Hefren-Tillotson Step Challenge Takeover!

By:  Hefren-Tillotson Team

Hefren-Tillotson is taking over! We’re back to defend our title as top Medium Size Company for the SparkPittsburgh 2nd Annual Company Step Challenge. Last challenge, participating employees took 16,058,430 (almost 7,603.5 miles)!

Our company values play a large part in our culture.  We believe in respect for the individual, integrity in thought and action, teamwork supported by a family oriented culture, and a relentless commitment to excellence.  We strive to provide our employees the same level of care and concern we give to our clients.  The health and wellbeing of our employees is a top priority, without them our firm would not be the same.

Since 1948, our family-owned firm focuses on providing clients with unbiased advice relating to all aspects of their financial situations.  Founder Willard J. “Bill” Tillotson had the foresight to recognize that in order for clients to achieve their long-term financial goals, they’d need a step-by-step, detailed plan.  And as such, the MASTERPLAN® approach was born!

Hefren-Tillotson is one of the oldest and largest full-service wealth management firms headquartered in Western Pennsylvania.  We were recently named among the “Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania” by the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2011, 2015 and 2017.

We are proud supporters of numerous charitable, arts, and cultural institutions throughout the Pittsburgh region, spawning our dedicated community outreach program HT Cares.  Our employees serve and work together to make lasting contributions to the lives of others in our community through volunteering and community service.

One way we seek to achieve this is by offering a wellness program with events and challenges that address specific concerns and interests of our employees.  Some of our wellness opportunities include health fairs, flu shots, biometric testing, lunch and learn presentations on various topics, and physical fitness challenges.  In each of our branches we have wellness captains who help promote the wellness program, answer questions, and encourage employee participation.

We are fortunate to have a workforce of active and health conscious individuals, so the SparkPittsburgh challenge was of great interest to us.  The activity allowed our firm to work together, encourage each other to get in daily steps, and also have a fun and friendly competition.  Understanding the health benefits of physical activity encouraged employees to participate in the step challenge.  We saw groups going out on walks together during lunch time, heard conversations comparing steps achieved, received inspiring emails to keep stepping, and watched the total steps continue to climb for our group.

Our employees are excited to participate in the SparkPittsburgh challenge again this year and ready defend our title for the medium company category.  We are confident our employees will “step” up to the contest and hope to beat our total steps from last year.  We would like to wish the best of luck to all the participating companies.

Happy stepping!

Advertisements

A Freelancing Guide to Health Care

By:  Lynsey Bish

Freelancing is a self-employed person offering services, usually to businesses and often to multiple clients at a time. Nearly every type of service a business would need could be provided by a freelancer, including (but not limited to) marketing, such as social media marketing, copyrighting, technological support, graphic design and being an owner of a business rather than an employer.

Freelancing is so flexible, you can set your work hours, working full-time or part-time on projects of your choice.  However, there are some major advantages to working in a salaried position, one being access to employer-sponsored benefits like health insurance.

Paying for your own health insurance out-of-pocket can be costly, but the benefits provided by health plans outweigh going uninsured when it comes to cost. At BABB Inc., we strive to help individuals who are in need of coverage and not sure where to start.

Marketplace, available at HealthCare.gov, is operated by the federal government and helps provide enrollment in affordable health insurance plans.  The Marketplace provides health plan shopping and enrollment services though websites, call centers, and in-person help.

The advantage to Marketplace is the premium tax credit and possible cost sharing reductions. When you enlist in Marketplace health insurance, you can have the Marketplace figure an expected credit based on your reported income that is paid to your insurance agency to bring down what you pay for you month to month premiums. Low income families could also be eligible for cost sharing reductions with lowered deductibles and/or copays. On the other hand, you can have propel installments of premium tax credit made for your benefit, and accommodate the sum paid ahead of time with the credit you register when you file your tax return

The premium tax credit is intended to help qualified people and families with low or moderate income afford the cost of medical coverage.

Irs.gov goes into detail about premium tax credit facts from basic questions, eligibility, computing the about, reporting, claiming, and reconciling.

