Is Your Business Fraud-Proof?

Falling victim to fraud can prove costly. Lost revenue and fines can reduce your bottom line and hinder future business. Small businesses are particularly susceptible to these effects. They are even more likely to experience business fraud than are larger organizations. Common small-business fraud includes cash larceny, skimming, payroll larceny, and check tampering.

The good news: you can stop fraudulent activity before it results in financial or reputational harm to your business. Use the following strategies to protect your company from fraud:

Trust…with accountability – Many small businesses involve personal relationships. Employees may be close friends whom the business owner trusts implicitly. While trust is good, trust accompanied by accountability is better. Put policies and controls in place that demonstrate trust but don’t allow room for temptation.

Spotlight on the bottom line – Keep a close eye on your accounts. Complete regular account reconciliations, examine documentation, and perform reviews of financial information. Watch your bottom line to detect skimming or other suspicious financial activity right away.

Consistent fraud controls – Too often, small businesses skip fraud-control measures due to the investment they require. Whether time or money, the effort is not considered worth the return. The truth is, companies with fraud safeguards in place report fewer losses and detect fraud more quickly than do those that fail to enact these policies. The most effective anti-fraud controls include business fraud training, employee support programs, employee codes of conduct, internal and external audits, countersignature controls, management review of financial statements, fraud hotlines, and formal fraud risk assessments.

Red flag alert – While hindsight is 20/20, most businesses can look back and realize several red flags were looming before fraudulent activities came to light. In most cases, clear warning signs are present. Business owners simply have to watch for them. Keep in mind that most business fraud turns out to be an inside job. In most of these cases, the employee is a first-time offender. This means you can’t rely solely on background checks and established reputation to prevent fraud. Watch for the following employee red flags that can lead to fraudulent activity:

Personal financial difficulties, living beyond their means, family issues, recent divorce, control issues, and an attitude of “wheeling and dealing.”

Of course, these situations don’t always lead to fraud. They simply create scenarios that make fraud more tempting. Struggling employees are more likely to rationalize their fraudulent behavior. They consider their theft a “loan” they will repay when they get back on their feet, or they tell themselves they are underpaid and deserve the “bonus.” If their actions go unnoticed, they become bolder, and their fraud becomes more frequent or greater in scope. This is why it is important to notice red flags early on and keep fraud controls consistently in place.

Insurance coverage – Even the best strategies cannot guarantee a business will never suffer from fraud. That’s why insurance coverage is important. To further protect your company from potential damages, speak with your agent about commercial crime insurance.

Audits: Why They Aren’t Always a Bad Thing

Many entrepreneurs shudder at the “A” word. They fear audits more than root canals. The truth is, this process is not always negative. It doesn’t mean the business owner has done anything wrong, and it doesn’t mean the party completing the audit is “picking on” the entrepreneur. In fact, an insurance audit is often performed for the benefit of the insured, and it may even save the company money.

It’s common for a new business to be audited by its insurance provider during the first policy period. The policy is based on annual gross sales, and these are mere estimates as the company gets under way. The initial premium is determined by estimating the annual sales for the first year.

To get an accurate picture of the company’s earnings and determine appropriate coverage going forward, an audit is necessary. Business owners can expect to be audited either during the first policy term or at the end of the period. The insurer will then adjust the premium based on true sales. This process ensures the business is not overpaying for coverage.

To prepare for an audit, maintain accurate records. This will make the audit go more smoothly. Be ready to provide a payroll summary, a cash summary, monthly sales tax reports, federal or state employment quarterly reports, subcontractor totals, 1099 forms for subcontractors, and any other documentation that will help the auditor gain a clear picture of your revenue.

If you have questions or concerns about this process, contact your agent for additional details about business policy audits.

Six Things Covered by Homeowner’s Insurance

You’re confident your home is covered for burglaries, tornadoes, and fires.
If any of these disasters occur, you know to contact your agent right away. You might be surprised to discover that the following situations also warrant a call to your insurance provider. These unusual costs might be covered under your homeowner’s policy.

When Fido gets feisty: Did you know dog bites account for about a third of homeowner’s insurance claims? Most policies offer liability and medical coverage for any damages your dog causes to an injured party.

When vandals attack: Are you the caretaker of a family headstone? If your loved one’s memorial is vandalized, your homeowner’s policy may provide for repairs. Even though the headstone isn’t on your property, it’s still your property.

