Home Improvement: Beyond Homeowners Insurance

If you’re about to renovate your kitchen, finish your basement, add a room to your house, or dig a pool, you have probably been careful about researching excellent, reliable contractors to do the work. Be sure to review your homeowners insurance, too, to understand how changes in your home can change your insurance needs.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one in five job-related accidents in the U.S. last year were in the construction industry. That’s not counting the accidents that can happen after your renovation or addition has been safely completed. Here are some steps you can take to make sure you’re covered.

• Ask your contractor for a copy of their certificate of insurance. This request is standard and should be easy for them to provide. The contractor’s certificate should indicate their General Liability Insurance, Workers Compensation Insurance, and Property Insurance. Even the best and safest contractors may have accidents, and construction sites are especially vulnerable to weather anomalies and minor mishaps.

• Request the certificate and talk to your insurance agent. Anything your contractor isn’t covered for, you could be responsible for as the property owner. And if you’re doing the work yourself, you will need your own insurance.

Make sure that the General Liability Coverage taken out by you or your contractor protects you against any damage to your neighbors’ property, as well as to your own.

Ask your agent also about Builder’s Risk Insurance to cover possible damage to uninstalled appliances, furniture, and materials.

• Talk to your insurance agent about how your project may decrease your insurance. Are you making changes that make your home safer? If you are replacing old wiring or outdated plumbing, reinforcing or rebuilding a roof, or adding a security system, sprinkler system, or fire alarm, your improvements will make your home safer, and that can result in a discount to your insurance rates. You may want to include one or more of these safety improvements in a project you’ve already envisioned.

• Ask your insurance agent if your changes will increase your insurance. Many home improvements increase the value of your home, and therefore, your homeowners insurance should also increase. You’ve just made your home more valuable, probably increasing its resale value. Certainly, you’ll want that value back if the unthinkable does happen. And your insurance company may have a rule about the percentage of the value of your home that has to be covered.

• Find out if you need additional types of insurance. Adding a swimming pool or adding a deck, especially a second-story deck, could raise your General Liability Insurance. An accident doesn’t have to be your fault or the fault of your contractor to make you liable for damages.

If you’re finishing a basement for use as living space, find out about the risk of flooding, and talk to your insurance company about Flood Insurance. Flood, earthquake, and other disaster insurance are not generally included in a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Making your home your dream house should be a positive experience. If you’re about to start a construction project and are not sure about where you stand with any of these points, call your insurance agent right away.

Or you can contact the Griffin Owens Insurance Group at 703-471-0050 or by using the simple form at Griffin Owens Contact. At Griffin Owens, we have experience in a large variety of business, personal, and financial insurance solutions. We’d be glad to talk with you about preparing for your home improvement project.

Aging in Place. Planning to live well.

According to the US Census Bureau by the year 2030, all baby boomers will be over the age of 65 and represent 20% of the US population. And, for the first time in US history, older adults will outnumber children.
These statistics are really not much of a surprise. In fact, it is not unusual to know retired adults who are caring for their retired parents. Older adults are living longer and the implications are clear, the growing number of aging adults in the United States will impact all areas: medical delivery, economic stability, and housing.
To ease the challenges of growing older many are choosing to “age in place”. A concept whose popularity has increased each year. It is a popular choice for a variety of reasons: living costs can be lower than an assisted care residence, the mortgage has been paid off, the neighborhood and the neighbors are familiar and provide comfortable surroundings, and the home is filled with memories and treasures providing emotional support and comfort.
Are you thinking about aging in place? Successful aging in place requires thoughtful planning and implementation to keep you and your loved ones safe.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Consider Home Modifications. Adapting your home now may help prevent falls in the future. Adding handrails to the bathing area, putting in place non-slip rugs and floor surfaces, changing the location of the washer/dryer to the main level, chair lifts for staircases, and even adding larger handles and door pulls may help prevent injuries.
  2. Consider emergencies. Add flashing lights to doorbells and fire alarms, wear pendants and necklaces for emergency contact at the push of a button, and install home security alarms to prevent intruders.
  3.  Learn alternate transportation options. While you may be driving today, consider the options for travel should you no longer find driving comfortable. While you may love the inside of your home, you need to be able to move freely outside the home as well.
  4. Find reputable home maintenance agencies to help with repairs. Those chores that you may have done earlier will not look so appealing as balance and mobility changes. And, those chores need to be done as frequently as before.
  5. Insurance Review. Contact your insurance agent for a full review of coverage including home, car, personal property, and liability. Consider reviewing life insurance and long term care insurance riders. There are products now available to help cover long term care expenses that may meet your needs.

