Saturday, September 18, 2021

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CITYVIEW HOW-TO GUIDE

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HOW TO CHOOSE WHERE TO GIVE BIRTH

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, deciding where you’d like to give birth is important. A growing number of women with low-risk pregnancies have considered birth centers for an intimate, outside-the-hospital experience. Other women may be looking for that same intimate experience inside a hospital for an extra layer of safety and security for both mom and baby. 

So, how do you choose where to give birth? Here are some things to consider:

Atmosphere

Birth centers and maternity departments often have a warm, welcoming atmosphere where pregnancy is treated as a family event, encouraging the mother and support person to participate in celebrating new life. 

It is common for birthing facilities to use whirlpool tubs to ease pain during labor, such as the tubs available at UnityPoint Health – Iowa Methodist Medical Center and UnityPoint Health – Methodist West Hospital. Facilities should also offer the ability to adjust the environment for your comfort, with dimmed lighting, comfortable seating and a variety of labor equipment. UnityPoint Health – Des Moines birth facilities include birth balls and squat bars to help you find comfortable labor positions. Other options include warm blankets, gentle music and the option to use (or bring with you) scented oils and photos to help you relax or focus.

To get a sense of the atmosphere, you can often tour the facility in advance. To tour the birth facilities at Iowa Methodist and Methodist West, visit www.unitypoint.org/maternitytour.

Medical needs

Moms should also feel safe giving birth, knowing that the facility contains emergency medical expertise and equipment should it be required. 

It’s important to understand your medical needs in addition to the facility’s ability to handle the unexpected. Ask about your options for pain management, from non-medical (such as birth equipment and massage) to medical options (such as pain medications and epidurals). UnityPoint Health – Des Moines facilities also offer state-of-the-art surgical suites should the need arise.

A quality birthing facility will have highly-skilled nursing staff. Blank Children’s Hospital providers and specialists are on hand 24/7 at both Iowa Methodist and Methodist West to provide neonatal support if needed.

Finally, ask about your maternity provider’s schedule at the facility. Knowing which provider is on call when you go into labor can be very reassuring.  

Personal experience

Quality birth facilities will understand that childbirth is an extraordinarily personal process and will work with you to give you the individualized attention you deserve. Look for a facility that will allow you to stay in one room for the entire birth process, so you don’t have to readjust to new surroundings. 

Consider who you want to have with you during labor, such as your partner or a birthing coach. Also ask about visitors, as they may have specific guidelines during the current pandemic.

The birthing facility you choose should do everything it can to make your experience unforgettable. The birth of a baby is one of the most wonderful, memorable experiences of life. The best birthing facilities will go the extra mile to be a part of that joy. ♦

 


HOW TO CHOOSE A PLACE TO GET PIERCED

It can be quite the challenge seeking out a professional body piercer. There are many factors that will separate one practitioner from another, and not all of these factors will be obvious to the general public. In a sea of options, many buzzwords and catchphrases are used to help clients feel comfortable, and while the intention is good, talk is cheap, and it can mislead the client into a false sense of security. Asking the right questions and taking a tour of the facility will help you determine the right choice for you. 

First, we need to address what’s important to you in your piercing experience. Most people aim for qualities like: cleanliness, sterility, experience, quality jewelry and customer service — seeking the absolute best possible. Unfortunately, many people only make the effort to find the lowest cost option. This often leads to a subpar piercing experience and end result.

Seek exactly what you’re looking for: Find a specialty studio.

In a multi-service business, the piercers themselves may not be in control of the level of cleanliness, service, products, policies, etc. Sorting through establishments/artists that perform multiple services can be daunting and begs the question: What are they really good at? Are you seeking a “jack of all trades, master of none”? Or, are you in search of someone who has spent a career catering to your vision?

Business models that specialize in body piercing and jewelry tend to provide a higher level of focus on the details that accumulate to provide a superior experience.

Ask questions to compare the level and quality of education with the experience.

• “How long have you been piercing?” This will give you a baseline of the years in the industry. But this is not solely relevant to the quality of experience and product you will receive.

• “How did you learn to pierce?” This question will address their initial introduction to the industry, and give you information on the quality of education they have received. There are many ways people are introduced into the industry, and again, this alone is not a deciding factor. 

• “What have you done over the last (X) years to continue your education?” This answer, analyzed with the other two questions will help complete the picture of the person you are considering. There are many classes, seminars and conferences available for piercers to continue their education. Many are made available from the APP (Association of Professional Piercers, www.safepiercing.org).  

Take a tour, ask more questions, make a selection

Once you’ve narrowed down your top 3-5 establishments, it’s time to set up an appointment for a consultation and take a tour. Physically get a look at the studio, take a peek behind the scenes to see how they operate and learn what separates them from the other studios.

Have the piercer do a consultation with you regarding your desired piercing. Ask questions about the procedure, placement, ideal jewelry options and sterility. This will give you a feel for what you will experience. Take a look at the jewelry selection: Is there a variety of options for your piercing? Are you finding something that fits your style? It’s only at this point that you should consider price. Buy it once. Enjoy it forever.

