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Monthly Archives

September 2016

How to Ensure Your Pet is Cared for After Your Death

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

pp-sept2016-3As a pet owner, you would do anything to care for your furry friend. Have you ever thought about what will happen to your pet when you’re gone? Millionaire Leona Helmsley’s dog Trouble received $2 million, which allowed him to live in a hotel with the best security, grooming and food. Because you may not have millions to spend on your pet, consider several options that ensure your pet receives ongoing care if something were to happen to you.

Rule Out Life Insurance

Life insurance is one asset that allows you to declare a beneficiary. Before you select your pet to receive your death benefits, realize that because pets are considered property and are unable to sign legal documents, they are disqualified from this option.

Ask Someone to Care for Your Pet

You could ask a trusted family member, neighbor or friend to care for your pet after you die. Check in with your trusted caretaker regularly to ensure he or she is still interested and financially able to care properly for your furry friend.

Purchase Pet Insurance

Like your health insurance, pet insurance covers medical treatment your pet may need. It’s a valuable resource that a caretaker can use to care for your pet after you’re gone.

Establish a Trust

A trust is a legal entity that safeguards money for specific purposes, in this case pet care. To set up a trust for your pet, take these steps.
Choose a trustee. Select someone who will be ready and available to care for your pet according to your specifications. It’s also a good idea to choose a backup trustee.

  • Decide the worth of the trust. Calculate the total cost of your pet’s care per year multiplied by the estimated number of years your pet has left to live. Remember to factor in extra expenses like medical treatment, medicine or a special diet.
  • Do not name your pet in the trust. Generic wording that ensures all your pets are cared for when you die eliminates the need to rewrite the trust when you get a new pet or pets.
  • Select a trust duration. Unfortunately, your pet will not live forever. Word the trust so it provides care for your pet for 21 years or until the death of your pet, whichever occurs first.
  • Choose a remainderman. This person will receive any money left in your trust after your pet dies. Verify that the remainderman will not kill your pet to get your money.

You can care for your pet even after you’re gone. Talk to your financial advisor or attorney to ensure your wishes and your pet’s needs are met.

Common Insurance Coverage Gaps

By Personal Perspective | No Comments


pp-sept2016-1You’ve purchased auto and homeowners or renters insurance like a responsible consumer. However, you could have insurance coverage gaps that threaten your assets. Here are a few common ones that you should consider closing as you save money, protect yourself and gain peace of mind

Transportation Expense Coverage
Your auto insurance covers medical expenses and liability. Does it also provide you with a rental car or other transportation after an accident? Transportation Expenses coverage can cost as little as $8 per vehicle per year and gives you access to a rental vehicle or other form of transportation. It lessens your stress after an accident and minimizes disruptions to your daily life.

Personal Catastrophe Liability Coverage
Also known as an umbrella policy, personal catastrophe liability coverage protects your assets if you are sued after an accident. It can cover any expenses related to a personal injury or liability lawsuit and any lawyer fees, hospital bills and related expenses you may incur. This coverage starts at $150 per year and provides priceless peace of mind for you and your family.

Valuables Coverage
The average homeowners insurance policy includes a $3,000 limit on personal items. Does that amount cover the replacement of your expensive electronics, jewelry, artwork and furs? If not, buy an endorsement or rider. It gives you extra coverage for valuables and protects your items if they are lost, stolen or damaged.

Flood Insurance
While you might not live in a high-risk flood area, one in five flood claims occur outside of high-risk flood areas, and an inch of water can cause major damage to your home and possessions. Protect yourself with flood insurance. In many cases, there’s a 30-day waiting period for this coverage, so apply for it today and reduce your risk.

Life Insurance
Your group life insurance policy may cover you for twice your annual salary, but that money is probably not enough to cover your final expenses and care for your family. Purchase your own policy with a death benefit of six to eight times your annual salary. Investigate different types of life insurance policies and coverage amounts as you care for your loved ones.

Outdated Insurance Polices
You pay your insurance premiums on time so that your policies don’t lapse. When was the last time you reviewed your coverage? Adjust your homeowners coverage after renovations or when you sell collectibles. Check your auto coverage, too, to ensure it’s sufficient for your household vehicles and drivers. Policy reviews take a few minutes but can save your thousands of dollars and give you hours of priceless peace of mind.
Your insurance coverage protects your assets. Consider closing any gaps today.

