Contractors need liability insurance

Independent contractors are increasingly working at all types of businesses. From plumbing to consulting, companies are seeing the benefits of hiring so-called 1099ers.

Because of their status as contractors, they don’t receive many of the benefits that employers usually provide. One of those benefits is liability insurance. If anything goes wrong while on the job, the insurance can cover it.

According to Insureon, those reasons include:

– Covering lawyer fees and damages if the employer sues over the work provided by the contractor

– Making sure that the employer doesn’t have to pay the costs if the contractor is sued

– Being compliant with statutory requirements

The type and how much insurance is needed varies based on a contractor’s responsibilities. For example, those in construction, or others who work with heavy machinery and tools, may need insurance for bodily injury and property damage.

Those who are contracted to provide advice, such as accountants, financial planners, interior designers and landscape architects, need to be concerned about liability risks, according to Trusted Choice. The company, which works with small businesses on insurance matters, says these contractors need to be covered for losses their clients may have as a result of the contractor’s recommendations.

Contractors who work as caterers should consider insurance for product and liquor liabilities. Trusted Choice notes this covers them if they serve food and alcohol at functions where guests could be injured because of food poisoning, for example.

Contractors who are unsure what kind of insurance to buy should consult with a licensed agent.

Hurricane Preparedness Week, May 7-13, 2017

There will be trouble. Expect it. Prepare for it.

According to NOAA, on average, 12 tropical storms will form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico during the hurricane season which runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. Six will become hurricanes.

In the Central Pacific Ocean, an average of three tropical storms, two of which become hurricanes, form or move over the area during the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. During a typical 2-year period, the U.S. coastline is struck by an average of 3 hurricanes, one of which is classified as a major hurricane (winds of 111 mph or greater)

What damage does each category of hurricane cause?

Category 1 – 74-95 mph winds

Don’t take a Cat 1 hurricane lightly. At this wind speed, you may have roof and siding damage. Dead trees will fall; branches will break. Power outages will last for several days.

Prepare: Trim trees, service your generator, make sure you have water, food, and an up to date emergency kit.

Category 2 – 96-110 mph winds.

Downed trees will block roads. Power can be out from days to weeks.

Category 3 – 111-129 mph winds

Expect devastation to buildings. You may lose your roof, gutters and siding. Power will almost certainly be out for at least two weeks. Water will be a problem. Fill bathtubs before the storm to use for flushing toilets and bathing.

Category 4 – 130-156 mph winds

You’ll be evacuated if this storm heads your way. Make plans before hurricane season for a place to stay for a minimum of two weeks. Your house will sustain major structural damage. There will be no water or power. Your pets cannot survive this storm. Make plans to take them with you.

Category 5 – 157 or higher mph winds

Catastrophic. You will be evacuated. After the storm, you will have no place to live. Houses will be reduced to timber. Travel will be impossible for weeks. No water or power for weeks. Not only will you need a place to stay for weeks, you’ll be filing an insurance claim for everything you own. Before the storm, use your smartphone to take a video of your home, room by room. Your pets will not survive this storm. Make plans to take them with you.

Storm surge

Surging waters can be a deadly effect of a hurricane. In Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it was the storm surge that broke levees in New Orleans and caused flooding six to 12 miles from the beach.

How will going into business affect family?

At some point in everyone’s career, this thought comes up: “Am I ready to follow my dreams and start my own business?”

You may have dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s in terms of being financially and mentally ready to start your own business. However, have you thought about the effects on your family? Too often this oversight can lead to a crisis at home, as well as in your business.

“It’s easy to forget that changing careers will affect your family, too. Be 100 percent certain that you and your loved ones understand the implications of running a startup,” notes Inc.com.

The good and the bad
Fully prepare them for the good and the bad of starting your own business. Do not hold back on the bad things that could happen.

Explain the hours you’re going to have to commit to your endeavor. This includes you being not able to be at as many family events.

If the family’s budget will need to be reduced, tell them. Go over your business plans with your family, giving them as many details as possible. You want their support, and you don’t want them to be surprised by any of the things that could go wrong.

“When one person goes into business, everyone in the family unit is affected,” author Pamela Slim told Entrepreneur. “If your partner and other members of your support network are reluctant to back your idea, you may want to rethink quitting your current job.”

However, this is a personal choice. From a startup owner quoted in Inc.com:

“Ultimately, I realized if I didn’t start my own company, I would always regret it, both for myself and as a role model for my children.”

Regulatory authority actions could impact small business loans

One of the chief ways small business owners raise money is through loans.

