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Monthly Archives

August 2015

Cyber Security

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Mind Over Matter: the Zen Approach to Innovation and Productivity  

Mindfulness practice has permeated many aspects of Western culture – from stress-reduction therapy to everyday business practices. Mindfulness is an approach to increasing awareness of oneself and one’s surroundings. Mindfulness practice began with Buddhist meditation but is being adapted to fit the more clinical and secular needs of Western treatment centers and workplaces. Here’s how mindfulness is being implemented today and how it could make your workday a little brighter.

Achieving effortless attention

The cornerstone of mindfulness is nonjudgmental observation. It entails perceiving the context of a situation without attaching any emotions to the events unfolding. Much like Zen, which emphasizes the value of meditation and intuition, mindfulness is about eliminating the clutter, finding balance, and getting to the core of what you’re presented with.

Jeremy Hunter, assistant professor at the Peter F. Drucker School of Management, told The Wall Street Journal, “Mindfulness should be at the center of business schools’ teaching … because it is about improving the quality of attention, and in the modern workplace, attention is the key to productivity.” The belief is that attentiveness can be strengthened through mindfulness and meditation practice.

Being in touch with spontaneity

Journalist Warren Berger, who’s written extensively on the subject and talked with various Silicon Valley executives, writes: “Zen practitioners are taught to remain attentive and ‘mindful,’ even during life’s mundane moments—an approach that also helps design researchers and ethnographers gather observations and insights on everyday behavior and needs.” The result is small but pivotal insights that move the individual (or the company) forward.

According to Randy Komisar, a Zen practitioner who’s also a partner with the Silicon Valley venture capitalist firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, Zen practice “is about stripping away one’s biases, prejudices, blindness. It is about realizing the essence of things.” The belief is that through meditation and mindfulness, people open themselves up to having those a-ha! moments that spark innovation.

Honoring the practice

While Zen meditation and mindfulness can certainly boost mental health, creativity, and productivity, it’s important to remember that’s not the sole purpose of these practices. This dilemma is perfectly captured in The Economist’s Schumpeter column:

“The biggest problem with mindfulness is that it is becoming part of the self-help movement—and hence part of the disease that it is supposed to cure. Gurus talk about ‘the competitive advantage of meditation.’ Pupils come to see it as a way to get ahead in life. And the point of the whole exercise is lost.”

Mindfulness won’t help you crush your competition—but it can help you and your colleagues bring greater clarity to the workday by raising awareness of yourself and your surroundings. To get started, check out this feature piece on mindfulness and business. Begin to integrate elements of these practices into your day whenever possible. Remember, it’s not how much you do; it’s how consistently you do it.

 

The Modern Office: How Place and Space Affect Productivity

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cl3If you’ve worked in an office, you know there are often many obstacles to productivity. Whether it’s too many interruptions, a loud coworker, or just poor communication – there are things, specific to the work environment, that detract from your ability to work. Over the years, office spaces have evolved to suit modern working styles, but there are still inefficiencies that need to be ironed out. Here’s a look at where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how these changes will impact workplace productivity.

Yesterday

Ever work in a traditional office? One with doors and walls or a cubicle farm with rows and rows of semi-partitioned spaces? Does the thought of working in one make you anxious and trigger feelings of isolation and confinement. If so, you’re not alone.

In 1993 Dr. Francis Duffy and Jack Tanis wrote: “We are in danger of continuing to build offices that are more suitable for the first decades of this century than for the next.” According to Duffy and Tanis, traditional office spaces are “more capable of suffocating initiative than of stimulating invention,” and they worked toward building new physical spaces that gave employees “the maximum freedom to use all their talents.”

Today

Around that time open-plan offices, in which people work in large, open spaces with few physical barriers, were rising in popularity. The idea was that this would increase collaboration, creativity, and productivity. Open layouts are meant to encourage a sense of group togetherness and make employees feel like part of a more relaxed, creative enterprise.


Physical barriers have been closely linked to psychological privacy, and a sense of privacy boosts job performance.


