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Monthly Archives

May 2017

Benefits of a Personal Umbrella Policy

By Personal Perspective | No Comments
Personal Umbrella Insurance provides extra liability coverage. It supplements your auto and homeowners insurance as it protects your assets and gives you peace of mind.

What is Personal Umbrella Insurance?

If you’re in an auto accident or someone is injured on your property, your auto insurance or homeowners insurance will cover your liability. However, liability claims can exceed tens of thousands of dollars depending on the damage. Your auto or homeowners policy may not cover the full amount of damages.

That’s why you need personal umbrella insurance. It kicks in when your auto and homeowners insurance policy limit are met. With it, you can cover your liability costs and protect your home, personal or retirement savings, college fund, future earnings and other assets. Your current lifestyle remains secure thanks to the added protection of your personal umbrella insurance policy.

Additional Benefits of Personal Umbrella Insurance

In addition to covering any liability after an accident, your personal umbrella insurance policy covers several other incidents. Consider these additional benefits as you decide if this extra coverage is a wise investment for you.

  • Personal injury coverage if someone files a libel, defamation of character, slander or related claim against you
  • Worldwide coverage if you cause an accident while traveling abroad
  • Vacation rental liability for rental equipment like scooters, boats, jet skis or other rentals
  • Defense coverage associated with attorney fees and related legal costs

Who Needs Personal Umbrella Insurance?

Maybe you think that personal umbrella insurance is only for the wealthy. Actually, it’s recommended coverage for anyone. You may not own $1 million in assets, but a single lawsuit can be expensive. Use your personal umbrella to pay the claim and associated legal fees as you protect your assets and lifestyle.

How Much Personal Umbrella Insurance Should You Buy?

Personal umbrella insurance policies are usually available in million-dollar increments. Take stock of your assets, and then select a policy of $1 to $5 million. In general, you’ll want a $1 million policy if you earn more than $100,000 annually and up $3 to $5 million if you own rental property.

How Much Does Personal Umbrella Insurance Cost?

Your risk affects the cost of your personal umbrella insurance policy. On average, expect to pay $200 per year for a $1 million policy or $300 per year for a $2 million policy if you own a home and two cars.

A personal umbrella insurance gives you peace of mind as it protects your assets. For assistance choosing the right personal umbrella insurance policy for your needs, talk to your insurance agent.

Ensuring Compliance In Cybersecurity Policy Within Your Company

By Cyber Security Awareness | No Comments

It’s no fun being the tough, no-nonsense boss, but noncompliance in cybersecurity policy is kind of a big deal. There are hackers who don’t know a line of code, who can’t tell a Mac from a PC, but they know how to get your data through social engineering. An employee who loans their work laptop to a friend can do a lot more damage than an army of code-crackers. Your media liability insurance will help you patch things up if something like this happens, but your best bet is to ensure compliance in order to prevent this from happening in the first place.

Here’s the challenge: Stricter regulations probably won’t do you much good. If someone is careless with company data, they already know they could get in trouble for it. Losing their job and being fined $500 is, in the grand scheme of things, not much bigger of a problem than just losing their job. Hackers use social engineering to get at your data, you want to fight fire with fire in order to protect it:

    • Use PC’s, not laptops for sensitive work. It sounds silly, but a lot more leaks are the result of lost phones and laptops than hackers. Very few employees are going to try and take their PC home with them or leave it unattended on a table at a coffee shop.
    • The cloud is safer than people think. Anybody can copy a USB drive. Cloud-stored data cannot be accessed without the proper login, or a daring Mission: Impossible style heist, rappelling into a server farm to steal the relevant data.
    • Allowing login through biometrics, like thumbprint scans, can streamline the login process for your team while making it very difficult for anyone not authorized to gain access.
    • Be very careful with your work-from-home policies. It may be best to completely disallow this at the higher levels of security clearance. There isn’t really any reason for an employee to take a customer’s financial information home with them, anyways, and it goes without saying that there’s certain material that should never be handled by freelancers and outsourcers.
    • Streamline your policy. The simpler your compliance policy, the easier it will be to understand. Bring people on step-by-step, don’t give them too much to memorize right away. As you move somebody up in clearance levels, you can tell them what they need to know.
    • Change passwords regularly and monitor for break-ins. It’s like when too many people are borrowing your Netflix account: You don’t have to go and ask them individually to stop, you can just change the password.
    • Consider banning removable storage and outside devices at the higher levels. Again, your data is at a greater risk in a pocket-sized device than it is on the cloud.

