Sunbeam Tip #9: 9 Home Security Tips

Sunbeam Tip #9: 9 Home Security Tips

Did you know that a burglary happens every 16 seconds in the U.S., according to the FBI?1

Your home is one of your most valuable possessions, along with everything inside. It is a place you want to feel safe and secure from the potential dangers of the outside world. Employing and engaging in some basic best practices around home security is the first step to help create a secure environment for your loved ones and family.

Consider these tips to help keep you and your family, and your possessions, safe and secure.

  • Landscape with safety in mind. As you walk around your property, look for areas that could be potential hiding spots for thieves, who prize the privacy they provide. Try and clear away any overgrown areas.
  • Talk with your local police department. Ask your police department to come and inspect your home and property and provide suggestions to increase home security. They can also offer insight on past break-in trends in your area.
  • Know your neighbors. Take the time to meet and engage with people on your street and encourage them to watch out for any suspicious activity when you are not home.
  • Lighting matters. Lighting can set the right ambiance inside your home, but outdoor lighting can be the difference between your home being targeted – or not – by thieves.
  • Motion-sensitive fixtures can help add security and provide light when needed. Also consider using automatic timers or a smart lightbulb that can be controlled remotely to turn lights on and off in various parts of the house to help make it seem like you are home.
  • Avoid advertising that shopping spree. Thieves look for and steal newly-delivered boxes on your front porch, a method called porch pirating, so consider having them delivered elsewhere or requiring a signature for delivery. Thieves may also look at clues provided by your trash or recycling, which may indicate the new computer or flat-screen television inside.
  • Set a safety routine. Make sure you establish a routine where you regularly lock all doors, shut windows and turn on your alarm system every time you leave your home.
  • Avoid leaving spare keys outside, under a planter or under a welcome mat, as thieves know most of the potential hiding places.
  • Manage visibility. Make sure you can see who is at your front door without opening it. Avoid placing valuables where they will be visible from the street, and do not place your home alarm panel in a place where people can see you arming it from the outside.
  • Protect your outdoor valuables. Burglars also target sheds, garages and other outdoor buildings. Secure your grill, lawn mower, bicycles and other outdoor gear.
  • Create a plan for when you are away. Hold your mail, stop your papers and ask a friend or neighbor to remove flyers from your property. Arrange for snow removal and lawn mowing so you do not advertise when you are away from home.

Courtesy of:

Sources:  ¹

Lessons Learned:

Being proactive matters!  You will never be 100% secure, no matter where you are.  Work diligently to reduce risk.

Sunbeam Tip #8: Health Tips

11 Basic Guidelines for General Health and Longevity Infographic

A healthy lifestyle is essential to achieving optimal wellbeing and longevity. This infographic, “11 Basic Guidelines for General Health and Longevity,” gives you useful tips to help you live a long and healthy life. Use the embed code to share it on your website or visit our infographic page for the high-res version.

<img src="" alt="11 Basic Guidelines for General Health and Longevity" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"><p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">A healthy lifestyle is essential to achieving optimal wellbeing and longevity. This infographic, "<a href="">11 Basic Guidelines for General Health and Longevity</a>", gives you useful tips to help you live a long and healthy life. Visit our infographic page for the high-res version.</p>

Sunbeam Tip #7: Choosing Safe Cars for Teens

Sunbeam Tip #7: Choosing Safe Cars for Teens

If your teenager has just gotten a driver’s license, it may be hard to imagine handing over the keys to your brand new car, but that may be the smartest vehicle to choose.

However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) say there is something worried parents can do to protect their teens — choose a safe vehicle.

  • Avoid vehicles that encourage reckless driving. Teen drivers not only lack experience, but may also lack maturity. As a result, speeding and reckless driving are common. When you are picking a vehicle for your teen, avoid sports cars or other vehicles with high performance features that could encourage speeding or other reckless driving.
  • Do not let your teen drive an unstable vehicle. Sport utility vehicles, especially the smaller ones, are inherently less stable than cars because of their higher centers of gravity. Abrupt steering maneuvers — the kind that can occur when teens are distracted or over-correcting a driver error — can be more likely to cause rollovers. A more stable car would, at worst, skid or spin out.
  • Pick a vehicle that offers good crash protection. Teenagers should drive vehicles that offer state-of-the-art protection in case they do crash.
  • Do not let your teen drive a small vehicle. Small vehicles offer much less protection in crashes than larger ones. However, this does not mean you should put your child in the largest vehicle you can find. Many mid- and full-size cars offer more than adequate crash protection. Check out the safety ratings for mid-size and larger cars.
  • Avoid older vehicles. Most of today’s cars are better designed for crash protection than cars of six to ten years ago. For example, a newer, mid-size car with airbags would be a better choice than an older, larger car without airbags. Before you make a final choice on the car your teenager will drive, consult the U.S. Department of Transportation or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Courtesy of
Source: Insurance Information Institute;

