Sunday, July 25, 2021

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CITYVIEW HOW-TO GUIDE

Scroll through all subjects, or to jump to a specific subject, just click the link and it will take you directly to that section.

HOW TO CHOOSE A VETERINARIAN

HOW TO CHOOSE A MEDICARE PLAN

HOW TO FINANCE YOUR CAR LOAN

HOW TO CHOOSE AN ACCOUNTING FIRM

HOW TO CHOOSE AN AUTO REPAIR SHOP

HOW TO CHOOSE A LASIK PROVIDER

HOW TO CHOOSE A TATTOO STUDIO

HOW TO CHOOSE A CREDIT UNION

HOW TO CHOOSE A VETERINARIAN

Owning a pet is a huge responsibility. It means caring for a living animal that can’t take care of itself when injury or illness strikes. Pets, like humans, are vulnerable to many afflictions and illnesses that require medication and treatment in order to keep them healthy. So finding a great veterinarian is the first step any new or potential pet owner should take.

Pets age faster than human beings. Their bodies and internal systems can change rapidly, sometimes in a matter of a few months. Routine veterinary care will help your pet to live a longer and happy life.

Choosing a good veterinarian that suits you and your pet can seem like a difficult task. If you follow these guidelines, you should be able to find a professional that will give your pet the best care possible.

ASK FOR REFERRALS

Your family and friends may know a good veterinarian. Listen to their experiences with a critical ear. You need to find someone who is
professional, compassionate and timely. Ask specific questions, such as whether the clinic staff likes animals. Do they respond to concerns
in a timely manner?

Research veterinary and veterinarian clinics on the Internet. Make a list of prospective candidates, then check with the Better Business
Bureau in your state to see if there have been any complaints against these professionals. How were the complaints resolved?

Some people need extra services, such as daycare, boarding facilities and pet training. You may also need to have your pet groomed. Find out if the prospective veterinary clinic provides these services.

MAKE A VISIT

After making a list of choices, visit the veterinary office or clinic. Call ahead and request a tour of facilities. The staff should have the time
to answer your questions.

You should see a clean and well-maintained office. Observe how the staff interacts with clients and pets. Are they warm toward the animals and owners? The employees should have an affinity for animals.

Sit in the waiting area and introduce yourself to other clients. Find out if they are happy with the services and staff. Also, inquire about
prices to verify it is within your budget.

If you feel uncomfortable during your visit, consider taking your business elsewhere.

Finding the best vet for you and your pet will take time and research. You should put the same effort into finding a doctor for your animal as you would in finding one for yourself.

The bottom line is that your pet’s health is a cooperative undertaking between you and your veterinarian. Finding the perfect vet for you and your furry, scaly or feathered friend will ensure your pet is with you for years to come. ♦

HOW TO CHOOSE A MEDICARE PLAN

Whether you are turning age 65, retiring from your career, or currently on Medicare, navigating the Medicare maze can certainly be confusing. When you turn age 65, you become eligible for Medicare. You’re likely overwhelmed by Medicare options arriving in your mailbox. Before you can determine what coverage is most suitable for you, it is important to understand the different parts to Medicare.

ORIGINAL MEDICARE

“Original Medicare” is what everyone gets when they sign up for Medicare. It includes Part A (Hospitalization) and Part B (Medical), which help cover costs associated with hospital stays, doctor visits, surgeries, skilled nursing care, and durable medical equipment. With Original Medicare, there is no annual limit for how much your medical bills can add up to. If you have both Parts A and B, you can enroll in additional coverage like Medigap or Medicare Advantage plans.

MEDICARE ADVANTAGE

Medicare Advantage, or Part C, is one way to add additional coverage. These plans are offered by private insurance companies approved by
Medicare. All Advantage plans provide the same coverage as Parts A and B and can decrease total medical bills. Advantage plans have an annual limit for how much you can spend in medical bills each year. Once you reach the limit, your Advantage plan covers additional bills for that year. Advantage plans typically have a network of doctors and hospitals to choose from, and most Advantage plans include prescription drug, dental, vision and hearing coverage.