Aging in Place is a current trend and promotes independent living. For families, there are so many considerations regarding the home modifications, financial planning, long term health planning, insurance and finding the right home care provider. According to the Homecare Association of America, “homecare benefits seniors… keeping seniors safe, healthy, engaged and active, Value of Homecare.

To promote independent living, we can help create a plan and support your family.

Call 703-471-0050 or connect with us at  Griffin Owens Insurance Group.

Drive Smart Virginia- Distracted Driving

distracted driver on cell phone

Distracted driving is dangerous and continues to kill and injure more people each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), as a result of distracted driving, 3,450 people were killed in 2016, and hundreds of thousands injured. These numbers continue to rise as technology becomes a larger part of our daily life.

Distracted driving is not a new issue; it includes anything that takes the drivers’ eyes off the road. And, seconds do matter. At 55 miles per hour, looking away from the road for 5 seconds has been compared to driving the length of a football field blindfolded. The introduction of smartphones, smart cars and texting has exponentially increased these dangers– and teenagers present the greatest risk.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) calls it an epidemic and federal, state and local governments are paying attention. For example, Texas now requires new drivers over the age of 18 to take a distracted driver course, Virginia has the “DRIVE SMART” campaign aimed at improving safety, and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) launched a  “Keep the Road Code” pledge and campaign. New devices on cars are also helping through new features including blind spot warning systems, lane change alerts, back up warning signals and assisted braking mechanisms.

Companies are stepping up as well. Distracted driving by employees is dangerous and a concern for businesses.  Social responsibility, economic liability and public safety are encouraging internal rules and education in the corporate world.

With the knowledge that cellphone interactions while driving are up 57 percent over early studies, the insurance industry is helping to lead some of these initiatives, not only through education but targeted awareness campaigns. A recent study by car insurance search engine, The Zebra, confirmed that motorists ticketed for distracted driving could see their auto insurance premiums increase by an average of 16%, or roughly $226 a year. The study also found that premiums increased by 41% in one state when policyholders are charged with distracted driving violations. Social, criminal and financial implications will continue to grow as a result of distracted driving in our society.

We all need to work together to change these dangerous behaviors through meaningful legislation, targeted media campaigns, and education.

We know how important these issues are and we are trying to do our part. Throughout the year we work to educate Virginians about the dangers of taking their eyes and mind off the road. We discuss not only the risks of cell phone use but eating, drinking, grooming, reading and even tending to pets and children while driving.

As we all work together for positive change, there may be questions you have regarding insurance and your policy. Please feel free to give us a call at703- 471-0050, email or visit our website.

Cyber Liability vs Data Breach

cyberliability insurance

“Houston, we have a problem!”

The Problem

All businesses today are at risk from a cyber-attack. As noted in Small Business Trends, 1 in 40 small businesses and 1 in 2 larger businesses may be victims of a cyber crime each year. The risk to businesses will continue to increase as cyber-crimes, cyber-liability and data breaches evolve and become more sophisticated.

As a small business, it is not only critical to secure data, it is your responsibility. With nearly all transactions having a digital component, the safety and security of that data cannot be left to chance. The implementation of strong, safe and reliable protections are the best practices for successful long term growth and trusted business relationships.

Cyber threats are complex and unpredictable. They come in many forms including: unauthorized access, theft, destruction of data, social engineering, transmission of viruses, malicious codes, and extortion. Unauthorized access related to proprietary assets could result in a data breach ending up in the wrong hands. Extortion occurs when hackers take over your data often demanding money for the release of your information. Social engineering may include baiting or phishing to persuade you to provide information that later is used against your company. In addition, the loss of revenue associated with a cyber-attack can be massive and often unrecoverable.

