Get Gardening Muscles in Shape and Prevent Injuries

Get Gardening Muscles in Shape and Prevent Injuries. Before digging, pruning, and planting, make sure you’re ready for the work

by Susan Moeller, AARP, March 15, 2021

Christine Zellers tries to run five miles every day and, at 53, considers herself to be in shape. But even she admits that gardening can leave her sore and achy.

“I feel it, especially in the beginning of the season,” she says. 

Zellers, an assistant professor of family and community health sciences with Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, New Jersey, teaches gardening, leads group exercise classes, and grows vegetables and herbs in her own garden in Ocean City, New Jersey. To protect her body, she tries to remember to stretch and limber up before heading out to dig, plant, or lug big pots around.

“You want to be thinking about the kind of movement you’re going to do and make sure you’re strengthening those body parts, like your core and your back and your legs and your quadriceps,” she says. “So you want to warm up a little bit just like you would if you were going for a run or doing an exercise class.”

Gardeners and health experts warn against jumping into gardening activities without some pre-game preparation to build strength, stamina and aerobic power and prevent injury. 

For example, if your core body strength is off, your balance is also off, making falls a risk, says Maura Daly Iversen, a physical therapist and dean of the College of Health Professions at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. And you need aerobic capacity to do the work, she says.

“My friends that don’t garden think it’s light work,” says Iversen, who admits to being an “over-50” gardener. “But it can be pretty hefty work when you’re removing bushes and whatever. So I think cardiovascular fitness is also important.”

No gym membership needed

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National Bath Safety Month | Shield Insurance Agency

National Bath Safety Month

4 Tips for National Bath Safety Month

Keep the fun in the tub throughout the month of January.

Stay with her. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children 4 and under always have a parent or caregiver present when they are near water, including the tub. Accidents can happen in an instant.

Prevent slips. 

Young children do not have the coordination or strength to hold steady if they lose their balance. Affix a slip-resistant plastic mat that suctions to the bottom of the tub and make sure the throw rug outside the tub does not slide when stepped on. Consider installing a grab bar for kids to hold onto when stepping in and out of the bath.

Test the temperature. 

Always wait until the tub is finished filling up before placing your child in the water, as the temperature can change. Set your home’s water heater to deliver water no hotter than 120 degrees to lower the risk of scalding. If you don’t have control over the heater, buy an anti-scald device that attaches to the faucet.

Beware of Sharp Edges

Use a rubber cover for the faucet head and drape a towel over metal rails for shower doors when your child is in the bath. Make sure any glass shower doors are made of shatterproof glass. Avoid bath toys with hard edges or points that could be hazardous if your child falls onto them.

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Independent Agents

Independent Agents vs. Captive Agents

When you’re in the market for insurance, whether it’s home, auto or commercial insurance, you typically work with an agent who can help you find a policy that meets your needs. But most people don’t know that there are two different kinds of insurance agents—captive and independent agents.

So what is an independent insurance agent vs. a captive insurance agent? In short, captive insurance agents are contracted to work for one insurance company and can only sell that company’s policies. On the other hand, independent agents are contracted to work with a variety of insurance companies and can sell policies from multiple providers.

As a consumer, it’s important to understand the distinctions between captive and independent agents. Although they sound the same, some people may benefit from working with a captive agent and others with an independent agent. In this article, we’ll explain the key differences and help you decide which agent is best for you.

Captive agents

Most of the major insurance companies, like State Farm, Allstate and Farmers, use captive agents to sell their insurance products. Their agents are only selling policies from that one insurer, so the agents are experts at knowing the different policies available, discounts and coverage add-ons for their one carrier.

Because of that, they can be helpful for people who are buying insurance for the first time or for people who aren’t sure how much coverage to purchase.

Client satisfaction is crucial for captive agents because they get a commission for every earned sale. However, their commission rate tends to be lower than for independent agents because they are also paid a salary from the insurance company and get financial assistance with costs like advertising and hiring.

Independent agents

Independent agents partner with several insurance companies of their choosing to sell certain policies from each provider. For example, an independent agent might contract with Pioneer Insurance, Frankenmuth Insurance,and Citizens Insurance and sell any of their auto and home insurance policies.

Many consumers like working an independent insurance agent because an independent agent gives the customer more options. They aren’t locked into purchasing from a small number of plans that might be too expensive or not a great fit for their coverage needs. Those options help people shop around for plans before settling on one.

Which is better?

Generally speaking, there isn’t one better type of insurance agent. Whether you choose to work with a captive agent or an independent agent depends on you.

The main benefit of working with a captive agent is that they have extensive knowledge of their insurers products and policies, because they have one carrier. However, working with a captive agent tends to be more expensive, due to extra fees that the insurance company charges.

