Don’t Let Disaster Close Your Doors Forever

Have you thought about how a natural disaster could send your business plans on a drastic detour? These events can cripple a small business, and many find it difficult to recover. Reopening your doors requires strategic effort. Use the following tips to weather the storm and successfully rejoin the marketplace post-disaster.

Contact the team: Communication is key after a disaster. Confirm that everyone is safe, and then determine if anyone is able to report to work. Remain in frequent communication with your team about the status of the business and plans to move forward.

Claim the loss: Before you begin cleaning or restoration, contact your insurance provider. Start the claims process as soon as possible. Consult with your agent to determine whether you can begin repairs or whether you should wait for authorization to ensure coverage.

Relocate the business: Determine whether you will be able to reopen in the same location or whether you need to find a new home for your business. If your location is temporarily unusable after the disaster, but you can’t afford to shut down completely, look for an interim solution. Consider offering services to another company in exchange for space for your temporary operations.

Restore the records: As you clean up from the disaster, save all files you can recover. Make repairs to salvage as much as possible, and request fresh copies of any records you cannot recover.

Assess the safety: Before bringing any employees back on-site, take proper precautions with signage and caution tape to mark any areas that remain hazardous.

Car Shopping? Look for These Safety Features

Not all cars are created equal. Some offer greater speed. Others offer better gas mileage. Another important difference is safety. Did you know certain safety features can reduce insurance costs and claims? To protect your passengers and your wallet, look for some of these top safety features the next time you’re in the market for a new vehicle.

Crashworthiness: If you’re considering a car, check out its crashworthiness rating. This indicates the vehicle’s ability to reduce the risk of injury and death during a crash based on its roof strength, front and side structures, head restraints, and seat design. You can look up a specific vehicle’s rating on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website.

Size and weight: A tank offers more protection than a smart car does. But bigger isn’t always better. An SUV may be more likely to roll over than a sports car. Be sure to review all factors of size and weight as you choose your vehicle. The safest option is typically a midsize sedan with a high safety rating.

Restraints: Modern vehicles offer far more than a simple seatbelt. For the best restraint systems, look for side airbags, locking head restraints, and lap and shoulder belts with crash tensioners. For steering column airbags, make sure you can reach the pedals without putting yourself too close to the steering wheel, as close proximity can cause serious injury if the bag is deployed.

Daytime lights: Many cars now feature daytime running lights that are activated when you turn on the car. These make vehicles more visible to other drivers and decrease the chances of daytime accidents.

Backup cameras: Rear-view video systems allow you to see the area behind your vehicle when you drive in reverse. These cameras can be very helpful in avoiding collisions with cars, objects, and pedestrians.

Additional safety features such as anti-lock brakes and warning systems can help you steer clear of crashes and further reduce the likelihood of claims. Check with your insurance provider about potential discounts on premiums based on specific vehicle features.

Most important, stay safe out there!

Generous Gifts Might Call for New Coverage

Did you get a big gift over the holidays or some nice jewelry for Valentine’s Day? Luxury items often need proper insurance for protection, as they are valuable possessions. In some cases, your current coverage is sufficient. However, many times, a change or expansion of coverage is needed.

If a special occasion has added a luxury item to your personal inventory, it might fall into one of the following categories.

It needs expanded coverage: Your homeowners or renters insurance has certain coverage limits. Standard policies typically top out at $5,000 for personal belongings. If your new fur coat pushes beyond these limits, you can expand your current policy. Ask your insurance provider about adding a rider, floater, or endorsement. You will most likely need a receipt or appraisal to verify the value of the item.

It needs increased value coverage: Some items appreciate in value over time. If you received a family heirloom or a work of art, you can obtain special coverage that will keep up with this increase. Consider adding a rider that will provide this coverage. You will probably need to reappraise the item every one to three years in order to keep the policy active.

