7 ways to improve your finances during Financial Literacy Month

April is tax season, so a lot of people are thinking about their finances these days. But if you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking in the short term: What’s my refund going to be—or how much do I owe? And what is that going to do to my monthly budget?

It’s good to be thinking about those things. It’s also important to look at the bigger picture. Financial Literacy Month, which is also in April, gives you the perfect chance to do just that. Surveys have showed that an alarming number of Americans lack even basic financial knowledge; in an era when we collectively have trillions of dollars in consumer debt, and many people live paycheck to paycheck, that can be a recipe for disaster. But it doesn’t have to be that way! This Financial Literacy Month website, created by nonprofit credit-counseling firm Money Management International, features tools and resources to help you understand your finances better and build a bright financial future. In that spirit, we’ve come up with seven tips that can help you become more savvy with your money. Some are easy things you can do today. Others might take a little more work. But all are worth the effort!

1. Make your saving automatic. It’s important to have money set aside for emergencies—and to save for retirement. But once your paycheck hits your account, it can be a lot easier to just spend it all. The solution? Schedule automatic transfers to a separate account for your emergency fund, your retirement plan, or both. Start with something like 10%. You might even find that you don’t miss it.

2. Pay your credit cards off every month. If you can’t do this now, pay them down until you can. One popular way is the “snowball” method, which in a nutshell, works like this: Make only the minimum payment on all of your debts—except the smallest one. Put as much money as you can toward that. When the smallest debt is paid off, repeat the process and continue until everything is paid!

3. Check your tax withholding. People love getting big tax refunds, but that really means you’ve loaned the government your money over the course of the year—interest-free. For example, instead of a $2,500 refund in April or May, you could have more than $200 extra in your paycheck every single month. Wouldn’t that be nice?

4. Don’t throw away free money. Who would do that? Well, you—if your employer offers a match on your retirement savings and you don’t contribute enough to get the full amount. Say your company matches the first 3% of salary you contribute to a 401(k); you should save as much as you can, but at the very least, you’d want to save that 3%.

5. Pay less for services. Are you paying more than you should for cable, internet or your mobile service? Maybe not—but you won’t know unless you ask. Often, companies have discounts or special packages available, especially if you’re a loyal customer and you haven’t been on a promotional deal for a while.

6. Consider a credit card that rewards you. This can be a great way to earn points toward free travel or other rewards, just for buying the things you would buy anyway. Don’t spend more than you normally would just to get rewards, though. And remember, if you regularly carry a balance, the rewards probably won’t outweigh the interest you’re paying. (Go back to item #2 in our list.)

7. Track your spending for a while—and then review it. You probably spend money on a lot of little things without realizing how much it adds up. Maybe you get takeout for lunch a couple of times a week, or stop for coffee every day on your way to work. Try tracking everything you spend for a month or two. Then, take a look at your habits.

You’ll find areas where you can save, likely without even feeling like you’re making a sacrifice. Insurance is an important tool for your financial well-being, too. Even though it’s easy to think of insuring your car or home as protecting your “stuff,” insurance really protects your finances. After all, insurance can’t prevent your car from being hit by another driver—but it can pay for the repairs, so that money doesn’t come from your pocket.

Take a little time to think about your finances this month, and try one or more of the tips above. As with many things in life, when it comes to money, small steps can have a big impact!

©Safeco
Source: https://www.safeco.com/blog/financial-literacy

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE IN AN ACCIDENT

We spend a lot of time in our cars, with the average American driver covering over a 1,000 miles a month. That is a lot of driving! With all those miles traveled you may find yourself in the unwanted situation of a car accident at some point in your life.
Read the tips below to learn what you should do if you’re involved in a car accident:
• Stay calm
– Keeping a normal demeanor helps you stay in control of the situation.
• Make sure you and your passengers are OK
– Move as far off the roadway as possible, but stay at the scene of the accident. Warn oncoming traffic by activating your hazard warning lights and/or setting flares.
• Call the police
– Call 911 or the appropriate emergency number to report the accident.
• Contact your insurance company and report the claim
– The sooner your insurance company knows about the accident, the sooner they can start working to resolve your claim.
• Do not admit fault
– Do not discuss the car accident with anyone other than the police and your claims representative.
• Exchange vital information with the other driver involved in the car accident
– Write down the name, address, phone number and license numbers for all drivers and witnesses, particularly those who were not riding in a vehicle involved in the accident. Ask for the insurance companies and policy numbers for drivers involved in the car accident.

