RSS Feed

Financial Fitness Blog

Did you know January is Radon Action Month?

(Insurance) Permanent link

Mark DannehlWhat is radon?
Radon is an invisible, odorless radioactive gas that is present in nearly all homes (regardless of age) and in every region of Wisconsin. Since radon comes from the soil beneath your home, gaps, cracks, and openings to soil through basement floors and walls allow radon gas to seep into your home.

Why should I be concerned about radon in my home?
Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer death among nonsmokers in the U.S.

How do I know if I have a high level of radon in my home?
You’ll need to purchase a radon test kit online or from a home improvement store. Follow the directions on the package and send the test kit to a participating test lab to get your results.

What is considered a “high level” of radon inside a home?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s guideline says that a radon reading of higher than 4 pCi/L for the year average on the main floor is considered an elevated risk. You may need to take multiple tests to confirm. A reading lower than 4 pCi/L means your home has low radon levels and no follow-up is needed. Anything between 4 and 8 pCi/L should be monitored closely, and a reading above 8 pCi/L means that steps should be taken to mitigate radon exposure in your home. Keep in mind, radon levels can fluctuate throughout the year, so while you may have a high radon reading in summer, it may be much less in the winter. You'll need to test your home to find out.

What is radon mitigation?
To mitigate radon exposure in a home, a contractor would typically seal cracks, gaps and openings in your basement. Depending on the average radon levels present in your home, a sub-slab depressurization system would also need to be installed. A continuously running fan and exhaust system together effectively reduces the air pressure below your basement floor and allows air in the basement to flow down to the depressurized zone and lessen radon levels.

More information about radon exposure, mitigation, and more can be found on the web.

Mark Dannehl, Personal Insurance Consultant

Tax benefits can reduce your long-term care insurance costs

(Insurance) Permanent link

Kelly BehnkeToday's blog headline may be especially true if you have a high-deductible health plan with a Health Savings Account (HSA), Health Reimbursement Account (HRA), or you own a small business.  

Long-term care insurance (LTCi) is an affordable way to protect yourself against the high cost of extended care that may be required if you have a serious illness, stroke, or accident. Without LTCi, you will need to pay for extended care with your personal savings and assets. Long-term care is generally not covered by Medicare, health insurance, or the new Affordable Care Act.

Members who pay LTCi costs may be able to subtract all or a portion of the cost of a long-term care insurance policy from their Wisconsin income taxes. You may also be able to include amounts paid for qualified contracts as a medical expense when itemizing deductions for federal income tax purposes.

Tax-qualified LTCi premiums may be reimbursed through an HSA. Reimbursements for insurance covering medical care expenses, which includes qualified long-term care services and qualified LTCi premiums, are generally allowable under a HRA.

If you or your spouse owns a business, you may be able to adopt an Internal Revenue Code Section 105 Plan. This may enable you and your spouse to deduct 100% of your premiums as a business expense.

Members should consult their tax accountant or attorney for detailed advice regarding their particular tax or financial situation.

Want to learn more about our LTCi program?

Kelly Behnke, CIC, CISR, ACSR

LTC insurance products are underwritten by multiple LTC providers. Program administered by LTCi Marketing Administrators Inc. (LiMA).

Keep walks and steps ice-free

(Insurance) Permanent link

Mark DannehlI heard on the radio today that we're halfway through winter! But we still have plenty of challenging weather ahead. Remember that if someone slips on ice on your property, you could be found liable for their injuries. Keep your walk safe by staying on top of snow and ice removal. Here are a few tips.

  • Clean your walks promptly after a snowfall to keep snow from bonding to the surface. Check your local ordinance for snow removal requirements.
  • Spread sand or gravel on icy patches to make your sidewalk safer for pedestrians. Spreading sand on a sidewalk before ice forms can also make future ice easier to remove. Free sand may be available in your community.
  • Warming sand in a microwave-safe container and spreading it while it is still warm can make it more effective. It will embed itself in to the ice, creating a gritty top layer.
  • Be careful when using melting agents or salt to de-ice your driveway and sidewalks. The excess salt can damage shrubs, lawns, and plants by drawing water away from their roots.
  • Pile snow in a place where it will not run across your sidewalk when it melts and aim your downspouts away from areas where people walk to keep your sidewalks clear during freeze-thaw cycles.

Mark Dannehl, Personal Insurance Consultant

Confused by what's covered under a Sewer Service Line Warranty?