It needs a standalone policy: Single high-ticket items such as jewelry, electronics, or boats may require a separate policy. These standalone policies are definitely needed if the items cannot fall under existing homeowners insurance. For example, if the item might be used for work, it would be excluded from most homeowners policies.

Contact your insurance agent to determine whether any of your recently received treasures need additional coverage.

The Role of Life Insurance in Financial Planning

Many people don’t think they need life insurance unless they provide heavily for a spouse and children. Even then, it’s often overlooked. But life insurance should be part of any comprehensive financial plan. Here are three reasons why you might need it.

Your family is blended: Life insurance can provide for the equal transfer of wealth among different family members when you or your spouse are divorced and remarried.

If you’re remarried, for example, life insurance can provide for your new spouse while your children inherit other assets, such as property or valuables. Similarly, you may have children from multiple unions, in which case life insurance can help you ensure that all of your children are provided for equally.

You will have end-of-life expenses: Most of us have various end-of-life expenses, and life insurance can create a reserve to pay those expenses upon your death.

For example, it can fund the tax liability of your estate when it’s inherited by your loved ones. It can also pay for medical bills and funeral arrangements. It can even provide much-needed daily liquidity for your loved ones if other assets, such as property, are hard to convert to cash.

You own a small business: If you own a small or family business, life insurance can provide for the ongoing survival of this company.

It can fund the sale or purchase of your business, for example, or it can provide for family members who won’t receive a share of the business when it’s handed over to someone else upon your demise.

Finally, remember that your life-insurance needs are likely to change over the course of your life as your personal and financial circumstances evolve. As a result, it’s important to check in regularly with an insurance agent to ensure that you’re properly covered for your current needs.

A good rule of thumb is to contact your agent once a year to review your needs. Make it a habit to get in touch at the beginning of each calendar year, or use your birthday as a cue to contact your agent.

Is There a Virtual Doctor in the House?

Back in the 1940s, 40% of physician visits were house calls. This trend declined over the next two decades, but now it’s resurfacing in a whole new way. Your doctor can now visit you at home – virtually.

Using your smartphone, tablet, or any similar electronic device that has a camera, you can visit a doctor without leaving home. This method, called telemedicine, is exploding in the United States. According to the American Telemedicine Association, at least 200 telemedicine networks now serve 3,500 sites.

Of course, telemedicine is not appropriate for complaints such as wounds, chest pains, or broken bones. However, virtual visits offer many advantages for an initial visit if you have a minor, temporary health issue, such as cold or flu, sore throat, headache, back pain, diarrhea or vomiting, rash, or pink eye.

What are the advantages of telemedicine? Convenience is major, especially if you live in a rural area or if leaving home is difficult. In addition, you save driving time, and you avoid sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, exposed to other patients’ illnesses.

Further, your doctor can easily monitor any chronic condition you have, such as high blood pressure, and you can often get a second opinion from an expert no matter where that health care professional lives.

Finally, telemedicine saves money. According to Berkeley Wellness at the University of California, doctors often charge less than half the cost of an office visit for a telemedicine consultation.

If you think telemedicine might work for you, contact your health insurer to see whether they offer this technology.

Health Care Eligibility Audits: Are You at Risk?

In today’s environment of rising health care costs, employers are searching for ways to decrease their expenses. One method is the dependent eligibility audit (DEA).

A DEA occurs when an employer examines its health and welfare plans to determine whether all enrolled participants are eligible for benefits under that employer’s plan. According to one large health care broker, typically 5% to 7% of dependents on the employer’s plan are ineligible for benefits.

When an employer conducts an audit, an auditor reviews the employer’s group plan and looks for any dependents who lack documentation in the employer’s file. These can include noncustodial grandchildren, young adults older than 26, and ex-spouses. If they flag your name, auditors may request marriage certificates, birth certificates, tax returns, adoption papers, or other documentation.

In one case, an employer found a claimant ineligible after a divorce. Before the company audited, he had accrued thousands of dollars in medical payments under his ex-wife’s plan. The health care insurer can demand repayment in a case like this.

