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Small Businesses Need Competitive Benefits Too - Small Businesses Need Competitive Benefits Too!

It’s easy to think of benefits as something strictly related to “big business”. Most small business owners think that offering benefits will be too costly and that they’ll eat into profits. Yet in a tight labor market, offering benefits can be a key differentiation in the battle to attract top talent. Reducing turnover rates and retaining staff members helps to create a more profitable business in the long-run and benefits are a cornerstone to this strategy.

The good news for small business owners is that benefits are available in many sizes and shapes. They can be custom tailored for a small office and they can be modified as a company grows. A good strategy is to build a benefits plan that will be attractive to the talent you want to hire and retain.

Popular benefits plans include:

  • Dental Insurance
  • Vision
  • Life Insurance
  • Pet Insurance
  • Increased time for paid leave
  • Short-term disability

The kinds of benefits advantages you can offer to your team are really unlimited. Finding the right combination of benefits is part of a well-constructed benefits strategy… something an independent insurance agency can help with.

A Note on Compliance and Oversight .

Managing a benefits plan requires paying attention to potential IRS and Department of Labor guidelines and requirements to ensure your benefits plan remains fully qualified. Working with a benefits specialist will help you avoid unwanted entanglements. For more information and insights on constructing a solid benefits plan, reach out to us. We’ll be happy to help!

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4 Types of Business Insurance You Must Consider - 4 Types of Business Insurance You Must Consider

As a busy owner (or manager) of a small business, the bulk of your energy is invested in ensuring your company’s success. Insurance often becomes an afterthought… something that’s at best boring and at worst confusing. Yet having the right business insurance can, in many cases, be the difference between survival and going out of business. So as we move to the end of 2018 and into the New Year, this is a good time to invest a minute on reviewing your risk profile and basic business insurance requirements.

Basics of Business Insurance

Small companies are all quite different as they reflect the unique characteristics of their owners/managers. And they each grow and contract to varying degrees based on a plethora of circumstances. The reality is that there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” insurance plan. And given the nature of change, an insurance strategy for one year may require substantial changes for the next. So the perfect insurance policy is one that’s created to fit your requirements as you see them for the next year. Some insurance such as worker’s comp may be required. Others my be voluntary. Talking with an independent business insurance specialist is the best course of action to help you understand what kind of insurance options are available an which would be best for you.

Here are some presently popular forms of insurance you should consider…

  • Business Interruption Insurance.*

This insurance makes sure companies can continue to earn income following a major external disturbance. Natural catastrophes, mishaps, deliberate actions and more threaten to interrupt revenue. Keeping up with staff wages, loan payments, and more can end up being daunting without the income to pay them. With business interruption insurance, the insurance provider will compensate for lost profits while a business returns to its normalized cash flow.

  • Errors and Omissions Insurance.*

If your business is one that relies on getting the details right, this should be considered as mandatory insurance. This helps to protect business owners of unintentional mistakes or omissions that eventually lead to damages. Such damages can be devastating if they have to be paid out of pocket. This insurance protects cash flow.

  • Liability Insurance.*

Business owners take on a huge amount of liability,. Whether you run a shop or work in people’s homes, liability insurance can protect you from claims resulting in individuals being injured at your facilities or job sites.

Companies that leverage vehicles as a part of their operations need commercial car insurance coverage as well. Even if employees are driving their own vehicles, commercial auto insurance is required if the vehicle is being driven for a business-related purpose.

  • Cyber Insurance.*

Cyber insurance is a more recent development in commercial insurance. It is designed to protect you from liability that result from a harmful cyber attack. This could include the theft of client data, disruption to your operations, etc. In a digital world where we’re all connected, protecting from this sort of event is more important than ever.

Getting More

Our commercial insurance specialists can help you find the right protection to keep your business running smoothly in case challenges arise. Reach out today for a complete business insurance review…

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Wildlife and Winter Driving - Wildlife and Winter Driving

With leaves falling and cold temperatures filling the air, it’s time to pay extra attention to the road and to potential animal hazards including deer. A deer popping out from the side of the road is a scary proposition at any time of year and especially hazardous when road conditions are slick with fresh rain or icy because of cold temperatures. Peak accident times include both the early and late hours of the day.

In truth it is important to keep a continuous lookout for all kinds of wildlife near or on the highway. And be sure to understand what kind of animal-related insurance claims are covered in your insurance policy.

