Controlling Auto Insurance Costs

Does it feel like automobile insurance rates just keep increasing? It is part of a national trend. Blame increased accidents resulting from distracted driving.

But there are some ways you can save on your policy:

  • If you are a student, you can save as much as 25% with good grades. It pays to strive for those A’s!
  • Higher deductibles can also help reduce your insurance premium costs. Just be careful about leaving yourself with too much exposure. (Your deductible should be something you can afford to pay.)
  • If you are over 50 you may be able to take defensive driving courses. These could qualify you for savings up to 10% per year depending on your insurance policy.
  • If you own a paid off older vehicle, it may make sense to drop coverage for collisions… but only if the car’s value is less than 10x the insurance premium.
  • If you are driving less than 7,500 miles a year, your costs may also go down since you are limiting your exposure by driving less.

Be sure to review your situation regularly with your insurance agent as life changes can also have an impact on your rates.

For example, in some states, an improving credit score can help reduce your insurance premiums.

Another life change that can have a positive impact is becoming a homeowner. If you own a home, be sure to talk with your agent about bundling. Combining auto and home policies with one carrier can offer savings. (Versus placing the home and auto policies with different carriers.)

And remember, your independent insurance agent is able to shop between multiple carriers to help you find the best rate for your specific situation. They can help you evaluate your risk profile to make sure you have the exact insurance coverage you need for your situation.

Why Having an Ergonomic Chair Matters

Consider your work chair. Is it comfortable and also supportive? Do you feel healthy being in it? Is it steady?

If you responded to “no” to any of these questions, you could need a new chair– one that is ergonomically correct. But it is essential for your company and you to do the research initially. “There are lots of ergonomic chairs available, however it can be a blunder to purchase one simply since it is labeled ‘ergonomic,’”

Some ergonomic chairs are more expensive than others but what matters is that the chair fits the person. According to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health & Safety, a chair ends up being ergonomic only when it:

  • Particularly suits an employee’s dimensions,
  • Their desk, and
  • What work they do there.

The ideal chair is flexible:

  • Can the seat height be adjusted? It’s really important that a seat elevates an employee to the correct height.
  • Is the backrest adjustable? It needs to have the ability to be changed both vertically as well as in frontward and also backward directions. In addition, the chair should have a company lumbar support.
  • Does the chair have a seat deepness appropriate for the worker?
  • Is the chair stable? Having a chair with a five-point base is best.

Finding a chair that fits:

Office workers spend the bulk of their time sitting… and sitting incorrectly can lead to injuries. So to have a great chair that fits, take these variables into consideration:

  • Understand that chair won’t always help every worker.
  • Make sure the chair seat elevation is 1/4th the worker’s elevation, but also make sure it fits the employee’s leg-to-torso ratio.
  • The same chair is not always ideal for all activities. Be prepared to have different types of chair in your environment that are task and worker specific.
  • Some are surprised to learn that chairs require maintenance. Be sure to check with the manufacturer for what possible issues may arise.
  • Be sure to allow users an opportunity to try and compare chairs. After all, they will be the ones using the chairs on a daily basis.

It may surprise you, but many workers’s compensation claims are related to poor ergonomics.

Millions of workers suffer work-related musculoskeletal disorders each year. Hundreds of thousands miss work as a result. Shockingly $1 of every $3 spent on worker’s comp claims is from inadequate ergonomic protection. Total annual costs for these types of claims exceed $45 billion each year.

The best “cure” for these situations is simple prevention. An investment in ergonomic chairs is far better than the claims that could result from poor seating for your workforce.

Have questions about ergonomics and their impact on worker’s comp claims? Be sure to reach out to your worker’s compensation insurance professional for answers!

Watch Out for Rip-offs When You Move

Moving is stressful! Whether you are moving across town or across the U.S., it’s a huge undertaking. You hire movers to help relieve stress, but it can actually cause problems. In fact complaints about moving companies have climbed by more than 25 percent in recent years.

For example, in 2014 there were more than 800,000 interstate moves. Of those, 3,600 resulted in complaints. So how do you avoid issues with movers and potential scams?

First off, watch out for low bids. One of the biggest complaints stem from movers that quote one price and then hold your items hostage, compelling you to pay a higher rate. Low quality movers will also give you a bid without inspecting your items. They will often say they’ll give you a final bid once your items are loaded on the truck. Avoid these!

Movers that leverage these tactics tend to be unlicensed and often advertise in classifieds or on Craigslist. A better resource is to check moving.org for more reputable movers. If you are looking for a better way to save, set your move dates carefully. Summer months are the busiest… and end of month moves tend to be more expensive than mid-month moves.

