Long Term Care Insurance Policy: What You Need To Know

Long Term Care Insurance Policy: What You Need To KnowWe all hope to enjoy a fulfilling and healthy life for as long as we can. Unfortunately, health issues can get the better of us at any time.

Chronic diseases and conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are among the most common and costly of all health problems. As of 2012, about half of all adults (117 million people) had one or more chronic health conditions. One of four adults had two or more chronic health conditions.

If you develop a chronic illness or become disabled and can no longer care for yourself for an extended period of time, are you financially prepared to pay for your extended long term care services?

According to a government report, Americans are living longer as death rates fall. As life expectancies increase, so does the duration of long-term care needs. The financial burden of these needs may fall on your family after you’ve depleted your own savings. Are your loved ones financially prepared to care for you?

If you answered no to the above questions, you might want to consider getting a long term care insurance policy.

Usually, neither your heath insurance nor Medicare will pay for extended long term care services. However, a long term care insurance policy can help protect you financially should you need extended care in the future.

Who Needs a Long Term Care Insurance Policy?

According to the statistics, 63 percent of people turning 65 will need long term care at some point in their lives. The remaining 37 percent of patients receiving long term care are under age 65. 

Long term care is costly and can quickly diminish your life’s savings.   

According to a Genworth 2015 Cost of Care Survey:

The median cost for a home-health aide based on 44 hours per week is $45,760 a year.

Nursing care in a facility with a private room has a median cost of $91,250 a year.

A long term care insurance policy can financially ensure you’ll have access to the best quality care when you need it, without depending on your loved ones.

A long-term care insurance policy is designed to cover a patient’s expenses if an illness, disability, or impairment becomes an interference with his or her activities of daily living.

Activities of daily living (ADL) refer to six major activities of everyday life:

  • Bathing
  • Continence
  • Dressing
  • Eating
  • Toileting
  • Walking

When you can’t do these basic things on your own, most likely you won’t be able to earn a livable salary. This is when a long term care insurance policy can protect you financially for your extended care needs.

Types of Care Covered By A Long Term Care Insurance Policy

A long-term care insurance policy pays for a wide range of services and procedures that aren’t usually covered by medical insurance.

The types of care fall into three categories:

Skilled: If you have a serious illness or injury which you can recover from, you’ll probably receive skilled care from nurses or professional therapists. Skilled care is provided daily, usually ordered by a physician, and involves a treatment plan. Skilled care is designed to help you get better.

Intermediate Care: This type of care is similar to skilled care, but is not provided on a daily basis. For example, if you injured your leg and need to visit a physical therapist five times a week to help you heal, that would be considered intermediate care.

Custodial Care: Custodial care can range from in-home care provided two or three days a week, to 24-hour nursing home care. Unlike skilled and intermediate care, which is used to improve your health, custodial care isn’t intended to heal you. Instead, custodial care includes assistance with activities of daily living.

How to Get A Long Tern Care Insurance Policy

The three primary ways to get long term care coverage are:

  • To buy it on your own with the help of an agent
  • Through your employer
  • Through an association or membership group

Some benefits also are available from the government, through Medicare and Medicaid. However, you should be careful about relying on government programs because Medicare covers only short-term skilled nursing home care, and Medicaid will pay for your care only if your assets are very limited.

Be sure to do your research and ask questions before buying a long term care insurance policy. This is where an insurance agent can be a valuable resource. They can help you understand the language in your policy, explain the specific terms and conditions, and guide your decision around which long term care insurance policy is right for you.

Four Benefits of a Roth IRA for Your Retirement Plan

Four Benefits of a Roth IRAThinking about savings is essential, but especially when it comes to retirement.

Americans are living longer than ever, and retirement is getting more and more expensive as the cost of living and inflation continue to grow.

Several investment vehicles exist to help you save for retirement such as a Roth IRA.

What is a Roth IRA?

A Roth IRA is an individual retirement savings account that allows your money to grow tax-free. You put your after-tax dollars in a Roth IRA, meaning you’ve already paid taxes on the money you put into it. Since every penny in your Roth IRA is your own, your money grows tax free, and when you withdraw at retirement, you pay no taxes. The entire amount goes straight into your pocket.

You can contribute to a Roth IRA at any age as long as you have earned income from a job.

However, there are income eligibility limits. For example, if you make too much money, you can’t contribute to a Roth IRA. However, given the annual median household income of about $50,000 most Americans do qualify for Roth IRA contributions.

Benefits of a Roth IRA

There are several benefits of a Roth IRA which make this retirement vehicle so appealing.