Safety Benefits of Accepting Chip-Based Credit Cards

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

rr-sept2016-4Credit cards are used by millions of consumers every day. Your small business probably accepts credit cards, too, to accept payments in-store or online. New chip-based cards or EMV-enabled cards – named for developers Europay, MasterCard and Visa – provide several safety benefits you should understand as you decide whether or not to switch to a chip reader.

Chip Cards are Difficult to Reproduce

Magnetic stripe credit cards are easy for thieves to copy. Chip-based cards are more difficult to reproduce.

There are two basic chip-based cards, chip and pin and RFID.

  1. Chip and Pin cards require two types of interaction before the merchant can accept the card as payment. The user must swipe the card and enter a PIN. Thieves typically cannot use the card unless they know the user’s PIN.
  1. RFID cards use RFID radio technology to transmit data through the air. Consumers don’t have to swipe the card or enter a pin. Unfortunately, this type of credit card is easy for thieves to read with an RFID reader. Users can protect their RFID card and prevent data loss with a protective covering or metal foil.

Shift in Responsibility for Fraudulent Charges

Because many new credit cards are chip-based, credit card companies like VISA and MasterCard want to encourage people to upgrade. Small businesses like yours will be liable for any fraudulent charges if you don’t upgrade your credit card processing machine.

Additionally, thieves know that non-chip-based credit cards are easier to steal. If you’re one of the last businesses on the block to upgrade, your business faces greater risk of theft.

Upgrade All Your Credit Card Readers

Depending on your business, you may accept payment only at an in-store machine. Your credit card processing company will assist you in selecting a new machine or you can buy the upgraded equipment as you reduce your risk and continue to serve your customers.

If you accept payment via phone or tablet, request a new EMV-capable reader for mobile devices. The new technology protects customer data and decreases your liability.

If you don’t accept physical cards, your small business won’t have to switch to a chip-reader. However, be prepared for more security threats since it’s easier for thieves to steal credit card numbers when they’re shared over the phone or on an ecommerce site. Consider boosting your online payment security to protect your customers and your business from threats.

Because chip-based credit cards are the new normal, it’s in your best interest to upgrade your credit card payment processing machine today. Learn more about protecting your small business and decreasing your liability when you talk to your insurance agent.

Why You Need to Update Your Browser

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

rr-sept2016-3Do you have a favorite browser? If so, it’s probably because the browser is familiar to you and easy to use. Unfortunately, if your browser is out-of-date, your company is at risk since outdated browsers can include bugs, security flaws and other challenges. Consider updating your browser and improving security for your small business.

Close Security Holes

Manufacturers usually prioritize security holes and release updates that patch those challenges first. If you’re using an older browser, though, your computer could be vulnerable to malware, password theft and viruses, and your browser remains vulnerable to cyber criminals who look for easy targets. As an example, Microsoft does not support versions older than Internet Explorer 11.

Check with your browser’s manufacturer to see if security hole updates are available. If not, consider switching to a different browser.

 

Give Customers a More Consistent Browsing Experience

Modern customers use their smartphones to research your products, prices and reviews. If you use an older browser to design your website, it might look good to you but may not be compatible with the latest digital formats your customers are using.

Update your browser to ensure your website works properly for all users. Not only does an update create a consistent browsing experience for your customers, but it also potentially increases sales.

Improve the Internet

Every year, new web browsing features, tools and extensions are released by browser companies. Use an old browser, and you can’t take advantage of the new features. One example is a keychain tool that stores login information and secures your passwords. An old browser may also include bugs and other issues.

Upgrade to enjoy use-friendly improvements and a better internet experience. The updated browser also improves security for your small business.

Update Options

  • If you decide to update your browser, take one of three steps.
    Update to the same generation. For example, if you have Firefox 46, upgrade to 46.0.1. This update is safe and reliable and includes a low learning curve since you’re already familiar with the browser.
  • Update to a newer generation. Go from Firefox 46 to 47 for a safe and reliable upgrade. The website pages on websites will look better and be easier to use, too.
  • Update to another browser. Switch from Firefox to Internet Explorer for a completely different experience. Even though you’ll spend a few hours familiarizing yourself to the new browser and its features and nuances, you also receive multiple benefits.