Businesses should embrace the opportunity to implement protections keeping their data, and their clients safe in cyberspace. There are dedicated companies providing solutions for cyber liability and peace of mind. See some tips below on being proactive and asking the right questions.

Questions To Ask

  • Do you have malware to protect you in case of a data breach?
  • Have you consulted with an insurance company specializing in online business security?
  • What would you do if your website was locked down or inaccessible for business?
  • How would you communicate a problem to your clients?
  • Have you consulted with an insurance company specializing in cyber liability?
  • Have you consulted with a law firm that specializes in data breach issues?
  • Do you have an investigative and forensic firm to support you?
  • Do you have a PR firm for reputation management?

Assess Risk: Solution

There are tools to assess your business’ risk. Our Cyber Scorecard for Business will help identify and analyze cyber liability risk exposure. After identifying the areas that need protection, you can explore coverage that meets your business needs.

Getting Started

To start your assessment and evaluate your company’s risk level call 571-386-1000 or email us at info@griffinowens.com. Read more about our cyber liability insurance as well.

For more information on data breach, watch the video below.

How Much Do I Need to Save?

Lady looking at budget spreadsheet with worried look

Many Americans realize the importance of saving for retirement, but knowing exactly how much they need to save is another issue altogether. With all the information available about retirement, it is sometimes difficult to decipher what is appropriate for your specific situation.

One rule of thumb is that retirees will need approximately 80% of their pre-retirement salaries to maintain their lifestyles in retirement. However, depending on your own situation and the type of retirement you hope to have, that number may be higher or lower.

Here are some factors to consider when determining a retirement savings goal.

Retirement Age

thumbs upThe first factor to consider is the age at which you expect to retire. In reality, many people anticipate that they will retire later than they actually do; unexpected issues, such as health problems or workplace changes (downsizing, etc.), tend to stand in their way. Of course, the earlier you retire, the more money you will need to last throughout retirement. It’s important to prepare for unanticipated occurrences that could force you into an early retirement.

Life Expectancy

Although you can’t know what the duration of your life will be, there are a few factors that may give you a hint.

You should take into account your family history — how long your relatives have lived and diseases that are common in your family — as well as your own past and present health issues. Also consider that life spans are becoming longer with recent medical developments. More people will be living to age 100, or perhaps even longer. When calculating how much you need to save, you should factor in the number of years you expect to spend in retirement.

Future Health-Care Needs

Another factor to consider is the cost of health care. Health-care costs have been rising much faster than general inflation, and fewer employers are offering health benefits to retirees. Long-term care is another consideration. These costs could severely dip into your savings and even result in your filing for bankruptcy if the need for care is prolonged.

Lifestyle

Another important consideration is your desired retirement lifestyle. Do you want to travel? Are you planning to be involved in philanthropic endeavors? Will you have an expensive country club membership? Are there any hobbies you would like to pursue? The answers to these questions can help you decide what additional costs your ideal retirement will require.

Many baby boomers expect that they will work part-time in retirement. However, if this is your intention and you find that working longer becomes impossible, you will still need the appropriate funds to support your retirement lifestyle.

Inflation

If you think you have accounted for every possibility when constructing a savings goal but forget this vital component, your savings could be far from sufficient. Inflation has the potential to lower the value of your savings from year to year, significantly reducing your purchasing power over time. It is important for your savings to keep pace with or exceed inflation.

Social Security

Many retirees believe that they can rely on their future Social Security benefits. However, this may not be true for you. The Social Security system is under increasing strain as more baby boomers are retiring and fewer workers are available to pay their benefits. And the reality is that Social Security currently provides only 45% of the total income of Americans aged 65 and older with at least $63,648 in annual household income.1 That leaves 55% to be covered in other ways.

And the Total Is…

After considering all these factors, you should have a much better idea of how much you need to save for retirement.

