Insurance Considerations for Going Green

More and more small businesses are going green for ethical reasons. They want to protect the environment by reducing their use of paper and water and even curb their emissions. But there are insurance considerations (and costs) involved.

Over the long term, many small businesses that are moving to more sustainable practices save money (for example, by lowering their electricity and water bills). In the short term, however, setting up sustainable business practices can be costly.

For example, replacing outdated or damaged equipment with more environmentally friendly equipment is typically not fully covered under commercial insurance policies. Any reimbursement available is generally based on the value of the original equipment, and that value is usually less than the equipment’s greener counterpart.

If you are looking to go green when replacing equipment, there are some ways to save money. Insurers also want to be mindful of sustainable practices, and in keeping with that, many now offer green equipment and materials endorsements that small businesses can add to their commercial property insurance policies.

What is a green endorsement? It is an addition to an insurance policy. It specifies that when your property is damaged and needs replacing, there will be coverage for the higher cost of environmentally friendly materials and equipment. In other words, it covers the gap between the original cost of your old equipment and the cost of your new environmentally friendly equipment.

Green endorsements do not just apply to materials and equipment. If your building is damaged by a disaster (such as a flood, hurricane, tornado, fire or earthquake), the endorsement may also allow you to elevate your building to green certification status when it is repaired or rebuilt. The green endorsement will typically cover all costs involved in sustainable construction. These might include design, engineering, certification and recycling of old materials.

Green endorsements may also apply to vehicles. Do you have insurance coverage on a delivery truck and want to replace it with an electric or hybrid car if it is damaged or stolen? If so, you might be able to get a green endorsement on your auto policy.

What are the costs of a green endorsement? It varies from insurer to insurer and policy to policy. For example, some policies may require small businesses to increase their coverage. Because green construction typically takes longer than traditional construction, if you are rebuilding in a sustainable fashion, you may want to extend your business interruption coverage.

Additionally, once you have gone green, you may want to increase your coverage in general to cover the added cost of replacing your green materials, equipment or building’s cost.

In summary, increasing numbers of small businesses are trying to reduce their carbon footprint, and your business can go green by planning for replacement property to be more sustainable, but it comes with a cost.

We’d be happy to review your business insurance needs and determine if you are adequately covered for going green. Please call or email us today to get your insurance checkup going.

Taking a Tax Deduction from an Unreimbursed Loss

When disaster strikes, small business owners often experience property damage that leads to an unreimbursed loss. While in and of itself that is bad news, there is a silver lining. You may be able to recoup at least part of the unreimbursed property loss when you file your taxes.

A property loss, according to the IRS, can result from the damage, destruction or loss of property from any unexpected event (versus normal wear and tear or progressive deterioration). That might include disasters such as floods, hurricanes, fires and earthquakes. It may also include theft.

IRS rules require small businesses to reduce the loss by salvage value and insurance reimbursement. But the rest of the loss, which is considered unreimbursed, may be included in your itemized deductions come tax-filing time. So if a storm destroyed your store roof, a fire damaged your equipment or a burglar stole your delivery truck and insurance didn’t fully reimburse you, you may be able to deduct some of the loss on your federal income tax return.

Of course, there are rules. Generally, losses must be substantial (exceeding 10% of your gross income), and the year the deductions apply can also vary. It is also critical to document your deduction with receipts, police reports, insurance claims and any other records involved.

Of course, the best way to avoid unreimbursed losses is to have solid insurance coverage. Give us a call today to see how we can support you in finding the best policy!

Still Smoking? Your Health Insurance May Help You Stop

With the new year around the corner, perhaps you have been thinking about changes you want to make, and quitting smoking is one of them. Maybe you’ve attempted to quit smoking. Or maybe you were successful but, with the stressors of the last few years, began to smoke again. Today there are more ways than ever to quit smoking. Your health plan may be the partner you need.

Health costs are about 40 percent higher for smokers than nonsmokers, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. This gives health insurers a big incentive to help their members quit smoking.

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), most health insurance plans now cover smoking cessation treatments at various levels. Medicare plans offer at least four individual counseling sessions with no cost share as well as medications, such as nasal sprays to help reduce nicotine cravings. Both the American Lung Association and www.smokefree.gov offer interactive programs that can guide you through smoking cessation.

For employed individuals, smoking may be more of a hassle than it’s worth. Going outside, especially if you work in a high-rise or in congested areas, may make you appear less productive than your nonsmoking colleagues. It’s in your employer’s interest for you to quit or cut back, so ask your human resources department what your work health plan offers to help you quit.

If you’re ready to try to stop smoking, there’s no time like the present. If you have questions about what your healthcare provider can offer to help you quit, call or email us today, and let’s get you on your way.

First Time Buyer’s Guide to Health Insurance

With open enrollment just around the corner, are you considering buying health insurance for the first time? You continue to be healthy, but these last few years have made you rethink whether the cost of coverage is worth the peace of mind. Here are three things you should think about during this decision process.

