Agency News | ISU Bob Gabriel Co.
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IMMEDIATE PHONE QUOTES
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Many kinds of credit lines and installment loans offer credit insurance. These products are designed to “protect” an individual’s credit score by covering installment payments in case of certain qualifying situations.

Sadly these tend to be overpriced according to recent research. A study covering 2004 through 2013 demonstrated that 44.4 cents in benefits were paid for each dollar spent on such insurance policies. (By comparison, typical health plans offer 84.1 cents in benefits for each dollar spent.

So if the goal is to protect yourself in case you get sick or injured, you might be better off finding other forms of personal protection. (Be sure to check with your financial advisor for options.)

Also bear in mind, having such credit insurance is not a requirement for receiving a loan. It is always an option.

So when you are getting a line of credit, a car loan, or a store credit card, remember than this “insurance” may have a low payment but can be an expensive option when it comes to potential payout.

Also it is important to understand that options are limited. There’s virtually zero competition. Under normal circumstances you’ll be offered insurance from one provider… that’s it. There’s zero choice.

So what are your alternatives to Credit Insurance?

Term life insurance is a great way to protect beneficiaries. In the case of your death, your beneficiaries can leverage the funds to pay off your debts. Of course a life insurance benefit can cover all financial needs whereas credit insurance is limited to only covering that specific loan.

And in case you are injured, disability insurance can be beneficial. As with term life insurance, disability insurance is far more flexible than standard credit insurance.

ISU One Responsible Source One Responsible Source
for ALL your insurance needs

Both left and right have suggested concepts for paid family leave. This is an outcome of the fact that most Americans support some form of federally mandated family-leave law.

It may be surprising for business owners and managers to hear that the U.S. is the only developed country that doesn’t offer guaranteed time off for parents and other caregivers.

But there is a shift taking place. New York passed a generous state-backed family program in 2016. It allows for 12 weeks of paid time off for new parents. It also allows for time off for anyone who needs to care for a family member with a serious medical condition.

Minnesota, Rhode Island, & California all have established family-leave policies.

Big companies are joining the fray. From Cambell’s to American Express they are introducing or expanding their paid-leave programs. These include offering more time off and allowing for more ways to qualify for coverage.

While the trend is increasing, universal mandatory family leave is a way’s off. Congress is not unified on what should be included in a program or whether one should exist at all…

Yet younger workers are particularly interested in family leave options. Employers are taking notice. Employers are realizing this is a significant way to compete and offer unique benefits.

One challenge facing businesses is that benefit plans are often built around older concepts of family care. These assume that women will take on most of the child care duties early on. Yet fathers have become much more involved.

One concern is whether the company’s culture is fully supportive of the paid leave options they offer. Some paid leave laws don’t include job protection. Employees feel pressured to return to work earlier than they otherwise would prefer because their career depends on it.

One progressive program is offered by Earnst& Young which has more than 230,000 employees world-wide. It is expanding parental leave to cover 16 weeks for new mothers & fathers. This includes time for birth, of course. But it also includes surrogacy, adoption, or legal guardianship as well. Their program is robust and considered to be a trendsetter. The point? To be the most attractive potential employer.

Small companies are not as disadvantaged as you might imagine. Often times a small business can be more flexible with their workforce vs. larger companies. Small companies can also be more responsive.

Small Business Options and Challenges

Small businesses tend to be lean operations. Having a team member leave is challenging. Offering paid time off for 16 weeks at a time may feel impossible.

Yet the key is in finding flexible options that can be appealing to workers while being affordable for the employer. This could include flex time as well as working from home.

Why is it important to be flexible? Because the median cost of replacing a worker is roughly 21% of their annual salary. With that in mind, finding flexible leave options becomes more affordable.

If the employer works with employees to plan, workloads can often be divided. Likewise projects can be scheduled around an individual’s absence. By carefully evaluating options, a small business can often find a path that can absorb the impact of leave.

If you are thinking about a flexible leave program, the best first action is to talk with your benefits adviser who can help you explore your options.

