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STORM SEASON
Important Note:

June through November our agency may become prohibited from binding coverage should a “Tropical Disturbance” enter the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean Sea.

In these cases we may be unable to bind new coverage quoted in open proposals until the storm leaves our area and our binding authority has been restored.

Please arrange your coverage protection early to avoid this type of delay. While we regret any inconvenience, the carriers impose these restrictions on all agencies.

Working with a Financial Planner

If you’re thinking about debt, you have company. According to the American Psychological Organization, nearly 3 out of 4 Americans think about getting out of debt on a regular basis. The number of Americans prepared for the future drops considerably, with less-than 20% of Americans feeling financially ready for retirement. With numbers like that it’s surprising only a fraction asked for help from a professional.

Financial Advisors vs Financial Planners

For professional financial advice, people often turn to financial advisors or financial planners. Often mistaken for each other, a financial planner and financial advisor have distinctly different roles. A financial advisor utilizes a broad set of financial skills offering surface-level guidance. They can help with portfolio management, estate planning, and tax preparation. A financial planner has a specific set of skills to offer targeted advice. A financial planner can help with retirement planning, smart investments, and creating personalized financial strategies.

This year, get out of the weeds. Take control of personal finances with the help of an experienced professional financial planner. If you answer yes to any of the following, you may want to think about calling a financial planner:

1. It’s challenging thinking about money

For many, just thinking about money is enough to become frustrated. Many people struggle with approaching finances at all. This is normal and happens to more people than you may think. A financial planner can step in and get things organized, and help keep things moving.

2. Managing money is mind-numbing

Effective money-management includes more than saving and spending. Each person has a different picture of the future yet one thing most will share in common is a financial vehicle for arriving there. There are a multitude of savings and investment strategies available. Find one that fits both budget and goals with the help of a financial planner.

3: It’s time for a second opinion.

People of all wealth and education levels lean on financial planners for advice and personalized guidance. From the first-time investor to the savvy business grad, a financial planner can help anyone interested in improving their financial footing. Get the most from investments. Contact a financial planner for help creating, diversifying, and utilizing savings vehicles.

Planning for the future is affordable. Financial planners utilize different pricing structures depending on the individual yet most employ a combination of three basic payment plans:

  • Flat-rate financial planning offers the advantage of flat-rate pricing for financial services.
  • Commission-based financial planning compensates planners from a percentage of investments.
  • Fee-based financial planners combine the previous payment structures to form a compensation plan.

To find the right a financial planner, start with selecting goals. Establishing an end-point gives financial planners something to help plan for. For those struggling to decide, a financial planner can help explain potential options and opportunities. It’s more than OK to ask for help planning for the future, it’s the smart thing to do. Contact a financial planner today and start working toward achievable goals today.

Overcoming Digital Eyestrain

The modern world is damaging eyes. Prolonged exposure to computer screens, phones, tablets and other digital devices can damage vision. The Vision Council estimates 83% of Americans spend 2 or more hours per day on a digital device. For many, this can be alleviated by limiting time spent on phones and e-readers yet for the average office employee, that may be a bit of a challenge. The American Optometry Association concluded the average American spends up to 7 hours per day looking at a computer screen.

Today over two-thirds of Americans report symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Also referred to as digital eyestrain, CVS includes painful short- and long-term symptoms such as:

  • Neck and shoulder strain
  • Blurred and interrupted vision
  • Migraine headaches
  • Lost vision and more

Proximity to the screen, ambient lighting, and screen brightness can also contribute to CVS. The American Optometry Association warns of further complications should symptoms go untreated.

Approaching Digital Eyestrain

There are several steps to take that may help reduce the risk for developing Computer Vision Syndrome:

  • Maintain an upright posture while viewing screens
  • If prescribed corrective lenses, be sure to wear them
  • Position device screens approximately 2 feet from the eyes
  • Employ effective lighting to minimizes screen glare
  • Look away from screens at 20-minute intervals for 20 seconds
  • Reduce fatigue and dry eye by blinking often

A comprehensive eye exam can help detect signs of digital eyestrain. A medical professional can make recommendations for individual treatment solutions.

Check back often for more health and insurance information for getting the most from life. For questions about insurance, contact an agent today.