Once you’ve toured your favorites, ask yourself; which studios/piercers match the level of education, experience, cleanliness, sterility, detail and quality that you desire?

Your piercing matters, so feel confident to ask the questions you need to ensure you find the perfect place to get pierced. ♦

 


HOW TO CHOOSE A SWIM SCHOOL

Swimming has long been a popular recreation activity and sport. But if you don’t know how to swim, or need help developing your swimming skills, you won’t be able to enjoy the pleasures of diving into the water. That’s when choosing a quality swimming school and instructor enters the picture.

These classes will help the beginner or novice learn critical swimming and survival skills. Even toddlers can benefit from swimming lessons, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The right school and instructor will help your child develop a healthy respect for water. Obviously it is important to find a great facility that puts safety first. Visiting swimming schools will help you determine which one is appropriate for your family. When choosing a swim school, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Safety and Hygiene

The swimming pool and locker rooms should be safe, clean and hygienic. A dirty facility is a breeding ground for injuries and bacteria, which can cause troublesome infections. An unclean facility will also tell you about the quality of the management. 

Other questions to consider: Are safety rules enforced consistently? Is there a qualified lifeguard on duty at all times? Does the facility allow non-potty-trained babies and toddlers in the swimming pool? What procedure is followed if a baby or toddler defecates in the swimming pool? The answers to these questions will help you determine if the facility is safe for you and your family.

Type of Classes and Times

Swim schools often focus solely on adults or children. You might, however, find a school that offers a selection of courses for both groups. For your child, try to find a class that matches his age group, comfort level and swimming ability.

Class size is another aspect to consider. Nervous or shy children may benefit from private classes, while others do well in class sizes of 5-7 students. Some private instructors will allow you to accompany your child in the pool. 

Additionally, some classes focus on learning specific swim strokes while others concentrate on games and fun. The best lessons will incorporate safety procedures and drowning prevention techniques into their activities.

Check available class times. Morning classes may be best for toddlers who tire easily. School-age children may need late afternoon or early evening instruction.

Instructor Qualifications

As you tour the facilities, ask the teachers or administrators about their qualifications. The staff should have CPR certification and swim instruction qualification. They should also be full up-to-date on first aid techniques. You should also inquire about the history of the facility and find out if there have been any incidents that should concern you. You can also ask how much experience your child’s potential swim teacher.

Recommendations

Recommendations provide an excellent starting point for finding the best swim school for your family. Check with family, friends and neighbors to see if they can recommend a school or instructor. Your town’s park and recreation department may provide swimming classes or recommendations.

Location

Going to and from lessons should not be a chore. Look for a facility near your home or child’s school. You can integrate the lessons into your child’s school day if it is located in a convenient spot.

When your child learns in a safe and comfortable environment from trained professionals, he will see that swimming can be fun. ♦

 


HOW TO CHOOSE AN ALLERGIST/IMMUNOLOGIST

Finding the right allergist for yourself or loved one can be extremely difficult. Allergy/immunology is a vast field that is rapidly expanding, and some allergists have more of an interest with certain conditions than others. The immune system affects the whole body, and patients are often confused about which specialist should be taking care of which problems. This can apply to some physicians and even they can be confused about where to send patients. Below are questions to help you find the right allergist/immunologist.

Do You Have a Condition that Requires an Allergist?

Many conditions that are sometimes seen by other specialties should be seen by an allergist first not only because they are well-versed in using medications, inhalers, or creams for the condition, but allergists also specialize in testing for the allergen of interest, whether it be food, chemical, or environmental allergens that could be a trigger for your condition. 

If you have nasal, ear, throat, eye complaints that are either year-round or seasonal, there is a high likelihood that environmental allergens could be your trigger. Some specialties can treat upper respiratory complaints but focus on surgical intervention rather than medical management. A principle in medicine has always been turning to surgical intervention only when medical management has failed because of the risks of surgery.

If you have asthma, an allergist should be the first specialist you see. The reason for this is that most of asthma is allergic. 80% of children and 60% of adults who have asthma also have allergies. Many find that when their allergies are under control, they can drastically reduce their inhaler use and rate of exacerbation. Allergists are also experts at using inhalers and biologics, which are powerful new drugs that target asthma.

If you have moderate to severe eczema (red, dry, itchy skin), identifying allergen triggers such as cat, dog, mold, grass, chemicals, and foods should be a priority. Other specialties use medications and creams to great effectiveness, but finding the root cause and controlling allergies can make the struggle against eczema much easier.

If you have a food allergy, an allergist can help you confirm the food or foods and some even offer desensitization therapy to help your body tolerate the food of interest. Food allergy often presents with hives, itching, swelling, cough, shortness of breath, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms. If you have just stomach pain or bloating, food allergy is much less likely to be the cause of your symptoms.

