Handling Talent Shortages in Tech Departments

Technology advancement has brought about great digital transformation. Unfortunately, this has come with a global tech talent shortage. IT executives highlight the shortage as a huge barrier to the adoption of emerging technologies, as reported by this Gartner study.

It is estimated that the demand for tech talent will keep increasing, and this could result in an estimated 85 million global talent shortage by the year 2030. Therefore, companies need to rethink their approach to hiring and retention.

Reasons Behind the Tech Talent Shortage

It is worth trying to first understand what is causing the tech talent shortage. A few of the reasons that have led to the shortage include:

  • Advances in technology – Technology is advancing at a high speed, requiring workers with skills to match the new technology. Unfortunately, the tech education system can’t keep up with the speed, hence a shortage of people with the required skills.
  • The great resignation – This became a buzzword with work from home that came with the Covid pandemic; unfortunately, even after the pandemic, people are still leaving their jobs. A survey by TalentLMS and Workable found 72 percent of employees working in tech are considering quitting their jobs or exploring other opportunities.
  • High demand for tech talent – There has been an increase in the demand for tech workers in recent years as more businesses and industries turn to technology for daily operations. New technology creates new roles such as data professionals, data security specialists, and software engineers among others that are highly competitive.
  • Challenges in training and development – some companies might not have the resources and time to invest in employee development.

Business Challenges of IT Talent Shortage

Businesses are feeling the effect of the tech talent shortage, especially when it comes to digital transformation. Emerging technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence, blockchain and augmented reality that promise to keep a business ahead of its competition require skilled workers.

Hiring new talent or reskilling employees also comes at a cost, and companies struggle to fill positions. On the other hand, failing to have skilled employees results in unrealized annual revenues.

As a result, businesses of all sizes find themselves failing to develop projects on time and hence fail to meet deadlines. In other cases, the existing employees end up overburdened with too much work, and this may lead to them quitting. Eventually, a business experiences slow innovation and slow growth.

How to Handle the Tech Talent Shortage

A few strategies to help address this issue include:

  • Investing in employee development and training

Providing ongoing training and development opportunities for current employees can help them acquire new skills and knowledge. This will not only make them more valuable to your organization, but also less likely to leave.

  • Attract top talent through a strong employer brand

Building a strong employer brand can help in attracting top talent to your organization. This can involve highlighting your company’s culture, values, and mission, as well as offering competitive compensation and benefits packages. A good reputation will also help attract new talent.

  • Partnering with educational institutions

A company may also partner with local colleges and universities to gain access to a pool of talented students who are looking for internships or entry-level positions. Additionally, setting up mentorship or internship programs helps build a pipeline of talent for your organization.

  • Increase recruitment efforts

Sometimes it might be difficult to find the right talent, which makes it necessary to increase recruitment efforts. This could involve working with recruitment agencies, posting job openings on job boards and social media platforms, and attending job fairs and industry events.

  • Consider hiring remote workers

Even with all efforts in place, it may still be difficult to find the right talent in a business location. Today, technology has enabled people to work remotely. This offers access to a larger pool of candidates and also can help attract top talent from other parts of the country or even the world. It is also possible to work with freelancers or contractors to fill specific skills gaps on a project-by-project basis.

  • Enhance the recruitment process

An inefficient recruitment process will cost the company good talent. Therefore, any poor communication or delayed communication will affect talent acquisition. A company might need to streamline its recruitment process.

Final Thoughts

The global tech talent shortage is already negatively affecting businesses. Since the shortage is expected to rise, business leaders need to decide on the best way forward so they are not left behind in digital transformation. A good decision should fit business goals whether choosing to hire internal talent, remote workers, or outsource technology needs.

Your Year-End Financial Checklist

Believe it or not, the year is coming to a close. If you want to finish strong and set attainable goals for 2023, here’s a handy, actionable checklist to help you navigate upcoming expenditures.  

Review Your Spending and Create a Budget

This might seem like Finance 101, but it’s a tried and true method that works. Take a look back to see where your money went. When you’ve evaluated your patterns of spending, you can reset priorities for the New Year, assuming you want to make changes. If you do, sit down and create a budget. Your tax professional will probably have a downloadable tax planning guild so ask them first, but here’s an example of a family-friendly free, downloadable template to get you started on your 2023 plan. 

