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 lifehappens.org. 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. 

 

Courtesy; Cinfin.com

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.

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.

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.

Cyber risk insurance: New coverage for emerging risks

It seems you can’t turn on the news without hearing about a cyber-related crime or incident.

Criminals are increasingly using ransomware as a means of extortion. Ransomware is a form of malware, usually delivered by email phishing scams, that locks victims out of their critical data until they pay the criminals a fee. The FBI received more than 2,400 complaints about ransomware in 2015, with a reported loss of more than $24 million. Authorities believe the actual costs could be much higher because the crime is underreported. The Department of Justice estimates that these ransomware attacks now average 4,000 per day – that’s a 300 percent increase over 2015.

Headlines usually describe breaches of sensitive customer data suffered by large, well-known companies. In reality, most cyber-attacks are not high-profile cases but softer targets, such as small- to medium-size operations. No business or industry is immune to cyber risks. Lost or stolen mobile devices, improper disposal of paper records or deficiencies in system malware protection can lead to a breach or attack.

The good news is that insurance coverage is available that can be tailored to protect your business from cyber risks.

DATA BREACH PROTECTION

Small- to medium-sized businesses should consider coverage for:

response expenses, including forensic IT and legal reviews, notification to affected individuals, public relations expenses as well as fines and penalty coverage
third-party defense and liability
identity theft recovery
protection from computer attack on your network, including data restoration and re‑creation costs, system restoration expenses, loss of business income and public relations services
network security liability in case there is a breach of third-party business information, unintended spreading or forwarding of malware or a denial of service attack

CYBER DEFENSE PROTECTION

If your business stores large quantities of sensitive information, for example, financial institutions, health care organizations or schools, ask about cyber defense coverage which may include:

cyber extortion coverage
electronic media liability coverage
access to online risk management and educational resources

STEPS YOU CAN TAKE

With or without insurance coverage, you can take steps help prevent loss:

  • encrypt data
  • patch system vulnerabilities
  • shred sensitive documents
  • educate your employees on topics such as email phishing scams
  • develop and test contingency plans

    Speak to your  Ayres Group agent about the coverages that are right for you.

Play it safe during your hotel stay

Whether you travel for business or leisure, consider increasing your safety awareness when you stay in a hotel.

BEFORE YOUR TRIP
  • While most top properties are in safe areas, you may want to research before booking a room in an unfamiliar city or neighborhood to confirm. Call the community resource officer in the police jurisdiction responsible for the area where the hotel is located, or use free online research sites such as the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting tools or CrimeReports.com
  • Be careful about sharing your travel plans on social media. Make sure your settings are private; avoid making public posts to protect yourself while you are traveling and your home is unoccupied.
  • Choose a hotel that is adequately protected from fire. Check the U.S. Fire Administration’s Hotel-Motel National Master List to find hotels that have:
    • At least one single-station and hard-wired smoke alarm in each guest room
    • An automatic fire sprinkler system in each guest room if the building has four or more stories. More information about hotel fire safety is available in our blog, Planning a hotel or motel stay? Think about fire safety.
    • Pack a flashlight that you can keep on the hotel nightstand in case you need to escape in the dark.
  • Take only those valuables that you will absolutely need for the trip.
UPON CHECK-IN
  • Limit the number of times you say your name and room number during the check-in process. At any given time, a number of people could be within earshot of the front desk.
  • Do not keep your room key in the envelope provided at check-in. Securely discard the envelope, which may contain identifying information, such as room number and last name.
  • Keep a close eye on your luggage while in the lobby.
  • Upon entering your guest room, verify that all sliding glass doors, windows and connecting room doors are locked and secure.
  • Inspect mattresses for bedbugs. Check the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s article on How to Find Bed Bugs to learn how to inspect a mattress and accurately identify a bedbug infestation.
DURING YOUR STAY
  • When you are in your room, be sure to engage all locking mechanisms on your guest room door, including deadbolts, chain and safety bar.
  • Do not open the door to your hotel room to unknown persons. If you are not expecting a hotel staff person, call the front desk to verify his or her identity before opening the door.
  • If returning to the hotel late in the evening, use the main entrance.
  • Keep valuables locked in the room safe or inside your luggage.
  • Exercise discretion when providing your name and room number while in the hotel restaurant or bar.
CYBER SAFETY
  • Pay attention to cyber security if you use a computer or mobile device on hotel Wi-Fi systems. Don’t assume that the Wi-Fi connection is secure.
  • When available, use a hard-wired connection or a personal Wi-Fi hotspot rather than a public Wi‑Fi connection.
  • The Federal Trade Commission has posted a video with tips on how to keep your connections secure.

