How to Handle Hot Weather Painting



Summertime is prime time for exterior painting. But when comfortably warm weather turns hot, do-it-yourselfers have to work much more carefully — or else run the risk of early paint failure.

The problem? Paint needs to “cure” slowly to form the most durable paint “film”, but hot weather speeds up the drying process, cutting short the curing time. All too often, the result is a paint job prone to peel, flake, or otherwise fail prematurely.

When doing exterior painting, temps below 90 degrees F. typically don’t require special precautions. The concern sets in when the mercury climbs into the 90s, or beyond. At that point, every painter has to adjust the way he or she proceeds.

If you’re planning to paint in a hot spell, first check the paint can label to see the manufacturer’s temperature guidelines. As long as you aren’t completely outside your paint’s temperature tolerance, there are ways to work around the heat.

One smart strategy: Rather than completing all the surface preparation before starting to paint, spread out the prep work, reserving power washing, scraping and sanding for the very hottest parts of the days.

As for your painting, complete as much of it as possible in the cooler hours – typically, very early in the morning or late in the afternoon. (But when doing late-day painting, be aware that after sitting in the sun for hours, surfaces may be considerably hotter than the air temperature – and, possibly, too hot to paint successfully.)

Typically, at least one wall is shaded, even at high noon. Take advantage by working on the shady side of the house as much as possible, moving from one shady spot to another over the course of the day. This will help keep freshly applied paint from drying too quickly… and keep you a lot more comfortable, too!

Shutters and doors present other opportunities to dodge the heat. Rather than painting these items in place, consider removing them and painting them out of direct sunlight… or better yet, indoors. A garage or basement can serve as a convenient staging area for this work.

If you’re racing the clock to complete your painting – trying to beat an incoming heat wave, for example – there’s no better way to speed your project than by applying fewer coats. And that’s a realistic possibility if you switch from standard paint to a paint and primer product.

As is evident from the name, paint and primer products (also referred to as “self-priming” paints) are coatings that function as both types of coatings. These products allow you to get the same top quality paint job while applying one fewer coat, saving you tons of time in the process.

Of course, if the time you’ve set aside to paint is greeted by a true heat wave, you might be well served by waiting for more moderate weather to return.

On the other hand, if you’re really itching to pick up a roller or brush, think about turning your attention to some interior painting, where you can still get your painting “fix” in the air-conditioned comfort of your home!

Top Tips when Making an Offer on a House



Making an offer on a house is a tricky task. There are a lot of interests at stake – yours, the seller’s, the estate agent’s—and it’s hard to know when to bid and how much. That’s why we’ve put together a list of tips so you’ll know how to prepare for making an offer and what to do when the time comes.

Preparing to Make an Offer

Underplay your budget: You should always play down the amount that you’re willing to spend, which will give you an advantage during negotiations. The estate agent is going to show you properties slightly above your budget anyway.

Play your cards close to your chest: If you find the house of your dreams, your estate agent should have no idea. If you let the agent know that you love a property, they’ll also know that you’re willing to pay a higher price and will have an upper hand when it comes time to negotiate. Instead you should play it cool and even look for things that are wrong with the property.

Know the going rate: You should keep an eye on other properties in the area and what they’re selling for. This will give you a bargaining chip if they’re selling lower and will help you know if it’s okay to make a low bid.

Know what’s included in the sale: Agree with the estate agent in writing on a full list of fixtures and fittings that come with the property. This will prevent disagreements later in the negotiations.

Know the seller’s motivation level: It’s good to find out as much as you can about the seller to know how quickly they want to get the deal done. If, for example, they’re moving because of a divorce or relocation for a new job, they’re going to be highly motivated to get the property off their hands and may be willing to accept a lower bid.

Making the Offer and Negotiating

Start low: The seller will always list an asking price higher than what they’re willing to accept. So don’t be afraid to start low, and certainly lower than what you’re willing to pay.
Put the offer in writing: Leaving a clear paper trail will avoid confusion and disagreements as the negotiations progress.

Don’t go above the asking price unless it’s already been offered: The estate agent will tell you if there have been bids higher than yours, so there’s no reason to go above the asking price even if you’re in love with the property, unless you know that someone else has already gone there.

Stick with the estate agent: It may be tempting to streamline things by trying to negotiate directly with the seller, but estate agents are often more invested in getting the deal done quickly so that they can get paid. They also provide a good, professional buffer between the two ends of the bargain, which can keep things civil if there are disagreements.