Understanding COBRA: Involuntary Terminations

By Life and Health | No Comments

Many employers have grappled with defining “involuntary termination” under COBRA. According to a recent IRS bulletin, here are the standards. Note: These questions apply solely for purposes of determining whether there is an involuntary termination under section 3001 of ARRA (including new Code sections added by section 3001 of ARRA — but not for any other purposes under the Code or any other law).

What circumstances constitute an involuntary termination for purposes of the definition of an assistance-eligible individual?

An involuntary termination means a severance from employment due to the independent exercise of the unilateral authority of the employer to terminate the employment, other than due to the employee’s implicit or explicit request, where the employee was willing and able to continue performing services. An involuntary termination may include the employer’s failure to renew a contract at the time the contract expires, if the employee was willing and able to execute a new contract providing terms and conditions similar to those in the expiring contract and to continue providing the services.

In addition, an employee-initiated termination from employment constitutes an involuntary termination from employment for purposes of the premium reduction if the termination from employment constitutes a termination for good reason due to employer action that causes a material negative change in the employment relationship for the employee.

Involuntary termination is the involuntary termination of employment, not the involuntary termination of health coverage. Thus, qualifying events other than an involuntary termination, such as divorce or a dependent child ceasing to be a dependent child under the generally applicable requirements of the plan (for example, loss of dependent status due to aging out of eligibility), are not involuntary terminations qualifying an individual for the premium reduction. In addition, involuntary termination does not include the death of an employee or absence from work due to illness or disability.

The determination of whether a termination is involuntary is based on all the facts and circumstances. For example, if a termination is designated as voluntary or as a resignation, but the facts and circumstances indicate that, absent such voluntary termination, the employer would have terminated the employee’s services, and that the employee had knowledge that the employee would be terminated, the termination is involuntary.

Does an involuntary termination include a lay-off period with a right of recall or a temporary furlough period?

Yes. An involuntary reduction to zero hours, such as a layoff, furlough, or other suspension of employment, resulting in a loss of health coverage is an involuntary termination for purposes of the premium reduction.

Does an involuntary termination include a reduction in hours?

Generally no. If the reduction in hours is not a reduction to zero, the mere reduction in hours is not an involuntary termination. However, an employee’s voluntary termination in response to an employer-imposed reduction in hours may be an involuntary termination if the reduction in hours is a material negative change in the employment relationship for the employee.

Does involuntary termination include an employer’s action to end an individual’s employment while the individual is absent from work due to illness or disability?

Yes. Involuntary termination occurs when the employer takes action to end the individual’s employment status (but mere absence from work due to illness or disability before the employer has taken action to end the individual’s employment status is not an involuntary termination).

Does an involuntary termination include retirement?

If the facts and circumstances indicate that, absent retirement, the employer would have terminated the employee’s services, and the employee had knowledge that the employee would be terminated, the retirement is involuntary.

Does involuntary termination include involuntary termination for cause?

Yes. However, for purposes of Federal COBRA, if the termination of employment is due to gross misconduct of the employee, the termination is not a qualifying event and the employee and other family members losing health coverage by reason of the employee’ termination of employment are not eligible for COBRA continuation coverage.

Does an involuntary termination include a resignation as the result of a material change in the geographic location of employment for the employee?


Does an involuntary termination include a work stoppage as the result of a strike initiated by employees or their representatives?

No. However, a lockout initiated by the employer is an involuntary termination.

Does an involuntary termination include a termination elected by the employee in return for a severance package (a buy-out) where the employer indicates that after the offer period for the severance package, a certain number of remaining employees in the employees group will be terminated?


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Differences Between Mutual Funds and Life Insurance

By Life and Health | No Comments

When providing for your family’s future, you rely on investment vehicles that grow and protect your funds. Mutual funds and life insurance are two options. Compare both choices as you select the investment vehicle that best provides for your family.

What are Mutual Funds?

You may deposit money into a variety of mutual funds, including stocks, bonds, cash, annuities, real estate or precious metals. Mutual fund accounts can gain or lose money depending on the type of funds you choose and the current market. They are accessible to anyone, though, whether you have hundreds or thousands of dollars to invest.

Talk to your financial planner or investment banker about mutual funds. Together, you will assess your future goals, beneficiaries’ needs, risk tolerance, age and current income and which mutual funds are right for you.

What is Life Insurance?

