From birthday presents to business choices, not all decisions are good decisions. We all make bad choices, your insurance agent doesn’t have to be one of them. Make the choice you won’t regret.
Almost every business owner (who is still in business) has experienced the opportunity to grow… alongside the need to borrow. This is the point our credit comes into play. Here are a few ideas for a business owner to build up their personal credit, in order to create then grow your business’ credit.
Your Credit can communicate Your Worth in today’s business world
For any legal advice, please consult your attorney. For any tax advice, please consult your tax professional. This article is about your credit, and if you’re not already working to improve it, and own a business, you probably clicked on this blog for a reason.
1. Pay your bills on time, every month, without fail.
If you are not able pay your bills every month, that is probably because you have too many bills. One of the great lessons a small business marketing consultant once said was that the trick to enjoying being an entrepreneur is having low monthly bills. That is not a universal truth, but over 1/3 of your FICO score is based on whether you pay your bills late or not. Besides, this is one of the main reasons they’re checking your credit… to see if you are creditable in that when you say you will pay for something… will you do it? A solid first step at building your credit is to pay your bills on time.
2. Shop Smart
While shopping smart could apply to the thoughts in the last paragraph, the act of shopping smart in building your credit has to do with knowing and selecting the credit partners who are best for you at this point.
The internet is full of options of entities who are willing to loan money. Some of them loan money using good business practices, and other are what we call predatory lenders. They are identified as predatory, because they are out there in their own interest, and if they find you — they will eat you. They will take all they can and leave you as little as legally possible (and sometimes beyond what is legally allowed).
Shop the partners you choose to do business with, when it comes to building your credit.
3. Know your score
You are able to get a free credit check from a number of websites like: creditkarma.com , mint or even credit.com . When you get your credit report, you can read it and see every company who says you have made a borrowing/credit business agreement. There are timelines and stipulations, but we are insurance brokers, and these are just ideas we think could help our business owner clients and friends.
A credit score is not a static description you check once, and know for the next decade… or year… or month. Tracking your credit score is a part of building your credit. Some may say that it could hurt your credit to check your own credit, but that is not true. This is called a soft inquiry, and shouldn’t affect your credit score at all.
4. Be Patient
After you start tracking your score, you will see that it feels like you’re running on freshly waxed linoleum with new socks… like you’re giving a lot of effort and not going anywhere. Don’t start closing old accounts. It’s a false tale which states that closing your unused credit will help your credit score. If you have old cards which are being properly managed, it will actually help your credit. As long as you keep the balance lower than 30% of your credit limit, you will be on your way to better rates, more options on rent or a mortgage, better phone plans and people will even start letting you take stuff for free, because they have a pretty good idea you will pay them back on time — because you credit says so by its score.
- Stay alert. Continue to monitor local radio stations and media outlets for the latest updates on power outages, water/health advisories, and other important announcements.
- Use flashlights, not candles. Never leave a burning candle unattended. Use flashlights instead of candles, which can get knocked over and increases the risk of fire.
- Store water for you and your family. Each day, store at least one gallon of water in containers or the bathtub for each person in your home, as well as an additional gallon of water each day for cooking use.
- For drinking water, if bottled water is not available, bring water to a full rolling boil for one minute (at elevations above 6,500 feet, boil for three minutes), then allow it to cool before use.
- Keep water trickling. If your water is running, keep water trickling out of faucets to help prevent them from freezing.
- Locate the main water shut-off valve. In many southern states, the main water shut-off valve is often located outside the home, especially if there isn’t a basement. If you can access the shut-off, and if it’s safe to do so, consider shutting off the main water supply to your home. For more help finding your water shut-off and turning it off.
- Keep at least one car outside the garage. If you are using a car to charge your electronics and devices, be sure to keep the car outside the home garage in an open area to avoid dangerous carbon monoxide build-up.
1. BUILDING OUTSIDE:
- Plants: Trim away any trees or bushes which are in contact with the structure.
- Windows & Doors: physically look at the caulking does not have holes or cracks. The caulking is squishy stuff that connects the door or window to the wall on the outside of a building.