source: Progressive

When – and Why – You May Need Umbrella Insurance ⛱

Here are a few cases when an umbrella policy is essential:

• Passenger Injuries
Driving around with friends, it can be easy to get distracted and go a little too fast. If an accident occurs and passengers are seriously injured, medical expenses can add up quickly – potentially totaling more than what an auto policy would cover. Without an umbrella policy, any liability expenses beyond the auto policy limits may be the driver’s responsibility.

• Dog Bites the Neighbor
Responsible dog owners take the time to train and socialize their pets. However, even breeds that aren’t typically associated with aggressive behavior can suddenly act out, despite our best efforts. If a pet badly injures a neighbor, the cost can go into the millions between medical bills and future disability.

• Faulty Furnace
Being a landlord is tricky business. Even with the most responsible management, rental properties can be a minefield of possible claims. If a furnace starts malfunctioning, a tenant may sue for brain damage caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. While all landlords should maintain their property and make repairs as needed, having a safety net in case of a major liability claim is equally important.

source: SafecoInsurance

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☎ Call us now: 505-807-AUTO(2886)
📩 Email: admin@swfins.com

THE BEST TIMES TO EVALUATE YOUR CAR INSURANCE 🚗

It’s good practice to reevaluate your car insurance coverage once or twice a year, because many life changes can adjust your premium payments. The rate you pay for car insurance isn’t set in stone because it’s based on so many factors that can change over time.

Here are the best times to evaluate your car insurance and see if you’re getting the best deal for your needs:

• When you buy a new car
-You have a grace period of about seven to 30 days (depending on your insurance policy) to inform your insurance provider that you bought a new car, but you can also shop for policies before you buy. You must get a policy on your new car by the time your grace period ends, or you risk driving without insurance.

• When your family situation changes
-Changes to your family mean changes to who is on your insurance policy. If you get married, this can affect your insurance rates (generally being married lowers rates). Adding your spouse to your policy can increase or decrease your payments, depending on their driving record. Even if your spouse doesn’t own a car and rarely drives, it might be worth it to add them to your policy to lower your rates.

• When your premiums go up
-If your premiums increase and there have been no changes to your driving record, it’s worth checking to see if you’re getting the best coverage for your money. This might be time to compare your current insurance provider with others to see if you can find a competitive rate.

source: SafecoInsurance

GET A FREE AUTO INSURANCE QUOTE!

☎ Call us now: 505-807-AUTO(2886)
📩 Email: admin@swfins.com

Staying sane during traffic

When I’m stuck in traffic, my mind often wanders to this beloved scene from the 1999 hit, “Office Space.” The dull, all-over pain of having places to go and things to do and being met with nothing but brake lights and bumper stickers.

We mostly think of our cars as aluminum portals to take us from point A to point B. But what if we think of our cars as a sanctuary from the stress of our daily lives? A temple of total you-time where you can tune out and plug into the present moment. With some wisdom from cool-headed commuters, we gathered a few tips and tricks to turn your wheels into your zenmobile.

Engage your brain

Keeping your mind occupied with stimulating, educational content can significantly ease your suffering. Downloading podcasts, audiobooks or tuning into talk radio is a great way to stick it to the traffic man.

Re-route

Many technologies exist now to help drivers avoid high-traffic areas. Use an app like Waze (a community-based traffic app) to find out about real-time road issues. Because sometimes it’s all about outsmarting the streets.

Roll down the windows

When your body is all wound up from stress, it’s prime time to do some deep breathing exercises. Fresh air can help release some of that tension by flooding oxygen to your body and brain.