As Maria Konnikova wrote in The New Yorker on open offices, “Psychologically, the repercussions of open offices are relatively straightforward. Physical barriers have been closely linked to psychological privacy, and a sense of privacy boosts job performance.” So while the open layout is beneficial for working together, it diminishes the quality of individual work.Today, it’s estimated that 70 percent of all offices are open-plan. In some ways, it’s improved collaboration and communication in the workplace. At the same time, it’s done little to enhance creativity and, in many instances, has negatively impacted productivity. In one study, people reported not having enough privacy and being distracted by too much noise.

Tomorrow

Most offices won’t revert back to traditional office spaces. Open-office layouts allow more people to work per square inch, reducing the amount of total office space needed. So how can you blend traditional and open-office floor plans to get a modern workspace appropriate for how people work today?

The key is to create an office space without barriers that can also be private. Given the increase in mobile devices used in the office, it’s important to have a flexible work environment where people can move around and work in different places. One way is having private breakout rooms where a person or a small group of people can work together. Other solutions include alcove sofas and workbays to break up an open space and provide workers with more private options.

The challenge for tomorrow will be designing a space that creates a feeling of psychological privacy but is also flexible enough that people can easily move around and collaborate. With technology enabling a more grab and go work style, we need workspaces to reflect that increased flexibility. How has the way you work changed and how has your workplace evolved (or not evolved) in response?

A cure for technological distractions in five minutes a day with mindfulness and meditation

While the distractions of social media and always-on devices pile up, it’s becoming increasingly important for people to unplug and refocus. Workplaces can be circuses of nonstop meetings, endless barrages of email and social networking, and people walking around with their faces stuck in devices.

RELATED: Mindfulness in the workplace: how two minutes a day can reduce stress and improve focus

And the solution to technology overload may be mindfulness.

Many organizations are finding that mindfulness works: it decreases stress, increases productivity, and helps people form better personal connections. Companies such as Google, Procter & Gamble, Aetna, General Mills, and Target all have meditation rooms. The Seattle Seahawks have a meditation coach, as do other sports teams and entertainment figures, including 50 Cent and Katy Perry. Even the US military is teaching mindfulness techniques to members of the armed services.

If you don’t have a mindfulness coach or advocate at your company, you can still practice in the comfort of your office, home, or cubicle. It’s easy, and you can see benefits by spending only five minutes a day. Here’s how.


Mindfulness is like a workout for your brain.

Wait. It’s easy?

It is! All it takes is 5 to 10 minutes a day. Find a place in your home (or office) where you can sit comfortably and undisturbed. Leave your phone in another room on silent mode. You don’t need to cross your legs or put your hands in funny shapes. You also don’t need to say, “Ommmm.” All you have to do is sit there and concentrate on your breathing. When your mind wanders, go back to thinking about your breathing. Repeat until 5 or 10 minutes pass. That’s it.

Why can’t I have my phone?

Silly person, your phone is a distraction. It may ring or ding or vibrate, which will take you out of the moment and make you want to answer it, look at it, or silence it. You’re trying to eliminate distractions like that.

Over the years, we’ve become so addicted to taking in information, it’s become our primary mode of operation. It started with television, which people still sit in front of and do nothing except absorb whatever’s being shown on the screen. Now in recent years we’ve done the same with computers and phones. We move from one screen to another and one piece of information to another with no time to think, synthesize, or be creative.

Eventually you may want to create a space in your home with a “no technology” rule, like your bedroom, so you don’t have the temptation of picking up your phone in the middle of the night or looking at it first thing in the morning. That way you can be more aware of what you’re doing without having your attention stolen by the latest email message.

You mentioned some benefits?

Yes, many benefits. Focusing on the benefits is probably the best way to get you to set aside some mindfulness time. Here are a few backed up by data and research:

Increased ability to focus.
Physically shrinks the stress centers of your brain.
Increased ability to know what is happening in your head without acting on it.
Better self-awareness.
Increased sense of compassion.


Another benefit that can’t be undervalued is creativity. To be creative, you need space and time. You need to be able to be alone with your thoughts. That’s impossible when you’re surrounded by distractions that prevent you from concentrating on anything for a long period of time. Filmmaker David Lynch famously explored this idea in his book Catching the Big Fish.

