If you’ve been playing 2020 Apocalypse Bingo, chances are you’ve filled your card by now.

Yup, it’ been a year! Most people will be happy to see 2020 end. Some are asking to review the terms and conditions of 2021 before they ring in the New Year.

We’ve seen it all this year; an international pandemic, subsequent TP shortage, murder hornets, a national coin shortage, mystery seeds from China, threats of the Yellowstone Super Volcano erupting, nuclear fireworks, bears with nun chucks, super lice, square dancing hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, R.O.U.S (Rodents of Unusual Size) in a Texas Swamp, Sam Elliott shaving off his mustache… and we’re not even making these up! Well, we may have made up that one about Sam Elliott.

Here’s the craziest part… We’re still here. We made it through by leaning on each other… figuratively… from at least six feet apart… while wearing masks. Anyway, everyone here at JPI would like to thank you for sticking with us through it all this year. We especially want to thank everyone who supported our community initiatives. We’ve done our best to support small businesses and contribute positively to the community through it all and many of you were right there to help us do it.

It’s been a year for the books alright, but we hope you found a silver lining in the extra family time or maybe newfound faith in the way things have of working out.

We also hope that throughout the holiday season and long past, and after all the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, you’ll remember to Shop Local to support your friends and neighbors… The same people who support our community by doing things like sponsoring kids sports and donating to local nonprofits.

We send our very best wishes to all of you in the coming year, but would anybody mind if we jumped ahead to 2021 now?

National Coin Shortage

Nuclear Fireworks

Square Dancing Hurricanes

Super Volcano

While 2020 may go down in history as the year we’d all like to forget, for me at least there were some memorable moments.

In late December, my parents celebrated their 60th Anniversary. In February, my wife Heidi and I went on an amazing cruise. In July the family made a quick trip to Yellowstone. And finally, in late August I managed to slip away one more time when my brother visited from Maine. Together we took a fly-fishing trip on the Columbia, then golfed two fine courses in Spokane and Coeur D’ Alene.

As I write this, I’m in Nashville, Tennessee at Ramsey Solutions attending the EntreLeadership Master Series. I’m learning a ton from Dave Ramsey’s team to help me lead my own team into the coming year.

And speaking of my team, JPI started 2020 strong with a workshop on company values, culminating in this mission statement – “Loving people through insurance!”

I couldn’t be prouder of my team and how they’ve exemplified this commitment to our clients during a difficult year. When the virus hit hard, our agents reached out to their clients just to see that they had everything they needed. Agents made and delivered masks to health care and essential workers. They lead efforts to bring relief to small businesses and recognize first responders. Some even ran toilet paper out to client homes!

As I was fishing and out of internet range, the worst fires in modern Oregon history hit Western Oregon. They were devastating to dozens of our clients and again, my team reached out with compassion to those who were hurting. I was especially proud of the agents, family members, and friends who volunteered in the fire region and in Salem at the fairgrounds.

We’ve really lived our purpose of loving people through insurance this year, and renewed our commitment to reach out to our clients annually with four basic, but important questions:

1) Does your auto and home liability cover your net worth?
2) Is your biggest asset, your home, properly insured?
3) Have there been any big changes or purchases over the past year?
4) Would your family suffer financial hardships if you died prematurely?

Perhaps 2020 has been a year many would like to forget – but here at JPI, we like to think what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! So, here’s to a strong finish to 2020 and no repeat of the year’s chaos in 2021!

The beginning of October marks the start of the last quarter of 2020 and I for one think this year cannot end soon enough! Still, with three months to go it’s time to announce our fourth quarter charity partners.

For the past two years, JPI has given to our local missions during the holiday season. The onset of winter cold usually sees an increase in need, and we do our best to help them help those individuals, families, and children in crisis. In Kennewick, we’ve developed a relationship with Tri-City Union Gospel Mission. In Salem, it’s Union Gospel Mission of Salem. And in Walla Walla, we work with the Christian Aid Center. Each of them offers a hand up to people when they need it most.

And this year we’re introducing a new charity partner! We’ve had an office in Portland, Oregon for some time but for the first time this year, we’ll be including the Portland Rescue Mission in our end of year giving. Portland Rescue Mission has been around since 1946, offering food and shelter to people in need.

This is where YOU come in.

Perhaps you’ve heard of our referral program. Many of our clients already know how it works. When we give you great service, we ask that you tell your friends and family about us. If they call for a quote, we donate $20 to the quarterly charity partner, whether we write them a policy or not!

With YOUR help, we can reach out to our local missions and help others when they need it most.

When was the last time you got to go on a $1000 school supplies spending spree at Walmart? I can tell you it’s no easy task! It’s surprising how far the money goes and how HEAVY the stuff is!

I found this out last month when I had the happy task of spending our referral dollars on school supplies to donate to S.H.A.K.E. – Seniors Helping All Kid’s Education.

Each quarter we select a different charity partner and for every referral we receive, we donate $20. Our main benefactor this quarter was S.H.A.K.E., a group of seniors who collect and distribute school supplies to local schools where the need is greatest.

This school year may look a little different, but kids still need the same stuff. And boy did we get a bunch of it! Now I understand why these ladies came out with carts to receive our delivery!