Tax-Free Compounding

A clear benefit of a Roth IRA is tax-free compounding, which means you don’t have to pay taxes on any capital gains or dividends on your investments.

In addition, any qualified withdrawals you make during retirement are tax-free.

You do receive a similar tax benefit with a traditional IRA. In addition to tax-free capital gains and dividends, a traditional IRA gives you an up-front tax break, as you may be able to deduct your contributions from your taxable income.

Therefore, the choice between the two account types comes down to whether you want your tax benefits now or in retirement.

One benefit of Roth IRA’s tax-free withdrawals is it protects you from income tax raises. If you’re still years or even decades from retirement, it’s likely you’ll be in a higher tax bracket when you retire, so it may be best to invest through a Roth IRA  and forgo the up-front tax break.

No Minimum or Maximum Age Requirements For Contributions Or Withdrawals

Unlike other investment accounts like a traditional IRA which requires you to stop contributing and start making withdrawals at a particular age,  a Roth IRA has no minimum or maximum age requirements.

With a Roth IRA, if you don’t need the money you can leave it in the investment and let it earn additional years of tax-free compounding.

Easy Withdrawals At Any Time

One of the exciting benefits of a Roth IRA is that you can withdraw money at any time for any reason unlike other types of retirement accounts. Other retirement plans such as a 401(k) and a traditional IRA only allow you to make early withdrawals under certain circumstances like financial hardship.

You can use your Roth IRA both as a retirement plan and as an emergency fund. For example, if you’ve contributed $10,000 to a Roth IRA each year for 20 years, you can access $200,000 of your savings whenever you need for whatever you need. 

A Roth IRA lets you access your investment gains early without a penalty. You can withdraw gains from your investment to spend toward the purchase of your first home or to cover college education expenses.

However, if you choose to withdraw more than your original contributions early, you’ll have to pay income tax on the investment gains unless you are over 59 1/2 years of age.

Roth IRAs Can Be An Effective Estate Planning Tool

A Roth IRA can also be an effective estate planning tool because it allows you to let your money  grow tax-free for your entire life as well as leave tax-free income to your beneficiaries.

Your beneficiaries will be subject to minimum distributions based on their age beginning in the year after you die. However, unlike the original account holder, the beneficiary cannot let money in an inherited Roth IRA compound tax-free indefinitely. The IRS publishes a list of “life expectancy factors” that are used to calculate the minimum distribution requirements.

A Roth IRA is a unique retirement savings tool and can be an essential part of your long-term financial planning. We’ve discussed several benefits of a Roth IRA above but as with all types of retirements plans there are advantages and disadvantages. Make sure you do your research before deciding which retirement savings vehicles are right for you.

Health Savings Accounts: Seven Surprising Benefits

Health Savings Accounts: Seven Surprising BenefitsIf you or a family member were to become ill or be diagnosed with a serious health condition would you have enough money to pay the medical bills?

Would you have any money left after you pay for your health costs and all of your other expenses?

If you answered no to the above questions, you might want to participate in a health savings accounts (HSA).

Health savings accounts were created to help individuals save for future health expenses and control health care costs. Health savings accounts help you spend your health care dollars more wisely if you use your own money.

Health care costs are a huge problem in America. Unpaid medical bills are among the leading causes of bankruptcies in America. A serious illness or health problem can bankrupt anyone—even those who make a six-figure salary. 

Today, we share some benefits of health savings accounts, and explain how they might help you save some money in the future.

What is a Health Savings Account?

Health savings accounts (HSAs) combine high deductible health insurance with a tax advantaged savings account. Basically, HSAs are like personal savings accounts specifically for healthcare costs. You can only use the money in them to pay for your deductibles or health care expenses. 

Once you meet the deductible, the insurance starts paying for your health expenses. The remainder of the money in your savings account earns interest and is yours to keep. You—not your employer or insurance company—own and control the money in your health savings accounts.

There are four federal requirements to be eligible for HSAs:

  • Individuals must be covered simultaneously by a qualified “high-deductible” health insurance policy (HDHP).
  • The HSA participant cannot be covered by any other health insurance plan such as a spouse’s plan.
  • The HSA participant must be under age 65.
  • The HSA participant cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s federal income tax return.

There are no income, employment, or other age limits in the federal law.

Health savings accounts continue to gain popularity as a health coverage savings option for employers and their employees. In 2013 enrollment in HSAs reach nearly 15.5 million, growing by almost 15 percent since 2012 and more than tripling in the past six years.