Rethink Your Savings

If you already have a healthy amount in savings, congrats. Make sure it’s an account that’s interest-bearing and you have the best rate. However, if you had to dip into your emergency savings, then chart a course to replenish it. If you don’t have an emergency fund, it makes good sense to start one. A smart rule to consider is having six months of income saved up, should your heater go out, you experience a sudden job loss, or suffer unforeseen medical expenses that your insurance doesn’t cover. A no-nonsense way to begin is to automate a certain amount each month that will be deducted from your paycheck. You’ll begin to accumulate money in no time. Best of all, you’ll never miss it.

Evaluate Your Debt

Have you made progress in paying it down? Or have you gone the other way?  If you’ve eliminated your debt, once again, congrats. If you’ve increased your debt, don’t despair because there are some easy ways to cut expenses. Slow down on eating out. Review your subscriptions and see which ones you really need. Here’s a list of more areas to consider. Another way to get rid of the shackles of debt is to apply for a consolidation loan. You might also use the debt snowball method—starting with the smallest debt and working your way up to the largest. Or the inverse, the debt avalanche, where you pay off high-interest rate balances first. 

Contribute to Your 401(k) by Dec. 31

You still have time to do this, but make sure it happens before the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31. If you’re fortunate enough to receive a year-end bonus, you might want to put as much of it as you can toward your 401(k) plan. For the New Year, increase the amount you’re contributing. Just one or more percentage points higher can make a big difference. Finally, if your company offers a match that you have yet to take advantage of (read: max out), do so before it’s too late. 

Consider a Roth Conversion

If you’ve experienced a loss of income this year, you may be in a lower tax bracket. This means you can take advantage of your situation by converting some of your pre-tax assets like a Traditional IRA into a Roth IRA. If you’ve earned too much to convert to a Roth IRA, a back-door Roth IRA contribution might be the way to go. Here’s how you do it: Deposit money into a non-deductible Traditional IRA, then convert that IRA into a Roth IRA. But before you do anything at all, consult your tax advisor, as there are potential costs and tax liabilities that might come up.

Check your FSA Balance

An FSA (Flexible Spending Account) is a great benefit if your employer offers it. However, check your balance to see how much you have left because the rule is: Use it or lose it. That said, many companies offer a grace period until mid-March to spend what you have left, though not all do. Make sure to inquire about the rules of your account before the New Year.

Get a Free Credit Report

When was the last time you checked your credit? If you haven’t done so, now’s a good time because looking back can help you plan ahead. Here’s a great place to get a free report. If you notice any errors or discover any identity theft, you can immediately take steps to correct them and start with a clean slate for 2023.

While taking care of financial matters at the end of the year can be a love/hate kind of thing to do, if you spend a little time now, the coming days might be substantially merrier and bright.

Sources

https://www.bankrate.com/personal-finance/end-of-year-financial-checklist/

https://www.bankrate.com/retirement/what-is-a-backdoor-roth-ira/

Inventory Valuation: How Companies Can Calculate It

By 2021, there were 20,000 warehouses in the United States and growing, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). With more warehouses expected to pop up in 2022 and beyond, one important consideration for businesses of all sizes is to keep track of their inventories. With different tracking and valuation methods, it’s important to understand how they work and what they can tell business owners.

Before inventory can be valued, it’s imperative to understand how it can be expressed mathematically:

Ending Inventory = Starting Inventory + Net Acquisitions – Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)

Now that inventory is better defined, understanding different approaches to inventory valuation are essential to keeping track. The first type of inventory valuation is referred to as FIFO or First In, First Out. This means that businesses sell their earliest produced inventory first and new inventory last. 

Assume a company produces 500 widgets on day 1, costing $2 per widget. The same company then produces 500 widgets on day 2, costing $2.50 per widget. This method says that if 500 widgets are sold over the next week, the cost of goods sold (COGS), derived from the Income Statement, is $2 per widget because that’s how much the first 500 widgets cost to produce for inventory. The remaining widgets, 500 widgets at a cost of $2.50 per unit, would be accounted for under the ending inventory on the balance sheet. 