The premium tax credit has benefited many, but comes with a few disadvantages to freelancers. It requires people who get the tax credit to accurately project their incomes for the upcoming year.  Being a freelancer it is a challenge, because payments can be irregular. One month you might have record earnings, and the next you might experience your own personal financial crisis. Please note that any over or underpayments of premium tax credits will be reconciled when you file your taxes for the year. You could owe or receive a refund.

If Marketplace is not a fit for you or your family it is best to go direct to a carrier. Highmark Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual plans are available on the Marketplace, for most areas. Highmark plans are also available for many local insurance brokers, like BABB Inc.

The positive about going direct to a carrier is that they do not go as in-depth into income as Marketplace. Depending on where you live, you may also have more options shopping outside the Marketplace. Note, if you do qualify for government financial savings, you will not be able to apply it directly to the carrier.  Government financial savings are only to be used for plans purchases on Marketplace.

Unfortunately, the open enrollment period for buying individual and/or family health insurance has closed.  You will most likely need to sit tight until the 2018 open enrollment period to purchase health insurance.  The only way you can buy into the 2017 health coverage is if you qualify for a 2017 Special Enrollment Period.

Life change information for the Special Enrollment Period includes:

  • If you have experienced family or household changes, such as, recently married, entered into a domestic partnership, or had a change in number of child dependents
  • Job, income, or residence change that resulted in loss of minimum essential coverage or lost eligibility for tax credits.
  • Loss, issues, or changes with your insurance may have changed because of death, divorce, or eligibility.
  • American Indian, Alaska Native, or changes in citizenship. This could be if you recently became a U.S. citizen or if you are part of a federally-recognized tribe. (This coverage is not available through the Highmark site)

Health Insurance can be confusing, attempting to discover if a pre-existing condition(s) limits your choices, what your plan covers, or how to estimate household income. Insurance brokers may be your best route. Brokers are generally licensed and experienced with a number of plans that will benefit you as a freelancer.

For help with your health care needs, don’t be afraid to call the experts at Babb, Inc.  They will gladly assist you in navigating the confusing waters of insurance and help you get covered.

Why Your Steps Matter

By:  Lynsey Bish

Marathoners are the thoroughbreds of high performance, but even if you are a slow and steady jogger or walker, a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that even five or ten minutes a day of low-intensity activities can be enough to extend life by several years.  This minimal healthy “dose” of exercise is smaller than many might assume.

Running is a widespread and convenient physical activity with a steady growth, despite some public concerns about the possible harmful effects of running[1]. It is well-known that physical activity has significant health benefits. The World Health Organization and the U.S. government have recently released evidence-based Physical Activity Guidelines, recommending at least 150 min. of moderate-intensity or 75 min. of vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week[2].

This also applies to those who enjoy a brisk walk in the park with pets or friends. Without a doubt, making a decision to even start exercising – whether it’s walking, jogging, cycling, or using an elliptical machine – will pay dividends in the long run.

Although running can trim away some of your existing risk of cardiovascular disease, it doesn’t completely eliminate it. The combined effects of lifestyle, diet, and family history still contribute to your lifetime risk.

Mood Enhancement

If you’ve ever gone for a run or workout after a stressful day, chances are you felt better afterward. But the effects of physical activity extend beyond the short-term. Research shows that any form of exercise can also alleviate long-term depression[3]. Some evidence comes from broad, population-based correlation studies, and there is epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people.

Fight-or-Flight

Researchers have also explored running as a tool for treating – and perhaps preventing – anxiety[4]. When we’re spooked or threatened, our nervous systems jump into action, setting off a cascade of reaction in our body. People with heightened sensitivities to anxiety respond to those sensations with fear.

The book, Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression  and Enhancing Well-being, by the Anxiety Research and Treatment program at Southern Methodist University, reasoned that regular workouts might help people prone to anxiety become less likely to panic when they experience fight or flight like symptoms. The science behind this theory states that your body is producing many of the same physical reactions as anxiety like heavy perspiration or increased heart rate.

There lies a problem with only prescribing exercise for mental health. Researchers don’t yet have a handle on which types of exercise are the most effective, how much is necessary, or even whether exercise works best in conjunction with other therapies. The is potential exists, but further research needs to be conducted.

Going Green

Go green, minimize your carbon footprint, recycle, are all common words and phrases that are often used in relation to the environment. There are countless opportunities to get out and exercise. More than just a training environment, it turns out that people who exercise outdoors, in their natural settings, are benefiting from more than just their sweat efforts.

