09/27/2016 | No Comments
You are not planning to have a heart attack tomorrow, or get a cancer diagnosis, or accidentally step out in front of a bus. For that reason, and especially if you are young and healthy and have no dependents, life insurance probably isn’t for you. Or is it?
Let’s look at what life insurance is, what it covers, and why people buy it. Then you can decide if now is the time to contact a Tri County Agent who specializes in life insurance. Because these agents work with multiple life insurance carriers, they can compare policies and options on your behalf and help you make the best choice. Contact us for help meeting your life insurance goals.
Life Insurance Statistics
Why Buy Life Insurance?
As with all insurance, life insurance plans are about preparing for the unexpected. We don’t plan to have a heart attack or meet an untimely end. We may fret about the unforeseen, but there are few ways to prepare for it. Life insurance provides a way to be prepared and get peace of mind.
The main reason to buy life insurance is for financial protection for your family and dependents. If you are the sole income earner or the major provider in your family, then life insurance definitely makes sense. If you should die unexpectedly, your policy will help your loved ones pay your final expenses and potentially receive ongoing support. The amount they receive will depend upon the size of policy you buy.
Do You Need Life Insurance When You Are Young?
Most people don’t think about buying life insurance when they are young, healthy and single. However, if something should happen to you unexpectedly, a life insurance policy could pay for your student loans or other large outstanding debts, as well as your funeral expenses. These are never fun things to think about, but evaluating risks is a first step to preparedness.
Another good reason to consider buying life insurance at a younger age is to lock in rates. The affordability of life insurance is based largely on your age and risk factors, and life insurance for adults becomes increasingly expensive. While you are young and healthy, you will pay lower premiums. With short term insurance you can choose a lock-in term, such as 15 or 20 years at a preferred rate.
It is important to know that many term policies can be converted into permanent policies later on, without having to re-qualify. If you develop a severe or chronic condition at any point, your life insurance is already secured. Essentially you can insure your insurability.
Life Insurance Over 30
Most people begin seriously thinking about buying a life insurance policy at about the time they start a family. If you are like many people, the light bulb may come on at about the age of 30, when you realize that you are mortal, and that you have real financial responsibilities.
An important consideration for anyone who wants to purchase life insurance is that it will never be cheaper than it is today. It’s not too late at the age of 30, 40 or 50 or even later to buy life insurance that will protect your dependents from financial hardship or provide for you in retirement. But your costs will go up the longer you wait. If you do buy life insurance now, you can lock in a life insurance premium at a more affordable rate than it will be a few years down the road.
How Much Life Insurance Do You Need?
Choosing a life insurance plan requires a bit of math. You want to figure out how much your family needs for daily spending and major upcoming expenses in the event that you pass away too soon and cannot provide for them. Or, if you are young, single and healthy, you can look at the cost of paying off any debt you have accumulated, or the cost of care for an aging parent.
For the following simple example, we will pretend there is no interest or tax. But in reality those factors will affect the amount of benefit your beneficiaries receive.
Again, interest and tax are not figured into this simplified example. What makes life insurance so confusing is that there are several different types of coverage, including term life and whole life or permanent life insurance. Additionally, the details of the policy you choose will be unique to your personal situation.
Life Insurance Terminology
It can be difficult to make sense of life insurance terminology. Here is a brief overview of the most common terms:
Finding the Right Life Insurance for You
Life insurance causes more confusion for people than perhaps any other type of insurance, partly because there are several different types of life insurance products, and partly because the best life insurance is unique to each individual. Should you buy term life or permanent life insurance? Do you need a broker or can you get life insurance from an agency? Should you buy life insurance coverage online or is that too risky?
While you can buy online life insurance, it may be difficult to know what you are getting and whether it will adequately meet your family’s needs. Buying life insurance is a very personal decision. You may want a policy that builds cash value over time, or you may simply want to purchase coverage that will provide a death benefit if you should pass away within a specific term.
Depending upon the ages of your children and how long it is until they graduate from college, a 10-year, 20-year or 30-year life insurance term policy might be appropriate for you. Or, you may need life insurance to cover only your final expenses. These choices are individual, and for this reason it is smart to consult with a knowledgeable life insurance agent.
How an Independent Agent Can Help Find the Best Life Insurance
Many people begin their search for life insurance by getting an instant online quote. But when it comes time to make a decision, they really want to talk with a professional who can guide them in choosing the best life insurance policy for their needs.
An independent agent at Tri County Agency who specializes in life insurance can help you learn about the various life insurance plans and provide all of the answers to your questions. Independent agents advocate for you, not for the life insurance carrier. This means they are dedicated to helping you make the best possible decision for your needs. You will have the opportunity to review various life insurance premiums and make an informed choice.
Your agent will help to evaluate your life insurance goals, answer your questions, and help you make a smart choice. Simply request a quote to get started.