Stay polite: Negotiations can get heated, especially if one party feels they’re not getting a good deal. It’s important to stay calm and express your concerns politely. Getting stressed and angry doesn’t help anything and won’t make the deal go through more quickly. 

How to Raise Your Grandchildren to be Money-Savvy

Most parents and grandparents want their children to be independent and in good financial shape by the time they become a young adult. To help jump-start your grandchild’s financial intelligence, provide them with a solid education on budgeting, saving, and responsible spending as soon as possible.

Earning

Whether they’re collecting an allowance or they have a part-time job after school, teaching your grandchildren the importance of earning their money will not only build a strong work ethic, but form better spending habits as well. Discuss with your grandchildren ways they could earn money, whether it be chores around the house or babysitting and mowing lawns. By working and receiving a monetary reward, they’ll take how much work they put in into consideration when spending the money. This will ultimately encourage positive spending habits.

Budgeting

Once your children are able to get a job, it’s essential they know how important it is to have a weekly and monthly budget. Take some time to sit with them and discuss their income and expenses and build a budget that sets them up for success. While creating this budget, also make sure to include wiggle room and determine the appropriate amount of spending money for them each month. Since they probably don’t have many expenses or bills to pay, a large portion of the money they’re earning can be put into a savings account and earn interest.

Getting the Right Bank Account

Other than learning to budget, knowing the importance of good saving habits and putting them into use is one of the most beneficial money practices you can teach your grandchild.

To make sure they’re getting the most out of their savings account, shop around and inquire about the different programs and interest rates banks and credit unions offer to teens. In most cases, financial institutions offer special rates specifically for students and children under 17 to kickstart their college savings. For example, Bank of America has a few programs dedicated to growing your child’s savings through certificates of deposit and 529 college savings plans.

Saving

Making it a priority to save a portion of the money they’ve earned is essential when teaching children about finances. While the saying is true, “the earlier the better,” saving is something that can be taught at any age. The best way to create successful saving habits is by setting a savings goal. With every allowance or pay check, encourage them to save between 20-50% of their earnings and allocate the rest for essentials and spending money. This is a great way to set them up with a successful savings plan for their future and make a habit out of preparing for the unexpected.

Responsible Spending

Saving goes hand-in-hand with responsible spending habits. Chat with your grandchildren about the possibilities they have as savers versus the problems they can face with being a spender. To make this idea of saving easier for them, talk about the differences between wants and needs. Encourage them to ask themselves before making an impulsive purchase if that item is something they need and if that purchase is going to affect their ability to pay for their other needs.

All of these topics are a great place to start when teaching kids about finances. As a grandparent, you don’t always need to write a check to teach a lesson about money. By simply sharing your experiences and the practices you’ve found successful, you have the potential to make a big impact on their financial future.

The Pros and Cons of Having a Home Warranty

If you purchase a second-hand home, you might mostly be offered a home warranty so that anything wrong with the home can be fixed at an affordable price. This can offer you financial protection against unprecedented damages you might have to face.

The advantages of having a home warranty

If you don’t have an emergency fund or if you have one and you want to protect it, you can use a home warranty as a safeguard. Home warranties are also very handy if you don’t have the knack for fixing things on your own or even if you have very expensive tastes in home appliances. If you only have a little knowledge of how well your home components have been maintained, having a home warranty can be very reassuring. A warranty can also help if you have spent most of your savings on purchasing your new home by taking care of any possible additional expenses.

The disadvantages of having a home warranty

Having a home warranty won’t cover items that have been poorly maintained. However, what exactly constitutes ‘poor maintenance’ is a matter of dispute. Home warranties also come with certain limitations on what can be covered and how many dollars’ worth of repair can be done each year. So if you have outdated equipment that the previous owner failed to maintain, it might not be covered under your warranty. Conversely, you might not suffer any damages at all during your time at your new house, in which case you might have paid for a home warranty for nothing. Instead, money could have been put into an emergency fund to make repairs and replacements.

How to Screw Up Your Medicare

You’ve finally got your Medicare all setup and you breathe a sigh of relief. Then whammo – a slew of claims denials flood your mailbox.  Post-enrollment Medicare mistakes sometimes happen, and in this post, I’m going to show you how to avoid them.

First, let’s look at an example:

A long-time client sent me an email about $1500 in unexpected charges. He had changed drug plans during the Annual Election Period to a new plan we found that would save him about $500 annually next year on his prescription drugs. (He did not change his Medigap plan.)

Even though the annual election period does not affect Medigap plans, it’s not unusual for all the annual Part D plan changes to confuse people. Somehow he started using his new Part D drug plan card when attempting to purchase replacement parts for his CPAP machine.

