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.
- 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
Gratitude is one of those parts of our world that is free to everyone, prized by those recognized to carry it, and yet exceptionally easy to skip over in the daily rush of life.
The data has come back pointing to gratitude as a key to reduce burnout, materialism, and increase general happiness.
We, as a culture, are good at critical analysis. This actually functions like a human’s superpower. This type of critical analysis also prizes efficiency. That is where gratitude often gets squeezed out. There is not much in expressing gratitude that is efficient, but it is good. While it may not be completely efficient, thankfulness can change a life.
Here are three actions that help grow gratitude; in those who use them, and in those who are acted upon.
1. Handwritten notes:
While there are not many points of efficiency to writing something by hand to be read and discarded, the stickiness of this type of communication is beyond compare. There is a personal touch that comes along with a handwritten note.
If you are like most of us, you are not a huge fan of your handwriting. This doesn’t matter, outside of being readable. Handwritten notes are so rare in our culture that the personal act of reaching out in that format will fundamentally separate you from your competition. It will also make the person’s day who is being thanked.
2. Daily reminders:
If you write a note on a post-it and stick it to your mirror, or if you keep a thankfulness journal or merely take a weekly walk and designate the time to remember what you have to be thankful for… these consistent reminders can keep the busy-ness of daily life from distracting us from the myriad of reasons we have to say, “thank you.”
There is not a person living in the USA who doesn’t have a leg up on the majority of humans living in our world today. Comparisons confuse us, and a daily or weekly reminder can keep our eyes on the ball.
3. Small kind actions:
We typically consider this type of action requires money, through “pay it forward” stories, and the like. Genuine small actions of kindness rarely require money. There are a couple pieces that go into turning small kind actions into a habit.
With these two boundaries, you may be surprised at the opportunities daily life will open opportunities to act kindly toward someone. Give it a try; you might like it?!?
- Pay attention to others
- Take your time
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)
Here’s the scenario; You were in a car accident, and it’s not your fault! (that felt more like a commercial?!?) — the other person wasn’t able to pay their bills the last couple months and doesn’t have any insurance. Often it’s not only the uninsured individual who can cause risk, but also the under-insured individual. If someone has the bare minimum insurance and your accident has more than the bare minimum of costs — this is not the situation any of us want.
Unless you live in Virginia, it’s illegal to drive a car without insurance. Every state has their own laws. From Maine’s 4.5% to Florida’s 26.7%, our country’s uninsured motorists are present (and should be accounted for). Colorado’s uninsured motorists are not in the top or bottom few, but that placed Colorado’s drivers in the mid-percentages of risk.
In this article we want to give a shout out to New Mexico for dropping from 29.8% in 2006 to 20.8% in 2015; well done. We’re all better if we can play by the same rules. There are some stand-outs, but the rates for uninsured motorists in most states increased between 2010 and 2015.
Elizabeth A. Sprinkel (senior vice president of the IRC) stated, “While some states saw significant drops in their uninsured motorists rates, overall, the rate is increasing nationwide”, and “This can mean added risk for all motorists.”
“Nearly one in eight U.S. motorists is driving around uninsured and putting insured drivers at greater risk in the event of an auto accident”, according to a study. In 2003, uninsured motorists percentage peaked at 14.9%. By 2010, we dipped to 12.3% after seven years of going down. This bounce in 2015 that found 13 percent of all U.S. motorists were uninsured is not what many hoped to see.
The president, personal lines, at The Hanover said, “The results of the survey sound an alarm. Uninsured motorists represent a significant risk to insured drivers.” According to Halsey, the average cost of an uninsured motorist claim is about $20,000 (and that doesn’t include physical damage to the vehicle).
We at Insurance Town & Country would hope all of our community’s drivers discuss uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage with their independent agents. It’s not a bad idea.
A good rule of thumb is to have equal uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage as bodily injury coverage, according to the insurer.
- The research was directed by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) and co-sponsored by The Hanover Insurance Group.
- The IRC study, Uninsured Motorists, 2017 Edition, examined data collected from 14 insurers representing approximately 60 percent of the private passenger auto insurance market in 2015.
Fireworks and the Fourth: 9 Tips For Safe Celebrations
I love a good professional fireworks show. I’ve watched the 4th of July Fireworks from the FDR highway in NYC. I’ve witnessed the pyrotechnics for what used to be the Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival from high up in a building on Woodward Ave.
But I’ll admit—I’m not a huge fan of consumer fireworks. It’s probably because my only experience with them resulted in me having to jump out of the way of a firework that fell right in my direction. That pretty much scared me from using anything more than sparklers.
I’m really lucky that I wasn’t injured that day, because as U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC) statistics show hundreds of people are injured every year by fireworks. The CPSC has put together a pretty great infographic on the subject.
