Archive for Winter Tips

The Christmas Tree Conundrum: Real or Fake?

pexels-photo-264988The kind of tree that adorns a person’s home during the holidays can provoke debate as much as Coke vs. Pepsi or Chevy vs. Ford.

When it comes to Christmas trees, do you choose live or artificial? Do you cut your own at the local tree farm, or do you prefer the convenience of a tree bought at from the local grocery store or home improvement store that won’t shed its needles, doesn’t need water and already has lights?

Both live and artificial trees have their advantages and disadvantages, and we here at Duncan Financial Group certainly aren’t going to try to convince you that one is “right.” But in the spirit of giving, we thought we’d provide some information to help you make the best decision for you and your family.

Artificial trees
According to the North Carolina Consumers Council, artificial trees pose fewer safety concerns than live trees, but that’s not to say they don’t have risks of their own. Even fake trees can catch fire when sockets are overloaded with Christmas lights, and it only takes seconds for any tree to become completely engulfed in flames. And yes, flame-resistant artificial trees will eventually succumb to a fire.

When using a pre-lit tree, always follow instructions, and place the tree in an open area where a fire won’t quickly spread to furniture or other things in close proximity.

The benefits of artificial trees, of course, are well-known. They’re convenient and often less messy than real trees. You can re-use them year after year, saving money and saving the environment. And there’s no need to spend time searching for the perfect tree, since it’s usually easy to adjust the “branches” to your liking.

Live trees
OK, so you want the real deal. That’s great! But you’re going to have to take a little more care than you would with an artificial tree. First of all, pick a tree that’s in good shape. If needles come off easily when you give it a shake or a quick pull on a branch, find another one.

When you get it home, cut off the bottom two inches of its trunk, and fill the tree stand with water regularly. This is the best way to prevent a fire. Remember not to overload it with lights and decorations. And the longer you keep your tree up, the drier— and the more dangerous – it will become.

Dispose of your tree properly as well. Don’t burn it or put it in your fireplace, as a burning Christmas tree can be harder to control than other types of fires.

If you’re a fan of real trees, you probably don’t need us to tell you the benefits. Just take in that smell and enjoy the season!

No matter what tree you choose, the important thing is to keep safety in mind as well. If you do that, your holiday enjoyment will be real, even if your tree isn’t!
Content provided by Safeco Insurance

5 Tips for Deep Frying a Turkey This Thanksgiving

pexels-photo-260487Those in Pennsylvania who have tasted deep-fried turkey usually say there’s simply no comparison to an oven-roasted bird — turkey out of the fryer is moist, with crispy skin and a beautiful color.

And, it cooks much more quickly than a turkey in the oven, which means you don’t have to wait for hours on end to get your fix.

But, if you’re not careful, frying a turkey can ruin your Thanksgiving, too. You’ve no doubt seen videos of people accidentally starting fires with their attempts. In some cases, families have even lost their homes.

With a little common sense, though, you can safely enjoy that great taste and fast cooking time. Here are five tips for cooking a great deep-fried turkey — without doing any damage (except maybe to your waistline):

  1. Find a safe place to cook. Don’t ever set up a fryer any closer than 10 feet from your home, garage or any other structure. Make sure the area is flat to keep the fryer from tipping, and never put it on a deck or other flammable surface.
  2. Don’t use too much turkey. You don’t want to drop a 20-pound bird in your fryer; it’s just too big. Keep your turkey to 12 pounds or less, don’t stuff it and make sure it’s completely thawed and dry.
  3. Don’t use too much oil, either. When it comes to the oil, use something with a high smoke point (for example, canola or safflower) and do a test with water beforehand to figure out how much you need. Put the turkey in your fryer and fill with water until it is covered. Then take the turkey out and make a mental note of the water line — that’s how much oil to use. Be sure to dry everything completely after your test.
  4. Use caution when it’s time to cook. Don’t just drop the turkey into the fryer, unless you want to splash hot oil on yourself (bad) or the burner (even worse). Gently lower it into the oil, and then monitor everything as it’s cooking. Keep an eye on the oil temperature to make sure it doesn’t get too hot. Keep an eye on the clock, because you want your turkey to cook for about 3-5 minutes per pound. And, watch kids and pets so they don’t get too close to the fryer.
  5. Be prepared for disaster. If you’re cautious, the odds are you won’t need a fire extinguisher, but you should have one on hand anyway – a multi-purpose model with dry powder. Don’t ever spray water on a fryer fire. If you don’t have an extinguisher, either cover the oil or dump a large amount of baking soda on the blaze. And, if all else fails, call 911 – quickly.

