Why Disability Insurance Should Be Part of Your Paid Leave Strategy

Benefits are becoming a key differentiator in the job market. A 2017 report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that nearly one third of organizations increased their benefit offerings over the past 12 months. The leading reason? To remain competitive in the talent marketplace.

Amid all the benefits being offered today, from pet insurance to unlimited time off, disability insurance remains one of the most critical forms of protection that employers can offer. Disability insurance protects someone’s ability to earn an income should illness or injury arise. At a time when emergency savings are shrinking and medical costs are rising, that safety net is becoming vital to an employee’s financial wellness.

Here are five reasons to consider offering this benefit to your workforce:

It’s the foundation of your employees’ financial security.

Without income protection the effects of not having an income become very real, very fast. An employee may not be able to pay their mortgage, their phone bill or contribute to their health insurance or retirement plans should a pregnancy, illness, or injury take them out of work for a few weeks or more.

Without it, the effects can be devastating.

By offering disability insurance, employers can avoid having the heartbreaking conversation about what to do after paid leave or sick leave ends (if it is even available). A 2017 CareerBuilder survey showed that nearly eight out of ten Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Data from the Federal Reserve in 2016 showed that nearly half of consumers said they couldn’t pay an unexpected $400 bill without having to take out a loan or sell something. 

It retains talent.

Not only does short- and long-term disability insurance help people feel more secure in their jobs, your employees are also more likely to return to work if they have this coverage. SHRM estimates that replacing an employee can cost 60 percent of their annual salary — so retention has a major impact on the bottom line.

It’s affordable.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the average cost of providing both long-term and short-term disability coverage in 2016 was approximately 10 cents per hours worked, or $205 per year. In contrast, the average employer contribution to health insurance averaged $2.86 per hour worked, or $5,725 per year. 

It’s a family-friendly benefit.

Short-term plans typically cover two weeks before and six weeks after a routine pregnancy. Unless you’re one of the few employers who offer paid family leave, disability insurance is a critical financial benefit for women in the workforce. 

To learn more about how disability insurance works, visit www.RealityCheckup.org

6 Ways to Protect Your Lower Back From Injury

Man holding his backBack pain is one of the most widespread issues in modern American life. Experts estimate that eight out of ten Americans will experience back pain in their lives. 

According to the Integrated Benefits Institute’s Health and Productivity Benchmarking 2016, musculoskeletal disorders (aka pain in the back and joints — especially the hips, knees and shoulders) account for the biggest portion of long-term disability claims — a total of 29 percent in 2016. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) meanwhile writes that musculoskeletal disorders are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time.

Here are six ways you can protect your lower back against injury — and the negative effects such an injury could impact on your ability to work and earn an income: 

Exercise Your Core

There are many real-world benefits of building up well-balanced and resilient core muscles. There is a wide range of exercises you can do to strengthen your core, such as incorporating front planks and leg lowering. If you can’t see yourself doing front planks and want to start with something simple, aim to go out for more walks. A walk nourishes the spinal structure.

Watch Your Posture

All the tiny habits we engage in every day can lead to big effects down the line. If you work in an office, check your posture at your desk. Follow these steps from the Cleveland Clinic to make sure you’re sitting with an optimum posture. 

Next, analyze your chair. Is it designed for a six foot two soul but you’re five foot four? Do your feet even rest on the floor? Ergonomics means “fitting a job to a person”, and an ergonomic chair is designed to perfectly fit with your body. By using a chair that allows you to adjust your posture according to your exact height and particular desk setup, you’ll lessen muscle fatigue, increase your productivity, and be far more healthy. It’s worth the time to investigate and correct your posture.

Walk Frequently

Regardless of what sort of chair you sit in, make sure you build up a habit of getting up and moving about frequently. The Mayo Clinic writes that the impacts of movement at work are profound; even leisurely movement with frequent breaks from one’s seat has been proven to have great impacts. You’ll burn more calories by doing this, and as the Mayo Clinic writes: “The muscle activity needed for standing and other movement seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body. When you sit, these processes stall — and your health risks increase. When you’re standing or actively moving, you kick the processes back into action.”

