Check your kids’ outdoor play spaces for National Playground Safety Week

playground funAs the weather improves, more and more kids turn to outside activities in public and private playgrounds. This week is National Playground Safety week, a good time for parents to review the safety of the outdoor places where kids play. The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) offers a great Summer Safety Checklist for the top ten summer playground safety tips.

Some of the key issues are adult supervision and age appropriate equipment. See the NPPS guidelines for Age-Appropriate Design – NPPS recommends that adults be proactive in selecting age appropriate equipment and requesting separate play areas for different age groups – 6 months through 23 months, ages 2 to 5, and 5 to 12. These areas should be marked by signage indicating the age-appropriate areas. They offer guidance for each of these age groups.

Other considerations are appropriate fall surface materials, shelter from weather, and avoidance of any strings or ropes on equipment. They also say that kids should not wear bicycle helmets on playground equipment because they can be caught and may cause strangulation. It could be an easy mistake for a parent to think a helmet was offering an added layer of protection! See more NPPS tips at Playground Head to Toe Safety.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers a variety of safety resources on various topics related to playgrounds, as well as these guides:

Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook (PDF)
Public Safety Playground Handbook (English) and (Spanish) 

Boston Marathon Monday Toolkit

marathonIt’s 42 with drizzle at the race starting line.  Watch the Boston Marathon live starting at 9:30

Athlete tracking
Boston Marathon Twitter feed
Boston Marathon Facebook

Spectator Security guidelines for Boston Marathon
Which roads are closed on Marathon Monday
Boston Marathon interactive map – Find Viewing Spots, T Stops and More With This Interactive Course Map

There are more than 30,000 runners this year – here are start times
2015 Boston Marathon Official Start Times

Start Time / Division / Approx No. of Entrants
8:50 – Mobility Impaired – 50
9:17 – Push-Rim Wheelchair -70 (plus 6 duos)
9:22 – Handcycles – 18
9:32 – Elite Women – 40
10:00 – Elite Men and Wave One – 7,500
10:25 – Wave Two – 7,500
10:50 – Wave Three – 7,500
11:15 – Wave Four – 7,500


Retirement planning procrastination wastes the advantage of compound interest

Many people procrastinate when it comes to saving for retirement … but the earlier you start, the more compounding interest works in your favor.

Financial Engines conducted a survey to better to better understand why people procrastinate on their retirement savings. They learned that most of those those surveyed identified 25 as the right age to begin planning and saving for retirement, but that most had started much later than that: an average of 10.6 years later than they thought they should have.

They attributed that delay in retirement savings to various reasons:

  • 50% – stress
  • 40% – other, higher priorities
  • 24% – worried about being
  • 23% – unsure how to go about it
  • 20% – believed it was too difficult

While people think they can make up for it later — and sometimes they can — every year of delay squanders the advantage of compound interest. To reach the same savings goal, they would need to save more each year to make up for any missed investment growth, as well as any missed employer matches, if available.

The following graphic depicts the percent of income that would need to be saved each year to reach the savings goal.

delayYou can learn more about the benefits of time by playing with with this compound interest calculator.

But the better-late-than-never rule comes into play – even if you missed out on the advantage of an early start, the sooner you do begin the better, so don’t delay. Here are some tips offered by  Financial Engines for late starters:

late-startFor more information on the cost of procrastination, see their complete infographic.

Money Matters: 48 Mistakes, 7 Quizzes and 5 Cool Learning Tools

Money TreeApril is financial literacy month. How savvy are you about money? This fun article will let you chart your age based on your savings habits. To commemorate the month, we’ve put together a financial wellness toolkit for you to learn common money mistakes, to test your own financial knowledge and find good learning resources to improve your knowledge.

Common Money Mistakes

 Test Your Money Savvy

 Resources for Learning to Manage Money

360 Days of Financial Literacy
A free program by the nation’s certified public accountants to help Americans understand personal finances through every stage of life. Check out the more than 30 financial calculators.

Unbiased insurance information for consumers sponsored by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Information is organized by life stage and lines of coverage: auto insurance, home insurance, health insurance and life insurance.
Making the most of your money starts with five building blocks for managing and growing your money. MyMoney.Gov offers tools and information on five key areas of money management: Earnings; Saving & investing; Protecting; Spending; and Borrowing.

Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy
a national non-profit of about 150 national organizations and entities from the corporate, non-profit, academic, government and other sectors that share an interest in advancing financial literacy among students in pre-kindergarten through college.

30 Steps to Financial Wellness
A 30 step path will help you achieve financial wellness.

National Window Safety Week: April 5-11

Sad childEvery year, more than 3,300 children under the age of 5 fall from windows, suffering injuries serious enough to send them to the hospital; sadly, about eight children a year die from these falls. To raise awareness about the risks, the National Safety Council, window and door industry professionals and other child safety advocates formed the Window Safety Task Force. Every year, the Task Force sponsors National Window Safety Week.

The most obvious risk is kids falling from windows that are unsecured. SafeKids has a good child fall prevention tip sheet. Screens are no help at all, they cannot break a fall. If windows will be open, install child-safe window guards. It’s important to know how to safely childproof windows. Child-safe window guards can help, but it’s important not to install anything that would be a hindrance to escape in case of a fire. Safety experts caution that there is a balance between the two needs: fire escape and fall prevention.

Another window hazard is related to window coverings. It’s important to child-proof these coverings to ensure there are no cords, chains or string that can strangle children. Learn what to guard against in the CPSC Safety Alert: Are Your Window Coverings Safe?

