6 Signs You May Be Underinsured

Presented by Matthew A. Clayson

says are you underinsured for life insurance

How do you know if you are underinsured? If you’ve purchased life insurance, you’ve taken an important step in protecting your family’s financial future, but you still may be underinsured. Such coverage can help your loved ones maintain their living standard in the event you should pass away prematurely, or at least eliminate some of the stress of making ends meet.

But how do you know if you have enough coverage? That can be a complicated question. And possible answers are likely to change over time. Life insurance is not a “set it and forget it” financial solution. As circumstances change, so do your coverage needs.

You may need to revisit the amount (and type) of life insurance coverage you have if:

  1. Your family has grown.
  2. Your stay-at-home spouse is not insured.
  3. You only have group life insurance through work.
  4. Your income rose.
  5. You have significant debt.
  6. Your financial goals have changed.

Life Insurance Policy Review

There is no one right answer. The appropriate death benefit amount differs for everyone depending on their assets, income, and financial goals.

How Many are Underinsured?

Underinsurance is common. According to Life Happens, a nonprofit consumer education group, 41 percent of U.S. adults — both insured and uninsured — say they do not believe they have enough life insurance protection.1 Some started off with sufficient coverage, but failed to increase their policy amount as their income and financial obligations grew.

Of course, the “right” amount of coverage is relative. People purchase life insurance for different reasons. Often, it’s used to replace the policyowner’s lost income if he or she should die unexpectedly, so their surviving spouse and kids can pay the bills. Others buy whole life insurance to provide for a spouse in retirement or cover long-term care expenses. And some use it as an estate planning tool to pass money along on a tax-favored basis to their heirs, so they may not realize they are underinsured.

1. Your family has grown -If you added a new family member to your flock, it may be time to increase the size of your life insurance policy. According to the most recent government estimates, it will cost the average middle-income, married couple nearly $311,000 to raise a child through age 18. That does not include the cost of a college education. If you aim to cover your kid’s college education, braces, and future wedding in the event that you are no longer around, those expenses should be factored into your death benefit as well.

2. Your stay-at-home spouse is not insured-It’s a common misconception that stay-at-home parents do not need life insurance coverage. True, they don’t produce an income. But if they should pass away when the kids are still young, the breadwinner would need to pay for day care or a nanny.

One more reason to insure a stay-at-home parent: It protects the earnings potential of the breadwinning parent, so he or she would not have to scale back hours or take a less-demanding job to keep their household afloat.

3.You only have group life insurance-Employer-provided life insurance is a great benefit for many, but the amount provided may not be sufficient to protect your family from financial loss. Group life insurance is typically not portable, either. And, if you develop a health condition between now and when you leave your job, you may no longer be eligible for the lowest rates, or qualify for private insurance at all.

To estimate how much life insurance coverage his clients should have, Guarino said he starts by calculating the cash-flow needs (through retirement) of each spouse and any dependent children with the assumption that the other spouse has passed away. He then compares that figure with their cash flow sources.

4. Your income rose-A bigger paycheck is a good thing, but if your family depends on your income to cover their living expenses, your life insurance coverage needs to keep up. It may be time to review your coverage needs if your salary has grown substantially since you purchased your policy.

Remember, the purpose of life insurance is to provide a big enough safety net that those you leave behind would be able to maintain their lifestyle if you were no longer around. If that lifestyle has changed, your coverage amount should, too.

5. You have debt-You may need more coverage if you have private student loans, mortgages, medical bills, or other debts.

Remember, the purpose of life insurance is to provide a big enough safety net that those you leave behind would be able to maintain their lifestyle if you were no longer around. If that lifestyle has changed, your coverage amount should, too.

6. Your financial goals have changed-Many couples purchase budget-friendly term life insurance when they start a family, primarily because it costs less. But as their income and financial goals change, they may no longer have the kind of protection that’s right for them. Term life insurance provides coverage for a specific length of time. The beneficiaries receive the death benefit only if the policyowner dies before that term is up, so you may still me underinsured.