Travel With Care

If you drive a lot, tweak your posture while behind the wheel. A recent study in the U.K. found that a massive 75 percent of drivers were suffering from back pain caused by driving. A physiotherapist who worked on the study offered the following advice:

  • Keep the seat as close to the wheel as is comfortable, so you can easily reach the wheel with your elbows relaxed.
  • Adjust your backrest recline so it supports your spine without leaning too far back.
  • Ensure all mirrors are adjusted before you start your journey.
  • Build in rest stops every one-two hours for longer journeys, to stretch your legs.

Life Objects Carefully

Spend a moment to brush up on the best techniques for lifting heavy objects: keep your feet shoulder width apart, squat down rather than bending, and maintain a good posture with a straight back throughout. But don’t go too far, and avoid lifting all objects. Fiona Wilson, an Associate Professor and Chartered Physiotherapist at Trinity College Dublin recently argued that, “People are becoming less active and more overweight, which means they are becoming less fit and less able to tolerate the activity and loading for which we were designed. Recent expert advice highlights that the best way to prevent back pain is with exercise.”

Live Healthily

A healthy lifestyle, with a good diet, lots of water, and frequent exercise shores up your body’s strength and fitness. Watch your diet and try to keep the extra weight off — and be sure to get enough sleep. By building a preventative approach to your back’s health where you watch your posture and engage in healthy habits of exercise, eating, and rest, you’ll be able to build up your body’s best possible defenses against back pain.

That said, you won’t be able to prevent accidents that come out of the blue — so make sure you have an income protection plan in place in the event that you need to miss work for a prolonged period due to a back injury. A combination of health, exercise, and a solid financial plan will make you that much more ready to react to whatever life throws your way. 

The Spring Cleaning Task You Likely Forgot

Daffodils in the sunshine

It’s that time of the year where the sunlight has returned with vigor and vitality (here in New England at least) and you find yourself in spring cleaning mode. Those magazines that have been piling up – recycled. The junk mail you needed to attend to – filed. Your tax documents – complete.

As you survey your office, there’s one place you probably forgot, and that’s your desktop. No, not that desktop, the one where you have neatly color-coded pens and tablets lined up. The other desktop. The majority of our clutter today resides on our computers. All that clutter can lead to stress and a spiraling sense of being out of control. Here are tips on how to perform a digital, springtime detox:


We’ll start with email because, well, it just keeps arriving doesn’t it? In fact, almost 270 billion emails are sent each day. And sometimes it feels like they are all coming to your account.

There are two types of people in this world: inbox zero folks and digital hoarders. Neither one is necessarily better than the other. It’s all in what works for your personal style. Nevertheless, there’s no harm in cutting down on email clutter. Here are three tips to help manage the madness.

  1. Do a mass deletion.

Don’t worry; we’re not asking you to delete stuff you might later need. We’re going to give you the gift of clearing out tons of clutter, one big swath at a time. The secret? Go to your inbox and/or your “deleted files,” and pick someone who sends you emails every single day. It might be the local newspaper or retail store. It might even be Aunt Martha who loves a great cat joke.

Change your email view to sort by sender. Then, take that particular sender, highlight every email they’ve sent you and delete. Pick another one and do it again. Doesn’t that feel good? Guaranteed you have wiped out thousands of emails with this one trick.

  1. Deal with email as it arrives.

Staying on top of email is easier if you create a system. Most productivity experts recommend setting aside a couple of times a day that you can process email, rather than reacting the second it comes in, which will distract you from your current task. Take three actions with each email:

  • Read and delete – ideal.
  • Take action immediately – best for things that just take five minutes or less.
  • Save for later – but not in your inbox, lest it become a “dysfunctional to-do list.” Rather, put the note in an appropriate file, then add it to your actual to-do list or save it to a reading folder for when you have some down time.
  1. Keep email from coming.

One word: Unsubscribe. Yes, it seems simple to just delete the daily email from the photo-sharing site where you purchased holiday cards three years ago, but really… it’s not. Resolve to click “unsubscribe” every single time an email comes in from a merchant or news provider that you don’t need to see.

Too worried you might miss something important? Try Unrollme.com, a tool that allows you to keep your subscriptions available, but out of your inbox, as it catches them in a neat “Rollup” you can access when you have time. With this handy tool, you’ll no longer have to dodge the latest BOGO missive when looking for your boss’ update.

