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Baldwin / Welsh & Parker

Friday, 28 April 2017 14:44

How much homeowners insurance do I need?

House

A terrific article from the I.I.I. - Insurance Information Institute

You need enough insurance to cover the following: 

  1. The structure of your home.
  2. Your personal possessions.
  3. The cost of additional living expenses if your home is damaged and you have to live elsewhere during repairs.
  4. Your liability to others.

1. The structure

You need enough insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs. Don't include the cost of the land. And don't base your rebuilding costs on the price you paid for your home. The cost of rebuilding could be more or less than the price you paid or could sell it for today.

Some banks require you to buy homeowners insurance to cover the amount of your mortgage. If the limit of your insurance policy is based on your mortgage, make sure it's enough to cover the cost of rebuilding. (If your mortgage is paid off, don't cancel your homeowners policy. Homeowners insurance protects your investment in your home.)

For a quick estimate of the amount of insurance you need, multiply the total square footage of your home by local building costs per square foot. To find out construction costs in your community, call your local real estate agent, builders association or insurance agent.

Factors that will determine the cost of rebuilding your home:

  • Local construction costs
  • The square footage of the structure
  • The type of exterior wall construction–frame, masonry (brick or stone) or veneer
  • The style of the house (ranch, colonial)
  • The number of bathrooms and other rooms
  • The type of roof and materials used
  • Other structures on the premises such as garages, sheds
  • Fireplaces, exterior trim and other special features like arched windows
  • Whether the house, or parts of it like the kitchen, was custom built
  • Improvement to your home–adding a second bathroom, enlarging the kitchen or other additions that have added value to your home

Standard homeowners policies provide coverage for disasters such as damage due to fire, lightning, hail, explosions and theft. They do not cover floods, earthquakes or damage caused by lack of routine maintenance.

Contact Baldwin / Welsh & Parker for more information on flood or earthquake coverage.  

2. Replacement cost policies
Most policies cover replacement cost for damage to the structure. A replacement cost policy pays for the repair or replacement of damaged property with materials of similar kind and quality. There is no deduction for depreciation–the decrease in value due to age, wear and tear, and other factors.

If you purchase a flood insurance policy, coverage for the structure is available on a replacement cost basis.

3. Guaranteed or extended replacement cost coverage
After a major hurricane or a tornado, building materials and construction workers are often in great demand. This can push rebuilding costs above homeowners policy limits, leaving you without enough money to cover the bill. To protect against such a situation, you can buy a policy that pays more than the policy limits.

An extended replacement cost policy will pay an extra 20 percent or more above the limits, depending on the insurance company. A guaranteed replacement cost policy will pay whatever it costs to rebuild your home as it was before the fire or other disaster.

4. Building codes
Building codes are updated periodically and may have changed significantly since your home was built. If your home is badly damaged, you may be required to rebuild your home to meet new building codes. Generally, homeowners insurance policies (even a guaranteed replacement cost policy) won't pay for the extra expense of rebuilding to code. Many insurance companies offer an Ordinance or Law endorsement that pays a specified amount toward these costs. (An endorsement is a form attached to an insurance policy that changes what the policy covers.)

5. Inflation guard
Consider adding an inflation guard clause to your policy. This automatically adjusts the dwelling limit when you renew your policy to reflect current construction costs in your area.

6. Older homes
If you own an older home, you may not be able to buy a replacement cost policy. Instead, you may have to buy a modified replacement cost policy. This means that instead of repairing or replacing features typical of older homes, like plaster walls and wooden floors, with similar materials, the policy will pay for repairs using the standard building materials and construction techniques in use today.

Insurance companies differ greatly in how they insure older homes. Some won't insure older homes for the replacement cost because of the expense of re-creating special features like wall and ceiling moldings and carvings. Other companies will insure older homes for the replacement cost as long as the dwelling is in good condition.

If you can't insure your home for the replacement cost or choose not to do so–in some cases, the cost of replacing a large old home is so high that you might not want to replace it with a house of the same size–make sure the limits of the policy are high enough to provide you with a house of acceptable size and quality.

