     Lower blinds and close curtains so that passers-by can’t view your valuables.

8.     Leave a key with a trusted friend or neighbor so they can enter the home in case of emergency.

9.     Have a friend or neighbor bring in newspapers and mail or cancel delivery for both during the time when you’ll be away.

If you have the opportunity to get away for Spring Break we wish you happy trails, and hope you come home to a safe and welcoming home!

Contact Us!

At Cities Insurance Group we can work with you to make sure you've got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable. Just give us a call at 563-359-0854 or send us a note at insurance@citiesig.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what's important to you is protected!



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Tuesday, Mar 3, 2015 8:55 AM
Daylight Savings Time is Also Daylight Safety Time


 

Daylight Savings Time is also Daylight Safety Time.

 

In most places in the United States, Sunday March 8, 2015, is Daylight Saving, when clocks are moved forward one hour. We here at Cities Insurance Group want to remind you it’s also a great time to improve your family’s safety.

Be safe in your Quad Cities home

Health and safety agencies often use the approach of Daylight Saving Time to remind people to change the batteries in their smoke alarms. The American Red Cross suggests you test your smoke alarms and talk with your family about your fire escape plan. Whether you live in Iowa, Illinois, or elsewhere, practice the plan too – at least twice a year.

Daylight Saving is a great time to check your emergency preparedness kit to make sure it’s fully stocked with fresh supplies.

Carbon Monoxide a concern too

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 people die annually in the US from carbon monoxide poisoning. The CDC recommends changing the batteries in your CO detectors when moving your clocks forward this Sunday.

The CDC says the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

See the CDC’s site for more ways to prevent carbon monoxide exposure.

We here at Cities Insurance Group hope these tips help and that you’ll consider sharing them with the people you care about so they can live safer lives too.



Last Updated: 3/3/2015 8:55:17 AM


Tuesday, May 17, 2011 12:00 PM
Reducing Taxes on Social Security Benefits


Throughout your working career, you paid taxes into the Social Security system. Then, when you retired, you started to receive benefits from the system.

You might think that because your benefits were at least in theory the result of your contributions, your Social Security benefits should be non-taxable. After all, if you pay taxes in but are then also taxed on the benefits, isn’t that double taxation?

For nearly the first fifty years of the existence of the Social Security program, the federal government agreed with you – Social Security benefits were treated as non-taxable income. But, of course, the government’s ever-increasing need for tax revenue caused it to change all that in 1984, when up to 50% of a retiree’s Social Security benefits became taxable, and again in 1994. Now, up to 85% of a retiree’s Social Security benefits are considered taxable income.

What you may not know is that annuities can potentially help you reduce or even eliminate taxation of your Social Security benefits.

Here’s how it works. As a taxpayer, on line 20a of your form 1040, you must fill in the amount of the Social Security benefits you receive. That’s fine, but on line 20b, you must calculate and fill in the amount of the benefits that are taxable. Ideally, regardless of the amount on line 20a, you would like line 20b to be zero.

As usual, the mechanics of tax calculations can seem bewildering. After all, how you get from line 20a to line 20b takes up a full page in the IRS form 1040 instructions document. Fortunately, the fundamentals are fairly easy to understand.

First, you add up the following figures:

  • HALF of your Social Security income, plus
  • ALL of your other income, such as:
  • Wages
  • Pensions
  • Taxable interest
  • Dividends
  • Capital gains
  • Business income
  • And even otherwise tax-exempt interest, such as interest on savings bonds and municipal bonds


For married taxpayers, if this sum exceeds $44,000, up to 85% of your Social Security income is taxed. If this sum is between $32,000 and $44,000, up to 50% of your Social Security income is taxed. For single taxpayers, the two threshold income numbers are lower: $34,000 for 85% and $25,000 for 50% taxable benefits.

Naturally, the last thing you want to do is decrease your income just to decrease your taxes. The golden question is, “How can you earn more than these amounts yet shelter your Social Security benefits from taxation?”

The answer is to recognize a factor that is missing in the combined income formula you see above: Deferred annuity interest that remains in the annuity and is not withdrawn is not included in the above calculation!

Let’s see how this fact can affect you. Let’s suppose that you are retired and your income comes primarily from Social Security and pension income. Let’s also suppose that you have savings somewhere other than in an annuity, and even though you are not withdrawing any money from your savings, the interest income on that savings is causing your Social Security benefits to be subject to income taxes.