Your small business can maintain security and stay relevant when you upgrade your browser. After you take this step, be sure to check regularly for updates. Discuss additional security measures with your insurance agent as you minimize your risks and protect your business.

 

 

10 Questions to Ask a Potential Financial Advisor

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

rr-sept2016-1Your small business financial advisor assists you in maintaining a profitable business. This relationship only works, though, if you hire someone who is competent, trustworthy and likeable. Ask these 10 questions as you interview potential financial advisors.

What are your qualifications?
The right financial advisor will be educated and financially literate. Ask to see degrees and other qualifications that prove the financial advisor is capable of assisting you.

Are you certified?
Anyone can learn financial lingo. Be sure the financial advisor you hire is also certified to do the job, and ask to see the certification and any other credentials.

Are you insured?
Be sure the financial advisors you interview are currently licensed to offer financial advice. That license proves the financial advisor is in good standing in his or her field and provides liability protection.

How often do you attend trainings?
Two plus two will always equal four, but other details in the financial world change. Be sure financial advisors you interview attend trainings regularly to stay updated on trends.

Do you have a contract?
A handshake is not good enough in the business world. You and your financial advisor will need to sign a contract that outlines responsibilities, payment and other details of your relationship.

How are you compensated?
A financial advisor will be paid whether or not your business makes a profit. Find out upfront what the fees are and when payment is expected.

How often are you willing to connect with me?
You may not need to speak with your financial advisor every day, but you do need to communicate regularly. Find out how often the financial advisor is willing to meet with you and if he or she will answer email and phone calls promptly.

What’s the plan if something happens to you?
If your financial advisor retires or is otherwise incapacitated, you want to know that your account is secure. Find out if there’s someone else available for you to contact if this were to happen.

Do you have a list of referrals?
Always talk to others small business owners about potential financial advisors. Ask what they like about him or her, how often they meet and any pros and cons. With this information, you can decide if the person is a good fit for you.

May I bring a friend?
Ask someone you trust to sit in on interviews. This person can give you a second opinion and valuable insight that helps you make the best decision for your business.
Hiring a financial advisor is important for your small business’s success. Ask these 10 questions as you choose the right advisor for you.

How to Make a Retirement Budget

By Employment Resources | No Comments

er-sept2016-4Retirement can be one of the best seasons of your life. Since you’re not working, you have more time to enjoy your favorite activities and pursue hobbies. However, you also may experience a drop in income. Make a retirement budget as you stretch your financial resources and enjoy your retirement.

Calculate Income

Several factors affect your retirement income. They include:
Retirement date
Inflation
Rate of return on savings and investment accounts
Taxes
Social Security
Because interest rates change, your income may also fluctuate. However, you can use your retirement and savings account statements, last year’s tax return and Social Security estimated payouts to estimate what your income will be during your retirement.

Calculate Fixed Expenses

Some expenses, such as housing and utilities, remain the same every month. Remember to calculate other fixed expenses, too, like taxes, insurance premiums and home maintenance.

Research Health Care Costs

After retirement, you may find that your health insurance costs drastically increase. Research your options under Medicare and private insurance to find the best deal.

List Optional Expenses

You probably buy dozens of optional items every day and don’t even realize it. The list includes entertainment, gym memberships and late payment fees. Take time to calculate all of these optional expenses and see which ones you can cut.

Decide What You Want to Do During Retirement

Your next budgeting step is to list your retirement goals. Do you want to travel, spoil your grandkids, grow a garden or write a novel? The activities you want to pursue can guide your spending as you create a balanced retirement budget.

Make Trade-Offs

Decide which items in your budget are necessities and which you can live without. For example, you may decide to sell your second car and buy an RV or cut the cable bill and save for a vacation. These trade-offs balance your budget and help you make the most of your retirement.

Recalculate as Needed

Your retirement budget will change over time. Maybe you decide you do want to work a part-time job or the interest rate on your investments changes. Recalculate your budget as needed or at least twice a year to make sure you’re still on track.