Computer Files

Your physical filing cabinet might be relatively well organized, but your digital files are probably overflowing. With the massive storage available in today’s computers, it’s easy enough to just leave everything where it is. But there’s a better way to handle the voluminous computer files that likely keep proliferating.

  1. Categorize the folders.

For projects that are complete, as in, you need to save the files but don’t need to refer to them currently, create one big folder and send all appropriate documents there. Then if you do need something, it will be easy enough to sort.

For projects that are ongoing, nest folders within folders. For example, give the main folder the client name, then create separate files for reports, sales data, invoices, etc.….whatever makes sense given the scope of your work. Then when you open a working folder, you won’t have to scroll incessantly to find a certain document.

  1. Name files strategically.

To make it easier to find the appropriate document, choose a naming structure that makes sense, whether it’s client name, followed by weekly report, followed by date…or whatever works for you. If you are consistent going forward, you’ll realize it’s far easier to find what you need without having to open every file searching for something.

Then when a project is complete, it will be that much easier to send all related documents to another part of your computer so they aren’t cluttering up the main screen.

  1. Have a backup plan.

Make sure you have working back-up storage, whether it’s a cloud-based system that automatically backs up each evening, or an external hard drive – or ideally, both.

Spending time spring cleaning your computer will pay untold dividends in productivity for the months to come. By having a desktop that is clean, well-organized and full of potential (rather than about to crash), you might even get to those essential tasks like building or refining your budget and organizing your finances for the year to come.

3 Ways Meditators Benefit the Workplace

Woman meditating at workHow many people are meditating or practicing mindfulness in your organization? A 2017 study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal Preventing Chronic Disease, suggests it may be more than you realize.

According to the study authors, approximately one in seven workers in the U.S. workforce “report engagement in some form of mindfulness-based activity”. The authors go on to argue that “these individuals can bring awareness of the benefit of such practices into the workplace.”

There has been a rush of scientific studies over the past three decades that measure the beneficial effects of meditation on human health (and while many report positive findings, the consensus isn’t out; some reports suggest that the science isn’t to be believed just yet). While the scientists debate the issue, business leaders are advocating for meditation. David Allan, editorial director of CNN Health and Wellness, went as far as arguing that workspaces are the perfect places to meditate within, and should offer rooms for meditation. 

Here are three key ways that meditators benefit the entire working ecosystem according to recent data:

  1. Stress Reduction

Mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety, are the fourth most common cause of both short- and long-term disability claims, according to 2016 data from the Integrated Benefits Institute. A 2017 study published in the journal Psychiatry Research offers compelling data that mindfulness meditation can help with the symptoms of depression and anxiety and enhance resilience to stress. Stress and employee burnout are major issues in HR management, so having employees actively offset their stress with a regular practice brings tremendous benefit to their health as well as benefiting those around them. 

  1. Increased Focus

Distraction has become a major obstacle. According to the 2018 Workplace Distraction Report by online learning marketplace Udemy, a staggering 36 percent of millennials/Gen Zers say they spend two or more hours per work day looking at their phones for personal activities. That same report says 66 percent of workers have never talked to a manager about their struggles with workplace distraction. Meditation is the art of learning to concentrate — on the breath, a mantra, or physical sensations depending on the type of meditation. This ability to focus on one thing leads to increased productivity.

  1. Strengthened Empathy

Meditation practices drawn from Mahayana Buddhist schools in particular, where the focus is on compassion, progressively build and develop one’s empathy and awareness of others. Not only does this positive frame of mind make people feel better and happier, it also makes them think more creatively. Many business leaders have connected empathy with innovation. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently gave a talk at Wharton where he argued that empathy is a key source of business innovation. It has also long been argued that Steve Jobs’ ability to empathize with the needs of consumers led to such innovations as the iPod and iTunes.

As you review your wellness program, consider mental health as much as physical health. Investigate bringing in speakers, establishing silent rooms for people to meditate or recharge within, and encourage the meditators in your ranks to share their experiences. When The Atlantic asked David Gelles, a New York Times writer and author of Mindful Work, about whether mindfulness is just another fad, Gelles had an interesting response.