One consideration, especially in an inflationary environment, for remaining inventory on the balance sheet is that a business might see a higher tax obligation. This is likely to occur because of higher net income due to a lower cost basis from the older inventory when assessing the COGS. Newer, more expensive inventory will naturally lead to a lower tax basis, especially if inflation falls and the retail cost is mitigated by decreased demand.

The next option is referred to as LIFO – or Last In, First Out. This means that businesses sell what they’ve produced first, then move on to the older inventory. If any inventory is left at the end of the accounting time frame, it’s accounted for accordingly. Assuming the same 500 widgets were sold in the particular accounting period, the time frame’s COGS would be $2.50 per widget, with the 500 widgets left over in inventory valued at the $2 per widget cost.  

One important caveat to this type of valuation concerns inventory that’s perishable or becomes obsolete quickly (cell phones, televisions, etc.). It is not an effective method because the product will either spoil or become worth next to nothing due to highly competitive industries. For this approach, using the most recently produced goods first would lend their COGS basis to be higher. In one respect, the higher COGS basis can lower profits, but can also offset taxes due to the same effect. The third type of inventory valuation is referred to as Average Cost. This method is a way to blend LIFO and FIFO, which takes the average of inventory across all production and storage timelines. This approach averages costs in proportion to the number of widgets produced in each run, then calculates the mean cost to determine the ending inventory and COGS figures. 

[(500 x $2) + (500 x $2.50)]/1,000 = ($1,000 + $1,250)/1,000 = $2,250/1,000 = $2.25

Therefore, the average cost for inventory using this method would be $2.25 per widget.

With different types of inventory valuation explained, there are considerations that businesses should be mindful of for each approach. This can make a difference to those running the company and potential investors and lenders contemplating investing in or loaning the company money.

What is Datafication, and Should Business Leaders Take Notice?

Data has become a primary asset for businesses today. Consequently, the survival of a business in our data-driven environment is highly dependent on the ability to have total control over data storage, extraction, and manipulation.

As businesses continue being bombarded with vast volumes of data, datafication has become a big trend that provides a solution to turn data into quantifiable, usable, and actionable information. 

What is Datafication? 

The term datafication was coined by Kenneth Cukier and Victor Mayer-Schöenberger in 2013 when they explained it as the transformation of social actions into quantifiable data.

Today, much data is collected at the point of contact with any technology device. Aside from data such as text, images, and numbers, there are logins, passwords, device activity logs, clicks, interaction times, and more. Datafication helps translate all of these human activities into data, which is then repackaged in a form that offers value.

In business, datafication means converting every activity of a business model into actionable data. This has been enabled by a rise in technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data analytics, and predictive analytics. 

It’s worth noting that datafication is not the same as digitization. While datafication is about taking all aspects of life and turning them into a data format, digitization involves converting analog content, such as images and text, to a digital format.

Examples of Datafication in Real Life

There are various ways datafication has been applied in real life, including:

  1. Social media platforms – a lot of data is found on social platforms through profile updates, preferences, reactions, comments, and posts. Such information is used for customer profiling.
  2. Ad personalization – tech giants such as Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon are already using collected data in their storage to personalize their ads and target potential customers.
  3. In customer relationship management – data collected through language and tone in emails, social media, and phone calls are used to understand customer needs and wants as well as buying behavior and personalities.  
  4. Human resources – HR uses data obtained from social media or mobile apps to discover characteristics and personalities when looking for potential employees. They also use the data to assess employee productivity. This means that it may no longer be necessary to take personality tests, as the collected data can be analyzed to check if a person matches the company culture and role for which he applies.
  5. Insurance and banking – understanding the risk profile of a customer applying for insurance or a loan, as the data is used to assess the client’s trustworthiness. 

Datafication for Competitive Advantage

With the above use cases, it is evident that businesses can leverage datafication to help improve operations, thereby increasing productivity and revenue.