One of the chief complaints of small business owners is regulations.

The two issues have hit in a head-on collision.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) was set up to protect people from falling for scams in the financial industry, and to keep a watch on companies that operate in the space. It has been so mired in controversy over its authority that it now faces dismantling by the new administration.

As the wheels turn in that effort, the controversial government agency has set its sights on small business loans, collecting information and statistics about the loans.

Banks and lenders smell trouble, according to Bloomberg BNA. Is the bureau ramping up for a new round of fair lending lawsuits? Or a whole new range of lending regulations? If it wanted to, the unelected CFPB could enact regulations with the force of law, just as if it were Congress.

The CFPB came from the Dodd-Frank Act that has been in the news lately, as calls for its repeal have run rampant.

The problem with the CFPB’s targeting how small businesses get loans is twofold.

First, there are concerns about the scope of the information the CFPB wants to collect.

The CFPB wants to use a section of an existing law that requires it to collect information about access to credit for small businesses, women-owned businesses, and minority-owned businesses. The CFPB also wants to collect new data on the state of small business lending. It applies to online lenders, as well as bank lenders.

Proponents say this is an effort to save small business owners from unfair lending practices. However, a Pandora’s box is opened whenever a government bureaucracy attempts to expand its so-called collection data efforts.

Lenders, including non-banks and online lenders, could simply curtail making loans to small business owners. They might fear unequal lending lawsuits if their numbers of loans to women-owned and minority-owned businesses are not high enough. Some might make bad loans just to get their numbers up, something that contributed to the housing crisis of 2008.

Some companies may find that dealing with government disclosure is timely and costly. They may find it’s not worth the hassle.

For small business owners, available lenders would be curtailed.

The second problem deals with the many complaints about the CFPB concerning its abuse of power.

The controversial bureau has been under fire for its overreach. Critics also say the CFPB’s data collection efforts may go further than what is allowed by the actual law.

First woman to run the Boston Marathon, April 19, 1967

Katherine Switzer became the first woman to run as a numbered participant in the Boston Marathon, April 19, 1967.

Switzer registered for the race as K.V. Switzer and was given a number, even though women were not invited to run.

When the error was discovered, one official tried to physically force her off the course. But Switzer’s boyfriend, also running, clobbered the official, sending him flying and they continued.

An unofficial woman runner, Bobbi Gibb, beat Switzer’s time by an hour.

Women were not officially welcome to the marathon until 1972. Interestingly, the official who pushed Switzer in 1967 was instrumental in making women part of the event in 1972.

Distracted phone users drive up insurance prices

Car insurance rates are going up and you can blame the smartphone.

Insurers expect rates to rise by 8 to 11 percent in 2017 as auto accidents rise along with distracted driving.

Auto insurers say distracted driving is so bad that they are beginning to see many auto accidents with no skid marks, according to the Wall Street Journal. The drivers literally never saw it coming.

Experts expected accidents to drop and rates to lower as car-makers adopted higher tech protections, but that has not happened.

According to Allstate Corp., the striking correlation between smartphone ownership and accidents is because people do more than talk on the phone when they are driving. Maybe talking was bad enough, but now drivers are making videos, texting and using the Internet.

Virtual reality headsets pose safety concerns

For kids and young people, the top item on their list of fun things to have is probably a virtual reality kit, but according to one tech writer VR comes with a load of safety issues.

According to Scott Stein, writing for cnet.com, VR is amazing but it isn’t especially safe.

Stein points out that when VR technology is demonstrated to tech writers, it is always in an empty demo room with a staffer standing behind each person to prevent trips and slips. But nonetheless, trips happen.

Among Stein’s concerns:

VR-induced nausea – Although developers are working on this, players may frequently develop nausea in their immersive experiences. Taking breaks can help limit fatigue, nausea and dizziness.

Blind and deaf in the real world – The standout safety feature of VR is that the user is immersed in unreality while reality still exists in the form of walls and objects. Also people and pets. Stein recommends no pets or people in a room where someone is playing VR. There is no way to see toddlers or pets. No way to see the location of the coffee table or television set. If you draw the boundaries for your VR game incorrectly, you stand the chance of punching a wall.

Tripping over wires – With VR you can even lose the sense of where your own body is. Imagine how difficult cables will be in that situation. VR gaming systems may have cables leading back to gaming sets. When you play, you can’t see the cables. You don’t even have a sense of where your body is in relation to itself.

Eye damage – Users have reported troubling side effects of having an image 1 inch from their eyes. Eye strain is documented. After images are possible, so when you look out into the real world, you see images of the game. More studies are coming.

