Remodeling, renovation can affect home’s value

Remodeling and renovation projects can add significantly to the value of your home. Whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor, remember to update your homeowner insurance as you increase your home’s value.

The Coverage A limit on your homeowner policy is the amount of insurance you have to reconstruct your home in the event of a total loss. All costs associated with replacing or rebuilding your home are considered when developing this Coverage A limit. When you make changes that increase the value of your home, you may also need to increase the coverage limit.

Reconstruction cost is the cost to hire a contractor to replace the home as it is, in today’s marketplace, using materials and design of similar quality. Determining the reconstruction cost of your home can be a challenging and complex process. In most situations, reconstruction cost does not reflect the market value, tax assessor value or the initial construction cost of the home – even on a new home.

As you plan your next project, take an inventory of your home’s new features. Consider interior changes as well as exterior.

  • Does the addition on your home have a different roof material than the rest of your home?
  • Does the new deck you built include a kitchen, built-in grill or electric fireplace?
  • Is your contractor installing built-in bookshelves and TV cabinets?
  • Are you finishing your attic area to create an extra bedroom?
  • Did you upgrade your windows?

You may put lots of time into picking out countertops and appliances for your new basement kitchen, type of wood for cabinetry, the color of brick to match the original portion of your home, quality of decking materials and other factors. Remember to share these important changes with AYres Group agent.

Most insurance companies offer a replacement cost endorsement to ensure you will get the full reconstruction cost to rebuild your home in the event of a covered total loss, or a percentage more than the limit of insurance on your declarations page. You may also wish to explore this option with your agent.

Discuss your homeowner coverage with your Ayres Group agent to be sure your home and the investment it represents are adequately insured in the event of a loss.

When deer and your vehicle meet

As the outdoor temperature gradually drops, deer activity and deer-vehicle accidents increase. Every year across the country, deer-vehicle accidents account for billions of dollars in vehicle damage, thousands of injuries and hundreds of fatalities. These tips can help you avoid a collision with a deer and stay safe while on the road.

  • Dawn, dusk and night are the times you are most likely to encounter deer in the roadway.
  • The annual deer breeding season, also known as the rut, occurs mainly from October through December, but also can extend into January for some southern states.
  • Deer can be very active and unpredictable at these times while they are searching for mates.
  • Use extreme caution at these times of the day and year or when you’re in a location conducive to deer activity.
  • Country roads, farmland and heavily wooded areas are known for high deer populations, but it’s also not uncommon to encounter deer in suburban or urban areas.
  • Deer are herd animals. If you see one, more deer are likely to follow.
  • Headlights won’t necessarily scare deer.  Sometimes they cause deer to stop in their tracks and on the road.
  • Don’t rely on vehicle-mounted whistles or reflectors designed to keep deer away from your vehicle. Studies show they are not effective.

Tips that can help you stay safe:

  • Always wear your seatbelt.
  • Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.
  • Drive at or below the speed limit when in areas with large deer populations.
  • Use high-beam headlights when it is safe to do so in order to enhance your visibility.
  • Be aware of Deer Crossing signs. These signs are strategically placed in areas frequently used by deer to cross the road.
  • Reduce speed in areas with high deer traffic, as well as situations where terrain, weather, darkness or other conditions impair your ability to see and react to deer in or near the roadway.
  • Slow down or stop if it’s safe to do so as you approach deer in the road or on the roadside.
  • Don’t swerve your vehicle to avoid hitting a deer. This could cause you to lose control and hit another vehicle or object.

If you hit a deer: 

  • Contact the local emergency services if anyone is injured.
  • Notify the local law enforcement agency of the accident.
  • Report the accident to your insurance agent or insurance company as soon as possible.
  • Never attempt to approach the deer. Deer are unpredictable wild animals. When injured, they could cause personal harm to you or run back into the roadway in front of traffic, causing another accident.

Life insurance can protect family from college debt

As college graduates take the next step, one thing is often left out of the process – life insurance. Young adults often carry debt with them into the working world, whether from student loans, car loans or credit card debt.

If you are a recent graduate, have you considered what could happen if you were no longer around to cover your loan payments? Would your loved ones struggle to make ends meet?

Many people do not realize that – depending on their loan agreement – their spouse, cosigner or estate might be responsible for paying off student debt. A 2016 LIMRA study found one in three households would have immediate trouble paying daily living expenses after the death of a primary wage earner. This need tends to be compounded for young adults who are not financially established in life. Most people are not expecting to cover the loan payments and final expenses of a young relative, but tragedies can happen, and life insurance can provide the financial protection to cover these costs while a family grieves.

Through the purchase of a term life insurance policy, a young adult could obtain coverage to fit their stage of life. Term life insurance offers a level death benefit for a guaranteed period of time ranging from 10 to 30 years. Furthermore, an applicant can usually obtain the most cost-effective coverage while still young. Term life insurance is an ideal product to protect a new professional’s family from financial distress in the event of an untimely death.