All the bills were denied of course because Part D doesn’t cover durable medical equipment. That falls under Part B and would have been covered entirely by Medicare and his supplement if he had presented the right insurance card.

Fortunately, he knew to call us when he received a denial and an unexpected bill. Our Client Service Team quickly stepped into help him straighten it out and get the bills to the right place. But these are the kinds of things that constantly happen to Medicare beneficiaries. Many who don’t have an insurance agent on their policies are left to fix these Medicare mistakes on their own.

Here are a few of the most common Medicare mistakes we’ve seen over the years so that you can avoid them.

 

Failing to Pay Your Part B premiums

Many people today work well past age 65, and most of these people delay their Social Security income benefits because they still have working income. Since Medicare can’t deduct your Part B premiums from your Social Security check in that situation, they send a quarterly invoice to you instead.

With the mountain of mail that Medicare beneficiaries get every day from insurance companies, it can be very easy to overlook a bill from Social Security.  Unfortunately, the result is catastrophic.

When Social Security revokes your Part B for non-payment, they notify your Medigap carrier, who promptly cancels your Medigap plan. Now you are left with no coverage for outpatient services, which includes doctor visits, lab-work, medical equipment, surgeries, chemotherapy, dialysis and many other expensive services.

What’s worse is that you then must wait until the next General Enrollment Period (GEP) to enroll. The GEP runs from January 1st – March 31st each year. Though you can enroll during this period, your coverage won’t start until the following July.

Let’s think about this. If you failed to pay your bill in April, you would wait 8 months to reapply in January. Then that new Part B coverage wouldn’t start for yet another 7 months. That would be 15 months without coverage for anything except your Part A hospital related services.

A serious illness or injury during this uncovered time could result in thousands of dollars of unpaid medical expenses. We want to avoid that at all costs.

Not Notifying Medicare That You’ve Left Employer Coverage

A quick call to Medicare to confirm your primary coverage can prevent denials and hassles.

In a perfect world, your former employer would accurately notify Medicare that you are no longer working there. Then Medicare would know that it is now your primary insurance, and it would begin to pay as primary.

This works like it should about 95% of the time. However, every year there are a handful of situations where the employer fails to properly notify Medicare that you have left your job. Your doctor bills Medicare based on your presenting your Medicare card at the time of service. Medicare will promptly deny all of those claims because they believe the bills should have gone to your employer insurance first.

On occasion, we’ve even seen instances where the next year the employer again notifies Medicare that they are still covering you. This results in a whole new round of denied claims.

Presenting your Provider with the Wrong ID Card – Part 1

This one has several versions of easy Medicare mistakes. If you have chosen Medicare as your primary coverage then you will present your Original Medicare card (and Medigap card) to your provider at the time of service

If you enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan though, that plan pays INSTEAD OF Medicare.  People don’t realize this and they give their doctor their Medicare card by mistake.  What does Medicare do? Deny all of the claims because those bills should have gone to your Medicare Advantage Company.

I’ve also seen this one where a Medicare beneficiary is rushed to the hospital. His or her spouse digs through their wallet and pulls out the Medicare card for the hospital. The hospital sends all the bills to Medicare because they assume the spouse is presenting the correct coverage.

It’s particularly awful because treatment in the hospital can be billed from a variety of places – radiology, anesthesiology, physical therapy, the hospital itself. Each of those bills then has to be corrected separately which can take you several hours by phone to straighten out.

My Best Tip: If enrolled in Medicare Advantage, put your red, white and blue Medicare card away in a safe place. You will not be using it unless you later decide to drop your Medicare Advantage plan. Give your providers only your Advantage card.

 

Presenting your Provider with the Wrong ID Card – Part 2

The second version of “id card mistakes” that we see happen often is that beneficiaries will present their Medicare card for drug-related expenses, or vice vera, their Part D card for non-drug related expenses. This is what happened to my client that I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post.

Think of your Part D drug plan as a pharmacy card. You only use it at the pharmacy. So unless you are picking up a retail prescription, you generally won’t be presenting your Part D card for payment.

So what should you do about things like test strips for diabetes or replacement parts for insulin pumps or CPAP machines? These fall under Part B. You will present your Medicare card if you have Original Medicare, or if you are enrolled instead in an Advantage plan, you’ll present your Advantage plan ID card. See Medicare’s website to find a list of approved suppliers in your area.  We look them up all the time for our clients. It’s easy to find good vendors.