08/25/2016 | No Comments
You might think you have your act together when it comes to student car insurance. College life is hectic and money is always short. To lighten the load, you did your homework to get the best possible rate. Or did you? Sure, your GPA is great, but there are other factors too. Knowing them could allow you to shave dollars from your premium and keep precious cash in your pocket. This is what goes into determining your car insurance rates.
5 Factors That Influence Auto insurance Rates for College Students
Besides your age, gender, and grades, the biggest factor that influences student car insurance is whether you take your car to school. That is because where you keep your car and how much you drive it is one of the primary ways insurance companies determine how likely you are to get into an accident.
You will need to carefully evaluate where you live and how much you drive before you decide if you’ll drive your car to school. Here are some other things to consider:
This could be a big one. If your school is in a more rural area, you will pay lower rates. Urban areas and big cities always carry higher insurance rates. The reason is relatively simple. More cars on the road, more obstacles like pedestrians, and narrow through streets all mean there is a much greater potential for you to be involved in an accident. States like New York and New Jersey have the highest car insurance rates, whereas states like Idaho, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Maine are among the lowest (Bankrate.com). There may be a bit of relief, though. If you happen to live within 3 miles of your school or job, you could qualify for a mileage discount.
2. Type of Car
Your sports car might look good on campus, but in the long run, the student car insurance rate could eat you alive. If you can, go for a larger vehicle. They are more substantial, usually made of steel, and much easier to repair. They also carry lower premiums. It may seem like insurance companies pick and choose which models to charge higher premiums for, but the law and their reasoning are sound. Sports cars are always higher because they have a large claim history (drivers like to go fast and are often involved in wrecks) and they have a much higher chance of being stolen. This is why driving a minivan may not be sexy, but is a great choice if you want a lower insurance rate. Also, newer cars like sedans and compacts give you better rates, since they require much less maintenance and have better safety features.
3. Credit History
Insurance companies will examine your credit history as a predictor of your likelihood of getting in an accident. A good credit rating could save you around $1,000 per year in premium costs. If you have a poor rating, expect a higher premium.
4. How Much Driving You Do
This one is cut-and-dried. If you can prove that you will be driving much less, then you could save a bit on your premium. To further compound the savings, try to stay on your parent’s insurance plan if possible.
5. Driving Record
This is the most important factor by far. You are young and full of potential. You are also squarely in the high-risk category. Even a speeding ticket will make your insurance rate skyrocket, simply because you are already in a category with a higher risk. Make sure your driving record is as clean as possible so you can get the best rate.
Finally, consider getting a huge break on your insurance by leaving your car at home. Doing so can save you thousands of dollars. The best way to accomplish this is by trying to remain on your parents’ insurance policy. Most insurance companies will allow you to stay on your parents’ policy if you:
The number of miles that you drive in a year also heavily influences how much you will pay for car insurance. If you keep your car at home rather than at school, you will drive less. If you must bring your car to school, use mass transit as much as possible, live on campus if you can, and consider carpooling where possible. Restaurants and other entertainment options are not beyond the scope of possibility if you take advantage of public or mass transit. Besides, you are there to learn after all, right?
What Discounts Are Available to College Students for Car Insurance?
As a student, you may be eligible for several discounts.
Resident Student Discount
This echoes what was mentioned previously. Choosing a school that is far away and only driving when you’re home on break is a dream come true for your insurance company. They will usually give you a nice break for this, since there’s much less chance for you to be involved in an accident.
Early Signing Discount
This is something you can take advantage of, but it is time-sensitive. If you’re shopping for new car insurance before your current policy has lapsed, there are insurers that will give you a discount for not procrastinating.
Multiple Policy Discount
If you need other types of insurance, consider using the same insurance company for them. For instance, if you need renters insurance, getting both your renters insurance and auto insurance policy from the same company will make you eligible for a discount.
Other discounts that college students might be eligible for include:
Ask one of our Trusted Choice agents about these discounts when you shop for your policy.
What Car Insurance Coverage Is Necessary for Students Away at College?
Even for students away from home, good car insurance is a necessity. While you’ll want to buy the most affordable student car insurance available, you shouldn’t limit your coverage to your state’s bare minimums. This could leave you at risk if an accident occurs with one of the nearly 13% of uninsured motorist roaming the roads. In some states, that’s as high as 25%, according to the Insurance Research Council.
Remember, you can be the most responsible driver to ever hit the road, but that still won’t protect you from the actions of those around you. According to 2014 statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 33% of drivers 21 to 24 years old were involved in fatal alcohol-related accidents. This is the highest of any age group. Furthermore, consider the fact that 18% of all college-age drivers report driving under the influence at some point in time, while just over 37% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 were reported to be binge drinkers, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The bottom line: Just because you might be responsible doesn’t mean everyone else is. At the very least, you must carry your state’s mandated minimum liability coverage. But is that enough? Not likely.
To ensure you are protected, auto insurance for college students should include the following types of coverage with appropriate coverage limits:
How Do College Students Find the Best Car Insurance Rates?
