Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How Much Should You Spend on an Engagement Ring?

There can be many factors that influence how much someone spends on an engagement ring. Though traditional standards suggest spending two to three months’ salary on a ring, many couples are now challenging the old rules and taking more personalized approaches.
A recent study estimates the average price of an engagement ring is $5,855. Still, there are no set rules. How much you should spend on an engagement ring will largely be dictated by your financial situation and what kind of ring your partner wants.
If you find yourself part of the average that can afford a $6,000 ring, then you will likely be looking for rings that meet certain standards of quality when it comes to the cut, color, clarity and carat weight, often referred to as the 4Cs grading system. At this price point, you will also be looking at a ring that has a carat weight of about 0.9 carats, the average carat weight for a purchased engagement ring in 2015.
Engagement rings with higher diamond grades usually have a greater carat weight and they are flawless. These rings have a tendency to be of rare quality and more expensive. In fact, rings of this quality can be the most expensive engagement rings you can buy, selling for between $500,000 and $8 million dollars.
Staying within your budget and purchasing something that can be treasured for years to come can be tricky, but there are different strategies available to you. Jewelry specialists often recommend buying a ring that’s just under the pricing plateau that’s higher than you want to go. So instead of a full carat ring, which sells at a premium rate, buy a 0.9 carat ring. These types of non-standard weights can reduce the cost of a ring significantly and with little noticeable difference in appearance.
Finally, if you are looking for something inexpensive but still stylish, a cubic zirconia engagement ring is a good option. For many it can be hard to distinguish between fake and real diamonds, and the difference in price is significant.
How much you spend on an engagement ring, whether it’s in a store or from an online retailer, will obviously be based on your personal financial situation. But with so many classes of rings out there, it’s possible to find something that you and your beloved really like that suits your budget, too.
Buying an engagement ring is the first of many decisions you’ll make when planning a wedding. Make sure to protect your special day with wedding insurance, which provides liability coverage and helps protect you from financial loss if you have to cancel or reschedule.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Buying Experiences vs. Things

Americans Buy ‘Experiences’ Instead of ‘Things’

Buying Experiences
As the U.S. economy continues its slow but steady improvement since the Great Recession — with joblessness currently at its lowest rate since 2008 — Americans are showing a greater willingness to spend. However, studies and market trends indicate their spending priorities are changing.
Instead of buying more things, Americans are preferring to purchase new “experiences.” The couple that might have added new items to their wardrobes in the past are now saving for a rock-climbing trip. Rather than buying a necklace for a birthday present, a spouse or partner may now decide to splurge on a special evening out.
Savvy business owners are taking advantage of this trend by adding “experiences” to their offerings or by augmenting their products and services with fun things to do.

Spending switch is on

According to the Mintel research firm, the greatest gains in U.S. consumer spending from 2015 to 2019 are expected to be in the “nonessential” category, where a 26 percent increase is projected for spending on experiences such as vacations, entertainment and dining out. Total U.S. consumer spending for that same period is projected to grow 22 percent..
The start of this trend could be spotted in 2014, when December’s monthly sales at restaurants exceeded grocery store sales for the first time in history. That trend has continued, according to Annika Stensson, director of research communications for the National Restaurant Association. “Restaurant sales continue to outpace grocery-store sales as consumers seek the convenience, quality and service provided by restaurants,” Stensson said.
A study by the PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting firm attributed much of the spending switch to millennials — people born in the 1980s and 1990s — who are more likely than baby boomers to spend their earnings on travel and other experiences. In the 2015 holiday season, for example, the millennials surveyed said 52 percent of their holiday spending would be for experiences such as travel and entertainment, while baby boomers expected to spend 39 percent on such experiences.

