Taking Care of Your Mental Health

2020 has been a long year. COVID has changed our family & social landscape, Old man winter is settling in, days are shorter, nights are longer and this time of year carries its own stresses for many. Mental health and wellness should be a top priority and many people may not realize the signs and maybe uncertain where to get help.
What is mental health?
Your mental well-being includes how you think, act and feel. It also helps you cope with stress, relate to others and make decisions. Mental well-being includes mental health, but goes far beyond treating mental illness. For example, you could go through a period of poor mental health but not necessarily have a diagnosable mental illness. And your mental health can change over time, depending on factors such as your workload, stress and work-life balance.
What is mental illness?
Mental illness refers to a variety of conditions that affect your mood or behavior, feelings or thinking. Mental illnesses can occur occasionally, while others are chronic and long-lasting. Common mental illnesses include anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 1 in 5 U.S. adults will experience a mental illness in any given year, and more than 50% will experience mental illness at some point in their life.
Why is mental well-being important?
Mental health is extremely important and doesn’t just affect the mind, but can also have affects on your physical well being causing weight gain, heart attack or stroke. Because it’s such a crucial component of your health, it’s important to focus on maintaining or improving your mental health. While it’s not always easy, there are ways to help improve your mental health. Here are three simple ways to do so every day:
  1. Express gratitude. Taking five minutes a day to write down the things that you are grateful for has been proven to lower stress levels and can help you change your mindset from negative to positive.
  2. Get exercise. You probably hear all the time how beneficial exercise is to your overall health, but it’s true. Exercising can improve brain function, reduce anxiety and improve your self-image.
  3. Get a good night’s sleep. Strive for seven to eight hours of sleep a night to improve your mental health.
If you or someone you know is feeling off, not like yourself/themself or sad please know that you are not alone. There are resources available to you. You should contact your primary care physician for guidance or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline which is available 24/7/365.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255
website: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Want to lower your tax bill?

 There are a number of opportunities to offset prior-year income and capture credits.

Areas to look at include:

  1. Retirement plan contributions
  2. Deductions
  3. Penalties
  4.  Credits

Retirement plans: Retroactive contributions

Your traditional Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, offers the biggest potential bang for the buck.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows taxpayers to make deductible prior-year contributions all the way up to the tax-filing deadline.

For tax year 2020, total contributions to all of your traditional and Roth IRAs for taxpayers under age 50 cannot be more than either $6,000, or your total compensation for the year if you earned less than that amount. Those 50 and older can make an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution, for a total of $7,000.1

Your actual tax deduction, however, may be limited if you or your spouse are covered by a retirement plan at work and your income exceeds certain levels.

Eligible taxpayers can also make retroactive contributions to their Roth IRA until April 15. Different phaseout limits apply for Roth contributions.

Because Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars, your contribution will not yield a current-year tax deduction, but it could potentially produce a better investment return since earnings upon retirement can be distributed tax free.

Tax deductions: Roll up your sleeves

Most taxpayers take the standard deduction, a fixed dollar amount set forth by the IRS that reduces the amount of income on which they are taxed.

Why? Because it’s a lot less work. You don’t have to keep track of your expenses, or individually deduct them on IRS Schedule

As a result, many taxpayers who previously itemized deductions may find it more beneficial to claim the standard deduction this year.

Tax penalties

The only thing worse than giving Uncle Sam his due is leaving him a tip.

To avoid a potentially hefty late-filing penalty, you must submit your income tax return on time, regardless of whether or not you can afford to pay.

Indeed, the failure-to-file penalty can be as much as 5 percent of your unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that your tax return is late, up to 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.

Submitting your tax return electronically ensures greater accuracy than mailing it in since the IRS e-file system flags common errors and kicks back returns for correction.

Tax credits

When it comes to lowering your taxable income, you are your best advocate.

Tax deductions, which reduce the amount of your income subject to tax, are great, but tax credits, which reduce your tax bill dollar for dollar, are even better. So don’t leave any tax credits or deductions for which you are eligible on the table.

Families with dependent children may be eligible to claim a credit of up to $2,000 per qualifying child under the Child Tax Credit.

If you paid for someone to care for your child, spouse, or dependent so you could work or look for a job, you may be able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

Similarly, those paying for higher education expenses may be able to claim one of two tax credits: the American Opportunity Tax Credit, or the Lifetime Learning Credit. You cannot claim both credits for the same student in the same year.

If you haven’t yet filed your tax return, there’s still much you can potentially do to minimize the amount you may owe.