7. Your personal possessions

Most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for your personal possessions for approximately 50 percent to 70 percent of the amount of insurance you have on the structure or “dwelling” of your home. The limits of the policy typically appear on the Declarations Page under Section I, Coverages, A. Dwelling.

To determine if this is enough coverage, you need to conduct a home inventory. This is a detailed list of everything you own and information related to the cost to replace these items if they were stolen or destroyed by a disaster such as a fire. There are several products available to help perform this task, including the I.I.I.'s free Know Your Stuff® Home Inventory Tool that lets you to create and maintain a home inventory on any digital device or computer and safely store it online for easy, secure access--anywhere, anytime.  If you think you need more coverage, contact your agent or insurance company representative and ask for higher limits for your personal possessions.

8. Replacement Cost or Actual Cash Value
You can either insure your belongings for their actual cash value, which pays to replace your home or possessions minus a deduction for depreciation up to the limit of your policy. Or you can opt for replacement cost, which pays the actual cost of replacing your home or possessions (no deduction for depreciation) up to the limit of your policy.

Suppose, for example, a fire destroys a 10-year-old TV set in your living room. If you have a replacement cost policy for the contents of your home, the insurance company will pay to replace the TV set with a new one. If you have an actual cash value policy, it will pay only a percentage of the cost of a new TV set because the TV has been used for 10 years and is worth a lot less than its original cost. Some replacement cost policies also replace the item and deliver it to you.

Generally, the price of replacement cost coverage is about 10 percent more than that of actual cash value. If you need a flood insurance policy for your belongings, it is only available on an actual cash value basis.

9. Insuring expensive items with floaters/endorsements
There may be limits on how much coverage you get for expensive items such as jewelry, silverware and furs. Generally, there is a limit on jewelry for $1,000 to $2,000. You should ask your agent or look it up in your policy. This information is in Section I, Personal Property, Special Limits of Liability. Insurance companies may also place a limit on what they will pay for computers.

If the limits are too low, consider buying a special personal property floater or an endorsement. These allow you to insure these items individually or as a collection. With floaters and endorsements, there is no deductible. You are charged a premium based on what the item (or collection) is, its dollar value and where you live.

You can determine the value by providing your agent with a recent receipt or getting the item or collection appraised.

10. Additional living expenses after a disaster

This is a very important feature of a standard homeowners insurance policy. This pays the additional costs of temporarily living away from your home if you can't live in it due to a fire, severe storm or other insured disaster. It covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while your home is being rebuilt.

Coverage for additional living expenses differs from company to company. Many policies provide coverage for about 20% of the insurance on your house. Some companies will even sell you a policy that provides you with an unlimited amount of loss of use coverage, for a limited amount of time.

If you rent out part of your house, this coverage also reimburses you for the rent that you would have collected from your tenant if your home had not been destroyed.

You should talk to your agent or company to make sure you know exactly how much coverage you have and how long the coverage will be in effect. In most cases, you can increase this coverage for an additional premium.

11. Liability to others

This part of your policy covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or family members cause to other people. It also pays for damage caused by pets. It pays for both the cost of defending you in court and for any damages a court rules you must pay.

Generally, most homeowners insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability insurance, but higher amounts are available. Increasingly, it is recommended that homeowners consider purchasing at least $300,000 to $500,000 worth of coverage of liability protection.

12. Umbrella or Excess Liability.
You should buy enough liability insurance to protect your assets. If you own property and or have investments and savings that are worth more than the liability limits in your policy, you may consider purchasing an excess liability or umbrella policy.

Umbrella or excess liability policies provide extra coverage. They start to pay after you have used up the liability insurance in your underlying home (or auto) policy. An umbrella policy is not part of your homeowners policy. You have to purchase it separately. In addition to providing a higher dollar amount, they offer broader coverage. You are covered for libel, slander, and invasion of privacy. These things are not covered under standard homeowners or auto policies.

The cost of an umbrella policy depends on how much underlying insurance you have and the kind of risk you represent. The greater the underlying liability coverage, the cheaper the policy. This is becaue you would be the less likely to need the additional insurance. Most companies will require a minimum of $300,000 on your home and your car, if you own one.

