Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Economic optimism and increasing sales may fuel growth in retirement benefits, especially among Millennials

millennial business ownera
Business owners polled in Nationwide’s annual survey reveal a positive economic outlook and anticipated sales growth have them reconsidering their retirement benefits. In fact, 50 percent of business owners who offer a 401(k) plan intend to increase retirement plan contributions with 55 percent of them citing rising sales or revenue as the reason.
Meanwhile, 36 percent of business owners who currently don’t offer a plan but intend to offer one in the near future say it’s because they expect sales revenue to increase in the next 12 to 24 months and will start offering retirement benefits as a result. Additionally, nearly a third (30 percent) of business owners plan to introduce retirement benefits as a result of continued economic improvement. These findings stem from Nationwide’s third annual survey of more than 1,000 business owners across the country with up to 299 employees.
“With tight labor markets as a result of the continued economic expansion, it’s more important than ever for employers to offer benefits like retirement plans that can differentiate their business as a destination for top talent and a workplace where employees want to stay and grow,” said John Carter, president of retirement plans at Nationwide.

Millennials More Likely to Act

When it comes to planning for the future, Millennials often get a reputation for not doing enough. But among business owners who currently offer retirement benefits, 85 percent of Millennials plan to increase contributions to their employees’ 401(k) plans, compared to 31 percent of Boomers and 49 percent of Gen X business owners. Additionally, 70 percent of Millennials plan to make retirement benefits available for their employees in the future.
Millennial business owners are also more likely to feel they should provide retirement benefits, with 70 percent of them stating agreement versus 47 percent for all business owners.
“America’s workers rely on employer-sponsored retirement plans as their primary way to save for retirement,” Carter added.  “Millennial business owners understand this and recognize the value and importance in offering retirement benefits to their employees. Plus, the changing health care marketplace has made it more important for employers to offer a more robust benefits package.”

Need and Importance Noted

Business owners at every age noted the importance of offering a retirement plan and the urgency of doing so. Only 39 percent of business owners believe their employees are on track to retire, and nearly three out of four (72 percent) business owners surveyed think the U.S. is facing a retirement readiness crisis. With more Americans preparing to leave the workforce as an increasing number of Baby Boomers reach retirement, more than half of business owners feel a retirement plan is an essential benefit.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is also driving greater interest in retirement plan benefits. Nationwide’s survey of business owners found that 32 percent say they increased retirement plan contributions because they felt the retirement benefits they offered were even more important now for attracting and retaining talent.
“While it can feel overwhelming to revisit retirement plan benefits in the midst of the other challenges associated with running a business, advisors are a resource for business owners and can help them select or enhance retirement benefits, while streamlining the amount of time spent on selecting services and plan administration,” Carter noted.
With more than $124 billion in assets, Nationwide is one of the country’s largest providers of retirement plans, serving plans of all types and sizes. To learn more about retirement plans and the resources provided by Nationwide, visit www.nationwide.com or contact your financial advisor.
Nationwide commissioned a 20-minute, online survey among a sample of 1,069 U.S. small business owners. Small business owners are defined as having between 1-299 employees, 18 years or older and self-reported being a sole or partial owner of their business. The margin of error for this sample is +/-3% at the 95% confidence level. Conducted by Edelman Intelligence, a full-service consumer research firm, the survey was fielded between May 16-24, 2017. As a member of The Insights Association in good standing, Edelman Intelligence conducts all research in accordance with Marketing Research Standards and adheres to the Code of Standards and Ethics.
Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle and Nationwide is on your side are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2017 Nationwide.

Lock the Door on Theft – Home Security Tips

Did you know that one home is broken into every 14.6 seconds? Home break-in crimes may be more common than you think, but taking certain precautions before you leave the house (and while you’re in it) can greatly reduce your risk of a burglary attempt. The infographic below shows a few surprising stats about break-ins and essential home safety tips and security information that can help you protect what’s important to you.