When dorm living goes south: Is your child moving into a dorm this fall? If his or her property is stolen from the dorm room, you can file a claim. Your homeowner’s policy may consider your child’s belongings “off-premises personal property,” so that they will be covered by your insurance.

When groceries go bad: Have you ever experienced an extended power outage? If a lack of power causes your food to spoil, you may be able to recoup the cost of the extra grocery bill. Contact your agent to see if this falls under your homeowner’s policy.

When firemen call: Did you call the fire department to save your home? You might receive a bill for their services. If so, your homeowner’s policy may cover this fee. Coverage may depend on the reason for the call.

When the cows come home: Do you live near a ranch? Most people don’t, but it’s comforting to know that any damage caused to your property by a stampeding herd of cows is covered under your homeowner’s policy. Just in case.

When it’s Time for Teenagers to Take the Wheel

He has matured past the tricycle phase, grown beyond the bicycle stage, and is ready to try his hand at something with an engine. Your teen says he’s ready to drive. Are you ready?

Whether or not you’re emotionally up for the task, you can at least prepare yourself financially. Take the following steps before your teen takes the wheel.

Assign for savings: Which car will your teen drive? If possible, ask your insurer to assign your teen to the car with the lowest value. Keep in mind that this must be the car that the teen drives. By linking your teen to the least-valuable car, you can save on insurance premiums.

Boost your coverage: If you currently have minimum liability insurance, consider increasing your coverage. You may be fortunate to have a responsible teen, but statistics are still stacked against him. Research shows that teens are more likely to be involved in car accidents than adults, and their chance of being held accountable for a crash is twice that of adults. You’ll be grateful for greater coverage if your teen has an accident that results in costly repairs or lawsuit payments.

Balance the cost: As you raise your liability, you may pay higher premiums. To balance this, consider raising your deductible. Higher deductibles typically result in lower premiums. You can apply this savings to your increase in overall coverage.

Make the call: As with any life changes that may affect your insurance, contact your agent to discuss what solutions are best for your new teen driver.

Get Peace of Mind with a Short- or Long-Term Disability Policy

Disability can strike at any time. It can be the result of a chronic disease like hypertension or the result of an accident. In 2016, over half of those in the U.S. with a disability were of working age. Would you be prepared if you suddenly joined their ranks?

Perhaps you rely on your disability coverage where you work, but if you lose your job or are unable to continue working, that coverage may cancel.

You may think that Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) is a speedy solution to your disability problems, but the initial wait once you have filed a disability application is between 30 and 90 days. According to experts, absent a very serious medical condition, Social Security reviewers deny the majority of claims for SSDI the first time an applicant applies. The next step is reconsideration, which can take up to six months. Denial rates by Social Security at the reconsideration level are about 87%, so you cannot depend on a speedy process or a positive outcome.

A disability policy can be your best option as part of your insurance planning process. Based on your current age and health, you can pay a monthly premium for a short- or long-term disability policy that guarantees a set amount of your average pre-illness salary. The amount depends on your choice of coverage and the insurer; however, many typically pay 60% of your pre-illness earnings.

Contact your local health insurance agent to explore your individual costs and benefits of a disability policy.

Travel Insurance: Medical Evacuation and Repatriation

Americans love to travel. Despite all the positive outcomes – seeing new sites, meeting new people, trying new cuisines – problems can arise. Travel insurance can mean the difference between a safe trip and one fraught with frustrations.

Most travel insurance covers canceled flights, lost luggage, lost passports, and other inconveniences. A serious illness or accident, however, can be much more problematic than replacing lost toiletries. If you become sick or injured while abroad, there is no place like home.

Your travel policy may include medical evacuation and repatriation coverage, which provides the following benefits that can prove helpful, whether you travel domestically or abroad.

Your coverage can transport you to a local medical facility if one is available that is able to treat your particular illness. If you receive the best care near your home, your coverage can manage the logistics of your flight home, including special equipment needed during your transport.

If you remain abroad for treatment, some travel plans cover the additional cost of keeping a loved one at your side as your advocate. Some policies will also cover the cost to return your loved one home.

If the worst happens to you or your family member, repatriation coverage is extremely beneficial. This helps arrange and pay for the transport of remains. While most policies do not pay for the burial, the cost of repatriating remains can run in the thousands. This coverage can greatly reduce the financial and emotional strain on family members during a difficult time.

