Growing Company? New Business = New Insurance Needs

Is your business experiencing growth? While this is good news for the entrepreneur, it also comes with challenges. As your business grows, it undergoes changes and encounters new needs. As you adjust your revenue projections, expand your market, and invest for continued growth, don’t forget another area that should be examined. It’s likely that your insurance needs are also changing.

To ensure your coverage adequately matches your current risks, remain in close communication with your insurance provider. Your agent can make recommendations for appropriate changes to your policies. Consult with your agent if you experience any of the following situations that often warrant an adjustment in insurance coverage:

Staff changes: Are you hiring additional staff? Have you transitioned from part-time staff to full-time employees? Are your workers taking on new duties? As you bring on new employees or expand work tasks, it’s important to update your insurance policies to reflect these changes. Appropriate coverage is necessary to protect you and your business if workplace injuries should occur.

New address: Have you outgrown your location? Relocating to a new setting to accommodate your expanding business involves a lot of work. In the midst of moving, don’t forget to update your insurance. The new building may have a different risk profile that alters the coverage you need.

New features such as security systems may also affect your premiums. Before you choose a new location, discuss the insurance ramifications with your agent so you can budget appropriately.

Equipment upgrades: The equipment your business uses directly affects your insurance premium. If you purchase new equipment to meet growing needs or update old equipment to modernize your business, you must also update your insurance policy.

Expanded services: Are you offering new services or new items? This can affect your liability. Review your current list of goods and services with your insurance agent to verify that you still have appropriate coverage. Add further liability coverage if needed to protect your business from new or additional risk.

Increased revenue: If your business is growing, you are likely experiencing an increase in revenue. While this is good news, it can affect your insurance needs. Keep an eye on policy limits to make sure they remain in alignment with your revenue streams. As you grow, you will probably need to increase coverage limits. Consult with your agent to determine when this bump in coverage should occur.

Specialized growth: Consider any unique needs of your business based on your industry and the types of products and services you offer. As you expand these specialties, you may need to alter your insurance coverage with more specific policies.

For example, if you have grown from a mom-and-pop paper-invoicing shop to a fully digital enterprise, you may want to consider adding cyber insurance.

Vehicle additions: Whether you add a company car for your own use or expand your fleet of delivery vehicles, it’s essential to update your commercial vehicle insurance coverage.

The policy details will depend on the type of vehicles you purchase, how they are used, and who will be driving them. Work with your insurance agent to create policies that are suited to your growing needs.

Deck the Office Halls…and Avoid Damage

A little festive cheer can boost office morale and make surroundings more appealing to employees and customers. With this in mind, many businesses decorate for the holidays; however, it’s important to also keep safety in mind. Unsafe decorating practices can lead to personal injury or property damage. To avoid these disasters and the ensuing claims, use the following precautions:

The gift of gravity: Don’t take chances when stringing lights on doorways or windows. Rolling office chairs do not make good step stools. Always use a stable, well-positioned ladder to reach decorative heights.

A sprinkling of good cheer: As you decorate, it might be tempting to hang items from sprinkler heads. Don’t do it. The decorations can prevent the system from working properly.

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire: Do you plan to plug in lights or other electrical décor? Inspect all cords before using them. If any items have frayed cords, exposed wiring, or damaged prongs, do not use them. These pose a fire hazard.

An extended holiday: If you need to use extension cords for your decorations, be careful about placement. Avoid stringing these cords in high-traffic areas or under rugs, as they can create a tripping hazard.

Stuffed with goodies: Be careful not to overload circuits when powering electrical decorations. You may cause shorts that damage office equipment or cause overheating that starts a fire.

To all a good night: Put a system in place to ensure all indoor and outdoor electrical decorations are turned off at the end of the day or before everyone leaves the building.

The Importance of HSAs and FSAs As Deductibles Climb

Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are both great vehicles to reduce your tax liability if you are enrolled in a High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).

The FSA: Employers establish FSAs so their employees can deposit money to cover the cost of visit copays, prescription copays, and other uncovered medical expenses. As an employee, you may take a tax deduction, depending on federal and state rules, equal to the amount spent on allowable medical expenses, which includes copays and some other uncovered medical expenses. Your employer or its FSA administrator will reimburse you for out-of-pocket medical or dental expenses based on the paperwork you submit.

The HSA: If you have a high-deductible Affordable Care Act or other high-deductible plan and your employer does not offer an FSA, the HSA may be right for you. The HSA works like the employee-sponsored FSA, but you must establish your plan through a bank or credit union that offers HSAs. Any amount you deposit is tax deductible up to certain limits.

Individuals and families are limited in the amounts they can contribute to an HSA. In 2018, the limit was $3,450 for individuals. For families in an HDHP family plan, the 2018 limit was $6,900. Contribution limits are increasing slightly in 2019. For an individual, the 2019 limit is $3,500 and the family plan’s new limit is $7,000. Maximum out-of-pocket expenses in 2018 were $6,650 for an individual plan and $13,300 for a family plan. Maximum out-of-pocket expenses allowable in 2019 will increase to $6,750 for an individual plan and $13,500 for a family plan.

With today’s hefty out-of-pocket costs, an HSA or FSA plan makes sense. However, keep in mind that the rules of many plans require you to use all the money you deposit or you will have to forfeit it. Although some plans provide a short year-end grace period, estimating your projected out-of-pocket medical expenses before funding your plan for the year can help you avoid forfeiting any of your deposit. Your health insurance agent can provide additional information or resources about these accounts.

Are You Covered for 2019? Don’t Miss the Deadline!