For instance, collecting real-time customer feedback can help improve products and services. Additionally, it becomes easy to determine and predict sales by analyzing data from social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The information collected from social media, emails, and other digital platforms is then used to create personalized campaigns, effectively targeting the most interested audience.

How Businesses Can Implement Datafication

Any trending technology that presents benefits to a business comes at a cost. Luckily, cloud computing eases datafication for businesses as they don’t have to worry about acquiring necessary hardware and software. With readily available software as a service (SaaS) or platform as a service (PaaS) technologies, businesses need only to define the goal they want to achieve with the data collected.

The main concern of a business remains the proper implementation of datafication. To begin with, it is best to ensure that the right technology – such as mobile devices, voice assistants, wearables, and IoT – is used.

Next is to use appropriate platforms. Using the right platform will help effectively extract data that a business needs. Such platforms should also analyze massive amounts of data and produce reports that enhance decision-making. 

Another critical factor is to have a centralized repository where all authorized people in the organization can access the data.

Finally, it’s crucial to have skilled professionals in data infrastructure, data management, and data analytics to evaluate and manage the data. This could either be an in-house team or outsourced.

Conclusion

Businesses that wish to remain relevant must consider datafication as part of their digital strategies. However, as datafication enters digital transformation, its successful implementation will require attention to data protection through adhering to legal requirements, technical measures such as access control, and best business practices.

How to Write Great Happy Holiday Emails

There’s no better time than the holidays to show your employees and your clients how much you appreciate them. Here are five simple steps to help you craft the perfect email in no time.

Decide on the Audience and Purpose

Before you begin, determine who will be your recipients. For instance, if you’re writing to your team, it will be a bit different than writing to your clients. However, no matter who you are addressing, you’ll probably want to start by expressing your gratitude. After that, you can further refine your message. If it’s to your employees, acknowledging their hard work and dedication is a great place to start. After that, you might tout the many wins you’ve all experienced over the year. If you’re writing to your clients, you might want to share how great your partnership has been recently and that you’re hoping for an even better year ahead.

Keep it Brief

When expressing a seasonal message, less is more. Take time to think through exactly what you want to say. A good way to begin is to write what you want to say imperfectly. Get the thoughts out – it’s okay if it’s too long. Then come back and refine and cut. But be sure to give yourself enough time to do so. Few things are as challenging as trying to write a great message in a hurry.

Personalize Your Message

Craft your message as if you were talking to an individual, as opposed to a group. You don’t want it to be stuffy or overly corporate. Think about what you’d like to hear. Put yourself in the recipient’s place. Even if you feel your audience is more on the formal side, the holidays are the right time to be transparent and real. No one wants to receive a message that feels forced or fake.

Proofread Your Text

This is critical. Read every single word, and do it out loud. This works. Why? When you don’t do this, your brain fills in missing words. When you speak the words you wrote, you’ll instantly discover your mistakes. Imagine sending a holiday message that says, “Season‚ Gratings!” Of course, you’d never do this, but this is hyperbole to make a point.

Choose a Clear Subject Line

Straightforward, concise, and professional is what you want to aim for. A few simple examples are:

  • Sending You Warm Holiday Wishes
  • Season’s Greeting From [Company Name]
  • Wishing You a Wonderful Holiday Season

However, you can always be more creative and weave in something that happened over the year that will resonate with the audience, something that is specific either to your company’s culture or the culture of your client.

At the end of the year, as crazy as things can get with schedules, parties, and shopping, it’s always nice to open your inbox and receive a message that warms the heart. These days, with everything that’s going on around us, it can make a world of difference.

Sources
https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/happy-holidays-email

Auditing: What It Is & Why It’s Done

The Importance of Auditing

Auditing typically refers to an objective review of a company's financial statements, which consist of the cash flow statement, the income statement, and the balance sheet. Audits are evaluations that analyze the level of accuracy that the business has characterized in its financial records. The process looks at how a business documents investing, financing, and operating ventures.

