Are you planning on doing some home remodeling? You’re not alone. Many Americans this year are planning a variety of interior and exterior improvement projects, from minor cosmetic changes to major overhauls. Whether you’re getting that new kitchen you’ve always wanted or investing in a new roof, making a call to your insurance company before work begins is always a good idea. Here’s why:
You want to make sure you’re covered during construction. Whether you’re doing the work yourself or having someone else do it, chances are you’ll be temporarily storing some expensive materials such as tile, wood flooring and granite, along with equipment. Your insurance company can help you determine whether you’re adequately insured while work is being done. You’ll want to make sure, of course, that any contractors who work in your home are adequately bonded and insured.
You want to make sure you have the right coverage after your project is completed. If the cost to rebuild your home has changed substantially after remodeling, you’ll want to adjust your coverage. If you added a feature such as a swimming pool or hot tub, you may want to increase your liability coverage or consider purchasing an umbrella policy. Depending on the upgrades, you may even be eligible for a discount.
Remember, it’s always a good idea to keep all receipts and contracts and take photos or video of the work being done and what your home looks like after it’s finished. Questions? Give us a call. We are glad to help.
Do your employees drive to business meetings or to meet with customers? Whether employees are driving their own vehicle or a company car, more companies are putting safe driving policies into place. Why? More people are driving distracted these days, and a business could be held liable for an accident caused by an employee who isn’t driving safely.
It’s important that companies be clear about what type of behavior is expected by their employees behind the wheel. At the very least, you’ll want employees to be aware of the need to strictly follow any federal and state driving laws
. Beyond that, you may want to spell out what you definitely don’t want them doing while driving. Once you’ve put together a plan, provide each employee with your driving rules and consider having them sign the document to indicate that they understand what’s expected of them behind the wheel. Here are some suggestions from the Insurance Information Institute
Limit cell phone use on the road. To be safe, you may want to make it clear to employees that they are not to talk on a cell phone or text while they are driving on business.
Let voicemail do its work. Let employees know you do not want them to initiate calls while they are driving or answer any incoming calls. Let them know that all incoming calls – even from the boss – go to voicemail while driving.
Ban distracted driving. We all know that texting while driving is dangerous. But distracted driving – from talking on a cell phone to eating or drinking behind the wheel – causes thousands of injuries and deaths each year as well. So does shaving, putting on makeup and combing your hair from behind the wheel.
Promote courteous driving. Have you ever been cut off in traffic by a car with a business name on the side? If your employees drive cars with your company’s name on them, make sure they know that rude driving can cost you business.
Brake failure can happen at any time and can be a pretty scary and nerve-wracking experience for drivers, especially if you’re on the highway. But there are some steps you can take to bring your vehicle to a stop without getting into a serious crash.
Don’t panic. Also, don’t overreact. Do not shut the engine off. If you do, you will lose your power steering. As soon as you notice signs of brake failure take your foot off the gas pedal. Try and move into the right lane and then work your way toward the shoulder of the road. Shifting into a lower gear allows the engine to slow the car down.
Pump the brakes. By pumping the brakes you may be able to build some pressure back up to help you stop the car. Once you have pumped the brakes a few times, quickly squeeze the brakes to the floor. The maneuver may bring your vehicle to a stop.
Use the emergency brake. Depending on the make of your vehicle, you may be able to pull the handle up or push down on the pedal. Don’t push or pull too quickly, as your tires will lock up. If you have room to do so, sharply steer from side to side, which will generate friction and help slow your car down. However, don’t do this if you are in traffic.
If you come across a runaway truck ramp or an incline, steer towards it as it may slow your car down. You can also use the guardrails or cement highway dividers to break your speed as they are designed to make contact with your wheels. Driving through dirt or gravel will also act as a break to slow your vehicle.
There’s no doubt about it — 2013 was a big year for the unexpected. Who can forget all the weather-related setbacks that businesses had to endure last year? Bombing and shooting tragedies shocked communities nationwide. Even the 2013 Super Bowl will forever be remembered for the surprising stadium blackout that left players, fans and viewers in the dark. There’s a lot businesses can learn from last year about being prepared in 2014. Here are some of the most important lessons:
Be prepared for floods. Did you know that flooding led to disaster declarations in over half a dozen states last year? Many businesses forgo flood insurance, even though they could be wiped out in the event of a flood. Make a pledge to find out if flood insurance makes sense for your business. We can help!