- Garage & Warehouse doors: take a look at the hinges, and confirm that they are securely attached to the door. Test the auto-stop mechanisms. Many garage door openers use an electronic eye to automatically reverse the garage door if an obstruction is in the way. Many also have a pressure reverse when contact is made with an obstruction. Both of these are good to confirm proper function.
- Roof & Gutters (only when possible): look at any points where metal and pipes are going through or connected to the roof. Confirm there are no blockages for weather or water, and in good condition.
2. WATER FLOW:
- pull debris from the gutters and whatever devices are used to move water from your building, and direct the water to at least 3 — 5 feet away from the foundation.
- A building with a sump pump is a building which could partially fill up with water. It’s one thing to keep water off the outside of your house, but filling a building up with water can be destructive. Test it, to be sure your sump pump is fully operational.
- Winterize your sprinkler system before the first freeze.
- Disconnect water hoses: Any external faucets with a hose connected to them typically require disconnection, and being readied for winter temperatures. Remember to turn off the water flow before disconnecting the faucet/hose. Otherwise you may need a change of clothes, and a towel.
- Erosion check: physically look at the foundation. and check to confirm that the ground slopes away from your building. Pooling water in contact with a building’s foundation is usually the start to a long term serious problem. Another way to recognize water around a foundation is to look in the crawlspace or basement and see if there are any points of moisture in the soil or moisture coming through the wall.
3. FIRE AND AIR:
- Not all houses have working chimneys, but it is good practice to clean a chimney each fall. You are starting a fire in a building, and all the soot building up over time.
- Wood burning fireplace or stove: There is a good reason why we aren’t allowed to build buildings with these types of burning units anymore. If a building has a device which burns wood, have it cleaned and inspected.
- Detectors: Smoke detectors have a test button, as do the Carbon Monoxide detectors. Press the button to make sure they are working properly. Be aware, these are designed to interrupt whatever you are currently doing — so they are quite loud. If you’ve never heard a Carbon Monoxide or Smoke detector before, they can be loud!
- Furnace Forced Air Filter: There is an air filter in your furnace. Chance it once a month. If you’re thinking you haven’t changed it since last year… please move this to the top of your list.
- AC Filters: Most of these have filters. The job of an AC unit is to move air around a building, and dirty filters are like making a marathon runner carry weights. It’s good to keep your filters clean.
- Range Hood filters: If your place has a hood, there is probably a filter for that hood’s directing the air. Replace filters, and check for cleanliness.
- Boiler: Confirm that the pump is oiled. It is true that oiling a boiler is not changing a filter, but this machinery oil like a forced air furnace needs to breath.
- Test reset buttons (Power outlets with the Test & Reset button): The Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs, or GFIs) are commonly where water and electricity may be in contact, but that is not the only place these types of power outlets are used. Wherever there is a power outlet with a reset/test buttons in the middle — push the test buttons to make sure power is no longer going to the outlet when you push test. You can press reset button to make it work again.
- Refrigeration: the process of keeping items cold typically require coils and other dust collecting parts. Cleaning them (at least annually) is a good way to not pay more to make that refrigerator run.
- Drain Swamp Cooler: If you have a swamp cooler, you should know it. These typically have a water line in which needs to be shut off, as well as drained. Swamp coolers also have electricity run to them which needs to be “winterized”, and turned off.
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If any of these Fall Prep tasks uncover any insurance concerns, we would love to speak with you.
We know our clients by name.
If you have any insurance questions, let us know & we might do a blog on your topic.
Accident and Illness Plan:
- Tests and X‑rays
- Hospital stays
- Ear and eye problems
- Prescribed drugs
- Prescription pet food
- Hereditary conditions (inherited from your parents)
- Ligament and hip dysplasia (12 month waiting period)
- Death benefits
- And more…
- Vet exam fees
- Dental cleaning
- Tick and flea prevention
- Heartworm testing
- Annual wellness exams
- Vitamins and other supplements
- Prescribed therapy and behavioral training
- Up to 100% coverage of vet bills
Additional Program Highlights:
- No breeds are excluded
- Flexible premium options to fit your budget, including 0% co-pay option
- Pick your own licensed vet
- Fast and Easy claims resolution
All breeds of dogs and cats.
