A Holiday Lights Checklist for Keeping Your Home Safe

Holiday season is upon us, which means that the festive lights and decorations will soon be adorning neighborhoods everywhere. But how do you keep your home safe? Before you deck the halls, here is a checklist to make sure you’re safe from potential insurance claims.

Inspect your light strings
If you are one to reuse your lights again and again, make sure you inspect them every holiday season to see if any of the threads are damaged or frayed. If so, this could create a small fire, especially if wrapped around a tree.

Replace burnt-out bulbs
Lights overheat if there are empty bulbs, plus it will make them look a lot prettier if they’re all intact!

Make sure you use the proper lights for outside
Outside bulbs are usually UL rated, which means they are able to withstand the weather, especially if you reside in a state with colder climates.

Don’t attach lights with nails
You may damage the lights’ wires, which would make them prone to hazards and small fires. Instead, attach them carefully with plastic hooks or drape them on fixtures that are already in place.

Only leave outdoor lights up for 90 days
The longer your lights stay up, the longer they become a potential risk. Take them down after 90 days to avoid damage from weather and critters.

Store lights safely
One of the most important elements of holiday lights safety is storing them safely. In order to get the most use out of them, coil each string around a piece of cardboard in order to keep them intact and store them in a sturdy container.

It’s imperative to have the right protection in case anything does go wrong. Call or email us with any of your questions about what your insurance policy covers.

Here’s What to Do when There’s a Grease Fire

Have you ever had to battle a grease fire? Here’s what to do if you accidentally cause one.

The first thing you need to know is do not throw water on it. It will only make it worse. Instead, the National Fire Protection Association recommends smothering a grease fire. If you’re using a skillet, carefully slide a lid over the pan and turn off the burner. Make sure everything cools down completely before removing the lid. The fire may spark back up if you take off the lid too soon.

Make sure if you use a fire extinguisher for your grease fire that it is the right type, Class B or ABC. The wrong type can actually spread the flames. If you have any doubt about what to do or what to use, make sure you call 911 immediately.

If you like to cook, then it’s also a good idea to make sure you have a working fire alarm and carbon monoxide detector and that the batteries are working. If your carbon monoxide detector does beep, open all the windows, leave the property and then call 911. The fire department will be able to assist you from there.

If the grease fire does any lasting damage to your home, you may have to call your insurance provider. Make sure that all your documents are up to date and in easy reach.

If you’re unsure whether your insurance covers grease fire damage, call or email us. We are always happy to assist you.

Life Insurance: Determining How Long You May Need It

Many people who buy life insurance policies think they will need coverage their entire lives, but it’s a little-known secret that you may not need life insurance forever. How do you determine how long you will need life insurance?

First, ask yourself why you are buying life insurance in the first place, then determine how long those circumstances will exist.

As an example, let’s say you’re buying life insurance to protect your children in the event of your early demise. In that case, you will not need the life insurance forever; you will only need it until your children are out in the world supporting themselves and no longer in need of your financial assistance. So you may want a policy that is in effect until your youngest child reaches age 22. If your children are aged three and five, you would want to consider a policy with about a 20-year term.

Another example: You are buying life insurance to protect your spouse in the event of your early demise. So you would want the policy to cover your lost income until the year that you would normally retire, after which your spouse would be covered by Social Security and retirement savings. If you are 55 now, then you would only need a 10-year policy.

Keep in mind that these are only general guidelines. You may want to use life insurance to provide “bonus” income to a child or spouse or to address complex estate planning issues. When considering life insurance, as is the case with any financial instrument, it is best to get assistance.

If you think you need a life insurance policy or you need to review your existing policy, we can help you determine which financial instruments meet your individual financial circumstances and goals. Call or email us for more information.

What Do You Need to Know about Medicare Supplemental Plans?

Did you decide to select a supplemental plan when you were first eligible for Medicare? You may have done research or had a trusted advisor assist you in the process. As these plans continue to grow in popularity, what do you need to know?

Why select a Medicare supplemental plan? Supplemental plans help cover some, if not all, of the out-of-pocket costs left behind with original Medicare only. With a supplemental plan, you have the bonus of retaining your physician who accepts Medicare and maintaining the ability to contact a specialist without a referral. If the cost of a supplemental plan works with your budget, this may be the route for you.

When is the best time to select a Medicare supplemental plan? Most agree the best time to enroll is when you are first eligible. This might be your open enrollment period upon becoming eligible for Medicare or when enrolling in Part B. At this point, you are considered a guaranteed issue, and insurance companies cannot require you to provide medical history or exclude preexisting conditions.

How do I know which Medicare supplemental plan is right for me? Although you can do research yourself, your first call may be to a trusted advisor. This might be the agent you used to assist you with your medical coverage prior to becoming eligible for Medicare. It is important to work with someone you not only trust but who is also well versed in the complex world of Medicare. Their advice to you should be made after a discussion or two about what your personal needs are and your budget. If they contract with more than one insurance company, this is an added benefit.