Lock the Door on Theft - Home Security Tips [Infographic]
Provided by Nationwide

Friday, December 22, 2017

Fun Holiday Party Ideas and House Prep Tips

holiday house party prep
The holidays are an exciting time of year, full of parties, house guests and good food. If you’re hosting a holiday party, you want to make sure everyone is feeling the holiday spirit. These holiday party ideas and tips are sure to help you and your guests make the most of the holiday season!

Holiday party ideas

Here are 5 entertainment ideas to make your holiday party a hit:

1. Organize a gift exchange

Have everyone sit together and pass around gifts. If you’re feeling adventurous, try out a white elephant gift exchange. If you plan on buying a large amount of gifts for all your guests, here are some tips to help you save for holiday shopping.

2. Host an ugly sweater contest

A holiday party is the perfect time to reach into the back of your closet for those old, ugly sweaters. Tell guests in advance about the contest, and have a small gift or goodie for the worst dressed!

3. Create a photo booth

Set up a simple area with holiday props for guests to take pictures with. If you don’t want to limit the fun to one spot, you could even place instant cameras around the house to encourage guests to take pictures throughout the party.

4. Cookie decorating station

If you’re expecting children at your holiday party, a cookie decorating station is a sure-fire hit. All you need for this delicious activity are plain sugar cookies, frosting, candy, gumdrops, sprinkles and chocolate chips.

5. Set the holiday mood

Don’t forget to set a merry ambiance suited for the holiday season. Customize a playlist with holiday tunes, or stream an instrumental holiday station. You can even play a classic holiday movie on silent in the background with a projector or TV.
Some other mood-setting ideas:
  • Hang vintage ornaments like mini chandeliers
  • String holiday lights around the house
  • Get flickering LED candles to add a feeling of warmth
  • Place festive blankets and pillows on furniture
  • Decorate with special objects that remind you and your family of the holiday season
Check out the infographic below for some fun holiday statistics and more tips for throwing a merry holiday party.

Holiday house prep tips

Fun Holiday Party Ideas and House Prep Tips [Infographic]
Provided by Nationwide

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Preventing Ice Dam Damage to Your Roof and Home

ice dam
Ice dams may appear harmless – and may even look pretty – but they can cause damage to your home. Read on to learn how to remove ice dams and how to prevent them from forming in the first place.

What is an ice dam?

An ice dam is a wall of ice that forms at the edge of the roof, typically at the gutters or soffit, and prevents melting snow from draining off.

What causes ice dams?

For an ice dam to form, 3 things must be present:
  1. Snow on the roof
  2. Higher portions of the roof’s external surface must be above 32°F
  3. Lower surfaces must be below 32°F
When these factors are in play, snow will melt and the water will flow down the roof and eventually freeze – forming an ice dam.
Poor ventilation and temperature control in the attic can also cause ice dams. Excessive warm air in the attic can cause the snow on the roof to melt regardless of the temperature outside. Recessed lighting, skylights, complex roof designs and heating ducts in the attic can all increase the chances of an ice dam developing.

Do icicles mean that you have an ice dam?

In short, no. It’s common for small icicles to form; the larger, thicker icicles are the culprits. When you notice the larger icicles, it’s important to act fast in order to prevent damage.

What are the signs that you have an ice dam?

These are the most common, according to the Ice Dam Company:
  1. Your home has a history of ice dams
  2. Icicles form on the edge of the roof or off the front edge of the gutter
  3. Ice is coming through the soffit
  4. Ice is forming behind the gutters
  5. Water or ice appears on the exterior wall
  6. Water is seeping through a door frame or window

What can ice dams damage?

If not addressed early, ice dam damage can be significant. Here’s how:
  • Water from melting snow can seep into your house and into walls, ceilings, insulation and other interior areas.
  • Ice dams can lift roof shingles up, allowing water to leak inside your home.
  • Pressure and weight from the dams can pull off gutters and lead to structural damage that can cause flooding.
  • If attic insulation gets wet, it can become ineffective, plus mold can develop.