ISU One Responsible Source One Responsible Source
for ALL your insurance needs

 

The notion of a 40-hour workweek is disappearing for many. 50+ hour work-weeks have become common. Many individuals go so far as to sleep with their iPhones turned on so they can respond instantly, 24/7, as needed.

The biggest problem with this is that it leads to workers being tired and disengaged. Worse, workers suffer greater tension and make more judgment errors.

The core question: are humans capable of working constantly without rest?

The answer, of course, is no.

As a business, it is important to be mindful of how employees are treated as they are a company’s greatest asset. Happy, engaged employees lead to greater client satisfaction and retention.

So how can one economically create this “ideal” workforce?

Begin with health…

  • The average worker spends more than 9 hours a day being sedentary. To combat this it is recommended that you create more frequent break opportunities that allow for bursts of activity. Movement is key. These small 5 to 10 minute breaks should allow the worker to “break out” and go for walks, take in fresh air, etc.
  • Tip: New Balance – an athletic wear company found that by allowing people time to move around each day those workers were more energized and more purposeful in their work.

Find ways to make work manageable…

  • Help team members find possibilities rather than concentrating on problems.
  • Empower workers to help others on their team.
  • Encourage opportunities to learn from co-workers.
  • Make sure that the pursuit of goals involves each employee.
  • Maintain an honest, open, and encouraging flow of communication.

Help workers connect with purpose…

  • First, understand that earning a paycheck is the beginning of why people join a company, but they often want more.
  • People are energized when they are having fun and when they are involved in meaningful work.
  • Make sure team members understand the big picture driving the company and how their work matters to accomplishing those larger goals.

Offer creative benefits…

  • Talk with a benefits specialist about ways you can create affordable and engaging benefits for your employees… possibilities include:
    • Travel opportunities.
    • Create opportunities to earn prizes.
    • Offer employees access to free financial advice.
    • Give people their birthday as an extra paid holiday.
    • Open up to flexible work schedules.
    • Find creative ways to recognize team members.

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for ALL your insurance needs

Have you thought about a workplace wellness program? They can be extremely helpful in creating a happy & healthy workforce. They can also result in decreasing sick days while creating significant gains in productivity.

One important aspect of a good wellness program is helping employees learn how to make healthy and balanced eating decisions. Helping team members make sensible food choices can have a big influence on the effectiveness of a wellness program.

One important thing is to help your employees understand that any such program is voluntary. In fact, it is critical to listen to employees closely to help determine if a healthy eating program would be a good fit for your office. Surveys and conversations can help uncover team concerns. They can also help to uncover “evangelists” who’ll keep co-workers excited about the program.

Some general guidelines include:

  • Know your employees – find out what has and hasn’t worked for them in the past.
  • Work with your team to develop a plan the entire team can be excited about.
  • Determine how long the plan will go and what support will be included.
  • Pay employees a little extra to help organize the program and keep it going.

As for topics, there are many you can leverage to build an excellent program…

  • Pros & cons of going vegan
  • How to eat healthy when on business trips
  • Understanding the basics of healthy eating
  • Weight administration
  • Stretching healthy dinners into healthy lunches the next day
  • Understanding the impact of things like salt, sugar, fats, and cholesterol
  • How stress management impacts eating habits

The list is nearly endless!

You should also ask your insurance professional if integrating a healthy eating / wellness program could have a positive effect on your group health insurance rates…

And for more thoughts on creating a program, here’s a great resource out of Canada.

ISU One Responsible Source One Responsible Source
for ALL your insurance needs

Owning a pet can be expensive. A well-bred puppy can easily cost $2,000+ for a desirable breed. Annual costs can be $700 or more including food and wellness checkups at the vet.

And that assumes things go well. If a pet requires an emergency visit to the vet, the costs for such visits can quickly skyrocket into the thousands of dollars. Treating chronic illnesses is expensive too.