Thursday, 27 April 2017 21:09

8 Home Security Tips You Never Thought Of

8 home security tips

From our Trusted Choice friends by Sheena Tatum

Your home is your sanctuary. It is a place where fond memories are made and relaxing evenings are spent after a busy day. Your home is a safe haven where you and your family most feel at ease. If your home is under-protected or you've had a recent burglary, this may compromise the security you feel in your own home.

Recent FBI reports reveal that here were an estimated 8,277,829 property crimes (burglaries, larceny-thefts, and motor vehicle thefts) reported by law enforcement. Financial losses suffered by victims of these crimes were calculated at approximately $14.3 billion. Larceny-theft accounted for 70.8 percent of all property crimes reported, burglary for 20.9 percent, and motor vehicle theft for 8.3 percent

While that number is down from the previous year, it is still a statistic that no one wants to become a part of. Using a few simple home security tips and tricks, you can protect your belongings, thwart would-be thieves and increase your feeling of security while home and away.

Prevention begins outside your home from the minute it comes into view. Take a walk around your property with a critical eye to see what changes it needs. Here are a few you may have missed:

1. Don't provide places for thieves to hide: Trim trees and bushes that may give someone a place to hide or unnoticeable access to your windows. You should trim back any shrubs that are high enough to block a window.

You will also want to consider the lighting of your property. Look for places around your home that are very dark and may allow a thief access to your home under the cover of darkness. Consider installing lights in various places that can light up entrances. Motion detection spotlights are the best option to conserve energy and not annoy your neighbors or yourself with the bright lights.

2. Don't let thieves know you are not home: If you are planning to go on vacation, never announce it beforehand. We are a society that likes to share, and thieves love that about us. Sending a tweet that you've arrived at the airport or posting a status update on Facebook indicating that you can't wait to leave for your cruise is a great way to alert thieves that your home is empty. Save all updates about your vacation and picture sharing for when you return.

In addition, if you are planning to vacation, have a trusted friend or neighbor stop by every day to pick up the mail, newspapers and any fliers that may be left at the door. If a flier has been sitting on your front door for days, a thief could take notice and know you are on an extended leave.

Any time you are going to be gone during the night, even if it's just returning from work after it gets dark, you should have interior lights set to a timer. Having lights on will keep thieves guessing and will let you feel safer when you come home.

3. Keep your yard clean to prevent giving thieves an advantage: Many times, thieves will gain access to your home through a window they have broken. It is best that we don't give them a tool to do that. Clean up your yard of broken tree limbs after a storm. Ensure your kids put away their toys after playing outside. Never leave a ladder outside in the yard; a thief could use your ladder to gain access to a higher window that is more likely to be unlocked. Use the same precautions for tools, whether they are gardening or for the barbecue; lock them up when they aren't in use.

4. Install a home alarm system: While an alarm may not keep burglars from getting inside your home, it will deter some and bring the police to your home quickly, limiting what a thief is able to take. Home security systems will only work if you always remember to engage the alarm. You should have your alarm engaged while you are away or while you are at home as many thieves will attempt to break into one part of your home while you are busy in another. Also, some insurance companies may lower your home insurance premiums for having a home alarm system installed.  Check with one of our BWP Trusted Choice agents!

5. Take precautions to protect windows: If you are purchasing new windows for your home, it might be worth the upgrade to buy shatterproof glass. This would prevent anyone from breaking a window to gain access to your home. If new windows aren't in the budget, consider adding a security film to windows. This will prevent the glass from shattering upon breaking and may deter thieves from continuing their attempt to break in.

6. Secure sliding glass doors: Sliding glass doors have incredibly flimsy locks. A thief can easily pop them in an instant, giving quick access to your home. Installing a security bar for sliding doors would make gaining access to your home more difficult. This measure of protection is a must-have for all sliding doors and windows.

7. Always lock doors and windows: Keep windows locked when you are not home, when you go to bed at night and when they are not in use. If you like to sleep with a window open at night, install window locks that only allow the window to open a few inches.

You should also keep your garage door down, even during the day. Having the garage door open invites thieves inside to look around. It gives them quick, easy access inside your home. Even if they can't take something at the time, they can get enough of a look to see if your home is worth a visit later.