And it probably costs less than you think. Term life insurance tends to be the least expensive coverage option for an individual. A 2017 Insurance Barometer Study indicated that four in 10 millennials overestimate the cost of term life insurance by more than five times the actual cost. Even with a tight budget, term life insurance can provide the necessary coverage to protect one’s family.

Contact your Ayres Group representative for more information.

How much life insurance do I need?

Once you have decided to purchase life insurance, the next question to answer is how much to purchase.

Some people select coverage based on an arbitrary amount: $100,000 or $200,000. Others purchase enough to pay off a home mortgage or other major bill. And some stick to the tried-and-true measure of 10 times salary.

But there are other methods to consider. You can complete a fact finder/needs list or use a life insurance calculator.

Using a fact finder ̶  something you would complete with your Ayres Group agent  ̶  is a fancy way of saying making a list. The list would include things you would want the life insurance proceeds to cover in the event of an untimely death: car note, college tuition, income replacement, etc. Then prioritize the list based on need and importance.

If you are computer savvy ̶  and you probably are if you are reading a blog  ̶  I would recommend the life calculator on Life Happens is a life insurance educational site independent from any life insurance company. You can find out about the different types of life products available, for example, permanent vs. term, universal life vs. guaranteed whole life and other options. The Life Insurance Needs Calculator is on the Calculator tab. By investing just 5 or 10 minutes of your time, you can receive a calculation of the amount of life insurance you need.

Regardless of calculation method, you may be overwhelmed by the size of the need number. Don’t be. Think of it as only a starting point. Show your calculations to a life insurance agent, who can help fine tune your numbers.

You also want to consider your budget. You never want to be insurance poor, meaning that you purchased so much insurance it caused a major change in your lifestyle. However, would eliminating one fancy coffee or an unnecessary trip to the snack vending machine disturb your routine much? There’s nothing wrong with working backward, first determining the amount that fits within your budget, then determining the coverage type and amount.

And one final thought: any insurance is better than none. Remember that the death benefit is TAX-FREE. A little gift would still go a long way for your family.

Neither The Ayres Group nor its affiliates or representatives offer tax or legal advice. Consult with your tax adviser or attorney about your specific situation. 



Life insurance in the workplace

Good benefits can increase employee satisfaction. If you are an employer, providing valuable benefits that can be paid via payroll deduction can give you an edge when trying to attract and retain workers. Life insurance is one benefit you can offer in the workplace at a reasonable cost.

But as you consider offering life insurance, you may ask: How much coverage is needed? What about protection for family members?

According to LIMRA, a leading insurance and financial services trade organization, millions of Americans have no life insurance coverage other than the employee group term life insurance offered by their employers. Group life insurance plans usually include a cost to the employer, offer limited coverage options for the employees, and are not portable if an employee leaves the company. And, since these plans cover employees only, an even greater number of people have no coverage for their spouses or dependent children.

A LIMRA study found that almost eight in 10 American households have no personal life insurance agent. The only opportunity they may have to work with an insurance professional is through the employee benefit programs offered by their employers.

Individual life insurance as a voluntary benefit Voluntary life insurance plans offer individually owned life insurance to employees, their spouses and dependent children without direct cost to the employer. These plans give employees the flexibility to build an insurance program according to their needs and budgets. Some of the features you may want to look for are:

  • Guaranteed issue
  • Eligibility without a medical exam or blood profile
  • Availability to add the employee’s spouse, children and grandchildren
  • Premiums paid through the convenience of payroll deduction
  • Customizable policies to meet individual family needs
  • Portability – the option to continue coverage with no change in death benefit or cost if an employee leaves or retires
  • Voluntary – no sales pressure approach

Employees want a variety of benefits to choose from, which leaves you to decide what options to offer. Consider that retaining current employees is more cost effective for a business than hiring new. Offering your employees the added financial protection they may need in the event that something unexpected happens could be a deciding factor in their retention.

Talk with your Ayres Group agent to learn more about voluntary life insurance opportunities.

Be alert for skimmers and scammers!

Before you swipe your bank card or credit card to make a payment or complete a bank transaction, be alert for skimmer devices attached inside or over the real card reader. Criminals use skimmers to capture the information from the magnetic strip on credit or debit cards, gaining unauthorized access to consumer accounts.

Skimmers have become increasingly prevalent as they are easy to put in place. The skimmer device fits right over or inside the real card reader. When the card is swiped, it passes through the skimmer before going into the real reader. Skimmers have popped up at bank drive-through ATMs, gas stations and other businesses, especially in remote locations or places that are difficult to monitor.

There are a few things you can do to make sure your account information stays safe.