By contrast, a permanent (or whole) life insurance policy costs more because it guarantees a death benefit to your beneficiaries when you pass away at any age, as long as you maintain your policy. It may also enable policyowners to accumulate cash value that can be used to help meet their retirement and other long-term accumulation goals. If you currently have a term life policy, but wish to leave a legacy to your heirs (or a favorite charity), you may not have the type of coverage you need.

Conclusion

Underinsurance is common in U.S. households. To be sure your family has the protection it needs, review your coverage regularly to ensure that you have both the amount and the type of policy that’s right for you.

Donating Blood Impacts Your Community

Published by Alyssa Malmquist on January 17, 2024

donating blood photo of heart in hand

The month of January is National Blood Donor Month. It’s an annual celebration that highlights how much this act of service can impact and help others. Historically, January is when blood donation has been needed most. The American Red Cross notes that the winter months can bring critical blood shortages. Typically, the steep drop in donations happens because of the holidays.

Transportation can add another challenge, especially in places with harsh winters and snow. Many individuals get sick around this time of year, too, which also makes it difficult to donate. So if you’re able to, it’s worth the extra effort to donate in January.

But it’s always a good time to donate blood, especially given how much your donation can impact members of your community:

  • In the U.S., approximately 29,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day.
  • Someone needs blood or platelets every two seconds.
  • A car accident victim can require as many as 100 units of blood.
  • Blood and platelets can only come from volunteer donors.
  • One donation can help save more than one life.
  • Many cancer patients need blood transfusions, sometimes daily, during chemotherapy treatment.
  • Babies born early may need a blood transfusion to increase the number of red blood cells in their bodies.
  • Transfusions of plasma, which is found in blood, help heal bad infections, serious burns, or liver failure.

Giving blood can also boost your health. According to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, blood donation can help reduce iron in your system. This can improve cardiovascular function. In that research, people who donated blood had an 88% lower risk of experiencing a heart attack.

Plus, you’ll feel good knowing you’ve made a difference. A survey of more than 5,000 blood donors found that nearly 75% of donors give blood to help others. As a result, they feel more connected to their communities.

Responding to Rare Blood Type Needs

Most blood types fall into groups A, B, AB, or O. But some people have rare blood types that are difficult to match, so it’s essential to maintain a diverse blood supply. Blood transfusions are used in accidents and ongoing treatments. For example, people with sickle cell disease often need transfusion therapy.

The best blood type match for patients with rare blood types often comes from donors of the

same race or similar ethnicity. The American Red Cross notes that although blood is matched by type, patients are at lower risk of developing complications from transfusions if their donor matches their race and ethnicity.

How to Donate

If you’re ready to make a resolution to give blood during National Blood Donor Month, you can schedule an appointment at the Mass General Blood Donor Center or the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

You can also check out this blood donation site, which will help you find a donation site close by. Once you find a place, it helps to call ahead or visit their website to schedule an appointment. Finally, you can always visit the American Red Cross’s website.

Here’s how donating blood impacts your community (massgeneralbrighamhealthplan.org)

Water Damage Safety Tips

water damage to floor in home

Whether it’s the result of a leaky appliance, burst pipe, or destructive storm system, even a small amount of unwelcome water in your home can lead to thousands of dollars in damages within hours. We hope the information provided here will help you understand where water damage in your home is likely to start and how you can possibly identify minor issues before they become major problems.

6 Common Causes of Water Damage in Homes

  • Plumbing-related losses, e.g., frozen or burst pipes
  • Drain line issues, e.g., blockages or breaks
  • Roof leaks
  • Water heater failures
  • Sump pump overflows and municipal sewer backups
  • Appliance-related breakdowns

Telltale Signs You May Have a Water Leak or Damage in Your Home

  • Trickling, dripping, or running water sounds
  • Musty odors
  • Cracking, peeling, or bubbling paint or wallpaper
  • Water stains on ceilings or walls
  • Mold or mildew growth
  • Warped Floors or ceilings
  • Puddles under or around pipes

10 Steps You can Take to Prevent Water Leaks and Damage

With the following list in hand, take a walk around your home. If you answer no to one or more of the questions below, it may be wise to contact a licensed professional to help you better protect your property from water damage.