Of course, there’s one way to get a deep-fried turkey that can’t fail: Buy one from a professional. They’re available at some grocery and specialty stores, and even restaurants are getting into the act now.

Whichever you choose, we here at Duncan Financial Group wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

Spring ahead with these home maintenance tips

Spring cleaning and spring maintenance tips go hand in hand. Take a cue from the tips below and spruce up your gutters as you spruce up your rose garden.

  • Inspect your smoke detectors, and make sure that there is one on each floor of your home. Test them monthly, and change the batteries annually or as needed.
  • Check the light bulbs in all your fixtures to be sure they are the correct wattage as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Replace all high-intensity bulbs (such as halogen) with fluorescent bulbs that don’t produce as much heat.
  • Check your electrical outlets for potential fire hazards such as frayed wires or loose-fitting plugs. Be sure not to overload electrical outlets, fuse boxes, extension cords or any other power service.
  • Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible, filled and ready for operation.
  • Have your air conditioning system inspected by a professional as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Check for damage to your roof, and clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating.
  • Check water heater for leaks and corrosion.
  • Clean or replace your furnace filter.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under the washer & dryer. Remove all lint, dust, and pieces of material.
  • Check your washing machine supply hose for cracks. Change from rubber to braided metal for less risk of a rupture.
  • Remove all dead trees in your yard, and keep healthy trees and bushes trimmed and away from your roof and utility wires.
  • Safely store oil and gas for lawn equipment and tools in a vented, locked area.
  • Repair cracked, broken or uneven driveways and walkways to provide a level walking surface.
  • Check and repair handrails and porch rails.

Contact Duncan Financial Group in Irwin, Pennsylvania at 724-863-3420. Speak with one of our experienced advisors and learn how you can feel the most comfortable with your personal insurance policies

Main: 724-863-3420

311 Main Street

Irwin, PA 15642

By The Travelers Indemnity Company and its property casualty affiliates, One Tower Square, Hartford, CT.  Used with permission.

Insurance to Value: Homeowners Beware

Housing values have plummeted throughout the United States.


The pace of existing-home sales dropped more than 8 percent from January 2008 to January 2009, reported the National Association of Realtors. Home values declined for 76 percent of all U.S. homes during 2008, estimated And housing prices have fallen in 70 percent of all metro areas over the past several years, according to Moody’s What’s more, the rate of new-home construction is now at its lowest in 50 years, noted the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Duncan Financial also sees what’s not going down, though, is the cost of rebuilding and repairing houses. Construction costs rose by more than 4 percent between 2007 and 2008, according to a report in Best’s Review magazine citing Reed Construction Data figures.

Rising reconstruction prices are contrary to the economic news of recent months. And it’s contrary to consumers’ expectations that lower home values should mean lower homeowner’s coverage is needed.

What’s more, homeowners are already cutting back on insurance expenses. Nearly one in four households already have changed their insurance coverage in the past year to reduce costs, according to a recent survey by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”) and local Trusted Choice® member agencies.

With these conflicting pressures, what should a homeowner do? The first thing: Recall what homeowners insurance is designed to do.

Insurance should “make whole” the policyholder after loss or damage to the home from an unforeseen event such as a fire, lightning strike or windstorm. In the case of rebuilding a home, “making whole” means rebuilding the same or similar structure.

When a home is damaged or destroyed, there are several issues that factor into its repair or replacement cost:

  • Debris must be removed and discarded.
  • Lumber, concrete, and other building materials are in demand on the worldwide market, even if demand is slumping in the United States.
  • Building materials are purchased for just one home, not on a large-scale basis as is for most housing developments.
  • fuel costs, a big part of construction costs, are higher than just a few years ago.
  • Natural disasters in the United States have left a shortage of building materials and labor in certain areas.
  • Homeowners want to get back into their home as quickly as possible, and speed drives up costs.

The Insurance Geek™ on Motorcycle Injuries:

Biker at rally“Mr. Dodge,”

“I am a 50-something whose kids are grown and whose wife has no more objections to my buying a Harley. I read one of your columns in your blog about the young bike rider and his attempts to get to his parents underinsured coverage. I live in Pennsylvania. I know that I cannot get motorcycle Personal Injury Protection coverage in case I get hurt, but am I correct in saying that I can go after my Supplemental Uninsured Motorists coverage if I exhaust the other driver’s liability coverage? I know it sounds morbid, but in my younger days I had a bike and was hit a couple times by idiots that couldn’t see stop signs. Thanks for your help.”

