Our Blog Posted 4.26.17 Put Your Tax Refund to Work More Americans than not receive a tax refund. When that refund money comes in, it is tempting to spend it on a vacation or a big ticket item you have been eyeing. Below are some financial savvy alternatives for ways to spend your tax refund. Reduce Debt Purchase Life Insurance Contribute to Retirement Purchase Disability Insurance Save for College Reduce Debt- Whether you make an extra payment toward the principal on your mortgage, pay off credit card debt or tackle your student loans Purchase Life Insurance- If you haven’t purchased life insurance on yourself and loved ones, there is no time like the present. Contribute to Retirement- Now is a great time to invest in your financial future. Purchase Disability Insurance- Having disability insurance is crucial when creating a plan for a well rounded financial portfolio. Save for College- There are many college saving programs available. If you would like more information on any of the above topics, please reach out to one of our licensed brokers today. Posted 3.29.17 Consider Adding an Annuity to Your Retirement Plan If you have ever done research about retirement planning then you have probably read or heard about annuities. There are two basic types of annuities: deferred and immediate. A deferred annuity is when your money is invested for a period of time until you are ready to begin taking withdrawals. An immediate annuity is when your money is invested and you are able to receive payments soon after the initial investment, you do not have to wait. * Deferred annuities can be converted to immediate annuities when the owner wishes to start collecting payments. Additionally there are two types of categories for each type of annuity: fixed and variable. Fixed annuities payout in the form of a fixed sum. Variable annuities the payout is tied to the overall market or a group of investments. *Annuities can also be a combination of these two. There are many benefits to incorporating an annuity into your retirement plan. Annuities are ideal for a high income earner in a high tax bracket. If you have maxed out your 401(k), IRA deferrals and you expect to be in a lower tax bracket when you retire, than a low cost variable annuity could be a good option. Unlike 401(k)’s and IRAs, there is no annual contribution amount. This makes an annuity a useful way to catch up for those close to retirement. When ready to cash out an annuity, a lump sum can be taken, or guaranteed payments for a specific length of time, providing there is a steady stream of income. Some of the key features of an annuity are as follows: Flexibility- You are able to customize how often you are paid and can set your payout so it increases to offset inflation. Diversification- Because annuities can offer steady, guaranteed interest rates, they can help to provide some stability to a retirement portfolio, thus helping with diversification. Tax Deferral- Tax on the earnings of an annuity is typically deferred until withdrawal. This allows your money to accumulate faster because it is growing in several ways: Premiums earn interest, interest earns interest, and the money that would be paid out on taxes is deferred. Income- An annuity can pay out income from your savings for as long as you live, or both you and your spouse live. If you would like to learn more about whether or not an annuity is a good way for you to diversify your personal retirement portfolio, please reach out to one of our securities licensed agents today. *Sources: CNN money & LMRA Secure Retirement Institute Study: Knowledge of Annuities Boosts Ownership, 2014 Posted 3.2.17 If you are like most Americans you have at least one, if not two insurance cards in your wallet or on your person at all times. You can have one for medical, dental, vision, Medicare supplements, hospital indemnity…. the list goes on. The million dollar question is: Do you know how to read your insurance card? It really is quite simple and once you read this article I think you’ll agree. Medical insurance Cards always have the following info: Your name Your insurance company Coverage Type Group # The price of co-pays (If you have any) Tell whether your plan is a PPO or HMO A phone number for member services & claims It might also contain the following: Have prescription information (Although you might have a separate RX card.) Dental or Vision info Dental & Vision Insurance Cards have similar info but specify the card is for coverage other than medical. It will say either dental or vision coverage somewhere on the card and occasionally one card will be for both types of coverage. Below is a detailed example of what an insurance card might look like. Posted 2.13.17 Just as life insurance is an important part of any well rounded financial plan, equally important is disability insurance. Disability Insurance (AKA DI) can be purchased at the individual level as well as through employer offered benefits. Some employers offer either or both short term and long term disability income benefits to their employees. DI insurance can be employer subsidized just like medical, dental & vision benefits. There are two types of disability insurance: Short Term and Long Term. The purpose of both is to supplement your income should you be unable to work. The main difference in the two types is how long the benefit pays out. Premiums for all disability insurance are based on several factors: Your salary (Or the amount you wish the insurance to help