What do mortgage interest rates have to do with life insurance?

You may have heard that, or even capitalized on, mortgage loan interest rates being at historic lows lately. That has in turn resulted in more homes being purchased. And what do people consider their biggest financial asset and also their financial safe haven? Their home. Many new homeowners will obtain life insurance upon purchasing a home, with the thought that their biggest bill (the mortgage) would be covered in the event that they pass away. Are you seeing the connections now between homes, mortgages and life insurance?

Let’s dive a little deeper… Let’s talk about a form of term life insurance that may connect the dots even more called mortgage protection life insurance. Any new home owner is inundated with information on this but very few bite, for good reason. Mortgage protection life insurance operates just like a regular insurance policy: an individual buys coverage, pays premiums and if the policyholder dies during the term, the policy pays a death benefit.

There are some significant differences though. Unlike a traditional life insurance policy, the death benefit of a mortgage protection policy goes directly to the mortgage company or lender, not the policyholder. Also, the total death benefit is designed to decrease year after year as the mortgage is paid down. And lastly, mortgage protection insurance tends to be more expensive than a comparable term life insurance policy.

On the flip side, regular term life insurance is typically low cost and gives policyholders the flexibility to use its benefits any way they wish — and they can set their own benefit amount. In a payout event, term life insurance provides beneficiaries with a tax-free lump sum of cash (annuities are also available) that can be used for mortgage repayment… or other things such as retirement savings, college savings, or day-to-day bills. That is up to the discretion of the beneficiary. And the coverage amount stays the same, regardless of how long or what may have occurred from the time it was purchased.

Another reason that now, rather than later, is a good time to consider life insurance in any form or fashion is that the premiums are typically much lower for a younger individual and there can also be little to no medical underwriting. So while you may view a new home as an asset, it’s also a debt (until paid for, of course) that your family would be stuck with unless you prepare accordingly.

Whether or not you’re in the market to purchase a home, or if you already have and just skipped the next step of life insurance… We’re happy to help guide you and help you rest assured that your family is well taken care of. That peace of mind is a much larger asset than any home in the world could ever be.

Payroll Tax Holiday – To opt in or to opt out?

It’s only fitting for a year like 2020 to have an unorthodox holiday come early… the payroll tax holiday! May not sound very exciting but it’s an important one with some grey area that everyone should understand fully.

Here’s a quick back story: On August 8, 2020, President Trump issued a proposal to stop withholding the 6.2% employee share of the Social Security tax. It would be for pay periods from September 1 – December 31, 2020 and only applicable to those that earn less than $104,000 annual salary ($4,000 bi-weekly). The intent behind this was to be yet another relief effort for those affected by COVID-19 and professional changes that may have caused financial strain, especially the last quarter of the year.

Sound too good to be true? Although it’s a very generous plan to help put more money in employee’s pockets, it does have to be paid back. The payback period starts January 1, 2021 and runs through April 30, 2021. That bill would most likely be in the form of a higher deduction from those paychecks, resulting in less take-home pay for those 4 months.

It’s been advised by many HR professionals to NOT elect for this as an employer or an employee. And here is why… As an employer, it is unclear if you will get stuck with the payback bill if the employee is no longer with your company during that first quarter of 2021. And as an employee, you could be charged penalties and interest if you’re unable to pay it back on time.

The White House is currently stating that they will TRY to get the deferred taxes forgiven but there is no guarantee at this time. That doesn’t seem likely as it would require new legislation and support that isn’t there since it would under fund Social Security.

The good news is that this is optional for those that think it’s a good fit and not required for the majority that will choose to pass up the offer. The only mandatory employers, as of now, are federal workers in the US government.

As always, if you have questions relating to HR and compliance for things such as this payroll tax holiday, we are happy to help find the answer for you.

What if you were told your construction company could be fined up to $132,589?

As this year’s Construction Safety Week wraps up, let’s look at some pretty staggering statistics relating to jobsite and workplace safety, as well as some new-age solutions to these age-old problems.

• The average cost of a slip or trip injury causing time away from work: $46,000 {National Safety Council}
• It is estimated that the amount of near misses that go unreported is up to 85% {MakuSafe}
• The Top 2 OSHA citations were for lack of fall protection systems and insufficient information transmitted to employers and employees regarding toxic and hazardous substances {ThinkHR}
• OSHA penalties range from $13,260 (other-than-serious & serious) to $132,589 (repeat & willful) {ThinkHR}
• 20% of private-industry worker fatalities are in construction {Big Rentz}
• Construction sees non-fatal injury rates that are 71% higher than any other industry {Accident Analysis & Prevention}

So what can we learn from all of this and how can the construction industry do better to stay safe?

