Liz Hieter
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Are You Following Safe Cyber Rules?

January 16, 2018 12:36 am

While most consumers are well aware of the hazards of cyber security—with the Equifax breach alone exposing the sensitive data of as many as 143 million Americans—the majority still fail to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. According to a survey conducted online by Harris Poll, on behalf of Tenable™,Inc., while 94 percent of Americans were aware of news stories about security breaches, few took critical steps to protect their data or change their online habits.

The study found that in the past 12 months, 44 percent of Americans did not use a password to protect their personal information on their computer, and 55 percent failed to use a PIN to protect their personal information on their mobile devices. When it comes to the industry recommended practice of two-factor authentication, 75 percent of respondents admitted not implementing this important practice, while only 32 percent reported reducing their use of public Wi-Fi or unknown hotspots.

On the plus side, 53 percent reported creating more complicated passwords and 15 percent have used a password management tool to protect their personal information in the past 12 months.

According to Tenable, a popular inroad for hackers to compromise devices and steal data is when apps have security vulnerabilities; however, few people pay much attention to patch requests. Fourteen percent of smartphone users waited more than a week to update apps on their smartphone after receiving a prompt—with 5 percent never getting around to it at all. Meanwhile, 13 percent of computer users wait more than a week to update the apps on their computer, and 5 percent never do.

To maintain a level of basic cyber safety, Tenable advises:

- Where applicable, enable two-factor authentication for all online services
- Update your apps and computers within 24 hours of receiving a notification
-  Assign strong passwords to your computer, mobile phone and tablet, and don't share them with others

Source: Tenable, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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DIY Car Care Everyone Can Do

January 16, 2018 12:36 am

(Family Features)—While taking your car to an auto service professional is a great way to ensure its performance, the Car Care Council reminds vehicle owners there are a few simple vehicle checks that they can easily learn and do themselves to save a little money and help keep their vehicles running efficiently all summer long.

With basic knowledge of common maintenance practices and a little time, motorists can inspect the following components in their own driveway:

— Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.

— Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering and brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer fluid and antifreeze/coolant.

— Check the hoses and belts as they can become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and the cooling system.

— Check the wipers and lighting so that you can see and be seen. Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and inspect and replace worn wiper blades. Keep the reservoir filled with windshield washer fluid.

— To keep the cooling system working effectively, the coolant and distilled water mixture for a vehicle's radiator should be 50:50. Never open a hot radiator cap when checking the coolant level in the reservoir. As a rule of thumb, the coolant should be changed annually on most vehicles.

— Check the gas cap to ensure it is not damaged, loose or missing to prevent gas from spilling or evaporating.

— Don't neglect the exterior. When washing the outside, make sure to include the tires and wheels and the underside and fenders to eliminate any road salt or grime. The body of the vehicle should be washed using a product sold specifically for cars. Wax your vehicle every six months.

Source: Car Care Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips for Getting Affordable Dental Care Without Coverage

January 16, 2018 12:36 am

If you're one of the millions of Americans without dental care coverage, then you know the struggle of keeping your mouth healthy at an affordable price.

"It was recently estimated by the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP) that 23 percent of the U.S. population does not have dental insurance," says Kevin Henry, author of the new book, Battling and Beating the Demons of Dental Assisting (Indie Books International, 2017). "Because of that, many people put off trips to visit the dentist, and that is a decision that can prove harmful in the long run."

Here are five tips from Henry for people who don't have dental insurance:

1. Ask about dental plans. Dental practices are beginning to understand how many of their patients walk through the doors without insurance. With that in mind, many practices are coming up with their own discount dental plan (often called "memberships") they can offer to patients. There may be a discount for a number of bundled services or two cleanings and checkups put together for a lower price than if they were bought separately. Every dental practice has the ability to come up with its own dental plan or membership so ask the practice what their plan offers and any deadlines for completion of services.

2. Get on a payment plan. Without available financing, a recent study showed that 39 percent of patients said they would not have had dentistry done at all. Another study showed that 52 percent of patients were not aware that financing was a payment option. Big stores such as Best Buy offer their own financing to customers so they can afford a big-screen television. Dental practices are more than happy to offer you options for your treatment. Just ask what those are and see if they fit your plans and budget.