Types of risks:
- Accident and Illness
- Other pets
- Puppies and Kittens less than 8 weeks old
- Pets owned for commercial reasons (ex: racing, breeding, law enforcement, dog fighting)
- Pre-existing conditions, but no one covers them
- We recently learned insurance agents are receiving demand letters regarding their websites not being ADA compliant for the blind. The solution is often just a call to your website provider to add an accessibility menu to your landing page (see bottom left hand corner of the www.wiaagroup.org site for example). If you have a website, please contact your website provider to verify that your website is in ADA compliance. If you are in the market for a new website, please consider our technology partner, ITC, for exclusive pricing for WIAA members (click here for flyer).
- Please note carriers have either ended or are ending billing leniency for those affected by COVID-19 which means all billing activities including regular bill cycles, late fees, insufficient fund fees, non-pay cancellations and collection activity will resume. Please contact the carrier billing department directly if your insured is still experiencing economic hardship for available options. See below for list of billing hold end dates by carrier and click on carrier names for more detail where available:
- Liberty Mutual: July 15, 2020 for CA, June 22, 2020 for OR and June 15, 2020 for most other states
- Hartford: June 1, 2020
- Safeco: July 15, 2020 for CA, June 22, 2020 for OR and June 15, 2020 for most other states
- Travelers: June 15, 2020 (note that Travelers personal auto customers will also see a 15% credit for their June premiums)
- Nationwide: June 15, 2020
- AmTrust: June 1, 2020
- Berkshire Hathaway (BHHC): July 14, 2020 for CA and June 30, 2020 for all other states
- Employers: June 15, 2020
Thanksgiving Games that will make this wild and crazy holiday a little wackier!
Did you know that the author of the first song recorded by phonograph fought (lobbied) for 36 years before Lincoln declared the November national holiday named “Thanksgiving”?
Move over gravy, it’s time to spice up this Thanksgiving holiday with some fun games and facts sure to make this year the best holiday in memory (or at least different than the last few in memory). In case you’re in a hurry, we’re including a link to this blog in Word and image format, because not every Thanksgiving dinner table has WiFi or cell service. Even though the 1600s witnessed the Pilgrims celebrating Thanksgiving after a drought, their thanksgivings were days of religious fasting (rather than feasting). The 1700s watched George Washington issue the USA’s first Thanksgiving proclamation. John Adams, and James Madison (Washington’s successors) also dedicated thanks days.
How Thanksgiving came to be a national holiday:
- In 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale started her quest for an official Thanksgiving holiday. It wasn’t until three years later that she would write the nursery rhyme (based on a true story), “Mary had a little Lamb”. Being a woman with no right to vote did not stop this powerhouse of tenacity from making her voice heard. Lacking email, social media, and telephones – it was paper and pen. Letters written to politicians of all types from the governor’s mansion to senator offices, and all the way up the street to the President of the United States.
- In 1863, Lincoln scheduled the last Thursday of November a national holiday. Yes, you’re right. It’s currently the fourth Thursday, but that is because in 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week. The Great Depression was at the end, and an extra week of Christmas shopping could only help to build the economy. As with most political changes, it was given a nickname – “Franksgiving”. By 1941, the president signed a bill compromising for the fourth Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving. Now you know how we got here – let’s get to the games.
Thanksgiving games to start before eating:
- “Gratitude Jar” upon arrival, set out a jar or bowl (or container of some type) with a pen and paper next to it. Through the day, anyone can write their note and leave it for later. At the end of the dinner, have each one read. Enjoy being thankful together.
- Schedule to Volunteer together. The timing of this one is rather important. If you wait until during or after the feasting, all that nervous energy (which will inspire people to sign up to volunteer together before the dinner) will probably be gone once our tummies are full. If you all agree on a scheduled volunteer together event – promise each other you won’t cancel it when you’re all sleepy after dinner. Look for opportunities to give.
Thanksgiving Games to play at the table:
- “I’m thankful for this small thing” Certain days are easier than others to recognize the small stuff and tell yourself that you’re thankful for it. As the food’s being passed, take turns completing the statement, “I’m thankful for this small thing….”