The best car insurance for you as a college student will provide protection not only for liability risks, but also for injuries, collisions and other types of risks to you and your vehicle. And it will provide all of those things at a price that that isn’t burdensome.
First, find an agent that you are comfortable with. Your agent should be able to find quotes from numerous reputable insurance companies so that you can find the combination of coverage and price that best suits your needs and budget. When comparing quotes, make sure that the coverage and limits are the same for each quote. It doesn’t pay to compare apples to oranges.
Tri County Agency can help you find the student car insurance you need, and will help you save money by finding all of the discounts that you are eligible for. This will help you keep cash in your pocket. Whether you spend it on tacos is up to you.
07/05/2016 | No Comments
Workers compensation is a form of insurance designed to help employees recover from injuries sustained in the workplace.
Every state has different laws pertaining to workers compensation programs. Benefits provided to workers may include medical expenses, death benefits, lost wages and rehabilitation services. In most states, any business with at least one paid employee (even if that employee is temporary) is required to carry workers compensation insurance.
Nobody expects to be injured on the job. In fact, many employers dedicate a large portion of their budget to educating employees on safe practices, in addition to re-vamping facilities to meet safety codes.
Unfortunately, accidents do happen. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 1.1 million injuries happened in the workplace in 2011, with an average recuperation time of eight days.
We’ve compiled the top ten most common workers compensation injuries, along with the positions that file the most claims every year.
Overexertion arises when one lifts, pulls, pushes or throws something, causing injury. This injury occurs when a muscle is pulled, or a joint is forced to move beyond its typical range of motion. This is most commonly seen in factory jobs, construction jobs, or jobs where physical labor is necessary. This is also commonly seen in police officers. This is the most common injury seen in the workplace, according to a study from the Department of Labor.
2) Slip or Trip and Falls
Many of the slip, trip, and fall claims arise from workers slipping on wet floors around the workplace. Many of these cases are also related to individuals slipping and falling on snowy walkways. Many security workers, groundskeepers, and store clerks can fall victim to wet floors such as in a store with a freshly mopped floor, or a groundskeeper walking around the perimeter of the building.
3) Fall to Lower Level
Falls to a lower level typically happen when a worker falls off a ladder, a roof, or falls down a flight of stairs. Roofers falling from a roof, construction workers slipping off a multi-level workspace, and teachers falling down stairs are all instances of falling to lower levels.
4) Bodily Reaction
A bodily reaction injury may occur when one trips or slips, avoids falling, but still sustains an injury such as a twisted or sprained ankle. This can happen anywhere, to anyone, at any time. Most commonly this is seen in police officers and nurses.
5) Struck by Object
While very plain, this injury occurs most commonly when something falls off a shelf, or things are dropped by another worker onto a lower level. Office workers, along with restaurant & retail workers are all in danger of being struck by something.
6) Struck Against an Object
This injury occurs when an individual falls into something, or is physically forced into something such as a bookshelf, barricade, or other stationary object. Office workers and factory workers can easily become a victim of falling into something.
7) Highway Incident
Especially in the cases of truck drivers, one of the top causes of injury is an accident while driving (for business purposes) on the roadway. This is also a common occurrence for traveling business representatives and police officers.
8) Machinery Accidents
Machinery accidents are typically reported in cases where large, heavy machinery has injured a worker by crushing or mutilating. Most commonly seen in factories or construction workers, these accidents can have huge medical cost ramifications. Many states have enacted laws that require training for employees before allowing them to operate equipment, along with maintenance requirements for machinery to keep it in a safe working state. Keeping employees knowledgeable on equipment, along with keeping that equipment maintained are two important factors in protecting employees from injury.
9) Repetitive Motion
A repetitive injury is hard to pin-point, but is harder to prove. These injuries stem from workers doing the same motions over and over. Some examples of repetitive motion injuries can include using a mouse, sitting, lifting boxes, and working on an assembly line. Medically speaking, common injuries from repetitive or cumulative motions are tendonitis, carpal tunnel, and bursitis.
10) Workplace violence
According to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “375 workers were killed in shootings while on the job in 2012. Robbers were the assailants in 33 percent of the workplace homicides involving shootings in 2012, while coworkers accounted for 13 percent. There were two incidents in 2012 where at least 5 people were killed in workplace shootings; a total of 12 workers died in these two incidents. From 1992 to 2012, 140 government workers were shot and killed by a coworker while on the job.” While nobody expects violence in the workplace, it does happen.
There are four positions that make up 20% of the total number of injuries: Police/Security officers, Nursing Aides/Orderlies/Attendants, Janitors/Cleaners, and Tractor-Trailer/Heavy Truck drivers. Due to the high physical activity required by these positions, along with the exposure to dangerous situations, these jobs are considered some of the highest risk positions for injuries.
06/02/2016 | No Comments
Auto liability insurance provides coverage for costs you are legally required to pay if you cause an accident, injury or property damage. If you are uninsured or underinsured, the costs associated with an injured party’s liability claim will come out of your pocket. To ensure that liable parties have the legal means to pay, every state in the U.S. has a minimum liability insurance requirement for drivers.