(Insurance) Permanent link

City of Madison homeowners may recall receiving a letter recently from the city offering an optional sewer service line warranty available through a third party. In the letter, it explained that the city is no longer legally able to make repairs to private sewer service lines. Keep in mind the new laws apply to cities and municipalities state-wide, as residents in the city of Milwaukee and other municipalities have been offered similar warranty options.

Here are some common questions you may have before you decide to purchase a sewer service line warranty:

What does this mean? 
In the past, the city would repair a portion of the private sanitary sewer lateral that was located in the public right-of-way, at the request of the property owner. New state laws now prevent the city from performing any work for which the property owner is responsible.

What does a sewer line warranty cover? 
Depending on the specific policy, a sewer line warranty may provide coverage for the service, repair or replacement of leaks, breaks, and clogs (including tree roots) from the sewer line.

Why would I need sewer line coverage? 
You may consider an extended sewer service line warranty if you live in an older neighborhood or feel you need additional coverage for your sewer lateral because your property has mature trees or shrubs and are worried about roots affecting your system. Wear and tear, the constant freezing and thawing cycles of our seasons, failed fittings and corroded pipes, as well as tree roots can all cause cracks, leaks, and clogs to your system.

Would this cover my entire sewer system? 
Not necessarily. The warranty offered through a sewer line warranty program would only cover the sewer lateral for which you are responsible for maintaining—the part of your sewer line that extends from your house to the street, where it hooks up to the city’s main sewer utility line. Keep in mind, this type of coverage also does not cover sewer backups in your basement, which are more common.

Doesn’t my home insurance cover an issue with my sewer line? 
No. Your home insurance only covers a broken sewer line inside your home, not outside the actual foundation.

Does Member Benefits offer this type of insurance? 
No. Sewer line coverage (from your foundation to the street) is not part of a home insurance policy.

What type of insurance would cover a sewer backup in my basement? 
Up to $20,000 of sewer and drain coverage can be added as an endorsement to your Member Benefits home insurance policy to protect you from losses due to a sewer or drain backup inside your home.

Remember, as a homeowner you are responsible for maintaining your sewer system.

  • Outside, between your home’s foundation and the city’s sewer system, you may choose to purchase the warranty offered through a third party, or be prepared to pay out of pocket.
  • Inside, water damage due to drain and sewer backup or sump pump overflow may be covered, but only if you’ve added an endorsement to your home insurance policy.

 If you have questions about your home insurance coverage or want more information about adding a sewer and drain endorsement to your Member Benefits insurance policy, call one of our Personal Insurance Consultants at 1-800-279-4010.

Cities and municipalities in Wisconsin may have their own sewer service warranty programs. Check with your local city or municipality for more information. More information about Madison’s sewer service line warranty program can be found on their Web site.

This article is for informational purposes only. Property and casualty insurance programs are underwritten by WEA Property & Casualty Insurance Company. The terms and conditions of your coverage are exclusively controlled by your written policy. Please refer to your policy for details.

 

New year, new resolution for retirement savings

(Retirement) Permanent link

Brenda EcheverriaHappy New Year! We have a new year's resolution that can really pay off for you in the long run—resolve to increase your retirement savings. It can be as easy as 1-2-3.

  1. Open a 403(b) or IRA. Or if you already have an account, pledge to increase your contributions, even if it's just a little bit. Compound interest can help you build that nest egg over time. Check with your school district on when you can make changes to your salary reduction agreement. Or, if you receive a tax refund this year, use that to increase your contributions to your 403(b) or IRA.
  2. Be clear on fees. Fees can take a big bite out of your retirement earnings. Whether you have a retirement savings account or you're thinking of starting one, make sure you understand all of the fees involved. Our fees are simple—a WEA Trust Member Benefits IRA or 403(b) has one low annual administrative fee with an annual fee cap. (Mutual fund management and redemption fees apply.) Learn more about fees.
  3. Educate yourself. Read up on retirement issues with our Web site articles and blogs, or join us this year for a free financial seminar at a location near you. Our quarterly magazine, your$, also has a wealth of information. Feel free to view issues online or request your own copy.

Want to know more? We're here to help, each and every year. Give us a call with your questions at 1-800-279-4030.

Brenda Echeverria, Financial Planner

This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to be legal or tax advice. Consult your tax advisor or attorney before taking any action.  The Trustee Custodian for the WEAC IRA accounts is Newport Trust Company. The 403(b) retirement program is offered by the WEA TSA Trust. TSA program registered representatives are licensed through WEA Investment Services, Inc., member FINRA. Seminars are free to attend; however, if you choose to invest in the WEA Tax Sheltered Annuity or WEAC IRA program, fees will apply. Consider all expenses before investing.