Insurance coverage from damages associated with accidents involving deer or other animals may be optional depending on your insurance and carrier. Knowing this is important. If you presently lack protection, find out what it would cost to add the optional coverage. It’s typically a small investment that can save you should you suffer a collision with a deer, elk, or other animal.

At the very same time, be sure to practice good safe driving protocols. Indeed many safe-driving advocates say to brake but never swerve to avoid the animal. (You may swerve into oncoming traffic or lose traction on the road.) Exercise caution while driving through wooded areas. Slow down and be prepared to stop if the deer go into the road if you spot deer or other wildlife. If a deer is struck, call the police and your insurance agent as quickly as safe to do so. Take images of the crash site, automobile damage and any damage to the car. Be sure to include images of the animal as further proof of the cause of the accident. And in the event a claim is submitted, be sure to have your care thoroughly evaluated mechanically.

The late fall and winter months bring an increase in driving activity on roads that may already present challenges. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 1.5 million accidents with deer are documented each year. More than 200 of these resulted in fatalities and cost an estimated $1 billion in damages each year… so take care. Be sure you’re protected. Practice safe driving.

And if this causes you some concern, we’re here to help. Be sure to reach out to us if you have questions about your auto insurance.

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4 Quick Tips on Business Insurance - 4 Quick Tips on Business Insurance

Business owners have a lot on their plates. It’s unsurprising that many put off getting insurance for their small business. To save time, it’s tempting to grab a quick policy “off the rack” however, that will likely fail to truly protect you from the risks you likely face as a business owner.

You’ve worked hard to build your business so protecting it to preserve your income, credit, and employees is important.

Whether it’s time to purchase a policy or if you’re aiming to compare rates, we can help match the right policy to your business. When acquiring commercial insurance, here are 4 things to remember.

Revisit Insurance Coverage Annually

As organizations grow, so do insurance coverage obligations. Launching new services, growing your sales & marketing efforts, and bringing brand-new staff into the fold adds liability and more. Given this, it’s wise to review your insurance coverage once per year. As an independent insurance agency, we comparison shop from multiple carriers to find the best rate for your situation.

Compare Insurance Policies and Rates

Maintaining appropriate commercial insurance is a continuous obligation. The kinds of policies offered, customer service, and more can differ significantly both by the insurance carrier. This is why working with our team is beneficial. We offer unbiased information about carriers to ensure you get the best policy from a carrier that you can be confident in.

Take Inventory of Risks

The same insurance policy for a dry cleaning operation would be a bad match for a bakery. A policy developed to deal with the requirements of a specific business, with deductibles set at a proper rate, will help entrepreneurs save money on insurance costs, and be better matched to risk profiles.

Bundle Insurance with a BOP

Commercial insurance policies are frequently bundled into what’s described as a Business Owner Policy, or BOP for brief. Integrating multiple insurance securities through a single carrier can save money. With a BOP you can also find other enhanced insurance coverage options to maximize your protection.

As always, we are here to help! If you have questions, call today and speak to an agent.

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Looking to Hire Offer This Benefit to be More Attractive... - Looking to Hire? Offer This Benefit to be More Attractive…

Disability insurance is a type of protection that pays a part of an individual’s earnings in case of disability. 65% of benefits advisors strongly suggest disability insurance for a company’s staff members. Of a recently polled set of companies, only 20% in fact carried disability insurance leaving the vast majority at-risk.

The annual benefits open season is here. Disability insurance may be something worth offering to employees as an added safety net. With one of the tightest job markets in recent years, offering this kind of benefit can make your business more competitive.

While less glamorous that other benefits, disability insurance is often considered a lifesaver by those who have to tap into it.

Specific policy protection will differ depending on the insurance provider and the nature of your business. Lots of long-term disability insurance policies have a waiting period prior to taking effect, in some cases approximately six months. For protection during this duration, short-term disability policies fill the space. A broken arm or disease can impact weeks or months of work and earnings. Cancers and musculoskeletal conditions can last years. The majority of people lack the savings to support themselves during such absences.

According to the Social Security Administration, 25% of those entering the labor force will be handicapped previous to reaching retirement. A 2015 survey by the Federal Reserve Board discovered nearly half of Americans do not have emergency savings. Asked about a hypothetical $400 emergency room expense, 46% of those surveyed claimed they would be unable to pay that bill. When combined with work missed due to severe injury or illness, the results are catastrophic without adequate protection.

A growing variety of businesses include disability insurance as part of their benefits packages. For workers paying their own premium, the cost is typically budget-friendly with yearly costs as low as $250-$300.

