Whether it's virus break up or spring break up
This is the time to focus on the details; all those items on the "backburner" should now be getting moved to the to do list. Focus on all the small things that will save time, decrease hiccups and add value to your business. Here are a few to think about.
Employee Handbooks, Training, Employment Contracts
Remember that time that big project was delayed because a staff member mishandled and issue that you thought was common sense? How about that time you had an employee on leave for a month and you didn't know what your options were if you had to replace them. This is the time to solve those problems. All the little areas that bleed your company of money and productivity. Meet with your HR professional and lawyer to draft the agreements in a way that solves some of these problems. Develop the training and handbooks so that recurring issues don't keep recurring.
Your business is constantly evolving and growing, your needs are changing all the time. Your insurance policies will not accommodate this on their own. Remember that time you bought a policy to cover your overhead when your overhead was $5000 per month? What is it now? You bought a disability policy to cover your income when it was $4500 per month, what is it now? Does your group benefit policy work as well for your current staff as it did for the staff when you set it up? Take the time to make the changes you need to make now. It's much more difficult to implement these changes when everyone is working full out.
Go Forward Plan
We are reaching out to our clients and developing a go forward plan. This is where we can we plan out what we are going to accomplish in the next 12 months. It gives people clarity in an uncertain time. We ask them how they would like us to communicate with them (phone, email, text etc.) and how often they expect to hear from us. Take this time to reach out to your key contacts and do the same. Take this time to focus on the relationships that you have and build confidence in your business.
If you would like help in these areas or would just like to see what your options are, click here, we would love to hear from you.
It's loud out there..
We live in a day and age of information overload. The truth and facts have had to make way for opinions. It seems all the news that we get today are just the opinions of the people delivering it to us and a lot of times none of it is based on any research or evidence.
So how do you decipher and make intelligent purchasing decisions for your business?
Start with your Goals
The best way to know what type of advice to seek or to avoid starts with your direction. If you don't have clear direction and purpose than you're vulnerable to be sold on someone else's goals. You need to set clear goals, not just for your business but for yourself. For example, our goal is to offer the best insurance advice and products so that our clients can set the bar in their industry. But if you don't have any desire to set the bar in your industry or see any value in doing so then our goals aren't aligned.
Seek to be Educated
It's great to trust the discretion of the experts but without being properly educated in your decision it's hard to have confidence. The role of an expert is not to make the hard decisions for your but to simplify and relay that information in such a way that you can understand it and make an informed decision. Your request of an expert should be to weed out all of the industry jargon and background noise so you can focus on what's important to making your decision. Don't allow someone else to make the decisions for you or you'll just waste time wondering if it was the right decision.
Understand Where the Advice Comes From
People aren't against you; they're just for themselves. It is important to understand who stands to benefit from the outcome of your decision. It's not reasonable to assume that no one will benefit from the outcome of your decision; unless you're seeking advice from mom. However, it is reasonable to inquire as to how someone is compensated and how your decision impacts that. If you're expert is invested 100% in only one specific outcome it's going to be very difficult to trust that person to provide you with the best possible council.
In times like this it pays to be flexible and your benefit plan should be no different. We are fielding a lot of calls from clients worried about the future and unsure of what to do with their expenses.
If you're looking to squeeze out a little razor thin sliver of silver lining in a time like this, it's that you have the opportunity to review costs and make critical decisions.
We often get calls in our office because the price of someones benefit plan went up. We NEVER get a call when someone's price is going down. However, this is a tremendous opportunity for you to add value to your plan and cut your costs. Rarely do you see price decreases but when we do they're never because the insurer was just feeling charitable. Actually, its typically because your staff are using around 50% or less of what you are being billed and they have been for an extended period of time.
It often makes sense at this point to review your usage report. The objective of this review is to find underused areas of your benefit plan and see if you can better utilize those dollars. In a lot of cases, you could take something like paramedical coverage (massage, physio, chiro etc.), strip it off the plan and replace it with a health care spending account.
A health care spending account is simply a side a account that the company funds directly for the employee to use for all or specific health care related expenses. The account is given a maximum and when employees hit that maximum they are done for that plan year and the account resets the next plan year.
The major difference here is that if the employees under utilize this account, you get that money back at the end of the year instead of it going to the insurance company profit. Your employees will love the flexibility of the account and you can be happy knowing your spending your benefit dollars as wisely as possible.
The process couldn't be easier, the accounts are all managed by a third party and the only information required from you is a list of the employees you're looking to cover and the bank account you'll be making withdrawals from.
So if you would like a free report to see if there are any benefits your staff are under utilizing, feel free to reach out to us directly.
Communication is key or at least that's what my wife tells me...
So why aren't your professional advisors talking with one another? Everyone has professional advisors in their lives. Whether it be your financial advisor, your lawyer, accountant, group benefits consultant or even a parent or spouse. These advisors are people that you trust to look after areas that you know you aren't going to spend the time to fully learn and be able to do yourself. Because you trust them, in a lot of cases you implement their advise with mostly blind faith, and that's okay, but I'm here to suggest you ask for a little more out of them.
