Am I Covered if I Rent a Car on Vacation?

Have you ever found yourself in this situation? You are standing at a rental car counter, with a line behind you, feeling pressured to buy insurance. It’s a tricky decision, given the fact that you may already be covered through your existing car insurance.

When you rent a car, the car rental company may offer you an insurance plan to cover the vehicle. If you have an auto insurance policy, do you need to purchase the insurance? The good news for Massachusetts Auto Policy holders is that coverage is provided on Mass Auto Policies; however not all coverages will respond in the same way your personal auto coverages respond.

Please keep in mind these important considerations:

Your Mass Auto Policy (MAP) is NOT a worldwide policy! The Mass Auto policy only covers losses that occur in the United States (including Puerto Rico and U.S. territories and possessions) and Canada.

Most rental car companies require all drivers of the vehicle to be declared. Your MAP will only provide coverage for drivers listed on your auto policy for a rental car.

Bodily Injury and Property Damage will apply as long as you are legally responsible for the accident.

Your Collision & Comprehensive coverage provide protection, less your deductible for most damage to a rental car. HOWEVER, many rental company contracts indicate that you are responsible for their loss of rental income while the damaged car is being repaired.

In the event of a total loss or theft of a rented vehicle, the MAP will pay for the actual cash value (ACV). You could end up paying the out-of-pocket difference between the ACV and replacement cost of the vehicle.

Your Mass Auto Policy will only respond to a private passenger type vehicle. It will NOT respond to a motorcycle, motor home, or moving truck. Also, the MAP will NOT respond if a vehicle is rented for an extended period of time over 30 days or is driven off road.

We recommend that you do the following:

Carefully read and understand the rental agreement before signing as not all contracts are the same.

Many credit cards will cover damages to a rental vehicle. Be sure to check available coverage, and if there are any limitations.

Above all, make sure you have some form of insurance on the rental car. The last thing you want is to get into an accident and be underinsured.

Concerned about your personal insurance coverage? At Cleary, our experienced Personal Lines department will work with you to evaluate your insurance needs, identify exposures, and create a customized insurance portfolio. Give us a call today at 617-723-0700.

DOL Audits

Over the past year a number of contractors have been subjected to audits by Department Of Labor (DOL) Investigators. ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funding has reinvigorated enforcement activities. It has also become apparent that these audits are becoming more complicated to resolve.

In some cases the audits have increased in complexity; with the DOL Investigators asking for a myriad of company records, and then leaving for several weeks or months without finalizing the audit. This leaves the contractor in limbo and causes apprehension with their various customers. We recommend that in these cases the contractor send a letter to the DOL Investigator’s Supervisor and include a copy to the Regional Wage Specialist, asking for closure on the audit.

Some DOL Investigators threaten to withhold contract funds if compliance is in question. On Form WH-56 “Summary of Unpaid Wages”, the investigator will list all of the employees whom the investigator determines are due back wages. Investigators may also threaten debarment if contractors do not pay all the employees noted in the Summary of Unpaid Wages.

The Professional Service Council met with DOL officials last December at The Wage and Hour Division in Washington, DC due to the vast number of complaints regarding DOL Audits. The DOL agreed to send some representatives from their Wage and Hour staff to the PSC- SCA Training program in Wash DC. This program was held in March 2013 and has an upcoming session in October.

Any contractors, who do not have experienced personnel capable of handling DOL audits, may benefit by sending some of their employees to the next SCA training class that covers DOL audits.

If you would like additional information on SCA training programs, you may contact Albert Corvigno at acorvigno@marallc.com or call him directly at 252-312-4853.

For additional information relating to SCA compliance please click here to read “Avoiding the Compliance Pitfalls of the Service Contract Act” co-authored by Al Corvigno.

SCA Update

Effective June 19, 2013, the SCA health and welfare benefit increased to $3.81.   Please click here to read the All Agency Memorandum Number 214.

At Cleary, we know how important a comprehensive benefits package can be to your continued success. Give us a call today at 617-723-0700 and we will work with you to create a plan that meets your fringe-benefit obligations and provides your employees with valuable benefits.

Client Spotlight: Captain Al’s Restaurant

If you are looking for a way to beat the heat this summer we suggest a visit to Captain Al’s Restaurant & Tiki Bar.  Captain Al’s is a casual, family style seafood restaurant located adjacent to Continental Marina in Buzzards Bay on the Upper Cape.