I don’t think it’s a fad that employees and employers are realizing that we have to take better care of our own minds and our own bodies and that, by doing so, we can actually create better companies and better outcomes,” he said. “I think that that is a hopefully lasting shift in the way that many of the largest companies are thinking about how they have to do business.”

Everything You Need to Know About Your Credit Score

Person checking their credit score on a phone.Have you checked your credit score lately? Nearly half of Americans haven’t looked in the past six months, and one in seven respondents to a recent survey never have. It could be costing you. For example, you might not be getting the best rates available on everything from cell phone service to car insurance to a mortgage.

Not sure what your credit score is or how to improve it? Here are the top three questions that will help you know the score.

What is a credit score anyway?

Whether you’re paying back student loans or trying to get a mortgage, lenders will check your credit score to see if you’re a smart risk to lend money to. Credit scores range from 300 to 850. The higher your number, the better — it means that in the past you have responsibly paid your debts, which means new lenders are more likely to give you favorable rates. Anything above 700 is likely to qualify you for the best rates.

Credit scores are developed by the three main credit bureaus — Transunion, Equifax, and Experian. Each one of them figures out your score usually a slightly different algorithm but for the most part your results will be similar among the three bureaus.

How do I build my credit?

What many people don’t realize is that your credit starts at zero and you have to build it up over time. Here are the ways that you can responsibly build your credit:

  • Pay your bills on time. Every single time. Believe it or not, even one late or missed payment can cause a negative effect on your credit score. In fact, this relatively easy task is thought to be the No. 1 element that impacts your credit score. FICO (which is a score generated from the three credit bureaus) estimates that your on-time payment history accounts for as much as 35 percent of your credit score. It’s worth also taking steps to protect your income through forms of insurance like disability insurance, which helps you pay your bills if you need to miss work for an illness, injury, or pregnancy.
  • Don’t take out too many credit cards. It can be tempting to say yes to the eager cashier who’s offering you a discount if you sign up for a store card, but having too many cards can make a lender leery. After all, you theoretically could charge them all up at once.
  • Don’t run your card up. If your limit is $2,500, it seems reasonable that you should be able to charge $2,400, especially if you plan to pay it all off at the end of the month (which you should every month). But credit bureaus don’t look at it that way. When considering your “credit utilization,” they prefer you keep it right around 30 percent. That means you should only charge about $650 on that $2,500 card. If you feel like you can responsibly pay off more than that each month, consider getting a second no-fee card, and spread your spend out evenly.
  • Keep your cards open. This seems to contradict the earlier advice, but stick with us: Part of your credit score is based on how long you’ve had credit so you want to pick a card and stick with it. If you find a card that offers better terms and it makes sense for your lifestyle, you can take it out, but don’t automatically close the first card. Consider putting one routine bill on it, like your utilities, or use it only for groceries so that you’re still using it occasionally but not running up a balance that might surprise you at the end of the month.
  • Don’t keep a balance. It’s a common fallacy that you build credit by keeping a balance on your cards, but that is simply not true. One of the smartest financial practices you can learn is to pay your credit card bill in full every single month so you don’t rack up interest charges.

How can I check my credit score?

Checking your score is smart, not only because you want to know how your efforts are paying off, but because errors are relatively common. In fact, a study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that one in five consumers discovered an error when checking their reports.

The good news is that it’s possible to check your credit for free. Many credit cards now offer this as a service, or you can visit Annualcreditreport.com which lets you check your score on each of the credit bureaus once a year for free. To keep frequent tabs, check just one bureau at a time, which will allow you to see where you stand on one of your reports every four months. While the bureaus’ numbers differ slightly, it lets you watch for anything that might be alarming.

What To Do When an Employee is Diagnosed With Cancer

Two business people meeting.The first week of April is National Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week. This is a good time to review your company’s policies toward accommodating both young and older employees alike who are being treated for cancer.

There is a high probability that someone in your organization will receive a cancer diagnosis this year. According to data from the National Cancer Institute, almost 40 percent of men and women will manage living with cancer at some point during their lifetime. Other studies show that some forms, such as colorectal cancer, are increasing for millennials and Gen Xers.

