Spring Cleaning for Your Finances

Written By Charlotte Insurance on March 28, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a woman organizing her finances

With spring weather in the air, you might be thinking about spring cleaning. But it’s not just the garage, attic, or basement that could use some sprucing up. Make this the year you finally clean up your finances.

Organize Your Paperwork

If you’re the type to keep receipts and forms for years, decades even, now is the time to get organized. Look through what you have and shred whatever you no longer need. Receipts from the 90s can probably go. Whatever you keep is what needs to be organized.

You can go digital or you can keep it old school. A digital solution is to scan your receipts and paperwork and create files on your computer or save them to the cloud. The old school option involves a few three ring binders and sheet protectors or a three-hole punch.

Your most important papers — life insurance, living will, deeds, property titles, etc — need to be kept extremely secure. You can pay for a safety deposit box at the bank where they’ll stay safe no matter what. The other option that keeps them close by is to store them in a fireproof safe in your home.

Make a Budget and Then Use It

If you’re not sure where all your money is going or you feel perpetually behind on your debt, it’s time to make a budget. This means you need to write down everything — your sources of income and every expense. You may need to track your spending for a few days to get an idea of just how much you’re spending on lunches out or your favorite latte each day.

Once you can see exactly what’s coming in and going out, you can begin to make decisions about how to spend your money. You may choose to cut some of your extra spending so you can put more in savings. Or you may want to start paying down your debt. But without a budget, you’ll never know where your money is truly being spent.

Check Your Credit

Your credit impacts your entire financial life. Poor credit means you pay higher interest rates. It can also impact your insurance premiums or your ability to buy a home or car. Knowing what’s going on with your credit allows you to make better financial decisions.

Once a year you can request your full credit report from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Get your copy of each from AnnualCreditReport.com and look over it for errors or old debt you never paid. Work with the agencies to fix errors and use your new budget to figure out how to pay off your debt.

You may also be able to view your credit score at no charge and with no penalty to you through your bank or credit card company. If this is an option, you can watch how the financial changes you’re making are improving your credit and your financial health. Knowing your credit score may help you monitor your spending and get serious about dealing with your debt.

Review Your Insurance

If you looked at your budget and realized you need to make some cuts, your insurance might be the first on the chopping block. Reducing your coverage might seem like a cost-saver but it can end up costing you more if you get into an accident. Review your insurance for other ways to save instead.

Increase your deductible. An easy way to lower your premiums without cutting your coverage is to increase your deductible. Be careful with this, though. Your deductible should be something you can still afford to pay. Don’t make it too high or you’ll hurt your finances at the worst possible time.

Check for discounts. Work with an independent insurance agency like ours to make sure you’re getting all the discounts you’re eligible for. You may decide to bundle your home, auto, and other insurance to pay less for your premiums.

There are plenty of apps and websites to help you organize receipts, create a budget, and save money. To get help with your insurance, you need an insurance agent who has your best interests — and your budget — in mind. Contact Charlotte Insurance today to request an estimate for a new policy or to schedule an insurance review.

4 Overlooked Ways Your Business Could Be Saving Money

Written By Charlotte Insurance on March 26, 2019. It has 0 comments.

spreadsheet belonging to a business trying to save money

As a business owner, you know you need to run a lean operation to maximize profits. When spending outpaces income, it’s common to want to make big changes. But cutting staff or reducing business hours often only hurts your bottomline. You can save money in multiple ways that you might not have considered yet.

Consolidate Suppliers and Vendors

If you’ve got a different supplier for every aspect of your business needs — from office supplies to each element of the product you sell, you may have too many suppliers. This means you’re not maximizing efficiency or your own negotiating power — and paying too much for supplies. You can apply the 80/20 rule to so much in life, including the idea that 80 percent of your supply spending should come from 20 percent of your suppliers.

Look for ways to consolidate suppliers. Negotiate with the remaining suppliers for better prices, especially once they realize you’re bringing extra business. You’ll save on costs and your business will run more efficiently because you’re not juggling so many vendors.

Cut Utility Costs

The lights have to come on, as so does the air conditioning or heat, but there are plenty of options to add efficiency here, too.