In addition to an extensive menu with delicious food and drink choices, Captain Al’s features a spacious water-side deck with breath-taking views of Buttermilk Bay.

Captain Al’s is open daily from 12 noon to 12 midnight, please click here for directions.  The summer season passes quickly so plan a visit to Captain Al’s soon.

Retirement Income Planning: The Total Return Approach Vs. the Bucket Approach

Presented by John B. Steiger

Most working Americans have only one source of steady income before they retire: their jobs. When you retire, however, your income will likely come from a number of sources, such as retirement accounts, social security benefits, pensions, and part-time work. When deciding how to manage your various assets to ensure a steady retirement income stream, there are two main strategies to consider: the total return approach and the investment pool—or bucket—approach.

The total return approach

With the total return approach, you invest your assets in a diversified portfolio of investments with varying potential for growth, stability, and liquidity. The percentage you allot to each type of investment depends on your asset allocation plan, time horizon, risk tolerance, need for income, and other goals.

The objective of your investment portfolio generally changes over time, depending on how close you are to retirement:

Accumulation phase. During the accumulation phase, your portfolio’s objective is to increase in value as much as possible, with a focus on investments with growth potential.

Approaching retirement-age phase. As you near retirement, your portfolio becomes more conservative, moving toward more stable and liquid assets in order to help preserve your earnings.

Retirement phase. Once you retire, the idea is to withdraw from your portfolio at an even rate that allows you to enjoy a sustainable lifestyle.

Traditionally, a widely quoted withdrawal rate for the first year of retirement has been 4 percent. Ideally, that 4 percent should be equal to the amount left over after you subtract your yearly retirement income (e.g., pensions, social security, and so on) from your total cost of living, including investment management fees. Each year, you will most likely increase your withdrawal percentage to keep up with inflation. Keep in mind, however, that the appropriate withdrawal rate for you will depend on your personal situation as well as the current economic environment.

The bucket approach

The bucket approach also begins with a diversified portfolio, following the total return approach throughout most of the accumulation period. Then, as retirement approaches, you divide your assets into several smaller portfolios (or buckets), each with different time horizons, to target specific needs.

There is no “right” number of buckets, but three is fairly common. In a three-bucket scenario:

The first bucket would cover the three years leading up to retirement and the two years following retirement, providing income for near-term spending. It would likely include investments that have historically been relatively stable, such as short-term bonds, CDs, money market funds, and cash.

The second bucket would be used in years three through nine of retirement. Designed to preserve some capital while generating retirement income, it would include more assets with growth potential, such as certain mutual funds and dividend-paying stocks.

The third bucket, designated to provide income in year 10 and beyond, would contain investments that have the most potential for growth, such as equities, commodities, real estate, and alternatives. Although the risk profile of this bucket is typically higher than the other two, its longer time horizon can help provide a buffer for short-term volatility.

As you enter the distribution phase, you draw from these buckets sequentially, using a withdrawal rate based on your specific lifestyle goals in a particular year.

The big picture

Many people are familiar with the total return approach, but the bucket approach has been gaining popularity recently, thanks in large part to its simplicity. It also accounts for different time periods during retirement, potentially allowing you to allocate money more effectively based on your personal situation.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the bucket approach is that it can help provide a buffer during times of market volatility. For example, if the value of the investments in buckets two and three suddenly fluctuates due to market conditions, your immediate cash income is coming from bucket one, which is likely to be less volatile. This may also alleviate the need to sell investments that have lost money in order to generate retirement income.

Of course, while the bucket approach has its advantages, some investors simply feel more comfortable using the total return approach. Remember, the best strategy for your retirement is unique to you and your personal preferences and needs. However you choose to pursue your retirement dreams, it’s important to work with a financial professional who can help you create the most appropriate strategy based on your goals and situation.

Contact us today to learn more about the different paths you may take to pursue a sustainable and enjoyable retirement.

Diversification does not assure against market loss, and there is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will outperform a non-diversified portfolio.

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John B. Steiger is a financial consultant located at (460 Totten Pond Road Suite 600 Waltham, MA 02451. He offers securities as a Registered Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC. He can be reached at 781-547-5621 or at john@financialconnector.com.

© 2013 Commonwealth Financial Network®

At Cleary, we are committed to a holistic approach of protecting and preserving our clients’ financial assets. Give us a call today at 617-723-0700 and let us know how we can help you.