Americans trust their travel agents to help plan the best trip within their budget. However, it is better to rely on your travel agent to provide the best travel advice, not insurance guidance. Insurance agents who specialize in travel can help you plan that trip of a lifetime so you can travel with peace of mind.

Your Kids Are Grown – Do You Still Need Life Insurance?

We often purchase life insurance when we are young (and it is less expensive), then forget about it. Life goes on.

We get married, buy houses, have children, send them to college, and have grandchildren. At this point, do you still need your life insurance?

It depends on your needs. Chances are, you purchased life insurance to support a spouse, child, or other dependent in the event of your demise.

You might have intended it to allow your spouse to stay home with your children or pay for a child’s college education if you weren’t around to cover the bills. When you retire, however, you may not need to cover the same bills.

You and your spouse have a nest egg, and your children are supporting themselves.

In this case, you may want to consider decreasing or canceling your life insurance, as the money you will spend on premiums can be reallocated to long-term care insurance.

Long-term care insurance protects you from the cost of home-health care or a nursing home, which can quickly diminish your financial resources.

The national average cost of long-term care in the United States, as of 2016, is $225 a day or $6,844 per month for a semi-private room in a nursing home, $253 a day or $7,698 per month for a private room in a nursing home, and $119 a day or $3,628 per month for care in an assisted living facility.

Chances are, you will need such care. As the population ages, the prevalence of age-related diseases increases. Even if you plan to stay healthy (as we all do), there is a good reason to take on the expense of long-term care insurance now: being younger and in good health means long-term care insurance costs less.

So, while you might not need long-term care insurance in your 40s and 50s, you may not want to wait too long to buy it.

Things You Never Knew Were Covered by Auto Insurance

When you’re involved in a fender bender, you know you should call your insurance agent.

If your car gets keyed or a stray rock cracks your windshield, you are pretty sure your auto insurance policy has you covered.

What about other, more unusual circumstances? Did you know the following situations are often covered by auto insurance?

When the sky is falling: It’s rare, but it happens. If a piece of satellite, airplane, or meteorite hits your vehicle, your comprehensive auto insurance probably covers the cost of repairs. Look for a “falling objects” clause.

When you need rodent repairs: When mice, squirrels, or rabbits decide to take up residence under your hood, they can be quite destructive. Keep this in mind if your vehicle will be parked for long periods of time. If mice munch your wires, check with your carrier to see if your policy includes an “other than collision” clause that will cover this damage.

When Spot needs stitches: Does your dog ever go for a joyride in your car? If you’re in an accident that results in pet injury, your auto insurance policy may cover the vet bills.

When the seat’s not safe: Even if it looks OK, a child’s car seat might be damaged after an accident. It’s a good idea to go ahead and replace it. They aren’t cheap, but your insurance may cover this cost.

When potholes cause pitfalls: Many auto insurance policies categorize pothole accidents as collisions. If so, the damage caused by your run-in with one of these road pits will be covered.

When payday comes up short: Did you miss work due to a car accident injury? A portion of your lost income may be recoverable through your auto insurance policy.

If you experience any of these encounters, contact your agent to determine if your policy provides coverage.

Car Sharing and Auto Insurance: What You Need to Know

More and more car owners are looking to their vehicles as sources of potential income. The family sedan is no longer simply a tool to get to work, and it does more than deliver pizzas.

Peer-to-peer car-sharing services have made it possible to “rent” a personal vehicle to other drivers who are seeking transportation. If you don’t drive your car every day, this can be a fairly simple way to earn a little extra cash.

However, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind regarding car sharing and auto insurance. Using your vehicle in this way can greatly affect your coverage.

First, your policy may not cover your vehicle while it is being driven by other people under a car-sharing agreement.

Your carrier doesn’t have any information about who is driving your car or their driving record, so the coverage cannot extend to them. If someone is in an accident or your car is stolen while he or she is using it, you may not have coverage.

Second, you are making money with this arrangement. This puts your vehicle use into a business category, rather than personal. Again, this might negate coverage from your personal policy.

Due to these circumstances, car-sharing services typically offer their own auto insurance.

If you’re considering offering your vehicle for peer-to-peer car sharing, first consult with your insurance provider.

Someone there can advise you about your coverage and help you determine if this is a viable option for the use of your vehicle.