8. Change the locks as necessary: If you've just purchased a home from someone, your first order of business should be to meet the locksmith at your new home. You have no idea who is out there with a key just waiting for the moment to use it. In addition, if you've had a breakup recently, it is time to change the locks. The person may give you the key back, but you have no idea how many copies are out there. Having the locks changed is good for the peace of mind.

Keeping your family, your belongings and your home safe and secure does not involve a lot of money. A few simple changes such as the home security tips mentioned above can protect everyone and everything for years to come.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017 05:08

Hands-free is not Risk-free

  • Hands-free Devices: False Sense of Security


    ​From the National Safety Council

    Think using a hands-free device while driving makes you safer? Think again. You may be surprised at how this NSC infographic shows the cell phone conversation is distracting. In order to stay safe, you need your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel, and your mind on driving.


  • Hands-free is not risk-free


 

Wednesday, 12 April 2017 05:03

The #1 Cause of Workplace Death

  • From the National Safety Council

 

April is National Distracted Driving Month and here are important resources to share!

Did you know the leading cause of workplace death is car crashes? NSC estimates aquarter of crashes involve cell phones. Learn more about this workplace danger in this infographic and how employers can take the lead by putting cell phone policies in place. 


 
 
 


Wednesday, 12 April 2017 04:25

5 Common Tax Breaks for Business Owners


 
Common tax breaks for business owners.

Many people today are enjoying the benefits of being their own boss and running their own company. According to the U.S. Census, there are currently more than 5 million companies with fewer than 20 people actively operating in this country. Whether you freelance or you have created a company that employs others, you can take advantage of a variety of tax deductions on your business income.

Owners of large corporations have accountants and tax experts working for them, but many small-business owners and freelancers cannot afford that added expense. If you complete your tax returns on your own each year, make sure that you are aware of the tax deductions you can use to save. Some of the most common business deductions are listed below.


Home office

According to Entrepreneur Magazine, approximately 52 percent of all businesses in America are operated out of the business owners’ homes. The home office deduction, therefore, is one that may be useful to many.

Of all available business-related tax deductions, this one is the most complicated. You can deduct a portion of your heating, cooling, home insurance, and rent or mortgage costs from your taxable income, based on the percentage of your home that is used for business purposes only. Recent changes in the tax code have simplified the calculation of this deduction by allowing business owners to opt to deduct $5 per square foot of office space, up to 300 square feet.

To be eligible for this deduction, you must have a room that is used for work-purposes only. If your computer is set up in a guest bedroom, for example, you may not deduct the entire room as a home office.

If the portion of your home that is used for your business is very small, many tax advisors will recommend that you forego this deduction. This is because the amount of money you will save will be minimal and not worth the complications that may arise because of an audit. If you are uncertain whether this business deduction is right for you, speak with a lawyer or tax advisor before making a decision.


Office Supplies

Whether or not you are deducting a home office from your taxes, you may deduct the cost of office supplies that you use in the course of your business. This includes everything from pens and pencils to toner cartridges for your printer. Be sure to save all your receipts. Many people find it very helpful to have a credit card that is used strictly for business purposes.

Some examples of things you may deduct include:

  • Writing materials including pens, pencils, markers and highlighters
  • Paper, notebooks, file folders, binders and notebooks
  • Business cards, stationery and promotional items with your business name on them
  • Office furniture, file cabinets and desktop telephones
  • Computers, flash-drives, recordable CDs and software
  • Envelopes, postage and packing supplies

Internet Connection and Phone

If you rely on email and internet use as a part of your daily business operations, you may deduct the cost of your internet service from your taxable business income. The same holds true for your land-line or cell phone service if your phone number is your business line. This includes cell phones that have a data plan.

Unlike a home office, it is not necessary that you use your internet or phone service for business purposes only. This is because your service most likely comes at a flat fee, regardless of usage.


Health Insurance Premiums

The newly established Affordable Healthcare Act requires business owners who have more than 50 full-time employees to provide them with affordable healthcare options. Policies may be purchased by business owner or individuals at lower group rates through the healthcare exchanges set up by each state. For information about this is being offered by the SBA through scheduled webinars.