By taking advantage of tax-favored retirement tools, filing an accurate return, and educating yourself on available deductions and credits, you might just save enough to pay off your credit card debt or catch a flight somewhere warm

Preventing Frozen Pipes for Business

Cold temperatures can reach areas of your facility that you seldom visit or cannot see, such as:

  • Crawl spaces
  • Closets
  • Enclosed spaces (e.g., attics, lofts, roof spaces)
  • Warehouses
  • Isolated storage areas

Strategies to Help Prevent Frozen Pipes

Some prevention strategies to consider:

  • Properly insulate and/or provide approved heat tracing for water-filled pipes located in exterior walls or unheated spaces.
  • Drain any piping that is not required during the winter months.
  • Maintain a minimum temperature of 40° F (4.4° C) in building areas with processes susceptible to freezing, wet-pipe sprinkler systems, fire pump houses and dry-pipe valve enclosures.
  • Ensure that anti-freeze sprinkler systems have sufficient concentration (appropriate specific gravity readings) of antifreeze to withstand freezing weather.
  • Inspect dry systems to help ensure air settings are correct, air maintenance systems are in good operating condition, and any pipe closets are well insulated. If any heat tape or heating systems are being used, ensure that they are UL-listed for this specific purpose and are in good operating condition. Dry-pipe sprinkler systems low points and auxiliary drains should be opened and drained of any water or condensation.
  • Any branch lines on wet sprinkler systems exposed or subject to extreme cold weather should be insulated and heat traced. Electric heat tracing products should be UL-listed for this specific purpose.
  • Fire pump test headers should be checked to ensure they have been properly drained.
  • Fire pump and dry-pipe sprinkler system equipment rooms should be checked routinely to ensure the heaters are in good operating condition.
  • The use of low temperature supervision can help to ensure rooms are being properly heated.

 

https://www.travelers.com/resources/facilities-management/preventing-frozen-pipes-for-businesses

Client Spotlight: GreenRoots

GreenRoots
COVID19 Response in Chelsea and East Boston

As an environmental justice organization serving some of MA’s most vulnerable residents, GreenRoots has trumpeted for years that our neighborhoods would be hit first and worst by a disaster. However, we anticipated that the crisis would be climate-related, not the COVID19 pandemic that is ravaging our communities.

Chelsea and East Boston continue to be the hardest-hit communities in MA. In the first pandemic wave, Chelsea’s infection rate was 6x higher than Massachusetts’ rate and higher than the hardest hit boroughs in New York City. Our neighbors fell ill and were dying to a devastating degree. Now, in the newest surge, Chelsea continues to have a consistently high infection rate. East Boston is identified as the hardest hit Boston community, with rates equaling or surpassing those in Chelsea. We are just seeing the beginning of the long-term impacts, both health and economic, of COVID19 in both these communities.

GreenRoots responded to the crisis swiftly and decisively, and continues to play a leadership role in the pandemic response for all of our neighborhoods on both sides of the Chelsea Creek.
Building systems to address community needs was a key initial focus of GreenRoots. On March 11th, GreenRoots coordinated a call of numerous Chelsea stakeholders to plan a coordinated response for the COVID-19 pandemic. This initial call turned into Chelsea’s Pandemic response team, with over 75 stakeholders, 10 working groups, with over 65 days of daily calls. GreenRoots was also instrumental in developing and implementing the East Boston Mutual Aid Network. Both in Chelsea and East Boston, these two systems provided the backbones for community-led responses. In addition, GreenRoots’ coordinated effort around public health (including a letter to Governor Baker with 47 community signatories) led to increased testing and National Guard support for food distribution.

GreenRoots was a founding partner of the One Chelsea Fund, a cash assistance program facilitated through the United Way in collaboration with the City of Chelsea, The Neighborhood Developers and La Colaborativa.  Together, we raised more than $1.3 million for distribution to Chelsea residents. To learn more about the fund, check out a One Chelsea Fund Video. GreenRoots distributed approximately 1,700 checks ($425,000 in total) to residents. We are now launching phase II of the fund which will be directed to address anti-displacement efforts in Chelsea. In East Boston, our staff collaborated with Centro Presente which distributed $155,000 to local residents; and weekly boxes of food to food insecure families.

In addition to the aforementioned activities, GreenRoots helped with food distribution, diaper donations, funds for funerals, distributing PPE and multi-lingual message and much more.
To learn more, visit www.greenrootschelsea.org.

Stop Leaks Before It’s Too Late

Fire might be a homeowner’s greatest fear, but some insurance company will tell you that water is the far more common cause of property damage, even if you don’t live in an area subject to flooding. And it can come from many sources: A failing water heater, a burst pipe, a broken supply line under your sink, a clogged toilet, or even a split hose connected to your washing machine.