Despite the enrollment numbers, many individuals have misconceptions about the features and benefits of HSAs.

Health Savings Accounts Benefits You Might Find Surprising

Employee Benefit News shares seven HSA features that you may find surprising:

  • After age 65, you can withdraw money from your HSA for any type of purchase  (not just medical expenses) without penalty, similar to a traditional IRA.
  • You can invest your HSA dollars.
  • You can use HSA dollars to pay for things that aren’t covered by your insurance plan such as:
    • Acupuncture
    • Dental
    • Vision
    • Physiotherapy
    • Chiropractic services
    • Travel costs for medical care
    • Certain procedures like laser eye surgery
  • You can make tax deductible contributions to your HSA until April 15 (tax deadline) for the previous year.
  • You can pay now, cash in later. HSA members can hold onto their qualified health care expense receipts, and cash them in for a tax-free payout any time in the future.
  • If you don’t use it, you won’t lose it, unlike many flexible spending accounts (FSAs).
  • You can take your HSA dollars with you when leave your job.

Are Health Savings Accounts Right For You?

If you’re generally healthy and want to save for future health care expenses you might want to enroll in a heath savings account plan.

If you’re near retirement, a health savings account makes sense because the money in the HSA can be used to offset costs of your medical care after retirement.

However, if you might need expensive medical care in the short-term and wouldn’t be able to pay the high deductible, a HSA may not be your best option.

As with any financial decision there are pros and cons to health savings accounts. You must evaluate your unique circumstances to determine if an HSA is the right choice for you.

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Mortgage Protection Life Insurance: Do You Really Need It?

Mortgage Protection Life Insurance: Do You Really Need It?One of the biggest investments you might ever make in your lifetime is the purchase of your home.

With the purchase of a home comes the responsibility of making regular mortgage payments. And if you’re the primary breadwinner, your family depends on your income to help make these mortgage payments.

Unfortunately, this also means if for some reason you are no longer providing an income to your family (due to job upheaval, disability, or even death), your loved ones might struggle to manage the mortgage payments for your home.

None of us like to think about the unfortunate events in life, but the truth is tragedy can strike any of us at any time. Although we can’t control the unexpected we can certainly be prepared for it.

One way to protect your home and your family in the event of your death is through mortgage protection life insurance.

What is Mortgage Protection Life Insurance?

Mortgage protection life insurance is a term life insurance policy  specifically designed to protect your mortgage should you die during the term of the policy.

If you were to die while your mortgage protection life insurance was still in effect, your policy would pay out a capital sum that would be just sufficient to repay your outstanding mortgage.

For example, if you have a 30-year mortgage you can purchase a 30-year term mortgage protection life insurance policy that covers the amount owed on your mortgage. This ensures your family will be able to pay off your home and continue to live there after your lifetime.

Generally, there are two types of mortgage protection life insurance policies:

  • Decreasing term insurance: The size of the policy decreases with the outstanding balance of the mortgage until both reach zero.
  • Level term insurance: The size of the policy does not decrease.

The Difference Between Mortgage Protection Life Insurance and Private Mortgage insurance

Although they sound similar, mortgage protection life insurance is not the same as private mortgage insurance.

Private mortgage insurance is a policy issued by an insurance company that benefits your lender. If you are unable to make your mortgage payments your home might go into foreclosure. If your home goes into foreclosure and your lender is not able to recoup the outstanding balance by selling the home, the insurance company that issued the private mortgage insurance will pay your lender the difference.

Private mortgage insurance goes to the lender if you default on your mortgage.  It doesn’t have a specific benefit for you as a borrower while a mortgage protection life insurance policy protects you as a borrower by paying you a cash amount to repay your outstanding mortgage.

Do You Really Need Mortgage Protection Life Insurance if You Already Have Life Insurance?

If you already have a life insurance policy when you buy your first home, it’s important to take a look at what type and how much coverage you have as well as how much the home purchase increases your coverage needs.

In a traditional life insurance policy, your family would receive a death benefit if you die, however, in a mortgage protection life insurance policy, your family only receives a death benefit if you die while the mortgage is still in existence.

If you already have a whole life or universal life policy, you may want to add a mortgage protection life insurance policy. You can carry both policies at the same time, and while your mortgage protection policy will expire, your whole or universal life policy will protect you for the duration of your life.

Adding a mortgage protection life insurance policy to your existing whole or variable life insurance policy adds an extra level of coverage. This ensures your family has the necessary money to pay off the mortgage in addition to the death benefit from the other policy to help with other financial needs.