In a lot of ways, mindfulness is like a workout for your brain. We already know it’s important to work out our bodies to stay healthy, so it makes sense to dedicate some time to working out our minds. You may find you’re happier, more creative, and better able to concentrate on whatever you’re doing.

Top 5 Productivity KILLERS in the Workplace

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Driving us to distraction: the top 5 time-sucks in the office

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The genius that happens every day in the offices of the world requires a certain amount of focus. Unfortunately, most offices are awash with both physical and mental distractions that pull our attention away from the task at hand. To help you identify common pitfalls, we’ve zeroed in on the top five productivity killers in the modern age. Better still, we gathered expert advice on ways to block out the noise and get to work.

1. Social media
Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media & com, admits her primary distraction is self-inflicted. “Social media can take me off task, especially Twitter. (I’m addicted.)”

RELATED: The science of cuteness: how looking at baby animals increases productivity

It happens to the best of us. You’re at a lull in your work, and you get that nagging sensation that something amazing might be happening on Facebook. Why not take a quick peek, just to make sure the world’s not passing you by? These brief breaks may seem harmless enough, but making compulsive social media checks during the day can add up to hours a week of lost time.

Instead of checking Facebook or Twitter throughout the day, try scheduling your social media time after lunch and limit it to 15 minutes. Having a special time slot for checking out the latest hijinks of Grumpy Cat will leave the rest of your day free for more productive endeavors. And if you really can’t help trying to scratch that itch, consider blocking your most visited social websites with your browser’s security settings.

2. A crazy commute
If you live or work in a large city, the morning commute can be an exercise in extreme frustration. What should be a 15-minute drive can turn into an hour or more of unproductive stress during rush hour.

Fortunately, thanks to cloud computing, working remotely is easier than ever. With web-based software and collaboration tools, office workers can get everything done even when they’re miles away from home base. More and more, corporate leaders are warming up to the idea of telecommuting as remote employees report higher productivity and morale. Even if you can’t work remotely all the time, you may be able to slightly shift your work schedule so you’re not traveling at rush hour, or just handle the first hour of your workday from home before you hop in the car.

3. Loud-mouthed colleagues
Who can’t relate to this scenario: you’re just settling in for some hard-core focus time to bang out a monthly report when the guy in the next cubicle starts in on a high-volume recap of last night’s episode of Game of Thrones—and you haven’t seen it yet (spoiler alert!). Working in an office can be great for collaboration and easy communication, but not so great when you’re doing focused solo work. Diplomatic requests for quiet might buy you a few minutes of peace, but let’s be realistic: some people do not possess an inside voice. Treat yourself to a pair of noise-canceling headphones and crank your favorite background tunes or soothing sounds from a white-noise website like Noisli.

4. The unfocused workday
You may have a truckload of work, but without a clear plan of attack, you may leave the office that night wondering what you got done and why you spent time on the wrong tasks. Ramon Ray of Smart Hustle Magazine zeroes in on the root of the problem. “Lack of clear understanding and planning. When I’m clear and highly organized, things flow!”

Jeff Marcoux, CMO lead for Worldwide Enterprise Marketing at Microsoft, agrees. “Randomization is the killer of productivity.” To get his house in order, he spends the first 10 minutes of his day making an explicit to-do list, following guidelines set out in this Harvard Business Review article. If you have trouble organizing your tasks, check out a mobile productivity tool like ToDoist or LeanKit.

5. Email
It’s impossible to avoid in the modern workplace, but email is as much a hindrance as it is a help. Andy Karuza, owner of BrandBuddee, notes, “being ‘too connected’ can be a major productivity killer. This is because task switching wastes lots of time from having to reset your train of thought and pick up where you left off on the previous task.”


Answer emails and social media messages together at the top of the hour. Knock them all out at once and then wrap yourself up again in that Excel spreadsheet you were working on.


Your email inbox forces you to switch focus from your task at hand, wasting precious minutes of your targeted energy. Karuza suggests taking a structured approach. “Answer emails and social media messages together at the top of the hour. Knock them all out at once and then wrap yourself up again in that Excel spreadsheet you were working on.”