7 Tips for Saving on Healthcare

Savings are always welcome, especially for seniors living on a retirement income. For annual healthcare spending, small savings can add up. Get the most from the golden years while maintaining a quality lifestyle. Reduce annual spending with these 7 tips for saving on healthcare:

1. Take advantage of cash discounts

According to the AARP, many medical practices offer discounts of 10% or more for customers paying with cash. Ask about discounted medical tests and exams.

2. Limit Emergency Room Visits to Emergencies

Ambulance transport and emergency room care can become expensive utilized frivolously. For minor injuries and other non-emergencies, urgent care facilities offer an affordable alternative. Additionally, wait times and the length of visits may be shorter than for hospitals.

3. Call a Nurse

Today a number of telephone resources are available for speaking directly to a registered nurse. This can help reduce visits to the doctor, saving time and money. The nurses offer guidance for home care, making an appointment with a physician, or seeking immediate treatment.

4. Choose the Generic Medication

From cough medicine to prescription drugs, the generic label is always more affordable than the name-brand. Ask about generic alternatives to prescription and over-the-counter medications. Other discounts may be available by filling prescriptions at large retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart. Generic medication programs are available at some retailers helping save more on medication.

5. Get a Discount Card

Options for prescription drug savings cards are available. Some offer discounts of 80% or more on prescription medication, helpings people save thousands annually. Ask a pharmacist for more information

6. Compare Prices

Pharmacies may charge different rates for medications. Prior to filling prescriptions, contact local pharmacies to compare rates. Save the drive by asking your regular pharmacist to match or beat competitor pricing.

7. Utilize Your Network

Health insurance carriers work with local medical agencies to offer discounted rates for treatment. Receive treatment from a medical professional outside the network and pay up to 20% more, according to the AARP. Medical offices performing elective treatments often defer to the out-of-network rate. Ask about costs and network coverage before agreeing to a medical procedure or receiving treatment. Ask your health insurance carrier to recommend options for treatment within the network.

Saving and planning for successful retirement are active endeavors. Save more by making smart decisions about medical treatment and prescription drug service. Health coverage can vary, contact an agent to update your policy today and start saving.

Update Home Insurance & Cover Natural Disasters

Homeowners are taking too many risks with insurance coverage. According to a recent study by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), only a small percentage of homeowners plan for natural disasters when updating insurance plans. Approximately 4/5 homeowners are lacking sufficient insurance protection. Saving a couple of bucks today may cost a lot tomorrow. The Commission encourages all homeowners to consider updating insurance plans to include adequate coverage for natural disasters.

This past year, the nation watched as Houston and the Gulf states were struck by catastrophic flooding. In the Southwest, Northern Nevada was subject to catastrophic flooding as well. Many of the local homeowners found only too late their homeowners’ insurance policies lacked coverage for floods. In California, wildfires have ravaged the landscape leaving the door open for mudslides and erosion.

For most damages caused by natural disasters, additional insurance protection is required. The Commission’s survey found over half of homeowners were unfamiliar with their insurance policy. Between 2005 and 2015, natural disasters led to $24 billion in insurance claims. For those with protection, that’s a lot of savings.

Speak to an agent to review and update your homeowners’ insurance policy. In some cases, insurance coverage will have a mandatory waiting period before taking effect. Before disaster strikes, ask an agent about extra insurance protection for:

  • Earthquakes
  • Hurricanes
  • Flooding
  • Wildfires

A local agent will be familiar with other potential hazards specific to the area.

Additional questions to think about when updating a homeowners insurance policy include:

  • Were any changes or upgrades made to the home?
  • Has the number of home occupants changed?
  • Have any valuables been added to the home?

Matching homeowners insurance protection with the property protected will ensure compensation is swift and appropriate in case of a natural disaster.

Take steps to help keep home and property safe during a natural disaster. Always stay aware of local emergency warnings and follow official instructions for evacuation and disaster response.

Secrets to a Successful Retirement

A large number of people between 30-50 are ready to think about retirement. For many, retirement is a goal market yet rather than completion, retirement marks the beginning of a new adventure. Planning is an important part of successful retirement yet questions abound. Help is here. The financial folks at MoneyTips.com completed a survey of 500 American retirees to find the secrets to a successful retirement. The survey found while the definition of retirement varies across the board, successful retirees shared several traits in common.