Look for signs of tampering or bulkiness of the card reader you are about to use. If it looks too thick, damaged, loose or just does not look right, report it to the bank or business and use a different machine. Consumers have even reported parts of skimmers coming off the ATM. The FBI offers additional tips and illustrations of what to look for.  If you see someone tampering with or hanging around an ATM machine, report this information as soon as possible to law enforcement or the bank or related business hosting the machine. Sometimes criminals hang around machines to collect information via a Bluetooth connection or wait for an opportunity to add a skimmer or make changes to a machine.


Many newer credit cards have radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. The chips use a wireless, electromagnetic field to transmit information across short distances. Criminals use small remote skimmers that can be concealed in a pocket to collect information from the RFID chip. With these skimmers, the card need not be physically swiped to compromise the information. The electronic pickpocket need only walk a few feet away from you to collect information from the chip.

To prevent information theft, use a card carrier with a lined casing to shield the signal from the card. The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation put out a Consumer Alert describing additional measures you can take, such as stacking several RFID-equipped cards together.


If you do fall victim to a skimmer or RFID scam, immediately report it to law enforcement, providing as many details as possible. Contact the security department of your bank or the retailer whose card was compromised. Close the account and put a fraud alert on your credit file.

Protecting Your Collection and Preventing Loss

Collecting can be an enjoyable hobby, an educational pursuit or even a financial investment. So how do you look after a collection now that you’ve assembled one? While every collection is unique and has its own specific needs, you can take some simple loss prevention steps to help protect yours from loss or damage.

A good place to begin is creating and maintaining a current inventory of your collection. For each item in your collection, your inventory list should include: artist/maker, title, date, type of object, materials used, any inscriptions or markings on the object and its value. Be sure to include photographs to document the condition of each item and store a copy in a secure, secondary location such as a safe deposit box.

Theft and fire are two of the most common causes of loss involving collections. Consider installing centrally monitored burglar and fire alarm systems. Not only will this help keep you and your family safe while deterring loss or damage to your collection, it can sometimes result in savings on your insurance policy.

When choosing how to display or store your collection, consider the following suggestions:

  • Hire a professional art handler to ensure objects are properly installed.
  • Avoid hanging objects behind doors, in narrow hallways or in close proximity to furniture or shelving.
  • Do not hang objects above a working fireplace or in close proximity to other heat sources such as radiators.
  • Keep objects out of direct sunlight, as UV light can cause severe damage, specifically works on paper, photographs or textiles.
  • Do not store objects in basements or attics, as these areas are vulnerable to flooding, leaks and dramatic temperature changes).
  • Fragile objects should be displayed behind glass or secured with specialty wax, putty or gel.
  • Have a mulch bed or other type of barrier around outdoor sculptures to prevent damage from lawn equipment.

Realize, too, that all art objects are sensitive to the influences of temperature and humidity, which could lead to damage such as warping, cracking and mold growth. Maintaining a controlled home temperature and humidity level will help prevent damage to your collection.

Sometimes accidents simply can’t be anticipated or stopped, but by implementing some of these preventive loss measures, you have a better chance of increasing the longevity of your collection.

Contact your local Ayres Group Agent for advice on coverages to protect your collection.

7 safety tips for winter construction

Construction doesn’t take a break in the winter. If you manage a construction site, think about the additional hazards of the season and take the appropriate safety precautions.

Cold temperatures, wet and snowy weather and wind chill can take a harsh toll on the human body. Increase your knowledge and awareness of cold weather issues such as frostbite and hypothermia.

Pay special attention during the winter months at your construction site to avoid safety hazards.

  1. Know the signs of winter-related injuries and illness. Educate your workers and supervisors about these cold-related injuries and illnesses and their warning signs and symptoms. For instance, shivering, lack of coordination and slurred speech are symptoms of hypothermia. If a worker exhibits any signs of illness or injury, call emergency help immediately. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides a Cold Stress Card that describes how to prevent and treat these serious illnesses.
  2. Require workers to wear the proper clothing and gear. Clothing and gear should be based on the temperature, weather conditions and duration of activity. Workers should wear layers whenever necessary, including an insulating, moisture-wicking base layer and a waterproof outer layer. Workers also should wear insulated, waterproof boots with extreme traction as well as warm socks and hats and gloves with grips to handle equipment safely.
  3. Discourage workers from drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages. Many construction workers work overnight and turn to drinks with caffeine to help them get through their shift. However, drinking caffeinated beverages in winter can increase workers’ heart rates, making them feel falsely warm. Instead, encourage workers to drink water to stay hydrated.
  4. Remove ice and snow before starting work. Construction workers have enough conditions causing danger at the worksite; they don’t need to add ice and snow to the mix. Make sure all ice and snow has been removed and salt or sand has been put down on any large patches of ice before starting work. It may seem like a time-consuming task, but it will protect everybody on the job site.
  5. Provide a warm break area. Outside work is necessary for the construction industry, but workers need a place to take a break from the elements and warm themselves. It can be a heated trailer or a tent with portable heaters. Employers also should be sure supervisors and workers follow proper safety procedures with heating devices.

