If you’ve been feeling the pinch of higher auto insurance rates along with other rising costs, you should know some factors that impact these rates are well within your control. Consider these tips to pay less this year and beyond.
Improve your credit score. Many insurance companies consider your credit score and overall creditworthiness when assigning rates, mostly because their research shows credit scores directly correlate with how much risk you pose as a driver. This means that if you want to pay less for auto insurance coverage, you should strive to increase your credit score or move your policy to an insurer that does not use this factor in determining rates. Some easy ways to increase your credit score include using less than 20% of your credit line on your credit cards and by paying all your bills on time.
Ask about discounts. Some auto insurance companies have discounts that are not actively promoted. These are often missed by long-time policy holders that do not specifically ask for them. Examples of discounts include lower rates for being a good student, driving fewer miles, purchasing a car with a lower claim history, or discounts for having air bags, anti-lock brakes, and theft detection devices. There are even discounts for federal employees, military members and for being accident-free for a certain number of years.
Pay premiums in advance. Some auto insurance companies also offer pay-in-full discounts that let you save when you pay for six months or a full year of premiums upfront. This discount can result in 10% to 20% lower premiums right off the bat.
Bundle multiple policies. You may be able to score a discount for having multiple types of coverage with a single insurance company, just as you may get a multi-vehicle discount for having more than one car insured. Typical bundled policies include life insurance, auto insurance, home insurance and umbrella coverage.
Tweak your deductible. Your auto insurance deductible — or the amount you pay for certain claims before coverage kicks in — also plays a role in the cost you pay for auto coverage, and higher deductibles can lead to savings. With that in mind, check how your premiums change if you increase your deductible from $500 to $1,000, from $1,000 to $2,500, and so on.
Take a safe driving course. Finally, taking a safe driving course can help lock in lower auto insurance premiums no matter your age or driving history. The amount of savings you’ll get with this discount can vary, so ask your insurer.
Auto insurance rates may not be going down any time soon, but the steps you take now can help you pay lower rates from this point forward. By improving your credit, checking for discounts and tweaking your policy details, you can get the coverage you need for a price you can afford.
Solving a difficult problem isn’t reserved for only the world’s greatest thinkers. Great creations are simply well-crafted solutions using organized, creative thinking. Here is a four step process so you, too, can become a great creative problem solver!
Step 1 – Define the problem
This step is the most critical. Albert Einstein once said, “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” Think about it – if you get this step wrong, it immediately puts you on the wrong track and all the work that comes after moves you further from the solution. In short, you want to understand as much about the issue as you can. Write down everything you know about the problem and related answers to define what you need to investigate. Summarize your thoughts into a single problem statement.
Step 2 – Ideate
Don’t overthink this step. The time and energy you put into defining the problem will create quite a few ideas, many of them unorganized, bouncing around in your brain. The goal is to take all these thoughts out of your brain and put them into writing. Don’t do any internal filtering – it all needs to come out. Brainstorming is all about quantity with no regard for quality. (Quality control will come later!) Think about it like starting a puzzle by first dumping all the pieces out of the box. If you left any in the box, you have no chance of completing the puzzle. The more out-of-the-box and abstract the idea, the better!
Step 3 – Develop your ideas
Once you have all your idea fragments written down, you’ll notice a few that rise to the top as possible solutions. Identify these top 3 to 5 solutions, then see if the rest of your brainstorming ideas can fit as a supporting detail with any of these main solutions. Now think through why each of these ideas might yield a solution and form a hypothesis as to how this idea will play out. From there, break apart the hypothesis and identify any potential flaws. Revealing possible weak spots is a great starting point to defining the pathway for a solution.
Step 4 – Implement your solution
This final step may seem daunting, but the key is to break the final project into as many bite-size steps as possible. The smaller and easier it is to manage, the better. Identify each step of the implementation process, write down the dependencies for each of these steps and connect them together to work towards the final solution. As you work through them, it’s important to stay flexible as unforeseen obstacles will arise and you need to be able to pivot.