Lessons Learned:

I don’t know about you, but I would have missed the mark by putting my kid in a older model, small vehicle.  Glad Travelers provided this info!

Sunbeam Tip #6: What you need to know about the repair process after an accident.

Sunbeam Tip #6: What you need to know about the repair process after an accident.

Getting in touch with your insurance provider’s claims department should be one of the first things you do after an accident, after taking care of your personal safety of course. Once you are safe and made the call, depending on the type of damage, your insurance claim professional may need to schedule a time to inspect your vehicle to determine what needs to be repaired or replaced and will send out a claims adjuster.  Stay on your toes!  They work for the insurance company, not you!  Their end goal is to satisfactorily take care of your claim at minimal cost.  Just remember this when they treat you like long lost high school buddies.

When your car is damaged in an accident, you have the option of going to a repair shop of your choice or one assigned to you by your insurance company, known as a direct repair shop.  If you don’t have a repair shop in mind, their recommendation may be a good one for you, but don’t be afraid to check out the repair shop on your own.  Ask questions, look at reviews and check with the Better Business Bureau.  There are good and bad shops out there and just because the shop is recommended, doesn’t necessarily mean the shop is head and shoulders above the rest.

It is not uncommon for additional damage to be found after the repairs have begun. The repair facility will make a list of the additional damage and contact the insurance provider to review it before repairing any damage not included in your estimate.  Your chosen repair facility and your claim professional will discuss the difference in estimates and work together to make sure quality repairs are performed on your vehicle.

It’s important to note that sometimes repair shops will use aftermarket parts (parts manufactured by third-party operators rather than by the maker of your car) to repair your car. Even if your insurance company employs the use of aftermarket parts, you may have the right to insist on original equipment manufacturer parts–check the laws of your state. However, some insurance companies will not pay you for the total cost of your repairs if you insist on parts manufactured by the original maker. The insurance company may also want to push you towards used parts. These are parts that can be purchased at an auto salvager from another damaged car.  These parts are likely OEM parts and are a good replacement if your car is damaged. If your choice is between good condition used parts from an salvager or non-OEM parts, choose the aftermarket parts. Especially when it comes to safety-related parts (e.g., airbags and tires) always insist that the repair shop replace the damaged parts with new parts no matter if they are OEM or not.

Lessons Learned:

  • The claims department works to limit how much is paid out on a claim and that is likely at your expense.  Proceed with caution.
  • “Things” can be repaired and replaced.  Keep that in mind when trying to get back whole after an accident.  Your health is far more important than stressing about your vehicle.


Sunbeam Tip #5: What to do after an auto accident

Sunbeam Tip #5: What to do after an auto accident

So, you’ve just been involved in an accident….  Well, unless you have participated in a demolition derby, you are a race car driver or something similar, you probably are a little out of sorts, at least mentally, if not physically as well.  You may not feel the adrenaline pumping in your veins at the moment but it is there and your body is on full alert.  The list of things you see below may seem obvious.  Just roll with it and try to mentally picture this once your moment comes because there are many things that you think of after the fact, once you’ve calmed down and then it is too late to go back.  So here we go!

  • Keep cool, calm and collected, as best you can.  Take a deep breath, then go handle your business!
  • Move out of the way of traffic, and turn on your hazard lights.
  • Call the police, even if it is a minor accident. If someone is injured, request medical assistance. If fire is involved, request fire department aid.
  • Exchange information with the other driver(s).
  • Don’t forget to write down the license plate numbers of all involved vehicles. If it’s safe to do so, take pictures of the accident scene and the involved vehicles.
  • If you can’t report your claim right away (or even if you can), you can record the details of your accident while you are “in the moment”.  No pen or paper, no worries!  Remember the “Smart” phone you have in your pocket?  Use it to its fullest potential.  Do this by taking audio recordings, pictures and video.  The more severe the accident, the more likely there are things that you’ll forget about.  For this reason alone, you need to “brain dump” as much as possible into your device.  Remember, even though you are projecting “cool and calm”, you are nothing but “cool and calm”on the inside. Stories change, your recollection changes, eye witnesses disappear so think like a crime scene investigator when collecting your info.
  • Report to your insurance company as soon as possible. The sooner you report, the sooner you can reap the benefits of the coverage you paid for.  You do have adequate coverage right?  Bring in the professionals and let them operate for you.