Make a pit stop

If all else fails and traffic is just unbearable, find a stop along the way that gives you a break from all the braking. The park or the mall can serve as the intermission you need to get home safely and sanely.

Car Karaoke

An in-car concert is a fast, fun and easy way to turn your mood right around. Whether it’s turning on the radio or tuning into your ‘favorites’ playlist – let the music move you into your happy place.

source: https://www.progressive.com/lifelanes/on-the-road/stay-sane-in-traffic/?fbclid=IwAR1XAoqtH6dq-0P0tofyKj3JpGnshwkrDd7gs7entRRl6P0Ga9wlNCvM8dI

Dealing with aggressive drivers

Here are a few tips on how to deal with aggressive drivers, plus helpful hints to reduce your own stress while driving.

Protect yourself

If you are dealing with an aggressive driver, make sure your doors are locked. If you’re stopped in traffic, leave enough room to pull out from behind the car you’re following. If an aggressive driver confronts you, dial 911 or go to the nearest police station.

Don’t take it personally

Be polite and courteous, even if the other driver isn’t. Avoid any conflict, if possible. If another driver challenges you, take a deep breath and move out of the way! Never underestimate the other driver’s capacity for causing mayhem.

Reduce your own stress

Allow plenty of time for a trip and listen to soothing music when you drive. Make sure your seat position and climate are both comfortable for you. And mostly understand that you cannot control traffic, only your reaction to it. In the end, you may find that personal frustration, anger and impatience are the real danger zones on the highway.

Report aggressive drivers

Some states have a phone number that you can use to report dangerous driving to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Keep the number handy on your cell phone. If you make a call, be sure you give a vehicle description, license number, and the location and travel direction. You could prevent a tragedy.

Be a courteous driver

You can set the example, which can help make our roads safer.

  • Control your anger.
  • Don’t take traffic problems personally.
  • Avoid making eye contact with an aggressive driver.
  • Don’t make obscene gestures.
  • Don’t tailgate.
  • Use your horn sparingly — even a polite honk can be misinterpreted.
  • Don’t block the passing lane.
  • Don’t block the right turn lane.

Talk to others

Share a recent road rage incident with members of your family and friends, or even with community groups. This will help you better understand the situation and protect you in the future.

Now that you’ve got some ideas on how to save on your car insurance, you may want to check with your carrier to review your coverage. You can get a quote from Southwest Federal Insurance.

source: https://www.progressive.com/lifelanes/on-the-road/aggressive-drivers/

5 tips for RV’ing with dogs

Hitting the open road in a RV with your pet is a fun way to include your special furry family member in your vacation plans. According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, 61% of RV owners travel with their pets. When RV’ing with dogs, follow these five tips below to ensure that your pooch stays safe and has all the comforts of home.

1. Stay at a dog-friendly RV park or campground

For a stress-free vacation with your pup, do your research and reserve a dog-friendly RV park or campground. Not all RV parks and campgrounds are pet-friendly so call ahead and ask about their pet rules. If you plan to explore outdoor activities, research nearby hiking trails and park/recreation areas that welcome dogs.

2. Buckle up your dog while driving

Keep your furry companion safe by using a dog harness while riding inside the RV. Another option is to use a dog crate or pet travel carrier (for small dogs), but make sure the carrier or crate is secure and doesn’t slide around the RV while driving. A safety harness or crate prevents your dog from becoming injured in case of an accident and keeps him from distracting you while driving.

3. Bring along essential dog supplies

To make it easier while traveling, pack a separate bag for your dog and store the bag in a convenient spot inside the RV. Here is a list of essential pet items you’ll need on the road:

  • Non-spill travel water and food bowls
  • Leashes and collars
  • Water and food
  • Dog treats
  • Bedding and blankets
  • Favorite toys
  • Medications and a copy of your dog’s medical records
  • Cleaning supplies – in case of accidents
  • Doggy waste bags
  • Pet clothing – for cold weather travel

4. Keep your dog safe while exploring the outdoors

It’s natural that your curious canine will want to explore and sniff out his new surroundings, especially outside. When walking your dog outdoors, always keep him on a leash. Most RV parks and campgrounds have dog leash laws follow their pet rules and guidelines. If you hike with your dog or if your RV is located near water, supervise your dog at all times and make sure he remains safe.