Whether the driver harms a passenger, a driver, a pedestrian, or a person’s property – and whether it is due to running a light, driving aggressively, or falling asleep behind the wheel – that driver may be found responsible for that accident.
Who Is Responsible for Accidents?
By some estimates, distracted drivers cause 80% of accidents
18% of drivers say they regularly send or receive text messages while driving
36% of adult drivers report that they have read maps while driving
41% of drivers have set or changed a GPS system while driving, and 21% do so frequently
What Is Liability Insurance?
Liability is defined simply as legal responsibility for one’s acts or omissions. Liability insurance can cover people for things they neglect to do in addition to mistakes they make. With regard to car insurance, liability is nearly always associated with a driver’s actions. If you cause an accident, whether by driving aggressively, running a red light or not paying attention, you are responsible – or liable – for that accident.
What Does Vehicle Liability Insurance Cover?
If you cause an accident or cause injury to another person or their property with your vehicle, your liability insurance will help to cover your legal obligation, up to the limits of your policy.
There are two types of legal obligation:
Bodily injury liability: If you cause an accident that harms another person, your liability coverage would pay for “pain and suffering” claims, medical expenses including hospitalization and surgery and even lost wages for the injured parties, up to your policy limits. Bodily injury liability typically has two limits: one for each person injured, and one for the total injury costs of the accident.
Property damage liability: If you cause an accident that damages or destroys another person’s car or truck, your liability insurance would pay for the repairs to the other driver’s vehicle, up to your property damage limit. Likewise, if you run into a building or drive into a hedge, your property damage liability coverage will cover the costs of replacing or repairing the damaged items.
Liability insurance also helps to cover the costs of lawsuits arising from an accident. For example, if an injured driver or passenger files a lawsuit against you, your liability insurance would help to pay for your legal defense. Note that you will likely need legal defense in court whether or not you are found at fault for the damages.
Costs of Liability Insurance
The cost of your car insurance liability coverage will depend on a number of factors, including:
Your state. Each state has a different requirement for minimum liability insurance.
Your home and work. Where you live, drive and work makes a difference. A five-mile commute means that you probably will not risk as many accidents as someone with a longer drive. Living or working in a high-crime neighborhood can make you statistically more likely to be the victim of theft or vandalism.
Your driver profile. Your age and driving history are also taken into consideration with liability insurance. Statistically speaking, younger drivers are more likely to be in a serious accident. Motorists with a history of collisions and traffic violations are typically viewed by insurance companies as more likely to be in another wreck.
Liability Car Insurance Premium Limits
Your auto liability insurance coverage will typically have three limits: bodily injury for each person, bodily injury for all persons involved, and property damage. Your insurance company will pay up to that established limit. If costs exceed your limit, you will have to pay out of pocket.
If you have a 30/60/15 policy, this means your insurance company will pay up to $30,000 for one person’s bodily injury costs, up to $60,000 for all bodily injuries in the accident, and up to $15,000 for property damage.
Note that some insurance companies issue “single limit” liability policies, instead of split limit policies. A single limit policy would cover the costs of injuries and property damages together, up to the total limit. For example, a 300 policy would cover $300,000 of bodily injury and property damage liability combined after an accident.
Car Insurance Liability Example
If you cause a crash in which people are injured and the other vehicle is damaged or totaled, here is how your insurance would pay the costs if you have a 30/60/15 split limit policy:
Your liability insurance would pay up to $30,000 for any one injured person, including hospitalization, treatment and lost wages
It would pay up to $60,000 for all injury costs if multiple people have been injured
It would pay up to $15,000 for all property damage you cause
If the total costs of the accident amount to $100,000 for all injuries and lost wages, and $20,000 in property damage, the out-of-pocket costs you would be responsible to pay would be:
$40,000 in bodily injury costs
$5,000 in property damage costs
Totaling $45,000 out of pocket
Unfortunately, many people purchase only the minimum liability coverage required by their state, leaving them exposed to enormous expenses if they cause an accident. Be sure to talk with your agent about the appropriate amount of liability coverage for your financial protection.
You may also want to consider an “umbrella policy.” which can provide excess liability coverage that can protect you if your legal responsibility in an accident far exceeds your auto liability coverage limits.
Example of a Liability Car Insurance Claim
Based on your policy, you would have to pay $45,000 in out-of-pocket costs to cover your legal responsibility.
Get More Protection with an Umbrella Policy
An umbrella policy provides additional coverage beyond what you might foresee having to pay in accident and injury expenses. Umbrella liability kicks in when you have used up your auto liability coverage. Umbrella policies begin at $1 million in coverage.
Consider an example where you cause and accident and you owe $480,000 in damages, but your coverage is only $300,000. If you have an umbrella policy with a limit of $1,000,000, your policy would kick in once your liability coverage is exhausted. Instead of owing $180,000, you would use your umbrella coverage to pay that amount. This means no out-of-pocket costs to you, other than your policy’s deductible.