Is the Provider an Actual Allergist with Training in Allergy? 

If so, what are their main interests? Many providers can order tests or do certain procedures in allergy without being fully trained in allergy/immunology. Some providers hire outside companies that will do their allergy testing and procedures, and they have very little to do at all with the allergy work that is done in their clinic. Check providers’ credentials on their website or ask them regarding their experience in allergy and who oversees their allergy procedures and protocols. See if they have done research in allergy/immunology and if they align with your conditions.

Sometimes meeting a provider is the only way to understand if they are right for you. Schedule an initial visit to ask questions and set expectations regarding your care. You should feel comfortable with your provider and their plan before embarking on any treatment.

Lastly, you can look at online reviews but bear in mind you may get a very selective type of patients. Usually, patients are either very happy or very angry and not many in between. Interpret reviews carefully and look for patterns. ♦

 


HOW TO BUY AND SELL COINS

Coin collectors come by their hobby through different routes. Some inherit collections, allowing them a head start on their new pursuit. Others become fascinated when they find a rare coin mixed in with their normal currency. But no matter how they came by their collections, the hobby can prove addicting. And adding to the collection involves some investment, tenacity and research.

Buying and selling coins is great fun, and, with the right dealer, it can be an easy process. Several factors can affect a coin’s ability to go up in value, including its year, what mint it is from, and its rarity, meaning how many of that particular one are known to exist. If you are considering starting a coin collection, here are some things to keep in mind. 

Know what you have

There are a lot of resources that can help you understand what you are buying or selling.

It is important to discover everything you can about a coin before purchasing it. If you have inherited coins, or have received them as gifts, educate yourself on their background and value.

Coin shops have books that can help you get started. The “Red Book” is the best option when starting out. You can also find information at the local library and on the Internet, but be cautious when using the Internet, as some sites will lead you astray and tell you that a coin is worth thousands when it’s not really worth anything.

Understand coin grades

Knowing coin grades is essential. This system assigns a value based on the coin’s condition. 

The grading process is pivotal. You could have the same two coins — same year, same mint, same design — and they could be worth drastically different prices based on the score they received when being graded.

Coins in near-perfect condition are very rare and are more valuable than modified or damaged coins.

Don’t clean coins

Cleaning or polishing a coin can destroy its worth. It removes some of the original finish, rendering the coin far less valuable as a result. Real collectors prize coins that are in their original condition. 

Ask questions

Ask questions, no matter how trivial you think they might be. It is the only way you will learn and grow as a collector.

Look for more experienced collectors in your area. You can find them at coin shows and shops. There may even be clubs in your community. 

Ask them about the best coins to buy. Find out about their successes and failures. It will help you avoid pitfalls.

It is hard to know what is reputable online. That’s why networking in your area and finding people with great reputations is a better way to get your questions answered. 

Spend time at a coin shop

Develop a relationship with your favorite coin shop. 

Hanging out there can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. It will also help build your collection.

Once a dealer knows your interests, he can alert you with information about the coins you are seeking. Networking with employees may also help you develop new friendships that come out of common interests.

Doing these things will help you avoid wasting time and money on bad purchases. It will also pass the time, as you accumulate more knowledge. Soon you will be on your way toward becoming a seasoned collector.

Once you become an expert, don’t keep the knowledge to yourself. Give back to the coin collecting community. Help others develop an interest in the hobby as well. ♦

 


HOW TO MAKE A PLAN FOR AFTER DEATH

Estate Planning Tips and Advice

Estate planning might sound like a process reserved for the wealthy, but the truth is everyone can benefit by pre-planning in the event of your death.

Like every end-of-life issue, it may not be the most pleasant thing to discuss, but making a plan for how your affairs will be handled after death is the best thing you can do for your loved ones, regardless of your financial standing.

Document how you want your property and other assets handled to help your family avoid legal difficulties, inconvenience, unnecessary taxation and family arguments. An estate planning professional can have a lasting impact on your legacy.

Estate planning isn’t just about protecting heirlooms and it’s more than just creating a will; it also provides security for your family. Consider these tips for creating a sound, logical estate plan. 

Seek legal counsel

While some people use online forms to draft a simple will, most people will benefit from consulting with an estate planning attorney. This experienced professional can create legal documents with your specific circumstances in mind.

It’s true everyone should have a will, regardless of age. But that is only the first step in developing a solid estate plan. You should also create a living will, power of attorney and possibly a trust.

Consult an attorney who has experience in developing estate plans for those whose situations are similar to yours. Do not try to do it alone.

Life insurance policies

Life insurance policies provide for loved ones in the event of your death.

There are a wide range of options, and only a few will make sense for your situation. A professional can guide you through the possibilities and help you make appropriate choices.

Term life insurance policies are generally less expensive than other types of coverage. But whole life policies, annuities and other insurance products may be more appropriate for your circumstances.

Understand what you might be buying. In some cases, a policy may benefit the salesperson more than it does the customer.