Lesson Learned:

Be proactive after an accident and give your “team” as much ammunition as possible to deal with the accident in your favor, while maintaining your health and safety.  Oh, and kiss your loved ones when you get home.  Today could have ended in a very different way!

Sunbeam Tip #4: Why Permanent or Whole Life Insurance is Good

Sunbeam Tip #4: Why Permanent or Whole Life Insurance is Good

Continuing with the series talking about using the proper financial “Tools” to accomplish our family goals….Today we will be discussing the Great benefits that can be reaped from using a “Whole-Life” product.  We will focus on the negatives next week, so for those of you who’d prefer do bash the products under this umbrella….give the rest of us a moment!  There are a few names that “Whole-Life” may go as, including “Permanent” or “Ordinary”

Sunbeam Tip #3: Why Term Life Insurance is Bad

Sunbeam Tip #3: Why Term Life Insurance is Bad

Hey! Don’t get me wrong.  If you have been following along, I have clearly pointed out several situations where “Term Life Insurance is Good” (see Sunbeam Tip #2).  That being said, there are plenty of situations where “Term” is clearly not the right choice.  Below are a few of those situations.

  1. Yes, It is CHEAP!  There is are several reasons why it is cheap!  Most agents will never tell you that less than 1% of “Term” policies are ever paid a death benefit (1993 study done by Penn State University).  Yep, you heard it here first!  The study was conducted on only 20,000 policies but it stands to reason that the >1% number would be accurate considering that many term policies are purchased through a group plan at your job. Many times the policy is not transferable, so you lose your job or start a new job, you also lose your coverage.  Many others without a group policy, will let their policy lapse, resulting in pure profit for the insurance company after commissions to the broker.
  2. A term policy is meant to be for a specified period of time.  Well, more often than not, you’ll live past that specified period of time.  Consider this….if the policy was meant to cover your funeral and burial expenses, and you outlive the policy…..did you really accomplish the goal you set?  If this happens, think “Fish Fry or Bake Sale” for your family.  If you happen to be in the >1% who “wins” at the life insurance game, the highly rated company will, more times than not, be glad to pay.  It is a small price to pay considering they have covered their bet using the other <99%.
  3.  So far, I’ve mentioned how easy a term policy is to obtain.  The one caveat I failed to mention is….if you are young!  If you are in the final stages of your life or have been diagnosed with an illness that the industry does not take kindly to…..GOOD LUCK!  There are ways around everything so let’s just put it this way….your choices diminish and the prices go up as you are aging gracefully.

Lessons Learned:

I’ll say it again, there are many good reasons to buy a Term life insurance policy but it has to be the right “Tool” to accomplish the goals you set forth for your family.  If you start a policy, maintain it.  If you do choose a term policy, talk with a broker and buy an individual policy.  Yes, it will be a little more expensive compared to a group policy but it won’t be capped by your salary, it won’t matter what job you are working or if you are working at all.  There is nothing like having a group policy and believing your family is protected then get sick and no longer have the protection because your sick bed won’t fit into your cubical!  It’s funny, but Naw, not so much!

Sunbeam Tip #2: Why Term Life Insurance is good

Sunbeam Tip #2: Why Term Life Insurance is good.

Last week, we talked about picking the right “Tool” for the the job of protecting your family.  This week’s tip focuses on the positives of “Term” life insurance.  There are negatives, but we will save that for next week.  So here it is:

  1. It is cheap!  There are clear exceptions to how “cheap” it is but, holding everything equal, when compared to a whole life product, Term will always be cheaper, as of the date of quote.  Term life is used to cover the need for higher payouts for such things as a mortgage, college tuition for the kids or replacing the income of the deceased.
  2. Easy to obtain through your employer.  If you want a term policy, the cheapest, easiest way to get covered is through your job.  Usually capped at a multiple of your salary, getting a group term policy can be as easy as applying a check mark at the time of enrollment into your benefits.  There are drawbacks to group coverage but only positives today!
  3. It lasts for a specific period of time.  This last one can be good or bad depending on your situation, there are many instances where you’ll use a cheap term policy to cover a particular situation and you don’t want to be married to the product for the rest of your life.  Some of these situations include:  Covering the kids until they graduate, business dealings where you need your partner covered for a certain period.  Another type of term policy called “Decreasing Term” will cover the mortgage of your home and disappear once you’ve paid off the note.