If you work with an independent agent, you’ll get more options, which also means a wider price range. But independent agents have in-depth knowledge about numerous carriers, where captives only need to learn one. Also, independent agents usually charge less because there isn’t one parent company to support.

If you’re concerned with keeping costs low, working with an independent agent will save you money. Keep in mind that you should already have a general idea of what you’re looking for before meeting with an agent.

Frequently asked questions

What type of insurance do independent and captive agents sell?

Both independent and captive agents can sell any kind of insurance they want. Some choose to sell every product that an insurer offers, while others specialize in a few areas, like home and life insurance.

Should I choose an independent or a captive agent?

There are a few main reasons why you would choose an independent vs. a captive agent. The first is cost—working with an independent agent will be cheaper than working with a captive agent. Secondly, independent agents can offer a wider variety of plans, so you have more choices and a wider price range to work from.

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shield agency home insurance

How to handle 10 common home emergencies

You love your home. Make sure you know how to keep it — and you and your loved ones — safe and sound. Here are 10 common home emergencies and how to handle them.

1. Kitchen fire.

The most common culprit of a kitchen fire is an inattentive cook. It’s never a good idea to leave your stovetop or oven unattended when food is cooking. Prevent kitchen fires by cooking during times when you won’t need to step away from the kitchen.

If a kitchen fire happens, take these steps:

  • For a small grease fire, try smothering it with baking soda or sliding a metal lid over the pan to suffocate the fire. Turn off the stove. Never use water to put out a grease fire; it can be dangerous and make the situation worse.
  • For an oven fire, keep the oven door closed and turn off the oven.
  • If the fire continues, help everyone to evacuate the house, close the door behind you and call 911 from a safe distance from your home.

Also, remember to regularly check your smoke detectors. Put a reminder on your calendar to test all the smoke detectors in your home monthly, and promptly replace batteries when needed. Consider replacing all your smoke detectors every 10 years.

2. Water leak.

Whether it’s a slow drip or a steady stream, the best thing you can do is know where your home’s main water valve is located — typically it’s in the basement or near the front of the house — which controls the flow of water into your home and learn how to turn off your water in an emergency to prevent water damage to your home. Then you will need to call a plumber for assistance.

If your ceiling is leaking, gather buckets or plastic sheets under the leak to help prevent water damage. Then try to track down the source of the leak. If it’s likely a roofing issue, it’s best to call a professional right away to assess the situation and help with repairs.

Finally, take steps to insulate your pipes before the weather turns cold to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.

3. Water overflow.

Anything that holds a lot of water in your house can potentially overflow into the surrounding area. Here’s how to handle a water overflow

  • When a toilet overflows, find the valve behind the toilet near the wall and turn it off to stop the flow of water. Then, quickly mop up any standing water. Finally, try to determine the cause. Look for issues with the fill tube and float as well as for clogs or other issues that could be keeping the toilet from draining. If you’re still stumped, call your plumber for assistance.
  • When your bathtub or sink overflows, first stop the flow of water — whether it’s as simple as turning off the faucet or by shutting off the main water valve to your home if the faucet is broken. Then, quickly mop up standing water to prevent further damage. If the faucet is broken, make necessary repairs before using that sink or bathtub again.

4. Flooded basement.

Whatever the cause, if your basement is flooded with water, the most important thing is that you NEVER enter a flooded basement. For your own health and safety call your utility companies first, and stay away until they have turned off the electricity and gas. Then, it’s best to hire a professional to help you clean up, mitigate the damage to your home and help prevent you and your family from becoming sick. You will need to throw out anything the flood water reached unless it can be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

5. Power outage.


When the power goes out, check to see if nearby homes and streetlights still have power. If their lights are still on, check your breakers. If the neighborhood is dark too, then call your power company, or visit their website, to report the power outage and ask for an estimated repair time

Stay safe by following these steps:

  • Use flashlights. Don’t light candles. Keep your flashlights in an easy-to-find location, test them monthly, and keep spare batteries in a known and accessible location. If you don’t have a flashlight, your cell phone can help provide some light to help guide you safely through your home.
  • Keep your refrigerator door closed. Food can spoil in a refrigerator after the power has been out for more than 4 hours.
  • Turn off or unplug electronics. If the lights were on or you were using any electrical equipment, like a computer, when the power went out, switch your lights off and unplug your electronics.

If you anticipate having a power outage that lasts for days, such as after a hurricane, consider investing in a generator that can help provide electricity to essential things in your home, like a refrigerator or freezer. Be sure to follow all safety instructions while using it.

6. Carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is a clear, odorless gas that can cause severe illness or even death. The symptoms are often like the flu without a fever. If you think you have carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911.

The best way to prevent a carbon monoxide emergency is to:

  • Use carbon monoxide detectors and test them once a month to make sure they’re in good working order. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to learn how often to replace your carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Have gas appliances inspected at least once a year.
  • Properly vent all gas furnaces, water heaters and fireplaces.
  • Follow all safety instructions for gas-powered appliances, such as space heaters and generators.

7. Gas leak.

When a natural gas line leaks, you may smell gas (it smells a lot like rotten eggs). While natural gas lines don’t leak often, you should always take it seriously if it does. A gas leak inside your home can make you sick or even lead to an explosion.

If you notice the smell of natural gas inside your home:

  • Go outside IMMEDIATELY and call the utility company and 911.
  • Don’t try to find the leak.
  • Don’t turn on or off any electrical appliances.
  • Don’t smoke or have any open flames nearby.

8. Broken glass.

Whether it’s a cracked window or a smashed dinner plate, broken glass can be a difficult mess to clean up. Whenever possible, take actions to prevent it, such as closing shutters, blinds and curtains ahead of severe weather or handling glass objects with care. But when it happens, here’s how to clean up broken glass safely:

  • Don’t handle glass with your bare hands. Put on thick or rubber gloves if you have them or use a tool like a piece of cardboard or stiff paper to help you scoop up the large pieces of glass.
  • Next, use large tape, like duct tape, to help you pick up smaller pieces of glass. Because broken glass can travel farther than you might expect, be sure to use your large tape on the surrounding area, too.
  • Finally, mop or wipe up the entire area with wet wipes or doubled-up paper towels. If the glass is in your carpet, thoroughly vacuum the area using a hose attachment and move it in different angles and directions to get as much glass out of the carpet fibers as possible.
  • If the window is broken, you can seal it temporarily by taking a trash bag and cutting it with scissors to fit the window. Tape several layers of this plastic bag to the window’s frame with duct tape. Then immediately schedule a window repair or replacement.

9. HVAC goes out.

When your air conditioning or heating decides to quit, your first call should be to a technician who can inspect it, and if needed, repair or replace it as soon as possible.

If your A/C goes out during warm weather, take steps to keep your body temperature stable to prevent heat stroke and stay comfortable. Here are some things you can do:

  • Drink ice water often and avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol can raise your body temperature.
  • Eat foods that are easy to digest, like fruits and vegetables.
  • Take a washcloth and rinse it under cold water, then put it on your neck, wrists or behind your knees to help keep your body cool.
  • Consider living in the lower level of your home since heat rises. For example, it may be more comfortable to sleep downstairs instead of an upstairs bedroom.

If your furnace stops working during cold weather, stay warm and safe with these tips:

  • Add layers to your clothing.
  • Don’t use your oven for heating.
  • Find a small area inside your home that you can heat with a fireplace or electric space heater. However, someone should stay awake while either of these are used to make sure there aren’t any issues. Be sure that your fireplace has proper ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Hang curtains, quilts or bedspreads over doors and windows.

10. Ant or rodent infestation.

If you have unwelcome house guests that have more than two legs, it’s time to assess the situation so you can send them packing.

  • After you’ve spotted a mouse, walk the perimeter of your home — both on the inside and outside — and look for any signs of mouse activity (for example, mouse droppings, chewing or nests) and look for any small hole or crevice where the mouse could be entering your home. Cover any entry points with sealant or wire mesh. Then, set a series of mouse traps. If you continue to have issues, call a professional right away.
  • When you’ve found a trail of ants, remove them and thoroughly clean anywhere you think they’ve been with a vinegar spray to help remove their ant trail scents. Look for tiny gaps or cracks near windows, doors and floorboards, where the ants may be entering your home. Set up ant traps and consider calling a professional who can determine if there’s an ant nest near your home. If you have large black carpenter ants, call a professional immediately since these ants can cause more damage to your home.

References:
– WebMD
– Familyhandyman.com

Contact your Shield Insurance Agency for complete details on your home insurance coverage and discounts.

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shield agency ride a bike month

National Bike To Work Month

National Bike To Work Month

May is National Bike To Work Month, promoted by the League of American Bicyclists and celebrated in communities from coast to coast. Established in 1956, National Bike Month is a chance to showcase the many benefits of bicycling — and encourage more folks to giving biking a try.

Bike to Work Week 2020 will take place September 21-27, 2020. Bike to Work Day is Tuesday, September 22!