An increasing number rely on a set income.

Of the 500 retirees surveyed, almost half have under $500,000 in total assets. 67% of the respondents have a set annual income under $100,000; 27% under $50,000. Of all the retirees polled a whopping 85% rely on social security for some or all of their retirement income.

Many worry about the future.

Almost half the retirees surveyed reported having similar financial concerns about the future. The most-commonly reported financial concerns were:

  • Depleting savings accounts (25%)
  • Incurring serious medical debt (24%)
  • Maintaining a comfortable lifestyle (23%)

Other responses included paying for grandchildren’s education (7%) and planning an estate (5%).

They’ve found ways to pinch pennies.

Finding ways to save each day helps extend savings. Successful retirees shared these tips on saving money during retirement

  • Create a spending budget
  • Reduce monthly expenses
  • Limit luxury purchases

Successful retirees also create financial plans including investment and insurance options.

They planned ahead.

Successful retirees are there by design. Among those surveyed, the majority responded as having planned for retirement early. For those reading this that have yet to begin, there is still time. Of all the successful retirees surveyed, over half waited until after 40 to start saving. The amount people can save for retirement will vary. Consider setting a percentage of income as a savings amount. Of those surveyed the majority saved between 6-10% of their income per year. Those in the highest category, saving 21% or more each year, only formed 8% of survey respondents.

For answers on what to do with those savings, 62% reported utilizing the help of a financial professional at some point. That included those with little financial experience to those merely seeking a second opinion for a decision. 44% of successful retirees report retaining primary control of their investment portfolio. 67% opted for traditional IRA accounts and 27% chose Roth IRAs. a 401(k) plan formed a portion of income for 53%. A number of other investment vehicles formed the remainder.

Misleading Insurance Carriers Can Cost You

Drivers may be leaving some details out on their insurance policies. A lot of drivers it would seem, as a recent poll found over 80% of drivers fudge the details when obtaining a car insurance policy. There are a number of ways to save on car insurance from safe-driver discounts to policy bundling. Falsifying details to save money will likely cost more in the long run.

According to the survey, the top 5 ways drivers try to mislead insurance carriers are:

1. Misrepresenting annual mileage
2. Listing an incorrect primary driver
3. Falsifying the purpose of the vehicle (personal, commercial, etc)
4. Submitting misleading information about vehicle location
5. Omitting previous insurance claims history

For most people submitting false information, the primary motivation is financial gain. This is a risky gamble with potentially costly consequences.

Insurance carriers are on the lookout for this. Insurers are likely to void policies with intentional omissions or misrepresentations. This can be particularly risky in case of a claim as falsified policies may be dropped right when you need coverage most. That means that in case of a car accident, drivers can find themselves on the hook for extensive medical and property damages.

Falsifying insurance documents can have long-term impacts on insurance policy availability and the prices for premiums. Insurance carriers may be unwilling to carry policies for a driver with a history of telling “white lies”. Beyond higher future premiums, there is more than continuous auto insurance coverage at stake. Call it what you may, a “white lie” is an intentional omission. In the eyes of the law, this is considered insurance fraud, punishable by both fines and incarceration.

On the brighter side, it’s still possible to get great rates on comprehensive auto insurance plans. Our agents can help find the maximum number of discounts for honest coverage at affordable rates.

Want to Know if Your Employees are Happy? Ask!

The average American employee spends almost 25% of each week at the office. Add a commute and overtime and that number begins to climb dramatically. The more employees feel like their time spent working matters, the more likely productivity will improve. Companies investing in employee morale stand to gain. Asking a handful of questions can help discreetly reveal employee opinion in the workplace.

1. On a scale of 1-10, how happy are employees?

Many managers find a simple scale of 1-10 helps gauge satisfaction in the workplace. Staff may have difficulty opening up about particular concerns; a number scale encourages feedback yet allows employees to remain noncommittal about responses. Those comfortable enough to elaborate should be encouraged to do so. The more information managers have, the better they can respond.

2. “If you could change one thing…?”

If employees could make one change to the organization, what would it be? This is a positive approach to understanding how to improve the workplace environment. Suggestions can range from improving the workspace to changing company processes and much more. Approach with an open mind and uncover deeper issues.