It is essential you take all the time you need to learn about a particular policy before purchasing it. If you have any hesitation or confusion, ask another professional or keep researching. You should feel certain that you are choosing the best policy for your needs.

Funeral expenses

Funerals are very expensive, sometimes costing up to $10,000. You don’t want to leave your family with large bills. That’s why you should plan ahead to cover the cost of your own funeral.

Pre-paid funeral plans are a popular option, or you can simply buy a burial plot in advance so that one major task will be handled before your death.

It may be uncomfortable and even frightening to consider, but it is something that must be addressed as part of a solid estate plan. Visit funeral homes in your area to discuss prepayment options. 

Communication is key

Communicate with your family in general terms about your estate plan. Talking to them about what they can expect could head off estate disputes and heartache.

A good estate planner can help you navigate complicated family dynamics and concerns that may accompany this process. The right estate plan and experienced professionals can make your legacy a blessing that your heirs will treasure for the rest of their lives.

It is better to plan ahead than to be a burden on loved ones. ♦

 


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 MATTRESS

You may have heard: It’s estimated that we sleep a third of our lives away, so a comfortable mattress is key to ensuring we spend our waking hours feeling well-rested. If it’s time for a new mattress, your options are more varied than ever before.

Buying a new mattress is no longer a one-stop proposition. The mattress industry has boomed with the introduction of memory foam, sensor-activated comfort control and firms that sell quality products online easily delivered to your home.

But don’t lose sleep over shopping for a new mattress. Sure, the number of options can be as daunting as the wild range of prices, but selecting the right mattress for your needs at the right price really is pretty simple.

Ask your friends and family for recommendations, and then start browsing. Or you can scour the Internet for information and start narrowing your choices.

Purchasing a mattress is a long-term investment in your health and self-esteem. Don’t be afraid of looking at pricier options. Often, expensive mattresses may be on sale or part of a closeout event. Quality mattresses last longer, so you will not have to go through the trouble of buying another mattress in a year or two — or worry as much about the mattress sagging and breaking down.

Consider your bed size. Is it time to buy a bigger bed? Perhaps you would like to sprawl out and relax. 

Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

Do you need a firm or soft mattress?

People with a bad back, neck or leg pain, or other circulatory problems, might require firm support to keep their spines aligned. Other people prefer flexible support that fits the contours of their bodies.

Do you sleep with another person?

Mattresses made of memory foam might be beneficial, as it will give you a personalized experience without disturbing the other person’s sleep.

Standard mattresses can exacerbate allergies

If you are sensitive to lint, cotton, dust or dust mites. If you or your partner have allergies, consider getting a latex, foam or water mattress. You might also think about getting a hypoallergenic mattress cover.

When you are looking at actual mattress options, the following are popular choices:

Pillow-top mattresses are famous for their softness; however, they do have levels of firmness. They also require a larger bottom sheet because the pillow-top adds to their extra thickness. 

Coil spring construction is a great choice for people who want a firm mattress. This option has the ability to keep your spine aligned. Most mattress stores can show you samples of their product lines. Choose the best construction you can afford. 

“Memory” or high-density foam or latex mattress are helpful if you have physical issues, such as skeletal pain or circulatory problems. This mattress conforms to the shape of the body. It also minimizes pressure points from the head, shoulders and hips.

Adjustable air mattresses allow each person to change the firmness through electronic and mechanical devices that control air chambers. It is an ideal choice for partners who need to have different mattress preferences. You can also alter firmness for yourself, depending on your physical condition.

When shopping for a mattress, don’t be afraid of lying down and trying it out. Roll over and pay attention to how your body feels. Are you comfortable?

Inquire about the mattress guarantee or warranty. A standard warranty is 10 years. If the warranty is shorter or non-existent, look elsewhere. Some online companies allow you to return the mattress if you’re not satisfied.

Remember, your mattress is a long-term investment. Choose wisely and you will be rewarded with years of restful nights and energetic days. ♦

 


HOW TO CHOOSE HOME DÉCOR

Furnishing and decorating a home is perhaps the most enjoyable task a homeowner confronts. It involves both practicality and personal style, comfort and originality. Everything in your home says something about you, so it’s important to examine your tastes and research your options.

Here are some things to consider when decorating your home.

Match your personality

Home décor should be a reflection of who you are. Don’t think you have to follow the herd. You’re unique, and your home should be, too.

Whether you like excitement and adventure, which translates into bright colors and bold patterns in your home, or you prefer the calm, peaceful feeling of clean lines and muted tones, the right home décor will match your individuality.

Make a statement

It’s important to find a few bold items that make a statement and set the stage for your room’s feel. Throw pillows on the couch or new artwork on the wall are simple ways to start. Pick a few items that create a visual or stylistic theme for your room. Then look for accessories that fit the theme.

The theme could be as simple as a color palette or something more literal, like a seaside-inspired room decorated like a beachfront getaway. Really, it’s up to your imagination.