If you face a DEA inquiry, respond quickly. Your company will normally allow 30 days or so for you to gather documentation, but do not miss the deadline. If you have primary coverage like Medicare for your spouse, for example, you can be held responsible for returning monies paid under your own group plan. To avoid facing reimbursement demands, review your company’s eligibility requirements to ensure all your dependents meet its criteria. If in doubt, schedule a meeting with the human resources person responsible for benefits. While it’s hard to lose coverage for someone you love, facing thousands in medical bill repayment if your loved one is ineligible for coverage can be disastrous.

If you’re getting divorced, larger employers offer COBRA coverage, which allows the ex-spouse to purchase group coverage for up to 18 months by paying the whole premium. If you face a loss of coverage, contact your health insurance agent, who can offer short-term health plans if needed.

Top 10 Small-Business Insurance Claims

There’s a common mentality among insurance policy holders: “It’s a fail-safe, but I probably won’t need it.” Perhaps it’s denial, or perhaps it’s part of a natural self-preservation mentality. For whatever reason, many assume insurance is “for the other guy.” Someone else may need to make a claim someday, but I probably won’t.

While it’s good to take steps to reduce the likelihood of claims, it’s also good to know that many small businesses do indeed rely on their insurance coverage for incidents. In fact, a study by financial services company The Hartford revealed that 40% of small businesses incur property or liability losses each 10-year period. What types of losses are businesses experiencing? Here are the top 10 insurance claims they make (and some tips on how to avoid them).

1. Theft: The top reason for small- business claims is burglary and theft. Some of these crimes are committed by outsiders. Others are the result of dishonest employee activity. Strong, consistent security measures and employee accountability can reduce the chances of these claims.

2. Water: Coming in second is damage caused by water from roof leaks, snow, ice, and frozen pipes. To minimize the risk of water damage, inspect roofing and plumbing features and perform maintenance regularly.

3. Wind: Hail and wind damage are frequent culprits when it comes to small-business damage. These elements can destroy equipment, buildings, and commercial vehicles. To protect assets, store vehicles and equipment indoors as much as possible.

4. Fire: Don’t underestimate the destructiveness of this force. Fire can cause major property damage and even wipe out a business. Always follow fire safety guidelines to ensure warning, extinguishing, and evacuation measures are up to date and fully operational.

5. Accidents: Customer slips and falls take the number five slot. Some businesses are more vulnerable to this risk than others. To minimize risk, keep interior and exterior walkways free of ice, water, debris, and damage.

6. Injuries/Damage: In addition to slips and falls, customers sometimes sustain other injuries or damage to their property. Establish protocols for creating a safe environment to reduce the chances of these occurrences.

7. Liability: Businesses that sell products run the risk of product liability claims. Perform proper testing before releasing anything to the public. Ensure consumer warnings and warranties are worded appropriately.

8. Objects: Some claims are the result of injuries caused by moving objects. Customers or employees may be struck by falling products, mobile equipment, or vehicles. Again, solid safety protocols can help keep your work environment accident-free.

9. Libel: A third party may sue a business for reputational harm. These claims resulting from libel and slander suits don’t account for a huge proportion of claims, but they still make the top 10. Businesses should use caution when mentioning anyone in media reports or marketing efforts in order to reduce the likelihood of libel claims.

10. Vehicles: Auto accidents complete the list of top small-business claims. To prevent these, small-business owners can enact a vehicle safety program. Proper training and qualifications for commercial vehicle operators is key. Is your business prepared for these incidents? Do you have the appropriate policies in place? If you’re unsure, contact your insurance provider to review your policies and make sure your company is covered.

Pets at Work: Animal Lover’s Dream or Liability Nightmare?

Americans love their pets. In fact, pets have become such a part of our lives that we celebrate National Bring Your Pet to Work Day each June. Some employers are even known for making this a year-round event. Corporate giants Amazon, Google, and Salesforce all have open-door policies for employees’ dogs.

