First Community Financial Group, Inc. Blog
April is tax season, so a lot of people are thinking about their finances these days. But if you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking in the short term: What’s my refund going to be—or how much do I owe? And what is that going to do to my monthly budget?
It’s good to be thinking about those things. It’s also important to look at the bigger picture. Financial Literacy Month, which is also in April, gives you the perfect chance to do just that. Surveys have showed that an alarming number of Americans lack even basic financial knowledge; in an era when we collectively have trillions of dollars in consumer debt, and many people live paycheck to paycheck, that can be a recipe for disaster.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! This Financial Literacy Month website, created by nonprofit credit-counseling firm Money Management International, features tools and resources to help you understand your finances better and build a bright financial future. In that spirit, we’ve come up with seven tips that can help you become savvier with your money. Some are easy things you can do today. Others might take a little more work. But all are worth the effort!
1. Make your saving automatic. It’s important to have money set aside for emergencies—and to save for retirement. But once your paycheck hits your account, it can be a lot easier to just spend it all. The solution? Schedule automatic transfers to a separate account for your emergency fund, your retirement plan, or both. Start with something like 10%. You might even find that you don’t miss it.
2. Pay your credit cards off every month. If you can’t do this now, pay them down until you can. One popular way is the “snowball” method, which in a nutshell, works like this: Make only the minimum payment on all of your debts—except the smallest one. Put as much money as you can toward that. When the smallest debt is paid off, repeat the process and continue until everything is paid!
3. Check your tax withholding. People love getting big tax refunds, but that really means you’ve loaned the government your money over the course of the year—interest-free. For example, instead of a $2,500 refund in April or May, you could have more than $200 extra in your paycheck every single month. Wouldn’t that be nice?
4. Don’t throw away free money. Who would do that? Well, you—if your employer offers a match on your retirement savings and you don’t contribute enough to get the full amount. Say your company matches the first 3% of salary you contribute to a 401(k); you should save as much as you can, but at the very least, you’d want to save that 3%.
5. Pay less for services. Are you paying more than you should for cable, internet or your mobile service? Maybe not—but you won’t know unless you ask. Often, companies have discounts or special packages available, especially if you’re a loyal customer and you haven’t been on a promotional deal for a while.
6. Consider a credit card that rewards you. This can be a great way to earn points toward free travel or other rewards, just for buying the things you would buy anyway. Don’t spend more than you normally would just to get rewards, though. And remember, if you regularly carry a balance, the rewards probably won’t outweigh the interest you’re paying. (Go back to item #2 in our list.)
7. Track your spending for a while—and then review it. You probably spend money on a lot of little things without realizing how much it adds up. Maybe you get takeout for lunch a couple of times a week or stop for coffee every day on your way to work. Try tracking everything you spend for a month or two. Then, take a look at your habits.
You’ll find areas where you can save, likely without even feeling like you’re making a sacrifice. Insurance is an important tool for your financial well-being, too. Even though it’s easy to think of insuring your car or home as protecting your “stuff,” insurance really protects your finances. After all, insurance can’t prevent your car from being hit by another driver—but it can pay for the repairs, so that money doesn’t come from your pocket.
Take a little time to think about your finances this month and try one or more of the tips above. As with many things in life, when it comes to money, small steps can have a big impact!
Everyone needs health insurance, now more than ever. With the COVID-19 pandemic in its second year, there has never been a better reminder that taking care of your health is key to remaining well and safe. The right health insurance can help make certain you receive both routine and critical medical care affordably at the time you need it.
Though health insurance substantially reduces your out-of-pocket burden for medical expenses, it does not eliminate that burden. Most care requires some degree of cost-sharing, meaning you must cover a portion of the expenses yourself. One of these personal costs may be your deductible. A deductible is a specific cost burden that will accompany certain medical procedures or services. Here’s how it works.
How Do Deductibles Work?