This National Bike To Work Month will necessarily be different. With a focus on well-being and connection, we’re highlighting how #BikesUnite and benefit physical and mental health. Whether you’re riding for fun, fitness or with family, or taking essential trips to work or shop, you are part of our movement for safer streets, connected communities, a healthier planet, and happier people.
 
As a national sponsor, the League provides resources to help you plan an event in your area, and each year the number and diversity of National Bike To Work Month celebrations continues to grow, accelerating the momentum around bicycling nationwide.

PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS FOR NATIONAL BIKE MONTH

In other years, National Bike Month is a success because of the countless, diverse local events organized by dedicated bicyclists in their communities, organizations and workplaces. In 2020, we encourage you to promote biking and connect with others in the movement virtually. Step one: go for a solo bike ride, step two: share your experience on social media with #BikesUnite. 

JOIN US IN SHOWING HOW #BIKESUNITE US EVEN WHILE WE’RE APART »

For additional assistance or questions, please contact communications@bikeleague.org.

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covid benefits shield insurance

Financial Resources For COVID-19

Financial Resources And Relief For Those Affected By COVID-19

Here’s where to go for financial resources if you’ve lost income due to the coronavirus pandemic. By Casey Bond 04/24/2020 05:26pm EDT | Updated April 27, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged us all in ways never imagined. Not only does constant danger lurk of contracting COVID-19, but our daily routines have been turned upside down. It certainly doesn’t help that the virus has also placed enormous financial pressure on workers and businesses owners.

If your income has been affected by the crisis, it can be overwhelming to figure out which bills to pay and where to go for help. The good news is that many financial resources are available if you know where to look.

Benefits.gov is a great place to start, according to Leslie Tayne, a debt resolution lawyer and author of the book “Life & Debt: A Fresh Approach to Achieving Financial Wellness.” “The website helps navigate you to state and federal level benefits, including unemployment insurance, job placement and training, and more,” she said.

For legal assistance, check out your local bar association’s website. Tayne noted that many of the associations are updating their websites with COVID-19-specific financial resources for legal help during this time.

USA.gov is another official government resource that contains trustworthy information, Tayne said. Its Disaster Financial Assistance page responds to commonly asked questions and provides information about the CARES Act, including such matters as stimulus checks, the expansion of unemployment benefits, home loan relief for federally backed mortgages, credit report protection and resources for small businesses.

If you are a small business owner, Tayne said you should subscribe to updates on SBA.gov for the latest information regarding loans and financial assistance (although the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program ran out of money and was criticized for giving priority to businesses that needed the funding least, more funding will be available soon through a second stimulus package).

For specific financial resources assistance, many federal, state and local programs may be able to help. The following is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start if you’re looking for help covering food, bills, housing and more.EVERYTHING YOU SHOULD HAVE LEARNED IN SCHOOL BUT DIDN’TSubscribe to HuffPost’s money and living email.Successfully Subscribed!Realness delivered to your inbox

Financial Resources Help With Meals

With limited income, ensuring that you and your family have enough to eat can be a struggle. A number of resources are available to help to cut the cost of food or even provide free meals.

Discounts on food delivery: 

With stay-at-home orders in place, many people are relying on delivery services to get their meals. However, these services charge fees, which add up quickly if you’re relying on them regularly. Fortunately, dozens of companies that deliver orders from restaurants and grocery stores, as well as prepared meals, are discounting or waiving fees.

SNAP Program:

“If you lost your income and have difficulty putting food on the table, you can consider applying to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” said Gladice Gong, a personal finance blogger at Earn More Live Freely. You can apply for SNAP benefits online in most states, or at a local state or county office. “If you are eligible, you will receive SNAP benefits on an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, which works like a debit card,” Gong said. Benefits are automatically loaded to your card each month and you can use it to buy groceries at authorized food stores and retailers.

WIC: 

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federal program that provides assistance to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk. You’ll need to contact your state or local agency to apply; check your state’s website or call the toll-free number.

School meals: 

Millions of children rely on the National School Lunch Program for hot meals every day. But with schools closed down, many families lost access to this source of low-cost or free food. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently authorized schools to allow parents to pick up meals for their children, as long as a process was in place to verify that the food was going to eligible children. Some families have complained that their schools turned them away despite this new guidance, however. Call your child’s school to find out if you’re eligible to pick up meals.

Food banks: 

You can locate a local food bank, pantry or soup kitchen by visiting Feeding America or FoodPantries.

Hunger hotline: Gong recommended that anyone struggling to feed themselves or their families call the USDA National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273). The hotline operates Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET.

Financial Resource Assistance With Housing

Whether you rent your residence or own it, housing is likely the largest monthly expense you face. If you are struggling to pay your rent or mortgage, some relief may be available, depending on where you live and the type of housing.