When your home is paid off and you no longer need a policy to protect it, you can let the term policy expire and retain the other coverage as a death benefit for your family.

Before buying a mortgage protection life insurance policy you should carefully consider all factors of the policy. This is where an insurance agent can be a valuable resource. They can help you understand the language in your policy, explain the specific terms and conditions, and guide your decision around which mortgage protection life insurance policy is right for you.

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What to Include in a Simple Will

What to Include in a Simple WillWhen you’re in your 20s and 30s, feeling young and healthy,  the idea of writing even a simple will seems morbid and unnecessary.

However, life can be unpredictable and anything can happen to any one of us at any time, sometimes when we least expect it.

No matter how young or old, we’re mortal.

It’s Never to Early to Write a Simple Will

When your time comes, who will take care of your children? How will your assets such as money and property be distributed?

These are some of the important questions to consider and include in a simple will to ensure that your loved ones are protected financially and otherwise after your death.

It’s never too early to start writing a simple will.

A will is a legal document in which you give specific instructions to be carried out after your death.

Before you make an appointment with your lawyer to write a simple will, consider the following information which should be included in it.

List of Beneficiaries

A beneficiary is a person who gains benefits from your will. You should think about who your beneficiaries are and list them in your will.

Beneficiaries can include your:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Legal dependents
  • Other family members
  • Friends
  • Relationship partner
  • Charitable organizations
  • Pets

Name the Executor of Your Simple Will

An executor is a person or institution named in your will to carry out your wishes upon your death.

In your simple will, you should name an executor to:

  • Collect and manage your assets
  • Repay any debts
  • Pay any expenses or taxes which might be owed
  • Distribute your assets to your beneficiaries according to the instructions in your will, with the court’s approval

It’s important to ask the person first if he or she is comfortable being the executor of your will. Your executor serves a very important role and has significant responsibilities, so you should choose this person very carefully.

Appoint a Guardian For Your Children

Naming a guardian in your simple will is one of the most important things you’ll do as a parent but it can also be one of the hardest. Therefore, it’s important to carefully think about who you want to nominate as the person or people who will care for your children after your death.  For example, if there isn’t a surviving spouse, grandparents might make the best guardians in the short-term but consider if they’re a viable option in the long-term. As your children’s grandparents age they may need more care themselves and might not be able to provide proper care for your children. Perhaps, in the long-run a close relative or friend might be a more suitable choice.

Regardless of who you choose as your children’s guardian, ask them first to make sure they feel comfortable with this responsibility.

Instructions For Distribution of Your Assets

Making a list of all valuable assets helps ensure you’re not accidentally leaving any significant property out of your simple will.

If you have significant property or assets, or multiple investments and financial arrangements, determining the best way to distribute those assets can get complicated. Once you’ve made a list, your lawyer can help you determine the most tax-efficient way to distribute your assets.

If you don’t have significant or complex assets that require legal guidance, you’ll simply need to decide who receives your assets and how they’ll be distributed.

Make sure you understand the types of property and assets to include in your simple will.

For example, the following types of property and assets can be included in a will:

  • Real property, such as real estate, land, and buildings
  • Cash, including money in checking accounts, savings accounts, and money market accounts
  • Intangible personal property, such as stocks, bonds, and other forms of business ownership, as well as intellectual property, royalties, patents, and copyrights
  • Unproductive property, such as valuable objects like cars, artwork, jewelry, and furniture

However, there are some property and assets that cannot be included in a will. You can find examples of these here.

Who Needs To Know About Your Simple Will

Once you’ve considered all of the above mentioned information you should contact a lawyer.

No one other than you and the lawyer who writes your simple will needs to know the contents of your will.

However, it’s important that your executor and your loved ones should know where to find it.

You should keep your original will in a secure place like a safe deposit box or a locked, fireproof box at your home or office.

Writing a will is never something we want to think about, but it is an important document to have at any age, and a key part of a comprehensive sound financial picture.

The Air Carrier Access Act: Protecting Passengers With Disabilities

The Air Carrier Access Act: Protecting Passengers With DisabilitiesTraveling these days can feel like a challenge.

Huge airport terminals. Long delays. Extensive security protocol.

And all of these issues (and then some) become even more challenging if you have a disability of any type. 

Fortunately in this country, the Air Carrier Access Act makes it a little easier for passengers with disabilities to travel with the same respect and dignity as everyone else.

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel and requires air carriers to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities. In 1990, the Department of Transportation issued a rule defining the rights of passengers and the obligations of air carriers under this law.

Today, we explain how the Air Carrier Access Act protects passengers with disabilities from origin to destination during air travel.