It’s a busy time of year. The holidays have rushed in and you’re probably swamped with shopping, decorating, parties, and visits from the in-laws. In the midst of year-end chaos, don’t miss an important deadline. Open Enrollment for 2019 coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ends on Saturday, December 15.

Have you signed up for a plan for next year? If not, contact your insurance provider right away to make sure you have coverage when the calendar flips to 2019. ACA coverage is provided through the Health Insurance Marketplace for those who don’t have health insurance through another source, such as an employer or Medicare. Cost for the insurance is based on your income.

Your insurance agent can walk you through the various options available and help you complete the necessary paperwork. To sign up for a plan, you’ll need information about the size of your household, basic contact information and social security numbers for those being covered, employer information, income amounts, and current policy numbers if you have 2018 coverage.

What happens if you miss the deadline? Certain individuals may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Others may be eligible for an extension. For example, those whose current plan was discontinued and those who have had certain life events, such as getting married, usually qualify for an extension. Additionally, some states offer state-based marketplaces that have deadlines later than December 15. Areas affected by hurricanes have also been given extensions.

Contact your agent to determine if you qualify for any of these special circumstances and to get your coverage process underway.

How Food and Exercise Could Lower Your Premiums

At least one life insurance company is beginning to offer customers financial incentives for working to stay healthy, and others may follow suit.

Under this program, customers can reduce their annual life insurance premiums by as much as 15% if they improve and report on their eating, drinking, and exercise habits.

This innovative program benefits insurers and their customers alike. Insurers get healthier customers, which ultimately reduces their payouts and helps them become more profitable.

Customers, meanwhile, get reduced premiums, and they could end up living longer as well. According to an insurer that currently offers this incentive, the program’s policyholders take twice as many steps as the average American. More steps mean more exercise, which could mean more years of life!

How much could you save with such a program? It depends.

If you are a 50-year-old woman, a $1,000,000 30-year term life insurance policy will cost you $2,349 annually, according to NerdWallet as of September 2018. Saving 15% would reduce that by $352 a year.

But the numbers are even more compelling if you buy a $1,000,000 whole life insurance policy, which costs $17,760 annually, according to NerdWallet. In that case, you would save $2,664 a year.

This kind of benefit could inspire more people to buy life insurance. Around half of Americans (172 million) have some form of life insurance coverage, according to LIMRA, an insurance industry research group. And according to a survey by LIMRA and the nonprofit insurance group Life Happens, 63% of Americans who have not purchased coverage say it is because they believe coverage is too expensive. This kind of discount could make life insurance more affordable for many.

It could also encourage healthy lifestyle choices. Perhaps a financial incentive is just what some people need to make healthy foods and exercise look more appealing.

Does My Insurance Cover Every Catastrophe?

A standard homeowner’s insurance policy covers damages and losses to your property and possessions. It also provides liability coverage to protect you if an accident occurs on your property.

Does this coverage include every catastrophe that could devastate your home?

No. Two disasters in particular are not typically covered by a traditional homeowner’s policy.

The first is earthquakes. These disasters are usually excluded from homeowners’ insurance policies.

To obtain coverage for damage due to earthquakes, you will need to take out a special earthquake policy or add a rider. These often feature a percentage deductible rather than a dollar amount. If you’re not in an area that is prone to earthquakes, don’t stress too much over this coverage. You can probably skip it.

The second catastrophe that is often excluded is flooding. If your property is located in a flood zone, this fact was probably disclosed to you when you purchased the property. It’s common for mortgage lenders to require flood insurance.

If you’re unsure about your property’s flood-zone status, contact your local government office to determine if your home is in a flood zone. If it is, you will need separate flood insurance. Your insurance carrier may provide this, or you may need to contact the National Flood Insurance Program.

And a third situation has become a more prevalent concern in recent years. Homeowners may wonder if terrorist attacks are covered under their policies.

While most policies don’t mention terrorist attacks specifically under the covered conditions, they also don’t exclude them. Since most policies cover damages caused by fire, smoke, and explosions, terrorist acts are typically covered.

If you’re unsure about your coverage for a specific situation, contact your insurance agent to review your policy. Year end is a good time to review your coverage and determine if you should make any changes to meet your current insurance needs.

Don’t Let Road Rage Ramp Up Your Claims

You’re running late. Construction traffic is making things worse. Then, an SUV cuts you off, nearly clipping your bumper. What’s your reaction? Many drivers suffer negative consequences when road rage rears its ugly head.

One of those consequences is insurance costs. Did you know that damage or liability that results from aggressive driving isn’t typically covered by your auto insurance policy? If it is determined that you caused the damage with “risky behavior,” you may pay for it in repairs and increased premiums. To avoid these costs (and the road rage that leads to them), use the following tips:

Slow and steady wins the race. Give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Patience runs short when you’re in a hurry.

Let it roll off. Many times, other drivers are clueless about what they’ve done. They might be lost, affected by sun glare, or oblivious to how their driving has affected you. Don’t take it personally.

Keep your distance. When you get stuck behind a slow driver, don’t succumb to the temptation to tailgate. If they stop, the resulting rear-end collision will be deemed your fault.

Lay off the horn. Reserve honking for emergency situations. It’s designed as a warning sound, not an aggression valve. Insistent honking only annoys, startles, and stresses other drivers and leads to more aggressive behavior.

Remain nonconfrontational. Don’t stop to confront other drivers. Additionally, if other drivers are demonstrating road rage behaviors, try to put distance between your vehicles. Don’t engage with the drivers in any way. Always put your safety first.