Your Insurance Solution

What to Consider When Shopping for Insurance

It can be hard to pick the right insurance plan for your circumstances. We don’t know what will happen to us in the future and we can only plan for so much. However, here are some things to think about when shopping for insurance:

  • What insurance options do I have at work? Many businesses offer really great insurance plans that you can take advantage of. Make sure you know all of your options and that you understand them. Understanding an insurance plan may be easier said than done, but HR should be able to provide you with a comprehensive idea of what your office has to offer.

  • Do I have a major life change coming up that could require medical care? You may be planning to get pregnant or perhaps you are going to run an extreme marathon in a remote location. Be sure you understand what kind of insurance would be useful for your upcoming activity. You may want to get insurance with a low deductible or buy additional insurance that can help make sure you will get to a hospital or medical care facility.

  • How does this insurance deal with outside providers? Some insurance will not cover health care provided by a doctor or nurse that does not work within a specific network, while others are a little more open to covering at least part of a visit to an outside provider. If you do not live or work near a doctor that is covered by the insurance network, you may want to consider different insurance.

  • What is important to you when it comes to insurance? A person who wants to stick with the same doctor may treat their insurance choices differently than someone who wants to go for the cheapest insurance possible.

  • Does the plan cover your children or spouse? Many office plans will allow you to cover your children or spouse with the same plan, but they will often not pay for the additional people on the plan. So, your plan may require additional out-of-pocket monthly expenses to cover your child or spouse.

  • Do you already have a plan that you are signed up to? It is always smart to review your plan at the end of each year to see if it has changed at all or to find out if a plan that better fits your needs is now available.

Health insurance is incredibly important for everyone to have. Be sure you get the right insurance that will give you the most benefit for the price. You want to get the biggest bang for your buck!
Five Office Motivation Killers and What to do About Them

Many people have to drag themselves to work every single day. Sometimes it’s the drudgery of the job, or it could be the fake motivational “hang in there” posters, possibly it is the feeling of being a cog in a great machine. No matter how an employee or a business owner feels, there was a point where your passion and excitement for work got dulled.

Here are five ways one of your employees (or you) may have had their motivation killed - and how to fix them:

1 - Lack of clearly defined goals. Let’s face it, many tasks at work like making copies or answering emails are pure drudgery. But, if there is a purpose for that activity, the drudgery not only turns into a task, it becomes easier to do.

Ask your employees to define their goal for each task they do - and the goal can’t be “to get it done so I can do something more interesting.” They will quickly find that tasks have a reason behind them. Additionally, if a task is being done and there’s no clear reason for it, you might be able to simply automate or eliminate it.

2 - Inadequate rewards. According to a study listed in Entrepreneur magazine, 26% of committed employees would leave their job for a 5% pay increase. So, instead of losing great employees, set up a rewards system. This may be that once a specific financial goal is reached for the company, your business offers 401(K) matching. It could be that you set up a review process each year that offers an increase in pay if the employee has had a good year. It could mean a bonus if a project is completed and gone through testing by the targeted test date. There are many ways to reward your employees.

Be sure to reward yourself too. If you successfully guided your team to an on-time, high quality product release or your business made its financial goals, have a reward waiting for you, too!

3 - Constant distraction. Continuous interruptions make both an employee and a business owner feel as if his or her work is not important. Be sure to build office policies that minimize interruption as much as possible.

4 - Micromanagement. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, 38% of workers would rather do unpleasant activities than sit next to a micromanaging boss. This is not encouragement to make people do unpleasant activities! Instead, set up a system that allows a culture of autonomy. It’s possible that fostering agency will build a creative team that comes up with better ways to do things than even you could think of on your own.

5 - No opportunity for growth. Many businesses have a ceiling. This is understood by most business owners and employees. However, there are more ways to grow than going up the ladder at work. For example, offering opportunities for continuing education, allowing people to go to seminars and conferences, and generally allowing for mental growth can inspire employees to do their job better and make the job more enjoyable.

There are ways to motivate employees (and yourself!) without using inspirational quotes or buckets of money. We hope these ideas will help your business grow!
Five Tips to Minimize Stress in the Workplace

According to The American Institute of Stress, stress in the workplace is extremely high among American adults. Stress can cause problems like heart disease, stroke, and many other illnesses. In fact, stress is the basic cause of 60% of human illness and disease. Just talking about it is stressful!

You can see how important it is to reduce stress in the world around us and, specifically, in the workplace. But how can one do this without getting stressed out himself? Here are five tips that will help you manage and minimize workplace stress:

#1. Make sure employees take breaks. Working on an empty stomach, sitting for six or eight hours at a time, constantly answering phone calls and emails all take a toll on us. That’s why employees are provided with lunch breaks and work breaks.

Oregon state law says that employees who work at least six hours are entitled to a 30-minute meal break as well as a paid 10-minute rest break for each four hour period of work. The exact details of this law can be found by contacting the United States Department of Labor.

Be sure your employees take advantage of these breaks and, if possible, try to provide a couple of extra stretching or walking breaks throughout the day. You can even program a calendar reminder for each employee to make sure they take their mandated breaks and have a little time to de-stress.

#2. Think about the workspace. An endless sea of blue cubes can get very narrowing and stressful. Here are three simple improvements you can make to the overall office space that can help lower stress levels for everyone:

  • Add plants. Studies show that plants improve the air quality in enclosed buildings, reducing illness in those buildings and benefiting employees’ immune systems. Excellent air purifiers include: ivy, chrysanthemums, peace lilies, parlour palms, varieties of dracaena, chinese evergreen, and philodendron.