Second, look for clues that indicate you are likely dealing with a reputable company…

  • They’ll answer the phone with their actual company name. Less reputable movers will answer with “moving companies” because they are trying to avoid answering calls from dissatisfied clients.
  • Their website is modern and well branded. It also states their physical address that is tied to a real office. Less reputable movers will have a “virtual” office and their mailing address will be a P.O. Box.
  • They offer absolute clarity on their insurance coverage.Less reputable companies won’t.
  • They clearly show their licensing. Less reputable firms may not have licensing at all.

The key: Expert movers demonstrate clear professionalism throughout the process.

Third, protect yourself from ID theft. You would take extra care to protect expensive jewelry and family heirlooms, right? You also need to protect your personal records! Any paperwork that contains personal identifiable information should be secured to protect it. Important documents to protect include:

  • insurance documents,
  • stock certificates,
  • wills,
  • passports,
  • social security cards, and
  • birth certificates…

Fourth, read your contract carefully. If you don’t understand the terms, be sure they are explained to you. Keep copies of everything you authorize, particularly the “bill of lading”. (This recognizes the mover is in possession of your items… it also serves as your receipt.) Be particularly careful with moving insurance. Often times the standard insurance is minimal and won’t offer true “replacement-value” coverage. (Be sure to check with your insurance agent to see how your home owners policy may cover items that are lost or damaged during a move.)

By following these tips and leaning on your insurance agent for guidance, you’ll be well positioned to have a low-stress move.

Life Insurance is Difficult to Talk About… But a Divorce Makes a Conversation Necessary…

Divorces are painful. They can cause emotional harm to all participants. For example, imagine what might happen if a current spouse and an ex-spouse file competing claims for life insurance on a decedent.

Divorce related life insurance conflicts often end up in the courts. Such proceedings can be an emotionally charged experience for all involved.

Is that what you would want for your estate? Let’s say you have a policy worth $1,000,000. How much of that could be lost in legal fees as competing parties fight each other over who should receive the death benefit?

It may be surprising, but life insurance is often overlooked in divorce proceedings. This sort of oversight sets up the potential for future conflicts.

It forces the courts to made decisions on behalf of the decedent… something that no life insurance policy owner wants.

But avoiding this issue is relatively easy. Be sure your life insurance is discussed during your divorce and be sure it is properly updated.

As difficult as it may be, talking with your Insurance professional about your divorce is important. They’ll be really understanding. They’ll ask you the necessary questions to help you decide how best to handle whatever changes you need to make to your policy. They’ll offer you great advice that you can count on to be sure your estate is protected and that your wishes are followed if something should happen to you.

It’s Only Concrete…

As a contractor, concrete is one of those materials that is worked with pretty often. It’s easy to forget that you have to be careful when handling it.

After all, cement is considered one of the safest building materials. It’s found in playgrounds, sidewalks, workplaces, and homes…

But proper precautions have to be observed when working with concrete, otherwise it can be quite dangerous.

Concrete Basics

Portland cement is the most common active ingredient in concrete. Mixed with water, sand, and rock it solidifies into a rock-hard material. Thing is, because it is so abrasive, it is really harsh on the skin.

And even if concrete doesn’t come in contact with the skin directly, it can saturate clothing and still negatively impact the skin.

In fact, fresh concrete that comes in contact with skin can cause chemical burns. It can also cause severe damage to the eyes. How bad can the burns be? According to the Portland Cement Association, it can result in third-degree burns.

That’s the last thing you want your crew to face!

Remember, your Workman’s Comp rate is based on claim experience. Taking appropriate steps to ensure proper concrete handling will help you manage risks associated with handling cement…

  • It’s important that anyone handling Portland cement wear water-proof gloves, shirts and pants that fully cover arms and legs, as well as rubber boots that are high enough to prevent concrete from getting in.
  • It’s also important to wear eye protection to prevent concrete dust from getting into the eyes.
  • Also, concrete is heavy. Workers need to take extra care when handling it. (Be sure they push with a shovel rather than lifting concrete with it.)

Following these simple guidelines will help ensure that your team is protected as they work with concrete. You’ll keep your workers safe and you’ll help control your insurance costs.

So, how much insurance do you need for your new business?

Opening up shop? Wondering what kind of insurance coverage you might need? Chances are you’ll likely need to protect yourself. You have to watch out for things like liability claims, injuries, accidents, damage to equipment, and burglary as well. It’s enough to give a person an ulcer.

So how do you know if you have the right business insurance for your needs? And how can you be sure you are getting a great deal on your coverage?

We’re certainly here to help you with that!