Do you have a trusted advisor? If you are seeking someone who is truly interested in taking the time you deserve to discuss options, we are always just a phone call away.

Did You Get the Most out of Your Health Insurance This Year?

As we begin to hear about insurance changes for the coming year, this is a good time to review your policy. Make sure you are getting the most out of your plan and you are happy with your doctors. Are there some benefits you failed to use?

Review your summary of benefits.

Every health policy has a summary of benefits. This document will detail the specific benefits of your plan. This is a key piece of information as you evaluate your options for the coming year. If another copy is needed, contact the customer service number listed on the back of your insurance card.

Are you happy with your primary care doctor?

Did you feel like you could never get an appointment? If you did get an appointment, did you feel you were given the time you needed to discuss your health concerns? Having a doctor who knows you and your family history allows them to make any added test recommendations based on your unique needs. When you are not happy, the new year could be an opportunity for a change.

Did I get my annual physical this year?

The majority of health insurance policies allow for an annual physical. These visits not only give your doctor a baseline on how you are doing, but they are also a time to discuss any existing conditions or age-related recommended tests.

Start your review now before you are caught up in the holidays. If you need assistance with evaluating plan options and understanding which benefits might be best for you, we are a phone call away.

New Trends in Cybersecurity Say You Need Insurance

You may think cybersecurity insurance coverage is too costly for your small business to afford. Prices certainly have risen in recent years. But there is a good reason for that: cybersecurity insurance is now more expensive because of the rise in attacks and, thus, claims. But that means it is more important to have coverage than it ever was. Here are five trends that are making that true.

Risk has increased

In 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a widespread and almost instantaneous shift to working from home increased cybersecurity risks. That meant many businesses did not have time to thoughtfully consider and implement protocols and best practices for protecting themselves in the new remote world. Common areas of weakness include failure to enable multifactor authentication, failure to ensure thorough backups are readily available, failure to patch systems regularly and failure to develop an incident response plan and properly train employees about best practices.

Cybercriminals are getting more creative

You are probably familiar with common cybersecurity buzzwords: malware attacks, phishing, denial of service. The point is there are many ways criminals can gain access to your systems, and as you improve your security, criminals improve their creativity. They may, for example, target a new employee by emailing him or her with a phishing attack under the guise of an onboarding training. This requires constant education and diligence.

Vendors are a weak point

It is likely that you have a number of agreements with different vendors. And if those agreements are more than a year or two old, they may not include adequate language to account for cybersecurity risks. In other words, you, not the vendor, may be liable for your vendor’s failures to protect your data. You can do everything necessary to ensure your business’s cybersecurity, but when a vendor has access to your information and doesn’t follow the same security protocols, you may still be at risk.

Cybersecurity insurance premiums are rising as claims do

Cybersecurity insurance claims are increasing. They rose by 89% in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to Risk Strategies State of the Market 2022 Report. And payouts are costly to insurers. According to NetDiligence’s Cyber Claims Study, between 2016 and 2020, the average cost to an insurer for a cybersecurity claim was $145,000 for small and medium-sized businesses and $10 million for large businesses. That is driving a significant climb in premiums.

More insurance options are becoming available

Fortunately for small businesses, as cybersecurity insurance becomes increasingly important, ways to get it are increasing. More and more insurers are letting you tailor coverage for emerging risks that are difficult to pinpoint, cyberattacks included.

The bottom line

A cyberattack can put you out of business for days or even weeks. It also creates significant liability and reputational harm. But being proactive about cybersecurity insurance can help protect you. And getting it may not be as costly as you think, thanks to the insurance industry’s adaptability.

We can help you review your current insurance coverage and determine if you need cybersecurity coverage. Call or email us today.

The Basics of Workers’ Comp Insurance for Small Businesses

Nearly every state requires employers to have insurance to cover medical costs and lost wages for workers who are injured or become ill on the job. But when do you need it, and how do you get it?

Workers’ compensation (often shortened to “comp”) insurance helps your employees and protects your business should a tragedy occur, such as a work-related injury, illness or even death.

While workers’ comp laws differ from state to state, you are typically required to have a policy active as soon as you hire your first employee. Even when not mandated, a workers’ comp policy is important.

Why you need it. Workers’ comp insurance will protect your business if anyone on your staff (including yourself) needs medical care or time off due to a workplace injury; it can also provide coverage if an injured or ill employee sues you. It could even cover employees exposed to COVID-19 if the employees are exposed to the coronavirus because of their jobs.

What happens if you don’t have it. Your business will be responsible for any medical bills and legal fees associated with an employee injury or illness that occurs on the job if you don’t carry workers’ comp insurance. Most states will also charge costly penalties if you don’t comply.

The cost of workers’ comp insurance is based on a number of factors, including your location, your payroll expenses and your industry risk factors.

If you’d like to schedule some time with us to review your workers’ comp insurance needs or policies, please call or email us today.