Here is the response:

“Not morbid at all; people need to think about these things. If the at-fault driver’s liability insurance is exhausted by your medical bills, you should be able to collect benefits under the SUM coverage on your bike. So, if your medical bills are $250,000 and the driver who hits you only bought $50,000 in bodily injury liability insurance, the SUM coverage on your bike should pick up the amount over $50,000, subject to the amount of SUM coverage you bought. If you bought $100,000, that’s the most it will pay.”

For more information on how to obtain coverage for injuries sustained while operating your Motorcycle contact Duncan Financial Group today.

Used with permission from

Why Traffic Tickets Save Your Life

Nobody likes getting a traffic ticket–they’re expensive, cause your auto insurance rate to increase and are a real pain in the you-know-what. But according to a new study, a ticket could save your life.

Research published in The Lancet, a medical journal, has found that drivers are more conscientious after being ticketed, at least for a while.

Researchers found that for a few weeks after receiving a traffic ticket, a driver’s chances of being killed in an automobile accident fall by 35 percent.

After three or four months, though, the impact wears off and drivers continue to lead foot around town.

So, the next time a cop gives you a ticket, give him a big smile and say thank you–he or she may be saving your life.

We all hate traffic tickets but they come with a positive outcome for the community. Keep driving safe and you and your auto insurance policy will see a difference. Not satisfied with your policy? Take a look at what Duncan Financial Group can do for you!

311 Main Street

Irwin, PA 15642

Main: 724-863-3420

Toll Free: 888-383-3420

Fax: 724-864-3022

Chew More? Weigh Less?

The more you chew, the less you eat, according to new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study involved 30 men–16 skinny, 14 obese–who were videotaped while eating a meal. The researchers guessed that the skinnier subjects would chew each bite more thoroughly than the heavier subjects. It turns out they were right.

During the next experiment, the subjects were instructed to chew each bite 15 times, while another experiment they were asked to chew 40 times.

When the subjects chewed each bite 40 times, they consumed 12 percent fewer calories than when they chewed 15 times. The 40-chew group also had lower levels of ghrelin, a hunger-producing hormone, in their stomachs.

So there you have it: Chewing, along with diet and exercise, should be a part of your weight-loss routine.

A great tip just in time for New Year’s resolutions! Duncan Financial Group provides honest and thorough insurance coverage. Stop in or contact us today to find out if your policy is meeting your needs!

311 Main Street

Irwin, PA 15642

Main: 724-863-3420

Toll Free: 888-383-3420

Fax: 724-864-3022


Holiday Travel Survival Guide from DFG

Holiday traveling has always been a feat to conquer, almost everyone does it (at least it seems that way) and almost everyone comes across the same frustrations with taking part in conquering this task. The tips listed below will help you and your monsters- I mean kids and significant other get through the holiday traveling traffic. We want to make your holiday traveling as pain free as possible. Here are some tips to keep the holiday frenzy to a low frizz.



  1. Eat something light and healthy before you go. It’s not good for your body to skip meals. in case you get stuck in traffic (odds are that you will, as AAA has been reporting that with fewer people traveling by air, that leaves more people taking to the highways), pack the car with bottles of water and healthy snacks. This helps keep everybody’s blood sugar up and keep grumpies at bay.
  2. Take rest stops. Yes, the natural urge is to just keep driving until you get there, but everyone will be happier if you get out every 45 minutes or so for a little walk and stretch break. If possible, refill your water bottles. And urge the kids to use the restrooms. You don’t know when you might be stopping again.
  3. Try playing a traffic game try a game that will captivate everyone’s attention or, if they like music, sing along with the radio. You may want to bring one of their favorite CDs, just in case.

A little extra relief tip for yourself this holiday season is purchasing an auto policy from Duncan Financial Group that will keep your nerves at ease with all the hustle and bustle going on this holiday season. Already have an auto policy? Review it and make sure all your needs are still being met Duncan Financial can help you review your policies and find out what you may be missing.

Duncan Financial Group
311 Main Street
Irwin, PA 15642
(724) 863-3420
Toll free (888) 383-3420

DFG Recipe and Holiday Cooking Safety Tips Just for You!

