The State of Alaska released a notice containing directions for Alaskans affected by last week’s earthquake to apply for grants and disaster relief, which can be found at http://ready.alaska.gov. This can be very valuable to those struggling to rebuild after damages incurred last week. Please direct inquiries for disaster assistance to this site and feel free to forward this notice to those looking for help. We also posted this on the RISQ website. The link at http://ready.alaska.gov for individual assistance ALSO applies for business disaster relief. Our office contacted the State Emergency Operations Center, a division of Homeland Security, this morning and confirmed businesses are eligible to apply for relief. If you cannot access the web, the hotline is 855-445-7131, or you can call the SEOC directly at 907-428-7100.
KTVA shared more information today on available resources for disaster relief:
Once you have reduced your debt and created a workable spending plan, you’re ready to begin saving toward retirement. You may do this through a company retirement plan or on your own. Here are a few of the places where you might put your money for retirement:
• Savings accounts, money market mutual funds, certificates of deposit (CDs) and U.S. Treasury bills. These are often referred to as cash or cash equivalents because you can get to them quickly and there’s little risk of losing the money you put in.
• Domestic bonds. You loan money to a U.S. company or a government body in return for its promise to pay back what you loaned, with interest.
• Domestic stocks. You own part of a U.S. company.
• Mutual funds. These pool your money with the money of other shareholders and invest it for you, making it easier to invest and to diversify your money.
Where Should You Put Your Money?
For goals you want to accomplish quickly, it’s best to put your money into one or more of the cash equivalents, like a bank deposit. For goals at least five years into the future, such as retirement, consider putting some money into stocks, bonds, real estate, foreign investments, mutual funds or other assets. Keep in mind that these options are uninsured by the federal government, so they carry the risk that you can lose some of your money. Generally, the longer you have until retirement and the greater your other sources of income, the more risk you can afford. For those who are retiring soon and who will depend on their investment for income during retirement, a low-risk investment strategy is more practical. But if you have more time before retirement, investing carefully in options such as stocks and bonds can help you earn significantly more than keeping all your money in a savings account. The greater the risk, the greater the potential reward, but only you can decide how much risk you are comfortable taking.
Since 1926, the average annual return of short-term U.S. Treasury bills, which roughly equals the return of other cash equivalents such as savings accounts, has been 3.9 percent. The annual return of long-term government bonds over the same period has been 5.3 percent. Large-company stocks, on the other hand, while riskier in the short term, have an average annual return of 11.7 percent.
Many experts advise putting at least some of your money in higher-risk, but potentially higher-returning, assets. These high risk assets can help you stay ahead of inflation, which eats away at your nest egg over time. Remember though, choosing investments is your decision – never invest in anything you don’t understand or feel comfortable with.
Reducing Investment Risk
There are two main ways to reduce risk. First, diversify within each category of investment. You can do this by investing in pooled arrangements, such as mutual funds, index funds and bank products offered by reliable professionals. These investments typically give you a small share of different individual investments and allow you to spread your money among many stocks, bonds and other assets, even if you don’t invest a lot of money. Your risk of losing money is less than if you buy shares in only a few individual companies.
Second, you can reduce risk by investing among different categories of investments. Generally speaking, you should put some of your money in cash, some in bonds, some in stocks and some in other investment vehicles. The factors that cause one investment to do poorly may cause another to do well. Bond prices for example, often go down when stock prices are up (and vice versa). By diversifying into different types of assets, you are more likely to reduce risk and improve return than if you put all your money into one investment or one investment category.
Deciding on an Investment Mix
How you diversify is called asset allocation. Your decision will depend on many factors, including how many years until your retirement, the size of your current nest egg, other sources of retirement income, how much risk you are willing to take, your current financial picture, and so on. Your asset allocation will also change over time. When you are younger, you might invest more heavily in stocks than bonds and cash. As you get older, you may reduce your exposure to stocks and hold more in bonds and cash. You also may change your asset allocation as your goals, risk tolerance or financial situation change.
Rebalancing Your Portfolio
Once you’ve decided on your investment mix and invested your money, some of your investments will go up and others will go down over time. Eventually, you will have a different investment mix than you intended. Reassessing your mix, or “rebalancing,” brings your portfolio back to your original plan. Rebalancing also helps you to make more logical investment decisions. Let’s say your original investment called for 10 percent in U.S. small company stocks. Because of a stock market decline, they now represent 6 percent of your portfolio. You would sell assets that had increased and purchase enough U.S. small company stocks so they again represent 10 percent of your portfolio.
How do you know when to rebalance? There are two methods of rebalancing: calendar and conditional. Calendar rebalancing means that once a quarter or once a year you reduce the investments that have gone up and add to investments that have gone down. Conditional rebalancing is done whenever an asset class goes up or down more than a certain percentage. This method lets the market tell you when it is time to rebalance.