But is this a good idea for your small business? That depends. If you want to make your company paw-friendly, it’s important to keep PUPS in mind.

Property damage: Allowing animals in your work space increases your risk for property damage. From chewing to scratching to surprise restroom breaks, pets can wreak havoc on your surroundings. It’s important to weigh these risks with the benefits.

Unproductive workforce: The presence of animals could increase morale and improve productivity, or it could have the opposite effect. Employees might be distracted with pet care. Others might not be fans of animals or may suffer from allergies.

Personal injury: Bites are the obvious concern if dogs are in the workplace, but scratches, allergic reactions, and trips-and-falls are also possibilities.

Standards: If you rent your office space, you must adhere to the regulations established by your landlord. Your lease may have a standard no-pet policy. Be sure to check this out before you decide to put out the animal welcome mat.

As you determine your pet policy, consult with your insurance agent to determine whether these pet-related incidents are covered under your property and liability policies.

How to Plan for a Workplace Evacuation

Your insurance is in place, but is your business logistically prepared should a disaster hit? If you needed to quickly evacuate your workforce, could you do it safely? Do your employees know what to do in an emergency situation?

Too often, small-business owners consider evacuation plans and other disaster-preparedness measures to be tasks that are solely for large corporations. The 2013 Staples’ Business Safety Survey revealed that more than half of small-business employees said they were not prepared for severe emergencies or that safety plans were not often communicated.

The truth is, small businesses are usually at an even greater risk than are large businesses, due to a lack of resources. To protect your people and assets, use the following four-step guide for evacuation planning.

1. Create

Create a pan of action to safely and efficiently evacuate your building. Designate evacuation routes and exits (primary and secondary) for employees. Also designate evacuation wardens. These are employees who have the authority to order an evacuation. Choose one person to be the lead warden and appoint others who can act if that person isn’t available. A good rule of thumb is one warden for every 20 employees.

Once the evacuation routes are established, mark them clearly. Make sure they are well lit and easily accessible. Don’t forget about employees who will need assistance.

The final part of the evacuation should be a regroup plan. Where will everyone meet once they are outside? Designate this location and establish a system for accounting for everyone as they arrive.

2. Communicate

Of course, the best-laid plans are worthless if no one knows about them. Write down the plan. Distribute it to all employees. Keep a master copy on file.

Post maps of the building with evacuation routes clearly marked. Make sure all emergency exits are clearly marked.

Review evacuation procedures with employees to ensure everyone is familiar with the proper protocols. Make this standard training for all employees. As part of their training, include how to assist those with disabilities or special needs during an evacuation. Include basic medical rescue duties as well.

3. Conduct

Once your employees are aware of your evacuation procedures and are trained on how to execute them, practice. Conduct drills regularly to prepare employees for the real deal. Conduct training frequently to ensure new employees have all the necessary information and seasoned employees don’t forget it.

4. Consult

What about after the evacuation? If a catastrophe closed your doors for a few days, do you have a plan in place to reopen them?

To prepare for what you may encounter after an evacuation, consult with your insurance agent. Make sure you have proper coverage in place to protect your business from a disaster. Understand your coverage and review your policy each year with your insurance carrier to make necessary adjustments as your business changes and grows.

Additionally, keep all insurance information in a safe place so you can access it in case of an emergency. Reach out to your insurance provider as soon as possible after an incident to expedite any claims.

General Liability vs. Professional Liability: The Difference?

Business professionals bear the burden of responsibility in two distinct arenas: general liability and professional liability. Both types of coverage are necessary to secure sufficient protection for your business. Here’s the difference:

General liability offers protection against costs associated with property damage, medical expenses, settlements, and slander.

For example, if a customer comes into your store, slips, falls, and sues your business for his medical costs, your general liability insurance will pay for these expenses. Another general liability situation would be a contractor who causes damage to a client’s home and is sued for repair costs.