How to prevent ice dams:

Properly winterizing your roof is the best way to prevent ice dams. Consider these precautions.
  • Have your gutters cleaned before winter.
  • Keep your attic well ventilated, so it stays cold, and properly ventilate the roof and eaves.
  • Insulate the attic floor to reduce the amount of heat rising from within the house.
  • Rake or shovel snow off the roof before it freezes or hire a professional roofer to clear your roof.
  • Create an air barrier between the house and attic with a foil-faced cover over an uninsulated attic hatch or whole-house fan opening.
  • Install a water-repellent roof membrane.
  • Check for any potentially dangerous heat sources, including uninsulated recessed ceiling can lights, uninsulated folding attic stair openings, heating ducts, furnace or water-heating equipment and inadequate bathroom vent fans.

How to remove ice dams:

If an ice dam has formed, here are immediate steps you can take to help prevent further damage.
  • Apply calcium chloride or another ice-melting product onto the ice.
  • Place a box fan in the attic and direct it at the underside of the roof where water is leaking in. The cold air will freeze the water.
  • If your roof is flat or has a low slope, use a roof rake to sweep off the snow.
  • Have a professional remove the dam with high-pressure steam or other specialized methods.
When it comes to ice dam removal or repairing damage on your roof, always consider your personal safety.
If your home is prone to ice dams, it may be time to consider a new roof. Learn more about types of roofs and which one might be a good fit for your home.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

5 Car Features to Protect You on Winter Roads

With nearly 70 percent of the nation’s roads in snowy regions, the majority of Americans have had a “white-knuckle” driving experience in their past. Winter roads claim the lives of 1,300 people every year and injure 116,800, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Fortunately, new features including forward collision alerts and lane departure warnings, are protecting Americans on slick roads. The impact of these new safety features has been substantial.
Vehicles made after the year 2000 helped to prevent 700,000 crashes, saved the lives of an estimated 2,000 people annually and kept one million people safe from injury, according to a report conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“There’s no question, vehicles are safer today than they were a decade or two ago,” says Phil Marzolf, manager of i25 Kia outside of Denver. “Consumers are embracing new features that provide additional safety during bad weather conditions.”
An increasing number of new vehicles are now equipped with these five technological safety advances:
5 Car Features to Protect You on Winter Roads [Infographic]
Provided by Nationwide

1. Forward collision warning and auto-braking

Vehicles can sense hazards in the road, warn the driver and brake the car to prevent a crash. If a driver is following someone who slams on the brakes, for example, a combination of sensors, laser beams and cameras detect the problem and alert the driver. Assistive technology automatically applies the brakes to prevent a crash. The driver resumes control as soon as he or she applies pressure to the brake.
“It’s amazing technology,” Marzolf says. “In most cases, the technology senses the problem before the driver does. Even if it engages the brakes a second sooner, it could save a driver’s life.”

2. Lane departure warning system

Keeping drivers in their respective lanes on slippery roads is essential to highway safety. If a car starts to drift into another lane, the driver is alerted to the hazard by a buzzer, warning light or vibration. Assistive technology will start to correct the problem, slowly moving the car back into the proper lane (though the technology does not work when snow covers lane markings). The driver resumes control as soon as he or she starts to make the correction.

3. Adaptive headlights

Visibility can be an issue on winter roads. Traditional headlights shine straight ahead, but adaptive headlights react to the steering wheel. If a driver turns the wheel to the right, the headlights follow to increase visibility.
“It sounds like a simple feature, but adaptive headlights can really help drivers follow the road,” Marzolf says.
Insurance companies have noticed a 10 percent drop in the number of property damage liability claims in cars that have adaptive headlights, according to a study conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute.

4. LED taillights

When snow is falling, spotting taillights ahead can be a trying task. Halogen light bulbs were the standard, but now more manufacturers are moving to LED bulbs, Marzolf says. LED bulbs outshine halogen bulbs, which gives winter drivers an edge when visibility is low.
“All the vehicles we sell have LED lights now,” Marzolf says. “Again, it’s a small change but one that gives drivers added security.”