A deductible is a fixed, yearly amount that you must pay for medical expenses before your health insurance will cover the remaining costs of care. Deductibles are designed to lessen the cost burden posed to medical insurers. By sharing some costs, insurers can continue to offer affordable premiums and more expansive coverage to all of their policyholders.
For example, suppose that your health insurance plan has a $2,000 annual deductible. This means that you will have to pay up to $2,000 out of pocket in a single year before your insurance plan will cover certain costs of care. After you have paid off the deductible, then your plan will cover additional eligible expenses. In this example, if you received a $5,000 surgery bill, you’d pay $2,000 and your insurance would cover the rest. Once your plan renews, the deductible obligation starts over.
When Do I Have to Pay It?
Health insurance deductibles do not necessarily apply to every medical expense you might face. Some plans require you to pay 100% of the costs of care until you have met your deductible while others exempt certain care from the deductible obligation.
Most plans exempt regular checkups, medically necessary services and preventative care from deductible rules. You may only have to pay the necessary copayment or coinsurance regardless of whether you still owe money on your deductible for a checkup, lab work, vaccination or other routine care. This enables you to still receive the care that is most necessary for you to stay well, without facing an undue cost burden.
Your deductible will still often apply to certain care costs, such as inpatient care expenses, certain imaging services or other care that your insurer might not deem medically necessary. You can examine precisely how your plan outlines your own deductible obligations by reviewing your explanation of benefits document. This will outline exactly how and when the deductible will apply.
For further information on your health insurance deductible, contact our agency today!
When you insure yourself under a life insurance policy, you will name a beneficiary who will receive the policy’s payout in the event of your death. This settlement is called a death benefit, and it can ease your survivors’ financial burdens in numerous practical ways.
You might decide that leaving life insurance to family beneficiaries is the best way to enable them to settle your estate. However, a death benefit is different from other types of inheritance. Here’s what you should consider when you are choosing the death benefit for your life insurance policy.
How Do Death Benefits Work?
You buy life insurance while you are still alive, but it is only designed to pay out in the event of your death. You can choose the sum of the death benefit included within the plan, and you can also choose for how long you want the policy to cover you. Some plans only cover you for a certain term of years (term life insurance) and others last for the rest of your life (permanent life insurance).
At the time of choosing the plan, you will also name the beneficiary to who you want to receive the policy funds. You cannot be both the insured and the beneficiary on the policy since you must die for the policy to pay out benefits. Should you die while the policy is in place, your beneficiary will receive the death benefit. Some life insurance plans allow you to name primary and contingent beneficiaries, and you can also instruct that each beneficiary receive a certain percentage of the death benefit.
One positive aspect of life insurance death benefits is that they are not considered part of your estate. As a result, they will not go through the probate process. Therefore, your beneficiaries won’t automatically be obligated to repay creditors or others using this money.
Still, if you want to put stipulations on how the death benefit money is to be used, then you have the option of placing the money into a trust. The trust will be the technical beneficiary on the policy, and you can set rules within the trust on how the named trustee is to distribute the money within.
You should let your beneficiaries know that you are naming them on your life insurance policy. That way, they will know that, upon your death, they need to notify the life insurer and start the claims process. At that time, they should receive the money within a few weeks. However, they will have to provide proof of your death, and the insurer might take longer to pay out benefits (or even deny a claim) if there are suspicious circumstances surrounding your passing.
If you are unsure your loved one will know what to do with your life insurance death benefit, you can let your will or attorney provide instruction to your beneficiary after your death. Additionally, your life insurance agent can help your loved one through this process.
In 2014, almost 18 million people in the U.S. were victims of identity theft. Two-thirds of them said they suffered a direct financial loss because of it, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
During tax season, your personal information is particularly vulnerable. After all, your Social Security number (SSN) is on W-2 forms, your tax return and other financial documents being sent through the mail, transported to accountants and otherwise used to complete your annual IRS ritual. So it’s a good time of the year to be especially vigilant.