You may also be doing work that is better done by a machine. Try to automate some basic email tasks to help you prioritize your inbox so those sprints of replying to email are as efficient as possible.

Whether you’re working from home or at the office, there’s always something there to distract you. Identifying your own biggest distractions is the first step to eliminating them. How do you conquer your workday productivity killers?

How To Prepare Financially For A Critical Illness

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No one wants to think about what would happen if they contracted a critical illness like cancer or had a major heart attack. However, critical illnesses affect millions of people every day. Take several steps today as you prepare financially for a critical illness.

What are Critical Illnesses?

A short list of critical illnesses includes:

– Kidney failure
– Organ transplant (heart, kidney, liver, lung, pancreas)
– Brain tumor that requires surgery
– Multiple Sclerosis
– Severe burns
– Blindness
– Paralysis of two or more limbs
– Dismemberment of two or more limbs
– Stroke
– Heart attack
– Heart surgery
– Cancer

Understand the Financial Risks

A critical illness could cost you thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. How will you pay for co-pays, childcare or loss of income? One study found that loss of income alone can exceed $50,000. These expenses could quickly wipe out your savings or tempt you to go into debt or borrow from your retirement plan. You need a feasible plan.

Access Your Cash Value Life Insurance Benefit

While life insurance doesn’t keep you healthy, a cash value policy can provide you with a little income when you become critically ill. Discuss the details with your insurance broker.

Boost Savings

A flexible spending or health savings account through your employer automatically saves money from every paycheck into a designated account. Those funds can cover non-reimbursed medical costs like deductibles, copays and medication.

You’ll also want to start an emergency fund. It pays for everyday expenses like transportation to the doctor’s office or child care.

Add Coverage to Your Mortgage Insurance

If you already have mortgage insurance, consider adding critical illness coverage to it. The extra protection can help you pay for expenses in the future.

Buy Critical Illness Insurance

This important coverage can pay for needed medical treatments. Ask your employer if it’s an option in your employee benefits package or purchase a policy from an independent agent.

Preparing for a critical illness should be a priority today. You can start saving in several ways. Which step will you take first?

How to Choose a Financial Planner

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A financial planner helps you invest, save and grow your money. Of course, you could do this job yourself and spend hours figuring out investment, the stock market and other financial issues, but most likely, you want to hire a professional. If so, do your research and use these tips to choose a financial planner you can trust.

Ask About Certification

A certified financial planner (CFP) is licensed and follows industry regulations. He or she also takes mandatory classes to stay updated on ethics issues and financial practices and products. Professional websites like the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and Garrett Planning Network help you find the right financial planner for your needs.

Consider the Payment Structure

Financial planners typically receive payment in one of two ways. They may earn a commission on the funds they manage or get paid a flat, hourly rate. If you choose a commission-based financial planner, make sure he or she gives you unbiased advice. Additionally, consider paying by the hour if your assets and needs are small right now.

Discuss Experience

While some financial planners work with anyone, others choose only clients who have significant assets. Certain financial planners may not be experienced with young adults or seniors, either. Discuss experience to make sure you and the financial planner you hire are compatible.

Run a Background Check

A basic Google search helps you hire a financial planner who is indeed reputable and qualified. It also verifies that candidates are not convicted of a crime and are not under investigation from regulatory agencies or industry groups.

Be Educated

Even after you hire a financial planner, stay on top of your financial portfolio. Read the monthly reports, double check statements and plan quarterly meetings with your financial planner as you stay educated about how your money is being saved and invested.

When you’re ready to hire a financial planner, you can make the best decision for you when you use this list and discuss your needs with your human resources manager at work. Protecting your money and your future could depend on this decision.

Are Independent Contractors Covered By Workers’ Comp?

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Every business owner is required to carry workers’ compensation for employees. They don’t, however, have to carry this coverage for independent contractors. Which are you? Understanding the rules can ensure you’re protected if you’re injured at work.

Are you an Independent Contractor or an Employee?

Before you can decide if you’re covered by an employer’s workers’ comp, you have to know if you’re considered an employee or an independent contractor.