But let’s face it. Pets become a treasured part of our families. Insurance becomes about more than protecting your investment in the animal. If your dog or cat gets sick, most folks struggle with the idea euthanasia if viable (but expensive) treatment options are available. In such situations, pet insurance offers a certain peace of mind. It can also offer protection against the financial stressors if a pet develops medical needs.

Most experts agree that over the life of an animal, you’ll probably pay more in insurance costs than what you’ll receive in covered expenses. But remember, insurance is there to protect against catastrophic events. From this point of view, pet insurance becomes a great option.

Presently only 1% of family pets are covered by pet insurance in the U.S. But it is a one of the fastest growing benefits that companies offer to employees.

Different polices exist. Some cover prescriptions and wellness visits. Others exist strictly as coverage against catastrophic events.

Bear in mind that animal insurance plans can be as complex as “people” health insurance. Plans can have deductibles and co-pays in addition to the regular premium costs. Likewise, premiums will vary depending on the features of the plan and a pet’s age. Also, watch out for the “fine print”. Pet insurance can have restrictions… for example some plans only work with specific vets while other plans may cap benefits.

You can check with your favorite vet to see what pet insurance options they offer. But you should also talk with your local insurance professional whether you are an individual considering pet insurance for your beloved animal, or if you are a business looking for a great benefit to offer employees. Your insurance professional will have great advice on your pet insurance options. And because they understand insurance, you can count on rock-solid guidance.

ISU One Responsible Source One Responsible Source
for ALL your insurance needs

Allowing for remote workers has advantages. It gives you versatility, helps to reduce expenses, and allows you to draw from a larger pool of potential job candidates.

There can be drawbacks as well. Top complaints:

  • A sense that there’s less communication.
  • Management’s struggle with knowing whether employees are staying on task.

So how can you maximize benefits while limiting the drawbacks?

Hybrid Approach

Some companies allow employees a certain amount of flexibility to work from home. However they still require that employees be “in office” for a certain number of days per week or month. Yahoo had a famously liberal policy on remote workers and shifted to a stricter hybrid approach. Many of Yahoo’s top engineers left the company because of the perceived lack of flexibility.

This isn’t to say that a hybrid approach is doomed to failure. But it is important to understand how a team may respond to such changes. If your company is moving away from a strict “in office” policy in favor of something more flexible, a hybrid approach can be a great way to test the waters.

Going 100% Remote Worker.

A surprising number of service companies have begun moving toward being 100% virtual. By eliminating a physical workplace, a number of expenses can be eliminated. Additionally, being allowed to work from home 100% of the time gives employees a greater sense of work-life balance. This also makes attracting high quality employees easier. Millenials are especially attracted to flexible work situations.

But being 100% virtual means a business must be more deliberate in encouraging collaboration and community. These efforts can include conferences and parties. They can also include leveraging technologies such as video conferencing and instant messaging.

“Going Remote” Requires Better Hiring Processes

The reality is that only some individuals work well on their own. Many others prefer the socialization offered by an office setting.

Others lack the discipline to keep on task through the day. Grocery shopping, running kids to soccer games, and getting to the gym can become distractions. In these situations, workers fail to create strong boundaries between “personal time” and “work time”.

A well-designed hiring process begins with attracting the right candidates to the role. They have the characteristics and experience to work well in work-from-home settings.

Once someone is hired, it is critical to have a well defined onboarding process. Such a process gives workers the tools they need to succeed while allowing managers to hold workers accountable for outcomes.

Micromanagers and Remote Workers Don’t Mix

Managers need to set up routine check-ins so that remote employees aren’t forgotten. It can also be beneficial to leverage time management software so that workers can concentrate on their jobs. Such systems help employees avoid productivity sappers like social networking. (Some roles, such as sales and customer service may need to be significantly more active in social networking…)

And this is an important point… remote workers need dynamic leadership. They need managers that don’t micromanage. They need clearly defined objectives backed by excellence in managerial support and guidance. This requires an intentionality that many managers simply aren’t accustomed to.