• Construction companies can save $4-6 in indirect costs for every $1 invested in direct costs by evading an injury in the workplace
• Creating and implementing training programs such as how to properly wear PPE, general awareness and classes provided by OSHA would reduce the amount of employee injury but also be wise financially… Construction site injuries typically account for 6–9% of project costs, while health and safety programs only account for 2.5% of project costs
• Utilizing safety and machine operating checklists as well as hazardous material communications will facilitate consistency and reduce liability exposure
• Maintaining a safe environment will help build a positive reputation, assist with brand awareness and recruiting, and promote team morale

How does technology play a part? There are newer systems and protocols that could help prevent and protect construction companies from safety issues. Things such as:

• Wearables (think arm holster or watch) that can monitor conditions, detect slips/trips/falls quickly, report near-misses without interruption, etc.
• Digital trainings available at any time to any size group
• Live stream cameras with recording for monitoring or later verification of procedures or events
• Telematics installed on heavy equipment that could include front and rear facing cameras and operational details of the equipment
• Systems to analyze safety inspection data in order to implement change

We can all agree that safety in construction is a problem and something to take seriously. It’s a risky environment with constant movement, equipment and people coming on and off the jobsite. Taking every step possible to mitigate injuries is worth every penny these precautions could cost. What steps do you have in place for your team?

Key Person Insurance: How it Works and Why it’s Important

Most of us understand the importance of life insurance when you consider your family’s well-being and financial security. But what about the businesses left behind when an owner or principal passes, no longer able to maintain that company’s success? Or having the financial burden of finding a replacement for that person?

Key person life insurance is when a business purchases life insurance on an individual that is an asset to the company’s operation and success. Often times, this is an owner or principal in which not just anyone can replace at any given time. A “key person†is someone that contributes creativity, operational management, knowledge, inspiration, relationships, etc that is crucial to the viability of the company.
A business can be the beneficiary and also pay the premium of the policy. Sometimes this is also referred to as “business life insurance†because it’s protecting the business in the event this very important and necessary person is deceased.

There are a couple of very real circumstances in which this type of coverage is considered:

• If a financial institution or creditor needs collateral for a loan that the business is applying for and requires the option of putting a lien on a key person policy. This is also called “collateral assignmentâ€.

• If there are two or more partners that co-own the business together, this type of coverage would assist the partners in buying out the other’s shares if they die. This is also considered part of the buy-sell agreement as the life insurance would help fund buying out the deceased partners’ family members.

There isn’t a perfect formula to calculate how much key person insurance a company needs. One good way to estimate it is to have an idea of the immediate financial burdens the company could face if that person stops doing what they’re doing. An example would be someone in a Business Development role that could bring any growth to a screeching halt. Or someone with a reputation or connection that is the sole reason a big client does business with them. Another consideration, more for sole proprietors, is what amount of debt the company has that would need to be paid off if its doors were to close unexpectedly.

It’s highly likely that this “key†type of person has invested a large amount of time, effort, energy and heart into the company they either own or work for. There’s no better way to be sure their legacy lives on than having that business protected and stable when their time comes to leave it behind.

Back to School – What Does it Mean for Employee Leave?

Across the country, students are getting back in the groove of classes, whether in-person or virtually. It’s been five months since there’s been a real routine with school, making this yet another transition period for parents and business owners.

The Department of Labor released a compilation of Frequently Asked Questions regarding employee leave under the FFCRA that may be helpful to you as your workplace and workflows are affected by this. Here are some examples or you can view the full list here.

• If I am home with my child because his or her school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, do I get paid sick leave, expanded family and medical leave, or both—how do they interact?
You may be eligible for both types of leave, but only for a total of twelve weeks of paid leave. You may take both paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provides for an initial two weeks of paid leave. This period thus covers the first ten workdays of expanded family and medical leave, which are otherwise unpaid under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act unless you elect to use existing vacation, personal, or medical or sick leave under your employer’s policy. After the first ten workdays have elapsed, you will receive 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours you would have been scheduled to work in the subsequent ten weeks under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act. *Please note that you can only receive the additional ten weeks of expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act for leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

• My child’s school or place of care has moved to online instruction or to another model in which children are expected or required to complete assignments at home. Is it “closed�
Yes. If the physical location where your child received instruction or care is now closed, the school or place of care is “closed†for purposes of paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. This is true even if some or all instruction is being provided online or whether, through another format such as “distance learning,†your child is still expected or required to complete assignments.