Practice and Build Out Your Plans

Everyone knows that practice makes perfect.  This is especially the case in preparing for potential disasters. After you have built out a plan, follow up on the details and practice. Here a few more details to review:

Complete and Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) 
By collecting and securing your critical records ahead of time, you will have peace of mind that you have the necessary documents to start the recovery process after an emergency.  Important documents include personal financial, insurance, medical, birth certificates and passports. Make digital copies and save them on the cloud for easy access. Check here for more details on financial preparedness.

Maintain Emergency Savings
Create an emergency savings account that can be used in a crisis.  That rainy day fund might become life-saving when rebuilding after a disaster. Figure out how you can pay your bills if disaster strikes. 

Plan Ahead
Have at least a one-week supply of medications on hand. Read up on your insurance policies. For example, flood insurance policies have a 30-day waiting period before they go into effect. Read more about flood planning here. Find out if your community is holding any emergency drills so you can participate.

Know How to Access Community Resources
Research where your closest food banks and shelters are in the event of any disaster. Many cities will open up additional shelters if needed in your area, so find out in advance how these will be communicated to those in need.   


Plan to Help Your Neighbor and Community

A load of evacuees in the back of a neighbor's monster truck after Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Michael Stravato for The Texas Tribune.

In any disaster, getting outside resources for help can take time due to overwhelming need and demand.  Learn skills you need to help yourself and others until help can arrive.

By taking simple actions immediately, you may be able to save someone's life.  Visit this site developed by FEMA to get trained on how you can help.  Additional options include:

  • Join a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to learn how to safely respond to hazards around us and help organize basic disaster response
  • Learn more about the Citizen Corps - another program aimed to better prepare your community for disaster

Be sure to check on your neighbors. Forty-six percent of individuals expect they will rely on people in their neighborhood following a disaster.  Review here for how you can help your neighbors in times of disaster.

Talk with your Power Company about utility safety. Natural gas leaks can cause fires following disasters. Contact your local gas company to learn how to shut off your meter.

By tapping into the resources of America's PrepareAthon, you can work with your community to increase preparedness and know how to take action when disaster strikes.


Make a Plan for Yourself, Family and Friends

When a natural disaster - hurricane, earthquake, fire, flood, tornado - happens, be sure you know how you will respond. By planning and preparing for a potential disaster ahead, it can help during the time of recovery after a disaster occurs.  This is the first article in a series for National Preparedness Month.

Make an Emergency Plan

Take time to talk with your family over dinner about where you all will meet if a disaster would occur and build out a plan that accounts for all immediate family needs. Download a group texting app so your entire family can keep in touch before, during and after an emergency.

Sign Up for Alerts and Warnings in Your Area

FEMA provides an app with weather alerts for up to 5 locations. Check out this page for more ways to receive alerts and warnings.  Storm radios with battery-powered backup are good for weather alerts, especially when you might be asleep.

Learn Your Evacuation Zone and Have an Evacuation Plan

Make sure your family is all familiar with plan and run through it together.  Practice evacuating in the car with your animals, so they're more comfortable if you need to evacuate in an emergency.

Check Your Insurance Coverage

Review the Document and Insure Property guide provided by FEMA. Know what your insurance policy covers before an emergency.  

Plan Financially for the Possibility of Disaster

Flood-proof important documents by putting them in plastic bags to protect against water damage. Consider putting those into a fireproof box to protect against a sudden fire. Keep some cash on hand in case of emergencies. 

Your Summer Health Checklist

Summer is right around the corner. The kids will be out of school and the doctor’s offices slow down – the perfect time to squeeze in your health to-do’s before the next school year starts.

  • Annual Doctor Visit – this is a great time for a well-check visit as germ exposure in the waiting room goes down significantly in the warmer months. Regular health exams and tests help to identify problems before they start.
  • Dentist Check Up – The American Dental Association recommends a visit every six months where your overall oral health will be examined, in addition to cleaning your teeth of plaque and tartar. Your oral health often provides early indicators of other issues like diabetes, oral cancer and vitamin deficiencies.
  • Eye Doctor – It is recommended for children to get regular eye tests every 1 to 2 years to monitor potential changes in vision. Increased use of digital devices has created an unprecedented increase in myopia or nearsightedness.

Don’t forget about basic health safety tips for the summer as well:

  • Hydrate – the higher temps can stress anyone’s body, so be sure to stay ultra-hydrated and take breaks in shaded or air-conditioned places to avoid heat stroke or getting overheated.
  • Pay Attention Around Water – never leave kids unattended and don’t swim too soon after eating.
  • Picnic Safety – summer barbecues can be unpleasant if your mayonnaise or salad with mayonnaise sits out in the sun. Don’t forget about making sure meats are cooked thoroughly as well.
  • Itch Prevention – stay aware when around bees or wasps, as allergic reactions can become deadly. Long sleeves and/or bug spray can help prevent mosquito, tick and chigger bites.
  • Sun Burns – sunscreen in the summer is a must. Add a hat with a brim to help keep your face out of the sun.