My Best Tip: Your Part D plan will usually have the word RX somewhere on the card. This is the one you should present at the pharmacy when purchasing prescriptions.

 

Paying your Part B Deductible to Your Provider Before Medicare has Processed the Claim

Medicare Part B has a deductible of $183 in 2017. This goes up a little bit in most years. There are several popular Medigap plans, such as Plan G and Plan N where you agree to pay the annual Part B deductible.

Do NOT pay this to your provider at the time of treatment, even if he asks for it. The proper procedure is for your doctor to see you first, then send the bill to Medicare. Medicare will pay all but the deductible to your provider. Your provider will then bill you for the $183 due. The doctor does not need to collect the deductible from you at the time of service. Here’s why:

It’s very common for people to have lab-work on the same day of their doctor appointment, or sometimes a few days before that appointment. When Medicare receives the bills from your lab facility and your doctor’s office, it will apply the deductible to the first one processed. So Medicare might pay  100% of your doctor’s office bill, and apply the deductible to the bill from the lab facility. Now the lab facility will bill you for $183.

Your doctor’s office, on the other hand, will not only have your $183, but it will also get paid by Medicare. Doctor’s offices do not like to give the money back to you. They often will want proof that you’ve paid this deductible elsewhere.

This can be even worse if your first outpatient service of the year happens as part of a hospital stay. You will have no idea which provider will be the first bill that Medicare processes. Therefore do not pay the deductible until after Medicare has processed the claim.

My Best Tip: Tell your doctor you are aware a deductible is owed, and they can bill you for it. Then when Medicare has paid the claim and sent you its notice, you can pay the doctor what he is owed. I promise this will help you avoid a monster headache.

Wishful Thinking on Preventive Care

Wishful thinking on Medicare’s preventive care benefit can cost you a bundle.

Medicare has a number of great preventive care benefits which are fully covered. Medicare pays them 100% for you. This includes screenings for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and aneurysms. It also includes common cancer screenings such as colonoscopy, mammograms, and tests for lung cancer. Furthermore, you will have coverage for vaccine coverage, a yearly wellness visit, bone mass measurements and more. You can find a full list on Medicare’s site.

What the preventive care does NOT include is a $6000 Executive physical from the Cooper clinic or Mayo clinic. Your local hospital might offer a really great full body exam complete with stress testing and an EKG and nutrition counseling session. None of that is likely to be covered by Medicare. Your primary care doctor will know the proper billing codes for what is covered by Medicare. Those are the tests for which you can expect coverage. Anything that you do beyond that is on your own dime.

Keep in mind also that while certain screenings may be covered, related services may not be. We see this all the time on Medicare Advantage plans, where a colonoscopy might be covered, but the anesthesiologists’ services during that exam are separate.

My Best Tip: Get your preventive care from your primary care doctor. If you seek out additional preventive/wellness care from another facility, confirm with them ahead of time as to what you will owe.

Failure to Review Your Annual Notice of Change

Every year here in the fall, we run a series of webinars for our existing clients about the upcoming Annual Election Period. All of our existing clients are invited and we publicize it via email ahead of time. The reason we go so far is simple. People forget what they are supposed to do in relation to their drug plan each year.

Medicare has an annual election period in the fall, sometimes also called the open enrollment period. It runs from October 15 – Dec. 7th. This is when you can make changes to your Part D drug plan or your Medicare Advantage plan if enrolled in one.

The election period exists because the benefits in those plans change from year to year. Your premium might be going up or your drug formulary may be changing. Your current carrier will send you a letter in September called the Annual Notice of Change.

You should review this letter thoroughly EVERY YEAR.

Unfortunately, all the insurance companies will also market you to death around this same time. This causes some people to mistakenly throw out their Annual Notice of Change letter. Then January rolls around and they go to fill their $300 diabetes medication and find out it’s not covered anymore. By then it’s too late to change.

Reviewing the ANOC letter is a critical piece of staying cost-effective with your Medicare benefits. Since Part D plans and Medicare Advantage plans lock you in for the calendar year, you can’t afford to miss reading about upcoming changes.

My Best Tip: Set a reminder on your calendar every year for September 30th. Sit down with your Annual Notice of Change packet and compare the plan’s current benefits with the upcoming benefits. All of this info will be laid outside by side for you in the packet. If you see a big premium increase or an important medication being dropped, call your insurance agent. We can help you evaluate other options for the coming year.