Take Action Today

It’s easy to put off creating a retirement budget, but you owe it to yourself to put one in place. Spend time today creating a retirement budget that works for you and your lifestyle. If you need help, talk to your financial advisor.

Protecting Seven Soft Targets Around Your Home This Summer

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

pp-sept2016-4The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that most burglaries occur during the summer months. While some burglars enter your home, others are interested in soft targets, the items stored outside of your home. One in three homeowners do not protect their soft targets, but you can with these tips.

Vacant Properties
Thieves and vandals typically target vacant homes as they steal scrap metal or take other items to sell. If you’re on vacation, keep your windows and doors locked. Install outdoor motion activated lights and use a timer to turn on indoor lights at random times, too. You can also install a video camera that allows you to monitor your home while you’re away.

Vehicles and Loose Items
Experienced car thieves can steal a vehicle in less than 10 seconds. Always keep your car locked inside the garage or make sure the alarm is turned on and install an anti-theft device that disables the ignition or locks the steering wheel. You should hide any loose items, too, including electronics, garage door openers, toll booth passes and parking garage passes, either in the glove box or trunk.

Unlocked Sheds and Garages
Tools and lawn equipment are easy to resell. Always lock your garage, including windows, even if you’re working in your lawn. Be sure your valuable tools and equipment are stored inside the shed or garage, too.

Sports Equipment
Whether your summer activities include baseball, kayaking or tennis, resist the urge to store your sports equipment outside. Secure it safely in a locked garage or shed, in a locked bin or in your vehicle’s trunk.

Bicycles
Ideally, you should store your bike in a locked garage or shed. If you have to store your bikes, don’t use thin bike chains and wheel locks that are easy to unbolt or cut. A heavy chain threaded through the bike’s wheels and frame and a thick padlock are more secure.

Air Conditioning Units
Your outdoor air conditioning units contain copper coils and other metal piping that thieves can scrap for cash. Install a bright security light that’s motion activated near your outdoor AC unit or install a locked fence around it.

Pool Pumps
Pool pumps are easy to resell. Remove the pool pump and store it inside during your vacation. If that’s not possible, install a bright, motion-activated security light near the pump. You should also install a fence around your pool and keep it locked at all times.
Protect your home from thieves when you take steps to protect these seven soft targets. Be sure your homeowners or renters insurance policies are up to date, too, as you protect your home and possessions.

What to do if a Bee Flies Into Your Car As You’re Driving

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

pp-sept2016-2In 2015, a man in Montana decided to transport five Russian honey bee hives in a cardboard box in his vehicle. He was observed driving all over the road, and when he was pulled over, a highway patrol officer found thousands of bees flying freely in the vehicle as the man drove. He was cited for careless driving. What can we learn from this story? Don’t transport bee hives in a cardboard box in your vehicle and take several steps to be safe if one or more bees do fly into your car.

  • Don’t panic. Even though it’s scary to drive with a bee in the car, stay calm. Remind your passengers to stay calm, too, since you need to think clearly and not be distracted as you prevent an accident.
  • Stay focused on the road. Take your eyes of the road for even a second to find or swat the bee, and you could cause an accident. Remain focused at all times as you stay safe.
  • Keep your hands on the wheel. Swatting at the bee might make you feel better, but you’re more likely to swerve into oncoming traffic or onto someone’s property if you take your hands off the wheel.
  • Slow down gradually. Instead of slamming on the brakes, slow down gradually. Put your four-way or hazard lights on to alert other drivers that you are driving below the speed limit as you help everyone on the road drive safely.
  • Find a safe place to pull over. Never stop in the middle of the road, on a hill or in another unsafe area. Find a safe spot and pull over.
  • Shoo the bee out of the vehicle. Use a shoe, rolled up newspaper or other item to shoo the bee gently out of your vehicle.
  • Be prepared if you’re allergic. Always carry a current EpiPen or allergy medication when you drive. It can be stored safely in your emergency kit, glove box or somewhere else in easy access. You want to be prepared in case you are stung by a bee.
  • Drive with your windows up. If you absolutely do not want a bee to enter your vehicle, drive with your windows up.