  • Allow telecommuting for staff who can perform tasks from home. If all they need is an internet connection and a computer, there’s almost no reason for them to come into the office every single day.
  • Offer four-day work weeks. With less people in the office, less energy will be used — and fewer office supplies.
  • Make your business more energy efficient. While there will be a greater upfront investment, you’ll see the difference in lower utility costs immediately. Upgrade everywhere you can from double-sided printers to LED lightbulbs to an energy-efficient HVAC system.

Go Non-Traditional Whenever Possible

If you’re still running your business the way you did 20 years ago, there’s a chance you’re missing out on important cost savings. The principles of business may not change, but the tools do.

  • Use social media and web content to attract people to your business for a lot less than the cost TV, radio, and print ads. The biggest investment is time if you do it yourself or you can use the next tip to hire someone to do it for you.
  • Outsource where you can. Laying off employees isn’t the goal, but if you need to hire someone new, consider a freelancer instead of a dedicated employee. You’ll only pay them for the work they do, and you won’t have to pay for benefits or payroll taxes.

Check Your Insurance Coverage

If you haven’t thought about your business insurance in years, you’re likely paying too much or don’t have the right kind of coverage. And if you haven’t seen your insurance agent since your first policy was written, there’s definitely a problem. Work with an independent insurance agent who understands your industry and your business needs. An annual review of your insurance coverage could uncover all kinds of savings.

  • Only buy the insurance coverage your business really needs — and don’t pay for coverage that doesn’t make sense for your industry.
  • Don’t go without important insurance coverage just to save money because you could face a financial crisis if you have to pay for damage or an accident out-of pocket.

The right amount and type of insurance coverage is imperative for any business. If you’re ready to make sure you’re not paying too much for business insurance, contact Charlotte Insurance today. We’ll make sure you have what your business needs.


Spring Showers and Flooding Concerns

Written By Charlotte Insurance on March 21, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a toddler playing in the rain after a charlotte, nc flood. the parents are thinking about flood insurance.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Anywhere it can rain, it can flood. You don’t have to live near a large body of water to be in danger of a flood disaster. Now that the weather is warming up, spring showers are on the way. Protect yourself from future flooding now.

Here’s what you need to know.

Before It Floods

There’s almost no way to know if a flood will hit your home before it happens, but we do know when flooding is likely — even in the unlikeliest spots. The only thing you can really do is be prepared for it. The best way to do that is to purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). While it is a federal flood insurance program, you can purchase coverage through your local independent insurance agency.

Flood insurance isn’t a requirement if you don’t live in a high risk zone, but it is a good idea to have it anyway. The cost is much lower when you’re not in a high risk zone, as well. When you have flood insurance, you may be able to be reimbursed up to $1,000 when you remove your insured property to a safe location prior to a flood. You may also receive a $1,000 reimbursement for protecting buildings that are in eminent danger — this includes sandbags, pumps, etc.

It’s important to buy flood insurance as soon as possible. Flood insurance has a 30 day waiting period before it becomes active unless you’re buying a new home and the mortgage lender requires it. You can file a claim from a flood as long as two acres are impacted or at least two properties.

After It Floods

A flood doesn’t have to be declared a federal disaster in order to file a claim. Once the waters recede, you can work directly with your insurance agent to start the claims process. Don’t depend on FEMA to help you. They offer small loans that won’t be enough to help you rebuild. Your flood insurance policy will make you whole again, up to your policy limits.

If your property is impacted by a flood, here are other things to keep in mind:

Stay safe. Don’t drive through flooded waters. Be careful when entering your home with standing water. Turn off power to your home so you don’t get electrocuted by power being restored to your neighborhood while you’re standing in water.

Document everything. Use your phone to take pictures or record video. This documentation will be helpful for processing your claim, especially as you may need to start gutting parts of your home to make it safe and reduce mold problems.

We never want to imagine a flood will happen in our neighborhood or to our home, but it’s always a possibility. Before the spring showers begin in earnest, let Charlotte Insurance help you protect your home with flood insurance. Contact us today for a free quote. You’ve protected your home from so many other dangers. Make this the year, you add flooding to that list.