Life insurance provides financial resources for your beneficiaries after you die. They can use the funds to pay for funeral expenses, daily living expenses, debt repayment, college funds or any use.

You may purchase term or whole life insurance.

  • Term insurance covers you for a certain number of years as long as you pay the premiums. If you die within that time frame, your beneficiaries receive the policy’s death benefit.
  • Whole life insurance covers you for a lifetime. The policy accumulates cash value you can borrow for almost any expense.

The policy you choose is based on your beneficiaries’ needs, your financial resources and your risk tolerance, so discuss both types of insurance options with your agent as you choose the right policy for your unique needs.

Why Choose Mutual Funds

Both mutual funds and whole life insurance policies carry risk and can increase or decrease in value. However, mutual funds normally perform better than whole life insurance over time. You may also diversify your mutual funds based on your risk tolerance, fund performance and other factors as you increase their value.

Why Choose Life Insurance

Whole life insurance policies typically feature less risk that mutual funds and grow at a guaranteed rate. You may also choose the type of whole life insurance policy you purchase, which can affect its cash value and performance. Additionally, your payouts are tax-deferred, which can reduce your beneficiaries’ tax burden.

Mutual funds and life insurance are two options that allow you to provide financially for your family. Know the benefits, disadvantages and risks of both options as you choose the right investment vehicle for your needs or decide to use both options.  For more information on mutual funds and life insurance, talk to your insurance agent.

Your Attitude Towards Becoming Disabled Depends on Your Profession

By Life and Health | No Comments

A new study by MassMutual Life Insurance Company suggests that your chosen profession could indicate how you react to the thought of a potential disability. MassMutual commissioned Harris Interactive during September 2006 to conduct a Web survey of 1,023 U.S. career professionals to determine how they would react to a prolonged loss of income due to disability.

The insurer requested the survey because they wanted to gauge the reactions of attorneys, accountants, engineers, marketing, advertising and other professional services executives to see if they varied by occupation. The conclusion the researchers drew from their findings is that attitudes differ from profession to profession.

The MassMutual Benefits Barometer Survey: Disability Perceptions, as the study was called, accomplished three objectives. First, it rated the various professionals on their emotional response to long-term disability; second, it displayed common reasons for not owning Disability Income insurance; and third, it identified resources the different occupational groups have to help pay their bills if they are unable to work.

When it comes to emotional response, advertising and marketing professionals are the most anxious about the possibility of becoming disabled. Sixty-six percent of this group said they would feel financially insecure, and 26% answered they would be unprepared emotionally if they became disabled. Forty-one percent responded that they would be worried about being able to work again.

Attorneys and executives in professional services, including information technology and financial services, were less emotional about becoming disabled. Eighty-two percent of the attorneys polled felt they would get well and return to work. However, 70 % said that they would have anxiety toward their future financial situations, while 44% responded that they would feel like a burden to their families. The responses received from executives in professional services were neither overly anxious nor optimistic, as compared to other professionals.

When the responses provided by engineers and accountants were compared with all the career professionals surveyed, this group revealed itself to be the most dispassionate about becoming disabled. A mere 35% of engineers responded that they would feel a lack of financial security and only 27% of accountants would be worried about being able to work again.

When study participants were asked why they didn’t own Disability Income insurance, 44% said they didn’t feel they needed it, 30% said it costs too much, and 27% answered that they’re in good health.

The question concerning financial resources available to draw from in the event of a disability also drew some interesting responses. About 21% of attorneys surveyed reported they could live on half of their salary for “as long as they had to.” This group was the most likely to have a variety of resources such as stocks, bonds, mutual fund investments, home equity loans and loans from family or friends that they could use to keep them financially stable if they became disabled.

Advertising and marketing professionals were the least financially stable of all the professional groups and the least likely to say they would rely on stocks, bonds, mutual fund investments or a home equity loan to tide them over until they could return to work.

529 Plans Versus Life Insurance for College Savings

By Life and Health | No Comments

Many parents purchase 529 plans that allow them to save for their children’s’ college education. Life insurance is another savings vehicle for children, so compare both plans as you choose the best option for your child’s future education.

529 Plans

529 Plans are a unique way to save for your child’s college education. The money grows tax-free, and distributions are not subject to federal income tax. You can open an account with a 529 Plan manager or your financial planner. Consider these facts about 529 Plans.

Uses: Spend 529 Plan funds on tuition, books and other college expenses at a qualified school, including vocational schools, colleges and universities. If you withdraw the money for something other than education, you will owe penalties and taxes on the distributions.