Continue to work through your problem solving process, retesting and refining as you go. Odds are you’ll initially take some steps backwards, but don’t give up! The ability to stay resilient is as important as the process itself to reach your final goal.
The average credit card balance in America ballooned to $5,910 in 2022. This figure is up 13.2% from the year before according to Experian, and it spells out a worrisome (and costly) trend for consumers. After all, credit card interest rates were on rise throughout all last year and well into 2023, mostly due to changes to the federal funds rate by the Federal Reserve. The fact is, consumers with credit card debt pay an average interest rate of 20.92% as of February 2023, compared to just 16.65% in the second quarter of 2022.
Fortunately, you have the power to use credit cards to your advantage — and to avoid paying exorbitant interest rates altogether. Consider these tips to master credit cards instead of letting them rule over you this year.
Plan purchases to carry no credit card balance. While interest rates are incredibly high right now, you can use credit cards without paying for the privilege. Instead of racking up balances and hoping you can afford the bill, use credit cards for planned purchases only — and for spending that’s backed up by money in the bank. Provided you pay your credit card balance in full each month, today’s sky-high interest rates can’t hurt you.
Consolidate high-interest debts. You can get a break from today’s high rates by consolidating credit card debt you already have with a 0% balance transfer credit card. Many cards in this niche give you 0% APR on balance transfers, purchases or both for up to 21 months. This gives you time to pay down your balance with zero interest, which can help eliminate debt faster and save money along the way.
Earn rewards for your spending. If you’re still using your old credit card from college or haven’t bothered to upgrade in the last few years, you could be missing out. Today’s credit cards let you earn as much as 2% cash back on spending with no annual fee, or you can opt to earn generous rewards for travel instead. Just make sure you carry no balance, as interest rates on these cards can be even higher than regular credit cards.
Put your perks to work. Finally, check whether your credit card has other, often unpromoted, benefits. Depending on your card, you may have access to perks like purchase protection against damage or theft, extended warranties on items you buy that come with a manufacturer’s warranty or even travel insurance protections. If you already have access to these benefits or others, knowing ahead of time is the best way to put them to good use.
Credit cards offer convenience and a range of features you can benefit from, but they can either be a blessing or a curse for your finances. Ultimately, your best bet is taking control of your credit card use before it controls you.
Many business owners hire their children, their spouse, or other family members to work in their business. Sometimes this works out well. Other times it causes problems. Here are some of the key pros and cons of putting family members on your payroll.
Hiring your children
Hiring your kids for a part-time job usually has more tax advantages and fewer drawbacks than hiring others. The financial advantage is that if you’re paying your child to do useful work, the business gets a tax deduction for the wages paid. Your child will probably pay little or no income tax, and the after-tax wages stays in the family.
To ensure the wages are fully deductible the child must be doing a real job that helps the business, and the wages must be reasonable for the work performed. Keep detailed records of hours worked and pay salary regularly, preferably on the same schedule as other employees. In other words, treat your child just like any regular employee.
In addition, depending on how your business is organized and the age of your child, you may be able to avoid paying Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment on their wages. To qualify, you must be a sole proprietor or a husband-wife eligible partnership and your child must be under the age of 18.
Hiring your spouse or other relatives
An advantage to hiring your spouse or other relatives is that you have an employee whom you know well, and who may be more motivated or more flexible than a non-family member. And in many family-owned businesses, it’s a powerful way to train the next generation who will take over leadership of the company.
That same familiarity can bring disadvantages, however.
Few families are without some internal or intergenerational conflict, and that can be disastrous if it spills over into the workplace. You must also consider the effect on other employees. Any sign of favoritism or unequal treatment can cause resentment and ruin the motivation of other employees.
Be cautious moving forward
There are plenty of businesses where hiring family members has worked out just fine, but other businesses where it didn’t work out.