Introduction of The Air Carrier Access Act

For years, both passengers and the airline industry were dissatisfied with the country’s air travel system for persons with disabilities.

They recognized the need for major improvement and so in 1986 Congress passed the Air Carrier Access Act. This act required the Department of Transportation to develop new regulations which ensure persons with disabilities are treated without discrimination in a way consistent with the safe transportation of all passengers. These regulations were published in March 1990.

The Department of Transportation regulations, also referred to as the Air Carrier Access Act rules, represented a major step forward in improving air travel for passengers with disabilities.

The rules clearly explain the responsibilities of the:

  • Traveler
  • Airport operators
  • Contractors, who collectively make up the system which moves over one million passengers per day.

However, these rules do not apply to foreign airlines.

ACAA Rules Minimize Air Travel Problems Faced By Passengers With Disabilities

The Air Carrier Access rules are designed to minimize the special problems that passengers with disabilities face as they navigate their way through the country’s complex air travel system from origin to destination.

The rules achieve this by:

  • Recognizing that the physical barriers encountered by passengers with disabilities can frequently be overcome by implementing simple changes in layout and technology.
  • Adopting the principle that many difficulties confronting passengers with hearing or vision impairments will be alleviated if they are provided access to the same information available to all other passengers.
  • Through training of all air travel personnel who come in day-to-day contact with passengers with disabilities, to understand their needs and to understand how they can be accommodated quickly, safely, and respectfully.

Traveling Environment for Passengers With Disabilities Under the Air Carrier Access Act

As a result of the Air Carrier Access Act many restrictions that discriminated against passengers with disabilities were lifted.

These include:

  • A carrier must not refuse transportation to a passenger solely on the basis of a disability.
  • Air carriers must not limit the number of individuals with disabilities on a particular flight.
  • All trip information made available to other passengers must also be made available to passengers with disabilities.
  • Carriers must provide passage to an individual who has a disability that might affect his or her appearance or involuntary behavior—even if this disability may offend, annoy, or be an inconvenience to the flight crew or other passengers.

Exceptions to The Air Carrier Access Act Rules

However, there are some exceptions to the Air Carrier Access act rules such as:

The carrier may refuse transportation if the individual with a disability would endanger the health or safety of other passengers, or transporting the person would be a violation of FAA safety rules.

If the plane has fewer than 30 seats, the carrier may refuse transportation if there are no lifts, boarding chairs, or other devices available which can be adapted to the limitations of the small size of the aircraft. Airline personnel are not required to carry a mobility-impaired person onto the aircraft by hand.

There are special rules about persons with certain disabilities or communicable diseases.

The carrier may refuse transportation if it is unable to seat the passenger without violating the FAA Exit Row Seating rules. These rules states that a passenger must be physically capable and willing to perform emergency actions when seated in emergency or exit rows. If a passenger is not capable of performing the emergency actions he or she should request another seat.

Accessibility Issues for Passengers With Disabilities Still Remain Unresolved

Although the rules have made important strides forward for travelers with disabilities, there is much work yet to be done.

A number of accessibility issues remain unresolved such as:

  • Accessible terminal transportation systems
  • Boarding chair standards
  • Substitute transportation for passengers unable to board a small aircraft
  • Accessible lavatories on narrow body aircraft
  • Open captioning for in-flight movies and videos

The Federal Aviation Administration, along with groups representing people with disabilities, and the airline industry, are committed to resolving the above mentioned accessibility issues.

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Financially Protect Your Child With Developmental Disabilities

Financially Protect Your  Child With Developmental Disabilities After the birth of a child, most of us look forward to his or her developmental milestones like first smiles, or when our child waves “good-bye” to us for the first time.

A developmental disability is far from thoughts which enter our minds when we look at our precious child.

It’s natural to not want to focus on the scarier things in your child’s life, like a developmental disability. 

Unfortunately, this inclination to ignore the possibilities often leaves us emotionally vulnerable and financially unprepared should we have to face supporting a child with a developmental disability.

Today, we discuss what you can do to financially protect a child with a developmental disability.

What is a Developmental Disability?

Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and generally last throughout a person’s lifetime. Examples of developmental disabilities include:

  • Attention deficit/Hyperactivity disorder( ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hearing loss
  • Vision impairment
  • Learning disabilities

Recent estimates in the United States show that about one in six—or about 15 percent—of children, ages three through 17 years, have  one or more developmental disabilities.

Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and crawling are called developmental milestones. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move.