5. Be a courteous and considerate dog owner

If you plan to stay a week or two at a campground or RV park, be courteous to your surrounding neighbors. Always pick up after your dog and make sure he uses the designated potty areas on the grounds. The last thing you want is a rowdy pup running all over the park and disturbing your RV neighbors. Keep him active by taking him on daily walks or visit nearby dog parks and recreation areas so he can run around and play.

source: https://www.progressive.com/lifelanes/adventure/five-tips-rving-dogs/

What to Do If Your Car Breaks Down

Follow some of these steps if your vehicle breaks down, and take extra precaution if you are in a busy intersection or on a highway.

Getting out of the car at a busy intersection or on a highway to change a tire or check damage from a fender bender is probably one of the worst things you can do. The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) recommends the following precautions when your car breaks down:

1.Never get out of the vehicle to make a repair or examine the damage on a busy highway. Get the vehicle to a safe place before getting out. If you have been involved in an accident, motion the other driver to pull up to a safe spot ahead.

2. If you cannot drive the vehicle, it may be safer to stay in the vehicle and wait for help or use a cell phone to summon help. Standing outside the vehicle in the flow of traffic, under most circumstances, is a bad idea.

3. Carry flares or triangles to use to mark your location once you get to the side of the road. Marking your vehicle’s location to give other drivers advance warning of your location can be critical. Remember to put on your hazard lights!

4. In the case of a blowout or a flat tire, move the vehicle to a safer place before attempting a repair – even if it means destroying the wheel getting there. The cost of a tire, rim or wheel is minor compared to endangering your safety.

Source: Insurance Information Institute; http://www.iii.org/

The Importance of Regular Car Maintenance

Your car is made up of a number of different parts, and like any well-oiled machine, every part needs to be in tip-top shape to run smoothly. If one part starts to fail, it could affect how the whole car runs. There are a number of things you should do to help keep your car maintained, but do you know why performing certain regular maintenance checks on your car is important? From monitoring fluid levels to testing brakes, understanding your car’s needs can help you identify potential issues.

Monitor Car Fluid Levels

Cars rely on a number of fluids to help keep them running properly. While you may turn to your mechanic during routine maintenance visits, it’s a good idea to perform your own checks in between car inspections. Here’s a roundup of some car fluids to keep an eye on in case they run low, or else they could result in your vehicle not functioning properly.

Oil. Car engines need oil to lubricate the metal in the engine. If you allow the engine to run out of oil completely, friction caused by metal rubbing against each other could produce unnecessary heat and could make the metal meld together.1 If there is still oil present but it appears to be dirty, consider changing it. Dirty oil is thick and erosive, and any contaminants could start to erode the metal in your car.

Transmission fluid. Much like engine oil, transmission fluid helps keep a key part lubricated and functioning properly: the transmission. If transmission fluid runs low, it could result in contaminants forming, and can shorten the transmission’s life.

Coolant. Made up of ethylene or propylene and water, coolant helps to absorb heat and pass it through the radiator. Coolant breaks down over time because of the hot environment it lives in. As a result, the lack of coolant’s rust inhibitors could cause rust to form, blocking any cooling paths and overheating your engine.

Brake fluid. While brake fluid doesn’t get dirty or evaporate, it can potentially absorb moisture from the atmosphere. Since water boils at a lower temperature than brake fluid, it can lead to air forming in your brake lines.

Steering fluid. The power steering fluid helps to make steering easier – if you don’t change it, it could make the steering wheel difficult to turn.