So think long and hard before you bring family members into the business. Talk to them and to your key employees beforehand so everyone understands and is comfortable with their roles in the company.
As always, should you have any questions or concerns regarding your tax situation please feel free to call.
Getting a bill for an unexpected expense can put a dent in your business’s cash flow. Here are some tips your business can use to handle these unforeseen bumps in the road.
Stick to a reconciliation schedule. Know how much cash you have in your bank account at any given time. This is done by sticking to a consistent bank reconciliation schedule. Conventional wisdom suggests reconciling your bank account with bills paid and revenue received once a month, but you now have the ability to reconcile your cash every day. Perpetual reconciliation is easier to do if your business has fewer transactions. It may seem a bit much, but with the correct team in place, you will be prepared for surprises as they happen.
Create a 12-month rolling forecast. This exercise projects cash out twelve months. Each new month you drop the prior month and add another month one year out. This type of a forecast will reflect the ebbs and flows of cash throughout the year and identify times that you’ll need more cash, so when a surprise bill shows up, you know exactly how it will impact your ability to pay it. If you have lean months, you may wish to explore creating a line of credit with your bank to be prepared for any surprises.
Build an emergency fund. Getting surprised with an unexpected business expense isn’t a matter of if it will happen, but when. Consider setting money aside each month into an emergency fund to be used only in case of a significant expense. A longer term goal could be to save enough money to cover 3 to 6 months of operating expenses.
Partner with a business advisor. Even small businesses sometime need help keeping their cash flow in line and avoiding unexpected expenses. Please call if you have any questions about organizing your business’s cash flow and preparing for surprises.
Mastering inventory levels is a key to many successful and growing businesses. Here are reasons why prioritizing your inventory management is something to consider for your business:
Less shrink. Shrinkage represents cash that goes to waste because inventory is damaged, stolen, or past the sell date. Shrink represents an opportunity to improve the inventory control process. Understanding the dynamics of shrink will help focus your attention in the correct areas and ultimately lead to money saved. Action: Create a shrink scorecard that shows the source of shrink. If theft, is it occurring at retail or in receiving? If out of code, is the problem in all products or a select few? If damaged, is it trackable to the supplier or a part of your production process? Remember to compare waste to prior years and against your goals to see how well you are doing.
More cash. In a perfect world, you receive your inventory as soon as it is sold. Material or product that sits in the warehouse adds storage costs and risks turning into unsaleable product. Aligning your inventory operation with your sales cycle plays directly with improving your cash flow. Understanding sales trends will allow you to optimize your stock levels and save money in the process. When you spend less on unnecessary inventory costs you have more cash to invest into marketing, new product initiatives or capital equipment that can bolster your bottom line. Action: Implement just in time (JIT) with key suppliers. Explore ways to deliver product when you need it versus purchasing a larger amount and then storing it.
Improved forecasting. The old saying garbage in, garbage out applies perfectly when trying to forecast inventory demand. If you can’t trust your inventory process, it’s impossible to accurately predict future output. This leaves you flying blind when budgeting and preparing for future expenditures. With a firm grip on your inventory needs and procurement-to-sales cycle, your forecasting will become more accurate. Action: Create a rolling 12-month forecast of sales. The forecast should provide details on major product lines. Translate this forecast into lead times for your inventory procurement.
Better customer relations. Once you’ve optimized your operation, the quality of your customers’ experience increases exponentially. You can cut prices without sacrificing margin, improve lead times, and add new product lines with your extra cash. While the effective inventory process you built is humming along, you can focus your attention on improving your products to better match the needs of your target market. This will help boost your sales! Action: Set inventory targets to shorten lead times. Measure how many back orders you have and note how often products are returned as defective. If your inventory management is improving you should see positive results in both areas.
Inventory management will not take care of itself. Giving your inventory system the attention it deserves will pay major dividends both now and in the future.