Plan for a wide variety of emergencies. Last year was an epic year for disasters and emergencies. But it wasn’t only nature that impacted businesses in a big way. The tragic shootings in Washington, DC this year shocked us all. So did the bombings in Boston. That’s why it’s important to plan for a variety of disasters and emergencies.
Don’t underestimate risk. Much of the flooding in 2013 occurred in low-risk areas and parts of the country with no prior flooding problems. And a new study shows that the frequency and severity of tornadoes are actually much more widespread than once believed. Your insurance carrier can help you determine your company’s risk for flooding and severe weather to help make sure you’re adequately insured.
Don’t forget the flu. A massive flu outbreak impacted more than 41 states in January 2013. This year, take steps to protect your business and your employees from flu-related absenteeism in the cold-weather months.
It’s that time of year to think about goals for the year ahead. Why not make a few that could help you and your family improve your finances? Here are some suggestions:
Re-examine major spending categories. Make a commitment to examine your major spending categories, including cellphone, cable service and utilities. Are you paying for any features or time you aren’t using? Could you go with a cheaper plan? What about your land line – do you really need it? Call your service providers and see if they have any less-expensive plans, promotions or ideas to help you save money. Shop around or ask for a better rate from the companies you regularly pay money to.
Look at where the pennies are going. Those bi-weekly trips to Starbucks and the office vending machine, lunches out, and occasional recreational shopping sprees all add up. Quitting cold turkey may not work, though. Scale back gradually. And remember it’s still important to enjoy a splurge now and then.
Put savings on autopilot. Consider making a commitment this year to enroll in or expand your participation in automatic savings plans. Think about enrolling in your employer’s 401(k) plan, making sure to take advantage of any match that’s offered. Also consider having an amount from your paycheck automatically diverted into a savings account or other savings vehicle. If your employer doesn’t offer this option, have an amount automatically transferred each month from checking to savings. Many families start saving for the holidays in January and by fall, have enough money set aside to buy presents come Christmastime. Others use automatic savings plans to accumulate three to six month’s worth of living expenses in an emergency savings account. With automatic savings plans, you won’t forget to write that check. And you’ll be surprised just how quickly automatic savings add up.
Lay off the credit cards. Carrying a credit card balance with a double-digit interest rate is a big wealth-zapper. Plus, study after study has shown that consumers who pay with plastic spend more than those who use cash. Make a plan to pay down credit card debt. One way to do this is bringing only cash to the store. Many financial advisers believe ditching credit card debt should be the first financial priority for families.
Even seemingly small resolutions, such as bringing your own lunch to work instead of going out each day, can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year. Adopt a few financial resolutions this year and you’ll be surprised at how much progress you can make by this time next year!
Dish and Legume, along with Everyday Noodles, Cure, and Fukuda have been named Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Restaurants “Five Restaurants that sizzle”
“These would be restaurants that don’t copy trends from notable restaurants in bigger cities with different demographics. They would have a cohesive, consistent vision. They would display chefs’ years of experience, many mentors, hard work and the influence of travel. They would demonstrate a deep understanding of how to cook as well as a commitment to quality. And for each restaurant, food is rooted in a genre that speaks to Pittsburgh diners.”
Legume and Butterjoint - 214 N. Craig St., Oakland.
Dish Osteria and Bar; Tagliatelle ai Funghi : Fresh tagliatelle with Portobello, shiitake and cremini mushrooms in extra virgin and garlic. Spinach, basil and parmiggiano Reggiano.
Dish Osteria and Bar - 128 S. 17th St., South Side.
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/life/dining/2013/12/22/Five-Pittsburgh-restaurants-that-sizzle-Everyday-Noodles-C ure-Legume-Fukuda-and-Dish/stories/201312220033#ixzz2oci1SPjA
Do you ever wish you could forecast the business climate with greater accuracy?
There will always be those astute business owners who accurately call the next play ahead of their competitors. Oddly enough, the most inaccurate forecasts happen in times of less upheaval, because it’s human nature to assume a steady ship will stay on course. But doing some business forecasting (and planning for bad times) when times are good is a great way to help protect your business. Here are four areas you may want to focus on when planning for your business:
- Cyber security. Managing a digital identity is paramount. What’s the meaning of a business reputation if hackers can hijack yours? Three-quarters of cyber attacks target businesses with less than 500 employees and the average cost of the attack was $190,000. That’s according to the Department of Homeland Security [PDF]. Do your due diligence to ward off those attacks. Bring in an expert to close security holes. And consider a special insurance policy to cover technology-related risks.