But by managing based on outcomes, it is possible to evaluate a remote workforce without the need to specifically worry about the number of hours they work on a given day. As long as employees get the work done on time and under budget, it’s a win for everyone. Specifically working 8 or 9 hours a day isn’t the goal in successful work-from-home arrangements. (Note: some roles like customer support definitely require consistent hours of availability.)

Watch Out for Regulatory Pitfalls

Individuals that work from home still fall under all state and federal employee guidelines for wages, breaks, etc.

Also, companies considering a remote workforce need to understand their responsibility for worker injury at home. For example, employers could be liable for an employee that suffers injury due to bad home-office ergonomics. A worker’s injuries while on the job at home will still result in a claim against the company’s Worker’s Comp insurance. (If you are thinking about allowing remote workers, it’s important to talk with your insurance professional. Get the facts about potential risk and risk mitigation before you leverage remote workers.)

Will it Work for YOU?

Ultimately “going remote” can be challenging but worth it depending on the business, the management team, and the workers involved.

The key to success is going into the effort “eyes wide open” and to understand potential pitfalls well in advance.

The greatest thing that’s required is a willingness to experiment and an ability to be flexible until the company finds a balance that works well for the bottom line.

ISU One Responsible Source One Responsible Source
for ALL your insurance needs

Owning a pet can be expensive. A well-bred puppy can easily cost $2,000+ for a desirable breed. Annual costs can be $700 or more including food and wellness checkups at the vet.

And that assumes things go well. If a pet requires an emergency visit to the vet, the costs for such visits can quickly skyrocket into the thousands of dollars. Treating chronic illnesses is expensive too.

But let’s face it. Pets become a treasured part of our families. Insurance becomes about more than protecting your investment in the animal. If your dog or cat gets sick, most folks struggle with the idea euthanasia if viable (but expensive) treatment options are available. In such situations, pet insurance offers a certain peace of mind. It can also offer protection against the financial stressors if a pet develops medical needs.

Most experts agree that over the life of an animal, you’ll probably pay more in insurance costs than what you’ll receive in covered expenses. But remember, insurance is there to protect against catastrophic events. From this point of view, pet insurance becomes a great option.

Presently only 1% of family pets are covered by pet insurance in the U.S. But it is a one of the fastest growing benefits that companies offer to employees.

Different polices exist. Some cover prescriptions and wellness visits. Others exist strictly as coverage against catastrophic events.

Bear in mind that animal insurance plans can be as complex as “people” health insurance. Plans can have deductibles and co-pays in addition to the regular premium costs. Likewise, premiums will vary depending on the features of the plan and a pet’s age. Also, watch out for the “fine print”. Pet insurance can have restrictions… for example some plans only work with specific vets while other plans may cap benefits.

You can check with your favorite vet to see what pet insurance options they offer. But you should also talk with your local insurance professional whether you are an individual considering pet insurance for your beloved animal, or if you are a business looking for a great benefit to offer employees. Your insurance professional will have great advice on your pet insurance options. And because they understand insurance, you can count on rock-solid guidance.

ISU One Responsible Source One Responsible Source
for ALL your insurance needs

Allowing for remote workers has advantages. It gives you versatility, helps to reduce expenses, and allows you to draw from a larger pool of potential job candidates.

There can be drawbacks as well. Top complaints:

  • A sense that there’s less communication.
  • Management’s struggle with knowing whether employees are staying on task.

So how can you maximize benefits while limiting the drawbacks?

Hybrid Approach

Some companies allow employees a certain amount of flexibility to work from home. However they still require that employees be “in office” for a certain number of days per week or month. Yahoo had a famously liberal policy on remote workers and shifted to a stricter hybrid approach. Many of Yahoo’s top engineers left the company because of the perceived lack of flexibility.

This isn’t to say that a hybrid approach is doomed to failure. But it is important to understand how a team may respond to such changes. If your company is moving away from a strict “in office” policy in favor of something more flexible, a hybrid approach can be a great way to test the waters.

Going 100% Remote Worker.