Children develop at their own pace, so it’s impossible to tell exactly when a child will learn a given skill. However, the developmental milestones give you a general idea of the changes to expect as your child gets older.

If you’re worried about your child talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about your concerns. If your child has developmental disabilities, it’s natural to feel emotionally overwhelmed and worried but it’s even more important to make sure he or she is financially protected.

Ways You Can Financially Protect Your Child With a Developmental Disability

There are many factors you should consider when building a financial plan to protect a child with a developmental disability. It is always best to consult a financial advisor to examine your unique situation. We outline some important areas to consider below.

Get Adequate Health Insurance

A child with a developmental disability will often have high medical bills.

Apply for Medicaid coverage , a government funded health insurance plan, which allows families of children with disabilities to “buy-into” the Medicaid program by paying a monthly premium based on the family’s income.

Medicaid health benefits cover individuals who qualify for Supplemental Security Income. It provides government funded health insurance for children with developmental disabilities who have little or no income. It provides cash to meed basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter.

Also, review your private health insurance policies carefully. If you child is already covered under your policy, it’s important to know what happens when your child reaches age of majority—which is 18 in most states.

Policies vary considerably:

  • Some allow the adult child to continue coverage if he or she is a full time student.  
  • Most policies will now allow continued coverage for dependents up to age 26.  
  • Some will allow indefinite continued coverage for adult children with disabilities, and if the parent continues to provide 50% or more of that adult child’s support and maintenance. You should consider this carefully if your child will be receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), because some aspects of SSI payments are based on whether or not the young adult is claimed as a dependent by his or her parents. 
  • Others will allow the parents to continue to support the individual indefinitely.

Take time to weight the pros and cons of the different options available in context of your individual situation.

Obtain Comprehensive Life Insurance

If your child with a developmental disability will struggle financially after you die, you’ll need to obtain a life insurance policy to help support him or her when you are no longer around. A life insurance policy provides cash to your family after your death.

There are several types of life insurance plan available so take the time to consider all needs for your family. Then, work with your insurance company, ask them all your questions regarding life coverage, so you can make sure to get the policy that’s right for you.

Make a Will

Make a will to financially protect your child.

Meet with a lawyer to prepare your will. Make note of all assets and money you want to leave for your child, as well as the person you want to be your child’s guardian. Make sure you ask that person first and explain exactly what’s involved in taking care of your child with special needs. You need to know for certain they are comfortable with being your child’s guardian in the case of unexpected events.

Set Up A Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust holds assets for your child with a developmental disability. This type of trust can supplement your child’s income and not affect his or her eligibility to receive benefits, Supplemental Security Income, or Medicaid.

Taking care of a child with a developmental disability can be emotionally overwhelming and challenging at times, which is why it is even more important to take the steps necessary to prepare financially, and protect your child for their lifetime.

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The Americans with Disabilities Act: Creating Better Workplaces

The Americans with Disabilities Act: Creating Better WorkplacesBy Daris Freeman, assistant counsel, Unum

Walking into work today, I passed the reserved parking spaces close to the door, stepped up the curb cut, watched as the wide automatic door opened for a colleague, and felt the Braille labels on the elevator buttons.

Once in the office, I saw a coworker using technology for the hearing-impaired and another with screen adaptors on her computer monitor to accommodate vision problems.

As an employee of a disability insurer, I expect my workplace to be welcoming for people with disabilities. But the accommodations I see around me today are found in work and public places nationwide, from the smallest offices to mid-size retailers to large industrial complexes, and in schools, libraries and shopping malls.

It’s hard to imagine our lives without these support features for people with disabilities. For this, we can thank the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which turns 25 at the end of July 2015. This legislation banned discrimination against people with disabilities (or people who were perceived to have a disability) and required business, buildings, transportation, public transportation and other services to accommodate the disabled. In 2008, the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) further broadened and clarified the definition of disability and tried to strike a balance between employer and employee interests.

The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Workplace

The disability insurance industry works tirelessly to help people who experience unexpected illnesses and injuries that result in a break from work—a break that sometimes lasts weeks, months, or years. We see firsthand how frustrating it can be to manage the limitations that sometimes remain after an illness or injury. But, we also see hundreds of thousands of people who want to make the most of their capabilities and get back to work.

The resources available to help people with disabilities in the workplace are many. The need for accommodations enforced by the Americans with Disabilities Act drove advancements over the last two-and-a-half decades in everything from office furniture to assistive technology.  Although people assume these accommodations are costly, the Department of Labor says nearly 60 percent cost little to nothing with the rest averaging about $500.