World Water Day – Conserve Water at Home!

Written By Charlotte Insurance on March 20, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a sink running on world water day

March 22 is World Water Day! We don’t have to be in a drought to care about how much water we use. It’s an important resource to conserve throughout the entire year, and doing so can save you money on your monthly water bill.

Here’s what you can do at home this World Water Day, and every day, to conserve water.

In the Bathroom

It’s no surprise to anyone that a lot of water gets used in the bathroom from showers and toilet use. You can’t stop using water to clean up and flush, but you can save hundreds of gallons a year with a few tweaks.

  • Turn of the water while you’re brushing your teeth or shaving until you need to rinse.
  • Take shorter showers. If you’re getting lost in thought under the water, you’re also using precious gallons of water.
  • Collect cold shower water in a bucket while you’re waiting for the water to heat up, and then use that water to flush your toilet later.
  • Shower less often when you can — in a hot North Carolina summer, this may not be a good idea but it can be an option the rest of the year. Skipping one shower a week adds up.
  • Flush less often. The phrase often used is, “When it’s yellow, let it mellow.” It’s not for everyone, but it does help conserve water. But if it’s a number two situation, go ahead and flush.
  • Install water conserving shower heads and faucets. It’s often an easy and inexpensive project.

In the Kitchen

After the bathroom, the kitchen is the next place a lot of water gets used, but there’s room for conservation here, too.

  • Only run the dishwasher when it’s full. This goes for the washing machine, too. You’ll run fewer loads over time and will save plenty of water.
  • Let the sink fill up completely when you hand wash dishes instead of letting the water run the entire time.
  • Reuse your cooking water when you make pasta. Cook your pasta, remove it from the pot, and let the water cool. Once it’s no longer hot, you can water your plants with it.

Other Water Conservation Tips

There are plenty of other ways you can conserve water around your home.

  • Repair leaks as soon as possible. Keep an eye on your water bill for major spikes. This will let you know there’s a problem somewhere.
  • Replace your plumbing fixtures with more efficient options whenever possible. Look for low-flow toilets and dishwashers and washing machines that are made to be water-efficient.
  • Collect rain in rain barrels to water plants.
  • Replace water-guzzling plants with succulents and those that need less water.
  • Take your car to a car wash that uses recycled water instead of using fresh water.

If everyone takes small steps to conserve water, it can add up to big savings — for your wallet and the water supply. Start on World Water Day and keep it going all year long!

Please, Don’t Drink and Drive

Written By Charlotte Insurance on March 14, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a man driving will drinking in Charlotte, NC

Avoiding driving while drunk has never been easier. You can get an Uber or Lyft to pick you up and take you home, even if you can’t find a taxi. Many friends are happy to drive you home rather than let you get behind the wheel. For some people, even one drink is too much, and they shouldn’t drive.

No matter how well you think you handle alcohol, please don’t ever drink and drive. The consequences aren’t worth it. 

Driving Under the Influence 

In North Carolina, it’s illegal to drive a vehicle if your blood alcohol level is at 0.08 or even if you’re noticeably impaired. Everyone’s a little different, and some people become drunk on less than the legal limit. You’re never truly sober as you feel once you’ve had a drink or two, and even a small amount can impair your ability to drive.

Your reflexes may slow down. Your judgement will certainly be impaired. You may even lose some of your inhibitions and give into reckless behavior. Any of these can contribute to an accident that could be fatal. If you go out on a busy weekend and get stopped at a DUI checkpoint, you’ll pay the price even if no one gets hurt.

In North Carolina, the consequences vary based on your history and the severity of the crime. You may receive as little as a $200 file and 24 hours in jail. But you could also pay a $4000 fine and spend at least a month in jail. And if you hurt someone in an accident or you’re a repeat offender, the consequences only get worse.

DUI and Your Auto Insurance

After driving under the influence, you can have your license revoked and potentially have your vehicle seized. Eventually you’ll get your license back and be able to drive again. What will drinking and driving do to your auto insurance? Nothing good.

Insurance premiums are based on your perceived risk. The higher the risk, the higher your premiums. Once you’ve been convicted of drinking and driving, you’ll be considered high risk for quite some time, causing your insurance premiums to skyrocket. Some insurers may not want to insure you at all.