To help, here are four things you should know about identity theft — from what thieves can do to how you can help protect yourself — from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Federal Trade Commission:
1. Thieves won’t just open new accounts — they can (and will) file “your” taxes. Someone with access to your data could file a fraudulent tax return and claim a refund under your name. You may not know until you go to file your own return and it comes back rejected. If it happens, call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
2. Scammers will try to reel you in. Ever get a call or email from someone asking you to verify your account information or SSN? Legitimate organizations, especially the IRS, won’t do that. If there’s a problem with your tax return, the IRS will contact you by mail.
3. Technology can help. If you send tax forms or other sensitive documents via email, password-protect them. Furthermore, security software can help keep your data safe, and password generators will help ensure your various login credentials aren’t easy for a thief to figure out. As for analog documents, such as tax records, store them in a locked desk or filing cabinet and don’t send them through the mail unless it’s certified.
4. Reporting the crime is a must. Ninety percent of identity-theft victims don’t alert the police, says BJS. But you should. A police report can help prove to financial institutions and businesses that someone stole your identity. It also allows you to place an extended fraud alert on your credit report, get inaccurate information removed, stop debt collectors from reporting fraudulent accounts and more. Because once criminals have your information, they may use it to perpetuate many types of fraud.
Protecting your identity is, of course, something to be mindful of all year round – not just during tax season. For more tips, visit IdentityTheft.gov. And, to discuss adding identity protection coverage to your home insurance policy, contact us at First Community Financial Group today.
When the time comes to consider which type of home insurance to buy or how much coverage you need, think twice about just renewing the coverage you currently have. In many situations, your coverage can become ineffective or provide insufficient coverage to meet your needs if a significant issue occurs on the property. Be sure to take a closer look at your home insurance plan to ensure it offers the right level of coverage for your home right now. If it doesn’t, you could face financial loss later when you have to file a claim.
To estimate your insurance needs, consider a home rebuild analysis. This will help you get an accurate idea of what it would cost to rebuild your home at today’s construction costs. Update your home insurance policy to reflect the true cost so that if an event occurs in which your home is at risk of damage, you will have the coverage available to minimize those losses. Update your home insurance policy at least once every year or so to reflect changes in construction costs.
How Can You Ensure You Have Enough Coverage? Determining if there is enough homeowners coverage in place to protect against a significant loss is a considerable undertaking. If your home is impacted by fire or destroyed in a storm, for example, then the amount of damage present can warrant the need to not only replace what you’ve lost, but also to rebuild your property. That is why a home rebuild cost analysis is necessary.
This type of process helps to identify the costs of rebuilding your home, not just covering its value. Rebuilding your home includes coverage for the construction process. With a home rebuild cost analysis, it becomes easy to learn what the true cost of rebuilding your home will be. Unfortunately, most people do not have enough coverage to completely rebuild their homes with no out-of-pocket expenses to them. However, with a home rebuild cost analysis, you can better calculate what that amount of money would be.
It’s also important to consider the replacement value of your home versus the actual cash value. Depreciation can have a significant impact on your actual cash value claim. For example, if your siding needs to be replaced at 15 years old, but it has a 20-year lifespan, you will be expected to cover most of the roof’s cost. Replacement value, on the other hand will cover rebuilding costs, regardless of depreciation. It’s important to take all costs into consideration.
Do you have enough coverage? Contact us for more information on home insurance.
Health insurance can be expensive, and as of 2021, there is no longer a federal requirement that you have to buy health insurance. You will not face fines for not carrying coverage.
Choosing to go uninsured isn’t recommended—and for a good reason. The average cost of health insurance for a single person in the U.S. is around $495 a year (about $41.25 a month), while the average cost for an American family is around $1,779 a year (about $148.25 a month). This may seem expensive, but it’s critical to compare health insurance premiums to the cost benefits you will receive from buying a policy.