The Census Bureau indicates one in five of us has some type of a disability, and this is expected to increase as Americans continue to age. The broad definitions of disability under ADAAA include diminishing vision and arthritis, for instance, and may require our workplaces to adjust in ways they haven’t in the past.

Working Together for Greater Opportunity

Despite significant progress since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we still have work to do to overcome hurdles to more fully integrate employees in the workplace. We focus on these challenges daily and work closely with business leaders to help them understand their obligations under the law and the value of these investments in their employees.

If you’d like to learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act, visit the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor.

Employee Benefits Packages: What You Need To Know

Employee Benefits Packages: What You Need To KnowOne of life’s most exciting moments is when you land your dream job.

A fruitful result of all the hours you’ve spent to find, network, and interview for that perfect job. It’s natural to want to just sign on the dotted line. You’re eager to begin your new job and continue your path to achieve your goals and be successful.

A major factor in your decision to take the job might be the annual salary you’ll earn.

And while the first think you think of might be the annual salary you earn, it is important you also take a look at the employee benefits package offered to you. Your employee benefits package is a significant component of your overall compensation package and plays an important part in you and your family’s life.

For that reason, the employee benefits package you are offered should be a huge factor in your decision to take the job.

It’s important to consider all benefits you’ll receive and what they could mean for your life’s goals.

Today, we talk about some of the factors you should consider when evaluating a job’s employee benefits package.

Let’s begin with the types of benefits you may see in an typical employee benefits package.

Types of Employee Benefits

The law requires employers to provide employees with certain benefits.  Employers must:

• Give you time off to vote, serve on a jury, and perform military service.

• Comply with all workers’ compensation requirements.

• Withhold FICA taxes from your paychecks and pay their own portion of FICA taxes, providing you with retirement and disability benefits.

• Pay state and federal unemployment taxes, thus providing benefits for unemployed workers.

• Contribute to state short-term disability programs in states where such programs exist.

• Comply with the Federal Family and Medical Leave (FMLA).

Employers are not required to provide you benefits such as:

  • Health plans
  • Dental plans
  • Vision plans
  • Life insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Paid vacations or holidays
  • Sick leave
  • Retirement plans

In reality, however, most companies offer some or all of these benefits to stay competitive.

Most likely you’ll be offered many of these benefits along with your annual salary.

Why Is Your Employee Benefits Package So Important?

One of the most valuable components of a good employee benefits package is health insurance. A serious illness or health problem can bankrupt even individuals earning a six-figure salary. Unpaid medical bills are among the leading causes of bankruptcies in America.

Workers compensation, a federally required benefit, only covers you if you have a work related health condition or a disabling accident on the job. The reality is most accidents don’t happen at work. Less than five percent of disabling accidents and illnesses are work-related.

Social Security, another mandated benefit, will only cover you if you cannot work in any capacity and that your disability has lasted or will last for at least one year. According to the Social Security Administration’s website: “The definition of disability under Social Security is different from other programs. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or for short-term disability.”

65 percent of initial SSDI claim applications were denied in 2012. Even if your Social Security and workers compensation applications are approved, chances are the average monthly benefit paid to you won’t be enough to cover all your expenses.

An employee benefits package which includes health and disability insurance can help you prepare for the unexpected. Good benefits give you peace of mind that if an accident or illness happened to you, you’d be financially okay. A comprehensive employee benefits package is also a sign that the company cares about the health and well-being of its employees.

Vacation time, sick days, and holidays are important because these days allow you to spend quality time with your loved ones or rest and recuperate if you become ill.

Questions To Ask About Your Employee Benefits Package

Here are some questions you should ask about your employee benefit package, based on what’s important to you and your family.

Medical, Dental, and Vision Plans: What type of plan is offered and what expenses are covered? Who is covered? If you don’t have a family yet, can a spouse or future children be added to the plan when the time comes? Are there are any deductibles or co-pays you’ll have to fund yourself for a medical, dental, or vision plan? Are there any annual or lifetime maximums for any of the plans?

Life Insurance: What will you pay in monthly premiums? How much and what type of coverage do you have? Is it enough to cover your final expenses and protect your family financially in the event of an unexpected tragedy? If not, are their options or any limitations to purchase additional insurance within the plan?

Disability Insurance: What is included in your short-term disability insurance? What is included in your long-term disability coverage? What is the percentage amount of salary paid if you become disabled and unable to work? Will that percentage change over time?