3. Is there room to grow?

Goals help increase staff retention and can help boost morale. People want something to work toward. With room for advancement, employees are likely to perform better and tend to feel better about coming to work.

4. Do employees feel like the company cares?

People like to feel acknowledged for their contributions. Encourage excellent performance by recognizing employees for performance. This will help foster stronger relationships in the company and helps encourage others to perform better.

5. Ask employees to describe the company in one sentence.

This is a direct way to gauge satisfaction. Limiting employees to single-sentence responses demands they select words carefully, placing an increased value on the response.

Remember that employees are simply responding to questions they’ve been asked. Treat all responses as constructive criticism. Penalizing employees for responses will create large divides. Increased interaction between staff and management can keep the workplace running smoothly.

5 Steps for Getting out of Debt

Debt is a challenge any time of the year. Life changes, shifts in employment, and more both in and out of our control can affect our financial well-being. During the holiday season, Americans tend to pile on more debt. Travel, gifts, and more put extra strain on the bank account. Come January, many are faced with large debts and the New Year is already off to a rocky start. Stop the cycle. This year, take control and shake loose of your debt. Follow these 5 steps and eliminate debt once and for all:

1. Start Saving

It sounds simple and that’s the challenge. To start saving, create a savings goal. For most people, the best place to begin is an emergency savings fund. Most professionals recommend an account equal to a month’s income for responding to emergencies. Most Americans lack sufficient savings or any savings at all. Create a defined savings goal, and plan for making regular deposits to achieve it.

2. Stop Borrowing

It can be difficult to get out of debt if the debt continues to grow. Start getting out of debt by eliminating credit spending. During the holiday season, the urge to give can take over, leading to increased spending with credit cards and other borrowed funds. To help limit debt size, make purchases with available funds.

3. Get Organized

To pay off debt get a grasp on the number of personal debts, the debt size, and the interest rates for each. Most strategies suggest clearing debts with the highest interest rate first. The more paid toward the principal balance the faster a debt is paid. Another common strategy recommends paying off debts with the smallest balances first. As small debts are paid continue to budget for them, and roll the payments into the paying off the next debt. Becoming organized will alleviate debt-related stress and make it easier eliminate debts once and for all.

4. Get on a Budget

Will savings goals established, a limit placed on adding debt, and a clear picture of financial obligations, create a budget. A budget tracks income, obligations, and expenses. Many people are surprised to see where the money goes each month. Small amounts add up each month. Create a budget and pay off debt faster. With a budget in hand, set realistic financial goals and create a plan for achieving them.

5. Take Action

A budget will define the paths for getting out of debt. This may reveal a need for increased action. For some, debts may outweigh monthly or annual income. Others may want to get out of debt faster than the current budget schedule. With a plan for getting out of debt in-hand, take action. This can include finding additional employment, reducing the amount spent on entertainment, and much more.

Getting a firm grasp on finances, creating a plan for approaching them, and seeing that plan through can help eliminate debt. This year take control of monthly financial obligations and get out of debt.

It’s Time to Get Tailored Construction Insurance

In the construction industry risk is inherent. Those able to assess and mitigate risk increase their chances for success. On the job site safety is an attitude. The right methods, equipment, and crew can help keep sites and people safe. For those behind the scenes, the risks are met with comprehensive construction insurance protection. Construction projects take all shapes and forms. Protection tailored for each project will offer maximum coverage for the best rates, helping improve the bottom line.

Projects large and small tend to include third-party contractors for some portion of completion. Landscape architects, HVAC professionals, and other design professionals may be contracted to perform a portion of construction. Add layers of protection to design and builder contracts with the right insurance protection. Tailored policies include coverage for job-specific risks. The strongest contracts include professional liability, auto and commercial liability, and employer’s liability; also referred to as workers’ compensation. As the builder, it’s reasonable to ask for this upon entering into agreements. For added coverage, homeowners and builders may wish to ask for pollution insurance as well.

Experts recommend including insurance protection as part of contracts with those performing the work as well. The subcontractors working on the construction site should be licensed and bonded. It is also recommended they carry personal liability insurance and workers’ compensation protection. Depending on the contract excess and professional liability may prove smart additions to a policy. For larger projects, builders and lenders can add owner’s protective professional insurance to a policy. This addition covers gaps in coverage from those contracted.