Are you properly insuring your other structures?

There’s more to your homeowner policy than just coverage for the house you live in. It also provides coverage for other structures on your property.

These may include all structures and buildings not sharing a foundation with your house. Most insurance policies provide 10 percent coverage for other structures. For example, if you insure your home for $200,000 an additional limit of $20,000 applies to all other structures. Remember that if you have a total loss, you don’t receive $20,000 for each structure, but $20,000 total for damage to all other structures. A large detached garage by itself can exceed this amount in many cases.

So how do you know you have appropriate coverage?

If you have detached structures on your land, it is best to consult with your Ayres Group independent insurance agent to discuss options. A pool house, large barn, garage with living space, fence, freestanding deck and stable may fall into different categories, and your agent can help make sure you have the correct coverage to protect you in the event of a total loss.

While the chances of losing all your other structures at one time are small, you want to secure enough coverage to protect your investments. You may need more than the 10 percent standard coverage for appurtenant structures.

Also consider that many different types of structures could qualify for coverage on your policy, and it’s important to select the correct category based on usage. Your agent can advise you on the information you will need to provide to obtain the coverage that’s right for your situation.

A good example is a barn. Barns can be built in many different ways from a variety of materials. By providing accurate information on usage and construction, you can be assured that your property is protected.

If your other structure is being rented, is used for a business or was not reported, you are most likely not adequately insured. Your agent has the expertise to guide you.

Finally, don’t forget to assess how much insurance protection you need for personal property housed in your other structures. For example, a home woodshop in your barn could have valuable equipment you’ll want to protect. Ask your agent for advice.

The best way to look at it is to think of insuring your other freestanding structures the same way you would your home. You want 100 percent coverage for each structure in the event of a loss. Replacement of these structures is typically less expensive than a home, but those costs can add up and represent a significant loss.

Courtesy: Cinfin.com

Reasons to buy life insurance

Life insurance is too expensive. Life insurance can wait. Life insurance is a waste of money. Life insurance is …. Whatever follows this phrase has undoubtedly been uttered to a life insurance agent. However, each of these reasons AGAINST purchasing life insurance can also be a reason FOR purchasing life insurance.

If paying for life insurance is too expensive, how will a family pay bills if the primary breadwinner were to die unexpectedly?  Consider all of your debts. Now add on typical expenses such as housing, food, insurance, clothing, utilities, college tuition and any other future expenditure. Those premiums don’t seem too big once compared to future financial obligations.

Life insurance cannot wait. No one can predict an unexpected death, and the premiums are actually cheaper earlier in life.

As for life insurance being a waste of money, who wants to get their money out of a life insurance purchase? Take a traditional 10-year term policy for example. If the insured dies during the 10-year period, his or her beneficiaries will receive the death benefit. If the insured were to live longer than the 10-year period, he or she would have had financial protection for 10 years with the term insurance. This is hardly a waste of money.

Life insurance saved our family. Life insurance paid off our home. Life insurance was a gift from beyond. Life insurance …. Whatever follows this phrase has undoubtedly been uttered to a life insurance agent. Life insurance is designed for the unexpected and tragic moments in life. No one expects to die prematurely, but it happens every day.

People lose a loved one, and after the initial shock passes, the mind turns to the future. How will I move on? How will I pay for the funeral? How will I take care of my children? The ones left behind will have to pick up the pieces and continue on. This is where life insurance comes into play.

Often feelings about life insurance change after a death, ranging from being upset with the lack of protection, regretting the cancellation of the policy, wishing for more coverage, and the rush of relief knowing that financial burdens will be eased even with the loss of a loved one.

Talk to your Ayres Group agent to make sure your family’s financial future is protected.