Vacation: How many days off are you allowed in your first year? Can days be taken off before they are earned? What are the maximum number of days off you are allowed at one time? Do your vacation days expire if you don’t use them in a certain time frame or can you carry them over to the next year? How many years do you have to work with the company before you earn additional vacation time?

Holidays: Besides the standard holidays like Christmas Day and Independence Day, are there any other holidays? Does the company offer any floater days, days that you can use at your discretion?

Sick/Personal days: What is the company policy on sick and personal days? How many sick and personal days do you get in a year?

Retirement plans: Does your company offer a retirement plan like a 401(k)plan and/or pension plan? Is there a percentage or dollar amount that your employer will match? What is the amount of time it takes to vest the company matching portion of the plan?

Profit sharing: Does the company have a profit sharing plan? What is the percentage or dollar amount that you’ll receive if the company is profitable?

Use these questions as a guide to help you decide what employee benefits package is right for you.

It is important to consider all components of a job offer-the work itself, the salary, and the employee benefits package before signing on the dotted line.

photo credit: Blowing in the Wind via photopin (license)

A Look Back in History: The Americans with Disabilities Act

A Look Back in History: The Americans with Disabilities Act Most of us have friends or family members with a disability, or we might even have one ourselves.

Despite that fact, we often don’t think about how protections such as the Americans with Disabilities Act provide equal opportunities for everyone in our country. 

On July 26th the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebrates its 25th anniversary. Therefore this week we will be focusing in on the act, it’s history, and how it has affected millions of Americans both here on our blog and through our social networks. 

The purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act is to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

The ADA became law on July 26, 1990. This civil rights law protects individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life including:

  • Jobs
  • Schools
  • Transportation
  • All public and private places that are open to the general public

Today, we celebrate and honor this significant civil rights victory by looking back at the history of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Civil Rights Movement In The 1960s

The civil rights movement of the 1960s gave rise to other civil rights movements, most notably the women’s rights movement, and the disability rights movement.

While minorities and women were protected by civil rights legislation passed by the United States Congress during the 1960s, the rights of people with disabilities were not protected by federal legislation until much later.

During the 1960s, three major pieces of civil rights legislation were passed by the United States Congress. These pieces of legislation were:

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964: This act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, and national origin. Broad in scope, it covered those receiving federal funds, employers, and places of public accommodation such as bus stations and restrooms.
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965: This protected the rights of minorities to vote in elections.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1968: The act prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, and sex in the sale and rental of housing.

However, none of these acts did not protect people with disabilities. The disability rights movement grew out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

Disability Protection Begins In The 1970s

Discrimination against people with disabilities was not addressed until 1973 when Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 became law.

For the first time, with this act, segregation of people with disabilities was viewed as discrimination. Before this act, it was assumed that challenges faced by people with disabilities, were inevitable consequences or mental limitations imposed by the disability itself.

Section 504 recognized that the inferior social and economic status of individual with disabilities was not a consequence of the disability itself, but rather a result of societal barriers and prejudices.

However,  Section 504 did not protect people with disabilities from discrimination by:

  • Employers
  • Public accommodations in the private sector
  • Publicly funded programs
  • Those providing federal financial assistance

It took the Americans with Disabilities Act to address these areas not covered by Section 504.

Disability Movement Continues in 1980s

In 1986, the National Council on Disability (NCD) recommended enactment of the ADA.

The NCD drafted the first version of the bill which was introduced in the House and Senate in 1988. Senator Tom Harkin, author and chief sponsor of the final bill, delivered part of his introduction speech in sign language, so that his deaf brother could understand.

Also, in 1988, the Fair Housing Act was amended to add two new classes, people with disabilities and families with children.

Disability Protection Becomes  Law  in 1990s

The American with Disabilities Act was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H. W. Bush.

Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the ADA is one of America’s most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation to prohibit discrimination and guarantee individuals with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else in America.

To be protected by the act, an individual must have a disability, which is defined by the ADA as:

  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
  • A person who has a history or record of such an impairment.
  • A person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.

The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

Amendment To The ADA in 2000s

An amendment to the ADA, The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), was enacted on September 25, 2008, and became effective on January 1, 2009.

This law made a number of significant changes to the definition of “disability.” The definition was expanded to include the following impairments which weren’t part of the original ADA law:

  • Epilepsy
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Major depression
  • Bipolar disorder

The Americans with Disabilities Act Celebrates 25 Years in 2015

On July 26, 2015, the Americans with Disabilities Act celebrates its 25 year anniversary.

You too can be part of the celebration of this momentous milestone in American civil rights history. Learn how you can get involved in The ADA Legacy Project as they celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.