Interest rates, production costs, and regulations have made new cars cost more.

Interest rates, production costs, and regulations have made new cars cost more.

According to Experian, the average consumer pays $495 for a new car loan. That is more than the $447 they paid in 2008. The average interest rate in the third quarter of 2016 was 4.69 percent, compared to the higher rate of 6.14 percent in 2008.

Consumers were financing more car in 2016 than in 2008 — up to an average of $30,022 compared to $24,600 for 2008.

The cost of cars is also higher. In fact, according to Autotrader, about 3 million new cars should have been sold last year, just looking at population growth.

Part of the problem, says Heritage.org, is that new regulations press car prices up, just as new technology actually pushes prices down.

The price of a new vehicle is more than $7,000 higher than 2008, Heritage says. It points to new, costly fuel economy standards that are driving prices up.

Prices are also under pressure at the dealer level. According to Automotive News, franchised new-car dealers in the U.S. spent a combined $3.2 billion in 2012 to meet 61 new federal regulations. Those costs are passed along to consumers.

The points that can make your home sell fast.

The points that can make your home sell fast.
Remember that when you bought your house, you went that extra mile to get the right house in the right school district and right neighborhood.
Now when you want to sell, all those considerations will help to make a quick sale.
In fact, the keys to your deal to sell your house today will still be the things that make your house attractive to buy:

Popular neighborhood
School district
Your home’s condition
The price you set
And flexibility

It’s a lucky homeowner who has all those elements on the plus side and, in fact, at least three of those key elements are in your control.

Your home’s condition is crucial, of course. You’ll want to fix up the outside for maximum curb appeal. Curb appeal is nothing more than the bringing out the pretty in your home: Making your landscape, entrance and outside condition look great from the street. But it is critical to get buyers in.

Once you get buyers in, you’ll want to make sure the bones of the house stand out and not the photo of Uncle Ed. So clear out the personal items and make your home a canvass for a new buyer’s imagination.

You can’t do much about the popularity of the school district and neighborhood. But, both hold their attraction over a period of many years. So it is likely that you are still situated in a popular environment.

What remains are price and flexibility, and the two go hand-in-hand.

Good pricing is crucial. Your real estate agent will help you come up with a price that is in line with comparable homes in the neighborhood. Online tools can give you an idea of what your home is worth, but no instant price can tell you the true value.

Some of the price will be determined by how brisk the local real estate market is. In an area with few houses on the market and many buyers, sellers have an advantage in price. In an area with many houses on the market but few buyers, then buyers will certainly have an advantage in price.

Your flexibility could also affect the price. If you must sell now, you might not be able to wait for the best offer. If you can afford to wait, you can review a number of offers before you make your decision.

Poison Centers are your lifeline in an emergency

Poison Centers are your lifeline in an emergency
Millions of people use the services of a poison center when faced with a poisoning emergency.

Set up to provide expert advice and information to healthcare professionals and the public, the 55 poison centers around the country, are available 24 hours a day, all-year-round. Specially trained nurses, pharmacists, and doctors offer a free and confidential service that includes interpretation services in 161 languages, emergency advice, as well as, the provision of educational materials on poison prevention and treatment.

According to data collected between 1980 and 2008, poisoning is the leading cause of injury-related death in the US. Coming into contact with a dangerous or potentially dangerous substance is called an ‘exposure’ and in 2014, there were about 2.2 million exposures and a call to a poison center every 11 seconds, Almost half of these exposures involved children under the age of 6, though the more serious cases occurred among adolescents and adults.

More than 75 percent of recorded exposures are unintentional and according to the 2015 annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). The top 5 substances that affected adults were analgesics, household cleaning substances, cosmetics/personal care products, sedatives/antipsychotics, and antidepressants. Cosmetics, household cleaners, analgesics and foreign bodies/ toys were among the substances that affected children. Most exposures involve ingesting something harmful but also include inhalation and contact with the skin and eyes. People also call the poison center in the event of insect bites and carbon monoxide poisoning.

One of the roles of poison centers, which are partly financed by congressionally mandated federal funds, is to collect real-time data to help detect possible public health emergencies.

Recent studies have seen a rise in the annual rate of calls to poison centers related to cannabis exposure and an increased risk of unintentional cannabis ingestion and overdose by children. Data collected between 2000 and 2013, show that rates of cannabis exposures in children under the age of 6 in states where medical cannabis was legalized before the year 2000 were more than 2.82 times higher than in those where the drug remained illegal in 2013.