- Count-up your blessings. The first person to start points out one (1) thing that they are thankful for. The person next to them points out two (2) points of gratitude, and 3 and 4 and so on. The fewer rules on how to come up with the next number – the better. What am I grateful for right now? People and things and events and experiences are good to remember together.
- Diamond Award – We are often most grateful for those things which came through a struggle. Look back at past struggles and trials which have turned into diamonds through pressure. Mention challenges which have helped you.
Thanksgiving Games to play just before turkey coma:
- “Silent appreciation” We all know the time between turkey and sleeping to football. When you’re still awake, find someone on social media or email or text, and tell them that you are thankful for them. It’s not hokey, because it’s Thanksgiving – that’s what we’re supposed to do.
Thanksgiving Games to play while you’re eating cold turkey that night:
- “Thank your network” There are people we all work with each day and there is often not a reason to thank them, because they’re just doing their job. Even business is based on relationships, and an unsolicited kind word on one day can stop a confrontation in the future. Tell them that you appreciate them.
Whether you play any of our games, or not – we want to thank our clients for allowing us the chance to serve you. Of course, we would not be in business without our clients, but it is knowing we are helping care for you for which we are grateful.
Yes, “Mary had a little Lamb” was the first words recorded by phonograph. Although that “phonograph” was a tinfoil sheet wrapped on a cylinder that Thomas Edison figured out while working on improvements to the telephone and telegraph – when you can’t think of anything to say, it’s usually a nursery rhyme that comes to mind. Since nursery rhyme’s intent are often missed by the first few verses we all remember, here’s the entire “Mary had a little Lamb” verse to kickstart thinking of the people we can say thanks to.
Mary had a little Lamb
(it’s more fun if you sing it)
Mary had a little lamb,
whose fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
the lamb was sure to go.
It followed her to school one day
which was against the rules.
It made the children laugh and play,
to see a lamb at school.
And so the teacher turned it out,
but still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about,
till Mary did appear.
“Why does the lamb love Mary so?”
the eager children cry.
“Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know.”
the teacher did reply
Happy Thanksgiving from Insurance Town & Country.
Stay out of self-imposed exile (debt)
Whether we have a little money or a lot — it is the commodity of our time. One of the great trials of handling money is it that it is a science which can be learned, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you have had past (or present) troubles with saving money and handling debt, here is a quick and simple guide to get you started.
Money uses Math — the addition and subtraction kind of math.
Be encouraged — you have the skills! There is nothing about budgeting that is too complex… it just takes time and will power (and usually a written plan). Budgeting uses the same calculation as dieting, because it’s all about how much you take in and how much you give out. If we want to lose weight we have to burn more calories than we take in. If we want to have more money left over the day before we get our paycheck, then we will need to spend less than we make. Even though it is simple — it’s not always easy. This is where our will power comes in to play, but that’s a whole different blog post :-).
To ease the planning part of this, here is a simple guide to help get us started.
Income minus expense = money you are supposed to manage (and management includes more than spending)
- Know how much money you give out each month. Whether your goal is a trip next summer, or just that you’re tired of having to make your decisions based on how much money you have available at that moment. It is vital to know how much you’re spending. It is one thing to lower your debt, but knowing how much money you have going out (expenses) every month must be controlled, or debt will continue to sneak up on you. You can’t ever make more than you’re capable of spending.
- Know how much money you make each month… exactly. We realize this sounds silly, because — how can anyone go to work every day and not know what they’re making. The reality is that most of us don’t track what is on our paychecks. We are typically so happy to see money in the account that we don’t take the two minutes per paycheck to look at the stub and make sure the amount is accurate. Know how much you put in your bank and what frequency it is delivered.
Even though there are a number of other tools that help with budgets and tracking money, the above info is what goes into a budget. This is as simple as what you make (income) minus what you spend (expenses), and the remainder is what you have to give and save and spend.
**if you are finding that you have less money than you need after doing this “money earned & money spent” equation — that is when you need to bring your expenses inline with your income. Sometimes budgets aren’t fun to do, because we want to pretend that we should live like we are richer than we actually are*** (sorry)