With increased healthcare costs and legal fees associated with lawsuits, umbrella policies are becoming increasingly important. Many drivers choose only the minimum liability coverage required by the state, leaving them vulnerable to additional out-of-pockets expenses when an accident occurs.
When you compare liability car insurance quotes, be sure to talk with your independent agent about how you can get the full protection needed to safeguard your financial wellbeing.
The Risks of Online Quotes and Coverage
Instant online quotes are made to be simple. Enter a few personal details, get a quote and choose a new insurance plan. But will you have the right protection when an accident happens — whether you or the other driver is at fault? Too often drivers discover the insurance plan they bought online does not cover their needs until it is too late.
Use online quotes to compare rates, but when you are ready to buy, talk to an agent. A local independent agent in the Trusted Choice network will work with you to compare plans from several auto insurance carriers, and help to ensure that you get the best policy for you at an affordable price. Get started with a quote now.
04/18/2016 | No Comments
In addition to providing a cost-effective means of transportation, hitting the streets on a motorcycle can be fun and exhilarating; however, it can also be quite dangerous. In the United States in 2011, 4,612 motorcyclists were killed and approximately 103,000 were injured in accidents. At Tri-county, we care about your safety and want you to enjoy your motorcycle riding experience. That is why we strongly recommend that you take a motorcycle safety course.
Millions of American motorcyclists have registered for and taken these courses. Some take the course because it is required by their particular state, but many take it either as a way of improving their riding skills or to receive a discount on their motorcycle insurance. If you have not yet taken a motorcycle safety course, it may be worth considering. If you have taken the basic riding course, even if you have been riding for years, the advanced safety course may be worth your while.
What Is a Motorcycle Safety Course?
Motorcycle safety courses are offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, or MSF, which has been providing this service since 1974. This nonprofit organization has developed, and is constantly revising, motorcycle safety courses geared toward both new and experienced riders. Revisions to the course are based on recommendations by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.
Although the curriculum is standard across the country, how the course is administered may vary by state. There are currently thousands of locations nationwide where interested riders can sign up for and take a safety course. Riders may choose between the Basic RiderCourseSM and other courses that are designed for more experience riders.
The MSF also now offers an e-course that you can take from home using your computer or mobile device. This is to be used as an introductory course that will allow you to decide if motorcycling is something you want to pursue, but it cannot be taken as a substitute for an actual hands-on course.
Who Is Required to Take the Motorcycle Safety Course?
Requirements for this course vary by state. While some states may require that all licensed riders take the course, others may require it only for new riders or riders under a certain age. However, most states encourage, but do not mandate, that riders register for or take the safety course.
Motorcycle Safety Courses Benefit New Riders
New riders are strongly encouraged to take the Basic Motorcycle Safety Course. It is one of the best ways to learn to ride. The MSF’s Basic RiderCourse is designed specifically for beginners and teaches all the important basics of operating a motorcycle. It typically consists of two or three sessions that include a total of five hours of classroom instruction and activities and 10 hours of on-bike riding instruction.
Motorcycles and riding gear, including helmets, are normally provided on-site for use when taking the course. Some things that are covered in the basic riding course are:
Appropriate riding gear
How to perform a routine motorcycle inspection prior to riding
How to start and stop your bike
How to maneuver through traffic and obstacles
In some states, completion of this basic course can be used as a substitute for taking the licensing test.
Even Experienced Riders Can Get Useful Safety Tips
In addition to the basic riding course, the MSF also offers a variety of other courses designed for more experienced riders. The most well-known of these courses is the Advanced RiderCourse. Even those who have been riding for years can benefit from this one-day course.
Students in this course learn a number of skills, including:
How to improve perception and hazard awareness
Other courses offered to experienced riders are:
Ultimate Bike-Bonding RiderCourse: This is a course in basic maneuvering skills patterned after police training courses.
Kevin Schwantz RiderCourse: This one-day course focuses on performance and visual awareness so riders can learn to handle high-speed braking and cornering.
The skills taught in these courses can help you avoid accidents and limit riding-related injuries.
Completion of a Motorcycle Safety Course May Lower Your Insurance Rates
Because those who have completed motorcycle safety courses are less likely to be involved in accidents, most insurance companies offer discounts to these riders. In some cases, the discounts can be significant. The easiest way to discover how much you may save is by letting a Tri-County Agent network find and compare rates and discounts from a variety of insurance providers for you. Contact us today.
In the meantime, we wish you many perfect riding days and clear open roads in your future. Happy riding!
03/18/2016 | No Comments
Your home is your sanctuary. It is a place where fond memories are made and relaxing evenings are spent after a busy day. Your home is a safe haven where you and your family most feel at ease. If your home is under-protected or you’ve had a recent burglary, this may compromise the security you feel in your own home.
There were more than 2 million burglaries in the United States in 2012. While that number is down from the previous year, it is still a statistic that no one wants to become a part of. Using a few simple home security tips and tricks, you can protect your belongings, thwart would-be thieves and increase your feeling of security while home and away.