The National Safety Council has an excellent resources:
Window Safety Checklist
Window Safety Awareness Brochure
Window Safety Activity Book for Kids

Please share these tools with anyone you know who has babies or toddlers. Awareness also needs to spread beyond parents: all too often, accidents happen when someone who is less familiar with children fails to understand or guard against the risk.

Have a Peep-tastic Easter with these fun recipes


When some people think of Easter, they think of bunnies. Wrong. We think it’s all about the Peeps. Did you know that about 5.5 million peeps are made every day, for a total of about 5.5 billion in 2014? Learn more interesting peep facts in 20 Delicious Facts About Peeps. You can also see some of the science behind Peeps at Peep Research, where the little chicks have been put to various risk and stress tests to see what happens.

To get in the spirit of the week, we thought our readers might enjoy some of these Peep recipes.

How to make homemade marshmallow Peeps – You can actually buy peep molds. An adventurous cook tries her hand – see the step-by-step recipe with pictures.

How to Make Chocolate-Covered Peepsicles – “…skewered on a stick and covered in luxe chocolate and coconut? Definitely better than eating them plain.”

How to Make Peeps Infused Vodka – In this video, you’ll see how to make Peeps-infused vodka. Perfect for a lemon drop martini, this bright yellow cocktail starter will add marshmallow-flavored fun to your favorite mixers. For best results, float a fresh Peep in your martini glass!

Peep stuffed brownies – “Since they’re pretty much a marshmallow I knew they’d be incredible stuffed into a fudgy brownie. I mean chocolate and marshmallows are a natural together. They melt beautifully inside the brownie and add a little extra gooey-ness.”

How To Make Candied-Bacon-Stuffed, Chocolate-Covered PEEPS – “Here’s how to make candied-bacon-stuffed, chocolate-covered Peeps. Yes, you heard that right. They’ll leave you asking, “Eggs?” What eggs?”

For the ultimate in Peeps cuisine, see PEEP THIS: 18 Ways to Drink + Eat Marshmallow Peeps on Easter.

We close with just a few safety reminders. If you conduct any Peeps kitchen experiments, take precautions to avoid any kitchen fires. And if you plan to imbibe any of that Peeps-infused vodka, be sure you have a designated driver!

Looking for a career in insurance?

insurance-hip-hopLiberty Mutual, one of our partner insurers, produced this fun rap video talking about getting a job. It’s not necessarily insurance specific, it has good advice for any job seekers looking for a job in a professional environment.

If you’re curious about what types of jobs are available in insurance, there’s an informative new site: MyPath: Insurance. It’s an industry collaborative dedicated to educating students and young professionals about the insurance industry and its various career opportunities.

And be sure to check out our employment openings at Renaissance Alliance. If you don’t see a particular job you want, just send us a resume – we have 90+ member agencies throughout New England so there may be openings at one of them.

See more about insurance jobs at this story in Bloomberg News. Hat tip to Jayleen Heft at PropertyCasualty360 for the pointer to the video!

The Dirty Dozen Tax Scams, 2015 Style

tax-fraudWith just over 3 weeks left to go before tax day, the nation’s tax scammmers are doing double duty trying to intercept your tax return or, failing that, make off with your private information that they can put to nefarious purposes.

The IRS has updated their Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2015 — everything from e-mail phishing and phone threats to tax preparer fraud and fake charities. Run through this list and familiarize yourself with the most common schemes to part you from your money. Spread the word too – tweet it, post it on Facebook. Phone fraud is particularly rampant this year and extremely aggressive. We’ve experienced robocalls at all hours of the day and night, with very threatening messages about arrest and lawsuits. Remember, the IRS will never call you out of the blue and threaten you!
Unfortunately, senior citizens are big targets for fraud and the IRS has issued a recent warning about scams targeted specifically to the elderly.

“Some seniors are paying swindlers money to file returns for them in the hopes of claiming benefits that they don’t actually qualify for. The con men then make off with a senior’s money and any important personal information the elderly person has provided them with.”

If you have elderly relatives, you may want to review some of these scams with them.

Add the Poison Help line to your phone – it could save a life!

poison-lineMarch 15-21, 2015 is Poison Prevention week – if you do one thing, program the Poison Help telephone number in your phone: 1-800-222-1222. You never know when it could come in handy for you or someone else. Calls are free and confidential and can be translated into 161 languages. Most calls can be handled over the phone and don’t require a hospital visit. Plus, you can call for information about chemicals and their safety, too – a call doesn’t have to be for an emergency.

In 2013, America’s 55 poison centers received over 3.1 million calls. Of those, about 2.2 million were calls about poison exposures ranging from carbon monoxide to snake bites to food poisoning. The rest were calls for information. Although children younger than 6 accounted for about half of all the poison exposure calls to poison center in 2013, adults accounted for 92 percent of all poison-related deaths reported to poison centers.

Here are some handy tools for poison prevention and emergency response:

The AAPCC offers this chart to help poison-proof your home.



A few ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day


St Patrick’s Day is a big event in our neck of the woods – although this year’s parade will have a bit of an abbreviated route due to all the snow. Here’s a Guide to Where to Celebrate Boston’s Irish Heritage in and around the city – parades, pubs, concerts & more. Here are other St. Patrick’s Day parades in New England, many on Sunday. Or you could just stay home and cook up a traditional New England Boiled Dinner of corned beef & cabbage. Just remember one important thing: It’s Paddy mot Patty!

And remember, if tipping a few pints are in your plans, be sure to have a designated driver!

Here are some great clips from Discover Ireland to get you in the spirit.

With any luck at all, you’ll stumble on one of Tourism Ireland’s flash mob dances – here’s a spectacular one they staged in Central Station, Sidney a few years ago.