recover.) Your age Your gender Your occupation (There are occupation specific DI policies.) Short Term Disability Insurance (STD ) Helps to supplement your income for a shorter amount of time while you are unable to work. After a short waiting period has be fulfilled (typically 14 days); the policy will begin to pay out a specified amount (generally 40%-60% of employee’s weekly salary) for a predetermined amount of time (anywhere from 9 to 52 weeks). Example list of reasons short term disabilities polices will pay out benefits include: A lengthy illness A disabling injury The birth of a child A surgery with a lengthy recovery Long Term Disability Insurance (LTD ) helps to supplement your income for a long amount of time while you are unable to work. After a longer waiting period has be fulfilled (typically 90+ days); the policy will begin to pay out a specified amount for a predetermined amount of time. Example list of reasons short term disabilities polices will pay out benefits include: A lengthy illness A disabling injury A mental disorder There are many benefits to having a disability policy. They help to provide financial peace of mind and the money can be used towards whatever bills that need paying. Uses for Disability Policy Income include but are not limited to: Mortgage payments Child care costs Utilities Groceries Credit card bills Car payments Both policies have specific terminology that is associated with them. Below are a few examples of these similarities: Elimination Period- An elimination period is the time when a member becomes eligible to receive payments. It ends when payments start to be paid to the policy holder. It is sometimes known as a deductible period or waiting period. Benefit Period- The amount of time a policy will pay out. Issue Age- The ages that a policy will cover. Example: ages 18 - 64 Waiver of Premium- Many companies will waive your monthly premium once you become eligible & start using this benefit. Rehabilitation Benefit- Some policies require you to receive some sort of rehabilitation in order to receive benefits. Some carriers even pay for this rehabilitation. Survivor Benefit- If the insured dies while disabled, some carriers will pay out a lump-sum amount benefit to a beneficiary. *All disability benefits are taxable just like any other income. *If you are interested in additional info about disability policies or you are interested in offering disability insurance as a benefit to your employees, please reach out to your broker directly. *All disability policies must be purchased from a licensed insurance agent/ broker. Posted 12.27.16 As 2016 comes to a close and we look toward 2017 many people are thinking about their New Years’ Resolutions. According to Nielsen.com 2015’s top 10 New Year’s resolutions included: spending less & saving more, getting organized, and stay fit and healthy. Ironically according to Time Magazine, two of the most commonly broken New Year’s resolutions are getting out of debt & saving money and losing weight. Whether your goal is to be physically or fiscally fit, both are a good idea as far as your financial future is concerned. In the finance industry resolutions come in the form of next year’s goal planning. Financial goal planning is similar to any other goals only they are specific to your financial portfolio. As a good rule of thumb a healthy financial portfolio includes the following: Disability income insurance Retirement planning Life insurance A plan of action for paying off debt (It can also include a college fund for your children or grandchildren.) A certified financial planner can help you with developing realistic short term and long term financial goals. Just like your personal goals change and evolve over time, so do financial goals. That is why it is important to have regular meetings with your financial planner so you can reassess your progress. The financial portfolio review process typically consists of the following: Identify you and your family’s long & short term financial goals and compare them to previous goals. Figure out your net worth (This is where your debt to asset ratio is evaluated.) Reevaluate your budget Protect you and your family against the unexpected (Life insurance, disability income insurance, umbrella insurance and long term care insurance can be purchased to help with this. An emergency fund is also part of this type of planning.) Reevaluate your plan/goals as your life and finances change. (Example: You have a baby, you get a big raise or inherit a large amount of money.) If you have a financial planner, now is a great time to make an appointment to do your annual reevaluation. Alternatively, if you do not have a financial planner, now is a great time to contact our office and start setting your financial goals with one of our licensed brokers. Posted 12.22.16 Healthcare Reform’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act AKA ObamaCare was signed into law March 23, 2010. When it began back in 2010 there were and still to this day are several parts of the legislation that are confusing. One of those is the section pertaining to preventive care. If you have a new medical insurance plan beginning on or after September 23, 2010 then you have the access to preventive care without having to pay co-insurance or a copay. The one caveat is the service must be delivered by an in-network provider. If you are unsure of your network you can find this info on your insurance card or ask your broker. According to healthcare.gov