Liability insurance protects builders, lenders, and design professionals in 3 different ways:

  • Protection from claims against the company or staff
  • Coverage for damages caused by the company or staff
  • Assistance with unexpected expenses during claims

A construction project can involve many people over the course of completion and may last longer than expected. The chances the unexpected can occur are high; ask an agent about professional liability insurance.

Builders Risk Insurance Protection

The protection from liability insurance extends to staff and damages caused during construction. This leaves a gap in protection for the physical structure. For home construction projects homeowners can opt for construction insurance for active projects yet these carry significant limitations. For extra protection builders-risk insurance offers advantages for all parties. A single policy is sufficient and may be purchased by either the homeowner or contractor. The following details may help determine which party might procure builders risk insurance for the project:

  • Location of the project
  • Lender insurance requirements
  • Type of construction project

Some contractors may automatically carry builders risk. For more information on builders-risk policies and insurance protection contact an agent.

Protect Investments

Liability and builders-risk insurance create a safety-net for construction projects from start to finish. Construction insurance has advantages for homeowners, builders, and contractors. For extra protection and to cover project-specific requirements, additional insurance policies are available. Speak to an agent to create a complete shield of insurance protection for construction projects.

For more information on insurance for construction projects, home builds, building renovations and more call an agent today. Get affordable coverage and gain peace of mind. Our team is happy to answer questions.

Fire Safety in The Workplace

Office fires are responsible for approximately hundreds of deaths each year and thousands of injuries. That’s according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), tracking workplace safety and hazards. OSHA identified inadequate prevention measures, inaccessible exits, and poor training likely contributed to these numbers. Many fires can be prevented and the right training can help employees escape in case of danger. Evaluating current fire prevention measures, equipping facility and staff with responsive equipment, and incorporating employee training can all help reduce risk and injury from office fires.

1. Evaluate

The first step in improving fire response and prevention is to inspect and evaluate the workspace for any potential hazards for causing fires or preventing escape. Be sure to check:

  • Electrical wiring. Overuse of extension cords and power strips can lead to potential fire risk. They also create trip hazards. Seek safe and permanent solution for electrical needs.
  • Storage. Flammable materials have special storage instructions for preventing fires. Establish safe storage and ventilation procedures around the office or job site.
  • Smoking areas. Designated smoking areas and cigarette-butt collection containers reduce the risk of accidental fire.
  • Tools and appliances. Some tools and appliances have greater electrical requirements which may contribute to electrical fires if used in an unsafe manner. Check for the UL safety mark before turning plugging tools and appliances into electrical sockets.
  • Exits. Check for the proper number of building and room exits and clear for ease of use.
  • Emergency lighting. Check emergency lighting for function.

After evaluating current measures and practices improvements and additions can be made.

2. Equip

Lighting, sprinkler systems and alarms, and fire extinguishers all contribute to workplace safety. Depending on the size and layout of a workplace a combination of safety measures may help reduce risk. Fire extinguishers are an affordable and simple way to improve employee safety and reduce the risk of fire.

Different types of fire extinguishers are available for fighting different types of potential fires in the workplace. Individual requirements will help determine the right type of fire extinguisher for the workspace:

  • Type A: Fights fires made from wood and paper materials.
  • Type B: Extinguishes fires caused by flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, and industrial solvents.
  • Type C: Fights electrical fires.
  • Type D: Fights fires related to combustible metals like magnesium, potassium, and titanium.
  • Type K: Fights kitchen and grease fires.

Follow the regular maintenance schedule to keep fire extinguishers operable and ready in case of fire. Maintain access to fire extinguishers at all times.

3. Train

Equipment and training go together. Teach staff on fire responsive measures and hold regular safety training to keep employees safe. Employee fire safety training can be structured to include training on:

  • Finding and triggering fire alarms.
  • Locating and identifying safe exits.
  • Selecting and operating fire extinguishers.

Employers and staff should always place safety first. Train employees to evacuate any time they feel unsafe, the fire is too large, or exit may be threatened by remaining.

To learn more about workplace fire prevention and for other safety information, contact an agent. Fire prevention affects insurance premiums and coverage. Add safety measures and reduce risk. For more information about commercial fire insurance or for answers to insurance questions, call today.