MEDIGAP

A Medigap (also called Medicare Supplement) Plan is another path to receiving coverage. Medigap plans help cover expenses you would otherwise be responsible for with Original Medicare. There are 12 different types of Medigap plans to choose from — the “right” plan for you depends on your unique situation. All Medigap plans can be used at any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare — there is no network. All plans of a specific type are standardized and do not differ between companies.

PRESCRIPTION DRUG COVERAGE

Part D is a Prescription Drug Plan and helps cover some prescription medication costs. Each plan offers different coverage, meaning that your medication costs may vary between plans and between pharmacies. When choosing a Part D plan, it’s important to see how a plan covers your prescribed medications.

HOW TO CHOOSE AN AGENT

An experienced licensed agent can help you learn about your options and find the plan that suits you best. By choosing an independent agent who represents many companies, you will be able to compare more options. Additionally, seek out an agent who connects with you during the Annual Election Period (“Open Enrollment” — Oct. 15 to Dec. 7) and keeps you updated on important changes, as costs do change from year to year. ♦

HOW TO FINANCE YOUR CAR LOAN

Looking for a new or even used car can be initially exciting. But soon after you’ve found the vehicle you want comes the negotiations — and
the headaches.

This often means getting financing through the dealer. Car dealers have an incentive to offer financing to as many people as possible in order to increase sales. But the dealer’s financing options might not always be your best bet.

Many used-car dealers, for instance, make the bulk of their profits from financing the sale of their cars through high-interest loans. Believe it
or not, many make more money from the loans than from the sale of the actual vehicles.

So-called “zero-percent interest” loans served up by new-car dealers aren’t really loaning you money for free, either. Zero- or low-interest loans will generally require you to pay the full sticker price for the car, without the discounts or incentives other buyers get.

That’s why it pays to shop for a loan separately before you even set foot on a car lot.

SHOP AROUND

Purchasing a car is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make, so it’s a good idea to spend just as much time researching your
financing options as you spend researching the car.

Getting approved for a loan from a bank or credit union ahead of time is a great way to do that. Apply for a loan before you decide what car
to buy, and you’ll know exactly how much car you can afford when you go shopping.

NEGOTIATING POWER

You can essentially act like a cash buyer when you get pre-approved, shopping around for the lowest price and best incentives you can find
regardless of the dealer financing options.

You’ll also get better information on interest rates and your buying power. How do you know if the car dealer is really offering you good terms for the loan? Well, if you have a pre-approved loan from an outside lender, you’ll have at least one measuring stick for seeing how good of a deal you’re really getting on financing.

The more loan quotes you have at your disposal, the clearer a picture you’ll have of what’s a good deal and what’s not in the loan
marketplace.

LOW INTEREST

Buyers are financing their cars for long periods of time to keep the payments low. The longer the term and bigger the balance on your loan, the more interest rates will affect your bottom line.

Getting pre-approved for a car loan ahead of time will help you get the best combination of loan terms and interest rates for your situation. It gives you options instead of just taking whatever rate the dealer happens to offer.

FULL INCENTIVES

New-car dealers and manufacturers can offer some enticing ways to get you to buy their cars, trucks and SUVs. They usually offer huge
discounts off full sticker price, along with various incentives for loyalty. Some offer extra money on your trade-in.

When it comes to financing, though, you usually have to make a choice. Get all those incentives, or get low- or no-interest financing
instead.

Get a loan from a bank or credit union, though, and you can have the best of both worlds.

Having a pre-approved loan will let you focus just on the purchase price of your vehicle instead of stepping into the muddy waters of dealer or manufacturer financing.

Make sure you do your math. Use an interest rate calculator online to compare how much interest you’ll be paying over the life of your car
loan to the incentives you’ll be missing out on if you choose zero-interest financing from the dealer. ♦

HOW TO CHOOSE AN ACCOUNTING FIRM

When you’re growing a business, choosing the right accounting firm is more than a necessary step. The best ones can also become a trusted business advisor.