Fees: Expect to pay a 529 Plan fee based on your portfolio. Additionally, you may owe a broker fee if you purchase the policy through a financial advisor.

Investment Return: When you invest in 529 Plans, you choose the portfolio in which you invest your funds. There is no limit to your return potential, but you also aren’t guaranteed a return since you invest in mutual funds, bond mutual funds or money market accounts.

Financial Aid: While 529 Plans allow you to pay for college, they do affect your child’s financial aid package. Your child could lose up to 5.64 percent of the 529 Plan’s total value in college financial aid.

Life Insurance

Cash-value or whole life insurance policies accrue cash over time. Buy a policy when your child is born, and it could pay for your child’s college education in 18 years. These policies grow tax-deferred. Understand several facts about using life insurance for college.

Uses: Life insurance is flexible since you can use the accrued money for any expense. Your child can withdraw the funds for college or buy a car or house or vacation if they get a full scholarship or decide not to attend college.

Fees: Expect to pay regular premiums for your life insurance policy. You’ll also owe the insurance agent a commission.

Investment Returns: The type of life insurance policy you buy dictates the returns you receive. On average, you could see a three to six percent return over 10 years.

Financial Aid: Borrow money from your cash-value or whole life insurance policy for school, and you don’t have to claim it as income on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms. Overall, it will minimally impact your child’s financial aid eligibility.

When paying for your child’s education, start saving early. If possible, invest in 529 Plans since they’re specifically designed for education.

Effectively Communicate with Your Employees

By Employment Resources | No Comments

Effective human resource or other executives must be able to communicate to an executive group, a prospective employee, or business partner. To make sure that you’re communicating effectively, follow these guidelines:

Tell a story. People love stories. Stories have a beginning, middle, and end.

Don’t engage in death by PowerPoint. Too many presenters overwhelm their audience with far too much information in their PowerPoint. It’s called PowerPoint, not PowerParagraph. Don’t have more than three bullet points on any slide. Don’t use entire sentences, just a snapshot of the point to be made. Even better, see how just one picture can express many words. An excellent book to consider is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.

Begin logically and end emotionally. Move from the left side of the brain to the right side. Give people powerful information and the emotional “why” for applying it.

Less is more. Sometimes it’s better to communicate from a single page of bullet points than from an extensive handout. You can always make more information available later on.

Ask powerful questions. What can you ask that would be thought provoking? What questions keep your audience up at night? What questions will develop a rapport with your audience immediately?

Get feedback regularly. Be sure that your audience understands your point. Do they agree with you? For example, after making a point, superstar presenter Tony Robbins will ask the audience to say “Ay” in unison to help reinforce the point just made.

Wrap it up with action items. Identify the actions that you and your audience should take next. Give them a form or checklist to apply the information shared in your presentation.

Follow these presentation essentials and you too will do a great job of communication.

What is Key Person Insurance?

By Employment Resources | No Comments

Key person insurance is one tool companies use to protect their business in case an important person in the company dies suddenly. Whether or not you’re a key person at your workplace, understand this valuable coverage since it potentially affects your job security.

What is Key Person Insurance?

When a company’s owner, president, manager or other key employee dies, it loses valuable leadership, experience and skill. Operations could suffer or the company could be forced to shut down, and you as an employee could lose your job.

Key person insurance protects companies. It’s a life insurance policy written in the key person’s name. That person receives no immediate benefit, though. Instead, the company pays the policy’s premiums and is the policy’s beneficiary. It receives the policy’s payout after the insured key executive suddenly dies. That cash allows the company to continue operating as normal until they can find another executive or adjust operations and successfully navigate the loss.

Why a Company Should Have Key Person Insurance

A company should purchase key person insurance for several reasons.

Continue operations.

The loss of a key person can cause a company to lose customers and face financial hardship. With key person insurance, the company receives valuable cash that allows it to pay financial obligations, maintain daily operations, repay debts, offer severance to employees and pay investors. It keeps a company afloat until someone else takes over the leadership or another strategic plan is put in place.

Affirm key personnel.

A company’s key employees keep the business operating as they manage day-to-day operations, attract new customers, hire quality employees and manage conflicts. Key person insurance affirms the value a company places on their key people and can be an effective tool that attracts and retains quality leadership.

Build trust.

When employees know that their company will continue operating as normal even if a key person dies, they have more confidence and trust in their company. They will work harder because of this trust.