Talking with an independent insurance agent will help you figure out which kinds of commercial coverage are most appropriate for your company. And being independent means we can work with multiple carriers… that means you have a choice!

Getting help for your business insurance is a smart choice. You likely save time. You’ll also get the benefit of working with someone who knows the right questions to ask to help really understand your risk profile. (Getting a full assessment of your needs is critical to be sure you aren’t over-insured or under-insured.)

So what are the kinds of business insurance you may need to consider? It all depends on the business you are in but your insurance needs will include one or more of the following:

  • General Liability Insurance
  • Workers Compensation
  • Commercial Vehicle
  • Information Breach Protection

Sometimes these insurances will be sold separately. However, they are often packaged together into a BOP (business owner’s policy.) A BOP may include discounts vs. buying the coverage separately.

Working with a seasoned professional will help you make informed decisions. They’ll ask tough questions to make sure you’ll balance your potential risk exposure with cost savings options. (Many business owners we work with are surprised to learn how they might be exposed and how costly a potential loss could be.

Making sure you have the right coverage to protect your business investment is critical! After all, you want to be certain your company can be around to serve your clients should a disaster strike. Having this sort of peace of mind allows you to concentrate your energy on what you love & do best… building your business and helping your clients.

So skip the ulcer. If you’re thinking about starting a small business or if you already have one, be sure you chat with us about your insurance options.

Automobile insurance rates are on the way up because of distracted driving…

More drivers are taking their eyes off the road. They are being distracted by mobile devices and it is resulting in more accidents. Worse, it’s inflating your costs for coverage as well.

In fact, a state-by-state evaluation has uncovered that rates have been increasing for the last 5 years.

There are a few factors that influence rates going up…

  • More people are driving.
  • Cars are more expensive to repair.
  • Texting while driving has become the largest cause of accidents…

(The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined distracted-driving deaths increased 9 percent in 2015 alone!)

Of course insurance companies have to bill more because of the increase in insurance claims… in some cases with rates increasing by hundreds over the span of a few years.

You can help reduce accidents by putting down your cell phone while in your car. But if you’re having a hard time separating yourself from your cell phone… you aren’t alone.

You see, it’s all about dopamine. Each time an Email or Text is responded to, it gives a feeling of satisfaction and creates a need to do more. The result? It’s difficult to stop checking cell phones for texts and Email.

And with their flashing and beeping and icons indicating there are unread messages, it all adds to the addictive effect. It’s a combination of classic conditioning and dopamine responses that make you feel like you’re addicted.

There is hope that technologies being introduced into vehicles will help to curb distracted driving. But for now, the best practice is simply to leave your device alone while driving… no matter how hard it might be.

Credit insurance scores poorly…

Many kinds of credit lines and installment loans offer credit insurance. These products are designed to “protect” an individual’s credit score by covering installment payments in case of certain qualifying situations.

Sadly these tend to be overpriced according to recent research. A study covering 2004 through 2013 demonstrated that 44.4 cents in benefits were paid for each dollar spent on such insurance policies. (By comparison, typical health plans offer 84.1 cents in benefits for each dollar spent.

So if the goal is to protect yourself in case you get sick or injured, you might be better off finding other forms of personal protection. (Be sure to check with your financial advisor for options.)

Also bear in mind, having such credit insurance is not a requirement for receiving a loan. It is always an option.

So when you are getting a line of credit, a car loan, or a store credit card, remember than this “insurance” may have a low payment but can be an expensive option when it comes to potential payout.

Also it is important to understand that options are limited. There’s virtually zero competition. Under normal circumstances you’ll be offered insurance from one provider… that’s it. There’s zero choice.

So what are your alternatives to Credit Insurance?

Term life insurance is a great way to protect beneficiaries. In the case of your death, your beneficiaries can leverage the funds to pay off your debts. Of course a life insurance benefit can cover all financial needs whereas credit insurance is limited to only covering that specific loan.

And in case you are injured, disability insurance can be beneficial. As with term life insurance, disability insurance is far more flexible than standard credit insurance.

Paid Family Leave a Standard Benefit?

Both left and right have suggested concepts for paid family leave. This is an outcome of the fact that most Americans support some form of federally mandated family-leave law.

It may be surprising for business owners and managers to hear that the U.S. is the only developed country that doesn’t offer guaranteed time off for parents and other caregivers.

But there is a shift taking place. New York passed a generous state-backed family program in 2016. It allows for 12 weeks of paid time off for new parents. It also allows for time off for anyone who needs to care for a family member with a serious medical condition.

Minnesota, Rhode Island, & California all have established family-leave policies.