Article adapted from the U.S. Department of Labor publication of the same title. www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/publications/savingsfitness
Many American households have at least one pet. In any given year, one in three of these beloved family members will need costly veterinary care, even if it is for routine exam visits and vaccinations. Should a pet become severely ill and need emergency care, costs can sometimes be more than pet owners can bear. However, if they have pet insurance, owners will never have to make a decision about their pets wellbeing based on cost.
Though pet insurance is a nontraditional benefit and is generally paid for by the employee, it is becoming increasingly popular in the workplace to help employees care for their pets without going bankrupt. This benefit is particularly valuable, as pet care is increasingly expensive. In fact, offering insurance for man’s best friend is a great marketing and PR initiative for companies that want to add to their image of being a great place to work.
Pets typically visit the vet for the following reasons:
• Accident care
• Illness care
• Routine preventive care
• Lab work
• Diagnostic testing
• Prescription therapy
These services are the same or similar to the reasons why you or your employees would visit the doctor, and often carry a steep price tag. Specifically, here are the typical costs for the following common pet injuries and illnesses:
• Dog involved in a motor vehicle accident = $4,890
• Dog or cat ingesting a foreign body = $4,280
• Dog cancer treatments = $3,570
• Dog bladder infection treatment = $2,760
• Dog hip dysplasia = $2,390
• Cat fractured leg = $2,300
• Cat pneumonia treatment = $1,900
• Cat diabetes treatments = $1,740
Employers sign up for a group discount code that can be used by their employees, typically without a minimum enrollment number required. Then, pet owners can select a coverage percentage or monthly premium that will work best for their budget and needs. Under the policy, the pet must have an annual examination and the owners must adhere to the recommendations given by the veterinarians to remain covered. Beyond that, most policies do not cover existing conditions or injuries but do assist in paying for the following:
• New accidents and injuries
• Cancer care
• Heartworm therapy
• Flea control
• Dental care
Compare Your Options
If your organization is considering this benefit for your employees, consider asking the pet insurance companies the following questions before making your selection:
• How long has your company been in business?• Is coverage available in our area?
• Is coverage available where our employees may travel?
• Can employees use any veterinarian and animal hospital?
• Do you offer discounts for multiple pets?
• What are your customer service hours and availability?
• What are the coverage plan options available to employees? What are the deductible options?
• What is the average annual premium increase?
• Can our company lock in a premium rate?
• Is there a penalty for changing plans?
• Is preapproval for services required?
• What are the limits to the policy? Lifetime caps?
• Can employees find out the insurance reimbursement before authorizing their pet’s veterinarian to perform procedures?
• Do reimbursement amounts vary depending on the specific veterinarian’s fees?
• Can pets be dropped from the coverage? If so, why?
• What is the claims filing process?
• How long does it typically take to receive payment for a claim?
• How are claim disputes resolved?
• How does the policy determine reimbursement for claims?
• Is there a maximum amount paid per procedure? Per calendar year? Per disease?
• What diseases are excluded from the policy coverage?
• Are there breed-specific diseases excluded from the policy coverage?
• Are pre-existing conditions covered after a certain amount of time?
• Are alternative medicine techniques covered?
• Are consultations with specialists covered? Second opinions? After-hours emergency care?
• Does the policy provide coverage for behavioral problems?
• Is preventive care covered (vaccinations, heartworm testing, spaying/neutering, dental work, flea/tick control, microchipping, etc.)?
If you are considering offering this benefit to your employees, visit www.petinsurancereview.com. This site will allow you to compare various pet insurance carriers and read feedback about different carriers from other pet owners and employers. Then, you can decide which company would suit your employee group the best.
By Andrew Kupperman
We all have something inside of us to share with the world. The work that we do 5 days a week hopefully leads us to unleash whatever that something is, in one way or another. I love reading, watching, and listening to Marcus Buckingham’s blog because he offers and explains the best ways for all of us to get there in such a simple, yet innovative way. It does not hurt that he has a British accent either! Whether you lead others or not, I feel Marcus’s blog has something available to help you communicate and achieve unleashing what’s important to you, as well as helping others do so.
By Tiffany Stock
“The power of positive thinking” seems a little cliché, but James Clear’s article “How Positive Thinking Builds Your Skills, Boosts Your Health, and Improves Your Work,” demonstrates that those words should be considered more important. Bringing positivity into your life has many benefits beyond the obvious. I encourage you all to check out this article and not put limits on your potential in all areas of life!
By Tonya Mott
Over the past couple of years, my colleagues and I participated in various types of team building activities, which resulted in creating true team synergy and building relationships and trust; all of which are necessary assets for a high performing team. The different types of team building events range from, ‘just for fun,’ to charitable and more structured.
Check out the different activities and pictures of us in action.
Structured Team Building:
Camp Gorsuch – Mirror Lake
Stoney Creek Zipline – Seward
Just For Fun:
Anchorage Cycle & Yoga – Cycle & Aerial Yoga
Tube Park – Arctic Valley Ski Area
Making Strides Against Breast Cancer – Team Becky’s Babes supporting our colleague, breast cancer survivor, Rebecca Mahaney
Alaska SPCA – Sponsor an Adoption Day
Here is an example of a flyer we put together for the Adoption Day we sponsored:
Anchorage City Wide Cleanup
Haven’t done yet but our planning on it!