~Cara Thomas

S.H.A.K.E. stands for Seniors Helping All Kid’s Education. You can drop off donations of school supplies for S.H.A.K.E. at the Kennewick JPI office in September and January.

 

 

District by district across Washington and Oregon, school officials are determining how learning will look this academic year. Many schools will continue remote learning for an undetermined amount of time. Others are re-opening part or full time for in-person classes, with physical distancing measures in place. And, in light of all of this, some parents are considering home school.

No matter what your situation, if you have school aged kids you’re looking at some significant changes in your routines this year. Here are a few tips:

  1. If you can look at your situation as a shared challenge, your child will too.
  2. Establish a quiet place for work and study for each child, if possible.
  3. Find a routine that works for your family and stick with it.
  4. Check in with teachers often and utilize available school resources.
  5. Vary activities and plan breaks… and SNACKS!
  6. Network with other parents where possible – Some parents have Facebook groups for the school so parents can interact.
  7. Reach out for help if you’re having trouble with any of the necessary requirements for your child’s success.

Don’t forget local resources either, like your public library, Parks & Recreation Department, and book & game stores.

 

Today there are peppers here at JPI, waiting for someone to take them home. One of our co-workers is sharing her surplus and they’re beautiful! Last week our fearless leader, Joe Peterson, graciously shared tomatoes and cucumbers from his own garden with all of us. Some squash showed up a while back, too… and I’m not even sure where those came from.

Late summer is always like that, but it seems the lockdown resulted in a bumper crop this year. A lot of people who don’t normally have gardens started one this year, including me.

I love it that we’re seeing a revival of the “Victory Garden.” I mean, we’re not technically in a war, but reflection has really made people more deliberately about finding joy in simple things, and many strive to be more self-sufficient by producing food. And frankly, a lot of us just got bored.

As the Marketing Coordinator for JPI Insurance Solutions, I latched onto this as a theme for some of our newsletter and social media content. As it turns out, people love to brag about their harvests! Several readers sent pics of fresh, beautiful veggies straight out of their gardens. That means people are actually reading my stuff, something I already count as a win, but seriously… this is just a cool trend. I hear urban chickens are making a comeback, too!

It reminds me of a time back in the 70s, when my folks decided to be more self-sufficient.

They bought five acres and populated it with horses, cows, goats, pigs, geese, ducks, and chickens and for years, I lived on our little hobby farm. My mom was proud of all she accomplished back then and why not be? She came from a more urban environment, so she had a lot to learn at first. After a few years, though, she could say that almost everything on the dinner table came from our farm; from the vegetables, to the butter and milk, to the beef, pork or chicken.

I was one of those kids whose hamburger always had a name.

Anyway, I’m happy to say this spring I finally started the container gardens I’d been thinking about for a year or more, and growing stuff has given me a great deal of comfort and joy this spring and summer. Most of my containers are ornamental, but I did put in potatoes and a few herbs. It’s late August as I’m writing this article and I can’t wait until I can harvest my potatoes. Aside from being my favorite food on the planet, potatoes are infinitely versatile… The Irish could feed an entire family with just a small plot planted in potatoes.

Someone recently pointed out, all I’m really missing is eggs and voila! Breakfast! Urban chickens, anyone?

Once again, JPI is teaming up with S.H.A.K.E. and Communities in Schools to collect school supplies. While the school year may look a little different this next year, kids will still need the usual stuff. Here’s a list of items in high demand:

• Highlighters
• Scientific calculators
• Mechanical pencils
• Composition Notebooks
• Colored pencils
• Markers
• Sharpies
• Pocket folders
• Crayons
• Index Cards
• Kleenex (personal size)
• Hand Sanitizer (personal size)
• Backpacks for Middle and High School Kids
• Post-It Notes
• Ear buds – Gender neutral preferred
• USB drives

Call your local JPI office to make an appointment for the contact-free drop off of supplies, or text to donate directly to Communities in School.

Text BUS TO #41444

Do You NEED a Household Inventory?

Do you want the long answer or the short answer? The short answer is, “yes.”

And there are lots of good times to work on your household inventory… In the spring when you’re cleaning and organizing, when you’re moving or re-modeling, whenever you make large purchases, or when you’re doing your annual insurance policy review.

You know when is NOT a good time to create a household inventory? After you’ve had a loss. You’re already in the middle of a tough situation. So now you’ve got this to figure out, too, and it could delay your claim.

Trust me… I’m speaking from experience. I had a house fire and had to spend agonizing hours writing down all the things I knew I’d lost. It was horrible.

If you don’t already have a household inventory, at least you’re in good company. Most people don’t.

We’re bringing this up because as your independent insurance agent, we want you to get the most out of your coverage. So, here’s our simple three-step plan to get you on your way from having this chore on your list of things to do, to getting it DONE:

1. Video Inventory: Bite the bullet. Set aside a weekend afternoon or a free evening and video your possessions. Do it all at once or just a room or closet at a time, narrating as you go. Be sure to include storage areas and keep at it until you’ve gotten to everything.