It’s critical that businesses develop a clear approach for these employees that balances workplace accommodation and business continuity with empathy.

Here are five key steps to keep in mind:

Explain the Benefits They’ll Receive

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be stressful. If an employee you manage discusses their situation with you, guide them to HR first. They’ll need to know the benefits they can access such as health insurance, disability insurance, and flexible work options — as well as the steps they’ll need to take.

If you offer disability insurance, you will be providing a tremendous service to your employees by helping them receive a paycheck if they need to take time off work. The Health and Productivity Benchmarking survey for 2016 from the Integrated Benefits Institute shows that cancer is the second most common cause of long-term disability claims and the fifth most common cause of short-term disability claims.

There are also protections for workers that your business needs to honor. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers who have disabilities such as cancer and are able to work.

An employee may also qualify for family and medical leave protection under federal, state, county and/or city statutes, which can offer eligible workers up to three months of job-protected, unpaid leave per year. (The employee can request this leave on full-time, part-time, or intermittent basis.) And some employers go a step further and provide paid leave to employees for their own serious medical conditions.

Let the Employee Lead the Conversation About Disclosure

Employees will vary greatly in how — and whether — they want to share their diagnosis with you or their coworkers. (Workers are only required to give detail to the designated person in your company — or a third-party administrator — about why they need workplace accommodations.) Some people will appreciate having everyone know, while others will prefer to keep things confidential. This is a personal issue; it’s also a legal one. Employers need to protect medical privacy as outlined in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The manager should check what the employee would prefer, and help to facilitate the conversation. If they send out a memo on behalf of the employee, let them approve it first. If the employee prefers to not mention the diagnosis, have clear procedures in place so that everyone can be on the same page.

Ask Them What Support They’ll Need

An incisive article by executive coach Anne Sugar in Harvard Business Review encourages managers to take the lead in forming a work plan for the employee. Managers can do this themselves or identify a small team to work with the employee on the plan, so the workload is evenly distributed.

Cancer treatment often includes visits to treatment facilities and health care providers, so you will need to accommodate their time away from the workplace as well as time the worker might request to recover from procedures. Be realistic about this work plan. The HBR article points out that Anne Sugar expected to be out of work for six to eight weeks, but ended up being out for 12 weeks. She recommends creating a “Plan B,” so in the event that a more long-term recovery is needed, action steps are clear.

Establish a Point Person for Communication

If the employee takes time off on a full-time, part-time, or intermittent basis, identify who will be their main “point person.” This individual will funnel requests and communications, and ensure that your company is not taxing your employee with too much information. Bear in mind, however, that if an employee takes time under their FML leave, the employer should not check in on them regularly with the exception of letting the worker know when their leave will end.

Be Empathetic

Finally, in all of these encounters, lead with empathy and clarity. Garth Callaghan, an IT recruiter for a division of ManpowerGroup who went through various diagnoses within his job told the Society for Human Resource Management, “Don’t forget that this person is scared for their life. Be empathetic. Use words that show that you’re on the same side as the employee.”

By following these steps and planning a comprehensive action plan, your preparation will directly benefit the employee. It will also create a culture that is compassionate and well-informed.

Why a Multigenerational Workforce is Good for Business

Meeting with workers at a deskFor the first time, there are now five generations in the American workforce. There is the Silent Generation (aged 73-90), the Baby Boomers (aged 54-72), Generation X (aged 38-53), Millennials (aged 22-37), and the under-20 year olds who are still being named (although some are calling them Generation Z). This mix of ages is bringing a set of new challenges and benefits to HR teams. 

It’s a trend that is only going to become more pronounced. A new report by the U.S. Census Bureau in March 2018 revealed that according to the latest population projections, adults aged 65 and older will outnumber children for the first time in history in the U.S. by 2035. Meanwhile, people are staying in their jobs for longer. A 2016 Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that in May 2016, 18.8 percent of Americans aged 65 or older — approximately nine million people — were employed in full- or part-time work. This is double the number of people working at this age in 2010.

While experts warn against stereotyping people according to their generation, a healthy mix of ages has a beneficial impact on the overall strength of a business. 