5. Traction control

In slippery conditions, tires can lose traction and spin. The traction control feature helps tires grip such slippery roads, Marzolf said. In wet conditions, tires can lose traction and spin. Traction control uses sensors to measure rotational speed in tires and triggers the engine to adjust the level of power the vehicle needs to regain control. If needed, the sensors can pump the brakes to keep the driver from losing control.

More features become standard

Traction control and LED taillights are already becoming standard features in most vehicles, which means there isn’t an added cost for them. In time, Marzolf expects, the assistive-driving features will become standard as well.
“There was a time when anti-lock brakes were new,” he said. “Now, they’re an afterthought, and they have been standard in cars for some time. We’re not there yet, but I do expect assistive-driving features to become just as standard as anti-lock brakes.”
Currently consumers have to pay extra for assistive-driving features. These features could add $1,800-$4,500 to the price tag of a new car, according to Marzolf and AutoTrader.com.
“The added cost is sometimes a problem, but we’ll see reductions in time,” Marzolf says. “In the near future, I think drivers will embrace these tools and be glad they have them at their disposal on winter roads.”

Saturday, December 16, 2017

How to Choose a Mutual Fund

how to choose a mutual fund
Some investors like picking stocks and investing in specific companies. There’s nothing wrong with that. But investing in mutual funds is a popular way to invest in many companies at the same time. There’s often less volatility than when buying one company’s stock because the risk is more broadly spread out over a number of companies.
It can be confusing to pick a mutual fund, though, which is one reason a financial advisor is a good person to have on your side for these important financial decisions. Once you have an advisor, and have determined your goals and risk tolerance, it’s time to talk about mutual fund choices. Each financial company offering mutual fund investments has a plethora from which to choose. How do you choose the right mutual fund for you and your portfolio? Here are five handy ways to consider picking a mutual fund, once you and your financial advisor have determined your goals:

Pick a sector

If you are interested in technology, precious metals, real estate or healthcare, for example, there are mutual funds targeted to them specifically. Focusing part of your investment on one sector is considered higher risk since some segments rise and fall depending on the economy. Investment advisers typically don’t tell clients to put all their money in one sector for this reason.
Some investors prefer to invest in mutual funds in several sectors to balance out the risk. Sector mutual funds tend to have a higher turnover of companies within the fund, which may prompt more capital gains taxes for the investor. Proponents of sector-based funds like the potential for higher returns and investing more broadly in companies in a specific field. Ask your financial advisor’s thoughts about including sector investing in your plan.

Are you a risk taker?

Each mutual fund has a risk profile, disclosed on the prospectus. Investors with a higher risk tolerance might choose more aggressive funds. These funds often have higher returns than other funds, but they’re also at risk for greater losses. Other investors want to preserve their money and grow it more slowly in exchange for a less risky investment.
One way to consider your risk tolerance is to think about when you may need access to the money. If you’re retiring in a few years and relying on your mutual funds for living expenses, you’ll be less interested in an aggressive fund than someone in their 20s who has a wider window to ride out the market’s highs and lows. A financial advisor will help you develop a plan based on your age, when you need the funds and your risk tolerance.

Age-based funds

Age-based funds, also called target-date funds, are a good way to balance a portfolio without having to allocate investments in mutual funds, bonds and cash. Pick a fund based on your expected retirement year, and the fund manager adjusts the mutual fund mix accordingly.
If you invest in the fund when you’re younger, the investments will be more aggressive because there’s more time to ride out market fluctuations, and the growth overall should be higher. As it gets closer to the retirement date, the mix becomes more conservative with a higher percentage of investments in bonds and cash. Speak with your financial advisor about an age-based fund option.

Index funds

Many investors prefer taking a market approach, mirroring a specific stock market to get the benefits of a balanced stock portfolio without the hassle. An index mutual fund includes all stocks in the index it’s modeled after, such as the Standard and Poor’s 500 or the Wilshire Total Market Index. There’s no mystery about what stocks are in the fund.
One advantage of index investing they generally have lower management fees. Since the fund isn’t actively managed but just shifted based on actual index changes, fees are often less than actively managed funds. One disadvantage is you’re not going to beat the market performance rates, since the fund is basically the same market ratio.