Prevention begins outside your home from the minute it comes into view. Take a walk around your property with a critical eye to see what changes it needs. Here are a few you may have missed:
1. Don’t provide places for thieves to hide: Trim trees and bushes that may give someone a place to hide or unnoticeable access to your windows. You should trim back any shrubs that are high enough to block a window.
You will also want to consider the lighting of your property. Look for places around your home that are very dark and may allow a thief access to your home under the cover of darkness. Consider installing lights in various places that can light up entrances. Motion detection spotlights are the best option to conserve energy and not annoy your neighbors or yourself with the bright lights.
2. Don’t let thieves know you are not home: If you are planning to go on vacation, never announce it beforehand. We are a society that likes to share, and thieves love that about us. Sending a tweet that you’ve arrived at the airport or posting a status update on Facebook indicating that you can’t wait to leave for your cruise is a great way to alert thieves that your home is empty. Save all updates about your vacation and picture sharing for when you return.
In addition, if you are planning to vacation, have a trusted friend or neighbor stop by every day to pick up the mail, newspapers and any fliers that may be left at the door. If a flier has been sitting on your front door for days, a thief could take notice and know you are on an extended leave.
Anytime you are going to be gone during the night, even if it’s just returning from work after it gets dark, you should have interior lights set to a timer. Having lights on will keep thieves guessing and will let you feel safer when you come home.
3. Keep your yard clean to prevent giving thieves an advantage: Many times, thieves will gain access to your home through a window they have broken. It is best that we don’t give them a tool to do that. Clean up your yard of broken tree limbs after a storm. Ensure your kids put away their toys after playing outside. Never leave a ladder outside in the yard; a thief could use your ladder to gain access to a higher window that is more likely to be unlocked. Use the same precautions for tools, whether they are gardening or for the barbecue; lock them up when they aren’t in use.
4. Install a home alarm system: While an alarm may not keep burglars from getting inside your home, it will deter some and bring the police to your home quickly, limiting what a thief is able to take. Home security systems will only work if you always remember to engage the alarm. You should have your alarm engaged while you are away or while you are at home as many thieves will attempt to break into one part of your home while you are busy in another. Also, some insurance companies may lower your home insurance premiums for having a home alarm system installed.
5. Take precautions to protect windows: If you are purchasing new windows for your home, it might be worth the upgrade to buy shatterproof glass. This would prevent anyone from breaking a window to gain access to your home. If new windows aren’t in the budget, consider adding a security film to windows. This will prevent the glass from shattering upon breaking and may deter thieves from continuing their attempt to break in.
6. Secure sliding glass doors: Sliding glass doors have incredibly flimsy locks. A thief can easily pop them in an instant, giving quick access to your home. Installing a security bar for sliding doors would make gaining access to your home more difficult. This measure of protection is a must-have for all sliding doors and windows.
7. Always lock doors and windows: Keep windows locked when you are not home, when you go to bed at night and when they are not in use. If you like to sleep with a window open at night, install window locks that only allow the window to open a few inches.
You should also keep your garage door down, even during the day. Having the garage door open invites thieves inside to look around. It gives them quick, easy access inside your home. Even if they can’t take something at the time, they can get enough of a look to see if your home is worth a visit later.
8. Change the locks as necessary: If you’ve just purchased a home from someone, your first order of business should be to meet the locksmith at your new home. You have no idea who is out there with a key just waiting for the moment to use it. In addition, if you’ve had a breakup recently, it is time to change the locks. The person may give you the key back, but you have no idea how many copies are out there. Having the locks changed is good for the peace of mind.
Keeping your family, your belongings and your home safe and secure does not involve a lot of money. A few simple changes such as the home security tips mentioned above can protect everyone and everything for years to come.
02/07/2016 | No Comments
There are a number of compelling reasons to get off the couch and get into shape. It will help you look and feel great, your clothes will fit better and it will reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and bone loss. But there is another, often overlooked, benefit. Becoming physically fit can actually save you money. How much money? Well, it varies by individual, but it is safe to say that you can potentially save enough money to fully cover your gym membership and then some!
Listed below are four ways that becoming physically fit can fatten up your wallet while slimming down your waistline.
1. Save Money on Food
There is absolutely a financial benefit to eating healthier. This may seem counterintuitive when you think about the cost of organic fresh produce and unprocessed meats. Sure, a dinner of baked chicken with a side salad is going to cost more to make than a bowl of ramen noodles, but which is more likely to fill you up so you are not eating again an hour later? Done right, the amount of money you spend on food is bound to decrease.
Ann Wilson, fitness coach and co-owner of Curves® of Bethel Park, PA, helps a number of clients plan out healthy menus for the week, complete with a comprehensive grocery shopping list. “When you know exactly how much perishable food you need to do all your cooking and food prep for the week, you are far less likely to throw away food because it has gone bad,” she states. “Besides that, losing weight and feeling better, both physically and mentally, add a value far beyond the money savings. A healthy lifestyle is worth its weight in gold!”