The True Cost of Health Care
Getting health insurance is encouraged due to the expensive nature of health care services today. A single hospital stay can cost an average of more than $15,000, this is an expense many are not ready to pay for. While you may be able to schedule payments for expensive medical bills, it isn’t always feasible—especially when added to other everyday medical costs such as medications, check-ups, doctor visits, etc.
Consider just a few of the average costs of common health care services (without insurance):
For example, a single person gets into a car wreck and needs emergency services. They’re transported by ambulance to a hospital and rushed into immediate spinal fusion surgery. Once out of surgery, they not only need to stay in the hospital for a few days to recover, but they will also need prescription medication and physical therapy. On the low side, the victim could be facing a bill of at least $35,000 (on top of recovering physically and emotionally from the incident).
Growing Health Care Costs
Unfortunately, these prices only seem to be growing due to a few factors, such as:
If you have life insurance, then you will name a beneficiary. The beneficiary is the person who will receive the death benefit payout upon your death. You want your life insurance to help your survivors move on financially. However, choosing the right beneficiary might feel like a big challenge, particularly if you are single.
Still, if you are single and are in the process of getting life insurance, you have a lot of freedom to choose the beneficiary who you think will be most capable of settling your final expenses. Choosing a beneficiary for your policy is completely up to you. Still, you should put appropriate thought into naming the right recipient.
Consider how the following individuals might benefit from your policy:
Plus, there are countless other people who you might decide to make beneficiaries on your policy—friends, siblings, business partners or extended relatives. In reality, the decision of who to name as a beneficiary is entirely up to you, and as a single individual, you have a lot of room for leverage.
The choice of beneficiaries is an important part of life insurance decisions. And, it always helps to have more than one listed on the plan (in case the first person cannot accept the funds). Take a few minutes to discuss your needs with your loved ones so you can make the best decision going forward.
Every year during the holidays, people in Texas and the rest of the U.S.A. look for ways to give gifts, not just to family and friends but to those less fortunate. It’s the spirit of the season.
Unfortunately, some of the charities out there don’t help people as fully as they claim – or possibly not at all. As if that weren’t enough, bogus organizations take advantage of people’s goodwill by stealing credit card and bank account information, along with identities, from people who think they’re donating to a legitimate cause.
It doesn’t mean you can’t be generous this holiday season. It just means a little extra caution is in order. Here are four tips for making smart and safe holiday donations:
1. Verify the charity is legitimate.
Sure, the name sounds official and you think your friend mentioned what good work they do. Or does the charity simply have a name similar to another well-known organization? Before you donate, do a little digging.
Enter the charity’s name at Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator or GuideStar, and, if you feel comfortable after reading about the organization, go ahead and donate. If not, look for another charity that supports the same cause. A good rule of thumb is to look for organizations with 501(c)(3) status.
2. Steer clear of pop-up charities.
A pop-up charity is anything but charitable. These groups spring into action at opportune times, namely when people are feeling generous, such as during the holidays or following a disaster. The so-called charity is actually a scam designed to steal money, credit card numbers, bank account information and identities from unsuspecting donors. If, during your research, you come across an organization that seemingly appeared out of the blue, do not share any of your personal information with it.
3. Be careful with digital donations.
Now that you’ve researched the charity, how do you plan to donate? If it’s online, be sure to type in the website address correctly. Fraudsters put up realistic-looking sites using a URL similar to a well-known charity’s to trick people into donating. But, they’re not donating at all. They’re lining the pockets of thieves.
Once you know you’re on the correct site, check that it’s secure before submitting any credit card information. Simply look for “https” instead of “http” at the beginning of the URL.
Likewise, that email you received from a prominent charity may be a fake. Instead of clicking on a link in an email to donate, go directly to your Web browser and type in the address yourself.