3. Look around for local dental or dental hygiene schools. Dental students and future dental hygienists need patients to learn their craft. Dental schools advertise their services to the community as a low-cost option for patients. As an example, the University of Oklahoma Dental School states on its website, "In the student program, patients are treated by dental students under the direct supervision of faculty. Patients in the student clinics receive low-cost quality care in an educational environment."

4. Contact your state or local dental association. Every state has a dental association and every state's dental association's offerings should be online. Do a little searching and see what low-cost treatment options are available on your state's site.

5. Ask for the "cash price" option. If you have the cash available to pay for a procedure, tell the dental office when you make an appointment and ask them if they offer discounts if you're paying with cash and paying it all up front. Many practices do discount their fees if they don't have to deal with insurance.

"The American Dental Association recently said that emergency room dental visits cost $1.9 billion yearly, 40 percent of which is public money, according to their analysis of data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality," says Henry.  "That's a lot of money for people who had dental pain that perhaps could have been alleviated by seeing a dentist days or weeks earlier."

Source: Kevin Henry, Indie Books International

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Do You Have the Right Tools to Dig Into Spring Gardening?

January 12, 2018 1:42 am

As sure as winter will turn to spring, before too long folks will be looking forward to planting gardens and digging into landscaping projects around the yard. So we turned to research from gardenoid.com, which gathered 34 gardening experts to find out their opinions on the top must-have tools for making your garden look stylish in 2018.

Among the most popular tools touted for gardeners is a Mattock - which is used for clearing the ground, removing stones and digging out deep roots that create roadblocks.

Composting is another way that homeowners can promote environmental responsibility. And making compost can now become much easier when you make use of a chipper shredder. While a leaf shredder can be used primarily for shredding small sized leaves and twigs, if you want to chop and shred branches, then gardenoid.com recommends buying a chipper.

At Gardendesign.com, Jennifer Nelson says gardening can turn into a thorny and splintery hassle without the right pair of gloves.

Madaline Sparks at Realsimple.com agrees that while one good pair of garden gloves can be as essential a tool as a shovel or a rake - owning three pairs will make a multitude of tasks easier:

Washable synthetic gloves. For general maintenance, such as deadheading, weeding in dry soil, and handling seeds, the thin fabric and snug fit allow fingers maximum dexterity.

Latex-coated cotton gloves. For dirty, wet jobs, like picking up leaves or planting shrubs, and for working with thorny plants (the latex coating is puncture-resistant).

Heavy-duty leather gloves. For tough jobs, like digging holes, clearing brush, and carrying firewood.

Brendan Huggins of Moore Farms Botanical Garden (moorefarmsbg.org) says pruners are one of the most used tools in the garden and are often one that people skimp on. But a high-quality set of pruners can last a lifetime.
Huggins suggests looking for replaceable blades, a sturdy lock, a replaceable spring, and a place that you can readily purchase replacement parts from when deciding what pruners to buy.

Moore Farms' Kirk Laminack on the other hand says a Japanese planting hoe is an ideal addition to your gardening arsenal when it comes to loosening soil and removing weeds.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Brrr! Better Car Care Tips for Winter Weather

January 12, 2018 1:42 am

You aren't the only one who needs to bundle up in the winter. Your vehicle, too, needs some special care in the colder months. The non-profit Car Care Council offers six quick tips to help your vehicle perform at its best during cold weather months.

Keep the gas tank at least half full; this decreases the chance of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.

Check the tire pressure, including the spare, as tires can lose pressure when temperatures drop. Consider special tires if snow and ice are a problem in your area.

Have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed.

Allow your car a little more time to warm up when temperatures are below freezing so that the oil in the engine and transmission circulate and get warm.

Change to low-viscosity oil in winter as it will flow more easily between moving parts when it is cold. Drivers in sub-zero temperatures should drop their oil weight from 10-W30 to 5-W30 as thickened oil can make it hard to start the car.

Consider using cold weather washer fluid and special winter windshield blades if you live in a place with especially harsh winter conditions.