preventive care means something different depending on both your age and gender. The ACA preventive care measures have helped to make sure that wellness visits and certain government mandated types of care are covered at 100% and cost the patient nothing. They break it into three categories: All adults, women, and children. Examples of covered care: Adult immunizations are covered at 100%. This means that you will pay $0 for any of the approved immunizations on the government appointed list. For women with group plan coverage contraception is covered at 100%. Children are able to receive the follow care at no charge: autism screening, depression screening, and many immunizations. Some of the less common adult tests include but are not limited to: Obesity screening & counseling, Tobacco use screening, diet counseling and depression screening. Some of the less common women benefits include: well women visits, breast cancer screenings, and cervical cancer screening. Some of the less common child and or adolescent benefits include: Obesity screening & counseling, vision screening, alcohol & drug assessments. *For a complete list of benefits covered under Preventative Health Services please refer to Healthcare.gov As to how preventive care will look once Donald Trump takes office there is a lot of uncertainty. He has not said any specific plans at this time. All he has promised is “It’ll be better health care, much better, for less money.” Whatever he decides, the changes will take time. This allows for plenty of opportunities for you to continue to take advantage of the current preventive care offerings. Posted 12.1.16 For those of you with individual medical coverage, you are aware of the current talk surrounding it. Several states have recently seen the minimization of the individual health insurance market. Since our firm is located in Tennessee, this article will focus on Tennessee’s market. Previously, Tennessee residents could choose from ACA approved plan offerings from United Healthcare, Community Health Alliance, Cigna, Humana and Blue Cross Blue Shield of TN. Residents could purchase plans directly from the carrier or through the state exchange where tax credits may be used. In the past, Tennessee citizens had several options if they wished to enroll in an ACA approved plan. As of January 1st, 2017 in some parts of the state the only option is Cigna, Humana and or BCBS of TN. In the Memphis area the only options will be Cigna and Humana. In early October BCBS of TN announced it would be pulling out of the exchanges for Memphis, Nashville & Knoxville effective 1/1/2017. The company provided the following statement in regards to an explanation about why they pulled out of the exchange, “We have experienced losses approaching $500 million over the course of three years on ACA plans which is unsustainable.” Along with the plan design options being limited, the rates have escalated substantially. Due to the increase in premiums and the limited selections over the past few years many brokers have discontinued selling individual medical policies. Currently, few brokers are giving guidance in the individual market due to no longer receiving commissions on individual polices. Where does that leave people who still need individual coverage? There are essentially two options: If you own your own business and meet the requirements to start a group plan, now is an ideal time to make the transition. If you are unsure whether or not you qualify, consult your broker. If you do not own your own business: Go to healthcare.gov to enroll in one of the individual plan options offered for your city. If you are a current individual plan policy holder and are unsure of what your next steps should be please reach out to your broker for guidance on this transition. Posted 11.10.16 November is known by many as a month full of food. Not only is November known for Thanksgiving but it is also known for several national food days. We start the month with November 5th as National Doughnut Day. Mid month we see Pickle Day (14th), National Fast Food Day (16th) and National Baklava Day (17th). Then, we wrap up the month with the National Cake Day (26th) and National French Toast Day (28th). American’s have long had a love affair with food and Thanksgiving is no exception. According to the Calorie Control Council, the average number of calories you consume on a Thanksgiving is 4,500. According to Health.gov men should consume between 2,000-3,000 per day and women should only consume 1,600-2,400 calories per day. The overage consumption on Thanksgiving is between 1,500-2,900 calories depending on your age and gender. Despite all the delectable temptations it is possible to enjoy Thanksgiving’s bounty and not negatively hurt your waist line. The trick is to be mindful and surround yourself with other mindful people. What better place to surround yourself with mindful people than at work? According to the Washington Post, the average full time working American works 46.7 hours per week. That means you are spending roughly 46.7 hours of your week around colleagues or clients in a work related environment. Keeping this new information in mind, have you ever considered starting a wellness in your office? The most common reasons companies are hesitant to start a wellness campaign is that they are strapped for both time and cash. This is where having an insurance broker is a beneficial. Your broker knows several easy and affordable ways to begin an office wellness