4. Avoid phone and door-to-door solicitors.
If people call or knock on your door out of the blue asking for a contribution to this or that organization, ask them for the charity’s website or mailing address instead of donating right then and there. Even if it’s a charity you’ve heard of, the operation may be a scam. It’s always safer for you to initiate the donation by visiting the charity’s website or mailing in a check. Plus, fundraising over the phone requires a middleman – that agent calling you – who must be paid, reducing the amount of your donation that goes to the charity.
It feels good to be in a giving mood during the holidays. With a little legwork to look into the legitimacy and practices of the charity, your donation will help others feel good too.
At First Community Financial Group, we can work with you to make sure you've got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable. Just give us a call at 936-327-4364 or send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what's important to you is protected!
Content provided by Safeco Insurance.
What is professional liability insurance?
Professional liability insurance protects individuals and companies from assuming the full cost of defending a lawsuit that claims negligence of the individual or business. A claim of negligence, malpractice or misrepresentation is not covered under a general liability insurance policy, which makes professional liability insurance crucial for those who provide a service or advice for a fee. Depending on the profession, professional liability insurance may take on different forms and names, like malpractice and E&O insurance.
The number of liability lawsuits against professionals has increased in recent years. Many professionals within a variety of industries are at risk of being sued, whether the charges are valid or unfounded. Such lawsuits can mean financial ruin both professionally and personally, including the loss of cars, homes and careers. Professional liability insurance helps with the financial burden of these events.
Who benefits from professional liability insurance?
Any professional who provides a service, expertise or advice to clients for a fee can benefit from coverage against liability lawsuits. Even with quality employees and risk management practices in place, people still make mistakes. A general liability policy may not cover mistakes that could be made. Professional liability insurance will protect your business and its finances if such an event arises.
Get started today
The agents here at First Community Financial Group will evaluate your business to determine its unique insurance needs and find you the professional liability policy with the necessary coverage. Call us if you have questions or want to get started. We are happy to help you get the protection you need.
Your business would not be able to succeed if the equipment, materials, stock and products that it utilizes were to become compromised. Damage, theft or destruction of property might interrupt your operations and put you in a significant financial bind as you work through the recovery process. Indeed, if the loss of property is too great to bear, then the business might fold.
If you are committed to bracing your business against this threat, then you should consider commercial property insurance to be indispensable. This benefit might be required in some circumstances, but it’s critical to have in all cases. Any business that owns property—which is more or less any business—can benefit from this plan.
What Does Commercial Property Insurance Cover?
A commercial property policy is designed to help you repair assets damaged by unexpected, unavoidable accidents that impact your operations. It might apply to losses stemming from:
This insurance may cover the physical location and all of its contents including decorations, furniture, equipment, products and more. Make sure to speak with your insurance agent to ensure that your business’ valuable assets are covered appropriately.
Do You Need Commercial Property Insurance Without a Physical Location?
The days of the brick-and-mortar business are over, and today you can run a successful enterprise even from the comfort of your own home. However, commercial property insurance remains essential for your operational needs. Indeed, your standard homeowners insurance will not cover commercial property except in very limited cases.
Commercial property insurance can cover items specifically used for your business, whether they are housed in a physical location or in your home. There are property damage risks everywhere, and all of them could impact your operations. You can rely upon your commercial property insurance to help you cover the costs of repairing, replacing or recovering these items so that you can sustain as little of a financial loss as possible in the meantime.
How do I Get the Right Commercial Property Insurance?
In some cases, you will have to buy your commercial property insurance as a stand-alone plan. In others, however, this benefit will come as part of a business owners policy (BOP). BOPs provide several essential commercial benefits, including commercial property insurance, in one place. Therefore, by having your commercial property coverage as part of this plan, you’ll be able to both coordinate your benefits and pay a lower price for your coverage overall.
It is never too soon to consider protecting the physical assets of your business. Keep your eyes peeled, compare quotes and speak to one of our insurance agents about protecting your business’s property with the right coverage.