Cyber Risks & Liabilities: Ransomware Considerations for Board Members

In the Digital Age it is more important than ever to make sure that both you and your business are protected from Cyber Security threats. More and more we are seeing that businesses are falling prey to Cyber Attacks and worrying about whether or not they are covered for these attacks. This article discusses the questions that Board Members should consider to help make sure that their organization stays ahead of ransomware attacks.

At Conrey Insurance we want to ensure that you are covered in any instance, including if you have a Cyber loss. To speak with a member of the Conrey Team, call (714) 838-5835 or contact us and experience The Conrey Difference for yourself.

Kelly Moore Addresses Today’s Most Common Benefits Questions from Employees

Kelly Moore, CEBS, is a Certified Employee Benefit Specialist with more than 20 years of experience at leading benefits firms, including OneDigital and Marsh. As a member of the Conrey Financial Services team, Kelly specializes in helping clients design and maintain employee benefits programs while navigating the risk of constant evolution.

This year’s open enrollment season is marked by even greater change than usual. As Kelly explains, “The pandemic is driving leaps in technology adoption, as well as heightened awareness among employees of the need for healthcare access.”

Drawing on her extensive knowledge of the current benefits landscape, Kelly identifies four questions that employers are hearing frequently from their employees right now. “In each case, I like to look beyond the immediate answer to also provide a way to go a step beyond in addressing the employee’s needs,” she says.

Kelly observes that one of the most common employee questions is how to find in-network providers. She notes that employers can go beyond by scheduling a provider search exercise during open enrollment, that familiarizes employees with available tools before they’re needed.

Employees also are asking how to access telemedicine. Kelly recommends encouraging them to register in advance, online, or with a mobile application, to help ensure this important benefit is ready and waiting.

Another common question is whether care can be accessed without an ID card. Kelly says the answer almost always is yes—and downloading the carrier’s app can be an excellent way to do this.

Finally, employees are asking what to consider when comparing plan options. Here, Kelly suggests challenging them to create a health budget with best- and worst-case estimates that make this comparison easier.

For more details about what’s on employees’ minds, download this article “The 4 Most Common Employee Open Enrollment Questions Right Now.” And if you have questions about enhancing your own employee benefits program, or developing a new one, Kelly and the Conrey Financial Services team are here to help. To arrange a meeting, call us at 877-450-1872 or contact us online.

Michael Robinson Advocates the Importance of Insurance and Annuity Checkups

During more than 24 years in the insurance and financial services industry, Michael Robinson has helped many clients better prepare to meet their long-term financial goals. Key to his efforts are regular, objective assessments of life insurance and annuity products they’ve incorporated in their plans—or may benefit from adding.

Now a member of the Conrey Financial Services team, Michael has an extensive background that includes partnering with Registered Investment Advisors and comprehensive financial advisors. He has considerable experience with the use of insurance in retirement portfolios to lower the risks associated with investing. And he firmly believes in the benefits of meeting with clients on a periodic basis to ensure their objectives are being met.

Michael says, “Policies should be reviewed every year to verify they still fit your needs. This also provides an opportunity to make sure you’re not paying too much, or that the policy isn’t in danger of lapsing from being underfunded.” He adds that “In the case of annuities, recent declines in the yields on CDs and bonds now mean that some annuity products may be offering returns up to three times higher than the sub-1% yield to which 10-year Treasuries have fallen. This could make a case for including them in your financial plans.”

Conrey Insurance Brokers and Risk Managers offers you a complimentary review of your current situation. Working with a statement from your current policy, and an understanding of your goals, Michael and the Conrey team will provide you with a concise policy-review summary. You’ll quickly know where you stand, and whether any adjustments may be beneficial.

To arrange your free review, and ensure your insurance and annuity products reflect the best The Conrey Difference can offer, call 877-450-1872 or contact us online.

Financial Planners and Insurance Specialists: An Alliance of Expertise

By Mike Lambrakis, CFP®
Conrey Financial Services

You know good finances take smart planning. But how about your insurance? Among financially aware people, property and casualty insurance is so ubiquitous that virtually everyone has policies. Yet I have become convinced that despite the billions of premiums paid per year, most policyholders don’t give their coverage a thought after they pay their bill, and rarely ever ask whether their coverage is adequate to ensure proper protection. This is true even when they’re attentive to the investment aspects of their finances.