Small Business Week 2017

As declared by the President of the United States, April 30-May 6, 2017 is National Small Business Week, a time to recognize the important contributions of America's entrepreneurs and small business owners. More than 50 percent of our country either owns a small business or works for one.

As a small business owner, this week is your time to celebrate your accomplishments and get additional attention for your business.  Create a Shop Small marketing campaign by leveraging free resources, like these listed in a recent Entrepreneur article*:

  • Content Idea Generator by Portent - simply enter a subject like Small Business Marketing to provide you with a series of new, unique angles on that subject to help inspire the creative process
  • Hemingway App - helps you create clean and concise messages to help break through the noise 
  • Pablo by Buffer - create compelling images for your content
  • Open Site Explorer - gives you some basic search engine optimization by reviewing a URL and returning all inbound links with its page and rank authority

Small Business Week is also a great opportunity to reaffirm your message on social media by using #SmallBusinessWeek and other SMB hashtags on various social media platforms.  This is the perfect time to share the story of how your business began to help raise awareness of the importance of small businesses to the American economy.

Be sure to review the Small Business Week website for helpful hints and tips, as well as to take advantage of the informative webinars and training SBA will be providing throughout the week.


Breakfast: The Most Important Meal of the Day

Conventional wisdom tells us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We know not to skip breakfast, but why?

In addition to starting your day off right, there are legitimate health reasons to make sure we refuel in the morning.  New guidelines released by U.S. doctors now state that planning meals and snacks in advance and eating breakfast every day may help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

By eating more of our daily calories earlier and consuming less at night, this may help to reduce the odds of a heart attack, stroke or other cardiac or blood vessel disease, according to the scientific statement from the American Heart Association.

Before you grab a donut or pastry, studies show that eating a healthy breakfast with whole grains, lean protein, fruits & veggies and low-fat dairy supports heart health and overall weight management. 

Planning ahead for a nutritious breakfast is key. When it is time to rush out the door, have something healthy at the ready with some of these make-ahead recipes.

Fig, Applesauce and Almond Breakfast Loaf

Avo-Tahini Toast

Cinnamon Roll Muffins

Egg and Toast Cups

Frozen Breakfast Parfait Pops

Quick Breakfast Burritos

2017 Tax Changes for Small Business Owners


Don’t be caught unaware of the latest changes in tax laws and other rules that might impact your small business for 2017.

Equipment Purchases

Get a bigger tax break in 2017 if you are buying certain types of equipment.  The Section 179 deduction will be $510,000, which is an increase of $10,000 from 2016.  Small businesses can deduct up-front versus depreciating the costs of equipment like computers, vehicles, manufacturing machines and furniture, as well as some types of property.  Not eligible – air conditioning and heating equipment, land and land improvements like paved parking areas.  Learn more about Section 179 deductions and depreciation in IRS Publication 946, How to Depreciate Property –

Stand-alone HRAs Available Again

Stand-alone HRAs are back for small business owners in 2017.  Through the 21st Century Cures Act, Congress recently resurrected HRAs (“qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements”) for employers with fewer than 50 employees.  This is a great way for small business owners who aren’t required to offer health insurance to their employees, but want to help them pay for coverage.  There is a limit of $4,950 for an individual employee or $10,000 for an employee’s family expenses.

New Filing Dates for Some Business Tax Returns

Congress passed two new laws changing the deadlines for many businesses to file important documents and returns with the IRS.

The first law created changes that affect partnerships and companies classified as C corporations:

  • Partnership returns are now due March 15. This is a change from the previous due date of April 15.
  • C Corporation returns are now due in April, changing from the previous date of March 15.

The second law passed in December requires employers to file W-2 forms and some 1099 forms with the government by January 31.  Employers were already required to give those forms to employees by January 31, but now they must also be filed with the government by that date.

Using Your Car for Business

The new mileage for business use of a car is set at 53.5 cents per mile for 2017.  That is a decrease of half a cent from 2016.  According to the Associated Press, “The government takes into consideration the fluctuating costs of operating a car when it sets the standard mileage rate each year. The rate is one of two methods for an owner to account for how much was spent on using a car for business; the second is to deduct the actual expenses for the car. An owner opting for actual expenses must calculate the percentage of miles the car is driven for business reasons, and apply that percentage to expenses like lease payments, fuel, maintenance, repairs and insurance. An owner can also deduct depreciation.”

Important to note: If business owners want to use the standard mileage rate, it must be used in the first year that it is being used for business purposes.  So either the year you acquire the care or the first year that the owner is in business.   Learn more about deducting your car for business in IRS Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift and Car Expenses.

Implement the New I-9

Starting January 17, you must use a revised form for verifying the legality of a new employee to work in the U.S.  The new Form I-9 only needs an employee’s last name and some sections have been simplified.