Professional liability protects your business against claims that you did not do your job properly. In other words, any time you offer a professional opinion or perform a duty, you are professionally liable for the results and are vulnerable to lawsuits.

For example, an accountant who offers tax advice might be sued by a client who loses money after taking that advice. Another company might be sued after failing to file important documents appropriately.

Professional liability insurance is also called Malpractice Insurance and Errors and Omissions Insurance. When business owners hear these terms, they may assume this coverage is necessary only for doctors and similar professions. However, even an honest clerical mistake can be considered an error in professional services and result in a lawsuit.

To fully protect your business, consider holding both types of policies. Your insurance agent can help you determine the coverage that is best for your operations.

Is Insurance Cheaper If I Buy or Lease a Car?

An automobile is a significant investment. In addition to the sticker price, consumers must consider all the other costs associated with car ownership.

With this in mind, you may wonder whether you are better off buying or leasing a car.

When it comes to insurance, your total premium is not typically affected by your decision to buy or lease. For the same car, your insurance will cost the same whether you own it or lease it.

Why? The rates are based on your driving record and the car itself, not how you purchase the car.

However, your ownership arrangement may affect how the insurance is set up. If you lease a car, the lender has an interest in the vehicle. Because of this, they will require that you add them to your insurance policy. If their name is on the coverage, and a claim is made, they will be able to receive payment for the portion they are still owed on the vehicle.

Other than this stipulation, obtaining insurance on a leased car follows the same procedures as an owned vehicle. Your coverage and insurance options should remain the same.

Where you will see a difference in premium quotes is among various vehicle options. If you want to lease a brand-new car, your premiums will probably be higher than if you purchase an older model. Keep in mind that the difference in premium has to do with the condition of the car and the cost to make repairs, rather than the lease option.

Because premiums can vary greatly based on the car, it’s a good idea to get a quote from your insurance agent before purchasing or leasing any vehicle. You don’t want to be surprised by any costs after you’ve already completed the paperwork to buy or lease your new ride.

To ensure the car is within your budget, consult with your insurance agent before you sign on the dotted line. Your insurance provider can answer any questions you have about coverage for a specific car you might be considering for purchase or lease. Contact them for details.

Your Smart Phone Can Make Your Insurance Plans Smarter

It seems like there’s an app for everything these days. Insurance is no exception.

With a helpful app, you can enhance your insurance coverage with additional features and convenience. Using the right app can keep your policies organized and allow you to prepare for situations that require claims.

For example, do you have an evacuation plan in place that your family can use if disaster strikes? An app can help you plan ahead so everyone knows what to do and where to go during a natural catastrophe.

Develop the plan in your app, then share it with family and friends. Preloaded checklists and preparation steps offer guided tools to assist you.

An insurance app can also keep all your policy and carrier information organized and easily accessible. If you need to file a claim, use simple guides to walk you through the process and track your progress.

As with most apps, a host of options is available. The Insurance Information Institute recommends the Know Your Plan mobile app, which offers disaster preparation. This award-winning app allows you to use premade lists or create your own, make notes, and share these digital documents with others.

Your insurance provider may also offer an app specific to your coverage. Common features for these apps include digital insurance ID cards, virtual assistance, and bill pay options.

Check with your agent to find out whether you can download a company-specific app or another recommended app to make your insurance plan even smarter.

Changing Your Life Insurance Beneficiary

If you have dependents, such as children or a nonworking spouse, you probably have a life insurance policy. We hope you do. But it is important to remember that as your life circumstances change, your policy needs to change as well.

When you purchased a life insurance policy, you named at least one beneficiary (the person or people who will receive the proceeds of the policy in the event of your death, usually a spouse, child, or another relative for whom you would like to provide).

While you chose the amount of the life insurance benefits and the beneficiary when you purchased the policy, you may be able to alter them during your lifetime, depending on the designation type you chose at the time of policy issuance.