If you move that savings into a deferred annuity, then any year that you don’t withdraw money from the annuity, the interest you earned in the annuity doesn’t count in the above calculation. That reduces or eliminates taxes on your Social Security benefits. Pretty sweet, isn’t it?

Here’s the icing on the cake: when you put your money into a fixed or fixed indexed annuity, your money could easily be safer and/or earning a higher rate of interest than where you have the money today, so you win in two ways!

This article is for general information purposes only. We do not provide investment or tax advice. If such advice is needed, the advice of a qualified advisor should be sought.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 12:00 PM
Looking for Safety? Look to Annuities!


Throughout recent years, Americans have been pulling their retirement savings out of stocks and stock mutual funds and putting them into places that they hope are safer.

One beneficiary of this flight to safety has been bonds and bond mutual funds, but many people making this choice are probably unaware of a major risk they are taking.

Interest rates right now are at historical lows. In October 2010, for example, the 5-year Constant Maturity Treasury rate was barely above 1%. There is always the possibility that interest rates could remain at their current levels or fall lower, but clearly there is more room for them to move upwards than downwards.

The issue facing you is that if interest rates rise, the value of the bonds and bond mutual funds that you own will tend to fall. For example, if the Treasury rate was to rise to 4%, a new purchaser could get an interest rate of 4% on a new bond. To induce that person to purchase your bond that has an interest rate of only 1%, you would need to drop the price quite a bit.

What we fear is that folks who have moved their money from stocks to bonds seeking safety may find that they have jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

There are a wide variety of products that offer assurances of safety, such as savings accounts and money market accounts, but the problem with these financial products right now is that their interest rates are even more dismal, typically well below 1%.

As a person looking to protect and grow your retirement savings, you may be wondering where to turn. Where can you find the safety you desire yet still earn a respectable interest rate? We suggest that you consider annuities.

Fixed annuities offer interest rates that are set by insurance carriers, declared in advance, and guaranteed for at least one year at a time. These annuities typically offer higher interest rates than you can find on other safe financial products.

Fixed indexed annuities offer interest rates that are based upon potential future increases in a stock or bond market index, along with the guarantee that if the index declines, your principal is protected. These annuities offer the potential for even higher interest credits due to their index link.

All fixed and fixed indexed annuities offer four very valuable layers of protection.

1. They are issued by insurance carriers that back the annuities with a pool of assets called “reserves” that are mandated and monitored by state insurance regulators.
2. These insurance carriers are obligated to use all of their general assets to protect annuity values from the effects of any adverse financial conditions.
3. These insurance carriers provide annuity owners with written, verifiable, contractual guarantees that the money you put into an annuity is protected from loss, other than perhaps a penalty for early withdrawal.
4. If you have any problem with your annuity carrier, you can contact your state’s insurance department, which has jurisdiction over the carrier.

Thus, if you are looking for safety with better interest rates than you are finding elsewhere, consider annuities.

This article is for general information purposes only. We do not provide investment or tax advice. If such advice is needed, the advice of a qualified advisor should be sought.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 12:00 PM
Turning Retirement Savings into Retirement Income


Chances are you know a retired couple like my friends Stewart and Ruth. Stewart worked his entire career as a school teacher in a single school district. Ruth worked more than twenty years as an administrator in a non-profit organization. Neither of them made a fabulous income, but it was steady and reliable.

Then, when they retired, their income continued essentially unchanged. Their employers each provide them with a pension check that will continue for the rest of their lives. As a result, Stewart and Ruth are able to take advantage of their free time and travel the country.

You and I, however, do not have the same advantages as Stewart and Ruth. By the time we were reaching the end of our working careers, traditional pension plans were much less common. Our employers provided a defined contribution plan, like a 401(k) or 403(b), where we were responsible for building our own retirement savings. Now that we have retired (or are planning for it), we wonder how to turn that retirement savings into retirement income.

One of the first things I did was I found one of the many retirement calculators available on the Internet. It asked me for some basic information. How much retirement savings did I have? No problem there. What rate of return do I plan to achieve on my money? Uh, I have a return I hope to achieve. How long do I expect to live? Huh, this isn’t going as well as I thought.