Check Your Tire Pressure and Alignment

If you ever expect to make it from Point A to Point B, you can’t over- or underestimate the amount of air your tires need. Tire pressure that is too high or too low could affect your car’s cornering, braking and stability.6 When you have high tire pressure, less of the tire touches the ground, affecting your car’s traction and stopping distance. Low tire pressure means more of the tire touches the road; the tires could wear out more quickly and the risk of your tires overheating could increase due to friction against the ground. Check your owner’s manual to determine the recommended tire pressure for your car.

It is also important to check your tire alignment to ensure your vehicle’s suspension is performing properly. Bad tire alignment can cause your car to veer toward one direction or even result in vibrations while driving. If you notice your car has uneven tread wear, your vehicle pulls to one side over another, your straightened steering wheel appears off center or you experience vibration through your steering wheel, you should take your car to a service technician.

Perform Routine Brake Checks

Depending on where your morning commute takes you, driving in areas that feature more stop lights and stop signs could mean you are stepping on the brakes more often than if you normally take the highway. Your brakes are a hydraulic system made up of a set of pads that squeeze together when prompted, and run on brake fluid.9 If the pads wear too thin, it makes it harder to slow or stop. Your car likely has a service light that would turn on when it’s time to check your brakes, but don’t just rely on that technology; if you see any leaking fluids, notice how thick or thin your pads have become or hear a grinding sound, it may be time to replace your brakes.Depending on where your morning commute takes you, driving in areas that feature more stop lights and stop signs could mean you are stepping on the brakes more often than if you normally take the highway. Your brakes are a hydraulic system made up of a set of pads that squeeze together when prompted, and run on brake fluid.9 If the pads wear too thin, it makes it harder to slow or stop. Your car likely has a service light that would turn on when it’s time to check your brakes, but don’t just rely on that technology; if you see any leaking fluids, notice how thick or thin your pads have become or hear a grinding sound, it may be time to replace your brakes.

As a car owner, it is your responsibility to regularly maintain your car like you would any other type of property you own. If you ignore your car, it could put your safety at risk.

Sources:
1 http://auto.howstuffworks.com/car-driving-safety/safety-regulatory-devices/never-changed-oil.htm
2 http://www.meineke.com/blog/often-change-oil/
3 http://www.cartalk.com/content/service-your-car-14
4 http://www.cartalk.com/content/service-your-car-1
5 http://www.dmv.org/how-to-guides/brake-fluid.php
6 http://www.cartalk.com/content/service-your-car-13
7 http://www.cartalk.com/content/service-your-car-13
8 http://www.bridgestonetire.com/tread-and-trend/drivers-ed/tire-alignment
9 http://auto.howstuffworks.com/auto-parts/brakes/brake-tests/5-signs-you-need-your-brakes-checked1.htm
10 http://auto.howstuffworks.com/auto-parts/brakes/brake-tests/5-signs-you-need-your-brakes-checked1.htm

8 steps to preparing for a safe RV adventure

Nothing is more exciting than hitting the road for that epic RV adventure you have been planning for months. But dealing with RV maintenance issues or road side troubles during a trip is a real bummer, so make sure you check and double check your RV systems and route plans before leaving home.

In other words, your grandmother was right…an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Here are our eight ounces of prevention, or things you should always do before a trip, to avoid the most common RV travel hiccups.

1. Give those tires a complete check up

Tire trouble is the number one cause of trouble for RV travels, and this is simply because most owners do not practice routine tire maintenance. Inspect your RV tires before every trip, looking for cracks or bubbles in the sidewalls. If the tires don’t look like they are wearing evenly, have them inspected by a professional.

Also use the information printed on the tire to determine age. Most experts would argue that your RV tires should be replaced every 3-5 years, regardless of how many miles you have traveled.

Lastly, check your tire pressure when the tires are cold on each and every traveling day. Over-inflated or under-inflated tires are the primary reasons for blowouts, and this can be easily avoided by taking this simple precaution before hitting the road.

2. Check all the basic systems in the RV and perform all routine maintenance

No one wants to head out for a beach camping trip only to find that the air conditioning is not working properly. Before taking a longer RV trip, you should check every RV system and perform all routine annual maintenance.