Financial advisors—who typically are not insurance specialists—also rarely emphasize the property and casualty aspect of risk management, despite a desire for these insights from the vast majority of financially successful clients. But is it possible for a financial advisor also to be an expert in property and casualty insurance? In my opinion, there are too many moving parts, special situations, nuances, and a vast marketplace of different carriers to master.

This is why my partners at Conrey Insurance Brokers and Risk Managers and I decided to combine the benefits of financial planning with the broad, multi-carrier access and objective expertise only an independent insurance brokerage can offer.

How does an alliance between a financial planner and a team of personal and business insurance specialists add value for you? Our holistic, consultative approach recognizes that when situations change, behaviors change, and financial positions change, it can present new opportunities to maximize the value of your insurance dollars. Validating the adequacy of your coverage helps protect your assets. And even when your situation hasn’t changed, it’s important to check that you’re still receiving the proper coverage with the best value.

Could your insurance and financial plans both hold opportunities for improvement? Feel free to give us a call at 877-450-1872 or contact us – we look forward to showing you The Conrey Difference!

National Insurance Awareness Day: Why June 28 Should Be on Your Calendar

Amid life’s many uncertainties, and especially in extraordinary times such as these, it’s good to step back every so often to take an objective look at where you stand. Fortunately, June 28th has been designated “National Insurance Awareness Day.” It’s an annual reminder to review your insurance cover; to assure it is proper and adequate; to make sure all that has evolved since your last comprehensive look is represented in the protection. We recommend that you get in touch with an insurance professional for such a review. If you are looking for an objective review of your current coverage and needs, look no further, we stand ready to assist.

For our team at Conrey Insurance Brokers and Risk Managers, June 28th is yet another opportunity to do what we do every other day throughout the year—help our clientele achieve peace of mind by knowing what matters most to them is properly protected. We look forward to discussing your current situation by applying our “Three Ps” of insurance planning—they are:

• Prevention – Everyone is better off when they can avoid a claim before it happens; we provide risk management advice that can assist in preventing losses. Are you taking common-sense precautions to mitigate risk? Are you in compliance with all suggestions, guidelines and safety practices?

• Policy – Routinely, life evolves, business evolves, and needs change. Isn’t it worthwhile to ensure that your policy is aligned with your current situation?

• Proper Protection – As an independent broker tied to no specific insurance carrier, we evaluate your changing needs and provide objective recommendations—not “cookie-cutter” solutions, and from the entire marketplace, not just one insurer. What’s changed in the marketplace; what does it cost to rebuild or to replace items; are your current policies still cost-competitive? Do they still reflect the assumptions made when originally written? Has your advisor kept current, regularly checking in as this article suggests? That’s part of “The Conrey Difference.”

As a full-service firm, Conrey Insurance Brokers and Risk Managers offers experts specializing in virtually every major area of insurance and financial services. This National Insurance Awareness Day, or anytime it’s convenient for you, please consider giving us a call at 877-450-1872, or click here, to set up a meeting and discuss your insurance needs—no matter what day in the calendar year, that day will be YOUR insurance awareness day.

CARES Act Retirement Plan Provisions

On March 27th, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), was approved by Congress, to afford massive relief for those suffering as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Besides the financial relief afforded to individuals, as well as loans and other concessions for businesses, the bill includes the following provisions to help participants and employers who sponsor retirement plans.

As always, please check with your Financial Services Professional for clarification on how to take advantage of these new rules.

Executive Summary

The following “relief” is optional:

1. Distributions of up to $100,000 are now allowed to a “qualified individual” who meets any of the following tests:
o The participant has been diagnosed with the virus (as confirmed by a CDC-approved test);
o The participant’s spouse or dependent has been diagnosed with the virus; or
o The participant has suffered financially from the pandemic because:
• The participant was laid off, furloughed, quarantined, or has had reduced hours
• The participant cannot work due to the unavailability of child care because of the pandemic; or
• The participant’s own business has had to close or reduce hours

B. This withdrawal is available to 401(k), 403(b), governmental 457 plans, and IRAs. Income tax will still apply, however, a plan participant can spread the income tax over a three-year period.