It can be annoying and even dangerous to drive with a bee or other insect in your vehicle. Take these precautions as you protect yourself and everyone on the road. You should also make sure to purchase the right insurance for your needs since even your best efforts may not be enough to prevent an accident when a bee flies into your car.

7 Reasons to Have a Small Business Employment Application

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

rr-sept2016-2Hiring employees is a big step for your small business. Because you’re not a large corporation, you may think you can skip the employment application. Actually, there are seven important reasons to have an application for your business.
Create an Unbiased Hiring Process
Every job applicant will answer the same questions on the employment application. Its uniform format reduces bias during the hiring process and allows you to compare candidates impartially.

Rule Out Wrong Candidates
Instead of interviewing every candidate who applies, use the employment application to filter out the obvious wrong candidates. They may be the ones without the proper training or experience for the position or ones who were fired for insubordination or have a criminal record.

Eliminate Untruthful Candidates
It’s easy for job applicants to lie on a resume but not as easy to lie on an employment application. It requires applicants to sign an agreement stating that all information in the application is true and that if they fail to tell the truth or omit relevant information, they could be immediately dismissed.

Get Permission to Verify Information
Your employment application should have a space where applicants sign their name and allow you to verify the accuracy of all information, including employment history and education. Candidates should also be required to agree to background and criminal checks as well as credit and driving checks if those are requirements for the position.

Streamline the Hiring Process
Interviewing every single applicant requires hours of time and wastes valuable resources. Read employment applications and scan for specific keywords, degrees and other specifics that help you identify qualified candidates. Your streamlined hiring process saves time and money. Plus, its efficiency reduces stress and frees you from unnecessary administrative duties.

Remain Legally Compliant
You don’t want to break legal rules and ask questions on the application or in the interview that are not allowed. Set the tone with your employment application. It should not include invasive questions or ask about protected statuses such as age, race or religious view.

Prepare for Interviews
When you conduct interviews, you need to know a little bit about the applicants. This way, you are prepared during interviews to ask relevant questions. The employment application gives you clues about a candidate’s work history, career goals and personal values and helps you prepare for interviews.

Whether you provide a printed or online employment application, it’s an important part of your small business’s hiring process. After you create an application, ask your attorney to review it. You’re then ready to hire the right employees for your small business.

Falling Premiums in West Virginia and Illinois: A Look At Workers Comp Today

By Workplace Safety | No Comments

wc-sept2016-4When you only hear about fraud and rising insurance rates, then it can be easy to assume that those are the trends that are here to stay. We encourage you to remember that there is change happening out there though for certain states. Concerned residents in Florida have already started a new task force, and people around the country are fighting their own battles for what they feel is best for their employees and their customers. We’ll show you what’s happening in Illinois and West Virginia today, so you can see workers comp is functioning in other areas of the US.

West Virginia

After seeing a reduction in workers compensation for the past 11 years, West Virginia continues their streak for another round of cutting costs in 2016 at almost 15%. This time around, employers in the state can expect to save about $36 million, which has made business owners a little happier and wondering what to do with the extra cash. While it’s not been reported as to why exactly West Virginia has had such a good run regarding their workers compensation premiums, it is clear that the reduction gives businesses a sense of stability which can help relationships and growth flourish. The new change will take place the first day of November this year.

Illinois

Illinois is not quite doing as well as West Virginia but their claims will fall by 12% this year, which is still a significant drop. While they still pay more than neighboring states, it’s important to note that they do have one of the biggest cities in the country which is a clear indicator of why they would have higher rates. This fall is a good step in the right direction, but it may be for some disappointing reasons. Some of the jobs that used to be causes for injuries, like construction or manufacturing, have seen a decline in demand in the state. People claim that the high rates and special interest groups have stunted contract and projects moving forward due to the liability and cost concerns. As this year goes by, Illinois will be able to see if the reduction was the boost it needed to kickstart growth again or if it is still under too much strain by the debilitating cost of premiums.

No matter how you feel about either state, this is a good lesson that there can be change on the horizon for you. Illinois in particular will be getting an on-the-job lesson this year, so to speak. When insurance companies have the reason to do so though, they absolutely can work with state officials and businesses to start lowering the cost of workers compensation.