The court may require a SR-22 before you can drive again. This is a form that shows you have purchased at least the state-mandated minimum amount of auto insurance. Your insurer will file this form for you. Once it’s been received, you’ll be able to drive again.

Not only is drinking and driving dangerous, reckless, and potentially life-threatening, it also hurts you financially for years. If you enjoy a few drinks, don’t drive. If you’re going to drive, don’t drink. You’ll save lives and help yourself in the process.

If you do have a DUI conviction and need auto insurance, contact Charlotte Insurance. As an independent insurance agency, we work with multiple carriers and can offer more insurance options. Contact us today for a free quote.

Does Your Small Business Need to Be Bonded?

Written By Charlotte Insurance on March 12, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a charlotte contractor in need of a bond.

You’ve heard of companies that are licensed, insured, and bonded. Have you wondered if your own small business should be too? It helps to understand what a bond is and how it can help your business.

What is a Bond?

A bond is a guarantee between three parties: you, a customer or client that you’ve promised to do work for, and the insurer. It is, essentially, a promise that you make that you’ll do the work you’re hired to do at the acceptable standards and in a reasonable timeframe.

Because of the way bonds are structured, they’re popular with service-oriented businesses like contractors, plumbers, electricians, and more. But nearly any business can be bonded. Different businesses, however, will need different types of bonds.

If you do not meet your obligations, per the type of bond you’ve purchased, the customer or client can file a claim against the bond. This protects them financially from incomplete or poor quality work and even employee dishonesty.

Types of Bonds

The type of bond you purchase is largely dependent upon the type of business you run and the risk you want to guarantee against.

Contractor Bonds: These are the most common types of bonds that contractors purchase. This shows clients and customers that your work will be done well, on time, and comply with state and local regulations. When a contractor, plumber, electrician, and other service provider says they’re licensed, bonded, and insured, this is the bond they have.

Performance Bonds: Performance bonds are required any time you want to bid on a public project. It’s a promise that you’ll do the work laid out in your original bid. It’s one of the most common types of bonds for the construction business.

Maintenance Bonds: A maintenance bond isn’t the same as a warranty, but it’s close to it. This states that your work is guaranteed for a certain amount of time after it’s completed. It’s also required for all public projects.

Fidelity Bonds: Any business that brings your employees in contact with customers’ money or possessions can benefit from a fidelity bond. Employee dishonesty bonds protect your business and your customers from theft, forgery, embezzlement, and burglary. Business services bonds protect against damage or loss of money, personal belongings, supplies, or equipment.

While certain small businesses may need contractor, performance, or maintenance bonds, almost all small businesses can benefit from fidelity bonds.

When you’re ready to bond or insure your small business, give us a call.

Protect Your Investment with the Right Rental Property Insurance Coverage

Written By Charlotte Insurance on March 7, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a Charlotte, NC man in need of rental property insurance

Rental property insurance, often known as landlord insurance, may not be required by law, but it’s a smart way to protect your property and the investments you’ve made as a landlord. Consider it a good business decision. Here’s what you need to know about insuring your rental property.

Multiple Forms of Coverage

When you purchase landlord insurance, you’ll be covered in multiple ways.

Property damage: This includes the building and any of your personal property you’ve left on site. Ideally, you should purchase enough coverage to fully replace everything.

Liability protection: You’ll be covered from liability claims and lawsuits, up to your policy limit. This includes liability for both bodily injury and property damage. Your insurance will pay medical costs, funeral costs, legal fees, settlements, and more.

Loss of income: This may not be standard in all policies, but ask your insurance agent about loss of income coverage. You’ll be reimbursed for the income you lose while your rental is uninhabitable and being repaired or rebuilt.

Other optional forms of coverage: Talk to your insurance agent about other additional coverage for your rental: rent guarantee, employer liability, landlord contents (furnishings, carpets, etc).

Homeowners Insurance Won’t Cover You

Only in very specific situations might your homeowners insurance still be applicable when you rent your property. You’ll still need to be living there and making it your main residence. Talk to your insurance agent about a special rider for occasionally renting your property. But if you rent it out regularly, even if only once a month or so, you’ll need landlord insurance coverage.