  • Protect the Pipes-Are all pipes on external walls or in unheated places insulated? Can you relocate vulnerable pipes to heated spaces? Do you shut off your water supply to exterior water spigots and drain them prior to winter months? Have you upgraded to frost-free exterior spigot lines?
  • Seal Any Gaps-Are all cracks and holes sealed, especially those where water pipes and electrical cords come in and out? Are all rubber seals and hoses connected to appliances secure with no signs of wear and tear?
  • Maintain Appliances-Is grime or buildup removed from the refrigerator coil, dishwasher filter, and washing machine drain regularly? Did a licensed professional install appliance water and gas lines? Do you know when your hot water heater warranty expires? Have you considered changing the anode rod?
  • Clear Gutters and Downspouts-Are leaves and debris scooped out and is water flow good? If you spotted a leak, has it been fixed with waterproof sealant? Are all gutter hangers firmly attached?
  • Inspect the Roof-Do you frequently check your roof for loose or missing shingles and damaged soffits? Are tree limbs cut back from the roof’s surface? Have you checked for signs of wear at the roof connection point for chimneys and vent pipes?
  • Safeguard Septic and Sump Pumps-Does your system have a backflow prevention valve to protect against overflow or clogs? Do you have a backup sump system or alternate power source if electricity gets knocked out?
  • Install Sensors and Alarms-Are leak detectors near all water-use appliances, under sinks, and in bathrooms, crawl spaces, and the basement? Do you have temperature change alarms to detect sudden drops? Have you checked with your home security system provider to see if you can add these helpful sensors?
  • Landscape Smartly-Have you made “rain gardens” so water runs off the lawn and away from the foundation? Has your lawn been graded properly to ensure water runs away from the building? Are there trenches between your home and nearby plant beds?
  • Know How to Stop Water Flow-Does everyone in your home know the location of the main water shutoff valve, and is it easily accessible? If your gate valve looks corroded, have you considered having a licensed plumber change it to a ball valve style? Is your shutoff valve connected to leak and temperature sensors?
  • Have an Away-From-Home Plan-Do you shut off water supply to appliances while traveling? If there is a water emergency while you are on a trip, does a family member, friend, or local licensed professional have access to your home? If you’re traveling for an extended period or relocat- ing temporarily for the winter season, do you consider shutting off your heating system and draining your pipes?

Click below to view a copy of the article

https://www.clearyinsurance.com/wp-content/uploads/Water-Damage-Information-Sheet-Andover-Companies-Updated-2.pdf

Rate Increases on Personal Auto

rate increase Red toy car rides up a stack of coins

Seeking a return to profitability after a few years of underwriting losses, U.S. private passenger auto insurers continue to issue double-digit rate increases for drivers, according to a report from S&P Global.

Over half of the country has seen double-digit auto insurance rate increases.

The average premium has gone up 11% year-to-date nationwide, S&P revealed.

“The countrywide average will have increased by double digits in back-to-back years if this trend continues for the remainder of 2023,” the ratings firm added.

Among the top 10 personal auto insurers, USAA, Farmers Insurance and State Farm have implemented the largest effective rate changes year-to-date, with average increases of 14.9%, 14.2% and 13.9%, respectively. The top insurers with the lowest average increases so far are GEICO at 7.6%, Progressive at 8.5%, and Nationwide and Liberty Mutual at 8.8% each.

Rate increases vary widely by state, S&P noted. Nevada has had the highest overall effective rate increase so far at 27.9%, while rates in Idaho have increased the least at just 2.5% on average. In all, 32 states have seen double-digit increases.

Texas has the highest cumulative rate increase stretching back to January 2022, at 37.6% over the 20-month period. Seven other states have a cumulative effective rate increase of at least 30% since 2022. They include Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Nevada, Arizona, Illinois and Utah.

The states with the lowest cumulative increases are Hawaii (4.4%), Vermont (6.3%), North Carolina (8.2%) and California(11.1%). S&P noted that the cumulative rate increase in California is low “due to the almost two-year hiatus by the state regulator to approve any private auto rate increase.”

