Voluntary Benefits

In previous years, employers offered voluntary benefits to retain employees, attract strong candidates and boost morale. They weren’t as popular as they are now. Since there has been significant growth in economic pressures, most employers want to use these benefits because the plans have no direct costs for them. However, employers’ costs aren’t the only benefit. Many employers offer these benefits because their employees are able to afford them. The same employees may not be able to afford similar benefits on their own.

Advantages of offering voluntary benefits include:

1. Desired Benefits
Employees usually ask prospective employers about disability, life, health and dental benefits. It’s always beneficial to be able to offer good prospective employees the benefits they desire.

2. No Employer Expenses
The only thing better than being able to offer employees the benefits they desire is being able to do so without paying much. The payroll tax savings gained from Section 125 offsets the administrative costs that are often associated with voluntary benefits.

3. Group Rates
Since the rates are calculated for a group, individual costs for employees are lower. This means that employees are able to enjoy the same great benefits they desire for an affordable cost. Employees enjoy the benefit of paying less upfront for costly medical procedures or illnesses. If a serious illness or accident occurs, plan members receive cash benefits. These benefits may be used for groceries, travel, living expenses or other expenses related to the medical issue.

4. Lower Employee Turnover Rates
Employers who offer better benefit packages to their employees enjoy a low turnover rate. Good benefit choices also attract good prospective employees. When employment levels are high, it’s essential for employers to have the best benefit offerings to attract the best job candidates.

5. No Secondary Market
Some of the best programs are only offered in plans that are sponsored by employers. This aspect is also more attractive to prospective employees because they can’t obtain the same insurance coverage without working for the employer who offers it.

6. Fosters Goodwill
Employees appreciate employers who show that they care enough to offer good benefit options. This shows employees that the employer cares about their individual needs and the needs of their families.

7. Good Underwriting
Most individuals are not able to find life or disability coverage on their own. This is especially true for individuals who have a medical history that is not favorable. Voluntary benefit plans have simple underwriting requirements. They are also guaranteed without any health questions.

As business owners seek better ways to manage healthcare expenses, they also seek more flexible benefit choices. In addition to reducing costs to employers, voluntary benefit plans reduce FICA contributions. Whether employers offer indemnity, discount or insurance, voluntary benefits are the best choice for employee relations, employee retention and company savings.

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.

Power Outages

Winter is right around the corner. Depending on where you live, this could mean extreme amounts of snow and/or ice; and with that comes power outages. While there is little you can do about a winter power outage once it has happened, you can take steps to prepare yourself.

Lots of Water

When you lose power for weeks at a time, water becomes a guarded resource as there is no way to use the toilet or bathe without some type of extra water supply. Preparing gallons or buckets of water is one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself. If you should lose power and you have not saved water, think of what available resources you may have. This may mean getting water from a local lake or pond (if it is not frozen over). As with any water source that has been sitting for a very long time, remember to boil the water prior to use.

A Cooking Source

It is important to have some way to cook food (and boil water); there are several available options. You may want to consider purchasing a gas stove and having it installed now. If you do not have a gas stove, consider using your grill. Though you may only think to use a grill in summer, it can really come in handy during a winter power outage – as long as it hasn’t been covered by several feet of ice! Keep in mind that an outside grill should only be used outside.

Easy-to-Make Foods

Although it is always best to have a source available to boil water, it is a good idea to stock up on some foods which require minimal to no cooking when you know that a big storm is about to hit. Some options include bread, peanut butter crackers and cups of soup which require only boiled water to heat. As always, canned foods make excellent choices to have handy.

A Source of Light

Light becomes crucial during a winter power outage, especially if your power should go out for weeks at a time. Given winter’s reduced daylight hours, having candles and flashlights on hand is important. Don’t forget to stock up on matches and new batteries.

Outside Sources of News

Keeping in touch with the real world can help bring you a sense of hope that things will improve. Having a portable radio will provide you with news in your area, weather predictions and information around when your power may return. A cell phone can also be used to call the electric company or local centers offering updates. Keep in mind, however, that a cell phone battery needs to be recharged, so consider having a charger that can be plugged into your car’s cigarette lighter.

A Source of Heat

Many people invest in wood stoves or gas heating so that they can have a source of heat available for use during an outage. This can be a great idea even if you do not use your heater at any other time of the year. Having blankets, sweatshirts and extra layers available is also very important. Remember to keep babies and young children bundled up well. If your child wants to go outside to play during a winter power outage, the best thing you can do is say no, as they may have a hard time getting warm again after experiencing such cold.

A winter power outage can be an inconvenience to many, especially if lengthy, so it is important to be prepared. Many families begin making preparations mid-fall, such as stocking up on flashlights and water, just in case there is an unexpected autumn snow or ice storm.

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.

Estate Planning

There are several reasons to create an estate plan, such as to reduce estate tax liability, protect assets from creditors, make charitable donations and distribute your wealth according to your wishes. And there are many estate planning techniques and strategies to help you achieve your estate planning goals. But an important final estate planning step is communicating your intent and wishes to your family. The last thing you want is for your estate plan to create interfamily disputes after you’re gone. To help avoid this unfortunate outcome, create a mission statement.

Write it Down

The idea behind a mission statement is to communicate a basic set of values and principles — on anything and everything, from philanthropy to education to religion to the future of the family business — that guide your estate plan, and to memorialize them in a written document. Your family members may still not agree with the result, but they will at least understand the motivation.

There are no special rules that govern the format or length of a mission statement. It can be a single sentence or a 20-page monograph. The important point is to make sure that everyone is on the same page and that there are no surprises when it comes time to implement your estate plan.

A mission statement is particularly valuable if you own a family business, plan to give a sizable portion of your estate to charity, have children from a previous marriage, or have established one or more “incentive trusts” designed to shape the behavior of your heirs.

When a family business is involved, for example, you may struggle to balance your desire to treat all of your children equally with your interest in preserving the business and rewarding those children who are committed to working in it. If most of your wealth is tied up in the business, it may be difficult to provide for children who don’t work in the company without giving them an equity interest. But this may be objectionable to the children whose hard work contributed to the business’ success.

One potential solution is to divide the equity equally among your children but to provide those working in the business with management control by issuing voting stock to them and nonvoting stock to the others. Another solution may be giving real estate or a life insurance policy instead of shares in the business to children not involved in the business. Whatever strategy you come up with, the key to success is to discuss it in advance with those who have a stake in the outcome.

If one of your goals is to leave a philanthropic legacy, it’s even more important for your family to participate in the discussion. Warren Buffett is famously leaving the bulk of his multibillion dollar estate to charity, and his children are fine with that. But imagine if they didn’t learn of his intentions until the reading of his will.

Build Understanding

By discussing these potentially divisive issues in advance and outlining your plan in a mission statement, you can avoid unpleasant surprises and disputes. After all of the work that goes into creating an estate plan, you don’t want to still be worrying about your family members fighting over your assets after you die. A mission statement can be an effective way to help your loved ones understand your motives and the values and principles underlying your estate plan.

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.