Walk the entire outside of your RV, including the roof, and look for any signs of cracking or stress. This is the perfect time to caulk seams and make sure your antennas and satellite dishes are firmly connected. Check the entire plumbing system, filling up your holding tanks to make sure there are no leaks and running all the faucets and showers. Turn on the propane and test your hot water. Clean the air conditioning filter and scrub those coils with a toothbrush to make sure you stay cool even in hot summer temperatures.

All of this should be done well in advance of an RV vacation, so that you have time to schedule any needed repairs.

3. Treat your tow vehicle to a tune up

We have a standing appointment with our mechanic in the spring season before we leave for any extended summer travel. In addition to the basic oil change and fluid top offs, he double-checks our mileage and any upcoming scheduled maintenance. He also carefully examines our belts, filters, and battery.

The bottom line is that we would rather replace the timing belt according to an expert’s advice than have it snap on the side of the road, hundreds of miles from our reliable mechanic. Developing a relationship with a qualified service professional has made our time on the road relatively trouble free, even though we drive thousands of miles from home each year.

4. Know your true rig height and weight

At some point on your journey, you are bound to come across a height or weight restriction. Be prepared in advance, and never, ever make a wild guess about whether you can fit under a bridge. You shouldn’t even rely on rig specs, since some might not take into account your air conditioning unit or antennae.


With help from a buddy, use a measuring tape to calculate the height from the ground to the tallest part of your RV. Then also measure the width of the unit, making sure to notice any protruding pieces on the stairs or awning. Write your measurements down and store them in your vehicle. We also keep them in a notes app on our smartphone.

5. Double check that you have insurance and registration documents, as well as the appropriate coverage

It’s not easy to admit, but we have discovered missing vehicle registration and insurance documents at inopportune times. Papers get lost…it happens. Just make sure to double-check everything at least one week before departing on your trip. That way, you have plenty of time to track down a new copy if necessary.

We also review our roadside assistance and personal effects coverage in order to make sure we are protected in the event of an emergency.

6. Create a basic tool kit to override any automated systems on your RV

Automated tongue jacks, stability jacks, and slide-outs are super convenient. However, anything that is motorized could stop working at any moment. You don’t want to be stuck hundreds of miles from home and not be able to pull your slide in for departure.

Make sure that you know what tools you need to override any of the automated systems on your RV. Practice in advance so you feel confident in manually operating all of the features.

7. Research routes in advance, check any restrictions, and download or print out maps

We are a bit spoiled these days by GPS and smartphones, so sometimes we head out on the road less prepared than we ought to be. When traveling with an RV, you really need to research routes in advance to find out about height, weight, and propane restrictions. There are some highways that restrict recreational vehicles altogether, and some bridges and tunnels do not allow propane tanks. Discovering this information in advance is crucial.

It is also important to download or print out directions in advance, since you can loose satellite or cell connectivity in many remote locations. Having a good old-fashioned atlas on hand is not a bad idea at all. Just make sure you remember how to use it…

8. Prepare your Sticks and Bricks abode for your absence

In all the hustle and bustle of preparing for an RV adventure, it can be easy to forget about your sticks and bricks home. Make arrangements so that your home does not look too empty and quiet while you are away on vacation. Pause newspaper delivery and hold your mail at the post office. Set some lights on timers, and arrange for a couple of neighbors or friends to stop by and check on the property.

You might also check out some of the new smart technology that allows you to control lights and temperature, or even respond to the doorbell, right from your phone no matter where you are in the country.

Big adventures can always bring some bumps in the road, but when you take the proper safety precautions, you increase the likelihood of a smooth, stress-free RV trip.

Happy trails!

source: https://www.progressive.com/lifelanes/adventure/8-steps-preparing-safe-rv-adventure/?fbclid=IwAR3RkhAFH4WiS-yDJzX0YGdt7-dIeo20OmURIz-8vW7BgJkVQZrLKnM3Nt4