Conclusion

While Medicare mistakes happen, the tips in this post should help you to avoid the most common problems. Since even the most prepared person might encounter hiccups, it’s in your best interest to work with an insurance agent who knows what they are doing when it comes to Medicare. Our agency offers this with our amazing Client Service Team who are accessible to you right from Day One. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone on your side with Medicare?

Why Do I Need to Sign the Medicare Scope of Appointment Form?



The Medicare Scope of Appointment is a form which Medicare beneficiaries must complete to designate, prior to their appointment with an agent, exactly which items they wish to discuss. In other words, this form is how you tell your agent which things he or she can present to you.

The form serves to protect you from unwanted solicitation. The background of the form is kind of interesting.

Here’s the deal:

When Part D was rolled out in 2006, it was the first retail drug coverage offered to people on Medicare. Prior to that, for over 40 years, Medicare provided no significant coverage for people to fill their ordinary prescriptions. So over 20 million people got the opportunity to join a drug plan for the first time.

Anytime you have that kind of massive enrollment, there will be dishonest people out there who will do just about anything to make a quick sale. For example, they might show up to talk about your Medicare needs, and then try to sell life insurance too. This is not allowed.

(This, incidentally, is why I advise you to never, never, never invite a stranger into your home to discuss any Medicare insurance products with you. It’s not safe these days. It’s also not necessary when there are honest agencies like Boomer Benefits who can explain all of this to you easily over the phone. PLEASE do not risk your safety or comfort by inviting a stranger to your house who might then try to pressure you into enrolling in a specific policy).

20+ Million Medicare Beneficiaries (Oh My!)

During this mass enrollment of people into Part D, there were complaints from beneficiaries who had invited an agent into their home to discuss drug coverage. Some individuals reported they felt intimidated into enrolling in a plan. Others said they had intended to enroll in a drug plan and then found themselves enrolled into a Medicare Advantage plan that they didn’t want and that their doctor wasn’t in the network for. Medicare Advantage plans have lock-in periods so they were stuck in these plans for as much as a year.

It gets worse:

Sometimes they fraudulently signed people’s names. They even enrolled dead people using old data. (Seriously if these con artists would just get a REAL job!)

Of course, all of this led to a series of Congressional hearings. Some new rules were created to help clarify the allowed process. So today, when you meet with an agent to discuss either Part D or Medicare Advantage products, that agent is required to document your permission at least 48 hours in advance on the Scope of Appointment form. On your form, you will check the items that you want to discuss with your agent. If you don’t check something, then the agent cannot discuss that type of policy when meeting with you.

The Medicare Scope of Appointment was originally designed just for in-person meetings. However, here at Boomer Benefits we have collected this form for years even though our appointments with Medicare beneficiaries are often by phone.

We feel it is respectful to you as the beneficiary. You get to designate what you would like us to help you with.

Bad Apples

We know you hate extra paperwork. So do we!! As a business owner who runs an honest agency, it disappoints me that just a few bad apples out there have created so much more work for both you and us. Like anything else, there are always some bad guys out there willing to bend the rules.

The bottom line though is that these people DO exist. You should always read online reviews about anyone you are choosing to do business with.

An ethical agent will send you a Scope of Appointment form at least 48 hours prior to the appointment in which we go over the Summary of Benefits for the plans you are interested in. You can then feel comfortable that we have your best interests in mind and will only be discussing products which interest you.

Your Options When Completing the Scope Form

The Medicare Scope of Appointment form lists several products that you can give your agent permission to talk with you about. These include:

  • Stand-alone Part D Drug plans
  • Medicare Advantage plans (Part C)
  • Dental/Vision and Hearing Plans
  • Hospital Indemnity products
  • Medicare supplement plans.

You will place your initials in the box next to the items you give permission to discuss. Then you’ll sign below where it says Beneficiary Signature. (You are the Medicare beneficiary).

Medicare scope form

Put your initials in the boxes next to the Medicare products you want help with. Sign where it says Beneficiary because you are the Medicare beneficiary.

Your agent must turn this form in along with any enrollment form you complete for a Part D or Part C plan.

What If I Don’t Know What I Need?

If you aren’t sure which products you need to know about, it’s okay to mark them all or ask us for help. I have 1000% confidence in my team to share with you only the products that best suit you based on what you have indicated to us is most important to you. We are the good apples here, and our 500+ online five-star reviews speak for themselves.

Please note that this form is only required if the appointment will include discussion of Part D or Medicare Advantage products. If you wish to speak about only dental or Medigap, we don’t need to collect one.

How do you feel about the Scope of sales Appointment form? Are there any other items you think should be included on the form? We’d love to hear your thoughts.