How Much Key Person Insurance Should You Buy?

Determining how much key person insurance to buy depends on your business. Start by calculating how much money your company needs to continue operations successfully after your key employee dies. Factor in payroll, debt repayment and normal operating expenses. Then consider your budget. You’re now ready to get key person insurance quotes.

Key person insurance gives a company confidence to face the future after an irreplaceable employee dies. It gives you valuable peace of mind because it can ensure you keep your job even if a key person at your company dies. Make sure it’s part of your company’s financial portfolio.

Disability Leave Accommodations

By Employment Resources | No Comments

An employee’s serious medical condition often extends beyond the 12 weeks granted under the FMLA. Under the ADA, they’re able to take off additional time for their medical condition unless it causes an undue hardship. For example, in a case decided by the First Circuit, an employee took 15 months of medical leave and then requested an additional two months of unpaid leave.

However, he could not provide absolute assurances that he would return to work on that date. The court ruled that unless the employer could show that his continued absence poses an undue hardship (temporary placement is inadequate or too costly) an additional two months may be a reasonable accommodation.

The ADA does not require an employer to grant an extended leave of absence when it’s unlikely that the leave will enable the disabled employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The courts have found leaves to be unreasonable where the employee works only five out of 28 months, the employee is out for a year and a half and asks for a 90-day extension, and the leave was so erratic that the employer does not know from one day to the next that the employee will be returning to work or not or when they might arrive.

An employee with a disability might need leave for a number of reasons related to the disability, including, but not limited to:

  • Obtaining medical treatment (e.g., surgery, psychotherapy, substance abuse treatment, or dialysis); rehabilitation services; or physical or occupational therapy.
  • Recuperating from an illness or an episodic manifestation of the disability.
  • Obtaining repairs on a wheelchair, accessible van, or prosthetic device.
  • Avoiding temporary adverse conditions in the work environment (for example, an air-conditioning breakdown causing unusually warm temperatures that could seriously harm an employee with multiple sclerosis).
  • Training a service animal (e.g., a guide dog).
  • Receiving training in the use of braille or to learn sign language.

When considering whether or not to grant extended leave as an accommodation, consider these factors:

  • When the employee expects to return to work.
  • Whether the absences will be planned or erratic.
  • Whether they will be able to perform their full duties when they return.
  • Whether the employee was hired to perform a certain task.
  • Whether additional leave and temporary employees are more costly than hiring a new employee.
  • Whether the leave creates an undue hardship under the circumstances.

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Reporting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

By Employment Resources | No Comments

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious offense. It affects productivity, motivation and morale, and it’s illegal. Learn how to report sexual harassment as you protect your coworkers and workplace.

What is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission considers sexual harassment to include several actions.

  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Verbal or physical actions that are sexual in nature
  • Offensive remarks about a person’s gender

It can happen frequently or only once. The perpetrator can be either gender and hold any job title. Even customers can be sexual harassment victims or perpetrators.

Why Report Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

All sexual harassment in the workplace is unlawful whether it occurs during a job interview, is perpetrated by the company president or a customer, or happens one time. It’s a serious offense, and it’s your responsibility to report it.

How to Report Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

If you’re the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace or see it happen, you may feel embarrassed to file a report or worried about repercussions. However, you have the right and responsibility to report any illegal actions using these steps.

Review your employee handbook. It includes the specific protocols on how to report sexual harassment in your workplace.

Report to the right person. Usually, you should report sexual harassment to your supervisor or Human Resources manager, but that person could be the sexual harassment victim or perpetrator. In this case, find a neutral person, ideally a manager or supervisor, in your company and report the harassment in person.

Share details. It’s not enough to say that your coworker sexually harassed you. You need to share specific details that allow your employer to investigate the incident and create appropriate consequences. Those details include:

  • Dates of the harassment
  • Exactly what happened during the incident/s
  • Documents that support your story
  • Witnesses to the incidents

Put your report in writing. Even if you meet with a manager in person, you should still write your report and send it to your employer via email. Ask Human Resources to file a copy in your personnel file, and keep a copy for your personal records, too

Follow up. Your employer must investigate your sexual harassment complaint, and they may include you in the investigation. Be sure to follow up, though. Share any additional details you may have forgotten to include in the original report, and document those additions.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal. Take it seriously when you use these tips to report sexual harassment in the workplace. Your actions protect yourself, your coworkers and your workplace culture.