Source: Car Care Council

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Winter Advisory Travel Tips

January 12, 2018 1:42 am

Whether you're dreaming of hitting the slopes or packing your bags for some fun in the sun, traveling during the cold season comes with its own quirks. Here are eight winter advisory travel tips from Travel Leaders Group:

Book early. Contact a travel agent who can help you avoid peak travel dates and travel times. Even if you must travel within a certain range of dates, the time of day you travel can help cut down on the amount of time you sit driving below the speed limit during heavy traffic or flying at peak times which might make it harder to land a reservation on the next flight out when yours is canceled. For example, you may want to avoid the first or last flight of the day depending on the start and end time of the storm since these flights have a higher frequency of being canceled.

Sign up for travel insurance. Often airlines will issue travel waivers that allow you to rebook your ticket away from the affected dates at no additional charge. You should take advantages of these when they post. However, for those instances where you may miss a flight because you were stuck in traffic or your ship sailed without you when your flight was canceled or delayed, travel insurance can be your saving grace to recoup all or part of your travel investment.  

Get travel advisories or weather alerts delivered to your phone. There are several apps that allow you to receive email or text message notifications from your airline about your flight's status. A weather.com app can keep you updated about conditions. Also, an all-in-one mobile solution is an efficient way for business travelers not only to receive text notifications about flight delays, cancellations or gate changes, but also to reach live travel agents 24/7 to assist with flight disruptions or flight reservations.

Pack a winter safety kit. Whether you're driving or flying, prepare for possible delays with a few essentials. Pack a small extra bag with an extra sweater, gloves or small throw, as well as water and high-energy or high-protein foods such as granola bars or beef jerky. You may also want to pack a toothbrush and toothpaste, a change of underwear and any needed prescription medications. Remember also a flashlight, extra batteries, or phone charger, a first aid kit and a good book.

Consider larger airports and travel light. If you suspect there may be severe weather threats during your time of travel, consider flying from a larger airport. Larger international airports will have a greater chance of more alternate flights, and they are also better equipped to clear runways faster or with de-icing of a plane. If you travel with only a carry-on, you'll be in a better position to change flights quickly in the event of a cancellation.

Stay on the main roads. If you're driving between destinations, stick to major highways or well-traveled roads. Not only are they likely to be plowed more quickly, there are other people who can come to your rescue easily should you need assistance. Travel also during daylight hours or when car repair shops or convenience stores are more likely to be open. If you're stranded in your vehicle for an extended period of time, run your engine for only a few minutes once or twice an hour to stay warm and conserve gas. While the car is running, be sure to slightly roll down a window to keep carbon monoxide from building up inside.  

Go west. For those looking for a temporary respite from the cold, they could go west to Arizona or south to the Caribbean. You don't have to be a Baby Boomer to become a snowbird every winter. With many Americans and Canadians having the flexibility to work from home or remotely, it may be worth avoiding the coldest weeks of the year by working from someplace sunny.

Enjoy the snow. And there are those who feel it just wouldn't be winter without the snow, despite the cold. Whether you are a skier, snowboarder or just want to lounge at the spa on a snowy backdrop, places such as Aspen, Jackson Hole, or Banff, Canada, can provide the perfect setting.

Source: Travel Leaders Group

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Beating Winter Workplace Blues

January 11, 2018 1:06 am

Cool weather and less light can bring a dip in moods--especially if you spend most of the daylight hours stuck inside an office building. Accountemps shares five tips to help employees beat the winter blues and boost their mood and productivity at work.

Stay active. Take a brisk walk outside (weather permitting) or hit the gym during lunch to clear your mind and get energized to tackle your next project.

Nourish yourself. When you're hungry, snack on fresh fruit or nuts. They're much better for your body and focus than sugary or greasy selections from the vending machine.

Make time for small talk. Sometimes the best ideas come from casual conversations. In between tasks, grab coffee or lunch with a colleague.

Set goals for the year ahead. Now is the time to think about your career objectives and what you would like to accomplish in the coming year. Write them down and have a discussion with your manager about your goals.

Pursue professional development. Explore the idea of attending seminars and workshops to gain new skills, build your network and increase your marketability.

Source: Accountemps

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Reducing Credit Card Debt: 6 Ways

January 11, 2018 1:06 am

Like many Americans, you may be looking for a way to bring down your credit card debt. To help, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) offers the following six tips.

Pause some spending. Identify any automated payments that can be eliminated or temporarily paused while you're paying off debt. Consider delaying or reducing large annual expenses, such as vacations or holiday spending, for one year. These temporary changes can help you pay off debt faster.