If you’re thinking about hiring an accounting company, here are some things to consider.

DEPTH OF EXPERIENCE

The best accounting firms have teams of certified public accountants (CPAs), bookkeepers and other professionals who know how to navigate the labyrinth of accounting, tax and finance rules — some of which may be specific to your industry.

The top firms typically aren’t new. They’ve been around many years and have the depth of knowledge that only experience can bring. In an industry that constantly changes, having the stability and trustworthiness of a long-tenured firm in your area should give you peace of mind.

Ideally, you’ll want to find a firm that has a long track record of helping companies solve issues similar to yours.

BREADTH OF SERVICES

Knowing one segment of accounting with high level of expertise is one thing. Having experience and acumen on a wide range of topics is quite another.

That’s why the best accounting firms also offer a long list of capabilities that can be tailored to fit any company and evolve with your changing circumstances. What you need right now may be very different from the services you need in a decade, especially if you’re growing.

A good accounting firm will be able to grow with you.

While all accountants can do basic bookkeeping and taxes, you should find out what other services they can offer as the need arises.

For example, a strong accounting firm will have experience helping you develop internal controls for good financial practices and be able to conduct audits to ensure they’re being followed. They may be able to help you develop a package of benefits to attract and retain the best
employees, analyze your cashflow, manage your payroll and provide business valuation for sales or acquisitions.

Experience with mergers and acquisitions can come in handy down the road, even if you don’t need it now. Most businesses at some point will either acquire other companies or be acquired, so having a trusted advisor through the process — before, during and after — can help make it a success in the long run.

Some accounting firms also have expertise in personal finance, something closely related to the goals of many small businesses. They’ll be able to help your company and you personally manage your financial future.

QUALITY OF SERVICE

Finally, like all service businesses, the quality of the accounting firm’s staff should be a top priority.

The best accounting firms will give you a dedicated person to contact with your needs, and they’ll be very responsive to your questions and concerns. You should get thorough answers that help you make the best decisions for your business.

The best firms will have a reputation for not just doing accounting work — something any accountant can do — but also developing long-term relationships that help their clients succeed. ♦

HOW TO CHOOSE AN AUTO REPAIR SHOP

Owning a vehicle comes with the responsibility to keep it in good running shape. Regular maintenance and inspections are the key to keep
your car looking and running well — and avoiding the expense of costly repairs.

Developing a relationship with a knowledgable, experienced mechanic or auto repair shop early on in your vehicle’s life can prove invaluable. Talented, honest mechanics can extend the life of your car and help you avoid costly repairs. And if the unexpected occurs — an accident or a major malfunction — that relationship can be the difference between hundreds and thousands of dollars.

Even if your car is new, at some point it will need tires, oil changes or even a new engine. If you have a relationship with a good auto repair
shop, you won’t sweat it when these things come up.

If you haven’t had a regular mechanic in recent years, now is the time to find one.

Here are a few points to consider:

• Less than 40 percent of new customers in auto shops are walk-ins. That means word of mouth is still king in the industry. Find a shop that
gets rave reviews from family and friends, and you’ll be in good hands.

• The Better Business Bureau can inform you about the repair shop’s performance and reliability.

• If you travel often, consider a shop that offers a national warranty. For instance, a warranty of 12,000 miles or 12 months is handy for issues that keep cropping up, particularly in older cars.

• Ask about the shop’s range of services. They will need the latest technology to diagnose problems with newer cars. For example, can your prospective shop handle brake systems, electrical components and warranty repairs? Does the shop provide a loaner, rental car or shuttle
service while your car is being repaired?

• Look around the shop. Is the equipment in good condition? Is it clean, well-lit and organized? These factors all contribute to a level of
professionalism.

• Look for brand names and proper certification. Does the auto repair shop use brand-name parts? These parts are engineered to meet the
manufacturer’s specifications and will likely come with a warranty. Shops may use remade or generic brands which your insurance policy may not cover, so be sure to check.