 

Independent contractors:

– Control how and when the job is done and by whom
– Receive payment by the job
– Must pay their own taxes
– Provide all equipment necessary to complete the job
– May work for several companies simultaneously
– Are responsible to obtain any training
– Pay for licenses and other documents needed to work
– Can sue a business for work-related injuries that occur while on the job at their facility

Employees:

– Completes a job according to directions and method given by an employer
– Receive hourly or salaried wages
– Understand that taxes are taken out of their paychecks
– Complete jobs with equipment provided by the employer
– Typically works exclusively for one company
– Receive training from their employer
– Receive licenses and other work-related documents from employer
– Give up the right to sue the employer for injuries sustained while at work

What are the Consequences of not Carrying Adequate Workers’ Comp Coverage?

Employers may sometimes classify legitimate employees as independent contractors. They may be confused about the law or trying to get out of paying expensive workers’ comp insurance or extra taxes. However, disobeying the law can result in fines and penalties that could affect an employer’s ability to stay in business.

How do Independent Contractors Get Workers’ Comp?

Because they’re self-employed, independent contractors usually rely on their health insurance to pay for injuries that occur on the job. They can also purchase their own workers’ comp insurance policy and receive a Certificate of Insurance that proves they’re covered if they get hurt while on a job.

If you’re an employee, double check your workers’ compensation benefit. Make sure it’s current and that it covers you if you’re injured at work. If you’re an independent contractor, purchase workers’ comp coverage today. You can’t afford to be without it.

Five Benefits Of Taking Flexible Paid Time Off In The Summer

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time offHave you used all your flexible paid time off (PTO) this year? In 2013, U.S. employees used only 84 percent of their PTO. Now’s a great time, though, to take a few extra days off. The weather’s warm, your kids are home and you’ll enjoy five benefits by taking PTO this summer.

1. Boost Your Productivity

If you think that working all summer will increase your productivity, think again. Your brain works better when it gets regular breaks. Combat mental blocks and burnout when you use your PTO for a much-needed and well-deserved day or two off.

2. Recharge Your Batteries

What would you do if you had a whole day to yourself? Sitting on the beach, hiking through the woods or visiting with a friend gives you a change of pace that helps your brain unwind and recharge. You’ll return to work rested and ready to tackle whatever project sits on your desk.

3. Improve Your Health

Are you putting off a medical procedure or exam because you didn’t want to take time off work? Prioritize your health and possibly save your life when you use your flexible days off to attend to medical procedures this summer.

4. Jumpstart Your Employability

Learning something new could be exactly the jumpstart your career needs. So take your PTO and attend a one-day leadership seminar or
sign up for a week-long course at a local college. You can even take off a few hours each week to attend online classes and prepare yourself for a brighter future.

5. Reduce Workplace Conflict

Sometimes, stress at work can cause conflict between you and coworkers or even customers. Take a break from the drama. The time away can give you perspective on the conflict and refreshes you so that you’re ready to get along.

This summer, use your flexible paid time off to take advantage of five personal and professional benefits. If your employer doesn’t offer flexible paid time off, ask your human resources manager to consider adding it to your benefits package. It’s important for you and your employer.

How to Choose a Health Insurance Deductible

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Health insurance deductibles are on the rise. This trend is partially because consumers save premium costs when they choose a high-deductible policy. Do you know how to choose a policy with a deductible you can afford? Use several tips as you choose the best health insurance for your needs.

Can You Afford the Deductible?

When you sign up for a high-deductible policy, you might think it’s okay because you can stretch that deductible over the year. What happens, though, when you have an accident and reach that deductible in one day? Make sure you have money saved to cover the deductible you choose.

Can You Afford the Premium?

Low-deductible policies often include low-cost premiums. With the money you save, you can balance your monthly budget, save an emergency fund or save the deductible cost. However, saving money each month could backfire if you’re slammed with a large bill after your child is injured while riding his bike or if you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness. Consider all of your risks as you decide whether to opt for low monthly premiums or a low deductible.

Does the Deductible Cover Your Family or Just You?

Certain health insurance policies include a low individual deductible but a high family deductible. If you have kids, you could end up paying a large deductible during the year. Read the fine print and understand exactly what the deductible is for each person in your family.