Before you implement any changes your advisor recommends, you should take this step. Have an active list of your professional advisors and send them an email. Tell them about the change you are looking to make and ask them Is this change going to have an impact on any of their existing plans that they already have in place or are planning to have in place for you. Most times, everything will be just fine or they may need to ask that advisor some additional questions. Sometimes, it could have a severe impact and that may need a change of course. Here's an example.
A business owner sets up a group benefit plan for themselves and their staff, on that plan is a disability insurance policy. That business owner has ensured that policy will cover him for most of his earnings in the event that he should be unable to show up to work. He is in his fifties and in the home run stage where he is looking to secure his earnings for retirement, so a disability could be potentially catastrophic. A few years down the road his accountant suggests that the owner switches from a salaried income to drawing dividends. While the accountant had their reasoning for suggesting the change it had a very large and potentially catastrophic impact. Because the business owner switched over to taking 100% dividend income he is now offside with his disability income policy as that policy will not cover dividend income. So for the last few years the business owner has been paying a hefty sum for a disability policy that had virtually no chance of covering his income and neither the accountant or benefits advisor was aware. Luckily,
we were able to catch this before a claim but this could have potentially cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income. Never mind the thousands he's already lost on a policy that wouldn't pay out.
Luckily, this issue has a very simple and free solution! Introduce your professionals to one another and let them know that it's important to you that they leave the lines of communication open. This way, before a major change is made the two parties have coordinated with one another and ensured it won't have a massive impact on your financial future.
If you would like a review to know if your policies are still going to do what you're wanting them to do. Click "contact us" for your free online review.
I think the number one question every employee benefits consultant gets asked before they meet with a potential client is the same, “what can you do about the price we’re paying”? We definitely understand, the bottom line is important and we need to ensure that we’re being cognizant of that. However, I find a much better question would be “Am I overpaying for benefits.”
When you buy a new vehicle you more or less know what the price of the vehicle is, you just don’t want to find out your friend is paying $10,000 less for that vehicle than you are.
Start with the 4 key areas of plan management and this will provide you with some better answers
So it’s important to ensure that you are comparing apples to apples but you also need to make sure you’re positioning yourself well within your industry. This is why a very important practice is to look at benchmarking. Benchmarking will let you know how your plan sits in comparison to other employers in a similar industry with approximately the same amount of employees. The plan you’re going to have in place for a Vac Truck business with 12 staff is going to look much different than a plan for a 80 person law firm. A lot of people understand the risk of offering a plan that is subpar compared to their competitors but it is often overlooked that you may be offering a plan that is way over what your competition is offering. Often your staff may not even care about the excess benefits, especially if it wasn’t designed with their needs in mind. So you may have a Cadillac plan and just be throwing money out the window as it doesn’t add to the overall satisfaction with the plan.
We’ll typically do a deeper dive into employee satisfaction, but I don’t mind sharing with you the number one cause of dissatisfaction, COMMUNICATION. I have sat down with companies and they have thrown their benefit booklet on the table and said you need to fix this our plan sucks. I open the booklet and flip through it only to find that they have platinum coverage, literally everything is covered at 100%. So what was missing? Communicating that value to the staff. The employees would hit their 3 month mark, they would have to go and ask if they got benefits, someone would tell them that they should be seeing something soon. Then, their booklet comes in, they don’t understand anything inside of it because it’s all insurance company jargon and next thing you know, poof, the plan sucks. Sound familiar? A clear policy of how the benefits are communicated to the staff is free and it goes miles when adding to the overall plan satisfaction.
The plan administrator is the person tasked in your office with looking after the group benefit plan and ensuring staff understand everything. Often times, I sit down with a plan administrator that might be the second in line to get the lucky job and they just look at me like a deer in the headlights. The truth is, this job can be very simple if the person knows where to access information easily and who to contact when they can’t find it. Sadly, this is often not the case. That being said, when that plan administrator makes errors, it can cost unnecessary money. So again, ensuring that your plan administrator knows this information can save you a ton in potential liability. We’ve made it easy for them as well, you plan administrator can join our monthly training webinars for FREE.
These are the benefits for the executives that are typically charged with overseeing the direction of the company and ensuring the ship stays on course and everyone gets to stay employed. Again, it’s an area where we often see they aren’t covered correctly. For example, executives are often relying on the disability income coverage through their group benefit plan. Often, they are the one who actually take the time to complete the medical insurability form that gets them the full amount of coverage they’re qualified for, because they want to be proactive. That being said, the first question I ask executives is, “do you plan to answer a work call or email while you are away from work with a disability”. If they answer yes to this question, there is a really good chance that will put them offside with their group benefits definition of disability. It’s important to make sure the people in those key roles are covered correctly so that they can get back to work as quickly as possible with minimal collateral damage to the company.