Pick a company you trust

With so many mutual funds available, one way to narrow the list is by only investing with financial companies that you trust. The companies should have a good reputation and keep management fees reasonable. Once you find companies that meet these criteria, it’s easier to choose from their mutual funds given your investing preferences.
Click here to learn more about finding a financial advisor who can help you get started with mutual funds.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Holiday Tipping Guide 2017: Your Cheat Sheet for the Giving Season

holiday tipping
Barbers and nannies and mail carriers, oh my! Many of us like to tip a little extra during the holiday season. But it can be confusing to decide how much to give to whom. Follow these guidelines for appropriate holiday tipping.

Should holiday tips be cash or gifts?

As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to give cash tips to service providers—like babysitters, doormen and dog groomers—and small, thoughtful gifts to professionals, like teachers and postal workers.

Holiday tipping suggestions

It can be hard to remember everyone you need to thank over the holidays. Use the holiday tipping checklist below for a general list of people to consider, and a suggested amount to help you plan the perfect holiday tipping amount.
Person to tip
Suggested amount to tip
Babysitters and nanniesThe average pay for one day or evening, and a small gift made by your children.
Daycare providersAn amount up to $50 per person, and a small gift made by your children.
TeachersA small gift from your children.
Private nurses and home health employeesA nice gift from you, and possibly a cash tip depending on their involvement.
Housekeepers, landscapers and yard workersThe cost of one session.
Hairdressers and barbersThe cost of one session or haircut.
Personal trainers and massage therapistsThe cost of one session.
Dog walkers and pet groomersThe average pay of one week of dog walking, or a session’s pay for a groomer.
Building employees (garage attendants, elevator operators and doormen)Up to $100, depending on employee involvement.
Mail carriersA small personal gift, as post office employees are only allowed to accept a gift worth $20 or less.

Many of the tipping guidelines above are primarily based on unit of pay. For example, if you pay your babysitter $50 an evening, you might give him or her $50 around the holidays (and perhaps a homemade gift from your child). Service people with whom you have occasional contact, like trash collectors and newspaper delivery people, would receive smaller tips ranging from $10 to $50.

Check policies before tipping

It’s important to remember that some employees are not allowed to accept certain gifts. As you can see above, the U.S. Postal Service prohibits mail carriers from accepting gifts of more than $20 in value. Check with your school district, daycare facility and home health agency to find out if they have similar restrictions before giving a holiday tip.
Remember that it’s up to you to give what feels right and what you can afford. Whether you give crisp bills or a beautifully wrapped package, don’t forget to include a handwritten note.
For more gift giving tips, check out our 10 ways to save for the holidays to help you plan your budget for the holidays.

Monday, December 11, 2017

How to Save Money on Gas

save money on gas
Your car payments and auto insurance payments may stay the same each month but gas prices can fluctuate wildly during the same period. Gas prices differ by state, by city, by season and by gas station, just to name a few variables, but consumers who shop wisely can trim their monthly car expenses.
These easy tips can help you find the best gas prices and save money:

Figure out what you’re currently spending on gas

The first step to finding cheap gas is to track what you’re currently paying to create a baseline. For example, if you traditionally get gas at the same station because it’s convenient, your habit may be costing you extra money.
Start looking at gas prices when you drive by different stations so you can see the variations. Notice whether the prices change on weekends versus weekdays, and which brands have higher costs than others.

Download a gas app

Many people like to use gas apps on their phones, especially when on vacation in unfamiliar areas. The apps may let you plug in your zip code, or it can automatically find your location using GPS tracking. These apps show gas stations nearby and their prices, as entered by other app users. Some will also show the average gas prices for the state or city. To find the best gas app, check your phone’s app store and look at reviews.