- Extreme weather and natural disasters. Superstorm Sandy ran up a $20 billion bill for taxpayers and businesses, and she wasn’t alone in her fury. In 2011 an aggregate of over two-dozen natural disasters tallied up to an astronomical price tag for Americans. Take steps now to ensure your business has a disaster game plan in place. And talk to us about making sure you’re covered against floods or earthquakes, both of which aren’t covered under standard business insurance policies. We can help you forecast which types of disasters are most likely to affect your business.
- Mobile security. Around nine out of 10 U.S. companies surveyed admitted they failed to develop security standards for mobile phones. Mobile wallets are here to stay and they are predicted to make a huge impact on consumer behavior. Is your business ready for what promises to be the biggest change in consumer transactions since the credit card reshaped the marketplace decades ago?
- Changing demographics. The ballooning population of those with infirmities will present new challenges as most people think Baby Boomers are health-conscious and active. That’s a very inaccurate picture. We’ll likely see millions of diabetics and other aging Americans suffering from a multitude of lifestyle-induced disease. Does your company have a wellness plan to help keep health insurance costs under control? Do you have a plan for dealing with the relentless increase in health insurance premiums over time?
Many businesses don’t survive because of a lack of forecasting and planning. Make some time now so that yours isn’t one of them!
Just like the people who live inside it, your home is happiest when it’s healthy, which means it needs a good checkup now and again. Some parts of your home need to be examined throughout the year while others need seasonal maintenance. Consider some of these helpful hints when diagnosing your home’s health any time of year.
- Roof: Starting at the top and working your way to the bottom is one way to ensure your home is problem-free. Always be sure your roof is free of leaks by giving vents, skylights and chimneys a once over. Don’t let issues go untreated. The longer you wait, the more costly repairs can be.
- Gutters: Keep your gutters clog-free and remember to drain pipes away from the house. This chore is common on many checklists just as fall sets in, especially in colder climates.
- Refrigerator: Get your wallet or purse out before you check out your fridge. Take a dollar bill and shut it in your refrigerator door. If it slips out easily, it may be time to readjust the latch. You don’t want precious cool air to leak out, causing your food to spoil more rapidly and your wallet to grow increasingly slim as you replace pricey grocery items. When you are stocking up, remember a full fridge uses less energy than an empty one.
- Safety Equipment: There is no excuse for allowing safety equipment like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers to go unchecked. These devices might save your family and your home from a terrible tragedy. Be sure to test and replace batteries at least twice a year.
Check out these and other time-saving tips for keeping your home in tip-top shape.
You know your company needs a disaster plan. But did you know that employees that help with disaster planning are more likely to help their company successfully cope with a major business interruption? Here are some tips from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety for incorporating the human factor in disaster preparedness:
Ask for input. Ask your employees what they think would work best for your company in a disaster situation. Have any of them been through a previous disaster or have any experience in disaster planning? Your staff may have some great ideas for what works in an emergency and what doesn’t.
Assign responsibilities. Give your employees specific roles in the event of a disaster.
Have periodic staff meetings. Periodically update employees about your company’s business continuity plan and what you expect each employee to do in the event a disaster. Periodic evacuation drills and tests are great ways to make sure your business is truly ready and that no one panics during a real disaster. For more tips, go here.
You may have heard that red cars cost more to insure. Or that white cars cost less. In reality, the color of your car probably has no effect on what you pay for auto insurance. Surprised? There are plenty of other myths about factors driving the cost of auto insurance. So what really matters to insurance companies? Check out this list from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners of factors that do matter to insurance companies as they determine the cost of your auto insurance policy:
- Your driving record. Drivers with previous violations or accidents are considered to be higher risk and pay more than those with no violations or accidents on their record.
- Your gender and age. Generally, men have more accidents than women. Also, certain age groups, such as young adults under the age of 25, have more claims. And higher premiums.
- Your marital status. As a group, married people show lower rates of claims than single drivers and pay less in premiums.
- Vehicle use. Higher annual mileage results in higher exposure to risk and higher premiums.
- Make and model of your vehicle. Car shopping? Call your insurance agent before you buy. Some cars definitely cost more to insure than others!