Just as it’s essential to have a smoke detector in each of your home’s bedrooms and common areas, you’d be wise to install leak detectors in places where water damage could start: The laundry room, water heater closet, the bathroom, under your kitchen sink, and so on.

Water shut-off devices are installed by a plumber directly onto your water line, a flow-based water leak detection device monitors the flow of water throughout your home. If an unusual activity or flow of water is detected – probably caused by a leak somewhere in your plumbing or pipes – the device will alert you first and then shut off your water supply to help minimize damage.

Many insurance companies also offer a break on your home insurance if you install water leak detection systems.  A one-time investment can end up paying for itself over time.

 

 

Tips to Avoid Finacial Stress

Whether you worry about contracting COVID-19 or not, chances are you share in the financial stress felt by millions during the last few months.

There are steps you can take today to help put some of your fears to rest. But first, a look at why controlling stress is important.

Tips to manage stress

In the case of the pandemic, the CDC suggests strategies for relieving stress. These include meditating, volunteering, taking breaks from reading the news, eating well, exercising, and using counseling or therapy services if needed.

If you are currently experiencing cash flow challenges and haven’t done so already, reach out to your creditors, and any other financial institution with whom you do business to discuss payment leniency.

The financial checkup

Your next move is to review the money that comes in and goes out every month to make sure you have a firm handle on your cash flow situation to possibly uncover some ways to reduce expenses.

Investors should ensure that their portfolios are well-balanced and reflect their financial goals, time horizon, and risk tolerance. Many investors rely on guidance from a financial professional.

Retirees can create dependable income streams (Annuities, Pensions, in addition to Social Security) to help shelter themselves from volatility. Those in the accumulation phase can establish an emergency fund of 3-6 months worth of expenses held in cash.

While it’s critical to review your financial position, it’s imperative to also address your risk management and estate planning needs.

This includes Disability Insurance, to protect your income if you become too ill or injured to work. If you have coverage through your employer, make sure you’re absolutely certain how the plan works – what % of your income it would replace (60% is most common but can be less) and if it would be taxable. The last thing you need at that point is an unpleasant surprise.

Life insurance is also of critical importance, to protect those who are financially dependent upon you. Be sure to review the coverage you have in place (if any) and make sure it’s up to date. Many times, people set up coverage early on, but don’t update it as life events occur, such as marriage, children, buying a house, etc.

The same concept pertains to updating the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts, insurance policies, and address overall Estate Planning needs.

Being proactive with your finances puts you back in the driver’s seat, which may not solve all your immediate challenges, but can reveal a path forward to restoring financial wellness and help to manage stress.

5 Summer Wellness Tips

Summer is an exciting time of the year that is typically filled with cookouts, outdoor activities, and other events.  To promote a happy, healthy summer, try following these five wellness tips:

  1. Drink plenty of water.  Dehydration in the summer months can make you more susceptible to heat exhaustion and heatstroke.  To avoid symptoms of dehydration such as dizziness, weakness, and fatigue, try to drink at least eight to ten glasses of water throughout the day.
  2. Watch what you eat at summer cookouts.  Common cookout foods like burgers and hot dogs are full of fats that can make you feel lethargic.  Sticking to lighter more refreshing foods like fish, pasta salads and watermelon can give you more energy while still satisfying your appetite.
  3. Protect yourself from the sun.  Protect yourself from the harmfulness of UV rays by wearing protective clothing, staying in shaded areas during the sun’s highest points (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.
  4. Exercise safely outside.  Exerting high amounts of energy in the heat raises your body temperature, making you more at risk for heat exhaustion and stroke.  Make sure to drink lots of water, wear breathable clothing and have healthy snacks to fuel your body.
  5. Take a vacation to prevent burnout.  Reduced productivity, exhaustion and decreased engagement are all symptoms of burnout.  Taking time away from your work responsibilities to get your mind and body in check is essential to keep up work performance and overall health.

Workers Compensation and COVID-19 Related Furlough Payments:

The Massachusetts Division of Insurance recently approved a new classification that will exempt COVID 19 related furlough payments to employees from Workers Compensation payroll. This means that furlough payments will not count as payroll when used to determine Workers Compensation premium. There are some very specific qualifiers for this program:

  1. The insurance carrier needs to be notified immediately if you intend to request that furlough payments be exempt from Workers Compensation payroll. We can assist you with this process. This new rule was approved on July 17th and insurance carriers need to be notified within 60 days of that date.
  2. Employers must have records listing furloughed employees, their normal Workers Compensation classification, weekly wage, furlough date and anticipated return.
  3. Furlough payments made between March 1st and December 30th are eligible. The program expires as of December 31st 2020.