When we have our first meeting we dive more in depth than this but these are some of the key areas where we find employers may be overpaying for benefits. If you would like to go a little deeper to find out if you are potentially overpaying for benefits, click here book a time to chat with us.
You've decided to shop for a group benefit plan for your company, you don't know what to look for and where to begin and that can be dangerous. If you don't know what you're looking for someone's going to tell you.
First things first, for most insurance providers at least most of the top providers, they will not send you a quote directly. If you email them or call them they are going to send your information to a broker. They're likely going to send your info to the broker who places the most business with that provider and not necessarily the best broker. So how do you find the best broker.
Find a broker you will trust to make decisions for your company
I find like with anything else, the best place to start is to ask another business that you respect and ask for suggestions. It's important that you deal with someone that you have a good feeling with and you trust, because you're going to want to take their advice and not second guess them.
Communicate what you need
Next you're going to need to explain to that broker what you're looking for. The first thing that I ask clients what their goals are for the coming years. As with anything else, be clear on what your goals and values are and how this new benefit plan is going to help you achieve them. Is there a specific employee that is a great fit with your company and if you had 20 more of them you would be a massive success? Well then it's important that your benefit package is going to attract that type of staff member.
Don't shop for price
This may seem counter-intuitive but if you just tell your broker to find you the lowest price, they're going to communicate that to the providers and then each one is going to be scrambling to be the lowest on the spreadsheet. Periodically on typically an annual basis the insurance companies will put you through what is referred to as a "renewal". At your renewal the insurance company recalculates the amount you're going to pay based on how much of the coverage you used vs how much they think you're going to use in the coming years. If they set their prices too low initially this can be a HUGE adjustment and it is not uncommon to see 40, 50, 60 or 120% renewal increases. How could you handle your business if next year your largest bills increased by that amount? At the end of the day over a 5 year period you're original price is irrelevant because typically it all gets made back in the end.
There is more than this that goes into finding a plan but these are the major areas where I see people make the most mistakes. At the end of the day, your broker works for you and will act on the requests you make of them. Make sure that you are asking them the right questions and being actively involved in the process.
Still have questions?
So we all know the path to creating wealth is to spend less money than we earn, correct? We also know that to control our weight we must consume less calories than we expend. So, if the solution is so simple why do so many of us struggle?
We struggle because we have failed to conquer the behavioral traps that trip us up.
Does this sound familiar? You wake up in the morning, jump on the scale in the bathroom, look at the number and immediately feel disheartened. You get to work and check your bank balance only to find that a payment you weren't expecting got pulled from your bank account and now you aren't quite sure how you're going to make it to the end of the month on your remaining account balance. Your boss comes in to your office and drops extra work on your desk and now you're starting to feel the stress.
So what do you do?
Lunch break rolls around and you head straight for the nearest fast food restaurant and get a big delicious burger. Or maybe you jump online and buy yourself a new outfit, something you'll look great in. That will make you feel better, right?
The answer is yes, it will, and therein lies the real problem. What was CAUSING you stress? You were stressing out about your finances and your weight. How did you solve it? By going to buy a hamburger or making an impulsive purchase.
Fast forward a few hours or maybe a day, now the good feelings you got from making that impulsive decision have worn off and now you feel guilty, guilty for spending money you didn't have and eating calories you didn't need.
The effect is a continual compounding of stress that grows and continues to weigh us down. It continues to push us further away from our goals and aspirations.
I truly believe that if we can learn to work with our behaviors we can gain control over our futures and permanently decrease our stress levels.
Enter behavioral finance. If we can work through the behaviors that are limiting our success, we can find the money to put our financial goals on track.
This isn't an overnight process, it takes commitment. But with the proper advisor, who's willing to work with you on what's holding you back you can truly achieve success.
Almost half of Canadian homeowners aren’t confident they’ll retire debt-free
What about you?
According to the most recent Manulife Bank survey, Most Canadian homeowners rank becoming debt-free a high priority, but only 51% are confident they’ll actually reach this goal.
It can be tough to juggle the financial responsibilities of owning a home and raising a family, while at the same time, trying to keep debt under control and save for your retirement years.
If you’re not confident you’ll be debt-free by retirement, there’s good news.
There are simple, time-tested debt-management strategies available that could help you become debt-free sooner.
As an advisor, I understand that discussing debt may be uncomfortable, but it’s a conversation critical to your long-term financial health. I can help you learn more about debt-retirement strategies and show you how an objective, customized plan could set you on the path toward debt-freedom.
If you’d like to discuss your debt-management plan further, give me a call or send me an email at:
If you do not wish to receive further marketing or promotional communications in electronic, print or verbal format, simply e-mail me your name to be removed from my mailing list.
¹The Manulife Bank of Canada poll surveyed 2,132 Canadian homeowners in all provinces between ages 30 to 59 with household income of more than $50,000. The survey was conducted online by Research House between September 10-20, 2013. More survey results are available at manulifebank.ca/debtresearch