Rent

No rent freezes are in place, but many jurisdictions have banned rent increases amid the pandemic. And many tenants are protected by temporary eviction moratoriums, which prevent landlords from taking renters to eviction court for unpaid rent. Under the CARES Act, moratoriums on evictions and late fees apply to all federally subsidized housing and properties financed through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac or the Federal Housing Administration. Citywide moratoriums are in place as well. However, this doesn’t mean that tenants don’t have to pay rent ― if necessary, they must work out a repayment plan with their landlords. Keep in mind that moratoriums are not in effect in every city.

Regardless of whether you’re protected from eviction under temporary moratoriums, you can seek out help paying rent if you don’t have the income to cover it. Visit the national Rent Assistance website for a directory of government and non-profit rental assistance agencies and organizations in your area.

Mortgage

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises that homeowners who can afford to continue paying their mortgages do so. However, if you are struggling to keep up with the payments, you should immediately reach out to your lender for assistance. Similar to eviction moratoriums, the CARES Act includes a foreclosure moratorium, as well as a right to forbearance for homeowners who are experiencing financial hardships due to the COVID-19 emergency, on federally backed mortgages for up to 180 days.

Even if you don’t have a federal mortgage loan, most major banks and lenders are offering some type of mortgage payment deferment. However, it’s important to understand the terms of how any skipped payments will be made up; some lenders are simply extending the loan term to make up for the missed payments, while others are requiring a lump sum payment at the end of the deferment period. Also, be prepared for unusually long wait times when calling to speak with your lender.

Help Paying Bills

In addition to housing, you may experience issues with paying other important bills on time. Though they may not seem as urgent as housing, it’s important not to skip these bills if possible, as doing so can have serious repercussions on your credit. With poor credit, it will be much more difficult to borrow money, secure housing and open utility accounts in the future.

Electricity and gas: If you’re struggling to pay for these services, reach out to your utility company right away. Many are suspending disconnections for those who don’t pay their bills during the coronavirus crisis. Some have actually been ordered to suspend disconnections by regulators or other government officials. The Energy and Policy Institute maintains a list of service providers that have and have not suspended disconnects.

Phone and cable: FCC chairman Ajit Pai has encouraged broadband companies to participate in a “Keep Americans Connected” pledge, which asks them to not terminate service for nonpayment due to the coronavirus, as well as waive late fees and open up Wi-Fi hotspots to those who need access. Dozens of companies have taken the pledge so far.

Credit cards: If you carry credit card debt, it’s important to reach out to your issuer and ask about relief options. Many major issuers are working with customers who ask for help, including waiving late fees, deferring interest and not reporting missed payments to credit bureaus. This guide to credit card payment relief from Wirecutter outlines what types of assistance are being offered by about a dozen major banks and how to contact them.

Student loans: Good news for federal student loan borrowers: As part of the CARES Act, payments on these loans have been automatically suspended through Sept. 30. However, if your income is still affected beyond this date, you may qualify for an income-driven repayment plan to help lower payments in line with your earnings. Financial technology company Savi has launched a free COVID-19 Student Loan Aid Tool that helps borrowers apply for the plan.

If you have private student loans, your options may be more limited, as federal protections don’t apply to private lenders. Still, your state may have instituted some protections (Massachusetts, for example, suspended private loan debt collection activities for 90 days) and many private student loan companies offer hardship programs for borrowers facing financial difficulties or job loss. Again, it’s important to speak with your lender or servicer to find out what options are available.

Financial Resources For Laid-Off Workers

Unemployment benefits were expanded under the CARES Act. Not only does the plan eliminate the waiting period to receive benefits, it also covers previously ineligible workers such as freelancers, contractors and furloughed employees. In addition to regular unemployment benefits, workers receive an additional $600 per week for four months. Benefits were also extended by 13 weeks beyond the standard 26 weeks of state benefits, though some states offer less.

If you work in an industry hit particularly hard by the pandemic, a host of relief funds and other financial assistance may be available to you in addition to regular unemployment benefits. Below are a couple of examples of seriously affected industries ― reach out to your industry organizations to find out about additional opportunities.

Service industry: Whether you worked for a hotel, restaurant, bar or other service industry, there’s a good chance your job status and income has been hurt by shutdowns caused by the pandemic. Several emergency relief funds exist for workers in specific industries, such as the Bartender Emergency Assistance Fund and the James Beard Foundation Food and Beverage Industry Fund. Horizon Beverage maintains an up-to-date list of relief funds for hospitality, restaurant and beverage industry workers, which you should review to find out if you might be eligible for assistance.