• Are the auto technicians certified by a specific car manufacturer, the National Institute for Automotive Services or Automotive Science
Excellence? Is the shop approved by the American Automobile Association? If so, this indicates a customer approval rating of 90 percent
or higher and the ability to adequately perform the services advertised.

• Compare the services and fees of each shop in the area to find out the average price ranges.

Don’t pick a shop based on cost; poor repair work will mean higher costs in the long run. You’ll also want to ask about the shop’s warranty
policy. Imagine spending hundreds on a repair only to learn the work isn’t guaranteed.

Once you have found a shop you trust, establish a good working relationship and try to use the shop for all of your automotive needs. Your mechanic will come to know you as a dependable customer and always be sure to provide you the highest level of service. ♦

 

HOW TO CHOOSE A LASIK PROVIDER

Tired of glasses and contacts? Considering LASIK but not sure where to start? If you’re nearsighted, farsighted or have astigmatism, LASIK surgery may offer you the freedom from glasses and contacts you’ve been looking for. While LASIK vision correction is a medical surgery and shouldn’t be taken lightly, finding the best LASIK specialist doesn’t have to be overwhelming! Wolfe Eye Clinic is here to help and our LASIK specialty teams can walk you through the process step-by-step.

If you’re wondering, “Where do I start?” The first step is choosing a LASIK provider that you feel confident in and comfortable with. It’s important to consider the following.

EXPERIENCE

Experience should be at the top of your list when considering the health of your eyes! It’s important to find a reputable LASIK provider. Your LASIK surgeon should be a highly trained ophthalmologist who is not only known for performing successful LASIK surgeries with a 5 percent or lower enhancement rate but has extensive experience in specialty surgical eye care as well.

COMPREHENSIVE EVALUATION

Before surgery, it’s important that your eyes are thoroughly evaluated to determine if you’re a good candidate for LASIK. For thorough vision testing, find a provider that requires contacts be removed for at least one week prior to evaluation. At your appointment, your LASIK surgeon should review your testing results and meet with you one-on-one to answer your questions.

TECHNOLOGY

Look for a surgeon that utilizes bladeless, all-laser technology to provide you with a custom LASIK treatment. For example, Wolfe Eye Clinic’s Alcon Wavelight® Refractive Suite offers the most accurate and fastest total LASIK laser eye surgery procedure in America, helping to ensure precision while reducing surgical risks that were previously associated with making corneal flaps with the outdated handheld surgical blade method.

COST

Eyeglasses and contacts can add up quickly. LASIK may give you the opportunity to invest in the contacts-free life you’ve dreamed of. As a medical investment, it’s important to keep in mind that prices for LASIK that sound too good to be true, probably are. Avoid providers that offer “upgrades” on technology or a “menu” of options. When it comes to your eyes, choose a LASIK surgeon that only offers the best care and technology up-front and is transparent with you regarding cost. Plus, ask about health savings account reimbursement and financing options, as these are great ways to help pay for LASIK!

Wolfe Eye Clinic LASIK specialists have performed more LASIK in Iowa than any other provider. If you’re interested in finding out if you’re a candidate, visit our website at wolfeeyeclinic.com/lasik or give us a call at (833) 474-5855. Your personal LASIK coordinator will help answer your questions and set you up for a free, no pressure consultation with one of Iowa’s most experienced LASIK specialists. ♦

HOW TO CHOOSE A TATTOO STUDIO

Tattoos no longer occupy the ground they once did, that of stigma or the type of thing those who consider themselves on the “dark” side brand themselves with.

People today get tattoos for many reasons. In fact, nearly 30 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo. And once they get one, chances are they’ll get another.

Tattoos and tattoo parlors have gone mainstream, and it’s safer and easier than ever to wear your passions on your sleeve.

If you’ve been considering a new tattoo, read these important steps to choosing the right place for the work.

CLEANLINESS

The most obvious thing you need to look for is whether the studio is clean, and you can tell a lot about that just by looking around.

See if the studio looks sanitary and well organized. Any furniture in the tattoo area that comes into direct contact with a client being tattooed should have a disposable cover that is changed between each client visit.