Is Your Life Insurance Beneficiary Up to Date?

When Minnesota couple Mark Sveen and Kaye Melin married, Mark made Kaye his life insurance policy’s primary beneficiary, and when they divorced ten years later, Mark forgot to change that.

As a result, when he passed away, Kaye was still his primary beneficiary – much to the despair of his adult children. They were so angry about the matter that they filed a lawsuit and took the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

This situation may sound extreme, but mix-ups over life insurance beneficiaries are common.

Since the last thing you want for your loved ones after you die is bickering, it’s important to keep your life insurance policy beneficiaries up to date.

It is important to name both a primary and contingent beneficiary. Your primary beneficiary will receive your life insurance policy proceeds when you die – unless he or she dies before you do, in which case your contingent beneficiary will get the money.

The main factor to consider when naming beneficiaries is who likely needs your financial support after you are gone.

When you have a spouse who is a homemaker with young children, the decision is easy. When you are divorced with adult children, it may not be. That is possibly what led Mark Sveen to leave his family in such a pickle.

So what happened? A Minnesota federal court sided with Sveen’s children because of a 2002 Minnesota state law stating that a divorce automatically invalidates the naming of a former spouse as a life insurance policy beneficiary.

But an appeals court sided with Sveen’s ex-wife, because the US Constitution’s so-called contracts clause prevents states from creating any laws that impair “the obligation of contracts.”

Now the case is with the US Supreme Court, and its decision could affect the validity of similar laws in as many as twenty-eight other states.

Three Crowd-Control Tips to Reduce Risk at Company Events

Summer is often a time for company picnics and business conventions. As you schedule these events, keep crowd control in mind. A lack of organization and structure can increase risk of injury and property damage. Use the following tips to keep your outing running smoothly and avoid any unnecessary incidents that could result in insurance claims.

Control the flow: From parking to food lines to dance floors, use methods to manage the crowd and keep people moving efficiently. This will help avoid congestion, which can cause accidents. It will also create a more enjoyable event. Mark entrances and exits clearly. Control how many people flow through small areas simultaneously. If the event is of a significant size, provide staff or security to direct crowd flow.

Put a plan in place: Before any event, establish an emergency response plan. This should include evacuation procedures as well as responses to individual medical emergencies. Be prepared to respond to crime, too. Your plans should include what to do in case of theft or violent incidents.

Communicate clearly: It’s not enough to simply have ideas or create a plan. Communicate all information to staff and guests of the event. Be sure all staff who are helping run the event are well-versed in the emergency procedures. Let guests know what is expected of them concerning crowd control. This clear communication will help keep things running smoothly and reduce the risk of incidents.

For additional tips on how to reduce claims at events, contact your insurance provider.

Choosing Business Coverage: The Goldilocks Method

One bed was too small. One was too big. Goldilocks didn’t rest until she found just the right size.

It’s important that you do the same for your commercial insurance coverage. A variety of policies are available, and yours should be customized to suit the needs of your business. These needs are different depending on whether your business is home-based, small, medium, or large. Your agent can walk you through the many options to determine what is best for your company. Use the following overview to get started.

Home-Based Businesses

These companies are based out of the owner’s home and typically have zero to one additional employees on the payroll. This scenario is extremely common, as many businesses start out this way. Often, the business enjoys success, grows, and relocates to a commercial setting.

In the meantime, it’s important to have appropriate insurance coverage while the business is in the home. Too often, owners assume their homeowner’s policy will cover their home-based business. This coverage may offer some protection, but it will not necessarily provide the full coverage you need. It’s important to discuss the operations of your business with your agent to determine whether you need additional limits or a commercial policy.

Small Businesses

A small business is loosely defined as one that employs fewer than 100 personnel and generates annual revenue of less than $5 million.

If this describes your business, you probably qualify for a BOP. This “business owner’s policy” combines several policies. It offers the basic coverages you need as a small business owner in one convenient policy. A BOP generally includes property insurance, general liability insurance, and business interruption insurance. Additional options are available to customize the policy further for your specific needs. This BOP provides adequate protection at an affordable rate.

Medium-Sized Businesses

If your business has outgrown baby-bear size but hasn’t reached papa-bear status, you are running a medium-sized business. This sized company typically employs more than 100 but less than 1,000 staff and earns annual revenues between $10 million and $1 billion.