campaign. There are several things to consider before talking with your broker about a wellness intuitive or campaign. How large of a scale would you like this to campaign to be? What is your budget? Who will be in charge of getting this initiative off the ground and make sure it is followed through? What type of incentives would you like to offer? What are your main goals and objectives? What type of timeline do you have in mind? Would you like this to be partnered up with your current medical plan? If the idea of a wellness campaign is something you are interested in learning more about, please reach out to your broker for complete information on what options are available to your company. Posted 10.5.2016 It is officially October and that means group benefit renewal season is right around the corner for most businesses. In order to make renewal season as painless and efficient as possible there are a few things that your HR manager can do. Below is a “Top 10” list of tasks that can be done in preparation of an upcoming medical renewal. It is always a good idea to make sure you have a current and updated census on file. (Your agent will ask for this should you wish to shop additional plans or carriers.) Think about your current employee contribution percentage. According to ACA regulations depending on the size of your company, employers must now pay a minimum of percentage. Make sure you are meeting the minimum requirements. If you are not sure you are, then reach out to your broker for guidance. There are tax credits available to small businesses but the employer must pay 50% in order to qualify for the credit. Make sure that your broker is aware of any changes in company structure or location. If there has been a recent change in decision makers or your office has relocated, always be sure your broker is made aware of this ASAP. Your broker can help to ensure all of your current carriers have the correct address on file so your rates are accurate and your bills are being mailed to the correct address/ person’s attention. Be thinking about what types of coverage you would like to offer for the next plan year. Think about whether or not you would like to add voluntary benefits such as dental, vision or voluntary life coverage (these are most common). Shopping for these items during renewal season is a wonderful time since often carriers give discounts if you add one of these lines of coverage to your current medical offerings. Be thinking about whether or not you would like to add any employer sponsored benefits. Short term disability, Basic life insurance and accidental death and dismemberment are the most common. Adding employer sponsored benefits to your current benefit offerings is a wonderful way to show appreciation to current employees while also appearing appealing to future employees. Think about how happy your employees have been with this past years coverages. How was the network coverage? Did people like having co-pays or were there not enough? Perhaps an ER copay would have been a big help this past year. Perhaps the dental coverage you offered didn’t have a good network or there is now a need for orthodontia coverage. If you currently offer only one plan, has there been any interest in having multiple plans? Depending upon the carrier and your group size, you can offer two medical plans for your employees to choose from. Has there been any interest in an HSA eligible plan? Perhaps you currently have a copay plan with a lower deductible and higher premiums. If none of the employees are coming close to meeting their deductible and people are looking to save money on premiums then an HSA account could be a good option for you to consider. Open enrollment can be stressful due to having to keep track of each employee’s paperwork & elections. There are internet based benefits administrative systems that can help you to keep up with all the paperwork and track where each employee is in the enrollment process. Not all brokers offer such a service but it doesn’t hurt to ask your broker whether his/her agency offers such a system for a nominal fee and possibly even for free. Be pro active. The sooner you think through the topics discussed in this article the sooner you will be ready to begin your renewal process. For example it doesn’t hurt to go ahead and email a copy of an updated census to your broker and let she/he know that you are looking to add any additional benefits. The sooner the broker knows about your requests the sooner the shopping process can begin, and the sooner you’ll have pricing. These are all things to keep in mind and that you should be ready to discuss when your broker calls about the renewal. Posted: 9.19.2016 September is Life Insurance Awareness Month. At UCL Financial we want to make sure that our community is aware of the benefits that life Insurance can provide. There are a lot of common misconceptions about life insurance, price being one of them. The reality is that life insurance coverage is more affordable than people think. The best way to find out how much life insurance you need and get an exact quote, is to meet with a licensed broker. Below are two short videos related to life insurance. They both address the reasons life insurance should be part of your financial plan. Please watch Danica Patrick giving her personal testimony about why she believes in the benefit of life insurance here. Please watch this informative video highlighting both the need and benefits of life insurance here.