Make you feel at home

The perfect home décor will just make you feel right. When you mix and match the right items and create a space that matches your lifestyle, it’s easier to relax and unwind in a room that makes you feel comfortable.

Design trends can be fun to follow, but a comfy, cozy feeling that’s unique to you — well, that’s timeless. ♦


HOW TO CHOOSE A MEDICAL CLINIC

Everyone wants the best medical care they can afford. But sometimes you don’t always have the resources to choose. That’s why it’s essential to find a clinic that can treat your routine health issues before an emergency strikes.

Picking the right medical clinic can yield far-reaching benefits for your mind and body, so shop carefully to find one that can deliver the health services you need in a professional and friendly way. Here are some things to consider when choosing a health clinic.

Credentials

Like with any services in the health care field, you want to make sure the doctors and nurses at the clinic hold the right credentials to practice in your state.

Check with your state’s medical board to make sure your doctor’s records are listed there. Most medical boards have a way of searching online to see which degrees and board certifications medical professionals hold, making it easy for patients to verify their background and specialties.

The medical staff’s experience and reputation in your community matter, too. The best doctors have a long track record of happy patients and good medical outcomes, so ask your friends, family and coworkers about which doctors or clinics they recommend.

Listening

Aside from their medical training and experience, one of the most important things that sets a great medical clinic apart is the staff’s ability to listen to your needs.

The doctors and nurses at the clinic should make you feel comfortable asking questions and sharing your concerns with them. Listening carefully to your needs doesn’t just help them understand your potential medical problems, but it’s also a matter of good, old-fashioned customer service.

The best clinics will also be able to help you take care of financial issues. Your clinic should be able to help you understand their payment policies and clearly answer questions about your bills.

Standards

While most medical clinics can provide the same basic services, the best ones have high expectations for how they run their operation and care for patients. In most cases, after your first visit you’ll be able to tell how much pride the clinic takes in its services.

Is the office, including the waiting area, kept clean and organized?

Do the employees and medical staff have a professional appearance and demeanor?

Do they respect your time by keeping appointments on schedule and communicating clearly when there’s a delay?

Do the employees seem to enjoy their work?

Well-run clinics value the personal lives of the people who work there, something that can lead to a better overall experience for patients. When you see a clinic that sets high standards for taking care of their staff, they’ll be likely to have high standards for how they treat you, too.

Community

Finally, a good medical clinic will have a bigger goal in mind: making the whole community a happier, healthier place to live.

Many clinics are involved in their communities by supporting health-related events or sponsoring youth sports teams and other activities. 

Even more important are the wellness groups that clinics can create and support. Whether it’s yoga classes, lessons on healthy eating, or support groups for people and caregivers dealing with serious health problems, the best clinics are about a lot more than just routine doctor visits.

When you find a clinic filled with caring, highly competent and community-minded medical professionals, you’ll know you’ve picked the right one.

 


HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST MORTGAGE

Buying a home — especially for the first time — is a big step for you and your family. A house purchase is a major investment that will likely require you to secure a mortgage or loan. But how do you know what type of mortgage is right for you? There are a variety of options out there that can be confusing. To help you begin, consider the following: 

Understand Your Budget

A home purchase is a big deal. Understand your budget from the beginning so you can shop smartly. It is important to see the big picture when it comes to your personal expenses. Unlike renting, buying a home comes with additional expenses. Insurance, utilities, and loan repayment will be reoccurring expenses that are required for homeowners. You should know what you could afford to pay each month for these types of expenses, as that will be important when setting your budget. It is recommended that you get pre-qualified for your mortgage, as that will help you set your budget. 

Know Your Credit Score

Getting pre-qualified for a mortgage loan is a great way to estimate rates and set your budget. Completing initial applications includes providing information about your credit score. Depending on your circumstances, a credit score can influence variable factors like loan terms or rates. If you have a history of missing credit card payments, make a commitment today to rewrite this habit. When your payments are regularly on-time for an extended period of time, this will make a positive impact on your score. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a banker to work with you to move the needle of your overall credit score. They can help!

Have a Plan

When it comes to paying off your mortgage loan, either fixed-rate loans or adjustable-rate loans are the typical options. If you are planning to stay in your new home for a number of years, chances are a fixed-rate mortgage would be a good fit. Fixed-rate loans come with a locked interest rate, making your monthly mortgage payment the same and keeps budgeting predictable. The fixed-rate loan terms are usually 15 years, 20 years or 30 years. If rates were to significantly drop, that’s when the option to refinance your loan to reduce payments is something to consider. Adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, start with a lower fixed rate for a period of time but it is a variable interest rate. After a certain time, the interest rate will be adjusted up or down annually based on market conditions. If a homeowner was looking to move quickly, an ARM could be an option worth pursuing.

