2) Is the best answer simply to cut the tail off after one has finished casting on?
Tempting, very tempting. That's what I wanted to do when I first started to crochet, learned the hard way that more experienced people really did have a reason for doing things the way they do. If that end works loose, everything comes loose after that first stitch comes out. Aren't we lucky to have people who know how to do these things to turn to? When in doubt, ask. You absolutely made the best choice in checking it out.