The tattoo artist should use a clean needle for every customer, too. To be certain, you can ask them to open the needle in front of you before using it. They should also use a separate source of ink for each client to avoid spreading infections.

LICENSED

Every state has different rules and regulations for tattoo studios, and you need to do your homework to find out what those regulations are where you live.

Believe it or not, there are some studios that will open up without a license and without doing the proper training to ensure a sanitary environment. Check whether the studio has the proper license and ask about any training the tattoo artist has gone through to do their job in a sterile, safe way.

CREATIVITY

Once you’ve ensured the studio is safe and licensed, then comes the fun part: choosing a tattoo design.

There can be a wide variation in talent between different studios and even different artists working within the same studio. Check out the portfolios in the studio to see what kind of designs you can expect and make sure it’s up to your expectations.

The best tattoo artists are exactly that — real artists — and can take your idea and turn it into a gorgeous piece of body art that you can enjoy for the rest of your life. Look for true creativity and originality in the designs they offer.

PRICE

It’s not a good idea to pick the cheapest tattoo studio. Like anything else in life, you get what you pay for, and low-cost studios are bound to be cutting corners somewhere. Whether by employing low-time, low-talent artists or skimping on sanitation steps, you just don’t want to use a studio that’s known for being the cheapest in town.

Ultimately, because tattoos are designed to be permanent, you want to pick the best artist you can find — even if it’s expensive. They should run their business in a clean, sterile way — almost with the cleanliness of a surgeon — but also have true artistic talent. That’s a rare combination to find, but it’s worth it to do your research and shop around until you find it. ♦

HOW TO CHOOSE A CREDIT UNION

Large banks and financial institutions are often the default choice for many when it comes to deciding where to house their money. They’re
convenient and offer a wide variety of services, but they can also seem impersonal.

If you’re seeking more personal service from a consumer-owned institution, credit unions may be the perfect fit.

Credit unions are cooperatives in the truest sense of the word. They have existed for more than 100 years, springing from the idea that
serving a group of unserved or underserved people as a group could prove economically feasible and offer an alternative to traditional banks.

Today, they rank among the best micro-finance organizations available to large swaths of the population.

Unlike big banks, which are owned by shareholders or conglomerates, credit unions are typically nonprofit operations owned by their
members. Credit unions charge fewer and lower fees than for-profit banks. And any dividends go to the members instead of shareholders.
In short, credit unions are a good deal.

They usually offer better interest rates on savings accounts and competitive rates on various loans. You might get a fantastic rate on a
student loan, mortgage, auto loan or credit card.

And, like bigger banks, the federal government insures credit union deposits up to $250,000.

The first step in selecting a credit union is to research those in your community and their membership requirements. Some credit unions are
available to employees of specific companies or groups of public service or school employees. But offers extend eligibility to anyone willing to follow their membership requirements. You may be asked to join a food co-op or other organization in order to qualify for membership.

A simple internet search is an excellent starting point. Develop a list of credit unions in your area. Then narrow your possibilities by researching eligibility, services offered and fees charged by each credit union.

Verify the current interest rates on their accounts. If you can’t find the rates online, call and ask them for the percentages.

Find out if there are any fees associated with the accounts you want to open. As with traditional savings and loan banks, you might be required to pay a fee if you fall below a minimum balance.

Check about other requirements. You might need to use your debit card a certain amount of times each month.

If you are in the market for a specific loan, research to see if the loan is issued by the credit union. Once you have found several credit unions offering that type of loan, compare interest rates and specials to see who has the best deal.

Of course, convenience is something to keep in mind. Check for availability of online services, weekday and weekend hours, where
branches and ATMs are located.

You should also understand any fees associated with ATM or debit card usage. If you use ATMs frequently, those charges can add up fast.
Some credit unions belong to a national network of credit unions for shared services. It might mean more access to ATMs and other services in case you move or go on vacation. If you have children attending college in other cities, this can be useful.

Once you have completed your research, make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of each credit union. You can easily compare them.

Upon choosing your credit union, visit the branch so you can understand all of the services and learn more about the benefits of
membership. ♦