Rate-change data in S&P’s analysis is current through Aug. 18, 2023, and reflects 8.5 months of approved rate filings.

Key Takeaways

Even as insurance providers increase rates, consumers are looking for ways to reduce costs. Individuals are encouraged to discuss potential discounts with their insurance agents. Such deals may include reduced rates for good driving or bundling coverage.

While Cleary Insurance, Inc. cannot control insurance pricing, we can help you explore options for lowering rates without sacrificing essential coverage.

Contact us today to review your unique auto insurance policy.

The content of this News Brief is of general interest and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances. It should not be regarded as legal advice and not be relied upon as such. In relation to any particular problem which they may have, readers are advised to seek specific advice. © 2023 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved

Saving for Retirement

Presented by: Matthew A. Clayson

saving for retirement  glass jars with money

Saving for retirement is better than spending every dollar you earn, but just putting money aside probably won’t get you where you want to be. That’s why investing may be a crucial component of any retirement plan. It takes the money you earn from work and allows it to go to work for you.

A successful retirement investment strategy often touches on the following principles:

  • Start early
  • Invest more aggressively to start
  • Diversify investment risk
  • Keep fees low
  • Transition into safer investments over time

Whether you’re investing on your own through an IRA, through your employer with a 401(k), or both, here’s what you need to know about laying out an investment strategy that will hopefully get you from where you are now to a comfortable retirement.

Start early with your retirement investment plan

If you’re earning income from a job, you can open a traditional or Roth IRA. Minors can start saving through a custodial account that a parent has control over until they turn 18 or 21, depending on the type of plan and what state they live in.

Let’s say that when you’re 25, you start saving for retirement by investing $100/month and assume a moderate average annual return of 5 percent. By the time you’re 55, you’ll have about $80,000.

If you don’t start saving for retirement until you’re 35, you’ll have to invest $200/month to earn the same amount by age 55 at the same return. If you only invest $100 a month, you’ll have to earn an 11 percent rate of return to end up with the same amount by age 55.

Invest more aggressively to start

It’s important not to panic and change your investment strategy if this happens, experts note. Rather, it may be a great time to stay invested and invest more so you can follow the adage “buy low, sell high.”

In other words, when stocks plummet, you can likely buy them on the cheap. Over time, assuming the market rebounds, you’ll have the opportunity to experience investment growth that people who withdrew from their investments missed out on.

But just because an investment entails risk doesn’t mean it will pay off. The type of risk you want to take is a calculated, time-tested one. Over more than a century, betting on the U.S. economy by investing in the stock and bond markets has proven rewarding. However, putting all of your money into a single company, no matter how well it appears to be doing, is the type of risk many people don’t want to take.

Diversify investment risk

All investing carries risk: You might lose money. Investments are not guaranteed to increase in value and are not FDIC insured.

Not investing also carries risk: Your money may lose value to inflation over time, and without putting your money to work through stock and bond markets or other financial vehicles, it can be challenging to accumulate enough for retirement.

Mutual funds provide an easy way to invest in a professionally managed portfolio consisting of dozens or even hundreds or stocks, bonds, and other securities. Mutual funds can be a great choice for people who don’t have the time, interest, or know-how to invest in individual stocks and bonds.

Exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, and index funds are similar to mutual funds in many ways, but they usually aim to copy the performance of a market index, such as the S&P 500® Index. Owning shares of mutual funds or ETFs is a little like having an investment manager working for you who requires little of your time or money.

Keep investment fees low when saving for retirement

Almost all investments have fees. For mutual funds, you might pay a commission to buy or sell a fund, an ongoing fee called an expense ratio for the fund’s management, or a sales charge. For ETFs, you’ll pay an expense ratio and possibly a commission.

ETFs are usually passively managed, meaning you’ll pay a lower expense ratio to own them; mutual funds can be actively or passively managed.