Because your needs are different than those of small or large businesses, insurance providers generally offer specialized policies for medium-sized business. You may still be able to combine your property and liability coverage, but you may also need extended coverage for equipment or multiple locations. Your agent can review the specifics of your business to customize a policy that offers just the right coverage for your company’s needs.

Large Businesses

Most businesses that have more than 500 employees are considered large businesses. Their revenues vary based on the type of business. What they have in common is multimillion-dollar risks. Many have risk management professionals on staff to assess these risks and develop plans to minimize them. An insurance professional can also assist with this task.

Large businesses often require multiple policies, and coverage must be tailored to the industry. Industry leaders often have greater liability risk. Factory-based businesses may have greater personal injury risk. Your insurance agent can customize your coverage to ensure your business has the protection it needs.

Top Ten Questions to Ask Your Pharmacist

A visit to the doctor often results in a new prescription. However, your doctor may not have time to answer questions you have about the prescription. According to Medscape, doctors spend thirteen to sixteen minutes with each patient. This isn’t a lot of time to review symptoms, perform an exam, and discuss medications. Therefore, your pharmacist can be your best source of information about a new prescription.

Pharmacists have more knowledge about medicines than do any other medical specialists. They complete three years of undergraduate work studying science and then earn a doctorate from an accredited pharmacy school.

These experts are your best defense against prescription errors. Take time to consult with your pharmacist whenever you receive a new drug. Cover these basic questions:

  1. Will this medication conflict with other medications I take?
  2. What is this medication prescribed for, and what can I expect it to do? (You may be expecting a total remission of symptoms from the drug, but the drug may only reduce symptoms.)
  3. What are the short-term and long-term side effects of this medication?
  4. If the side effects become intolerable, what should I do?
  5. Does this medication have any special storage considerations?
  6. Since I’m on several drugs, can I take them all at the same time?
  7. Is a generic version of the drug available?
  8. Should I take the medication with food?
  9. What if I miss a dose?
  10. What can I expect if I stop taking the drug?

Partner with Your Doctor to Reduce Prescription Costs

The cost of medical care keeps rising, including prescription costs. To lower the cost of prescriptions, many patients turn to generic medications. However, many doctors don’t offer generics as a first choice.

When you visit your doctor, always speak frankly about your finances, especially if you are on Medicare and approaching the dreaded coverage gap, or “donut hole.” In 2018, this gap begins when you spend $3,750 and ends when you spend $5,000 on prescription drugs. While Part D Medicare enrollees will receive a discount on drugs purchased in that gap, they’re still spending a lot of money for medications between TrOOP (true out-of-pocket) and copay expenses.

To save money, always ask your doctor if generic options are available. Doctors may hesitate to recommend some generic drugs because they believe the generic is not as effective. If that’s the case, ask your doctor if there is a comparable generic medication that might be as effective.

If you’re taking medications for chronic diseases and your insurer’s pharmacy has a mail-order prescription service, ask your doctor to write a 90-day prescription with appropriate refills. Your doctor can electronically transmit your prescription, and you can order online or by phone when you need refills. Most mail-order pharmacies have an automatic refill option, so you’ll never run out of important medications.

If you can split a medication, ask your doctor to write the prescription in a higher dosage, and then buy a pill splitter to cut the dose in half.

Never skip medications such as cholesterol-lowering drugs to save money. Failing to take medications for chronic conditions can be devastating, possibly leading to stroke, heart attack, or, in the case of transplant recipients, organ rejection.

Finally, always price-shop your drugs. You can easily compare prices online with programs such as WellRx.com or edrugsearch.com. Additionally, GoodRx.comoffers prescription coupons, which can help you save on essential medications.

Take a Bite Out of Crime (and Your Insurance Premium)

Listing every potential crime that could occur against your business would be a daunting task. Small-business owners face risks from employee crime, nonemployee crime, and cybercrime. Any of these could result in claims that cause your premium to rise.