Find a Lender You Like and Trust

It is likely you will have questions about purchasing a home. It is a complicated financial transaction and is a big investment. Find someone who is responsive and experienced to advocate for you, including spotting any potential issues or red flags when negotiating a deal. There are many different sites and tools that provide projected house payments, but do not use this in place of an accurate calculation. Rates could be incorrect, or the best type of mortgage loan for you is not integrated in the calculator. There could be special home-buying grants or programs that would benefit you. Or your down payment may also impact the type of loan you pursue. Your lender is there to guide you and weigh all these factors. 

Committing to a mortgage is a big decision that’s personal and different for everyone. If you need help getting started, go to fidelity-bank.com or call us at 1.877.281.0689 and connect with one of our loan officers.♦

 


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 our 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 my 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 ensures 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, 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 offer 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 number 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. Learn more about the benefits of membership. 

 


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 PLASTIC SURGEON

Plastic surgery is sometimes a necessary procedure following a disfiguring injury. Modern plastic surgical techniques are a marvel of science and can help reconstruct bodies and faces after even the worst accidents.

But when people think of plastic surgery, they most often think of cosmetic plastic surgery performed either to correct a physical anomaly or, in many cases, to erase years off a person’s appearance.

While there may be many benefits to plastic surgery, all surgery carries risks so you’ll want to search for the best-qualified surgeon to explain the process to you.

If you’ve set your mind on having a cosmetic procedure, it’s vital that you have it performed by a well-qualified plastic surgeon. 

Here are the main things to consider while searching for the right doctor to give you that perfect look.

Board certification

Choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon is an important first step.

While many state medical boards will certify doctors for general surgery, the American Board of Professional Surgeons specifically requires training and experience in plastic surgery — including two years devoted entirely to plastic surgery — which can lead to better outcomes for patients than doctors with less experience in the field.

Ask whether your surgeon is board certified and what training they’ve had in the specific procedure you’re considering.

Specialty

Some plastic surgeons are generalists, performing a wide range of procedures. Others focus on a particular speciality and perfect their skills over many years performing that one type of procedure.

Some surgeons specialize in body procedures, for example, while others might spend most of their time doing facial surgery or breast augmentation.

Ask how long the surgeon has been performing your particular procedure and how many times they have performed it. That information can help guide your decision.

Reputation

In the plastic surgery field, some doctors have better reputations than others, and it can be tricky to find the best ones. After all, some of the best cosmetic surgery work is the kind that no one can tell was done. It’s subtle.

If you know someone who has undergone a cosmetic surgery procedure before, though, you can try to find out what they thought about their experience. First-person references about doctors are always insightful.

In addition, you can look at before-and-after photos that show the surgeon’s work. Ideally, you’ll want to look for patients who have a similar facial structure, breast or body shape to yours so you can see what to expect for your personal results.

Connection

Communication is a big part of the plastic surgery process, and you should try to find a doctor with whom you can clearly communicate your wants and expectations for the procedure. You should be confident that they understand how you want to look and can deliver the right results for you.

Trust is a big part of that relationship. You should be able to trust the surgeon’s recommendations and be comfortable discussing your detailed medical history and habits with them.

In the end, if you can find a plastic surgeon with the right training, plenty of experience in your procedure and a good connection with you, you’ll be more likely to have the best outcome from your procedure. ♦

 


HOW TO CHOOSE A THERAPIST

In Iowa, there are several types of licenses that mean different types of training to be a therapist. The different licenses are independent social worker, master of social work, marriage and family therapist, mental health counselor, temporarily licensed marriage and family therapist, temporarily licensed mental health counselor and psychologist. So, what do these different licenses mean and how can you determine which is the best fit for you?

A licensed social worker is trained in macro or micro level systems. This means the person may be trained to understand community level needs or individual level needs or both. A licensed social worker could work in a hospital setting connecting people to resources or in a private practice with an individual as well as other settings. 

A licensed marriage and family therapist is trained to look at relational systems and how factors outside of an individual can impact relationships and individuals. This type of training emphasizes that people are not in a bubble and have to function with influences and factors outside of themselves. This training has a strong emphasis on relationships such as marriages and families and how those relationships impact mental health. 

A licensed mental health counselor is trained in either clinical or school based mental health. This type of training looks at group therapy, individual counseling, different counseling approaches and development of a person. 

A licensed psychologist will have a doctorate degree, pass a national exam and will have completed 1,500 hours of supervised experience. This type of license has approximately two more years of education requirements. The education aspect focuses on either clinical testing or on counseling and counseling theories. Both types of educational background result in the same license. 

So, with all of these possible licenses, how can you decide who is right for you? If you are struggling with relationship challenges, the therapist trained in relationship dynamics such as a marriage and family therapist may be a good choice. However, if you are struggling with depression or anxiety, a social worker, mental health counselor or psychologist may fit better. It is important to understand that different licenses mean different types of training, but most therapists continue to get training well beyond licensure and may have specialties in areas not associated with their license. An example is a play therapist. This type of therapist is trained to work with children through play but can have any of the licenses mentioned above. Different types of therapists will have different approaches to problems, so if you don’t feel you are getting what you want or need from one therapist, it is OK to seek a different therapist to see if they are a better fit. 