Why are fees so important? In the same way that investment returns compound over time, the effect of fees on your portfolio compounds over time. The higher your fees, the less money you have to invest, and the lower your net returns tend to be. Further, investments with higher fees have no guarantee of outperforming investments with lower fees. That’s why it’s important to do your research or hire a trusted professional to do it for you.

Transition into safer investments over time when saving for retirement

It’s important to take enough risk to meet your goals while maintaining enough safety to feel comfortable. As you get closer to retirement age, you have less time to recover from a market downturn, which means you need more safety and less risk in your portfolio.

Bottom Line

Most savings accounts don’t pay enough interest for your nest egg to support you through several decades of retirement. Investing in a careful, risk-managed way can allow you to outpace inflation and multiply your savings over the years.

Don’t want to go it alone? A financial professional can help you create a plan for your retirement.

AI as a Self-Diagnosis Tool

AI as self diagnosis for healthcare

Artificial intelligence (AI) has contributed to significant advances across many industries. Now, many people are using it as a tool for self-diagnosis or to get answers to health-related questions.

Self-diagnosis is a growing practice, as people’s primary access point for health care information has shifted from professionals to the internet. Given the rising popularity of AI as a source of information for health-related questions, you may wonder if it’s a good resource for self-diagnosis and medical information.

Generative for Health Care

Generative AI is a type of technology that produces content such as text, images or audio. Common tools used for this purpose include OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Med-PaLM. Amid a shortage of health care workers, chatbots like these could help answer your questions. Initial tests by researchers so far suggest these AI programs are more accurate than a standard Google search.

Pros of Using

Using AI tools for medical self-diagnosis can potentially reduce costs for patients and health care providers. Possible benefits of using generative AI include the following:

  • Increased accessibility
  • Improved health literacy
  • More efficient triaging
  • Preserved anonymity

These factors can enhance patient experience and improve engagement. Additionally, chatbots are easier to use than online symptom checkers.

Cons of Using

Although generative AI has the potential to help you with medical self-diagnosis, this technology has limitations and pitfalls, such as:

  • The potential to provide false information
  • The ease of misinterpreting information
  • Ethical concerns (e.g., data privacy and bias)
  • The risk of ignoring medical advice

Therefore, some chatbots have disclaimers that they should not be used to diagnose serious conditions, provide instructions for curing conditions or manage life-threatening issues.

Considerations for Using AI for Self-diagnosis

While generative AI tools may help you quickly answer health-related questions and self-diagnose conditions, solely relying on them for information or medical assistance could be unsafe. However, these tools can be a useful resource to help you obtain accurate and timely health advice and information, as long as you understand their limitations.

Contact your doctor for the most accurate and personalized health care information and guidance.

Safety Tips for Exercising Outdoors and Brain Health

Woman exercising outdoors

As we move into summer, many will want to exercise outdoors to stay active and get some fresh air. That’s great news, as health experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. Also, moving your exercising outdoors can boost your mood and improve your concentration.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that walking is the most popular type of exercise

Trails, exercise parks, sports fields and stairs provide endless opportunities to switch up your workout. However, working out in hot and humid weather can put extra stress on your body, so consider the following tips to safely exercise outdoors:

  • Avoid the hottest part of the day. If possible, plan your workout before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m. to dodge strong sun rays.
  • Wear light-colored clothing. Dark colors absorb the heat, while light colors reflect the sun. Lightweight, loose-fitting clothing will help air circulate and keep you cool.
  • Apply sunscreen. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that’s at least 30 SPF. Reapply every two hours, even if the label says it’s sweatproof. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat can also protect your face from the sun.
  • Stay hydrated with water. Drink water before you head out and try to take sips every 15 minutes during your workout—whether you’re thirsty or not.
  • Replenish your electrolytes. Instead of reaching for a sports drink after a workout, consider replacing your electrolytes with foods like chia seeds, kale, coconut, or fruits and vegetables.
  • Listen to your body. If you’re feeling dizzy, faint or nauseous, stop exercising immediately. Sit in the shade and drink water until you’re feeling better.