For example, let’s assume you will retire when you are 65 and spend a total of 20 years in retirement, living to age 85. Your annual income is currently $80,000, and you think that 75% of your pre-retirement income ($60,000) will be enough to cover the costs of your ideal retirement, including some travel you intend to do and potential health-care expenses. After factoring in the $16,000* annual Social Security benefit you expect to receive, a $10,000 annual pension from your employer, and 4% potential inflation, you end up with a total retirement savings amount of about $800,000. (For your own situation, you can use a retirement savings calculator from your retirement plan provider or from a financial site on the Internet.) This hypothetical example is used for illustrative purposes only and does not represent the performance of any specific investment.

The estimated total for this hypothetical example may seem daunting. But after determining your retirement savings goal and factoring in how much you have saved already, you may be able to determine how much you need to save each year to reach your destination. The important thing is to come up with a goal and then develop a strategy to pursue it. You don’t want to spend your retirement years wishing you had planned ahead when you had the time. The sooner you start saving and investing to reach your goal, the closer you will be to realizing your retirement dreams.

* The estimated average annual Social Security benefit payable in January 2016.

Source: 1) Income of the Population 55 or Older, 2012, Social Security Administration, 2014

 

The information in this article is not intended to be tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Emerald. © 2016 Emerald Connect, LLC

Addressing Retirement Plan Misconceptions

Lady taking stock of merchandise

Eighty-six percent of small-business owners say that America’s workers are facing a retirement readiness crisis according to a recent survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Nationwide.

The survey found that 34 percent of business owners surveyed currently offer retirement plans, and only 19 percent of business owners who don’t currently offer 401(k) plans say they will offer them in the future.

Joe Frustaglio, leader of Nationwide’s private sector retirement plans business, says that when he talks with business owners, they often have misconceptions that prevent them from starting a 401(k) plan for their employees. Those typically fall under three categories.

Misconception #1: Plans are too expensive for small businesses.

The reality: Small-business owners have options and can offer a plan that minimizes fee impact for both the owner and employee. Frustaglio says that if business owners haven’t looked for a plan in the last five or ten years, they should. Retirement plan prices have become significantly more affordable in the last decade – a time when health care benefit costs have dramatically increased. In fact, retirement benefit costs have decreased nearly 50 percent in the last two decades – one of the only employee benefits that has realized a price decrease.

Misconception #2: It’s hard to find a plan that can meet an individual business’ needs.

The reality: Plans of all sizes can be customized to deliver on the needs of the business owner and employees. In fact, business owners can offer employees retirement benefit options beyond traditional 401(k) plans. Frustaglio says it’s about finding the right solution for the business owner and his or her employees. Successful retirement plans happen when the business owner, his or her financial advisor and the retirement plan provider work together to support employees with the options, educational services and guidance they need.

Misconception #3: Small-business retirement plans can’t compete with large corporations’ plans.

The reality: Small businesses have access to the same retirement plan options as the largest corporations. Today, an owner of a business of any size can offer employees retirement plan options that can help them successfully save for retirement, including:

  • Automatic enrollment in the plan
  • Automatic annual escalation of employee contributions
  • Choice in investment selections
  • Immediate plan eligibility and vesting

Frustaglio says that professionally managed account choices are especially key because they give employees access to a “do it for me” option.

Business owners should contact their financial advisor if they have questions about their current retirement benefits plan or are interested in starting a plan. Nationwide also provides (opens in a new window)resources for business owners to learn about the support and options available to them.

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Cafe Latino With Friends

Cafe Latino Kitchen

Patricia Cundall was on Café Latino with friends cooking with friends hosted by Laura Ramirez-Drain.  Third Friday at 11:00 pm on Channel 10

Patty has been an agent at @Griffin-Owens Insurance for over 20 years.  She cooked a traditional Peruvian dish call Papa a la Huancaína on the show, which is a Peruvian appetizer of boiled yellow potatoes in a spicy, creamy sauce called Huancaína sauce. Although the dish’s name is derived from Huancayo, a city in the Peruvian highlands, this dish is from Lima – Perú.