Here’s the problem: I don’t know what rate of return I will achieve. I don’t know how long my spouse and I will live. And if I mess this up, I don’t get a second chance.

Thankfully, I discovered something very helpful. Its name is a mouthful – a fixed indexed annuity with a guaranteed lifetime income benefit rider (say that five times fast!) – but it does exactly what I want.

What it does is provide me with a guaranteed amount that I can withdraw every year from my retirement savings for the rest of my life. There’s no uncertainty – I know the amount and I know that I can withdraw it every year for as long as I live or my spouse lives. The insurance company that issues the annuity guarantees it.

At the same time, I don’t have to give up control of my retirement savings. If at any time I need additional money or just find something else that I think is better, I can withdraw my remaining annuity balance. Naturally, if I withdraw more than I am supposed to in any given year, the amount that the carrier guarantees to pay me annually in the future is reduced. That’s only fair.

Now, thanks to that fixed indexed annuity with a guaranteed lifetime income benefit rider, my spouse and I feel as safe as Stewart and Ruth. When we receive our annual annuity check, we know that we can spend it, because another check just like it will arrive next year, and it will continue to do so for the rest of our lives.

This article is for general information purposes only. We do not provide investment or tax advice. If such advice is needed, the advice of a qualified advisor should be sought.



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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 12:00 PM
If you’re healthy, you can save money on your life insurance


Every year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an agency of the federal government, releases an updated study on life expectancies in the United States. It may not surprise you to hear that thanks to improvements in medicine and public health, the CDC has been reporting steadily improving life expectancies over the last decade.

The life insurance industry has seen similar data among its customers, and as a result, life insurance rates have decreased over time.

Even beyond that, carriers have introduced lower preferred and even lower “super preferred” rates in an effort to earn the business of the healthiest insurance applicants.

That means it’s time to pull out your life insurance policies, give us a call, and let us find out if we can get you a better rate.

Also, you should be aware that we are an independent insurance agency. What that means for you is that we can shop among many carriers, not just one, to find you the best rate. If you bought a life insurance policy from an agent who cannot do this, chances are you are overpaying.

Let’s suppose you’ve never purchased life insurance, or perhaps you figured the amount your employer gives you is enough. The good news is that life insurance is now more affordable than ever, and individual insurance may be both cheaper and higher quality than your employer’s plan.

So give us a call. We would love to help you save money on life insurance.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 12:00 PM
The importance of policy review


As you can imagine, it was a tragic day when David died leaving his wife Linda a widow with two young children. It became doubly tragic when Linda discovered that the beneficiary of David’s life insurance policy, the policy that Linda was counting on to provide the support she needed, was David’s ex-wife, his first wife.

Across the street, Tim and Susan had been paying $200 per month on their universal life insurance plan for the past twenty years. They had received statements from the insurance carrier annually, but they really didn’t know what they meant. They just assumed everything was fine until they received a notice indicating that their policies were about to lapse. When they called the insurance company to inquire, they were told that they would need to triple their monthly premiums. That wasn’t good news considering they were starting to prepare to retire.

You may think that stories like these are unusual, but we hear similar stories all the time. The fact is that life insurance is an important asset. It has significant value, and like other assets with similar importance, it needs to be managed and maintained.

Just as maintaining your car requires more than filling it with gas, maintaining your life insurance involves more than just paying the premiums. Like an instrument panel, annual statements often provide vital tidbits of information, and a little adjustment today can prevent a painful breakdown later. Also, given how much life changes from time to time, checking occasionally to make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date is simple to do today, but impossible to correct if suddenly you are gone.

These are the types of things we review with you when we meet to review your coverage. Also, when we meet, we always look for opportunities to save you money or provide you with better coverage.

A meeting to review your coverage is part of our free service to you, so please give us a call. We would love to put your mind at ease, since you’ll know for certain that your coverage is as good as it can be.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 12:00 PM
Diabetic? Yes, you can get life insurance


If you know the difference between the two types of diabetes, and if you know your blood sugar level and your most recent hemoglobin A1c level, then chances are you think you can’t get life insurance. Or perhaps you think you can, but it will be prohibitively expensive.

You are correct that diabetes is a serious health condition. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and is often a contributing factor to heart disease, stroke, and a variety of other health problems.