Additionally, many people who are working toward getting fit and losing weight elect to eat at home instead of out at restaurants, as they have more control over the ingredients and preparation methods. If you do go out, ordering smaller portions and skipping dessert will lower the total on the check.
2. Save Money on Health Care
Regardless of how much or how little your particular health insurance policy costs, you can save money on medical costs by getting into and staying in shape. This is because those who are physically fit tend to get sick less often and are far less likely to suffer from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Save at the pharmacy: Even if your insurance policy subsidizes your medication costs, you will still be paying a portion of the bill. Fewer illnesses mean fewer medications, and this means more money in your wallet.
Save at the doctor’s office: Because those who are physically fit are better equipped to fight off illnesses, they spend less time getting medical treatment. Instead of shelling out copays to your primary care physician or your local urgent care facility, you can use that money to buy a new pair of workout shoes.
Save at the chiropractor: Those are who are not physically fit and do not engage in stretching or weight-bearing exercises on a regular basis are more likely to suffer from chronic back pain and other muscle ailments. You are far less likely to run to the chiropractor or to a physical therapist if you make exercise a regular part of your daily routine.
3. Increase Your Income Potential
Achieving physical fitness can lead to a bigger paycheck. Don’t believe me? Consider this. In a study done at Cleveland State University, researcher Vasilios Kosteas found that adults who exercised three times a week earned about 9% more than those who did not exercise.
There are a number of reasons why this might be so. For starters, exercise is known to boost your mental function, energy levels and overall mood. This can lead to greater productivity and interpersonal skills. Furthermore, people who are in good physical shape tend to be more confident and this can make it easier for them to negotiate higher starting salaries and raises.
People who are physically fit also tend to have stronger immune systems and are therefore more likely to fight off illnesses that are going around. For those who do not get paid sick time, fewer illnesses results in more time spent earning money. If you are one of the lucky ones who can accumulate and cash in sick time, being consistently healthy can lead to a financial windfall.
4. Save Money on Life Insurance Premiums
There are a number of factors that go into calculating your life insurance rates. Some of the most influential are whether or not you smoke, your BMI, your blood pressure and the results of blood work, including your cholesterol levels and liver enzyme readings.
Brian H. Ashe, CLU and treasurer of the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE), advises that consumers can save as much as 50% on their life insurance rates just by getting themselves into good physical shape. That can add up to significant savings over the life of your policy.
That is not to say that you should put off purchasing life insurance until you have reached your fitness goals. In many cases, if you manage to get into shape and maintain a healthy lifestyle for more than one year, you can appeal to your insurance provider for reduced rates. Contact us to learn more about negotiating reduced rates on your life insurance.
01/02/2016 | No Comments
Cash flow is the life of your business, and in order to ensure it stays positive, you need to have an action plan. It is not a measure of profitability; in fact, you can have a profitable business on paper but still struggle with cash flow issues. Instead, cash flow is a measure of your current resources.
With positive cash flow, you’ll have more cash on hand than you have going out to other accounts. With negative cash flow, you’ll have less cash on hand than you need, and you could end up failing to meet payment deadlines as a result. There have been records of otherwise profitable businesses experiencing negative cash flow and eventually filing for bankruptcy, so don’t underestimate the importance of cash flow.
Use these strategies to protect yourself against negative cash flow.
1. Perfect Your Invoicing Strategy
The first strategy is one of the easiest, but you might need the help of a financial adviser to do it successfully. If you want to maintain a positive cash flow, and not just an on-paper profit, you need to ensure that your customers pay their bills consistently and on time.
In most cases, this can be done by designing and adhering to a very consistent, predictable invoicing formula. Invoice your customers as soon as possible—the trigger point for your business can vary, but could be something like “the day all services are complete”—and hold someone in your organization accountable for getting the invoice out on time. If you haven’t received payment by the due date shown on the invoice, you’ll also need a follow-up strategy to ensure proper payment. For example, you could re-send the invoice after one week of non-payment, and then follow up with a phone call a week after that. Just be sure to remain polite—you won’t be collecting any money from people you’ve been rude to.
2. Establish Firm Credit and Payment Policies
For most businesses, establishing credit for customers is a requirement. However, it can be difficult, especially for new businesses, to determine what factors should be considered for credit terms. Generally, you should know if the business has a history of paying bills on time, if the company is growing or shrinking, and if they have any major cash flow problems. Running a business credit report, like those offered by Experian, can help you find this information.
To speed up the payment process further, you can take several steps. You can use a lockbox service to process payment faster, ask your customers to preauthorize their checks, keep everything consolidated in one bank, and offer small discounts for early payments. Your goal with this strategy is to get your customers to pay their bills faster and more reliably.