More services and experiences

A recent B2B International survey of senior marketing executives found 58 percent were making value marketing their top priority, up from 39 percent in 2015. That change reflects a shift toward providing more customer service and experiences, and a reduction in the steep discount pricing of recent years.
Target, for example, recently partnered with SoulCycle to produce a line of fitness clothing, and the partnership included putting wellness shops and free spinning classes in some stores. Lululemon stores not only sell yoga pants and equipment but also offer in-store yoga classes, group exercise activities and trips to international yoga festivals and retreats. Clothing retailers such as Talbots are holding in-store fashion shows and styling sessions to attract more interest.
“Retailers have had to look to ways to drive shopper traffic into stores and enhance the in-store shopping experience,” said Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director and principal analyst for Prosper Insights & Analytics. “Shoppers are increasingly multitasking and time starved, and are shopping online due to convenience, low prices, and free shipping. In-store experiences are retailers’ attempts to divert this digital attention back into physical retail locations.”
Because consumers are able to go online and use mobile devices to instantly compare prices, Goodfellow said, shopper loyalty has suffered and businesses have had to work harder at “offering shoppers that little something extra” to differentiate themselves and to win loyalty.
“Shopper experience seems to be an extension of customer service,” Goodfellow said. “Customer service never goes out of style.”

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Prepping your business for Winter

6 tips for staying ahead of the storm
Nov 15, 2016 | By Wayne MaynardFred Sanford

Following these tips can help your clients prevent costly losses in dangerous winter weather.  With winter on the way, the promise of snow and freezing temperatures looms for many businesses — along with risks of slips and falls, burst pipes, service interruptions, and more. Companies that have a good understanding of winter-related exposures and take proactive measures to mitigate them are better positioned to protect the public and their employees and properties and manage their total cost of risk.

Following these six tips can help your clients prevent costly losses.

When treating outdoor areas, not all de-icers are created equal.
During cold weather, using de-icers on outside areas like parking lots and sidewalks can reduce slips, trips, and falls. De-icers can vary by price, corrosiveness, and effectiveness. A business should consider weather conditions and the application area when choosing one. For example, sodium chloride (rock salt) is inexpensive, but corrosive to concrete and less effective at lower temperatures. Ice melt blends (magnesium chloride or calcium chloride) are more effective at lower temperatures, but also more expensive. Proper application is also important. Melting snow can re-freeze overnight, so treat areas first thing in the morning, prior to the arrival of employees and visitors.

Don’t forget about the entryways (all of them)
The risk of slips and falls does not end once someone enters a building. Snow, ice, sand, and salt tracked in from outside can create hazards in entryways. Businesses should keep these areas clean and dry and use matting to absorb moisture to help mitigate these risks. An entryway’s size, flooring type, and traffic volume can affect the housekeeping schedule, floor mat length, and how often a mat should be replaced. Review plans to ensure they address each entryway.

Even dry pipe sprinkler systems can “freeze-up”
As the name implies, dry pipe sprinklers contain pressurized air that is replaced with water only once the system is activated by heat. Even these systems are susceptible to freeze-ups and are the cause of many winter-related losses. Transient water or condensation from the air within the system can build up and freeze during cold weather, causing damage to steel pipes and fittings. To minimize this risk, business owners should make sure systems are properly installed, with pipes sloped so water collects at low points, and that pipes are drained on a quarterly basis. 

Burst pipes can lead to significant damage and safety issues
Freeze-ups in piping typically occur in areas that are not adequately heated or insulated, such as in vacant buildings, near drafty windows, or in attics. Adding insulation can help, but if pipes do freeze up and burst, they are not only costly to fix, they could lead to extensive damage if water is not quickly turned off at the main source. It’s important that responsible personnel know the location of water shut-off valves (and how to use them) to minimize damage. If sprinkler systems are impaired as a result, a business should contact its insurance partners and local fire department to alert them of the potential hazard. 

Winter preparedness is everyone’s responsibility 
When preparing for winter weather, everyone — from housekeeping staff and front-line employees to managers and interns — bears some responsibility. Each party should clearly communicate its role, responsibilities, and expectations when it comes to maintenance and safety. For example, who is responsible for keeping hallways dry and clean? Are workers careful to put excess snow in areas that do not block fire exits, vents, or drains? Employees should know whom to contact when confronting a hazard.

Your insurance partners can boost your efforts
A knowledgeable insurer can help you offer expertise and support to clients putting their winter plans in place. An insurer may provide pre-season preparation guides and more timely communications right before a storm that review maintenance procedures. If your clients are building new locations or renovating their current spaces, your carrier may be able to offer guidance on entryway designs, flooring material, and more that can help reduce the risk of injuries.
As with most hazards, an ounce of winter weather risk prevention is worth a pound of cure. Knowledge, communication, and support from the right partners can save businesses time — and money — when winter arrives.