If you’ve turned your home into a rental in order to generate income, you’re in business as a landlord, and need rental property insurance. Not buying a new policy could result in a denied claim and dropped coverage later. Without this coverage, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for damage, liability claims, and more.

Landlord insurance is an investment, just as your rental property is an investment. You’re protecting yourself from potential financial loss from accidents and injuries, storms and theft, and much more.

Renters Insurance

Renters insurance is what your tenants purchase to protect their personal belongings in case of a storm, accident, or other covered peril. No law requires them to purchase coverage, but as their landlord you can require it as part of the lease agreement. If you do, you must require it for every tenant you have — you can’t pick and choose which tenant should buy and who doesn’t have to. You can also require that they buy a certain amount of coverage and that they show you proof of coverage before moving in.

For renters, the cost is minimal, but the benefits are enormous. If disaster strikes, they’ll be covered, and it will be easier for them to move back in once the damage has been repaired. Tenants who can’t afford new clothes or a new couch likely won’t be able to afford to rebuild and pay the rent. It helps your tenants and you if they carry renters insurance.

If it’s been a while since you updated your rental property insurance, it’s time to talk to an agent. And if you’re jumping into the rental game with your own investment property, make sure you start out with the right coverage. Contact Charlotte Insurance today for a free quote.

How Do Your Insurance Needs Change in Retirement?

Written By Charlotte Insurance on March 5, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a sign with the word retirement on it

Any time you have a major life change, and retirement certainly counts, you should review existing coverage to make sure it’s still a good fit for you. You’ll also want to consider what kind of insurance coverage you need now that you didn’t need before.

Retirement is a new phase in your life, one you should be able to enjoy as much as possible. Don’t let a lack of insurance coverage or too-high premiums make it a burden. Here’s what you need to know about insurance after retirement.

Review Your Basic Insurance Coverage

It might not seem necessary to check your home, auto, and life insurance coverage when you retire, but it’s a good time for a quick review. You may be driving less, so your auto rates could decrease. You may want to lower or increase your deductibles based on what you can afford for out-of-pocket expenses. Life insurance limits may need to be raised or lowered, based on your current financial responsibilities.

Now that you’re retired, you want to have the most amount of insurance you can afford. You also want to be mindful of deductibles and what your policies cover and what they don’t. A lot of retirees live on a fixed income and insurance costs feel like an easy expense to get rid of. That will only cost you more in the long-run. It’s much better to find a new policy at a lower price to meet your budget needs.

Health Insurance

The biggest change you’ll experience will likely be health insurance, especially if you’ve been insured through an employer. You can continue your old coverage for up to 18 months with COBRA, but you’ll pay more than you did when you worked. If you retired early and aren’t eligible for Medicare yet, you can purchase your own individual health insurance policy. You may qualify for a subsidy based on your income which can drastically reduce your monthly premium.

If you’re retiring at the age when you can take advantage of Medicare and Social Security, here’s what you need to know about Medicare:

  • Medicare Part A has no premium and covers inpatient hospital care only.
  • Medicare Part B charges a premium and covers doctor visits, lab work, and more, but it doesn’t cover everything.
  • You can supplement your Medicare coverage with a Medigap plan, and you can purchase coverage through a local insurance agent.

Long Term Care Insurance

You may have heard of long term care insurance before you retired, but it’s likely you ignored it as something unnecessary. Now that you’re retired, it’s time to face facts. The older we get, the more likely we are to need long term care, especially over the age of 65. Don’t count on Medicare because its coverage is very limited. Long term care paid out of pocket is very expensive and time-consuming.

Relying on your family to take care of you may not be an option or you may not want to burden them with the responsibility. Long term care insurance is a great solution. Depending on the policy you choose, different services can be covered including home care, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes. Buy a policy as soon as you’re able to so that you can get the least expensive premium possible. The older you are when you purchase it, the more you’ll pay.

Are you close to retirement or newly retired? Contact Charlotte Insurance today and let us help you review your current and future insurance needs.