Business Digest - February, 2011

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Practical Tax Strategies for Procrastinators   Assisted Living Questions To Ask   Green Living Tip   Theo's Corner

Good Driving is Not Enough 

It makes sense-you make sure that you follow all the traffic safety rules, obey the speed limit, and you can avoid an accident. But unfortunately, that is not enough. The best driver will still encounter the very bad driver, sometimes with terrible consequences. Many times it is the "good" drivers, those who are not at fault in an accident, who are killed. How do you protect yourself from the other drivers on the road?  

Head-on collisions are the most dangerous of all accidents. Surprisingly, the vast majority of head-on collisions do not occur at night or in bad weather, and about 63 percent of head-on accidents occur not on curves or when passing, but when the driver is steering straight. Often these drivers are distracted by others in the car, talking on a cell phone, texting, or tuning the radio. And in good weather, drivers let down their guard, not driving as carefully as they do when the roads are wet or icy. Your best bet to avoid these types of drivers is to avoid the types of roads that make them so dangerous. If you have a choice, a highway or a large road with medians is always safer than one without. Only 14 percent of all fatalities occur on major highways, making them the safest way to travel. 

You may stop at every stop sign, but you know from experience that not everyone else does. Want to protect yourself from those stop sign runners? Then take it slow. Approach all intersections with caution. Watch other cars to make sure that they are slowing and coming to a stop. And most importantly, watch the other driver. If he or she is not looking your way, wait until they do, so that you can know that you have been seen.  

Red light running is an even deadlier problem. At a busy intersection, drivers will run a red light every five minutes on average. Red-light running is on the rise, with fatal accidents at red lights increasing three times the rate of all other types of deadly crashes. Your best bet here is to again take it slow. Even if your light has turned green, take a moment to look left and right before proceeding through the intersection. Don't consider that yellow light a reason to speed up. Brake on yellows to avoid becoming a red light runner yourself.  

Teaming these strategies with the basic precautions of looking far ahead and staying alert when you drive can help you from becoming a victim of the bad drivers on the road. But no matter how good a driver you are, don't forget to use your seat belt every time you drive.

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Practical Tax Strategies for Procrastinators

Tax season is upon us. If you are one of those filers who usually waits until the last minute, you may decide to try to get this chore out of the way sooner this year. In order to make the process of filing your taxes easier, keep these simple steps in mind. 

  • The first step you should take is to get organized. Gather all of the forms required to complete your filing, along with W-2s, 1099s, receipts, and all other information you'll need.

  • Next, decide if you will be completing the forms yourself or whether you will be using a tax professional. Don't wait until the last minute to call for an appointment. In this case, it truly is the sooner the better or you may face having to use a harried and rushed accountant.

  • Get educated about all the deductions pertaining to your situation, including those available even if you don't itemize. These include IRA and Qualified Pension Contributions, moving expenses, student loan interest, higher education expenses, adoption, alimony, Medical Savings Account deductions, child credits, and some deductions for the self-employed.

  • Forms can be downloaded from the IRS's website at irs.gov. You can also call 1-800-TAX-FORM and can find forms at local IRS offices, many banks, post offices, and public libraries.

  • You'll also need to decide how you are going to file your return. In order to receive your refund more quickly, you may choose to e-file. You can also use direct deposit, even if you file a paper return. If you owe money instead of expecting a refund, remember that you still need to estimate and pay your taxes even if you are requesting an extension. There are penalties and interest for not filing, as well as for not paying. So if your return is completed, but you still haven't mailed it in, get it off your desk before those deadlines. 

  • Experts do recommend, however, to not send in your tax return if you've completed it in a hurry and haven't had time to double-check your information.

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Assisted Living: Questions to Ask

Choosing an assisted living facility for yourself or a loved one can be a challenge. This decision should be made by the person considering moving, family members, and his or her doctors. Be sure to take your time and visit as many facilities as possible. Once you've narrowed down your list, try to visit each facility more than once at different times of day, including mornings, evenings, and mealtimes. Before you begin your search, consider these questions to ask:

  1. What are the admission requirements?

  2. What services are offered?

  3. Is the facility licensed?

  4. How often is the facility assessed and monitored?

  5. How long has the facility been operating?

  6. What is the monthly cost?

  7. Are there any extra costs for additional services?

  8. Do they accept Medicare or Medicaid?

  9. How often are rates increased?

  10. Are there any restrictions on the type of patients they admit?

  11. Are there full-time physicians, registered nurses, and social workers on staff?

  12. Under what circumstances would a resident be forced to leave?

  13. How are complaints handled?

  14. What is done in medical emergencies, and what emergency care is available?

  15. What security measures are in place?

  16. Are transportation services available?

  17. Are pets allowed?

  18. Are residents able to bring their own furniture?

  19. Are rooms shared or private?

  20. What types of meals are offered?

  21. What activities are available?

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Green Living Tip

Did you know that loose fill polystyrene packaging (packing peanuts) are recyclable? It can be a challenge to find a facility that will accept them. The Plastic Loose Fill Council runs a Peanut Hotline at 800-828-2214. This toll-free, automated 24-hour service will provide you with the location of the nearest site that accepts loose fill packaging for reuse.

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Theo's Corner

Is It Time for Your Pet's Checkup?

Has it been a while since your pet has seen a veterinarian? Your pet needs to be vaccinated on a regular schedule and needs to have regular exams by a vet. Although your pet may seem to be in perfect health, many times illness or diseases may not show themselves to a pet owner. And some animals are very good at hiding their illness.

In general, if your pet is a young animal (typically seven years old or younger for cats and dogs), you will need to have your pet seen by a vet once a year. If your pet has a known medical condition or takes medication, you may need to have him or her seen more often. Once your pet is older than eight years old, you will need to have an examination once every six months. This ensures that any early signs of illness can be spotted early and treated more effectively.

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