C. It is better to take a loan. Loans are available for 100% of your vested account balance up to $100,000 and repayment is delayed for one year. Please note: Most recordkeepers have systems in place to limit loans to $50,000. It will take some time for them to program their systems to allow for more than $50,000. Check with your recordkeeper before offering plan participants this option.

D. The required minimum distribution requirement (RMD) will be waived for 2020.

E. If an employer has more than one plan, the limit is $100,000 for all plans.

Please continue reading if you would like more details. We have also included information on suspending or stopping plan contributions.

Coronavirus-Related Distributions

• Employers can rely on the participant’s certification, by email or letter that they qualify for the distribution.
• The distribution is not subject to the 20% income tax withholding or the 10% excise tax. If not taken as a participant loan, the money is income and will be taxed. However, the tax can be spread out over a period of three years. If you would like to repay the money, to the plan or IRA, it is treated as a tax-free rollover.
• The bill provides no such relief for pensions plans such as defined benefit and cash balance plans.
• Be sure to get a participant distribution form from the recordkeeper or Finacial Services Professional and signed by the employee waiving withholding, because failure to provide that notice is subject to a $100 penalty per participant.

Plan participants can repay these distributions to an employer plan or IRA and the plan must allow for such repayment. Because of the uncertainty about how repayment of coronavirus related distributions will be handled, it may be advisable for participants to take loans first. The loan repayments may be delayed for a year. If the participant ultimately terminates employment within the year, the loan can be converted to a distribution at that time.

Loan Limit Increases and Delays in Repayment

If “coronavirus-related,” the participant loan rule has been modified. You now can take a loan of up to 100% of a qualified individual’s vested account or benefit, up to $100,000. This provision covers loans made up to September 23, 2020. Furthermore, any loan payment due on any outstanding loan, between the date of enactment and December 31, 2020, is delayed up to one year. The five-year repayment period is also extended for one year and interest will accrue on the loan during the delay period. When payments restart the loan will have to be re-amortized.

It is important to confirm with your recordkeeper if postponing loan payments will not trigger a distribution for nonpayment, to prevent an unintended taxable event.

Required Minimum Distribution Requirements for 2020

Required minimum distributions (RMDs) due in 2020 are not required from defined contribution qualified plans, 401(k), 403(b) plans, IRAs, and governmental 457(b) plans. Also, if the required beginning date was in 2020 (i.e., April 1, 2020), and the plan hasn’t already distributed the first RMD, that RMD is waived as well. If the RMD is due to death, the five-year maximum distribution period is determined disregarding 2020.

Single Employer DB Funding Delay

The due date for any required contributions to defined benefit plans (including quarterly contributions during 2020), is extended to January 1, 2021. The minimum amount is increased by the plan’s rate of interest for the interim period.

We suggest you speak with your Financial Services Professional about freezing accruals prior to April 15, 2020, if you need to reduce your 2020 required contribution.

Stopping Employer Required Contributions

As of this date, we have not received anything from the government on waiving required contributions to retirement plans. The American Retirement Association, our industry advocate in Washington D.C., has asked the government to allow for stopping required contributions to 401(k)/403(b) plans, without first giving a 30 day notice. Below are the current rules:

If your plan has a formula or contribution amount, stated in the plan document, the rules mandate the contribution.

Therefore, once participants have fulfilled the requirements to get a contribution, the contribution through date of amendment is required. This means any 2019 related relief must come from the government. There is no word, as of yet, that this this will happen. For 2020, if the plan has a last day employment requirement, or if the number of required hours are such that employees have not yet worked a sufficient number to be entitled to a contribution (1,000 hours), the contribution can be cut back or eliminated. For calendar year plans you need to act before April 15th to amend the plan.

Safe Harbor 401(k) Plan Suspension or Modification

Safe Harbor Contributions can be suspended midyear, however not before participants are given a notice, 30 days before the amendment is effective. Again, our industry has asked the government to waive this rule.

What About Top Heavy Plans?

Many Safe Harbor Plans are also “top heavy” meaning that 60% of the money in the plan belongs to the owner(s). Employers will need to give their eligible employees 3% of pay as a contribution if the plan is “top-heavy.” Contributions are due prior to filing your business tax return for 2019 and it is unlikely that the 3% “top-heavy” rule will be waived for 2020. However, we encourage you to stay tuned, because the government might just decide all required contributions are waived.