There is no one perfect therapist for everyone. Different people will click with different therapists. When you need to choose a therapist, it is OK to look around and talk to different therapists to see if you feel more comfortable with a particular person before embarking on your therapy journey. Understanding the different types of training can help you feel more confident in choosing the type of therapist you think can help. But, the number one most important aspect of choosing a therapist is feeling like you can connect and work with that person to reach your therapy goals. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you like them, but that you believe they can help you get where you want to be. 

 


HOW TO CHOOSE AN ACCOUNTING FIRM

When you’re growing a business, finding 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 A PRIMARY CARE PROVIDER

Whether you’ve recently moved to a new city, are establishing care for the first time, or are simply looking for a change — finding a primary care provider near you is easy. Here are a few tips to jumpstart your search:

Determine the Kind of Care You’d Like

Primary care providers are either trained in family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN), midwifery or pediatrics. Each area is a great option, depending on your specific wants or needs.

Family Medicine

Offering care for all ages, these providers help with illness and injury, women’s health and more. They are trained to diagnose and treat most common diseases and can coordinate with specialists and surgeons if the need arises. Your family provider offers you more than just a yearly check-up. They can be your go-to for a sinus infection, sore throat, or even when you’re experiencing anxiety or depression.

Internal Medicine

These providers, also known as internists, see adults 18 years of age and older. Like a family medicine provider, internists get to know you well over the years. They are also trained to diagnose and treat complex illnesses and chronic diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, chronic respiratory diseases, and more. 

OB/GYN and Midwifery

OB/GYNs are licensed providers and surgeons, offering personal and compassionate gynecological care. From annual physicals to mammograms, prenatal care to cancer screenings, they offer care from adolescence through adulthood. Certified Nurse Midwives also provide women’s health care, with a focus on a personalized experience. 

Pediatrics

Pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners treat newborn-age through late teens. They offer a wide range of services and advanced care from well-child visits, to basic childhood immunizations and illnesses, to managing complex medical conditions and chronic disorders. In addition, some providers are also specially trained to offer inclusive, comprehensive LGBTQ care. 

Look Up Providers or Locations Near You

By either searching online or using a tool like UnityPoint Health’s Find a Doctor, you should be able to easily find a list of providers nearest you. On unitypoint.org, you can filter this list by specialty, location, gender, languages spoken, and more! 

Research Individual Providers

In addition to ensuring a provider is certified in the area of medicine you’ve chosen, it’s also important you feel you would enjoy visiting with them. As your partner in health, providers hope you like talking to them, while getting to know and trust them. Check out Find a Doctor at unitypoint.org to watch videos of our primary care providers and get a glimpse into their personalities. And of course, you can always ask friends and family members for recommendations. 

Book An Appointment

Regardless of who you choose, it’s important to establish care to live well. When you receive routine care from the same primary care provider for years, they get to know your medical history inside and out. This helps them make accurate diagnoses, guide you through important screenings like mammograms, pap smears, colon screenings, cholesterol or blood pressure screenings, and monitor changes in your health. ♦

 


HOW TO CHOOSE A MUSIC TEACHER

Some musical instruments can be learned by self-instruction. YouTube and the internet is full of videos and techniques to help you master the fundamentals of various instruments. For some, it’s a hobby; for others, learning to play more than capably is a passionate pursuit.

For those seeking the latter, there’s really no substitute for a great teacher. No matter how much or how little musical skill you start with, a good musical mentor will improve your chops.

Here are some things to consider while looking for a music instructor.

Expertise and Teaching Style

Two criteria that should be at the top of your list when choosing a music teacher: expertise in the field and teaching style. The importance of each depends on the skill level of the student.

For beginning students, finding a teacher with a personality and methods that mesh with their learning style should be the top consideration. You want a teacher who can motivate and inspire, which doesn’t necessarily require a particularly rigorous background in music — although that can be an added plus.

Every 5-year-old child learning how to play the piano doesn’t need to learn from a Juilliard-trained pianist. They need someone who can teach them the basics and keep them excited about growing their knowledge and skill level in the early stages.

On the flip side, though, the more advanced the student becomes in their studies, the more important the teacher’s technical and theoretical insights will be. You’ll want to look more closely at their professional background, experience and education in that case. 

Extremely talented students could find themselves outgrowing their early teachers, something a good music educator will be able to recognize and encourage. They’ll know when it’s time for you to move on to a new teacher with a more advanced pedigree who can take your musical abilities to the next level. Ideally you’ll be able to find a teacher you can stick with for a long time.

Motivation remains important at every level, though. Whether you’re just starting out or already performing on concert stages, a great music teacher will always push you to do your best and expand your musical horizons.

Reputation

Fortunately, the best music teachers are easy to spot because they’re the ones with a great reputation in local musical circles.