The good news is, you are not helpless against these crimes. There are effective steps you can take to keep your workplace protected against each type of crime. Putting these safeguards in place will prevent loss, injury, and increased costs. Help keep your business crime-free with the following tips:

Prevent Employee Crime

  • Vet your people: It may involve a lot of legwork, but it’s worth checking into the people you hire. Contact references and perform background checks for any potential employees. Be sure you are hiring trustworthy people.
  • Avoid violence: Do you have a written workplace violence-prevention policy? If not, develop a comprehensive plan that covers the consequences of committing acts of violence in the workplace and procedures to follow if such an event should occur.
  • Require audits: Reduce the opportunity for internal theft by requiring audits for all employees who handle invoicing, receipts, or payroll. These regular audits require extra effort, but the accountability can help prevent major losses.
  • Establish safety: Ensure every employee is properly trained on safety procedures and is aware of all company policies. Business owners who do not meet OSHA standards run the risk of breaking laws regarding safety regulations. Avoid penalty fees and lawsuits by remaining in compliance with all standards.

Prevent Nonemployee Crime

  • Use surveillance: Keep all areas of your business in sight. Use security personnel, mirrors, or surveillance cameras. Encourage employees to engage customers. A vigilant eye is helpful to protect your assets and avoid theft claims.
  • Install security: Apply physical security measures at your business. Install quality locks or a company-wide security system. Limit access to high-risk areas.
  • Light the way: Dark areas invite dark deeds. Ensure all areas of the property are well-lit. Add exterior lighting if none is present. Change all burned-out bulbs right away. Keep things bright and welcoming for employees and customers, and uninviting for crime.

Prevent Cybercrime

  • Back it up: Keep backup copies of all records either on additional storage devices or off-site. A loss of data could mean anything from a minor setback to a major cost. A large breach can spell disaster for a small company.
  • Monitor access: Limit the number of employees who can access all company information. Be especially prudent about access to finances and personal client information.
  • Be software smart: Use strong passwords and proper firewalls to protect your data. Remain current on software updates to keep defenses strong. Change passwords regularly. Negligence in these procedures can prove costly.

As you make these efforts, you will make your company safer, more inviting, and more cost-effective.

Protect Your Rep or it Could End Up Costing You

How can business owners best protect their companies? You may have heard the most common small business claim is theft. This is true, but it’s not the most costly one. Reputational harm claims top this list. These claims include libel, slander, and violation of privacy.

The average cost for these claims is $50,000. If the claim involves a lawsuit, the price skyrockets. Costs to defend and settle the suit raise the average cost for these types of claims to more than $750,000. Typically, around one-third of all general liability claims result in a lawsuit. For small businesses without proper coverage, these suits can prove devastating.

Of course, the preferred solution is to avoid these claims altogether. To protect your business from reputational harm claims, take the following precautions.

Ask permission, not forgiveness. Would you like to post photos on your website or use them in your marketing materials? Do you plan to use a quote or other content for your next marketing campaign? Before you launch your initiative or post your social media blast, get permission to use these items. Copyright and privacy suits can prove costly. Obtain written permission to avoid reputational harm claims. Additionally, ensure all employees are aware of your permission policies.

If you can’t say something nice… Cutthroat competition can make criticizing competitors a tempting tactic. Don’t do it. When speaking publicly or with customers, avoid criticizing competitors. If you never say anything negative about them, they will not have any ammo to use for a slander suit.

Is There Such a Thing as Wedding Insurance?

Weddings can be simple, but they rarely are. Most involve a million moving pieces, from the caterer to the florist to the unpredictable in-laws.

This massive event holds the potential for myriad mishaps. That’s why wedding insurance is now available.

This policy is a specialized type of event insurance that covers a wide range of disasters that could affect your big day.

You can customize the policy to insure major damages to your venue or other aspects of your wedding. Enjoy protection with:

Event cancellation protection. What if the weather doesn’t cooperate with your plans for a picturesque wedding at the park? What if the officiant becomes ill? This coverage insures deposits for rental cars, flowers, the cake, and more, in case circumstances beyond your control cause a cancellation or delay of the ceremony.

Special coverage. Are you concerned about your rings, gifts, photographs, or tuxedos? Wedding insurance can provide coverage for these costly items. If the best man loses the rings or the ring bearer spills grape juice on his lapel, wedding insurance can prove quite helpful.

Liability. Large events always carry the risk of property damage and personal injury. This coverage protects you from liability in the event your guests damage the venue or suffer injury. Public venues may have their own coverage for these situations, or they may require you to provide a policy.

Compared to the price of the event, wedding insurance is typically quite affordable. If you encounter a hitch in your plans, this policy can help you save significant costs.

If you’re planning a wedding, consult with your insurance agent to determine the best coverage for your event.