2. When You Buy: When you make major purchases, save your receipt. Start a file, hardcopy and/or electronic and include make and model information or snap a picture of the serial number.

3. Don’t LOSE It: You’ve taken the time to create your household inventory. Now just put it in a safe place. It should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway… Keep it somewhere NOT in your house.

Once you’ve completed your household inventory, treat yourself. Hey, you adulted! And don’t forget to check in with your insurance agent once a year for an annual policy review. Your up-to-date household inventory will be your guide to making sure you always have the coverage that makes the best sense for YOU.

Part I: Home Values, Purchase Prices, and Getting a Loan

Recently, we reached out to several of our friends in real estate and lending for their feedback on the current state of the world, especially as it pertains to buying and selling real estate in the Northwest post Covid-19. “Home Values, Purchases Prices, and Getting a Loan” is the first in a series of four articles resulting from the feedback we received.

We asked the following questions, “How have home values and purchase prices been affected by the Pandemic, ensuing unemployment and government shutdown?” and “Is it harder to get a loan to purchase a home during this pandemic?” Here’s what our friends had to say.

Home Values/Purchase Prices – Washington
Jeremy Asmus of the Kenmore Team in Kennewick, Washington noted “the uptick in the market we expect to see in the spring has been delayed, but home prices are holding steady.” Shawn Flinders with Evergreen Home Loans in Kennewick felt it may be too soon to tell what the impact will be, but said, “In Eastern WA there is a shortage of available inventory which should help keep home prices relatively stable.” However, “Further stay-at-home orders have the potential to dramatically change this,” he added.

Home Values/Purchase Prices – Oregon
Our friend Chris Stewart with Windemere Pacific West Properties in Salem, Oregon had this to say about the market there, “At this time values have not been impacted. We are seeing buyers and sellers who are concerned about their employment status put off buying and selling until they feel more comfortable, but that is a very small percentage of what we are experiencing. There are more buyers in the market than sellers which keeps upward pressure on home pricing.”

Getting a Loan – Washington/Oregon
On questions regarding loans, Eric Culverhouse of Retter & Company in Kennewick, Washington answered, “We have not noticed issues with lending other than a few delays and back log with appraisers due to the continued record low interest rates, compounded with the refinance market.” Dr. Kay Lehman of Realtor Kay, LLC however, felt it’s currently harder to get a loan because, while the underlying qualifications from FHA, Fannie Mae etc. have not changed, some lenders have raised their in-house qualifications. She adds, “Today it is more important than ever to shop around and ask questions of lenders.” Finally, Chris Stewart of Windermere Pacific West Properties reported little to no impact on getting a loan in his market in Oregon. “In fact, we’ve seen interest reductions which created an activity of refinancing and more buyers in the market.”

In summary, as Eric Culver of Retter & Company noted, “The housing market has long been one of the primary cornerstones of our economy” and “will be a significant factor assisting the economy and livelihoods of our nation.” And here at JPI, we love Dave Ramsey… So, for a nationwide perspective, here’s what Dave has to say. Check out his article, Can I Buy or Sell a Home in 2020?

Home

Follow our four-part series on buying and selling real estate when we talk more about the availability of housing for the remainder of 2020 and offer some advice to buyers and sellers for the coming months.

 

We want to let you in on a “Big Secret.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, your business has been impacted in many ways you may not realize. “Essential” and “Non-essential” alike, we are in a new frontier and scrambling to keep our livelihoods moving forward.

When looking through the lens of risk management through insurance, I see 2 major things you can do today to impact your bottom line.

RETURN OF PREMIUM

First, I’ll let you in on a “big secret” you may not have been informed of. “Return Of Premium!”

While the home & auto insurance companies have been “tooting their horn” about return of premium to their clients, we haven’t heard much from the commercial insurance industry. If your business has been impacted by a mandatory shut down, call your agent and ask if you can get a “Return Of Premium.”

One major example is the hospitality industry – their general liability and liquor liability is rated off their annual sales. The business owner takes an educated guess as to what their sales will be for the year prior to starting the policy, and then pay that premium.

In the case of COVID-19, where they were forced to shut their doors for months, they likely overpaid in premium. Considering insurance companies are denying business income claims, the vast majority are offering a return on their premium, giving the customers a break on the cost of insurance since sales have been greatly impacted.

It may require a P&L, showing sales volumes prior to the shutdown, or adjusting what the sales should have been for the year, and giving a return based on the lower numbers.

Either way, if your business has been shut down due to COVID-19, call your agent today and ask what your insurance carrier is willing to do!

CYBER LIABILITY

Second, computer hackers are seizing on the pandemic. Twitter announced all their staff are working remote and may end up working remote indefinitely.

Are you confident your remote workers are as secure as they would be in your workplace?
Hackers see this vulnerability and the amount of cyber attacks have increased significantly.

What can you do?

A first-line defense is working with a seasoned IT company. If something does get through and takes down your computer system, do you have the cash on hand to be able to weather the storm? The costs associated with ransomware, restoring data, notifying all clients by mail – even the cost to provide credit monitoring services – can quickly run into 6-Figures.

How would that cost impact your operations? A comprehensive cyber liability policy is an equitable solution to protect your bottom line!