Many other states have adopted similar provisions to exempt furlough payments from Workers Compensation payroll. Please contact your representative immediately if you believe that your policy will qualify for this program.

Time For Spring Home Maintenance?

 

 

You may want to start with simple spring cleaning tasks:

  • Change and/or service your furnace filters, HVAC, smoke and CO detector batteries
  • Deep-clean your oven, dishwasher, coffee maker and outdoor grill, as well as drapes, upholstery, cabinets, floors, vents and baseboards
  • Clean your mudroom, garage and outbuildings, and, in the process, inventory items that need replacing

Check out the Chubb Insurance brochures: How to Prepare your Home and Garden for Spring and Summer infographic or their Top 10 Spring Cleaning Tasks for more ideas and tips. Also, it’s important to remember there are common household cleaning products you should never mix, such as bleach and ammonia or bleach and rubbing alcohol. Learn more.

Then tackle more involved home maintenance inventory projects.

We can all use a little help keeping track of the home maintenance projects we need to do, and now there’s software and technology that can help.

With the HomeZada app, you can manage your home and projects, keep a digital inventory of your photos, receipts, and documents, create a home maintenance schedule program, and manage remodeling projects. HomeZada generally charges $60/year, but Chubb PRS clients are eligible for a rate of $45/year. Click here to get HomeZada now.

Stay safe in the process.

Cleary Insurance wants to make sure you and your family stay safe and healthy. Only handle projects yourself that you feel you’re truly qualified to do. You may be better off leaving projects with electrical components or those at heights, for example, to professionals who have the right equipment and skillset.

 

Simple Ways to Improve Your Health

 

Get Active:

Did you know that exercising regularly could help you fight off chronic conditions and diseases? Exercise can help control your blood pressure, blood sugar and weight, raise your “good” cholesterol, and prevent diseases such as colorectal cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. If you’re ready to get active, keep the following tips in mind:
  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., briskly walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., running) every week.
  • Incorporate muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week.
  • Avoid injuries by doing the following three steps each workout:
    • Warm up: Warming up allows your body time to adjust from rest to activity. Always remember to gradually increase the intensity of your warmup to reduce stress to your bones, muscles and heart.
    • Cool down: As with warming up, cooling down should include movements similar to those in your workout, but at a gradually decreasing level of intensity.
    • Stretch: After cooling down, stretching helps to build flexibility and range of motion. When stretching, remember to use gentle, fluid movements and to breathe normally.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Getting enough sleep isn’t always possible, but inadequate sleep is a bigger problem than you may think.  Getting an adequate amount of sleep is vital to staying healthy and avoiding fatigue. Fatigue causes drowsiness, moodiness, loss of energy, inability to focus, and lack of motivation and alertness, which can, in turn, cause decreased productivity and even be a safety hazard. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Even if it means rearranging your schedule, make sleep a priority.
If you are struggling to fall asleep or get a restful night’s sleep, try the following tips:
  • Maintain healthy habits, such as eating nutritiously, exercising regularly, managing your stress levels and not smoking—all of which will help you sleep better at night and give you more energy throughout the day.
  • Create and stick to a sleep routine. Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day, including on weekends. Make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature and is quiet. Find a relaxing pre-sleep activity, such as listening to soft music or reading.
  • Limit caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, large meals and rigorous exercise within a few hours of bedtime.

 Eating 101

Eating a well-balanced diet is key to maintaining your health. In fact, improving your diet could help you live longer and reduce the chances of developing costly chronic diseases. Keep the following tips in mind when you’re getting started on your healthy eating journey:
  • Get a personalized eating plan. Speak with your doctor to develop a plan that will give you the amounts of each food group you need daily. Your doctor may recommend you seek out a registered dietician or nutritionist to create the best plan for you.
  • Set realistic goals. You are more likely to succeed in reaching realistic goals when you make changes gradually. Start with small changes.
  • Balance your plate with a variety of foods. Fifty percent of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, 25 percent with lean meat, poultry or fish, and 25 percent with grains.
  • Eat slowly. It takes between 15-20 minutes for your brain to get the message that your body is getting food. When your brain gets this message, you may stop feeling hungry.
  • Practice portion control. A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat. Talk with your doctor or visit the United States Department of Agriculture’s website to learn more about proper portion sizes and daily food intake customized to your age, gender and activity level.
Please speak with your doctor if you have questions about fitness programs and/or healthy eating or how you can get started.   If these tips do not help you sleep better, or you suspect you have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or insomnia, see your doctor.