Freelancers: “Freelancers are one group of people who often fall between the cracks in government schemes,” said Ben Taylor, founder of HomeWorkingClub, an advice portal for freelancers. Thankfully, he said, charitable funds have been popping up, such as the Freelancers Relief Fund from the Freelancers Union and the COVID-19 Emergency Fund from Freelancer Co-Op. “As these are funded by donations, new applications tend to open and close, so it’s well worth checking such offerings regularly,” he said. You can also review this comprehensive guide to resources for freelancers, gig workers and contractors.

Help For Small Businesses

The coronavirus stimulus package included $350 billion in emergency financial resource assistance for small businesses, including the Paycheck Protection Program, which provided forgivable loans to small businesses that promised to keep employees on their payrolls. Unfortunately, as noted, that program quickly ran out of money, with some major corporations under fire for accepting giant loans while many struggling small businesses got nothing.

If you’re the owner of a small business, you may not be out of luck, though. The second relief bill, signed into law by President Donald Trump on Friday, includes an additional $310 billion set aside for a second round of the PPP. If you plan to take advantage, it’s a good idea to be prepared to apply quickly (the application process starts on Monday at 10:30 a.m. ET). Have all your paperwork in order, and consider establishing a relationship with a bank now so the process will go more smoothly.

Other sources of federal aid for small businesses include the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance through the SBA. Additionally, many states are providing varying levels of financial assistance; Clover has a comprehensive guide to small business financial help available today.

Free Financial Advice

If you are overwhelmed by your financial situation and need guidance from a professional on how to best handle it, many organizations are providing free services. Below are a few examples of where to find free financial planning help.

Credit counseling: Consolidated Credit, a national non-profit credit counseling agency, established a free “Shutdown Hotline” to connect callers with certified credit counselors who can help with credit and debt management and housing counseling. The hotline (800-745-2513) is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET.

The Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education partnered with Wells Fargo and the Yellow Ribbon Network to launch free, unbiased financial counseling and coaching. AFCPE certified professionals are available to discuss unique financial situations, help create spending plans, provide advice on how to make the best use of the government stimulus checks, financial resources and more. You can sign up here.

Financial planning: Many certified financial planners are also providing their services for free. For example, members of the XY Planning Network (XYPN), an organization of fee-for-service financial planners, are offering free emergency financial advice to those who have lost a job, lost income from reduced work or taken unpaid sick leave as a result of COVID-19. You can visit XYPN’s “Find an Advisor” search portal and search under the keyword phrase “coronavirus relief” to find available CFP professionals. All advisors on the platform are available to meet virtually, regardless of a person’s location.

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, another organization of fee-only financial planners, has a pro bono committee that may be able to help.

Financial Resources For The Military

Some of the challenges faced by service members and their families are similar to what civilian counterparts face: concerns over retirement savings, budgeting and job security, particularly for spouses who often work part-time or remote positions to supplement the family’s income, according to Jerry Quinn, chief operating officer of the American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association.

He also noted that hundreds of thousands of military families who were in the process of following a relocation or permanent change of station order have been forced to put their move on hold. “On top of stress and uncertainty, families in this scenario face a slew of even more urgent expenses and financial challenges, such as mortgage or rent payments for homes they are unable to move into or houseware and clothing costs to replace items that may have already been shipped to the new duty station,” he said.

The good news is that many military and veteran-focused relief organizations are providing financial resources support, including Army Emergency ReliefCoast Guard Mutual AssistanceAir Force Aid Society and Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

“These four have each been around for many years and have helped thousands of service members through difficult times,” Quinn said. “When in doubt, call these organizations directly with any questions about your situation and what assistance you may qualify for.”

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Shield Insurance Supports Schools

Teacher Appreciation Time

How to Still Make Teacher Appreciation Special, Virtually

This May, Teacher Appreciation Week is definitely going to look a little different. There won’t be any snack carts or staff luncheons, but with a little creativity, you can still make those hard-working teachers feel special. Welcome to virtual teacher appreciation:

Yard signs

We love the idea of posting signs in the yards of your staff. A lot of people are doing them for graduates, so why not teachers? Try something like, “A rock star teacher lives here!” or “I’m kind of a big deal at [SCHOOL NAME].” This is also a great way to support local businesses.

Online games

During Teacher Appreciation Week, we try to up the fun factor with trivia and games. You still can—you just have to take it online. Class Team Building is offering a weeklong game show for $45. It includes daily challenges like this: “Get anyone in this school to respond ‘LOL’ to one of your texts, but you can’t tell them beforehand that is the response you are looking for.”

Gift cards

There are plenty of gift cards you can send via email, including teacher favorites like Target and Starbucks (they currently have three fun teacher designs). This is also a good time to support local restaurants that are hurting and grab gift cards to your staff’s favorite places for takeout.  