A surprising number of service companies have begun moving toward being 100% virtual. By eliminating a physical workplace, a number of expenses can be eliminated. Additionally, being allowed to work from home 100% of the time gives employees a greater sense of work-life balance. This also makes attracting high quality employees easier. Millenials are especially attracted to flexible work situations.

But being 100% virtual means a business must be more deliberate in encouraging collaboration and community. These efforts can include conferences and parties. They can also include leveraging technologies such as video conferencing and instant messaging.

“Going Remote” Requires Better Hiring Processes

The reality is that only some individuals work well on their own. Many others prefer the socialization offered by an office setting.

Others lack the discipline to keep on task through the day. Grocery shopping, running kids to soccer games, and getting to the gym can become distractions. In these situations, workers fail to create strong boundaries between “personal time” and “work time”.

A well-designed hiring process begins with attracting the right candidates to the role. They have the characteristics and experience to work well in work-from-home settings.

Once someone is hired, it is critical to have a well defined onboarding process. Such a process gives workers the tools they need to succeed while allowing managers to hold workers accountable for outcomes.

Micromanagers and Remote Workers Don’t Mix

Managers need to set up routine check-ins so that remote employees aren’t forgotten. It can also be beneficial to leverage time management software so that workers can concentrate on their jobs. Such systems help employees avoid productivity sappers like social networking. (Some roles, such as sales and customer service may need to be significantly more active in social networking…)

And this is an important point… remote workers need dynamic leadership. They need managers that don’t micromanage. They need clearly defined objectives backed by excellence in managerial support and guidance. This requires an intentionality that many managers simply aren’t accustomed to.

But by managing based on outcomes, it is possible to evaluate a remote workforce without the need to specifically worry about the number of hours they work on a given day. As long as employees get the work done on time and under budget, it’s a win for everyone. Specifically working 8 or 9 hours a day isn’t the goal in successful work-from-home arrangements. (Note: some roles like customer support definitely require consistent hours of availability.)

Watch Out for Regulatory Pitfalls

Individuals that work from home still fall under all state and federal employee guidelines for wages, breaks, etc.

Also, companies considering a remote workforce need to understand their responsibility for worker injury at home. For example, employers could be liable for an employee that suffers injury due to bad home-office ergonomics. A worker’s injuries while on the job at home will still result in a claim against the company’s Worker’s Comp insurance. (If you are thinking about allowing remote workers, it’s important to talk with your insurance professional. Get the facts about potential risk and risk mitigation before you leverage remote workers.)

Will it Work for YOU?

Ultimately “going remote” can be challenging but worth it depending on the business, the management team, and the workers involved.

The key to success is going into the effort “eyes wide open” and to understand potential pitfalls well in advance.

The greatest thing that’s required is a willingness to experiment and an ability to be flexible until the company finds a balance that works well for the bottom line.

ISU One Responsible Source One Responsible Source
for ALL your insurance needs

Paid Time Off & Parental Leave Make Employers More Competitive

To remain competitive in a tightening employment market, companies are increasing the amount of PTO (paid time off) given to workers. This is especially true for parental leave. Another major adjustment becoming popular is a change how paid leave is structured. We’ll start with that first.

Companies are realizing they have to innovate to be competitive employers. They are finding that paid leave is more attractive when compared to other pay and benefit options.

One program that’s become popular is PTO banks. These incorporate holiday, sick days, and earned time off into one united account. A survey of companies performed by WorldatWork in 2002 showed that 28% of respondents were leveraging PTO banks. As of 2015, the number had shot up to 43%.

More traditional PTO approaches separate vacation, sick, and paid holidays into separate accounting. They are still more widespread but they are in decline.

One advantage for the PTO bank approach is that plans are easier to administrate. Another advantage is that they help reduce absenteeism. And 69% of companies with PTO banks report that they are critical in attracting new employees.

One negative aspect of PTO banks is that they have to be allocated as a liability on the company’s financial reports.