Depending on the type of audit and what it aims to accomplish, it can be conducted by internal employees or independent, third-party examiners, like a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firm or a government agency such as the Internal Revenue Service. When it comes to the United States, the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) are what auditors look to when analyzing financial statement preparation. External audits are guided by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' (AICPA) Auditing Standards Board (ASB). The AICPA requires that the generally accepted auditing standards (GAAS) are followed by external auditors to ensure proper protocol is followed.

When it comes to regulations, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires publicly traded companies to have their internal controls’ impacts reviewed. It also states that companies that do not implement and enforce their internal controls may be subject to criminal charges.

Defining Internal Controls

Internal controls can be thought of as how businesses manage operations by regulating permissions, documentation, congruency, protection/safety, and partitioning of responsibilities for business processes. These are broken into preventative and detective activities.

Sometimes referred to as protective activities, responsibilities are compartmentalized and distributed among different individuals to dissuade mistakes or deceit from occurring.

It also integrates highly detailed written procedures and validation procedures for further cautionary measures. It's meant to verify that no sole person is able to approve, document, or be responsible for monetary transactions and final products. Permitting invoices and validation of expenses are examples of internal controls. Only permitting appropriate access to the fewest employees necessary and the fewest required business equipment is one way to implement this type of internal control.

Detective Controls Defined

Detective controsl are redundant systems that are put in place to intercept issues that might have fallen through the initial round of quality control measures. Looking at reconciliation procedures, which match the data in question against known accurate data sets, it's used to fix discrepancies.

Internal Audits

Internal audits are usually conducted by a business’ employees, primarily performed as a way to evaluate internal operations and internal controls. They look to identify any deficiencies or weaknesses in the business' operations, often occurring before an external auditor reviews its financial statements. This type of audit is also meant to review and identify any legal or regulatory compliance issues.

External Audits

An external audit occurs when an independent auditor, such as a third-party CPA firm, assesses a business' internal controls and financial statements. It is performed to provide an objective opinion that an audit conducted by the business itself cannot. With a “clean opinion” or “unqualified opinion” provided by the independent auditor, businesses can provide those looking at financial statements confidence that such financial statements are reliable. It enables the outside entity to focus on the financials, the business's internal controls, etc. by providing a conflict-of-interest-free perspective.

Government Audits

Government audits are done to ensure that businesses have accurately reported their taxable income to respective government agencies. This can include federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which are the U.S. and Canada's respective tax collection agencies.

When an IRS audit has concluded its review, there may be a few different preliminary results and resulting paths. The tax return may see no modification. There may be a modification the taxpayer agrees to, which could result in additional money being owed. The third result occurs when the filer doesn't agree with the change, and it is worked out through an appeal process.

Whether it's an investor for a publicly traded company or a business looking for creditors for help with money, materials, etc., having audited financial statements provide confidence that they'll see a return on their investment or a high likelihood of their debts being satisfied in the future.

Sources

https://www.congress.gov/bill/107th-congress/house-bill/3763

How to Host Awesome Holiday Office Parties

Fall is here and so are many of the holidays we love. Whether it's Halloween, Thanksgiving, or the December holidays, here are some fail-safe things you can do to make sure everyone shows up and has a good time.

Throw a Potluck

One of the easiest ways to lure people away from their desks is – you guessed it – food. Create a sign-up sheet with different categories to make sure you have enough savory and sweet dishes, and provide options for those with dietary restrictions. If you’re the organizer, you might supply the drinks and utensils, maybe even some appetizers or snacks. Depending on the holiday, you might also suggest a theme. If it’s Halloween, you could ask folks to bring their spookiest fare.

Have a Raffle

This is yet another way to get people out of their offices. Everyone who shows up gets a ticket and on the back, they'll sign their name. At different times during the party, have a drawing. Maybe leave the big prize to the end. You could even stipulate that people must be present to win. Some of the prizes you could offer are gift cards, smart watches, paid time off (PTO), or tickets to an event (a sporting event, a concert, etc.). A weekend at a local hotel (think staycation) or airline tickets are also attractive options. If resources allow, the sky’s the limit.

Designate Secret Santas

During December, this is always a big hit. Employees draw random names and get paired up with someone. The Secret Santa is given a wish list to choose from to give to their giftee. A smart idea is to set a monetary limit, such as gifts for under $25. After opening the present, the giftee has to guess who gave them the gift.