For additional information on disability insurance and other benefits options, please contact us today.

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Driving without Insurance Dont  - Driving without Insurance Don’t!

If you’re a driver in the US, or many countries for that matter, you are required by law to have car insurance. Driving without car insurance is illegal, and for a very good reason. Although a technical US exception is New Hampshire, where drivers don’t have to have insurance per se… they still have to be able to prove that they have enough money put away in order to pay out if a crash happens. For all intents and purposes… you have to have car insurance in the US.

Over 37,000 people die in US car crashes every year, with a further 2.3 million becoming injured or disabled. All of this mounts up to a whopping $230 billion in costs annually, and car insurance is designed to protect drivers (and their four-wheeled assets) in case of unexpected events. Still, if you’re idiotic enough to drive without insurance and get caught, here are some of the consequences you’re likely to face.

Tickets/fines

If you get caught driving without valid insurance, you’re likely to get a ticket and you will also be fined. Although the fines vary from state to state, some parts of the country charge you thousands of dollars if you’re caught driving without insurance.

Suspension

The police have the power to remove and suspend your driving license if you’re caught driving without auto insurance, something which no driver wants to deal with! You’ll only be able to get your license back if you pay to have it reinstated (which isn’t cheap) and also provide proof of insurance. It can vary from state to state when it comes to how long you’ll have your license suspended, and repeat offenders can see their license being taken away permanently.

Towing

If you’re caught driving without insurance by police, you could be prevented from driving away by them having your car towed. You needn’t be in a crash or serious incident – you might have your car pulled over due minor speeding or a broken taillight, suddenly finding that your car is being towed away and impounded because you’re driving around uninsured.

While you haggle for insurance in the meantime, you’ll also be racking up impound fees too, making any financial struggles greatly exaggerated. In some regions, they begin auctioning your car away if you cannot pay and organize insurance quickly enough! In NYC, your car starts to go through the auction process a mere 72 hours after being impounded!

You could wind up in serious financial trouble

If you have a crash and you’re found to be at fault, you’re very likely to be financially responsible for covering the medical bills and repair expenses of the driver you crashed into, something which would have been made much easier had you possessed auto insurance. If you cannot pay, the victim driver may take you to court, causing you to rack up a fortune on legal fees, damages, and much more.

Police are beginning to get serious

The average uninsured driver rate in the US is around 12%, although some states are trying very hard to crack down on this number even further. For example, in Arizona, the police conduct random tests to see whether vehicles are insured or not. If they aren’t, the police will suspend the car owner’s driving license. Also, in Louisiana, the police are now able to monitor residents’ car insurance status in real time. For example, if pulling someone over at a traffic stop, Louisiana police will be able to check the driver’s insurance status almost instantly.

Getting future insurance

The irony here is that all of these consequences will be noted down and recorded in official documents, making it even more difficult and expensive for you to get insurance in the future. Having had your license suspended, for example, is likely to raise your insurance premiums when you DO look to organize insurance. Lying for your car insurance policy is insurance fraud, something which would also increase your premiums. The moral of the story is to simply follow the law, be honest, and choose adequate coverage. Otherwise, you could find yourself in both legal and financial trouble.

Looking for affordable car insurance which is tailored to your individual needs and circumstances? Get in touch with a member of our expert team today, who can consult with you and offer you top-tier advice.

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401k contributions higher than ever  - 401(k) Contributions Higher Than Ever

As Millennials begin to age and think about their future, we are currently seeing higher 401(k) contributions than ever before, ushering in a new era of financial wisdom and stability after the chaos that has ensued since the double-dip recession of the last decade.

Having grown up in an era where the housing market crashed and the entire world seemed to be in financial crisis, it appears that the younger generations are being more careful with their money than their parents perhaps were, investing more into their 401(k) retirement funds and ensuring that they grow their nest egg from a young age. As of the first quarter of 2018, average 401(k) contributions reached a record 13.2% of pay, a percentage which has never been seen before.

A new age for millennials

The younger generation has been famously deterred from the financial systems and products that many of their parents used, often opting to take fewer financial risks in the hopes of keeping their money safe. For example, according to studies, just 1 in 3 millennials has a credit card, with the vast majority preferring to pay for things in cash or with a debit card.

This careful mindset is now beginning to show up in the retirement planning scheme, with the maximum employee elective deferral for a 401(k) in 2018 having recently risen to $18,500. Although some of this rise can be put down to inevitable inflation, the more that 401(k) limits rise, the more that savvy employees can put away for their retirement.