Additional Resources

Be sure to check the Small Business Administration for more information on filing and paying taxes -



USA Today

Stay Healthy During Holiday Travels



The holiday season is just around the corner and with that comes travel to visit family and friends. Given colder temperatures, more germs hanging around inside, and sharing the air in closed places, staying healthy while traveling can sometimes be a challenge.

Here are some doctor-approved tips for staying on top of your health while traveling:

Drink Carbonated Water

Tap water can be unsafe to drink, especially in foreign countries and can cause traveler’s diarrhea due to bacteria present in local water sources. Carbonated water with an intact seal can give you peace of mind. Hydration is important though – so enjoy your sparkling water as often as possible.

Probiotics: Trust Your Gut

Your immune fighting power begins in your gut, so boost up your probiotics. Forms that contain lactobacilli and bifidobacteria may help prevent G.I. disorders. Eat and drink wisely and avoid overindulgence which can impact your gut health while traveling.

Vitamins and Medications

Don’t forget to bring an ample supply of medications. According to the FDA, many drugs sold in developing countries contain impure or toxic ingredients. Also, taking magnesium while traveling may help you get better sleep while traveling and also acts as a laxative - helpful when dealing with changing time zones, sleep patterns and diet during vacation.

Saline Spray

Airplanes are notorious for dry air – a potential problem for your immune system. Dry nasal membranes create a breeding ground for germs because the microscopic hairs in your nose that move germs through don’t work effectively when too dry. If you use a saline nasal spray or gel an hour before and after your flight, this may help prevent germs from traveling down into your throat or lungs.

Enjoy your holiday travel and stay healthy along the way!

*Sources include FDA & Wellness by The Huffington Post

Fruits and Veggies – More Matters

Fruits&Veggies More Matters

September kicked off Fruits & Veggies - More Matters Month and also begins the season of bountiful harvest, where a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables are ripe for filling our dinner tables.

In addition to adding color and texture to a meal, fruits and veggies may help to reduce the risk of diseases, including heart disease and some cancers.  Eating healthy can also help prevent obesity and high blood pressure.  Rich with vitamins and minerals, fruits and veggies can help you feel healthy and have more energy.

However, fewer than 1 in 4 adults eat the recommended amount of fruits every day and fewer than 1 in 7 adults eat the recommended amount of daily vegetables.

The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend filling half your plate with fruits and veggies at every eating occasion, including snacks.  If this sounds challenging, just remember that all forms - fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice count toward your daily intake.

Eating a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits can help you:

  • Lower your risk for heart disease and some types of cancer
  • Maintain or reach a healthy weight
  • Keep your body strong and active

Here are some ideas to help you and your family fit more fruits and vegetables into your day:

  • Keep a bowl of fruit handy where the whole family can see it.
  • Cut up fruits and veggies ahead of time, so they're ready for quick, healthy snacks.
  • Challenge your family to try a new veggie or fruit every week.

Resources to help you and your family find recipes:

Make it a goal this fall to try new, seasonal fruits and vegetables at every meal!

Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

ID Theft-banner

Identity theft is a growing threat due to data breaches and hacking incidents on the rise. Due to this growing trend, identity theft protection is quickly becoming as important as home or auto coverage. With 12.7 million US adults falling victim to identity theft in 2014, you can be at risk.1

Identity theft has grown to more than just using someone’s cred it card or taking out credit cards in someone’s name. Criminals may use the stolen identity to obtain a driver’ s license and other documents and to commit fraud. In these cases, sorting out the situation requires much more than simply canceling credit cards and opening new accounts.

Victims of ID theft sometimes spend hundreds of hours trying to resolve problems that arise when their name, Social Security number, credit card numbers and other financial information are used to commit fraud. Lasting effects for victims of identity theft include debt collector calls, denial on new credit requests, closed credit cards, loan denial, utilities being cut off, criminal investigation or civil suit and difficulties obtaining or accessing bank accounts.

Steps to Protect Yourself

Remove risky items from your wallet – Social Security card; reminders noting PINs or passwords for bank cards or online accounts; blank checks; and spare keys for your home or car.

Collect mail promptly – If you will be on vacation, ask the post office to put your mail on hold.

Pay attention to your billing cycles – If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.

Phishing schemes – traditionally thieves used email to pose as a business in order to trick individuals into divulging personal information. However, it’s important to educate yourself on new tactics including telephone calls, instant messaging, social media and the list of tactics continues to grow.

ID theft protection services can provide counselors to walk victims through the process. Some services provide access to network attorneys but not all reimburse for losses incurred so do your research to find the best fit for your needs. In addition, stay educated about the basics and newest trends of identity theft, how to monitor personal records for evidence of fraud or theft, and about what steps to take to rectify the situation.

1 “2015 Identity Fraud,” Javelin Strategy & Research