Terrorism Insurance

Before the 9/11 attacks, insurers didn’t charge for terrorism insurance, but now reinsurers believe they cannot price the risk. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), enacted a year after the 9/11 attacks, makes the Federal Government the backstop for private insurance companies in the event of such catastrophes.  A terrorist act that is eligible for coverage under TRIA must be certified by the Secretary of the Treasury.

Since TRIA’s passage, the private industry’s willingness and ability to cover terrorism risk have increased. According to industry surveys, prices for terrorism coverage have generally trended downward, and approximately 60% of commercial policyholders have purchased coverage over the past few years.

Each time a business renews its commercial insurance policy, terrorism coverage is offered. Policyholders have the option to elect the coverage or decline the coverage.  (Workers Compensation policies automatically include terrorism; you can’t opt out of it!)  Prior to the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings only about 50% of Mike Regan’s commercial property clients actually purchased terrorism insurance.  Whether or not the bombings are deemed a “terrorist” act could have enormous financial implications for the businesses that suffered damages or closed during the police investigation.

It may seem obvious to many that the bombing was an act of terrorism, but whether it is certified as such means a great deal to the property owners affected by it. Think of this; a bomb damaging your building is not an excluded peril from “Special” (used to be called All Risk) property coverage’s. You would be covered even if you didn’t purchase terrorism coverage.  However, if it becomes a “certified” act of terror and you did not purchase the terrorism coverage you will not be covered! Multiple property claims from the bombing are in limbo until such time as the Secretary of the Treasury does or does not certify the event.

Mike Regan was recently quoted in a Boston Business Journal article titled “State of Exposure”.  The article discussed the resurgence of terrorism coverage in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.  “It’s definitely opened people’s eyes to having it”.  “After 9/11 it was a big item.  But, like most things, over time people tend not to think about it the same way and then some people stopped asking what it is, what it means, whether events are covered or not.  Now they’re starting to ask that again.”

At Cleary, we will evaluate your business exposures and work with you to develop a comprehensive plan to safeguard your business. Give us a call today at 617-723-0700.

Workers Compensation Audit Issues – Sole Proprietor

The Massachusetts Workers Compensation Rating & Inspection Bureau has updated audit guidelines related to the hiring of sole proprietors and/or partnerships. These guidelines will have a greater impact on the construction field, but will impact other industries as well.

It is critical that businesses obtain Certificates of Insurance from contractors or firms hired to work on their behalf. If a hired subcontractor does not carry Workers Compensation coverage, then an injured employee of that subcontractor would collect on your coverage. For this reason auditors will ask about contractors, 1099’s and subcontractors you have hired and request to see the Certificates of Insurance which you have collected. The labor cost you paid to any uninsured parties will be added as payroll to your audit and generate additional premiums.

The Bureau has also clarified the audit guideline regarding the use of subcontracted sole proprietorships or partnerships. Sole proprietors and partners are not required to carry Workers Compensation coverage if they do not have any other employees. They can elect to obtain coverage on themselves, but are not legally required to do so. They are legally required to purchase the coverage if they have any employees, even if the workers are part-time. A Certificate of Insurance provided by a Sole Proprietor / Partnership that has Workers Compensation but has not elected coverage for the owners will be noted as such. The Bureau’s new guidelines stipulate that the auditors will pick up the payroll for the “uninsured” sole proprietor / partner if the Certificate states that they are excluded from coverage. Exceptions to this rule can be found in the following three-part test:

The individual/partner is free from control and direction in connection to performance of the service, both under his/her contract for the performance of service and in fact; and
The service is performed outside the usual course of the business of the employer; and
The individual/partner is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business.

Here is an example of how the rule would apply:

John Smith Carpentry, Inc. hires Stanley Jones dba Stanley Jones Plumbing to perform work on three projects over the course of the year. Stanley does not have employees at the time of the work but does have a Workers Compensation policy in case he needs a worker for larger projects. Stanley has elected to be excluded on his Workers Compensation policy. Stanley provides a Certificate of Insurance to John Smith Carpentry that shows Workers Compensation is in place but that he is excluded on the policy.

John Smith is insured with Boston Harbor Mutual. The auditor has requested copies of all insurance certificates for subcontractors hired during the year. A review of the Stanley Jones certificate shows that the sole proprietor is not insured. Boston Harbor Mutual’s auditor adds the payroll cost of the three projects to John Smith’s premium. John smith is unable to provide sufficient evidence relative to the “three-part test” to Boston Harbor Mutual that would reverse the charge. John Smith now must pay additional Workers Compensation premium.