But on the other hand, diabetics are simply too large a segment of the population for the insurance industry to ignore. According to the American Diabetes Association, nearly 8% of the population has diabetes, including 23% of all people age 60 or older.

As a result, yes, you can get insurance if you are a diabetic, and yes, it can be quite affordable. What insurers are looking for when they consider your application is a history of good control. The insurer will order copies of your doctor’s records and will look through the blood tests that have been taken from time to time over a period of years. If the blood sugar and A1c levels show consistent good control, and if you are not suffering from any of the secondary symptoms which indicate the advanced stages of diabetes, you can actually qualify for a standard rate from some insurance companies.

If you have diabetes, it is very advantageous for you to work with us because we are an independent insurance agency. What that means for you is that we can shop among many carriers, not just one, to find you the company that will give you a standard rate. If you attempt to buy a life insurance policy from an agent who cannot do this, chances are you will overpay or may even be declined, depending upon the way that agent’s carrier views diabetes.

So give us a call. We would love to help obtain life insurance at the best possible price.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 12:00 PM
Did you know you can get life insurance with no medical exam?


Usually, when you obtain life insurance, you expect to undertake a medical exam. But for some people, that medical exam is an obstacle that prevents them from seeking insurance. Perhaps you have a health condition that you fear will disqualify you from obtaining life insurance, or perhaps you simply dislike needles.

We have good news for you. There are now a wide variety of life insurance plans available that do not require medical exams.

Some plans are designed and priced like plans that require a medical exam. On these plans, the carrier may still have stringent health requirements in an effort to only insure the best risks, but the carrier has replaced the medical exam requirement with some new technologies that were not available a few years ago.

Other plans are priced a bit higher but allow for insureds with a variety of medical conditions. Since we are independent insurance agents, we offer a wide variety of carriers. This means that if you have a particular medical condition, we can often shop among our carriers and find one that will issue you a competitively-priced plan without a medical exam that allows for your health condition.

Many carriers have also started writing life insurance on our older clients using relaxed underwriting requirements without a medical exam. No medical exam means you are more likely to be accepted for insurance and the policy is placed into effect faster.

So if the medical exam has been keeping you from trying to obtain life insurance, give us a call. We can help you to get the insurance you need.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 12:00 PM
Business Planning Techniques, Products and Strategies


Small business owners can often be your best prospects for writing insurance. Not only do they usually have better-than-average incomes, but they are also subject to certain unique risks and have some unique opportunities due to their ownership of a business.

For example, a small business is typically dependent upon a key employee. What if that employee dies or is disabled? The business could be crippled due to the loss of that employee’s skill, ability to get things done, expertise, or customer relationships. The answer – key employee life and disability insurance – is often quite affordable.

Small businesses are often partnerships. What if one of the partners dies or becomes disabled. Rachel may be concerned that if Heath dies, besides the fact that Heath is a key employee, she might need to quickly gather funds to buy out his share of the business. Also, Heath’s heirs might disrupt the business if they don’t like the financial arrangement. On the other hand, Rachel is concerned that if she dies, Heath might not be able to pay her heirs a fair value for the business, and he may not be able to continue to run the business without her. Thus, both partners are well served to have a buy/sell and business continuation arrangement in place secured by life and disability insurance.

Small business owners often have two large expenses looming in the future – retirement and estate taxes. The business owner may consider the business itself to be his retirement plan, but the fact that the owner is also a key employee makes many small businesses nearly worthless at the owner’s retirement. Plus, very few people want to buy a particular small business, further depressing the value below what the owner would consider fair. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways that business owners can store considerable money away for their retirement and reduce their income tax bill. Individual 401(k)’s and SEP-IRA’s are two examples. On the other hand, preparing for estate taxes may involve setting up a will and trusts, gifting the business to heirs over time, and providing a plan for how the estate taxes will be paid using joint second-to-die life insurance.

Besides planning for retirement on a tax-preferential basis, business owners can sometimes purchase certain benefits with pre-tax dollars. For example, owners of C-corporations can buy long-term care insurance for themselves on a tax-advantaged basis. LTC premiums paid by the business are tax-deductible to the business and are not considered taxable income to the employee, yet LTC benefits received are income tax-free to the employee. A plan like this can be set up where the only covered employee is the business owner.

So, let us help you learn the opportunities that are available to serve small business owners. They have unique risks and great opportunities.


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