Here are three benefits of a workforce that is age-diverse:

Cross-Generational Mentoring

Jacquelyn B. James, a psychologist and co-director of the Center on Aging and Work at Boston College told The New York Times that: “The context of aging and work is changing.” She says it’s not just about lifespans lengthening and people working longer — but also education. “This is one of the most educated generations in history,” she said. “A lot of the jobs people are continuing in are fields in which you use the mind, not the body.”

Tap into this wisdom by setting up opportunities for cross-generational conversations. Mentoring is a vital business practice that builds trust, engagement, morale, and increases job satisfaction. It also allows younger team-members to ask questions that they may hesitate to ask peers of their own age.


Employees who have been with an organization for many years carry tremendous value in terms of their institutional knowledge. They have lived experience that should be harnessed and shared with others. Make sure they are being given the chance to pass on these insights. Otherwise, there is a very real risk of their leaving the organization without passing on invaluable knowledge. 

Diversity and Inclusion

In the 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey by Deloitte, 69 percent of executives rated diversity and inclusion as an important issue — 59 percent more than in 2014. Workplaces are gradually becoming more diverse in terms of disability, race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. But how much are CEOs focusing on age as an element of diversity?

A CEO survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2015 showed that only eight percent of CEOs included age as a factor in their diversity and inclusion strategy. Ageism meanwhile is one of the most common forms of discrimination in the workplace. Offset these risks by building an inclusive and intelligent culture that draws on the strengths of different generations. 

Our aging population isn’t going away. Building age-friendly workplaces will only become more important as we move ahead. Businesses should react by identifying the strengths and meeting the needs of their workers along the entire life cycle. This might include offering a wide range of voluntary benefits in addition to core benefits, so that people can choose the plan that most suits their particular point in life. You might need to rethink many elements of your culture, such as how you train staff and how you approach remote and flexible work options. 

By building a workplace culture that meets the needs of individuals through all phases in life, you’ll be that much more resilient over the long-term. 

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Disability Insurance

Woman with crutches sitting on a sofaDisability insurance provides critical financial protection to American workers. Yet it’s a highly misunderstood form of insurance. You probably have health insurance, home or renter’s insurance, and car insurance. But what about your need for income protection insurance?

Disability insurance pays you a portion of your income when an injury or illness takes you out of work for an extended period of time. It’s a critical form of insurance for most working Americans — because it means if you have to miss work for weeks or months at a time, you will have a financial safety net in place to help cover the bills.

Here are six frequently asked questions about disability insurance:

1. Do I really need it?

Most people hear the word “disability” and assume this form of insurance only applies to very serious injuries and illnesses — yet many common injuries (like fractures) or chronic conditions (like back, hip, or knee problems) can result in your not being able to do your job and earn a paycheck.

According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, more than one in four of today’s 20-year-olds can expect to be out of work for at least a year because of some disabling condition before they reach age 67 (the normal retirement age). Will you have an ability to pay your bills if you need to miss work for several months? If you don’t have access to that much in emergency savings, or friends or family that can help pay your bills when you need to take time off work, disability insurance makes a lot of sense.

2. What’s the difference between short term and long-term disability insurance?

Short-term disability (STD) insurance plans generally protect your income for up to three or more commonly six months. Some plans can run even longer than that. Short-term plans typically cover between 60 and 70 percent of your pay, depending on the policy.

Long-term disability (LTD) insurance protects your income if you need to miss work for longer than three to six months. It usually covers 40 to 70 percent of your income. It costs more than short-term disability insurance because it’s a policy that will protect you for a significantly longer time. The time your coverage pays benefits will range depending on your policy. It can be for a specific period — ranging from two to five or ten years — or until your Social Security retirement age. The waiting period for most LTD policies is three or six months — so you’ll need a plan to cover costs before the payments begin (usually this time is covered by your STD plan or your savings.)