Research has shown that time spent in nature has numerous benefits for a person’s well-being, from reduced feelings of tension and anger to overall improvements in mood[5].

So why do we feel so much better? One theory is that by spending time in natural environments, our concentration and overall functioning is restored. By comparing this to our indoor environments, which are full of mentally fatiguing stimuli (TV, phones, computers), our outdoor environment requires effortless attention.

If you’re new to exercising outdoors, take time to adapt: start with a few minutes at the end of your workout to do some cool down stretches, relax, and enjoy your surroundings.

Sign your company up today for the SparkPittsburgh Company Step Challenge and prove that you are committed to being one of the healthiest and most active companies in Western Pennsylvania.

To sign your company up visit sparkpittsburgh.com.


Resources:

[1] Statistics. Running USA. Available at: http://www.runningusa.org/statistics. Accessed July 19, 2017.

[2] Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. World Health Organization. Available at:http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_recommendations/en/. Accessed July 19, 2017.

[3] Journal of the American College of Cardiology Sep 2012, 60 (12) 1064-1066; DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2012.05.015

[4] Journal of the American College of Cardiology Nov 2010, 56 (20) 1681-1682; DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2010.07.022

[5] 1. Brown K, Stanforth D. Go green with outdoor activity. ACSM Health Fitness J. 2017

National Give Something Away Day

Tomorrow, July 15, we will be celebrating a wonderful, unsung holiday, National Give Something Away Day.  It’s a day that reminds us to give back to our communities and those in need.

There are many ways in which you can give back.  Whether you decide to pay it forward and pay for someone else’s meal or groceries, donate unused items you no longer use, donate blood, or just buy someone some flowers.  This is a great day that reminds us that we don’t necessarily need to spend money, or exorbitant amounts of money, to be able to give back.  Take the time to clean out the rooms in your homes, garages, storage lockers, etc. and see what items you have that would benefit someone else more.

Once you decide what you want to donate, where should you go?  The following list are just a few places where you can donate all of your unused goods.

Goodwill Industries of Pittsburgh

There are Goodwill stores all over Pittsburgh and the surrounding area.  Donating your stuff is as easy as taking it to a drop-off center.  Not only do they accept clothing and home goods, but they will also accept books, computers, all types of automobiles, motorcycles, boats, etc.  All you have to do is ask if they will accept the item.

Vietnam Veterans of America

This organization makes the donation process extraordinarily easy.  They have trucks that will come and pick up your household items.  They will not pick up large furniture, however, smaller items like clothing, small appliances and furniture, etc., they will pick up.  All of your items go towards helping veterans of the Vietnam War.  Call to schedule a pick up and make sure your items are easily accessible.  You don’t even have to be home in order for them to pick up your goods.

Washington City Mission

Washington City Mission is passionate about providing clothing, shelter, and food to the homeless and those in need.  Located in Washington County, this mission is always happy to accept clothing, smaller home goods, furniture, and even automobiles.  The most in demand items however, are children’s clothing and winter coats.  There are several drop off locations to donate your stuff or you can call them to set up a home pick-up.

Free Ride!

Free Ride is committed to teaching people about bicycle repair and maintenance, and promoting bicycle use.  Located in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh, they accept all types of bikes, parts, and accessories.  By recycling your bikes, old parts, and accessories, you are helping to keep them from sitting in landfills.  You can donate in two ways.  When the shop is open, Free Ride accepts all donations.  However, when the shop is closed, Construction Junction (see below) will accept all donations on their behalf.

 Dress For Success

Dress For Success’ focus is to empower women to achieve success and independence by providing support networks, professional clothing, and developmental lessons.  Their vision is to create a world “where women do not live in poverty; are treated with dignity and respect; and are strengthening their families and shaping their communities.”  How can you get involved?  First, you can donate your gently- used clothing which helps boost women’s confidence and get them set up to achieve success at interviews and future jobs.  Second, you can donate your money, which is used to finance great developmental programs for women who are striving to become financially independence.  Third, volunteer your time working with these women, planning events, teaching, inventory, picking up donations, etc.