A safer retirement option

Many workers who are approaching retirement often look into investment portfolios in order to secure their nest egg, coming up with a ratio of bonds and stocks which suits them. This is often a risky strategy, although there are of course precautions which can be taken in order to reduce risk. Either way, people who are relying mostly on investments for their retirement fund could be in for a shock if we experience another major market crash and their portfolio isn’t diverse enough to weather the storm.

On the other hand, a 401(k) or similar retirement scheme is much more secure over time, although factors such as inflation, of course, have to be considered too. The relatively low-risk solution of a 401(k) seems to be the driving factor behind the recent 13.2% record-high contribution rate, and the fact that the current status quo is trending towards security and stability is perhaps a sign of the times that we all need to take notice of.

Saving for your retirement can be stressful, no matter how you decide to do it. Insurance is also another aspect of aging which can become complex and expensive too. If you’re looking for bespoke advice on insurance as you age and eventually retire, get in touch with our team today and receive industry-leading insurance advice!

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4 Network Security and Privacy Risks Businesses Must Manage - 4 Network Security and Privacy Risks Businesses Must Manage

When developing your security and data privacy strategies for the future, there are numerous vulnerabilities which you need to consider. Here we run you through 4 common risks which you need to consider in 2018 and beyond with regard to your security and privacy regulations.

1. Emails

It’s easy to think of cybercriminals as tech-savvy geeks mastering a piece of code which can steal all your money, but the reality is often very different. Using nothing more than emails, many hackers pose as business contacts and company stakeholders in order to scam businesses out of money. For example, they may ask someone to pay an invoice while posing as a client. It’s predicted that these so-called BEC (Business Email Compromise) scams will scam companies out of more than $9 billion in 2018 alone, with the average BEC scam in 2017 stealing around $67,000.

2. IoT Attacks

IoT (internet of things) attacks used to be used in order to create chaos and confusion, although more and more attackers are using IoT attacks to spread viruses and ransomware. The internet of things refers to devices which use the internet to communicate with one another, such as a modern car or your Amazon Echo. These devices are more vulnerable to attacks than regular computers or laptops, meaning that hackers are now trying to hack these “things” in order to steal sensitive data and use it to make/demand money.

3. GDPR

Unless you’ve lived in a cave for the past 6 months, you’ve probably heard of the General Data Protection Regulation, aka GDPR. Any company which conducts business of some sort in the EU (i.e. basically all large companies) has to comply with the GDPR guidelines regarding data security, although it is estimated that around 50% of companies still do not meet these standards. Companies who don’t comply could face fines of 20 million euros (around $24 million) or 4% of their global turnover, whichever is greater. Those are some seriously crippling fines, so it’s best to make sure that you’re complying ASAP.

4. Cryptojacking

Some hackers are now using unsuspecting companies’ processing power in order to mine cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. This is known as “cryptojacking”, and it essentially means that your company’s websites/networks are being slowed down so that a hacker can make money off of your processing power. Although it’s arguably less dire than some other cybercrimes, it still slows down your networks and sees you losing money as you look for solutions.
Going further and further into the digital age, it’s more important than ever to safeguard your company and your customers from digital attacks. Arming yourself with cutting-edge anti-virus software (among other precautions) is a good idea, but many criminals acquire your funds and data by simply tricking staff members, such as with the email scams mentioned earlier. Systematic training and precautions are the best way to ensure your security, in addition to regular penetration testing.

Looking for insurance which covers you in the event of a cyber attack? Talk to a member of our dedicated insurance team today and find out more.

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Is Affordable Car Insurance for College Students Possible  - Is Affordable Car Insurance for College Students Possible

We’ve all been there at some point – you’ve just passed your test, you’re excited to finally have some freedom, and then you realize that you’re going to have to pay car insurance. Car insurance, like all insurance, features premiums which are calculated according to risk. Unfortunately, the younger and the more inexperienced you are at driving, the higher the risk is that you’re going to crash. The result? Largely unaffordable car insurance premiums for young drivers.

You see, drivers aged between 15-20 make up only 6.7% of all drivers in the country, yet they’re involved in 20% of all the crashes. The numbers just aren’t in the favour of young drivers and college students! Nonetheless, finding affordable car insurance for college students is still a possibility. Here are some ways to find an affordable car insurance plan if you’re a college student.