3. Does disability insurance cover all disabilities?

Every plan will have its own definition of disability, so you’ll need to review the definition in your particular policy. In general, many policies do not include the following disabilities:

  • A disability resulting from participation in a riot
  • Injuries which are intentional and a result of self-infliction
  • War or any act of war
  • Any period of disability during incarceration
  • A disability resulting from a crime in which the individual has been convicted
  • Pre-existing conditions (definition varies by policy)
  • For short-term disability: occupational sickness or injury (as this is generally covered by Worker’s Compensation)

4. Can I work part-time and still collect benefits?

Your insurance contract will specify if you can receive benefits while working part-time. Many policies allow you to work, but take the amount you earn and subtract it from your benefit. If your policy has a lifetime benefit cap, working part-time may extend the life of your benefits.

5. How much disability insurance should I get?

Insurance companies typically do not sell disability insurance policies which replace all of your income. But, they do sell policies which can replace up to 70 percent of your income. If your employer does not offer a disability plan with 70 percent coverage, you may want to look for supplemental insurance coverage to offset the difference.

One major benefit of owning your policy: When you pay premiums yourself, you are paying with after-tax dollars. Therefore, any benefits will likely be tax-free. Tax-free benefits paying 70 percent of your income comes close to being 100 percent of your take-home pay. If your employer pays the premiums and the cost is not included in your taxable income, then benefits will likely be subject to taxation.

A good rule of thumb is 70 percent coverage, but, as with all insurance needs, it depends on your circumstances and what you can afford. Regardless, seek out a qualified advisor if you need help crunching the numbers.

Disability insurance is a good idea

Just think how devastating the loss of income would be for you and your dependents. Then think how much worse it would be to lose the ability to earn an income. This is a circumstance you can avoid with proper planning and an action plan.

7 Ways to Make Tax Time Easier

Couple working on their paperwork at a table.The countdown is on for Tax Day. Cue the groans. But you can enter April with a spring in your step — and extra money in your wallet — by using these seven tips to make tax time easier.

1. Figure out all the tax deductions or credits you might qualify for.

The first step is to make sure you’re not leaving any money on the table — which you might be if you don’t itemize. Tax payers who itemized claimed $1.2 trillion in savings due to tax deductions, while those who took the standard deduction only claimed about half that at $747 billion. It could well be that those who stuck with the standard figure shortchanged themselves.

Here are some categories you might not have thought of:

2. But don’t take any tax deductions you can’t prove.

Yes, you need a “paper trail,” which means receipts for business lunches and other expenses that you are trying to write off. And be especially careful about the home office deduction — setting up your laptop at the kitchen counter doesn’t cut it. The IRS specifically states the office must be for “regular and exclusive” use to qualify for the deduction.

3. Get your paperwork in order.

If you’re paying someone to do your taxes, it pays (literally!) to have your information at the ready: A survey from the National Society of Accountants found that three-quarters of tax preparers charged an average of $117 for disorganized or incomplete paperwork.

Here are some examples of the backup you should pull together to support your tax return:

  • W2s
  • Receipts for healthcare or dental work, plus prescription costs not covered by your health insurance
  • Details on your investment contributions, including debts if you intend to write them off as losses
  • Letters that prove your charitable donations in excess of $250
  • Receipts that support all your write offs, as mentioned in No. 1, such as childcare costs, moving expenses, and energy-efficient home improvements
  • Other paperwork as applicable to your situation

If all this paperwork seems arduous, take heart that this could be the last year you’ll pore over your deductions so carefully. That’s because the standard deduction for Tax Year 2018 is roughly doubled from $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for couples.

4. Don’t overlook your side hustle income.

Got a burgeoning business as an Etsy crafter, dog walker, or Task Rabbit? Believe it or not, the IRS wants a piece of that income too, even though you won’t be issued a 1099 or W2 documentation to prove it.

Any income you earn from a side gig should be reported on a Schedule C form. The good news is that you can also deduct any expenses — leashes and dog treats included!

5. Decide if you’re going DIY or using a paid tax preparer.

Even among taxpayers making less than $50,000, one in three hired someone to do their taxes, such as an accountant or tax prep company. However, many might qualify for IRS Free File Software, available to taxpayers earning $66,000 or less. The IRS estimates that 51.1 million free federal tax returns have been filed since the software was first introduced in 2002.

Of course, if your tax returns are complicated, a tax preparer can save you time, and possibly even money if they are able to identify credits or deductions you didn’t know you were eligible for.