Specifically, when you purchased your policy, you probably chose the type of beneficiary designation: revocable or irrevocable. A revocable designation allows you to change beneficiaries after the policy is in force, while an irrevocable designation does not allow you to do so without the consent of the beneficiary. Most policies have a revocable beneficiary designation.

Why would you want to change your beneficiary designation? A variety of circumstances can warrant this action.

You might want to change a beneficiary if the life circumstances of the person or people you support have changed. Perhaps you have had a child or adopted one. Perhaps someone in your family has died, and you do not need to support that person (or you need to support that person’s children). Perhaps you have divorced. Perhaps a child has reached adulthood and no longer needs your support.

Because there are so many variables that can affect your policy, it is a good idea to review your personal circumstances each year to determine whether a change needs to be made.

If it does, changing your beneficiary designation is usually an easy task. Simply contact the insurance company and ask how to proceed.

Keeping Tabs on Your Vitals Is…Vital

One of the best things you can do for your overall health is to visit your doctor yearly for wellness exams. Your physician will help you maintain your health by providing a yearly flu shot, a tetanus booster every 10 years, and the shingles and pneumonia vaccines. Annual health checks can also help you avoid the two leading causes of death in the US: heart disease and cancer. What tests should you include as part of your health maintenance plan? Here’s an overview.

Heart Disease Screens 

Get your blood pressure checked every two years and have your cholesterol, heart rate, and blood sugar checked at your annual wellness exam. In your 50s, your doctor may prescribe a daily aspirin, which helps prevent heart attacks. In your 60s, a yearly ankle-brachial index test measures plaque buildup in your leg arteries, to help diagnose peripheral artery disease.

Cancer Checks

Human beings are susceptible to more than 200 types of cancer. Lung and colon cancer are currently two of the deadliest. In the US, women have a one-in-eight chance of a breast cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. Cancer screening can save your life.

Lung Cancer Screenings

The low-dose helical computed tomography test screens for lung cancer. It reduces deaths among heavy smokers aged 55 to 74. If you meet the risk criteria, including exposure to cancer-causing carcinogens and a family history of lung cancer, your doctor may run this test annually.

Colon Cancer Tests

Between the ages of 45 and 75, everyone should get a colon cancer screening, or a colonoscopy. If your first test reveals no polyps and you have no risk factors, you won’t need another colonoscopy for 10 years.

While experts consider the colonoscopy to be the most accurate screening for colon cancer, sigmoidoscopy and high-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests are also available. If either test shows polyps or other abnormalities, your doctor will recommend a colonoscopy.

These various screenings might not top your “fun activities” list, but they can help keep you healthy and even save your life. If it’s not already on your 2019 calendar, schedule your next exam today.

Cancer Policies: Are They a Good Investment?

If you’re considering purchasing a cancer supplement policy, you’re not alone. Many people debate this, but most aren’t sure whether it’s worthwhile. If you have a family history of cancer or other circumstances put you at higher risk of cancer, then a cancer policy could be a good investment.

Your health insurance agent can offer several types of cancer plans. One is a lump-sum cancer plan. This can be a good choice if you have a higher than normal risk of cancer. Lump-sum cancer plans pay a specific benefit amount. These are flexible plans because they typically do not require that you use the money for health care costs only. Instead, you can use it to defray lost income if you are unable to work, thereby putting the cash benefit toward your mortgage or living expenses. The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance suggests that if you’re buying a lump-sum plan, you should purchase enough coverage to pay at least two years of mortgage payments.

You may hear cancer supplemental policies referred to as “critical illness” coverage. This is actually a different type of policy. Except for the lump-sum cancer policy, cancer policies pay only for cancer, while a critical illness policy covers several critical illnesses. These can include heart attack, stroke, organ transplant, and paralysis.

Whether you are considering a critical illness plan or a cancer supplement, contact your health insurance agent. Your agent can help you choose the plan that best meets your needs.

Some of these plans have age thresholds, so buying them when you are younger can be a big advantage in both cost and plan availability.

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.