3. Cut Back on Expenses
The biggest killer of cash flow for businesses is monthly subscription services. If you’re just starting out, you probably have a lot of overhead—you have rent, utility bills, and several subscriptions that you need in order to keep your business running on a regular basis. You can stay profitable on paper by bringing in more revenue than you have accumulated for these expenses, but your cash flow could still be in jeopardy if your expenses hit all at once with nothing to counterbalance them.
You have two main tactics as part of this strategy. First, you’ll need to cut back on your subscriptions and recurring expenses. If there’s something that can be reduced or eliminated, you should probably do it for the sake of keeping your cash flow positive. Second, don’t pay your bills until the last possible day they’re due without penalty. You’ll still pay the same amount, but you’ll hold the cash for longer, mitigating any other fluctuations in your flow.
4. Find Loans and Grants
Your cash doesn’t all have to come from client revenue, though revenue is the best way to preserve your cash flow in the long term. For short-term fixes, loans or grants are probably your best bet. Through the SBA and several other small business organizations, you can find revolving credit lines (which give you recurring flexibility), equity loans (taken against an asset you own as a business), or even direct investments that can help you overcome your temporary cash hurdles. These will inject cash directly into your business without holding you accountable to ridiculous prerequisites or exorbitant interest rates.
5. Get More Sales!
It seems like an obvious strategy, but many new entrepreneurs neglect it. They’re so worried about perfecting their product or their internal workflows that they forget the whole reason they’re in business—to make sales. Without a steady stream of sales, your chances of achieving and maintaining a positive cash flow are basically nonexistent.
Of course, getting those extra sales is easier said than done. You’ll need to step up your inbound marketing strategy or hire a dedicated sales agent to help pick up the slack and ensure your cash flow remains positive. Set a goal for each month, and spend extra time getting leads if it looks like your cash flow is dipping.
These five strategies can help you stay cash positive even in the tumultuous first few years of operating your business. As you get used to the rhythm of inbound and outbound cash, you’ll be able to fine tune these strategies and make them appropriate for your business. Whatever you do, be sure to keep a close eye on your business cash and take action immediately if it starts to dip.
Contact us to help you manage all of your Business Insurance, whether it is home based or commercial.
09/21/2015 | No Comments
One of the most important areas of safety in our neighborhoods is around the school bus. Not only is it crucial for keeping kids safe, it is also the law. Below is a quick refresher course on school bus safety 101 for drivers.
Remember, the fines for improper passing of a school bus range from $102 to $252, and could include up to 15 days in jail as well as a 30-day suspension of your driver’s license, plus 5 points. Even more important, you are endangering the welfare of a child.
08/06/2015 | No Comments
Celebrating a child’s birthday is a joyous occasion for family and friends. Parents strive to fulfill their children’s wishes on their special day, but often, those wishes come with a hefty price tag.
Years ago, simple house parties with a cake and piñata were the norm. But today, many families take child parties to a whole new level, selecting elaborate venues and doling out expensive goodie bags. According to TodaysParent.com, hosting kids’ parties at a venue or with entertainers tends to cost a few hundred dollars minimum. In addition to this financial investment, parents should understand their responsibilities and liabilities when hosting a birthday party for their child.
Whether you decide to host your child’s party at your home or at an overpriced warehouse filled with moon bounces, you need to take precautionary measures to protect yourself in the event of an accident. The liability portion of your homeowners or renters policy should explain how you’re protected if you are sued or found liable for an accident involving a party guest.
When you rent a facility, the facility usually provides a waiver that excludes them from liability for injuries and risks. If the facility does not require the parents of each child to sign a waiver, ask for a copy and offer it to parents when you send party invitations. This gives parents ample time to review the waiver should they have additional questions.
And don’t forget about health issues. Gluten-free requirements and peanut allergies scare any parent who is feeding children other than their own. The liability portion of your homeowners policy will address relevant implications if a child or adult gets sick from consuming food at your home.
If you are hosting a child’s party and invite parents, you probably plan to cater to the adults as well. Parents like cake and ice cream, but some parents may opt for “adult beverages” over fruit punch. In the event you serve alcohol, know your state laws and statutes. Some states can hold party hosts liable if a guest is involved in an alcohol-related accident. And liability is not always limited to your guest and their injury or responsibility in an accident involving alcohol—if your guest or a third party suffers an injury from an accident and the alcohol links back to you, you could be held responsible for vehicle repair costs, lost time for work, medical bills or even claims for wrongful death.
In an effort to save money, some parents promote a drop-off policy for parties, which eliminates the need to feed parents and children. If your drop-off party is a slumber party, your risks are mainly limited to your homeowners policy. But if parents drop off their children and you transport the children to another place, you should take a quick peek at your auto policy. Make sure you have adequate bodily injury liability limits to cover injuries in the event of an accident.
Your children may receive gifts on their special day, but there’s no better gift than peace of mind. Talk to your Tri County Agent before you plan your child’s birthday party to ensure you have the coverage you need to fully protect your home and finances. A party can turn out to be a wonderful celebration for your child and guests. Let your Tri County Agent help you to make that happen.
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