Whether you are providing health insurance to your employees or you are simply purchasing a policy on your own, you may be able to deduct 100 percent of the incurred expenses from your business income. However, there are some caveats:

  • If your healthcare expenses exceed your business’s net profits, you may only deduct an amount equal to net profit.
  • If you are eligible for healthcare coverage through your spouse, you may not deduct the cost of purchasing your own coverage.

If your spouse works for you, you may deduct 100 percent of the cost of insuring him or her as well as your children, but your spouse must be an actual, documented employee of your company and you must offer the same health insurance coverage plans to all of your employees.


Mileage

People who drive frequently in the course of business are most likely to be aware of this deduction, but those who drive only on occasion often overlook it. If you make trips for supplies or to make deliveries, or if you drive somewhere to meet with a current or prospective client, you are entitled to deduct the mileage you have accrued while doing so.

If you plan to take this deduction, it is imperative that you keep extremely good records of your business-related driving. Record the date, your destination, the exact number of miles driven, and the purpose of your trip in a log or journal. When compiling your taxes, add up the number of miles driven. For 2013 tax purposes, you are entitled to deduct 56.5 cents per mile driven. This deduction includes fuel costs so you may not deduct the cost of gasoline as well.


Business Travel Expenses

If you take a business trip, such as to attend a conference or to meet with an important client who lives out of town, you may deduct the associated costs from your business income. These costs include:

  • Mileage driven
  • Airfare, train or other transportation costs
  • Hotel charges
  • Meals
  • Entertainment costs, if entertaining a client

Be aware that travel and hotel costs are 100 percent tax-deductible, but meals and entertainment costs are only 50 percent deductible. Also, you are permitted to deduct the cost of a gift to a client or employee but only up to $25 per person.

Thursday, 23 March 2017 15:04

Uninsured Dog Owners Beware!

 

From our IIABA Trusted Choice friends - 

Dogs bite more than 4.7 million Americans each year—and one of every six of those requires medical attention—yet many pet owners are not properly insured against this potentially expensive liability, says Dave D’Orlando, President of Baldwin / Welsh & Parker (BWP) Insurance Agency in Wayland, Hudson, Bedford and Winthrop.

“Homeowners and renters who own dogs should never go without liability insurance, which is part of most standard homeowners or renters policies, or they may be in for a rude awakening if sued,” says D’Orlando. The insurance industry estimates that one-third of all homeowners’ liability insurance claims may be related to dogs.

Many home-based business owners and renters are at particular financial risk when their dogs bite. “Because homeowners’ policies exclude coverage for business-related losses, an in-home entrepreneur without business insurance may not be covered if sued by a customer who was bitten by the entrepreneur’s family dog,” D’Orlando cautioned. Renters also are subject to higher risk because many people who rent are still uninsured for personal property losses and liability claims. Some mistakenly believe that their landlord’s insurance will cover their losses.

Owners whose pets are among the more aggressive breeds such as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers, or those with dogs that have demonstrated aggressive tendencies, may want to purchase an umbrella liability policy which provides increased coverage in case of an attack. But others should be cautious as well, says D’Orlando. All dog owners should be cautious around children. They represent more than half of all dog bite victims—which usually occur in the face, from dogs owned by family or friends.

“Dog owners need to be aware of the financial as well as physical implications of letting dogs roam free and of not taking precautions to prevent injuries, even at home,” says D’Orlando. It is estimated that 70% of attacks occur on the dog owners’ property.

Leash and muzzle laws vary from state to state as do owner liability. Consumers should be aware of the presence of such statutes and the potential legal and financial repercussions of disregarding them. In many cases, a dog doesn’t actually have to bite someone for the owner to be liable for a victim’s injury. On the other hand, the owner may not be liable for injuries caused by an animal if the injured party was negligent, if the animal has no history of aggression, or if the owner posts approved warning signs.

Most importantly, take precautions to protect others, but don’t forget to protect yourself as well, the IIABA reminds consumers. For more information, contact BWP Agents by clicking here.