Try different locations

Gas stations often charge more if they’re in a prime location, like close to a freeway exit or at a major intersection. People will pay more for that convenience, especially if they don’t know the area. If you can wait, it’s easier to find cheap gas farther away from a main drag.

Only get premium gas if your car needs it

You may think getting premium gas will improve engine performance, but that’s not necessarily the case for all cars. In fact, some higher performance cars actually do just fine with regular gas. Learn more about whether premium gas is right for your car, so you aren’t wasting money with no return.

Pay with cash

Some stations offer a discount for cash versus paying with a credit card. Over time, this can add up. It can be worthwhile to keep extra cash on hand for gas purchases to pay the best gas prices.

Use a station loyalty credit card

Some gas stations offer loyalty credit cards, giving you a discount on gas prices when using that card. If you tend to shop for gas at the same station frequently, it might be worthwhile to use a loyalty card. Consider if you have to pay a yearly fee for the card and the interest rate if you don’t pay your credit card off in full each month.
Shopping smartly for gas can help you spend less on your car. Finding the right auto insurance policy can also save you money – especially if you qualify for a car insurance discount.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Protect Your Home-Based Business with the Right Insurance

home business insurance
More than half of all U.S. businesses – 52% – are based in the home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A recent study commissioned by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America found that nearly 60% of home-based businesses do not have insurance coverage.
“When asked about the lack of insurance, nearly 40% of home-based business owners say they thought they were protected by some other type of coverage, while almost 30% say their businesses are too small to insure,” the IIABA said. “Notably, nearly 20% could not give a reason for not having insurance.”
Homeowners insurance covers incidents such as loss or theft of personal property. But if a delivery person slips and falls on your property or your business equipment is destroyed in a fire, homeowners insurance won’t protect you. Without coverage specifically designed for your home business, you put your livelihood, and possibly that of your employees, at risk. That’s why home-based business insurance is a good idea.

Choosing the right policy

No matter how small your home-based business, make sure you’re protected with the right coverage. There are three main property and liability options for home-based business insurance:
  • Homeowners policy endorsements: Adding an endorsement, also known as a rider, to your existing homeowners policy is often the simplest and most affordable way to insure smaller home businesses that don’t manufacture products on the premises or use a lot of equipment. Endorsements are also a good fit for solo entrepreneurs with few business-related visitors.
  • In-home business policy: Combining home and business insurance into a single plan, this type of policy offers more specific types of coverage. This policy is a step up from a basic homeowners policy endorsement, offering a greater range of coverage for a growing business. If your in-home business has developed into a mid-level operation with more visitors, equipment and output, this may be the policy for you. Such a policy may include more extensive property and liability coverage than endorsements, as well as business interruption coverage, which protects your income in the event your business is disrupted because of a disaster.
    Examples of what kinds of businesses would use this policy include a small baking operation that meets with clients in person and also does all baking, orders and shipping in-house; a clothing designer who fits clients, as well as manufactures and ships goods, from home or an accountant who makes regular in-person appointments and uses certain rooms in the house as dedicated office space.
  • Business owners policy: Often referred to as a BOP, this type of policy is the most comprehensive form of coverage for home-based businesses. It offers protection for claims brought by contractors, customers and employees, making it a good option for larger home-based businesses. It’s also the best fit for in-home businesses that operate in multiple locations or require extensive travel off-site.

Additional coverage

Whichever policy you consider best for the size and type of your business, be aware that you may need additional coverage not included in a standard plan. Here are some additional coverage options you may want to discuss with your insurance agent, if the plan you’re considering doesn’t include them:
  • Data compromise coverage: Helps protect you and your business from legal action stemming from a security breach that compromises confidential customer or client information.
  • Employment practices coverage: Protects against claims brought against you and your business by your employees.
  • Key person insurance: Basically life insurance on a person critical to the success of a business such as the owner, founder or a key employee, without whom the company might fail.
Most states require home-based businesses to purchase workers’ compensation insurance for employees, but purchasing this coverage is a smart move even if not mandated by law.
As you can see, in-home business insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all consideration.