How Nutrition Impact the Brain

Nutrition plays a critical role in brain function, as the brain is one of the most metabolically active organs in the body. The brain requires a constant supply of nutrients to maintain its structural and functional integrity, and a deficiency in any of these nutrients can significantly impact brain health.

Certain nutrients have been shown to have a positive impact on brain function. For example, omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish (e.g., salmon and tuna), nuts and seeds have been shown to improve cognitive function, memory and mood. The B vitamins in leafy greens, legumes and whole grains are important for producing neurotransmitters that regulate mood and behavior. Antioxidants, which are found in colorful fruits and vegetables, protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation. Overall, a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients and low in processed foods and sugar is essential for optimal brain health and function.


Talk to your doctor if you have questions about brain health.

Cybercriminals and Artificial Intelligence

Cybercrime Hand holding Artificial intelligence sign

The past few years have seen artificial intelligence (AI) surge in popularity among both businesses and individuals. Such technology encompasses machines, computer systems and other devices that can simulate human intelligence processes. In other words, this technology can perform a variety of cognitive functions typically associated with the human mind, such as observing, learning, reasoning, interacting with its surroundings, problem-solving and engaging in creative activities.
Applications of AI technology are widespread, but some of the most common include computer vision solutions (e.g., drones), natural language processing systems (e.g., chatbots), and predictive and prescriptive analytics engines (e.g., mobile applications). While this technology can certainly offer benefits in the realm of cybersecurity—streamlining threat detection capabilities, analyzing vast amounts of data and automating incident response protocols—it also has the potential to be weaponized by cybercriminals. In particular, cybercriminals have begun leveraging AI technology to seek out their targets more easily, launch attacks at greater speeds and in larger volumes, and wreak further havoc amid these attacks.

As such, it’s crucial for businesses to understand the cyber risks associated with this technology and implement strategies to minimize these concerns. This article outlines ways cybercriminals can utilize AI technology and provides best practices to help businesses safeguard themselves against such weaponization.

Ways Cybercriminals Can Leverage AI Technology

AI technology can help cybercriminals conduct a range of damaging activities, including the following:

  • Creating and distributing malware—In the past, only the most sophisticated cybercriminals were capable of writing harmful code and deploying malware attacks. However, AI chatbots are now able to generate illicit code in a matter of seconds, permitting cybercriminals with varying levels of technical expertise to launch malware attacks with ease. Although current AI technology writes more basic (and often bug-ridden) code, its capabilities will likely continue to advance over time, thus posing more substantial cyberthreats. In addition to writing harmful code, some AI tools can also generate deceptive YouTube videos claiming to be tutorials on how to download certain versions of popular software (e.g., Adobe and Autodesk products) and distribute malware to targets’ devices when they view this content. Cybercriminals may create their own YouTube accounts to disperse these malicious videos or hack into other popular accounts to post such content. To convince targets of these videos’ authenticity, cybercriminals may further utilize AI technology to add fake likes and comments.
  • Cracking credentials—Many cybercriminals rely on brute-force techniques to reveal targets’ passwords and steal their credentials to then utilize their accounts for fraudulent purposes. Yet, these techniques may vary in effectiveness and efficiency. By leveraging AI technology, cybercriminals can bolster their password-cracking success rates, uncovering targets’ credentials at record speeds. In fact, a recent cybersecurity report found that some AI tools are capable of cracking more than half (51%) of common passwords in under a minute and over two-thirds (71%) of such credentials in less than a day.
  • Deploying social engineering scams—Social engineering consists of cybercriminals using fraudulent forms of communication (e.g., emails, texts and phone calls) to trick targets into unknowingly sharing sensitive information or downloading harmful software. It repeatedly reigns as one of the most prevalent cyberattack methods. Unfortunately, AI technology could cause these scams to become increasingly common by giving cybercriminals the ability to formulate persuasive phishing messages with minimal effort. It could also clean up grammar and spelling errors in human-produced copy to make it appear more convincing. According to the latest research from international cybersecurity company Darktrace, social engineering scams involving sophisticated linguistic techniques have already risen by 135%, suggesting an increase in AI-generated communications.
  • Identifying digital vulnerabilities—When hacking into targets’ networks or systems, cybercriminals usually look for software vulnerabilities they can exploit, such as unpatched code or outdated security programs. While various tools can help identify these vulnerabilities, AI technology could permit cybercriminals to detect a wider range of software flaws, therefore providing additional avenues and entry points for launching attacks.
  • Reviewing stolen data—Upon stealing sensitive information and confidential records from targets, cybercriminals generally have to sift through this data to determine their next steps—whether it’s selling this information on the dark web, posting it publicly or demanding a ransom payment in exchange for restoration. This can be a tedious process, especially with larger databases. With AI technology, cybercriminals can analyze this data much faster, allowing them to make quick decisions and speed up the total time it takes to execute their attacks. In turn, targets will have less time to identify and defend against such attacks.