And here’s more information from the CDC on preventing dog bites.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017 15:02

Teens and Drowsy Driving Alert

Baldwin Welsh Parker 37864463 sDrowsy driving is a serious issue for time-starved drivers today, especially teenage drivers, according to the latest research:

  • The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reports that between 2010 and 2015, more than 1,300 drivers aged 25 and younger were involved in fatal drowsy driving crashes in the United States
  • According to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one in five fatal crashes involves a drowsy driver, and drivers aged 16 to 24 are at the greatest risk for being involved in a drowsy driving crash.
  • A CDC report indicates that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States

The NTSB recently published a blog post about a teenage driver who lost control of her vehicle just over a year ago at about 1:57 in the afternoon. While driving with three other teenage passengers in the car, she lost control of the car and collided with a semitrailer on the opposite side of the highway. The driver was seriously injured, and her three friends died. NTSB investigators determined that that the driver’s loss of control was due to inattention resulting from her fatigue; they discovered that during "the 24 hours before the crash, the driver had very little opportunity for sleep—only about 5 hours on the morning of the crash."

What can parents do to keep teens safe?

Lack of sleep is the leading cause of drowsiness while driving. It slows reaction time as well as reduces lack of focus while driving. As a result of the alarming number of teen accidents and fatalities due to drowsy driving, the NTSB has released a new safety alert: Drowsy Driving Among Young Drivers. The alert outlines steps that both parents and teens can take to stay awake and responsible behind the wheel. The safety alert lists the following tips for parents:

  • Help teens create a good environment for sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends keeping electronic devices such as TVs, video games, computers, and cell phones out of teens’ bedrooms. Research shows that doing so leads to longer sleep times.
  • Advocate for later school start times. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that middle and high schools delay the start of classes to 8:30 a.m. or later. Earlier school start times are associated with higher risk of teen crashes.
  • Teach new drivers that drowsy driving can be as risky as driving drunk, drugged, or distracted.
  • Plan ahead to ensure that teens have a safe ride to and from late night and early morning events.

Download the full safety alert (SA-061 February 2017)

*Original Article Author: By Dr. Jana Price | Original Article Source: NTSB.gov

*Some parts of this article may paraphrased or are direct quotes of the original author and original blog post at NTSB.gov. Both the author and the source are credited in this blog post. Baldwin | Welsh & Parker does not claim to be the author, and shares this article for information purposes only as part of its mission to offer breaking news that may be deemed helpful to readers.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017 22:11

Stress Relief Tips for the Workplace

Relieve stress while you're at work.

Stress is something that every person deals with. For most, however, the workplace is the point of origin for stress. According to a study conducted by the APA in 2011, 80% of employed individuals reported being under some type of work related stress on a regular basis. 40% of respondents admitted that they were under extreme levels of stress, and 40% said they were often burned out or stressed by their work. 25% of those surveyed said that their jobs were the number one cause of stress in their lives. Whether it’s due to workload, job security, pay rates or personal issues, chances are that work related stress affects you and your family. There are a few things you can do in order to lower your stress levels and maintain a cool head at the workplace. Here are a few tips to reduce stress at the workplace:

1. Breathe

Breathing is one of the best ways to relieve stress. When we become stressed, our bodies release adrenaline, cortisol, and other hormones which raise our blood pressure and cause that stressed out feeling, according to the Textbook of Natural Medicine. Try taking a step back, and giving yourself a breathing break. Focus on breathing deeply, and exhaling completely. Try to conjure up a relaxing day-dream while you complete this exercise, or re-live a relaxing moment.

2. Create a Calm Working Atmosphere

Surround yourself with things you enjoy. This may be a photo album of a recent vacation, a Zen garden to help you relax, or a few trinkets from home that remind you of your favorite place. No matter what it is, bringing a few loved items to your workplace to enjoy can help you escape stress during the day. Also consider bringing essential oils to work. A 2009 study by the Department of Nursing at Youngnam Foreign Language College in Korea addressed the benefits of essential oils in reducing stress. Take a sniff during high stress times, as aromatherapy has been proven to help relieve stress. Choose a few websites that have relaxing images or music, and bookmark them on your computer. Look them up during stressful days, or have them running in the background.