Hopeline Cell Phone Donation

Hopeline collects old cell phones, accessories, chargers, and batteries in all conditions and from any service providers.  These phones are for survivors of domestic violence.  Many survivors are unable to use their old phones and so your unused phone will go towards helping these survivors get back on their feet.  There are a few ways to help.  You can donate your own unused, old phones at any Verizon Wireless retail store.  Or, you could host a phone drive, collecting phones from everyone in your office, at your gym, from friends and friends, etc.

Construction Junction

Did you just clean out your garage or shed and find a bunch of unused building materials that are wasting away?  Well, now there is a place to take those unused items.  Also located in Point Breeze, (point of fact:  Free Ride is located within Construction Junction) Construction Junction is a retail store that is committed to providing affordable building materials for low-income families and help protect the environment.  If you have large materials, they also have a free pick up service, all you have to do is call and set up a time to have your items picked up.

Light of Life

Located right down the street from Allegheny General Hospital in the North Side, Light of Life is dedicated to providing a place for the hungry and homeless to be taken care of and learning how to turn their lives around.  They provide programs that are designed to equip those in need with the education, resources, and stability needed to gain employment and housing.  Light of Life provides a safe space for women and children escaping abuse and helps them get the counseling they need, and provides education and shelter.  They are also committed to helping people who are homeless because of mental illness.  They are always accepting clothing, food, and volunteers.

All of these organizations are committed to not only helping people in their times of greatest need, but also protecting the environment and education.  Don’t forget to celebrate National Give Something Away Day tomorrow, July 15!


Source:  https://www.tripsavvy.com/places-to-donate-items-in-pittsburgh-2707877

L3 Leadership Breakfasts at Babb, Inc.

By:  Russell Livingston, President & CEO, Babb, Inc.

Once a month, on Saturday mornings, a group of aspiring and thoughtful young people get together in our ballroom here at Babb, Inc. to hear a presentation from a prominent Western Pennsylvanian leader.  The presentations have moved me to tears, made me laugh foolishly, stretched my views, and strengthened my beliefs.

Doug Smith, the founder of L3 Leadership, created this organization to create a community of like-minded individuals that want to grow and harness their leadership abilities.  For every new leader that Doug meets and talks with, he creates a podcast, interviewing them on their experiences, struggles, and what it takes to be a great and effective leader.  You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes (L3 Leadership Podcast)

L3 Leadership has created a community of leaders through monthly breakfasts, leadership events, Master Mind groups, and service opportunities.  All of the activities can be found on their website, and on all of their social media pages.

If you haven’t experienced an L3 Leadership program or event yet, I would encourage you to give it a try.  The stories and the people are amazing.

To follow L3 Leadership

Facebook:  L3 Leadership
Twitter: @L3Leader
Instagram: @L3Leadership
LinkedIn:  L3 Leadership

5 Ways to Protect Yourself from Cyber Attacks

By:  Lynsey Bish

This is the digital age, where retail infrastructure is quickly transitioning form credit cards to one-click shopping. What is not so clear is the personal risk and exposure each consumer takes when we go online to buy a shirt. How can we protect ourselves?  First, a few key facts:

  • Computer Hackers are here to stay.
  • Hackers are getting more sophisticated at penetrating company’s firewalls.
  • The global aggregate information website Intelcrawler.com states that there are currently six retail merchants dealing with cyber-attacks.
  • Companies will not let the public know about a cyber-security breach until there is factual evidence of a breach.

It’s safe to say that this problem isn’t going anywhere so here are a few tips to stay ahead of any hackers with the desire to steal your information

1. Change Passwords Regularly

Keep a habit of regularly changing your passwords, once a month should suffice. As for choosing a password make sure they are long enough that only you can decipher/remember what they mean. Coming up with obvious passwords such as your birthdate or initials do not pass muster. Be creative and make your passwords strong by using random combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols that have no connection to you or your family.

If you’re having a tough time remembering all your passwords choose a secure password management service that stores encrypted passwords, like LastPass.

2. Set Up Credit Card Alerts

Most banks and credit card companies have real time notification services that allow them to contact you in the event of a purchase deemed “unusual.” A text notification is an excellent system to know what’s going on with the card at all times.

Some credit card companies even let you set parameters for text notifications. This way a lunch in your area can fly under the radar, but a purchase on the other side of the country will ask for your permission to confirm that it’s actually you making the purchase.