Tips to Protect Against Weaponized AI Technology

Businesses should consider the following measures to mitigate their risk of experiencing cyberattacks and related losses from weaponized AI technology:

  • Uphold proper cyber hygiene. Such hygiene refers to habitual practices that promote the safe handling of critical workplace information and connected devices. These practices can help keep networks and data protected from various AI-driven cyberthreats. Here are some key components of cyber hygiene for businesses to keep in mind:
    • Requiring employees to use strong passwords (those containing at least 12 characters and a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers) and leverage multifactor authentication across workplace accounts
    • Backing up essential business data in a separate and secure location (e.g., an external hard drive or the cloud) on a regular basis
    • Equipping workplace networks and systems with firewalls, antivirus programs and other security software
    • Providing employees with routine cybersecurity training to educate them on the latest digital exposures, attack prevention measures and response protocols
  • Engage in network monitoring. This form of monitoring pertains to businesses utilizing automated threat detection technology to continuously scan their digital ecosystems for possible weaknesses or suspicious activities. Such technology typically sends alerts when security issues arise, allowing businesses to detect and respond to incidents as quickly as possible. Since time is of the essence when it comes to handling AI-related threats, network monitoring is a vital practice.
  • Have a plan. Creating cyber incident response plans can help businesses ensure they have necessary protocols in place when cyberattacks occur, thus keeping related damages at a minimum. These plans should be well-documented and practiced regularly and should address multiple cyberattack scenarios (including those stemming from AI technology).
  • Purchase coverage. Lastly, it’s imperative for businesses to secure adequate insurance and financially safeguard themselves from losses that may arise from the weaponization of AI technology. It’s best for businesses to consult trusted insurance professionals to discuss specific coverage needs.

Conclusion

Looking forward, AI technology is likely to contribute to rising cyberattack frequency and severity. By staying informed on the latest AI-related developments and taking steps to protect against its weaponization, businesses can maintain secure operations and minimize associated cyberthreats. Contact us today for more risk management guidance.

This Cyber Risks & Liabilities document is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. © 2023 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

Lightning Storm Safety

It is important to know what to do when a lightning storm is in your area, they are incredibly dangerous, with the potential to cause serious harm to you or your family. In fact, getting struck by lightning could cause severe burns, brain damage or even cardiac arrest. That’s why it’s crucial to be prepared and respond appropriately if a storm approaches your area. Here are some steps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that you can take to protect yourself and your family when lightning strikes.

If you’re at home during a lightning storm

  • Make sure all windows and doors are shut.
  • Try to avoid using any plumbing features in your home (e.g., sinks or baths).
  • Don’t use any electrical equipment that plugs directly into the wall (e.g., a corded phone, computer or television).
  • Avoid resting on concrete floors or walls.

If you’re outside during a lightning storm

  • Get as close to the ground as possible without placing your hands or knees on the ground—never lay completely flat on the ground.
  • Avoid seeking shelter underneath trees.
  • Stay away from elevated areas—such as hills, cliffs or mountain ridges.
  • Get as far away from bodies of water or objects that could conduct electricity (e.g., wire fences or power lines) as possible.
  • If you are swimming, boating or fishing, seek shelter on land immediately.