Some key statistics:
- On average, 200 people go to the Emergency Room per day for fireworks-related injuries in the month surrounding the 4th of July (June 17–July 17).
- Hands and fingers are the most injured body parts, followed by the head, face, ears and eyes.
- 40% of the injuries happen to adults ages 25–44, 45% happen to people under age 24.
- 68% of those injured were male.
Surprised? I’m guessing you’re probably not. The numbers fell mostly where I thought they would. These numbers really illustrate how important it is for people of all ages to treat fireworks with respect. Read all of the warnings and use common sense.
On average, 200 people go to the Emergency Room per day for fireworks-related injuries in the month surrounding the 4th of July
- Think twice about using fireworks if you currently live in an area experiencing very dry weather and elevated fire risks.
- Follow all laws! If fireworks are illegal in your area, don’t use them.
- Never allow young children to play with fireworks. Young children can very easily suffer burns from sparklers, which burn at 2,000 degrees.
- Have an adult closely supervise any older children using fireworks.
- Be careful when lighting the fuse. Don’t place any part of your body over the firework. Light only one firework at a time and back up to a safe distance immediately.
- Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
- Never try to re-light or pick up fireworks that have malfunctioned. Soak them and throw them away.
- Never point or throw fireworks at another person.
- Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers.
- After fireworks stop burning, douse it with plenty of water before discarding it.
Your safety is important to us. Enjoy the Holiday safely!
The 11 Steps to Start your Small Business!
Starting a small business can seem overwhelming at first, but if you are reading this article, chances are you are brave enough to consider it or already have. Since small business make up 99.7 percent of the U.S. economy, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, it seems like you aren’t the first and won’t be the last. But, if you have that entrepreneurial hunger, what you probably want to be is the best.
Whether you want to start a business with five employees or 300, the fundamental and basic steps are essentially the same. The SBA lays out the 10 steps to starting a business that might just be the beginning of a beautiful relationship between you and your dream.
- Write a business plan
- Get business assistance and training
- Choose a business location (We found a great list from CNN naming the 10 most entrepreneurial states in the US)
- Finance your business
- Determine the legal structure of your business
- Register a business name “doing business as”
- Get a tax identification number
- Register for state and local taxes
- Obtain business licenses and permits
- Understand employer responsibilities
Whether you’re starting a flower shop or an auto body repair shop, having the right insurance for your business and following these simple and fundamental steps is bound to set you up for success.
Protecting Your Noggin
I remember getting the opportunity to ride on the back of my grandpa’s motorcycle for the first time as a child. Traveling quickly and close to the ground without any walls or doors was such an exhilarating experience! I also remember the helmet that squished my cheeks right into my nose and eyes. At the time, I just giggled because I felt like a chipmunk, but now I understand better. That helmet was not suitable for the size of my head (which has always been pretty large) and wouldn’t have protected me as well in an accident.
Motorcycle helmets come in many different shapes and sizes because everyone has a unique noggin. Whether you like to hit the road with a sport bike or cruiser, scooter or moped; taking care of the most delicate part of your body is an essential part of preparation. Here’s a list of four things to consider when purchasing a DOT approved helmet:
But wait, what’s a DOT approved helmet?
I’m so glad you asked! According to Leather Up, the Department of Transportation (DOT) assesses each helmet by placing it on a head form that’s equipped with sensors. The helmeted head form is then dropped from a specific height onto a steel anvil, and the severity of the impact is recorded. These standards are important because they outline the minimum requirements all motorcycle helmets must meet, which has already saved countless lives. However, if you would like to get a helmet that has been tested impartially and will provide more protection, SNELL has you covered.
Type of bike
Adventure touring? Cruiser? Sport bike? Generally, adventure bikers prefer using modular helmets which allow you to raise the face shield, while cruiser riders enjoy a half-shell helmet and sport bike riders like a full face helmet that will provide great all-around protection.
According to the CDC, more than 41% of operator and passenger fatalities could have been prevented with proper helmet usage.
Size/Shape of head
There’s more to a properly-fitted helmet than just one that can slide onto your head! Check out this article from Helmet Check for an in-depth description on how to determine your head shape, size, and preference.
It’s important to find a properly-fitted helmet so the three to four pounds of weight are distributed evenly around your head and shoulders to reduce neck strain. Consider also whether you would like additional features like integrated sunshade, wind reduction, and communication technology.
How much are you willing to pay? Generally speaking, price does not necessarily reflect quality or safety, but rather the materials used and the number of features. Good helmets can range anywhere between $40 and $900, so make sure you budget accordingly.
No matter what helmet you decide to wear, make sure you are wearing one, because your safety is number one!