Get good grades

Certain insurers, such as Allstate and Geico, will offer car insurance discounts to college students who can demonstrate that they achieve good grades, the thinking being that straight-A students are less likely to be reckless drivers. State Farm even offers a 25% discount for students with high grades! To qualify for such discounts, you usually have to be 25 or younger, enrolled in a school/college/university full time, maintaining a 3.0 GPA (or be on the honor roll/ dean’s list), and be able to provide proof of your grades via a report card, school letter, or another means of proof.

Look into pay-as-you-go coverage

If your car is mainly used for social and recreational use, such as going to visit friends or going to the grocery store, it may be worth considering pay-as-you-go car insurance which costs less if you driver fewer miles. Officially known as usage-based insurance (UBI), this type of insurance uses data about your driving to determine your premiums, meaning that it will be lower if you drive safely and less often. However, if you’re prone to long late-night trips and heavy acceleration, this may not be the best thing for you.

Choose an adequate amount of coverage

The state you’re in will have a minimum coverage requirement, so you should be sure to comply with this if you think that you’re going to need a more traditional driver-based car insurance plan. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners has a map which can tell you the insurers in your university’s state, ensuring that you’re adequately protected. For example, Nevada state laws stipulate that you must have a car insurance liability policy which covers $55,000, while in Texas, you need to have at least $115,000 in liability coverage.

After meeting the minimum state requirements, decide whether or not you need extra coverage. For example, if you drive an expensive car or you’re moving to an area which is known for car theft and crime, you may want to consider additional coverage. On the other hand, if you’re a very safe driver who is unlikely to crash, increasing your deductible could dramatically reduce the cost of your premiums.

Think about staying on your family’s plan

Surveys show that around 52% of college students leave their car at home when they leave for college. Even if you’re one of those people, it may be a good idea to stay on your family’s multicar insurance plan. You can be named as an “occasional” driver on the policy, keeping you protected when you drive at home, while still reducing your premiums. This is sometimes called a “resident student discount” or “student away at school discount”, and usually applies to students attending college more than 100 miles away from their parental home.

All things considered, you should consider your budget and your existing expenses when deciding what car insurance you can afford. Are there existing expenses, such as textbooks and groceries, which you may be able to cut down on? Whatever you do, avoid being underinsured, as getting into a crash without adequate insurance could see your claim being rejected, meaning you’ll pay enormous sums of money – often more than you would’ve saved by having too-low premiums in the first place.

If you’re a college student looking for advice of affordable car insurance, why not get in touch with a member of our knowledgeable insurance team today?

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Help Your Employees Think About Retirement Income - Help Your Employees Think About Retirement Income

Employers need to encourage their employees to think about their retirement income now more than ever. According to experts in the field, employers need to help employees reframe their thinking with regard to income streams and retirement savings, preparing them for a realistic future. Furthermore, employers should be assessing their employee engagement systems and encouraging their younger generations of workers to think about retirement sooner rather than later.

Employees most likely want to be able to retire on their own terms when the time comes, yet few have properly planned this process and know whether or not they can afford it. A big step toward being able to retire comfortably involves converting retirement savings into retirement income, and employers are being encouraged to educate their workers on lifetime income products, helping them to retire at a reasonable age without having to worry about a lack of consistent income.

Millenial Retirement

Although their generation is far from retirement age, millennials are continually interested in these employer-derived retirement schemes, especially considering the somewhat unstable nature of social security and how it could change in the decades to come. Gen Xers and Baby Boomers have arguably had much “safer” retirement options and social security funds compared to millennials, who are now left to fend and save for themselves.

As a result, annuities are becoming an attractive option because the younger generations don’t have an obvious lifetime income coming their way as they get older, in contrast to their parents and grandparents. As a result, employers are being encouraged to educate these younger workers on retirement plans which put tools in place to help workers estimate and measure income replacement in several decades’ time.

A Lack of Action

Financial services company TIAA has found that nearly 70% of employers think it is useful to provide their workers with education on finances, yet only one-third of this 70% actually do provide such education. Other companies stated that they would specifically offer financial education for female workers, yet less than 15% offer that too.

Employers should ideally provide their teams with financial information which is based on different demographics and data such as genders, ages, and life stages, as there is obviously no one-size-fits-all solution if you have a diverse workforce. TIAA continues to press employers on retirement, encouraging aspects such as gamification in order to intrigue staff (particularly of younger generations) and get them thinking about how they’re going to plan for their retirement, no matter how distant it may seem right now.

Looking for advice on retirement schemes and insurance? Our world-class team is equipped with the knowledge and expertise to help you and your employees today. Get in touch!