A Christmas recipe from us to you!  This makes a great gift idea for friends and neighbors. It provides a wonderful Christmas present for all your unsure-what-to-buy friends!  Decorate with a pretty label and a circle of Christmas fabric under the jar ring. Using the same basic recipe you can substitute different fruits and vegetables to make other varieties.



2/3 cup shortening                          2 2/3 cups white sugar

4 eggs                                                   2 cups mashed bananas

2/3 cup water                                    3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder      2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt                        1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cloves            2/3 cup chopped pecans


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease insides of 8 (1 pint) straight sided, wide mouth canning jars

In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, bananas, and water. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Add to banana mixture. Stir in nuts.

Pour mixture into greased WIDE MOUTH pint jars, filling 1/2 full of batter. Do NOT put lids on jars for baking. Be careful to keep the rims clean, wiping off any batter that gets on the rims.

Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, sterilize the lids and rings in boiling water.

As soon as cake is done, remove from oven one at a time, wipe rims of jars and put on lid and ring. Jars will seal as cakes cool. Place the jars on the counter and listen for them to “ping” as they seal. If you miss the “ping”, wait until they are completely cool and press on the top of the lid. If it doesn’t move at all, it’s sealed.

Jars should be eaten immediately or kept sealed in refrigerator for up to a week

Holiday Safety tips to make sure your holiday season is, “The Best One Yet!”

  • Unattended cooking is the leading cause of home fires in the U.S.  When cooking for holiday visitors, remember to keep an eye on the range.
  • Provide plenty of large, deep ashtrays, and check them frequently. Cigarette butts can smolder in the trash and cause a fire, so completely douse cigarette butts with water before discarding.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high, out of sight and reach of children (preferably in a locked cabinet).
  • Test your smoke alarms, and let guests know what your fire escape plan is.

The safest way to keep your family and home protected is by purchasing a homeowner’s insurance policy or checking your current homeowner’s policy to make sure it is still meeting your needs. Duncan Financial Group can help you with all your insurance needs. Stop in or contact us today!

Duncan Financial Group
311 Main Street
Irwin, PA 15642
(724) 863-3420
Toll free (888) 383-3420

Holiday Safety Tips That Will Calm Your Holiday Nerves

This time of year, the buzz around many workplaces is all about holiday spirit, parties, gifts and celebrations. But, as an Insurance company and since we are always assessing risks and trying to protect our customers from unexpected holiday-related disasters, conversations tend to be a bit more doom-and-gloom around our office. The talk around the water cooler here at Duncan Financial Group is more about “turkey fryer fires”, ”snow damage” and ”winter weather disasters”. Below are what we have thought to be the most common 3 concerns for the Holiday Season.


#1- Cooking Fires:

The Concern: Did you know that the leading cause of home fires in the U.S. is cooking fires? Around the holiday season many people spend more time in the kitchen cooking up meals for large groups and baking holiday treats. The increased time in the kitchen makes the instance of cooking fires greater than any other time of the year. What exactly is the most dangerous piece of cooking equipment? For the past few years is has been nothing other than… the turkey fryer.

The Knowledge to save you from this hazard: Avoid loose clothing and keep flammable materials away from heat sources. While cooking up that seasonal meal, always keep an eye on the stove. Practicing safe cooking will help ensure a happy, stress free holiday.

#2- Harsh Winter Weather

The Concern:  Did you know that between 1991 and 2010 winter storms resulted in approximately $26 billion in catastrophic losses?! Whether Jack Frost is nipping at your nose or dragging you by your boot straps- snow, ice and cold weather can do quite a lot of damage to your home.

The Knowledge to save you from this hazard: When you’re up on the ladder this year putting up holiday lights, make sure your roof is in good shape and your gutters are cleared out. Also, take a look around for any low lying tree branches that could be brought down by heavy snow and remove or trim them to keep your home safe and warm this season.

#3- Thefts

The Concern: Unfortunately, holiday time burglaries have been on the rise over the past few years. If you think about it, Christmas presents wrapped up and placed under the tree are an easy target for a burglar who wants to get in and out of your home quickly and with some valuable items. Also at risk is your car. Many thieves are finding brand new purchases in the trunk or back seat of a vehicle as shoppers go from one store to the next.

The Knowledge to save you from this hazard: Show those burglars that you won’t become their next victim by protecting your valuables this season. Don’t put presents on display in your home especially in front of a window. Don’t leave gifts in your vehicle unattended. You should do this all year round, in order to prevent burglaries in your home.

Duncan Financial Group is always looking for ways to make their customers feel safe and protected visit our website today to see what else we can do for your well-being!