Set Up Games

Think giant Jenga. Pin the carrot nose on the snowman. Cornhole. These can be scheduled or ongoing. And best of all, it’s easy and uncomplicated. Employees can come and go as they wish. A little competition while everyone is noshing is a surefire way to foster employee bonding.

Host a White Elephant Gift Exchange

This is another classic. Everyone brings a wrapped gift and then you draw numbers. People sit in a circle with the presents in the middle, select their gifts in numerical order and unwrap them for all to see. But here’s the fun part: You can steal a gift that someone before you has unwrapped, which causes that person to either select a gift from the pile or steal from someone else. After three steals, the gift is frozen with whoever has it.

Volunteer Together

Working side by side with your colleagues for a purpose greater than yourself always cultivates a sense of community. For example, you could print off blank cards with your company logo on them, then ask employees to send a note of thanks to deployed military members. Another thing you could do with the cards is send a word of encouragement to those who live in places like The Salvation Army. The holidays can bring up lots of emotions, and sending positive messages to others is always a reward in and of itself. After all, when you give, you receive.

Whether you try one or all of these ideas, taking a break from the grind and enjoying a little non-work fun is not just necessary, it's critical. When employees can cut loose, as well as feel appreciated and cared for, you'll likely have a happier, healthier workplace.

Sources

https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/office-holiday-party

Should You Upgrade Your Homeowners Insurance?

During the first year of the pandemic, many homeowners spent their downtime upgrading their homes. 2020 alone saw a three percent uptick in spending on home improvements – to the tune of nearly $420 billion nationwide. This included modifications for remote work, online schooling, and leisure activities at home.

Between remodeling, high inflation, and today's elevated real estate prices, it's important to review your homeowner's insurance policy to ensure it is up to date. Does it include enough coverage for recent upgrades to your home? Does it carry an inflation factor to ensure coverage is on par with more expensive building material costs and labor increases? Do you have coverage for ancillary factors, such as the cost of meeting local building ordinances or flood insurance for today’s extreme weather events?

Replacement vs. Actual Value

One term to check on your policy's declaration page is whether your coverage is determined by replacement cost or actual cash value. Replacement costs will pay for repairs to your home or replace your personal property (e.g., laptop, television) up to coverage limits, regardless of its current value. In other words, the policy will pay for a new computer even if your old one was three years old.

Actual cash value refers to a cash payout equal to the current value of your property. In other words, if your computer was three years old, you will receive the cash value of a three-year-old computer – which will not likely cover the cost of a new replacement.

Guaranteed Replacement

In lieu of upgrading your home's cost coverage each year, you might have the option to pay for a guaranteed replacement, which is an extra fee that ensures the policy will cover the entire cost to rebuild your home. Extended replacement cost coverage pays out a certain percentage above your policy's stated dwelling coverage limit if the cost to rebuild is higher than the face amount. For example, a policy with $200,000 coverage and 25 percent extended replacement coverage will pay up to $250,000 to rebuild your home.

Ordinance Coverage

Homeowners who live in older homes should consider adding ordinance coverage if it is not standard under their policy. Ordinance coverage pays for the cost to meet current building codes should you need to rebuild. These fees can be substantial and would have to be paid out-of-pocket if you don’t have this form of coverage. Note, too, that although guaranteed replacement cost coverage might offer a higher payout, that is only for the material and labor costs to rebuild – not local ordinance fees, licenses, or inspections.

Inflation Impact

As you review your current policy, note that the section labeled “Coverage A” represents the amount available to rebuild your home. It generally rises by two to three percent each year for basic cost-of-living increases. However, it is worth noting that building materials, such as lumber and steel, increased by 19 percent in 2021, and in June the general inflation rate increased to 9.1 percent, its highest level in more than 40 years.

Because rising home building costs, high inflation, and the increasing number of weather events have plagued the home insurance industry, policy premiums are starting to increase at a higher rate each year than in the past. In addition to higher costs due to supply chain disruptions and inflation, the home building industry is hampered by a lack of qualified workers – and experienced workers are demanding higher pay. This is yet another component that is factored into calculating insurance premiums. Basically, anything that would lead to a higher cost to repair your home will result in higher rates.