Hero for Life – CPR Class
What in the world is Kangoo? Check out this youtube video!
By Ashley Snodgrass
I start my morning with theSkimm – a short email newsletter designed to get you the day’s news in less time than it takes to brush your teeth. I’ve always been a news junkie, but there are only so many hours in the day to read news stories from state, national, and international publications. theSkimm is email that arrives in your inbox each morning, bringing you the news highlights of the day to keep you educated on current events, prepping you for conversations around the office and with business associates.
I enjoy reading theSkimm because it is brief, and includes some news that I might not stumble upon typically. This is a great tool for busy professionals that like to start each day by knowing what in the world is going on in the world.
Check out a recent edition of theSkimm here:
By Alesha Combs
You may have experienced the bittersweet nature of the holiday season. It’s a time for celebrating, socializing, parties and great food, but the stress that some of these events bring on can catch you off guard. Maybe you encounter a first holiday without a loved one, or feel overwhelmed with the thought of hosting Thanksgiving dinner or picking the perfect gift.
If you work in health insurance, you know that the holiday season also comes during the infamous “4th Quarter,” our busiest, and I’ll be honest, most stressful time of year. 4th Quarter is when the majority of health plans renew, and new plan options are rolled out. It comes with an influx of meetings, paperwork, and more emails than you can count. Stress runs high.
It is a bit ironic that while we work to secure people’s access to healthcare and secure their wellness, it comes with an increase in stress, which does the exact opposite! I don’t think this is news to most people, but stress can cause a significant impact on your body and overall wellness. Symptoms of stress include: headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, sleep challenges, social withdrawal, anxiety and irritability. (Mayo Clinic; Stress Symptoms: Effects on Your Body and Behavior).
For many people, the idea of self-care and stress management, while a nice concept, may seem unrealistic or unattainable, in the vein of “Life is too busy, and there’s no time to relax!” but using the technique, tools, and processes of mindfulness can help reduce stress, and, bonus, it doesn’t take time! Mindfulness is a psychological shift that focuses on remaining present in the moment. This can be achieved by focusing in on and acknowledging the sensations you are experiencing in the present moment. While there may not be time, there is always the present.
So the next time you’re sending an email, try a few of the following methods for staying mindful and present: focus on the feel of the keys under your fingers, the sensation of moving each finger to coordinate a whole series of movements all resulting in your email. Listen to the sound of the taps on the keyboard. Is there a pattern? Is it urgent or steady? You’ll find yourself pulling away from the spinning thoughts of the day and focusing on the now and the task at hand.
The truth is that most often the present moment is not that stressful. It’s the regrets of the past, or pressures of the future, that cause the mind to spiral. When you mindfully focus in on the moment, it empowers you to take control of it, and results in feeling less stressed and more productive.
If you are interested in practicing mindfulness, but would like some help getting into the swing of it, I recommend the book “How to be Mindful” by Anna Barnes. It shares useful tips and reminders on every page. It is not written in a novel or story format, so it takes almost no time at all to familiarize yourself with the tools needed to practice this psychological shift; shifting yourself back into the moment and kicking stress out.
By Tim Maudsley
Alaskan businesses will receive a welcome drop in workers’ compensation rates for 2019, based on the expected approval by the Alaska Division of Insurance, which will go into effect on January 1, 2019. If approved, this will be the largest single reduction of rates seen in Alaska in the past 40 years. The 2019 rate reductions follow 2018 rates that fell 5.4 percent from 2017. Alaska has reduced rates by approximately 25 percent since 2015, thanks to continuing declines in claim frequency and favorable medical cost trends.
According to the State of Alaska, “the Division of Insurance is responsible for determining whether the reduced rates proposed by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (the organization in charge of filing workers’ compensation insurance rates in Alaska) are adequate. If approved, the new workers’ compensation rates will go into effect in January.”
“These proposed rate reductions are welcome news for Alaska businesses — lower workers’ compensation costs reduce the burden on the small businesses that strengthen our economy,” said Governor Bill Walker, who thanked “the Alaska State Legislature and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development for their work on payment reform, contributing to significant rate reductions for 2019.”
Alaska Daily News reported that, following approval by the Legislature in 2014, the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board approved new practices and fee structures for paying medical providers for procedures paid for through workers’ compensation insurance in October 2015. The fee structure changes put provider reimbursement rates more in-line with general group health insurance rates, according to Workers’ Compensation Director Marie Marx. It replaced a system of paying medical service providers at the 90th percentile of “usual and customary” fees in a given region.
RISQ Consulting recommends looking at your current workers’ compensation placement, and review whether you are receiving the proper level of service from your insurer and risk management team. Given the market changes, now would be an optimal time to explore options available in the marketplace to improve your level of service as well as reduce your premiums.