Distributions

If a participant does not qualify for the coronavirus-related distribution options discussed above (or if the employer does not want to provide these distributions), then the participant must qualify for a hardship distribution or a termination distribution.

There is a difference between termination of employment and layoffs, furloughs, suspensions, or whatever other synonym you use for stopping work. The answer is not clear. We look for signs of actual employment termination, such as eligibility for unemployment, access to COBRA, and no apparent guarantee of rehire.

If employers are terminating many employees, they need to be aware of this existing rule:

Full Vesting – Partial Plan Termination Rules

If employers reduce their work force by 20% of total plan participants, other than routine annual turnover, plan participants must receive 100% of their account. This is per IRS Rev. Ruling 2007-43 and the vesting schedule does not apply.

What happens if employers provide 100% vesting to terminated employees under the partial termination rule and then rehires the workers? The 20% test creates a presumption that a partial termination has taken place, but facts and circumstances can be used to show that a partial termination, in fact, has not occurred. This can be a very tough call to make and this is another rule our industry has asked the government to modify. We have asked that 100% vesting not be required, if employers rehire the terminated employee by December 31, 2020.

Here at Conrey Insurance Brokers and Risk Managers, we’ve assembled a team of Financial Services professionals to help answer your questions related to the ever-changing events and their effect on your financial well-being. To find out more, visit our Financial Services page or Request a Meeting.

How Can a CFP® Optimize Your Financial Future?

The CFP® (CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™) designation is one of the most respected credentials in the financial services industry. Two of the newest members of the Conrey team, Mike Lambrakis, CFP® and Michael Hu, CFP®, exemplify the benefits this certification offers to our clients by expressing the Conrey Difference in all areas of financial planning and wealth management. Mike and Michael help their clients achieve their fullest potential through thoughtful financial planning and investment management. They believe a solid foundation of tax, estate, and philanthropic planning is the key to financial success.

Both these accomplished professionals have extensive experience meeting the diverse financial needs of clients. Mike Lambrakis’s background includes serving as a Partner Advisor with AdvicePeriod, as a Portfolio Strategist and Wealth Advisor at Beacon Pointe Advisors, and as a Financial Advisor at Wells Fargo Advisors. Michael Hu’s background includes serving as an Advisor at AdvicePeriod and at a privately held wealth management firm where he was responsible for developing, implementing and ongoing monitoring of complex financial plans.

Mike and Michael have expertise honed by the CFP® designation’s demanding requirements. These include extensive academic training, thousands of hours of experience, and a rigorous exam that’s administered by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. CFP® professionals also must follow a code of ethics and rules of conduct based on the fiduciary standard. In other words, they’re independent and objective – committed to the client-centric perspective that’s the heart of the Conrey Difference.

To discuss our financial services in further detail, or to revisit your investments in the context of a customized financial plan, the Financial Services experts at Conrey Insurance Brokers and Risk Managers are here to help. Just call 877-450-1872 or contact us to schedule an appointment.

South County Outreach Needs You More Than Ever

We at Conrey Insurance Brokers and Risk Managers want to continue supporting our community during these trying times. One of our favorite causes, South County Outreach, needs your help. Although most of us are “Safe at Home”, many in our community were already struggling with a lack of food, housing and more. These individuals and families are now more at risk than ever and need your help, especially in this time of uncertainty.

South County Outreach is open and still assisting those in need.  Please read the attached to see how you can help – it’s now more important than ever to lend a hand if you can.

To learn more about South County Outreach, visit their website here.

SCO-COVID-19-UPDATE 03302020

Cyber Risks: Doxxing Explained

Companies of all sizes are at risk for cyber attacks – doxxing is no exception. Read this article to learn more about doxxing and how to protect your employee’s sensitive information from being exposed.

Cyber Liability - Doxxing Explained 020420

If you have any questions regarding cyber liability or want to check your liability coverage feel free to contact us. We will be happy to recommend an insurance solution that is designed to properly protect your business.

Call us at 1-877-450-1872 or contact us here, and experience the Conrey Difference for yourself.