Insurance companies calculate your policy premiums by multiplying your home's replacement rate with your home's current value. Therefore, a combination of higher building costs and higher real estate values have contributed to higher insurance premiums. Some states have set an annual percentage cap on how much insurance companies can raise homeowner rates each year. However, given the increasing number of extreme weather events (e.g., storm surges, wildfires) in recent years, state legislators also have increased those rate caps so that insurers have the latitude to cover excess payouts. Note that rate increases vary by geographical area and are based on local weather activity, labor costs, and building supplies.

Some insurance policies offer an inflation guard, which automatically increases coverage limits to match inflation rates when the policy is renewed.

Flood Damage

Be aware that homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Mortgage lenders require homes located in government-designated Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) to purchase a separate flood insurance policy. However, we have seen inland and even metropolitan areas that are not located in flood zones devastated by the effects of storm surges following hurricanes. Homeowners who live in these higher-risk areas should consider purchasing a separate flood insurance policy as well. 

How to Determine Partnership Basis, Inside and Out

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the 2019 tax year saw more than 25 million partners comprising nearly four million tax returns filed by partnerships 2019. With many concerns necessary for navigating the U.S. tax code, including filing annual returns, one important consideration for partnerships and their partners is how to calculate tax liability. To determine how much they profit or lose on their investment, there must be an accurate calculation of adjusted cost basis via outside cost and inside cost basis.

According to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), one aspect of Section 754 details how the tax basis of partnership assets is handled. When partnerships change, or when there are changes in partnership interest, it helps to rebalance the basis of the business entity's property. This entails defining and calculating both the outside cost basis and the inside cost basis. 

Understanding Outside Cost Basis

Outside cost basis refers to the percentage of interest each partner owns in a partnership. For example, if three partners own a partnership and each partner contributes $200,000, this establishes their outside cost basis. Recording what each initial partner contributes to the partnership is essential to determine their tax basis, including whether they’ve established a loss or gain, and therefore their tax obligations.

Understanding Inside Cost Basis

As the IRC explains it, “Inside basis refers to a partnership's basis in its assets.” One way to look at it is if three partners bought an asset for $600,000, each contributing $200,000 (symbolizing their inside cost basis), their respective inside basis in that particular asset would be $200,000.

When to Consider a Section 754 Election

It’s important to distinguish that partnerships adding or selling partnership interests must consider how such changes impact owners’ tax basis. By making a Section 754 election, partnerships can adjust the cost basis for new partners to provide an accurate accounting of profits (or losses). Assume five partners contributed $200,000 to a partnership and bought an asset for $1 million. A year later, the asset appreciated to $1.3 million. The outside basis is $200,000 (per partner) and the inside basis is $1 million.

Assume the asset appreciates to $1.3 million and one of the original five partners wants to cash out and sell their portion to a new, independent partner for $260,000. The original partner must pay taxes on the appreciation of $60,000 when exiting the partnership. Assume three months later, the asset is sold at the same price of $1.3 million with no Section 754 election. The four original partners are faced with a taxable gain of $60,000 each ($1.3 million selling price Р$1 million inside basis) / 5 partners = $300,000 profit / 5 partners). However, despite the new partner’s outside basis of $260,000, they would face the same $60,000 tax liability.

However, if a partnership chose to elect its partnership to Section 754, the new partner’s tax basis is “stepped up” to $260,000 instead of remaining at the original partner's basis of $200,000. The new partner’s inside cost basis will remain at $200,000, requiring no adjustment. However, the new partner now has an outside basis of $260,000 – the amount the partnership interest was sold for from the original partner to the new partner.

While each business arrangement is unique, for partnerships that see their assets regularly increase in value and experience frequent changes in partners, it could make sense to go with a Section 754 election.