Should I select the least expensive plan? There are many different levels of coverage. If you prefer a lower monthly cost, then selecting a plan with a higher deductible could be the route to go. If you see the doctor more than a few times a year or require additional services, such as lab work, then a plan with a fixed office visit co-pay or flexible coinsurance percentages and a lower maximum out of pocket might be worth the additional premium cost.

Are there particular health care providers I want to see? Even if you consider yourself healthy, there may be doctors you would prefer to see if you do need care. Not all networks of doctors are the same, so you will want to know whether your doctor will be in network or out of network when considering your plan choice. If your doctor is a specialist, do you want the flexibility of seeing them without a referral?

Does my employer offer health insurance? If you work for a company that offers health insurance, find out when their open enrollment period begins. Compare their plans and rates to the offerings you are considering. Typically, a group plan can be less expensive than purchasing coverage on your own based on their group rates.

We all get caught up with too many things to do during these busy holiday times. Call or email us so we can eliminate one item on that to-do list and take the stress out of insurance decision-making.

The Ins and Outs of Who Needs Life Insurance

Life insurance is designed to protect the people who depend on you for financial support, but how much life insurance you need (and what kind) depends on the people you are supporting. Ask yourself the questions below to determine if life insurance is right for you, depending on your circumstances.

Does your child need life insurance?  No. Broadly speaking, because no one depends on income from a child, a child does not need life insurance.

Do you need life insurance as a young single adult?  No. The exception would be if you help support someone, such as an elderly parent. But you may want to consider life insurance when you begin thinking about starting a family. It is likely less expensive then than it will be when you get older.

Do you need life insurance if you have family?  Yes. If you have a family that depends on you, you almost certainly need some amount of life insurance. If each spouse earns an income that could support them without the other spouse’s income, life insurance may not be necessary. But if you rely on both incomes, you should get life insurance. Be sure to get enough, though. If one person is a stay-at-home spouse, his or her contribution needs to be covered as well, because it can be costly to replace someone to take care of children and help around the home.

Do you need life insurance if you are older?  Maybe. If you do not have people depending on your income for support and you can cover funeral expenses, life insurance at this stage in life may not be necessary.

If you decide you need life insurance, purchasing it costs more as your age increases. Before doing so, then, you should talk to us. Call or email us for more information.

Am I Covered by Homeowners Insurance if I Work from Home?

After the last couple of years, working from home has become a way of life for many more businesses, but are your work items covered by your insurance policy? Many home-based businesses assume their insurance will pay out if they were to suffer a loss, but this is not necessarily the case. Here’s some information to help you decide if you need small business insurance.

Remote worker. If you are contracted as a remote worker, you may be covered by your company’s insurance, even from a home office. This is not always true if you are not a full-time employee or you’re a freelancer. Business equipment damage, compensation if injured in your home and even auto coverage may be covered by your employer.

Visiting clients. If your clientele regularly visits your home, you will probably not be covered by homeowners insurance if they were to injure themselves. We recommend looking into a business policy if this sounds like something that could happen to you.

Equipment. While some homeowners policies cover personal technology such as laptops, there are generally restrictions limited by value or use. If you use your kitchen for a catering purpose or cut hair in your living room, you may need separate business insurance.

Cybersecurity. If you have access to your company’s sensitive data or even clients’ private data, you may be open to liability if you experience a breach. Again, you may be covered by your company’s insurance. Otherwise, you’ll need small business insurance.

Liability. If you run a small business that offers advice to your clients, you’ll most likely need business liability insurance. That way, if you offer guidance that turns sour, you’ll be covered against loss of reputation and/or money.

If you’re a small business, get in touch with us. We can help you find the perfect policy.

 

Do Your Gifts Include Jewelry? Here’s How to Protect Them

Holidays bring a flurry of fun, food and festivities. Holidays also bring gifts, big and small, including jewelry. When we are wrapped up in the holiday spirit, we may forget to check on our insurance coverage for these baubles. Here’s a quick guide.

Do you need it?

Point blank, it covers you against losses if your jewelry is lost or stolen. You may be able to add a few pieces of jewelry on your home insurance, so check with us, but if you have an array of items you want to insure, you can add a jewelry rider to your insurance.

How does it work?

Although insurance can never replace the sentimental value, it can provide for the estimated worth of your items. You may need to have your pieces appraised by a professional, especially if they are antique. If the worst happens and you need to make a claim, you must file a police report, and then the claim can be investigated.

Can jewelry be covered by homeowners insurance?

The short answer is yes, because jewelry is a personal belonging. However, we recommend checking with us, as your policy may have a coverage limit. If your jewelry is worth a significant amount of money, you may have to purchase extra insurance. There are also different variations of coverage to consider, such as mysterious disappearances and replacement costs.

Whether you need to add a jewelry rider onto your insurance or you just need some help deciding, call or email us today. We can assist you in choosing what’s best for you.