Ask around for someone who really knows a lot about the particular instrument or music style you’re interested in learning. No matter what your interest, you’ll probably start hearing one or two names pop up in conversations about it.

If you’ve got friends or acquaintances who’ve got musical abilities you envy, ask who their teachers have been. They’ll usually be glad to tell you who taught them and what the strengths and weaknesses of their various teaching styles have been.

The best teachers will always have a long track record of happy students, and in tight-knit musicians’ circles, that makes it easy to find the best options in your local area.

 


HOW TO CHOOSE AN HVAC COMPANY

Your heating and air conditioning system is a vital component of your home. Whether you’re investing in a new system to replace an aging unit or repairing your existing system, creating a relationship with a professional HVAC company can save you money and headaches — and keep you warm and cool.

The best HVAC contractors are helpful and reliable, but a poor contractor can cost you extra money and heartache.

Good word of mouth will go a long way toward helping you find the best professionals in your area.

Create a list of candidates and call the Better Business Bureau, your state’s board of contractors or the builders’ association to check on their reputations. Your town’s building inspection office may also have information for you. Avoid companies who have many complaints on their record.

Upon narrowing the list, call the remaining ones and ask about pricing, guarantees and warranties. Also inquire about how long it would take to complete a job and the manufacturers’ brands they use. 

If you are purchasing new equipment, find out if you need a separate service contractor or if routine maintenance and repairs are included in the price of installation. Does the company provide around-the-clock emergency service?

High quality HVAC companies are fully licensed, bonded and insured. If a worker is injured or causes damage to your property, that insurance should cover it. Otherwise, you could be liable for the damages. Your insurance premiums would likely increase as a result. 

Reputable HVAC companies will usually belong to recognized professional and trade organizations. Some well-known organizations include the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute, and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Membership in one of these organizations is not automatic. Applicants are required to have certain certifications, meet professional standards and meet or exceed other requirements before they are admitted.

Before any work begins, verify that all the required building permits are in place. Most companies will file permits on your behalf at the local building codes office. But don’t assume that it has happened. Check with the permitting office first. Work done without proper permits could result in a fine and time delay. 

Have a load calculation done before installing a new system in any building. The best companies perform a thorough calculation rather than estimate. Buildings change over time due to foundations cracking or settling. It will affect the efficiency of any equipment.

The HVAC company shouldn’t use the old unit to determine the proper size of a new one. If your old unit was inadequate, you will want to install a unit that is a different size. Speak with your HVAC installer to determine the right size and model for you. 

Ask your HVAC contractor to perform annual checkups to verify that the unit is running at peak efficiency.

With these tips, you can choose a reliable HVAC business that will help you for years to come. 

 


HOW TO KEEP YOUR SMILE BRIGHT

This summer has proved to be the best one in years as families and friends resume their traditions of barbeques, farmers markets and festivals — it can also be cause for an uptick in dental visits. To keep your smile bright and your enamel strong, follow some of the tips below for a healthy rest of the summer devoid of extra trips to the dentist.

Acidic foods are rampant in the summertime. From beverages to snacks — even those straight out of the garden — they can strip your enamel of its brightness, strength and resilience to future damage or bacterial attack. 

After consuming an acidic beverage such as lemonade, tea, pop, juice, energy drinks or wine, make sure you allow the pH to neutralize again before brushing. A common myth is to pick up a toothbrush immediately after having one of these beverages, but that actually wears down an already softened tooth more. Have a glass of water or milk or chew a piece of sugar-free gum before brushing.

Avoid acidic beverages in general. Despite being sugar free, many energy drinks such as Gatorade (Propel and G2), Powerade, Bang and Monster still have a high acid content. It is recommended that adults and children only have ONE high-risk beverage or snack per day, if at all to avoid decay. Energy drinks in particular are not any better than water unless someone is dehydrated or doing marathon-like workouts.

Cold drink dispensers with fruit infusions, as well as lemon in ice water should be drank sparingly, to avoid decay and eroding teeth as well, as they are as risky as acidic beverages.

Acidic fruits and vegetables are wonderful summer snack options, but high quantity consumption can do the same as juices. Choose a healthy snack such as dairy to pair with snacks straight out of the garden.

Too much of any of the above can leave your teeth looking dark and dingy, due to a loss of your pearly white enamel and cannot be whitened when the enamel becomes too thin. In advanced cases of enamel loss and erosion, there usually needs to be a restoration procedure — similar to someone who has experienced bulimia or who has ground their teeth too flat. This type of reconstructive dentistry can be an investment of time and finances and usually results in crowning or veneering multiple teeth, especially in children as their enamel is half as thick as that of adults. Start your kids on the road to health by sticking to water and milk at an early age, then they won’t develop the taste for sweet beverages and will reject them on their own when presented with one later in life.

Enjoy the sweet tastes of summer and keep your family healthy. You can still indulge, but do so smartly, selectively and in moderation! ♦

 

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