  • Change out those old fluorescents. Studies show that natural lighting improves human productivity and reduces stress. Changing out those old bulbs with full spectrum tubes can be an instant stress-reducer!

  • Utilize colors for quick relief. Different colors help stimulate different actions. Red is energizing, blue is calming, green fights irritability, and orange stimulates creativity. Add some stimulating art to your office or replace that old brown carpet with a calming green and stress may just melt away!

#3. Foster a social, cohesive environment. Humans are social, collaborative creatures. Be sure your workplace helps harness this by asking employees to participate in team building activities and face-to-face meetings.

#4. Create a technology-free space. We use our phones or stare at computer screens constantly. Create a space within the office that is tech free. It can be a quiet space for meditation or a fun room with a foosball table. The only caveat is that it is screen free.

#5. Make sure you de-stress too! Be sure to practice what you preach! Manage your time, take breaks, and generally work to stay as stress free as possible throughout your day.

It can be hard to decompress at work, but it is important to fight workplace stress with every tool at our disposal. Be sure to help your employees get and stay as stress-free as possible!
Is a 401(k) Worth it?

It can be difficult to make the right decision when it comes to retirement planning. There are 401(k) plans offered by employers, IRA plans, an investment portfolio and more. It can feel as if there are as many retirement options as there are people! However, if your employer offers a 401(k) plan, it may be a good idea to take her up on it. Here’s the scoop on 401(k) planning:

What is a 401(k) anyway?

The name 401(k) comes from a section of tax code developed during the 1980s to supplement pensions. Employers used to provide pensions which were managed by the firm and paid out an income over the course of a former employee’s retirement. However, the administrative costs rose and pensions became less manageable.

With a 401(k), an employee can control how his or her money will be invested. Many plans provide a spread of mutual funds with stocks, bonds, and money market investments. Plans also have a number of restrictions and rules that must be followed. However, if you follow the rules laid out on a 401(k), you will receive excellent benefits upon retirement.

Benefits of a 401(k)

There are many benefits associated with a 401(k). Here are just five of the perks provided by this retirement plan:

#1. Employer contributions. Often employers will match a portion of your investment in your retirement plan. Think of it like a boost to your paycheck. If you pass this up, you will be losing money you could retire on.

#2. Investment opportunities. A 401(k) plan offers a good variety of investment channels that you can utilize. For example, you may be able to choose from:

  • Stock and bond mutual funds

  • Company stock

  • Money market funds

  • Guaranteed investment contracts and other stable value accounts

#3. Tax deferred earnings. The income you invest into your 401(k) plan has not yet been taxed as income, which lowers your overall yearly tax bill. This way, you postpone payment of taxes on that income until you withdraw the money upon retirement. The idea is that, when you retire, you will be in a lower tax bracket than when you were actively earning money. Therefore, you would be paying less money back to the government than if you invested your money outside of a 401(k).

#4. Restrictions that work for you. Because of the tax benefits, it is very difficult to take money out of a 401(k) until you have reached the age of 59 ½ or it has been more than five years since you made your first contribution or you are disabled. This restriction helps keep your retirement money safe and secure.

#5. Compound interest. In short, this plan allows you to re-invest both the money you have invested along with the interest earned. This means your savings will grow exponentially over time.

If your employer offers a 401(k), it may be a great idea for you to take advantage of it. If your employer does not offer this retirement plan, get them in touch with us. We would be happy to help them establish a great plan that benefits you!
7 Actions Small Businesses Can Start Now to Make 2016 Tax Season Simple

With tax season over, your first impulse may be to sit back and relax until next year. However, there are things you can do right now to make next year’s tax season simpler, easier, and less stressful. Here are seven stress-free things you can do to make your 2016 taxes easy as pie:

#1. Start a file. You will need receipts, mileage logs, and invoices to hand over when you are ready for tax time. Don’t let them scatter to the four corners of your office. Get them filed so you have them available when you’re ready for tax time.

#2. Log your receipts. Probably one of the most frustrating parts of taxes is figuring out what you spent deductible money on in the previous year. By the time next April comes around, your receipts may be faded - along with your memory. Create a log and be sure to update it every time you file a receipt.

#3. Interview CPAs now. During tax season, CPAs are incredibly busy. Instead of waiting until the last minute to get help, gather recommendations from fellow business owners or friends and interview your potential CPA now. You’ll get more of their attention and they will likely be more excited about gaining your business when they aren’t completely swamped.

#4. Consider what you did wrong with last year’s taxes. Perhaps something made you panicky at the last minute or there was information you needed to gather the day before your appointment with the CPA. Think about what stressed you out this year and make sure you correct it for next year.

#5. Give a list of things to keep track of to your accountant or accounting department. It’s your job as the business owner to think ahead. Help your accounting department keep tax season in mind by giving them a list of what you will need. That way they can start filing and logging now instead of going into overtime in March or April.

#6. Take advantage of tax breaks all year long. Many businesses forget there are tax breaks they can take advantage of until December. Instead of rushing around trying to figure out how to cram in business improvements right when everyone is trying to take time off, plan your tax write-offs now and implement them all year long.

#7. Get tax projections for 2015. Ask your CPA or accountant to work up your projected taxes for this year. If you are doing significantly more business, this will help you avoid the shock of higher tax costs when you start to do your taxes in 2016.

It is never too early to get ready for tax season. By planning ahead, you can take advantage of more tax deductions and tax write offs so your tax season next year is as stress-free as possible.

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