Quarantine survival kits

How about baskets you drop off at doorsteps filled with all kinds of isolation goodies? We’re thinking a fabric mask, hand sanitizer (if you can get it), snacks, and drinks. Add an inspirational book, adult coloring book and markers, or a puzzle. You could even throw a roll of TP in there for a laugh!

Personalized items

If you’re looking for a more traditional with a little creativity, you can still make those hard-working teachers feel special, try personalized notepads like this one from Shutterly. You can include a handwritten thank-you note on the first page. We also like the idea of custom t-shirts and cloth screen cleaners. Consider setting up an online “store” and letting teachers choose their gift.

Drive-thru or delivery meal

Many schools have set up drive-thrus to keep kids fed during school closures. A similar set-up would work to distribute a meal (or even just warm cookies!) for your teachers. Or you could deliver right to their doors. Either way, consider using a local establishment to cater your event and show teacher appreciation.

Virtual raffle

Looking to go big? If you want to go in for some bigger prizes (think: a $100 grocery store gift card or a personal laminator), you can use an app like Random Picker to draw your winners. Then do the announcement over a video-conferencing app like Zoom.

Teacher’s lounge makeover

If it’s in the budget (or you want to pool what you would have spent on teachers individually), you can plan something really great for when teachers return to school: an upgraded teacher’s lounge. You might consider new furniture or decor, invest in an espresso machine, or stock the pantry and shelves with snacks and personal items.

Involve students and parents

Heartfelt messages are probably the most important part of teacher appreciation. Google Docs and Padlet are nice ways to work collaboratively on a project with kids and parents, or just solicit ideas that you can then turn into your own presentation. 

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How to stay creative during lock-down

How to stay creative and keep your family sane during lock-down – from one of the world’s best teachers

  • The UN estimates that 1.25 billion children are currently at home as a result of the coronavirus lockdown.
  • British art and textiles teacher Andria Zafirakou won the 2018 Global Teacher Prize and has two teenage daughters.
  • Here she gives some practical tips – from giving your children time to transition to homeschooling, to creative ideas – for navigating staying at home together.
  • This article is part of a series from the World Economic Forum’s Cultural Leaders on building resilience in the pandemic.

In millions of homes across the globe this very minute, parents are juggling like never before as they struggle to stay creative and teach their children while earning a living during the coronavirus lockdown.

As of 20 March, the UN estimates that school’s out for 1.25 billion children and young people, as 124 countries have closed pre-primary to higher-education institutions – impacting almost three-quarters of all enrolled learners.

With their normal weekday routines gone, many of those children will be finding it hard to suddenly have mum and dad as teachers – and many parents will be trying to control the urge not to scream at them.

If that sounds like you, take some comfort in the knowledge that even one of the world’s best teachers admits her own kids aren’t keen on being “taught” by her.

Andria Zafirakou, Teacher, Arts and Textile, Alperton Community School, United Kingdom, speaking during the Session

Andria Zafirakou was awarded the Global Teacher Prize in 2018 and is a World Economic Forum Cultural Leader.

“Even teachers will say their hardest students are their own children,” says British teacher Andria Zafirakou, the 2018 winner of the Global Teacher Prize and a World Economic Forum cultural leader.

“It’s quite tough teaching your own kids because they won’t listen to you, and you have no tolerance or patience. So rest-assured, we’re with you!”

The coronavirus is keeping millions of children out of school.

Before schools closed in the UK on 20 March, Zakirafou was teaching art and textiles in-person to her students at Alperton Community School in northwest London, where she’s also the Associate Deputy Headteacher. In addition, she runs Artists in Residence, which brings artists into schools to inspire children and young people to seek a career in creative and cultural industries.

Now she’s at home with her husband and setting work for her two teenage daughters – as well as setting remote work for her students, who range from ages 11 to 18 and come from diverse, often poor, backgrounds.

Here are her tips on how to stay creative and keep your family sane when you’re all at home together.

We’re all having to stay creative

I’m finding it really tough not going into school, because your classroom is your learning environment and your work environment. It’s hard not having that human contact with the children and picking up on things. And I can’t just go to the stock cupboard, so I have to think about what the students have at home, what access to materials they have, and try to create lessons based on that.

I know that not every household has got access to paints, so I’ve been doing collage and lots of drawing activities. I’m really mindful that I want them being creative and doing things away from the screen. I want them out in the garden, if they have one, to draw what’s there. So it’s about how I can get them to remain creative in their own environments.