If Someone Gets Struck

If someone you know is struck by lightning, contact 911 immediately. If you have the proper medical training, administer CPR to victims who do not have a pulse and treat conscious victims for burns, fractures and other wounds while you wait for help to arrive.

For more additional home safety guidance and homeowners insurance solutions, contact us today.

5 Potential Retirement Obstacles

Whether you’ve been working hard for 30 years or are just three months into your first job, it’s always wise to plan ahead for retirement. After all, one day you will close the chapter on your career and start the next adventure. But what you get out of tomorrow depends on what you put into it today — and how you handle any bumps along the way.
So, while you’re keeping one eye on that retirement prize, make sure to keep the other on the lookout for pitfalls, like:

  1. Short-sighted savings
  2. Career interruptions
  3. Illness or injury
  4. Debt
  5. Unexpected life demands

Here’s a look at how to possibly prepare for these situations.

  1. Short-Sighted Savings -This is where proper planning plays a big part. Savings take time to grow, so you may wish to consider saving and investing early to take advantage of compound interest and long-term stock gains if the U.S. stock markets continue their historical upward trend.1 Also be sure to consider multiple avenues for your savings dollar, including:
    • 401(k) ― Employer-sponsored 401(k) plans can often be a good way to invest in your future. Many employer-sponsored plans also offer a matching contribution feature. 401(k) plans typically enable you to make contributions out of your paycheck on a pre-tax basis, so you can defer taxation on your income while growing your retirement savings on a tax-deferred basis.
    • Individual Retirement Account (IRA) ― Many smaller employers offer an IRA option, or you can open your own IRA.
    • Personal Savings ― Many banks offer automatic withdrawals from a direct deposit paycheck into a savings account. Interest rates are a lot higher now than they have been in recent years.

So how much money do you need to save for retirement? Well, the answer is different for everyone. Individual risk tolerance goes a long way in determining how — and how much — to save. Talk to a financial professional to develop a savings strategy tailored for you and your specific circumstances.

2. Career Interruptions

In today’s economy, you can never be sure of your job stability — or of your ability to quickly find a new job. That’s why many believe it’s critical to maintain an emergency fund to cover 6-12 months of living expenses like rent or mortgage and groceries.

If you withdraw money from your retirement savings, especially a qualified retirement plan, you may incur tax penalties on the withdrawals (depending on your circumstances) while also cutting into the account’s value over time.

3. Unforeseen Illness or Injury

According to the Social Security Administration, about one in four 20 year-olds working today will become disabled before they retire. It’s a startling statistic with serious consequences. If you get sick or hurt and have to go on long-term disability, your employer may have the right to terminate your position — and with it, your ability to continue contributing to your 401(k). This can potentially have a considerable impact on your retirement savings.

Many people who become too sick or hurt to work are forced to tap into their retirement savings to meet the expenses of everyday life. A disability income insurance policy not only helps replace a portion of your income when a disability occurs, but it can also be designed to help you continue saving for retirement.

4. Debt

From credit cards to home loans to paying off college education, debt has the potential to derail your retirement plans. When not properly managed, it may lead to low credit scores, depletion of your retirement savings, or even bankruptcy. Unmanaged debt may also make achieving your foundation of retirement planning more difficult and potentially more expensive. The key is to pay down debt while properly balancing it with your other financial priorities.

5. Life Events

You can save early and save often for retirement, but something may happen that puts that savings at risk. Maybe your daughter’s college scholarship falls through. Or your home value unexpectedly declines when you are ready to sell. At that point, you can either toss up your hands and say “That’s life!” (and it certainly is), or you can be thankful you prepared for this obstacle.

Consider planning for the unexpected with a life insurance policy that builds cash value. Of course, one of the most important parts of life insurance is the death benefit, which protects your loved ones by providing a financial benefit when you die. But, instead of digging into your retirement savings to pay for unforeseen expenses, you may be able to access the cash value in the life insurance policy to cover some of these costs.3 Or, later in life you may use your cash value to supplement a shortfall in your retirement income.

Taking the steps ahead of time to prepare for potential and real obstacles can help you enjoy life’s next adventure — retirement.