Lessons Learned:

A term policy, for the most part, is easy to obtain, very low cost and has good versatility for various situations.  Term policies should be used when there is a specified period of time under consideration and/or there is a large dollar amount needed at redemption.

How to protect against Identity Theft

Seems like we hear more and more these days about major security breaches from some large box store, but the truth is there are many ways that we can be taken advantage of.  We must remain vigilant to protect ourselves from the many traps that exist.  This article will serve as a guide to not only let you know of the ways identity theft can happen but also a few practical ways to protect yourself from harm.  Take these tips to heart because the dangers are real and can cause serious damage to your reputation as well as your finances.

Identity Theft is defined as the fraudulent acquisition and use of a person’s private identifying information, usually for financial gain.  It is a serious crime that can disrupt your finances, credit history and your reputation.  Patience, time and money will be needed to resolve all the damage caused by this invasion of privacy.

There are several ways that thieves can receive your information including:

  • Dumpster Diving: Yes, people really do this! Thieves are not above digging for gold.  There is plenty of information that can be gathered from bills and other documents that we discard with abandon.
  • Going deep sea “Phishing”: Emails have made life much simpler by receiving information at a faster pace. The same could be said for how simple it is for thieves to receive your personal data.  Clicking the wrong email could inadvertently send personally identifiable information to thieves even if you are clicking the ‘unsubscribe’ link.
  • Social Engineering: We field calls every day from various companies/individuals asking for information. Thieves like to offer a job, a loan, or an apartment, and ask you to send personal information to “qualify.”
  • An inside job: As much information as we provide legitimate businesses we are still at risk. Many thieves work normal everyday jobs and are trusted employees at their respective places of work.  Places like medical offices, government agencies, and businesses that we interact with every day are vulnerable to employees stealing personal information from the businesses clients.
  • Thug life: Sometimes criminals are not so sophisticated in their tactics.  Stealing your wallet, purse or backpack is simple as it gets for a thief receiving your information.  The result is a lot less simple since they can really cause some damage now that they potentially have your driver’s license, passport, health insurance card, credit cards and other items that may show your personal information.  If you still carry your social security card in your wallet or purse, just say no!  Unless you have a specific reason to carry it, drop it in a safe deposit box for safe keeping

As scary as all this sounds, there are some simple ways to reduce the risk of your identity being stolen.  You’ve stuck with me this long!  Here is where your vigilance pays off by getting these few golden nuggets to stop thieves in their tracks!

  • Check your credit report: You have the right to a free credit report from each of the three national credit reporting companies.  So technically, you could check your credit every 4 months for free.  To order, go to or call 1-877-322-8228.  If you find errors ACT!
  • Buy a good great shredder: A “cross-cut” shredder is not good enough considering the sophistication of today’s thieves and computer technology.  Shredding using a cross-cut shredder leaves the thief with a puzzle to reassemble and thieves use computers to do the work for them.  To avoid the puzzle pieces purchase a “Micro-Security cut” shredder.  It will cost more but remember the end goal.  The extra cost is money well spent because the paper is pulverized and the information won’t be retrievable.  After you finally get the right shredder, use it early and often!  Anything that has your name or information on it, shred it!  Even if the information is innocuous to you and me, the thieves have the upper hand because they know what to look for.  Shred even the front/back cover those old magazines where your address is provided.  The bar above your name and address contains information that is valuable…shred it!
  • Check your bank, credit card and any other account statements regularly. If you don’t receive the statement or if it has mistakes, make sure to follow up with your bank and verify everything is within order.
  • When receiving unsolicited emails beware! If you receive email that you know to be spam, don’t click anything!  Just because the link says ‘unsubscribe’ does not mean that is what the link is for.  By clicking the link, you could be giving access to your computer or worse, accepting a download of a virus. It is best to add it to your spam filter and delete!
  • Secure Passwords: To create a secure password, you should use upper and lower case alphabetic characters, numeric characters and special characters. The passcode should be least 8 characters in length.  It can be difficult to remember so most people like to use common words that are important in their life but this will increase the likelihood of the password being compromised.  Instead, use phrases that mean something to you but not to others.  Many remember the phrase: Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally, to remember their order of operations in math.  To represent this, a password like 1(Emd@$5 would be easier to remember.  The jumble of characters would mean nothing to anyone else but you and I.  I used the ‘1’ and ‘5’ to represent 2015 but separated them to raise the difficulty of guessing.  Most people will simply add a ‘1’ at the end of their passcode to get a number in the mix.  Thieves know this fact, making it easier for them to figure out at least one character, making the password much easier to solve.
  • Beware of anyone calling and asking you for information. If you know it is your doctor’s office, that’s one thing but having a random person calling and asking for info is a no-no.  If you don’t know the person, tell them you will call them back.  Most legitimate places are fine with you calling them back when you have a moment.  Thieves will be pushy, wanting the information before they hang up.  They have a lot of practice at these kinds of things so don’t be fooled.  When you get off the phone, look the number up yourself, then call back knowing the person that you are talking to is legit.
  • When dealing with employees stealing your information, unfortunately, there is not much you can do except keeping your personal information away less reputable businesses (i.e. strip clubs).