Asking questions:

Asking Questions: Creativity is all about questioning: How can I? Why should it? What would happen if? How can I make this, or how can I change this? It’s about making sure that children are always being asked those questions.

Keeping everything: Do not chuck anything away. Keep a bag with all the egg boxes and toilet rolls in a corner, because that’s going to be a mine of incredible craft-making materials.

Setting challenges: What kind of musical instruments can you make today from what’s in the bags over there?

Giving them time: The beauty is that the parents are in control of the time, for once. So you can give your child two hours to get on with a wonderful creative task, and they wouldn’t have that in school.

Finding online resources: Use sharing resources like Twinkl, BBC Bitesize. And then there are the entrepreneurs, like Joe Wicks doing kids’ exercise classes. There are also artists and designers sharing resources.

Being creative with space: Think about the space in your house. What can you change, what room could be theirs? What space is not utilized? What can you get rid of to make them a work area or for their equipment? That’s a very easy thing to fix.

Thinking outside the paintbox: Creativity is not just about arts and crafts, it’s also about the kitchen. What kind of lunch can they make for you while you’re working?

Get creative together

Art can be so powerful because it makes you escape for a little bit, it puts you in that mindfulness zone, and time passes so quickly. You can actually reflect and say, ‘I did that and it looks good’. As adults, if we are doing this ourselves, then we are showing good habits to our children.

So take time out of your busy, strange lives at the moment, by doing something like cooking, crochet or colouring in with your children. That’s a fantastic thing to be doing together, and it will go such a long way.

Don’t worry about your children falling behind

We’ve really got to be kind to each other: we are in a huge transition and it’s extraordinarily difficult. I can sense the anxiety parents might have about children falling behind, but just make sure they do a little bit, often, so that they are still engaged in the daily routine of learning. And be kind to yourself: even if your child does not complete a worksheet, and you’ve had a really bad day with them, that’s OK. It’s not the end of the world.

The one really positive thing that will come out of this is, I’m hoping our young people can be more independent in choosing when and what to learn. If we create children that love learning, they will automatically be researching and trying to find new things to occupy their time with and to be inspired by.

Prepare younger ones for going back

The young people that we really need to work with are 7- to 14-year-olds. We’ve got to be quite careful to keep them inspired and interested – and prepare them for returning to school. A friend of mine has a child with ADHD. She’s worried her child may not want to go back to school, because being at home is quite comforting.

So when we eventually open up the schools, every school has got to be very careful in how they prepare children to come back. They’ll need to think about how every child has been affected by this.

Teach them life skills, too

The most important thing I’ve learned, which surprised me, is that now is a really good time to teach children things you want to be done. Not all lessons need to be academic – they can be life lessons we want our children to learn as well. Even how they should fold their clothes, mop up or vacuum. Stay creative Take an hour out and show them how you want them to do it. Usually, life is very fast, and we have no time for this type of teaching. But they are invaluable skills.

Carve out family time

In the evening, we have family time. So from 7.30 p.m. onwards, everyone’s devices go away, and we have a very fiery game of UNO or watch something appropriate on Netflix. Every household with children can now guarantee there’s going to be family time.

Let them chat to friends

It’s really important for the children to communicate with their friends. Parents can set up Zoom talks with their children’s friends. Not every day, but during the week, there should be some way they’re connected with somebody else that’s not you, and not another adult.

Try and limit screen time

Lots of parents have contacted us to say they’re worried about children sitting in front of the computer for five hours a day. As a parent, I have printed out lots of worksheets, because young children like to work in their school books. So put parameters in place and try to manage how often they use their online learning resources.

This is where Alexa and all those gizmos are brilliant. Put a timer on for 15 minutes and then say, ‘You are doing those questions in 15 minutes’. Help them with time management. And let’s get them reading books, drawing on toilet rolls, cooking, in the garden building things (if possible) – because they can’t be the generation that’s in front of screens learning, otherwise it will have a huge effect on them.

Share the responsibility

We need to jointly plan and give them that sense of responsibility. It’s quite powerful for them to take control of what they’d like to do. And if that’s being in their room drawing, then give them that time, make them exhausted from doing that, because they will get bored very soon. And when they want to do other things, that’s where, as a parent, you’ve already got all these resources and ideas ready to go.

Try not to lose it

There are going to be interesting, diverse scenarios taking place in homes at the moment. Don’t get frazzled, because teachers don’t lose it – they are quite calm. And just remember that your children are transitioning as well. We need to use lots of negotiation and give and take. Every parent is concerned because we’re taking up a new role here, which we’ve never had to do before. But it’s not going to be permanent. Stay creative there’s no quick fix, and you’re not a failure, because this is brand new to us all. The positive thing is, we’re going to get to know our children more.


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