Big companies are joining the fray. From Cambell’s to American Express they are introducing or expanding their paid-leave programs. These include offering more time off and allowing for more ways to qualify for coverage.

While the trend is increasing, universal mandatory family leave is a way’s off. Congress is not unified on what should be included in a program or whether one should exist at all…

Yet younger workers are particularly interested in family leave options. Employers are taking notice. Employers are realizing this is a significant way to compete and offer unique benefits.

One challenge facing businesses is that benefit plans are often built around older concepts of family care. These assume that women will take on most of the child care duties early on. Yet fathers have become much more involved.

One concern is whether the company’s culture is fully supportive of the paid leave options they offer. Some paid leave laws don’t include job protection. Employees feel pressured to return to work earlier than they otherwise would prefer because their career depends on it.

One progressive program is offered by Earnst& Young which has more than 230,000 employees world-wide. It is expanding parental leave to cover 16 weeks for new mothers & fathers. This includes time for birth, of course. But it also includes surrogacy, adoption, or legal guardianship as well. Their program is robust and considered to be a trendsetter. The point? To be the most attractive potential employer.

Small companies are not as disadvantaged as you might imagine. Often times a small business can be more flexible with their workforce vs. larger companies. Small companies can also be more responsive.

Small Business Options and Challenges

Small businesses tend to be lean operations. Having a team member leave is challenging. Offering paid time off for 16 weeks at a time may feel impossible.

Yet the key is in finding flexible options that can be appealing to workers while being affordable for the employer. This could include flex time as well as working from home.

Why is it important to be flexible? Because the median cost of replacing a worker is roughly 21% of their annual salary. With that in mind, finding flexible leave options becomes more affordable.

If the employer works with employees to plan, workloads can often be divided. Likewise projects can be scheduled around an individual’s absence. By carefully evaluating options, a small business can often find a path that can absorb the impact of leave.

If you are thinking about a flexible leave program, the best first action is to talk with your benefits adviser who can help you explore your options.

Suddenly Becoming a Caregiver is a Shock

…They cared for you when you were young… but now your parents need your help.

…Your husband managed the bills… but now he’s suffered a stroke and needs your help.

…Your partner was the primary income earner… but now she’s become incapacitated.

You’re now responsible to manage medical visits, deal with creditors, handle insurance issues. You’ve been thrust into a nightmare scenario… are you prepared?

Do you know how money moves in and out of bank accounts each month? Can a doctor lawfully talk with you? Is there a will? Medical power of attorney? What kind of health insurance is available?

If you could find yourself in the role of caregiver, it’s a good practice to talk through potential issues and concerns with your financial adviser. Naturally you’ll need to include those who you could be called upon to care for as well.

These are difficult conversations… but necessary.

  1. Establish an Understanding

It’s important to have conversations with loved ones about what they want should they find themselves incapacitated. What are their desires with regard to finances, healthcare, and long-term treatment. What about in terminal situations?

Having these conversations when people are in full control of their mental faculties is critical…

  1. Simplify

Be prepared to automate as much as possible. Establish systems to take care of regular bills so you can have confidence they are properly paid. Make sure medical appointments (if necessary) are as consistent as possible so they become part of a regular routine. Look for any area where you see complexity and see if there’s a better way…

  1. Track and Document Everything.

Be sure to have duplicates of all important documents… from wills to Medicare and Social Security cards. Watch medicine consumption and pay attention to refills and prescription expiration dates. Find a way to keep track of passwords… LastPass.com is an interesting tool for this purpose.  For keeping copies of documents, scanning and storing them on Google Drive or Dropbox can be helpful. And in a situation like this, it is critical to track expenses.

  1. Pay Attention to Insurance.

Make sure you have the insurance you need well before it is needed. Your financial adviser can help you understand costs, benefits, and what you should expect in long-term situations. Life Insurance, Long Term Care Insurance, Health Insurance… all play a role when you are a caregiver.

  1. Seek Legal Council.

A financial adviser is well equipped to talk with you about finances. But as a caregiver there are legal issues that arise and for these you need the help of an attorney. Achieving clarity about wills, power of attorney documents, and the like can help reduce potential disputes with other family members in the future.

  1. Keep a Medical Log.

Take the time to journal notes. Keep details from medical visits, document health insurance concerns, track doctor’s orders, and keep observations about the medical condition of the individual you are caring for. This ensures that you are not improperly charged for medical care and will help you see objectively if you need additional medical intervention in a long-term care situation.

  1. Don’t Go it Alone.

Get help from friends & family members alike. Become involved in a support group. Understand that the role of Caregiver can be daunting and that it is important to not become isolated in the process.  And remember, we’re here to help you as well.

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