The right policy can provide peace of mind to help keep your feet steady as you walk down that aisle.

Landscape Your Way to Lower Premiums on Your Property

Properly maintained landscaping can add beauty and value to a property. Poorly developed or neglected landscaping does the opposite. Did you know landscaping has the same effects on insurance premiums? Applying specific landscaping techniques can help keep your premiums low. Here’s how:

Keep trees trim. Overgrown oaks and extended evergreens can cause property damage, which results in claims. Branches that creep too close to your property can destroy roofs, harm siding, or break windows. Dead limbs are at risk of falling and causing further property damage or personal injury. To keep them safe and attractive, trim trees every one to two years.

Get a good grade. Healthy drainage is essential. To protect your property from expensive water damage, ensure the land is graded properly. If you add or remove landscaping, keep this important factor in mind. Consult with professionals who have experience in land grading to avoid disastrous results.

Thwart thieves. Reduce your risk of burglary with thief-deterrent landscaping. Prickly bushes in front of your windows can make your home less inviting to burglars. Keeping large bushes and trees neatly trimmed also eliminates potential hiding places for would-be thieves.

Mind the vines. Climbing vines can add aesthetic appeal to a property’s exterior; however, they can also cause serious damage. As ivy grows up the wall, it can harm the paint, destroy siding, or separate bricks. If it gets tall enough to reach the roofline, the vine can damage gutters and roof tiles. If you are considering planting vines, keep these risks in mind.

Are You Getting All of Your Zzz’s?

Having trouble sleeping? Harvard Medical School experts say that short bouts of sleeplessness are nothing to fret over. However, chronic sleeplessness can contribute to a host of problems, such as high blood pressure, weight gain, and a less-effective immune system. Additionally, working while sleepy makes you 70% more likely to get hurt on the job. At-work sleepiness can also cause less-effective communication and poorer performance, including increased errors.

Applying the following tips can help you sleep more soundly. If you make changes and still find yourself sleepy at work, visit your primary care physician for further investigation.

  • One of the most important tips for good sleep in today’s technology-focused world is to remove anything that glows from your bedroom. Cell phones, cable boxes, and digital clocks can delay or prevent your sleep. Cover displays that you cannot power down.
  • Who doesn’t love an afternoon nap? If you nap, do so early in the day and for less than twenty minutes. Consider taking a walk instead of a nap. You’ll find yourself reenergized.
  • Evaluate your pillow. It should support your natural neck curve. A large or fluffy pillow may not be the best choice. Consider replacing older pillows, especially if you use polyester pillows.
  • In winter, keep the heat turned down. In summer, consider a fan. Most people sleep best at temperatures between 68 and 72 degrees.
  • Avoid caffeine after noon.
  • Try to complete energetic workouts at least three to four hours before bed. However, yoga, tai chi, or gentle stretching can help you unwind before you hit the hay.

According to the National Institutes for Health, sleep apnea can affect up to 7% of the population. Consider a sleep study if you snore or often feel fatigued after seven or so hours of sleep.

Healthy Skin: Tips to Protect Your Skin as Summer Approaches

Skin cancer in the United States is on the rise. More people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer than with all other cancers combined. According to the American Cancer Society, five million Americans receive a new skin cancer diagnosis each year. A few changes in lifestyle could prevent this illness. The Skin Cancer Foundation offers simple tips that can help prevent melanomas and other skin cancers.

  • Know the difference between sunscreen and sunblock. Sunscreen uses chemicals that absorb ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and reduce the amount of UVR reaching your skin. Sunblock is thicker and may offer more protection against ultraviolet A rays. To find a more effective sunscreen, buy one labeled “broad spectrum,” with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater, which protects against both UVA and UVB radiation.
  • If swimming or sweating, use a “water resistant” sunscreen that protects for 40 or 80 minutes, and reapply it at the recommended times.
  • Avoid both outdoor tanning and tanning booths.
  • Protect your arms, face, and legs while outdoors. A good rule of thumb is to apply half an ounce of sunscreen to your entire body half an hour before you go outside.
  • Be sure your sunglasses offer UV blocking. Experts have linked UV-ray exposure to cataract formation.
  • Check your skin annually for abnormalities. Look for bumps, patches, nonhealing sores, scaly patches, and asymmetrical or multicolored moles. Visiting a dermatologist yearly is the best way to discover and treat skin abnormalities.