It is important for businesses to be aware of this issue. The issue is more common with construction operations but is certainly applicable to any business that hires other businesses to provide a service or operation on their behalf, such as an insurance agency hiring an individual to clean the office. Be aware of these issues before you hire the business or individual so you can understand what insurance is in place and the potential cost in the future if their coverage is not sufficient or is in question.

At Cleary, we will evaluate your business exposures and work with you to develop a comprehensive plan to safeguard your business. Give us a call today at 617-723-0700.

The History of Insurance Throughout the World

Insurance has a history that dates back to the ancient world. Over the centuries, it has developed into a modern business of protecting people from various risks. The industry has been profitable for many years and has been an important aspect of private and public long-term finance.

First forms of insurance

In the ancient world, the first forms of insurance were recorded by the Babylonian and Chinese traders. To limit the loss of goods, merchants would divide their items among various ships that had to cross treacherous waters. One of the first documented loss limitation methods was noted in the Code of Hammurabi, which was written around 1750 BC. Under this method, a merchant receiving a loan would pay the lender an extra amount of money in exchange for a guarantee that the loan would be cancelled if the shipment were stolen. The first to insure their people were the Achaemenian monarchs, and insurance records were submitted to notary offices. Insurance was also noted for gifts of substantial value. These gifts were given to monarchs. By recording their gifts in a register, givers would receive help from a monarch by proving the gift’s existence if they were in trouble.

As the ancient world evolved, maritime loans with rates based on favorable seasons for traveling surfaced. Around 600 BC, the Greeks and Romans formed the first types of life and health insurance with their benevolent societies. These societies provided care for families of deceased citizens. Such societies continued for centuries in many different areas of the world and included funerary rituals. In the 12th century in Anatolia, a type of state insurance was introduced. If traders were robbed in the area, the state treasury would reimburse them for their losses.

First documented insurance policy

Standalone insurance policies that were not tied to contracts or loans surfaced in Genoa in the 14th century. This is where the first documented insurance policy came from in 1347. In the following century, standalone maritime insurance was formed. With this type of insurance, premiums varied based on unique risks. However, the separation of insurance from contracts and loans was a major change that would influence insurance for the rest of time.

The first book printed on the subject of insurance was penned by Pedro de Santarém, and the literature was published in 1552. As the Renaissance ended in Europe, insurance evolved into a much more sophisticated form of protection with several varieties of coverage. Until the late 17th century, many areas were still dominated by friendly societies that collected money to pay for medical expenses and funerals. However, the end of the 17th century introduced a rapid expansion of London’s importance in the world of trade. This also increased the need for cargo insurance. London became a hub for companies or people who were willing to underwrite the ventures of cargo ships and merchant traders. Lloyd’s of London, one of London’s leading insurers, is still a major insurance business in the city.

Insurgence of modern insurance

Modern insurance can be traced back to the city’s Great Fire of London, which occurred in 1666. After it destroyed more than 30,000 homes, a man named Nicholas Barbon started a building insurance business. He later introduced the city’s first fire insurance company. Accident insurance was made available in the late 19th century, and it was very similar to modern disability coverage.

In U.S. history, the first insurance company was based in South Carolina and opened in 1732 to offer fire coverage. Benjamin Franklin started a company in the 1750s, which collected contributions for preventing disastrous fires from destroying buildings. As the 1800s arrived and passed, insurance companies evolved to include life insurance and several other forms of coverage. No type of insurance was mandatory in the United States until the 1930s. At that time, the government created Social Security. In the 1940s, GI insurance surfaced. It helped ease the financial difficulties of women whose husbands died while fighting in World War II. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the need for car insurance grew enough that steps were taken to make it mandatory. Although insurance is an established business, it is still changing and will change in the future to meet the evolving needs of consumers.

Health Care Reform

On March 23, 2010 President Obama signed the health care reform bill, or Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law. Aca’s health care reforms which are primarily focused on reducing the uninsured population and decreasing health care costs will continue to be implemented over the next several years. Cleary Insurance has been working with our existing benefits clients to manage health care reform. We will continue to work with our clients through the final implementation as the requirements and obligations continue to evolve.

If you are not currently an employee benefits client and are interested in a health care reform business analysis please contact us today.

At Cleary, we know how important a comprehensive benefits package can be to your continued success. Give us a call today at 617-723-0700 and we will work with you to create a plan that meets your business objectives, takes into account state and federal laws, and capitalizes on incentives and innovative solutions now being offered.