3. Subscribe To Identity Protection

What hackers’ malware does is maneuver its way into private files, grab your credit card and personal information, and sneak out. There are numerous Identity Protection companies who will monitor your credit cards, Social Security number, and other data for a fee. LifeLock is one of the more popular companies that offer identity theft protection.

4. Think Before Biting Into Data

Phishing attacks are one of the most common ways users get hacked. That email from your favorite retailer may look legit but once you click on one of the URLs, you could land on a hacker’s infected web page. Do not click on links you aren’t sure about. Be wary of USB devices claiming to charge you cellphone or other devices. They can poison you with malware or suck up all your personal data.

 5. Keep Your Private Information Private.

Unfortunately, there is a constant threat to your personal data whether you are on the go (cell phone, wallet, and laptop) or at home (PC, home phone). Take extra provision in giving information to unsolicited callers. The more you communicate, the more they learn. Many con-artists make calls to unwitting consumers and are able to smoothly trick the listener into thinking that they are an authorized vendor.

A simple rule: do not provide your passwords or personal information to unsolicited callers. When searching new websites, to ensure its security, make sure there is a closed lock symbol at the bottom right of the screen.  Web addresses that begin with “https” are generally secure, and if you click on the lock symbol on the bottom right, it will display the same “https” address.

Stop. Think. Connect.

The biggest advantage you can give yourself against cyber-attacks is to raise awareness of cyber risk.  Homeland Security has a national public awareness campaign, “Stop. Think. Connect.” that is aimed at increasing the understanding of cyber threats and empowering the American public to be safer and more secure online. Stop.Think.Connect. has an online toolkit that provides resources and guides for Social Media, Cybersecurity while traveling, and discussion topics about Cybersecurity with kids, identity theft, and internet scams.

Protecting yourself online may seem like a daunting task, but by following the five easy steps it becomes simple. You don’t have to be a computer expert to take measures to stay safe online.

#NationalPuppyDay

Dogs, we love them.  And now research is telling us that when we get to spend the day with them at work, these animals make us happier and help lower our stress levels.  Today on National Puppy Day, we want to talk about why allowing dogs in the workplace is a great benefit to your work environment and employees.

Virginia Commonwealth University professors Sandra and Randolph Barker conducted a study that measured the stress levels of employees who worked for a company that allowed dogs in the workplace.  They found that having dogs around, in general, made people happier, lowered stress levels, and made workers more productive.

The most surprising result was that the dogs actually helped to break down communication barriers employees were having between them.  People without dogs would stop by to pet the dogs or ask to take them on walks.  Social interaction is not just a benefit for the dogs themselves, getting to interact with people and other pets, but also creates great opportunities for employees to connect with each other, establishing an atmosphere for better communication and teamwork.

Having a policy that allows dogs in the workplace is an attractive benefit for future hires.  Millennials are quickly replacing the baby boomers as the largest pet-owning generation.  These young, potential employees consistently rate being able to bring their dog or other pet into their office as one of their favorite benefits.  It’s also a great and low cost wellness benefit that is a natural stress reliever and team building activity.

Here at Babb, we get the occasional surprise of having our Group Benefits mascot, Machado the English bulldog spend the day with us.  It allows us to come together and laugh, take a break, and talk to each other.  Not to mention, that on Fridays, when he normally comes in, we are all ready for the weekend and have a build up of stress from the previous days.  When Machado is here, that stress seems to melt away and lightens the atmosphere.  We also get visitors from the other departments to come say hi, coworkers that we don’t always get to interact with on a daily basis.

Let’s face it, there is nothing better than getting to have a midday cuddle with a cute dog.  Check to see what your employer’s stance is on dogs in the workplace or how your employees would react to initiating such a policy.

 


(Photo by Sami Mel Photography)
http://www.aaha.org/blog/petsmatter/post/2016/05/10/317030/The-many-benefits-of-pets-in-the-workplace.aspx
http://www.humanesociety.org/news/magazines/2016/05-06/dogs-at-work.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
http://www.cio.com/article/3000115/staff-management/14-rules-for-creating-a-bring-your-dog-to-work-policy.html
http://www.cnbc.com/2015/10/15/more-firms-allowing-dogs-and-other-pets-in-the-office.html