Construction workers have a dangerous job, especially during the winter. Make sure your crew is properly prepared for the extreme temperatures, snow and ice this winter. For more information and guidance on this topic, please review the resources from OSHAand CPWR, The Center for Construction Research and Training

5 tips for getting organized

For many of us, one of our New Year’s resolutions is to be more organized. The good news is that unlike that other resolution we all seem to make each year, improving organization doesn’t require hours at the gym to see results.

Here are five simple ways to have a more organized new year.

  1. Keep Lists
    Reduce the stress of having to remember everything by writing it down. This works well for groceries, errands, and general “to-do’s.” You’ll be amazed at how much you get done. Technology today offers so many convenient options, it’s easy to find a solution that’s right for you. Between smartphone and tablet apps for taking notes and creating lists, 2017 is the year you should give something a try. It won’t take long to get hooked, and you’ll wonder how you managed without it.
  2. Reduce Paper Clutter
    Take advantage of the electronic delivery and online payment services that your banks, utilities, credit card and insurance companies offer. If you already pay online, but still receive paper statements, it’s time to turn them off. I know you like the control, but you’re missing the convenience of auto-payments where bills are paid automatically … and on time! Not only do you eliminate late fees and paper files at home, you also reduce the risk of identity theft and make a positive impact on the environment.
  3. Start Prepping for Your 2017 Taxes
    Yes, I know you haven’t even started on your 2016 taxes yet, but imagine not having to search high and low for all of your charitable donation receipts and other documentation. Create an annual folder for medical expenses, business receipts and tax documents so that as you receive items throughout the year, you have a place to keep them. When you make the donation to a local charity in July, simply drop the receipt into the folder. You will rejoice next January when all of your tax documents are in one place.
  4. One Bite at a Time
    Commit to putting down the smartphone or tablet for 15 minutes each day to keep organized. Use the time to sort the mail, put away dishes or clear the clutter from that spot in your home where everything seems to collect. Tasks seem more manageable when done in smaller chunks and, chances are, you can find a little time each day.
  5. Organize Photos on Your Mobile Devices
    Most of us have more pictures than we know what to do with on our mobile devices. Make it a habit to delete the photos that aren’t worth saving. It’s an easy thing to do while you are standing in line or waiting to meet a friend for lunch. Be sure that you save your photos to a secure location and organize them to make it easier to find the perfect picture when you need it.

Life insurance: A perfect gift for a grandchild

When you think about all the things you want to purchase for your grandchild, life insurance would likely be near the bottom of the list. While it may not be the most exotic purchase, by the end of this blog I hope life insurance would be up for consideration. Life Insurance for a child or grandchild offers three important advantages: it’s inexpensive; it provides protection for the unexpected; and certain types of life insurance could help protect your child’s or grandchild’s insurability.

First, life insurance is inexpensive. The way life insurance works is that the younger and healthier you are, the less the coverage will cost. Life insurance premiums are based on life expectancies and risk factors. Risk factors would include things that could adversely affect life expectancy, for example, health issues; habits like smoking or sky diving; and family history.

Let’s compare an 18-year-old nonsmoker with a 40-year-old smoker with high blood pressure and heart issues. The life insurance company would see the 18-year-old as a better risk based on age and the other risk factors (smoking and health), so the same coverage would cost less for the 18-year-old.

Second, life insurance’s main purpose is to provide a tax-free death benefit. I know it’s not a pleasant thought, so we will not dwell on it too much, but answer this question: Would it be better to have a tax-free benefit or use credit cards or a loan to pay for final expenses?

Finally, depending on the product purchased, you could protect your child’s or grandchild’s insurability.

As a parent or grandparent, you have a couple of options available for your child or grandchild’s insurability. First is term life insurance, which would provide coverage for a fixed number of years. A term policy could be converted later for up to the original face amount to a permanent form of life insurance without proof of insurability.

The other option would be a permanent life policy, which would be more expensive; however, it could offer a major advantage. Permanent forms of insurance can offer an insurability rider that allows purchasing additional coverage, without the proof of insurability. This protects your child or grandchild in case they develop a medical condition, making coverage more expensive or unavailable down the road. Just as insurance is more expensive as you age, some medical conditions make life insurance unobtainable.

Regardless of the type of coverage you select, purchasing life insurance for a child or grandchild is not a bad idea. The type, coverage amount and contract structure would vary based on each individual situation, and your Ayres Group agent can help you evaluate your options.