Recent Trends in Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care (LTC) is associated with the elderly for good reason. Over the past 50 years, life expectancy has increased significantly and is therefore something all families should be prepared to address. Even though we may live to a ripe old age, that doesn't mean we will be healthy or able to live independently. Most people develop one or more chronic conditions that require living assistance – and many live with that ailment for years. Conditions such as arthritis, joint and muscle deterioration, or back pain often lead to chronic disability, making it difficult to impossible to take care of your own physical and lifestyle needs. Among even healthy seniors, about half of people age 80 and older experience some form of dementia or cognitive impairment.

Most LTC insurance (LTCi) contracts require that a policy owner seeking LTC no longer be able to perform at least two of the basic activities of daily living (ADL), which include dressing, bathing, toileting, feeding, and moving without assistance. However, before getting to that stage, many people may live for years needing help with domestic ADLs, such as preparing meals, paying bills, shopping, attending appointments, etc.

New Criteria for LTC Insurance

An unfortunate influence of the pandemic is that some LTC insurance carriers now require an in-person medical exam as part of the application process. In the past, underwriting generally involved a telephone interview, a completed questionnaire, and a medical records review. These days, in addition to an exam, issuers have increased the number of pre-existing conditions that are excluded from coverage. Furthermore, insurers are declining more applications for medical reasons. There is preliminary data that suggests more LTCi applications are declined, or higher premiums are charged, in geographical areas where populations have persistently higher rates of serious COVID-19 infections. Not surprisingly, these areas are generally correlated with lower vaccine rates.

 

New Policy Options

Even before the pandemic, LTCi sales were on the decline, and many insurers had exited the market. This is because, with longer life expectancies, carriers increased premiums to cover the financial risk. This priced many policies out of range for most households. In recent years, the life insurance industry has found a strong market in sales of hybrid policies, which guarantee benefits one way or another. For example, a contract might include a rider that allows the policy owner to use the future death benefit in the present to pay for LTC expenses while she is still alive. If she doesn't need the money, her beneficiaries will receive the value when she dies. Another benefit of hybrid policies is that they guarantee premiums will not increase. In many cases, a policy can be purchased with a single lump sum.

 

New Focus for LTC: Live at Home

Apart from exploring new ways to pay for long-term care, there is political interest in finding ways to provide LTC more efficiently than in the past. For perspective, consider that the current U.S. system of placing Medicaid recipients in nursing home facilities proved to be one of the most vulnerable components of the pandemic. As of February 2021, more than 170,000 residents in long-term care facilities had died due to the coronavirus.

 

Various public agencies and non-government organizations (NGOs) are looking at new paradigms for caregiving as an alternative to high-volume residencies to minimize the risk of disease contagion. Some recent proposals include the following:

 

  • Enhance current public programs that support independent living [e.g., Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, and Special Needs Plans (SNPs)] with integrated benefits such as wellness care, behavioral healthcare, case management, home-delivered meals, transportation, and adult daycare services.
  • Allow Medicaid‚Äôs long-term services and supports (LTSS) programs to reimburse long-term care expenses at home and for community-based services.
  • Expand efforts already originated in a handful of states (e.g., Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington) for state-sponsored, long-term care insurance plans.
  • Consider building on state initiatives such as California‚Äôs Master Plan for Aging, which includes plans to:
    • Create community housing solutions that are age-, disability- and dementia-friendly, as well as climate- and disaster-prepared.
    • Improve the quality of life for the elderly and disabled by presenting opportunities for work, volunteering, engagement, and leadership regardless of age or disability. The purpose of this initiative is to reduce isolation, discrimination, abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
    • Generate up to 1 million highly-qualified, well-paid caregiving jobs.
    • Improve financial security for the elderly population by making long-term care affordable.
  • Reimagine nursing homes using a continuum of care housing model designed for 8 to 10 residents with integrated staffing.

 

The current trend in the caregiving industry is to help seniors be able to live at home for as long as possible. In many cases, this increases the burden on families. Since some people have to leave the workforce to care for family members, this hampers economic growth and tax revenues that could be used to fund better options. While LTC insurance remains expensive, potential buyers must be aware that most policies pay out benefits regardless of where care is bestowed, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, the insured's home, or even the home of the insured’s family member.