You can also lock down your credit by contacting the credit bureaus and requesting that your info be locked.  You may have heard of “LifeLock”.  This is a paid version of something that you really do on your own for minimal cost by calling the three credit bureaus and asking for either a fraud alert or a credit freeze. By the way, if you have minor children, you should freeze their credit until they are of age.  Who needs a credit card in elementary school?

The fun fact about LifeLock is that the owner once advertised his social security number in an effort to demonstrate how secure his service was.  Thieves took his challenge to heart, stole his identity and had a field day at his expense!  So much so, the Federal authorities had to reissue him a new social security number on more than one occasion, a feat that is more difficult than getting a meeting with the President of the United States in the Oval office!  The Feds don’t make a habit of issuing a new social security number to people, so protect the one you got!

No matter how you slice it, we have to be more careful with our information and take extra steps to protect ourselves more than ever.  Being vigilant and informed will go a long way to protecting yourself and your financial livelihood.  For more advice on how to protect yourself, visit or call me at 1-844-2QuoteMe.

About the Author

Zeffrey T. Johnson is the owner of Sunrise Monetary Solutions and QwikiTAX, an Insurance Brokerage and Tax Preparation service respectively.  While QwikiTAX specializes in personal tax returns, Sunrise Monetary Solutions provides business and personal finance solutions including auto home, life, health insurance and employee benefits.

Zeffrey has a dual degree in Accounting and Business Management from Missouri State University and has over 15 years of experience dealing with accounting and finance related issues.  He has served as an auditor in various roles for CPA firms large and small and extensive experience as a business consultant.  Zeffrey has audited or consulted with many of the larger companies in Kansas City, in addition to working with governmental agencies like the Department of Justice, Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation.  He was also named Kansas City’s 2015 & 2016 Tax Preparer of the year by

On a lighter note, Zeffrey, his wife (Regina) and three kids (Amayah, Zander and Tiana) live in Lawrence, KS.  He enjoys watching football and learning about photography.  He attends Ninth Street Missionary Baptist Church and is active on several church committees.

His office is located at the VFW Building, 406 West 34th Street, Suite 105A, KCMO 64111 and can be reached at 1-844-2QuoteMe (1-844-278-6836)

Sunbeam Tip #1: Choose the proper financial “Tool” for your situation.

Sunbeam Tip #1: Choose the proper financial “Tool” for your situation.

While there are many professionals in our industry, who has an opinion on term vs. whole life insurance, they are two very different financial instruments and used in different ways to accomplish your goals.  A master carpenter would not recommend using a saw to put a nail in a board.  If he does, find a new carpenter!  Any insurance broker worth his salt, would not recommend using a whole life product to pay off your six figure mortgage, should the untimely occur.  Nor would the same agent rest your desire to cover your final expenses (funeral & burial costs) in a term life policy.

Lesson Learned:

Sit with your agent/broker and discuss, in detail, what you have going on and what your wishes are for your family, when the time comes.  If they are good at what they do, they will marry the right “tool” to the situation.  Make certain that you meet with your broker every so often, because your family needs will change as they go through the different stages of life.