It’s best to consider a PTO bank in situations where the company has a culture that encourages employees to feel like they have more agency and control over their circumstances.

But the big benefit that has everyone talking lately is Paid Parental Leave. More than 18% of companies surveyed have indicated they are offering more family friendly leave options that surpass the mandates in the FMLA. (Family Medical Leave Act.)

For companies that offer advanced paid leave options, 16% report that they offer 6 weeks. Another 16% report they offer 12 weeks.

Here’s one example. As of 2017, American Express is leading the way by offering a full 20 weeks of paid parental leave for mothers and fathers. They are also offering 6 to 8 weeks of extra paid time off for women who give birth and require medical leave.

Employers can set requirements so that employees must meet requirements before they can utilize this benefit. The most generous programs require tenure of 12 months or more before employees can use the benefit.

So should you implement a robust Parental Leave Program?

  • Can your business afford it?
  • Will employees support it?
  • Will all managers from the top down fully embrace the policy?

And as with PTO Banks, the real question is how will this help your company beat out your competitors for talent. Will offering extended parental leave give you an edge?

And even if you can’t afford to offer PTO Banks or 4 months of paid parental leave, look for creative alternatives! Think about ways you can help new parents with their work / life balance. For example, more flexible hours or telecommuting options.

And if you want to review all of your benefit options, be sure to check with us for ideas. We’ll help you find creative ways to show your employees that you care.

ISU One Responsible Source One Responsible Source
for ALL your insurance needs

Here’s one of the core things we help our clients with. Understanding how to minimize personal economic dangers via insurance coverage. For example, the sudden death of a close relative can have a significant negative impact on your family’s financial well being. Having adequate life insurance can help address this. Your home might catch fire. Adequate homeowners insurance offers critical protection. And of course having appropriate auto insurance protects you from a loss in case your car is totaled.

It’s important to have insurance to protect against all of these different threats. But there is a cost to being over-insured… and not just in having a higher insurance premium. So here are a few tips to help you keep this from taking place.

Car insurance.

Having appropriate liability insurance on all your vehicles is critical. However, having collision and/or comprehensive insurance on a vehicle with a low resale value that’s also paid off isn’t helpful. Here’s a way you can test your need. If your car was in an accident could you afford to replace it without negatively impacting your finances? If yes, scrap the unnecessary coverage and pocket the savings.

Homeowners insurance policy.

Do you know how much it will cost to rebuild your home if it were to face devastation? This isn’t the same as what your home might be worth if you sold it tomorrow. Remember that the cost of land doesn’t factor into having adequate home insurance protection.

When you buy insurance for your home or condo, you are seeking the needed coverage in case the house (or a part of it) has to be replaced. This should be 1-for-1. For example, if you have a home that is carpeted, you wouldn’t pay for insurance that would replace the carpets with hardwood floors. When insurance is called upon, the coverage must be like-for-like. Making certain you have appropriate coverage can lower your total premiums.

Life insurance.

One of the biggest areas where folks are often over-insured is life insurance. Some folks view having a life insurance policy from a pride perspective. But do you really need a $1,000,000 policy? Carefully reviewing your needs is critical to avoid spending too much on life insurance. Having the right mix of insurance including term vs. whole can also offer savings.

Another thing to watch out for is costly riders. While there are too many to cover in detail here, riders add costs. It’s important to make certain that whatever riders you choose, they meet your unique needs.

Final Thoughts.

For the most part, being over-insured drives up the cost of premiums while offering you little genuine benefit. Eliminating these costs can help you save hundreds of dollars (or more) each year. Shifting these savings towards other goals such as investing can help you build financial security. This can include setting aside for college or retirement.

The best time to address insurance is when life circumstances change. Recently married? Having a child? Perhaps you’ve just received a big promotion? You may have won the lottery. Leverage these big life moments to be 100% certain you have adequate protection. As we review these life changes with you we’ll help you understand cost-savings opportunities. This includes making sure you avoid being over-insured. Contact us today for a complete review of your risk profile and insurance requirements.