3. Take a Break

Unfortunately, a startling number of people skip out on required breaks in order to finish more work. This not only keeps your body at a constant level of high stress, but also makes burn-out and exhaustion more likely to set in. In fact, looking at a screen all day without a break will stress out your eyes and your body. Even if it is just a ten minute break, take it. Go on a walk around the building, call your mom, or go enjoy a small snack somewhere private. Breaks from work are essential in maintaining a healthy working attitude.

4. Connect with Others

Businesses are starting to realize the importance of co-worker connection. Many organizations are encouraging employees to start groups for socialization and interaction. This may be a lunchtime walking group, a cooking group, or a book club. If your business doesn’t have any opportunities like this, inquire at your place of work about starting one. Being able to connect with your co-workers on a non-professional level helps everyone maintain cool heads during stressful times. For instance, Google offers employees internal groups within their companes that offer specific benefits or outings to encourage interaction and bonding.

5. Exercise

Whether at home before work, or on a break, make sure to get time in for exercise. Getting exercise is an essential part of ridding your body of stress. Try to find some time during your day to get in some exercise. The University of Maryland conducted a study in 2012 showing that exercise not only helps reduce current stress, but may help stave off future stress as well.

6. Eat Stress-Reducing Food

Even if you already eat well, consider taking an orange with you to work. A 2002 study at the Center for Psychomatic and Psychobiological Research, University of Trier, Germany found that a dose of vitamin C helps the body cope during stressful situations.

7. Think Ergonomics

Take an outsiders look at your workspace. Is your seating arrangement comfortable? Is it healthy for your body? Ask your employer about bringing in an exercise ball to sit on. While it may not be proven to help your posture, it won’t hurt it - and encourages core movement during the workday. It will also help protect your muscuoskeletal system, says a 1997 study by the CDC.

8. There’s an App for That

There are many de-stressing apps available on your phone. Download a few and use them when you feel the stress levels rising.

9. Organize Your Day

If you feel distracted or overwhelmed, write down a to-do list or a general schedule for your day. The act of actually writing down the list by hand will help you remember tasks more than typing them on a computer, and will help you organize and focus your thoughts, which will decrease stress, according to Patrick E. McLean's "Defense of Writing Longhand."

Tuesday, 14 March 2017 21:40

Driving Tips for Pothole Season

Pothole

Potholes and poor road conditions aren’t just an inconvenience, they are an expensive and dangerous result of harsh winters. Winter wrecks havoc on our roadways. The cycle of freezing and thawing, and snow, sleet, and rain, bring Springtime potholes that can do significant damage to your car. Severe potholes have led to accidents which may impact your insurance rates, as premiums are determined by past claims, accidents and driving violations. Here are important tips to keep in mind. 

Make sure you contact one of our Baldwin / Welsh & Parker Insurance Agents to make sure you have the right amount of coverage.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has repaired more than 1,300 potholes this winter, including 210 on the MassPike from Springfield to Weston in the last two months, and now the agency is asking the public to report more of these pavement craters.

MassDOT has expanded its online and telephone pothole information system to all areas of the state.

Potholes can be reported through MassDOT's Pothole Hotline number at 857-368-6999.  Potholes can also be reported to MassDOT by calling 857-DOT-INFO (857-368-4636) or 877-MA-DOT-GOV (877-623-6846) or by contacting MassDOT online at http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/ContactUs.aspx#Contact.

Pothole Driving Tips

  1. Properly inflated tires hold up better against potholes than tires that have too much or too little air.
  2. If you can’t avoid a pothole, slow down before you hit it. But don’t brake directly over a pothole, which can actually cause more damage.
  3. When driving over the pothole, hold the steering wheel firmly to avoid losing control.
  4. Use caution when driving over a puddle of water because it might be a pothole in hiding.
  5. Report potholes to MassDOT.  


And, if you have hit a pothole and notice any of these problems, take your car to a repair facility to have it checked for damage by a professional.