6. Vow to do better next year.

If your March is going out like a lion because you’re ripping through your house looking for tax backup, pledge to do better starting today. Whether you file receipts in a shoebox or use an app like Shoeboxed, there’s no time like the present to get in order for 2018 to avoid being an April fool yet again.

7. Take a breath — you have more time than you thought.

We saved the best for last. Traditionally April 15 is the last day you have to file your taxes, but in 2018 you get two extra days — until April 17, thanks to April 15 landing on a Sunday and Washington D.C.’s “Emancipation Day” hitting April 16. And as always, consult a CPA or tax advisor to answer questions unique to your situation.

Is Loneliness a Health Risk In the Workplace?

Young woman looking out of window.Of all the health risks that HR teams are watching these days, how many are analyzing the rising levels of loneliness in the workplace? We live in the most technologically connected age in human history — with open plan offices and devices that allow us to communicate with each other in manifold ways in an instant. Yet loneliness is on the rise.

An Emerging Epidemic of Loneliness

In September 2017, Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy wrote a riveting cover story for Harvard Business Review titled “Work and the Loneliness Epidemic.” Murthy, who served as the 19th Surgeon General of the United States from 2014 to 2017, argues that loneliness is one of the most pressing health risks of our time. “During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes,” he writes. “It was loneliness.”

He cites conditions such as the gig economy, the rise of telecommuting, social media, and the fact that communities are becoming increasingly geographically displaced, contributing to loneliness levels doubling since the 1980s. This is having a very real impact on people’s health. One study showed that people with stronger social relationships had a 50 percent increased likelihood of a long life than those with weaker social bonds: the researchers concluded that a lack of social relationships has a greater impact on shortening life spans than obesity and a lack of physical exercise.

Workplaces Can Pioneer Solutions

Murthy argues that institutions that can play an essential role in weaving back together the threads of our communities and sense of connection. It’s not just an initiative that is good for people; it’s good for business and the bottom line. “Companies in particular have the power to drive change at a societal level not only by strengthening connections among employees, partners, and clients,” he argues. “But also by serving as an innovation hub that can inspire other organizations to address loneliness.”   

An engaged and strongly connected team boosts productivity. Research in 2011 by California State University and the Wharton School of Business found that a person who feels lonely at work will not just suffer themselves, but their loneliness will negatively impact the  effectiveness of the wider ecosystem. 

When surveying 672 employees and 114 supervisors across 143 work team units, the researchers found that “an employee’s work loneliness triggers emotional withdrawal from their organization, as reflected their increased surface acting and reduced affective commitment. The results also show that co-workers can recognize this loneliness and see it hindering team member effectiveness.”

Their conclusion is that management “should not treat work loneliness as a private problem that needs to be individually resolved by employees who experience this emotion; but rather should consider it as an organizational problem that needs to be addressed both for the employees’ sake and that of the organization.” 

How to Address Loneliness in the Workplace

There are many ways you can start to build more social connection into the workplace. Here are a few:

  • Build Trust: Make sure that your leadership team is modeling the kind of relationship-building that you want to see happen throughout the organization. As Murphy writes in HBR, “Having senior members of an organization invest in building strong connections with other team members can set a powerful example, especially when leaders are willing to demonstrate that vulnerability can be a source of strength, not weakness.”
  • Encourage Diverse Friendships Across Departments: The British job site Totaljobs did research into “work spouses”, a phenomenon where two people will form very close relationships with each other at work. While these friendships are very healthy, there is one drawback: 23 percent of people said they would consider quitting if their “spouse” left. Companies can offset the isolation people may feel if their work buddy leaves, by helping people build bonds across departments. Building more friendships into the fabric of the organization will make it more resilient. It’ll also make it more innovative. O.C. Tanner showed that 72 percent of great work projects involved people talking to people outside their inner circle.
  • Encourage Conversations: With all the efficiencies of modern life, many of us have lost touch with the simple art of having a conversation. Weave genuine conversations back into the workplace by setting up regular lunches or social gatherings where people can connect in an intentional way. Even things like adding five minutes of personal talk into the start of a conference call can make an enormous difference for remote workers. These small touches go a long way in making someone feel included and part of the team — and that feeling of inclusion is good for everyone.