Reduce your interest rates. Take an inventory of all your credit cards, including the interest rates and minimum payments. Next, call your credit card companies to ask if they will waive any late payments or reduce your interest rate.

Eliminate your most expensive card first. Pay the monthly minimum on each card to avoid fees. Apply any left-over money to the highest interest-rate card first. Once this card is paid off, take the amount you were paying and apply it to the card with the second highest interest rate while continuing to make minimum payments on all other cards. Repeat until you have paid off all your credit cards.

Create a written budget . A written budget will help you stay out of debt in the future. Allocate some of your spending to an emergency fund so that you are prepared if a job loss or health crisis arises. Check in with your budget each month.

Set financial goals and focus on the long-term. What is most important to you? Do you want to save for a home or go back to school? Articulate your goals so you're more driven to reach them. The changes you make in the short term are temporary and purposeful and will help you reach future goals.

Toast yourself. Being debt free is an important milestone that is worth sharing and celebrating. Create a memory – a visit with a friend or a social media post – that you can recall when you are tempted to overspend again in the future.

Source: National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA)

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Are You at Risk for Carbon Monoxide Poisoning?

January 9, 2018 1:57 am

Everyone who uses oil, natural gas, liquid propane, or wood and pellet stoves should make sure their heating system has been cleaned and inspected within the last year. If the burning of fuel is incomplete, carbon monoxide gas can form and build up in your home, health experts warn.

Since this deadly gas by-product has no odor or warning properties, a carbon monoxide alarm is the only way to know if it’s building up in your home.

If you have a carbon monoxide alarm, it’s important to test it to make sure it works. If you don’t have one, what are you waiting for?

Be sure to place the carbon monoxide alarm in your living space, preferably close to bedrooms or where you spend the most time. You can also place another carbon monoxide alarm in the basement near the furnace as an early warning signal.

If you heat your home with electricity and use a portable generator or a stationary home backup generator during power outages, it’s very important to have a working carbon monoxide alarm because deadly gas can enter your home around window casings, door frames, and penetrate through outside walls.

Sometimes it's hard to tell if you have early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning because those symptoms can resemble the flu. A headache, feeling light headed and sleepiness are common to both illnesses.

If there are people in the house and a number of them develop symptoms around the same time, carbon monoxide gas may be seeping into your living space. The longer you’re exposed, the more dangerous it is.

If not treated quickly, exposure can cause brain damage and death. If you think you may have carbon monoxide
poisoning, get people and pets out of the house immediately.

Once outside, call 911 from a cellphone or neighbor’s house.

Questions about placement of carbon monoxide detectors, warning equipment and battery vs. hardwiring or other technologies should be directed to your local building official or fire marshal.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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7 Practical Ways to Improve Organization

January 9, 2018 1:57 am

Many of us wish we were more organized. From the state of our home, to our business and finances, organization can make much of life easier, or more difficult. The following tips come from Time Timer, a trusted tool for organizational professionals, families, schools and businesses to help people manage time more effectively by visualizing how time elapses.

Declutter and put everything in its place. If this seems overwhelming, set a timer for 20 minutes and do a blitz pick up.

Make a list of everything you need to do this coming year, month and week, and then prioritize which tasks are most important.

Do the boring (to you) tasks first and get them out of the way instead of spending time dwelling on having to do them.

Break up big jobs into manageable chunks of time so they seem less daunting. Some even suggest breaking up your resolution into chunks to make your goal more attainable.

Schedule breaks in your day. Take a walk, grab a cup of coffee, check your social media accounts and then get back to work with a fresh mind.

Audit your time weekly and make adjustments. Did you spend too much time on email? Set specific times for email and then turn off your push notifications. Whatever it is that’s a time parasite, rearrange the time spent on it.

Set firm boundaries so that work doesn't creep into life too much and vice versa. There are sometimes exceptions, but the 9 p.m. work emails are not usually a crisis, are they? And how much time of your work day are you spending looking at a friend's baby registry? Allow yourself a few minutes and then get back to work.

Managing time is key to getting and staying organized. A tool that helps one understand and track their time better can help them reach all of their 2018 goals.

Souce: Time Timer®

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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