 

Report Potential Damage  

  • Bulges or blisters on the tire sidewalls.
  • Dents in the wheel rims.
  • Undercarriage damage, including fluid leaks and wear that could lead to rust.
  • Odd noises coming from the exhaust system due to dents or punctures.
  • The car pulling toward the left or right, instead of going straight, which could indicate an alignment problem.
  • Uneven tire wear, which could indicate an alignment problem.

 

Keeping organized records will make life easier for you and your loved ones. Here are easy to follow tips for your spring cleaning and organization efforts.

The Four Box Method to Tame the Chaos

The four box methodis just a modified version of keep/donate/toss. Instead of three boxes, you'll make four: Keep, Sell/Donate, Store, and Trash.

  1. Keep are items you need or use regularly, and have space for.
  2. Sell/Donate will go to Goodwill or your favorite charity, or hopefully make you a little money on eBay or Craigslist.
  3. Trash is junk: papers to be shredded, broken things that you know you'll never repair, you know the deal.
  4. Store is the most ambiguous: these are the boxes of things that you can't part with that don't play a role in your daily life. They're to be stored, but only so much that you have available storage space.

Saving your records in digital format allows you to store and access information easily. However, an organizing system can be as simple as a three-ring binder. Others use a filing cabinet. Use the system that works best for you. 

Four Key Categories to Batch Your Records

LIVESTRONG suggests that you batch your most important information in these four categories:

1. Important Financial Records

Start by collecting and reviewing the documents and information that you already have, including:

  • Employment benefit records.
  • Insurance policies, receipts and other insurance records.
  • Home / Apartment inventory.
  • Social Security benefit records.
  • Health records including prescription receipts.
  • Personal financial records.
  • Advance medical care and financial directives.
  • Will, living trust and guardianship directives.
  • Copies of letters about your health care and insurance.

Request copies of the important documents that you do not have. Arrange them in order by categories and by date. That way you will be able to quickly find information.


2. Legal Documents

Give copies of important legal documents directly to the person who is responsible for seeing that your wishes are followed. If you do not want to do that, tell them where you keep the copies. Also, keep a copy of these documents for yourself.

Store your documents in a safe place. Make sure that trusted loved ones or friends know where these documents are. They may also need to have access to a key and know how they can get to the documents if they are ever needed.

Here are suggestions about where to store some important documents:

  • Medical Directives: Give the original copy of all advance medical directives to your health care providers. Copies of your advance medical directives should be kept by you and the person you have chosen to act on your behalf in a medical emergency.
  • Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Advance Guardianship, Financial Directives: Give the original copy of each of the above types of documents to your attorney. He or she will store them for you and your loved ones. Copies of these documents should be kept by you (include a note with your copy that states where the original is stored) and others who might be involved later such as the legal guardian for your children.

These types of documents should not be stored in your bank safe-deposit box. It would be difficult to get to them quickly in an emergency.


3. Medical Treatment Records

Keep a copy of all of your medical records so that you will have accurate details about your medical treatment. Share this information with your physician and other health care team members. This will help you to get the best health care.

  • Medical records and receipts, invoices and statements for prescriptions, medical equipment and health care provider and hospital visits.
  • All contact information for your current and past health care team members.
  • Information about prescription and over-the-counter medications and vitamins.
  • Your medical treatment history that lists dates, diagnoses and treating health care providers.

Your health information can also be used when you prepare tax returns. It will be useful as you complete forms for insurance claims. In addition, these records can be used to document the need to request changes in your work schedule or job.


4. List of Instructions

A list of instructions can serve as a guide to your home, health, family, legal and financial matters. A trusted friend or loved one can use this information to pay bills and take care of your household in case of an emergency.

Your list of instructions should include all that is needed to keep your home and finances in order. Include a guide to your filing and record-keeping system. Some of the information in your list of instructions may be confidential.

Keep the following types of information in a safe place so that only a person you trust can get to it:

  • Banking and other financial information.
  • Credit card information.
  • PIN numbers.
  • Usernames and passwords to accounts.
  • Safe combination numbers.

Allow yourself the time you need to organize and store your records. You don't have to do it all at one time. Ask someone you trust to help you if it becomes too overwhelming.

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Hudson, MA - 978-562-5652

Wayland, MA - 508-358-5383

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