Do You Need a Major Procedure This Year?

If you’re considering a major medical procedure like a knee replacement or want to get pregnancy early in the year, choosing a health insurance policy with a high deductible might make sense. You’ll quickly meet your deductible and then have the rest of the year “off.” However, if your major procedure will happen late in the year, you might be better off with a low-deductible policy since you’ll probably face significant expenses both this year and next year.

Health insurance isn’t an option, but you can choose the deductible you pay. With these tips and information from your insurance agent, you choose a policy at a price that meets your needs.

Health Insurance Tips For Athletes

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Do you love playing basketball, doing karate or riding your bike? You need health insurance that covers all the injuries you might sustain while doing the activities you love. Here are a few tips that ensure you’re covered.

What Injuries Are Common Among Athletes?

Every sport has unique risks, including leisure spots like badminton. In fact, more than two million adults will suffer a sports injury this year. Common injuries include:

– Bone fractures
– Concussion
– Rotator cuff injury
– Anterior knee pain
– Tennis or Golfer’s Elbow
– Sciatica

Which Athletes Are at Risk?

Of course, certain sports are more dangerous than others. For instance, rugby and lacrosse cause an average of one injury during every 33 hours of play, and basketball causes one injury every 71 hours of play. And don’t forget the dangers of extreme sports like mountain climbing, motocross and boxing. Studies show that 90 percent of boxers suffer brain injuries. However, common sports carry risks, too. Aerobic dance class causes one injury every 100 hours. Make sure you have health insurance as you enjoy your favorite sport.

Update Your Health Insurance Coverage

Does your current policy cover your favorite sports activities? Some exclude treatment for injuries sustained while performing extreme sports or while visiting overseas locations. You’ll want a rider or a different policy if you need coverage for these activities.

Get Prompt Treatment

Waiting even a day to “see if the swelling goes down” can be disastrous after certain injuries. Be sure your health insurance allows you to see the doctor immediately. It should also allow for out-of-network treatment if you travel away from home to play sports.

Make Sure Your Doctors are Covered

Some athletic injuries may require emergency room care, orthopedic surgery, physical therapy and regular visits to a primary care physician. Check your health insurance policy to make sure you can access these and other treatments you may need after a sports injury.

Knowing that sports are risky probably won’t make you give up your favorite pastime. That means, though, that you have to have updated health insurance. Talk to your agent today to make sure you’re covered.

Do You Need Life Insurance If You’re Retired?

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life insWould you cancel your auto insurance if you didn’t make a claim in 10 years? Of course not. Yet some retirees cancel their life insurance because they think they don’t need it. Consider several questions as you decide whether or not you need a life insurance policy if you’re retired.

Will Anyone Experience Financial Loss After You Die?

If you’re the primary breadwinner for your family, then yes, you need life insurance. It pays a death benefit to your beneficiaries and ensures they can pay daily living expenses or bills until they get on their feet.

If you don’t hold primary responsibility for your family’s finances, then you may not need a life insurance policy. Remember, though, that the policy’s death benefit can pay a beneficiary’s college expenses or help your favorite charity.

Do Your Survivors Need Money?

Your survivors may be fine without your life insurance payout. However, if they have a medical condition, college loan or young family, your life insurance policy payout could improve their quality of life.

Do You Own a Large Estate?

After you die, the tax bill on your estate could total thousands of dollars. Instead of dipping into savings, your survivors could use money from your life insurance policy to pay this bill and protect your assets.

Do You Have Adequate Retirement Income?

Your retirement accounts can determine whether or not you need life insurance. Talk to your financial planner and determine if you have adequate retirement resources. If you started saving late or didn’t save enough, you may need life insurance to fill in the gap
your survivors will face after your death.

Can You Afford the Monthly Policy?

For some retirees, money is so tight that paying even a small life insurance premium isn’t possible. However, if you can swing the few dollars, purchase a term life policy that will cover your funeral, repay your mortgage and relieve your spouse’s financial worry.

Despite what you’ve heard about life insurance, it can be beneficial during your retirement years. Discuss your needs and options with your insurance agent as you prepare financially for the future.