McCurdy Group - Insurance and Financial Consultants

Monday, December 21, 2009

Debt Forgiveness
Many people do not often realize that debt forgiveness is income on their tax return. People often work with credit companies to reduce the amount of debt owed to the credit cards. This can be done personally or through an attorney. When this happens you will owe less to the credit card company BUT this amount that is "forgiven" is taxable income on your tax return. The credit card company issues a 1099 for the amount and that is reported to the IRS as well. If it is not reported properly on your tax return, the IRS will send a letter and in addition to the taxes owed, they will add a penalty for non-reporting as well as interest.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tax Treatment of Energy Saving Improvements

If you are planning to make energy saving improvements to your home and you do so before the end of 2009, you can get a tax credit on your 2009 return. The following are some of the highlights:
10% credit up to $200 on window/skylight/storm window replacements
10% credit up to $500 for exterior doors and storm doors
10% credit up to $500 for installing insulation
$300 for >14 SEER HVAC replacement
$150 for >95 AFUE boiler/furnace replacment
Even if you purchase multiple products you can only get a maximum of $1,500 over the 2-year period (2009 & 2010). Basically you can spend up to $5,000 during this 2 year period on a single or multiple products, and get 30% or $1,500 (30% of $5,000 = $1,500) back as a tax credit. If you get the entire $1,500 credit in 2009, then you can't get anything additional in 2010.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

OSHA Compliance

My brother, a small business owner, told me that he was recently contacted via telephone by a salesperson claiming to be selling log books required by OSHA. He explained that the salesperson was insisting that these logs and checklists would be his protection upon an OSHA inspection. “Just give me your address, we’ll mail them and then we will bill you.” Being more familiar with plastering than government safety standards, his only saving grace were his instincts. “It felt like a scam,” he said.

Most business owners are familiar with the saying, “knowledge is power”. In this case, I would recommend going to the source of these standards: OSHA! They have an entire website designated to helping small businesses understand what they need to be compliant;, complete with a handbook which, in their words, “should help small business employers meet the legal requirements imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the Act), and achieve an in-compliance status before an OSHA inspection”. It includes an extensive self-inspection checklist, which can be tailored to meet your own business environment and guidelines for work-related injuries / illness recordkeeping. This handbook, along with the logs for recordkeeping, are all on the website and available at no cost.

So, was it a scam? I would say “no”. Like your business, this company is charging a fee for a service. But, we’ve all heard that saying, “don’t buy the cow, if you can get the milk for free…” .

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Requiring Certificates of Insurance from Contractors

Copies of Insurance Certificates should be obtained by a homeowner before he or she hires any worker for some work to be done on the home. For example, a chimney sweep, roofer, painter, etc. all should show proof of current insurance before any work begins, to protect the homeowner.

Buyers/Shoppers Beware!

There is yet another scam for consumers to beware of this season – using debit cards! If you use debit cards or even credit cards that can get “cash back” – be sure to check your slips BEFORE leaving the store! The scam is that some clerks have put the ‘cash back’ option on prior to your signing for your purchase. If you do not checked your receipt carefully, you may not notice the ‘cash back’ listed on the slip. The clerk is pocketing your money! Only small amounts money, usually $20, is stolen so many people won’t notice a discrepancy when buying a lot of items. So…..if you use a card of any kind, be sure to check your receipts carefully!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mass Registry Name Change

Due to the creation of the new Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), effective November 1st customers paying the RMV by check (or money order) should make their checks payable to MassDOT.

First Time Homebuyer Credit

I’m sure most everyone has heard about the First Time Homebuyer Credit by now. The Federal Government is giving an $8,000 tax credit, which is refundable (after any taxes owed, you will receive check for the balance) to first time buyers. This was set to expire on December 1, 2009 but now has been extended. Buyers must enter into a binding contract by April 30, 2010 and close on the property by June 30, 2010.

There are very specific rules and it is important that you understand all of them before assuming that you are eligible. A couple of the highlights are: In order to qualify you cannot have owned a home within the last 3 years prior to the date of your new purchase. If you are married, even if only one of you had owned prior property, neither one of you qualify for this credit. There are cases that you will have to pay back the money (if you sell your property within 36 months of purchase).

Also under the new legislation passed on November 6, 2009, there is a new credit available to first time, long-time homeowners who buy a replacement principal residence. They may claim a credit of up to $6,500. They must have lived in the same principal residence for any five-consecutive year period during the eight-year period that ended on the date the replacement home is purchased.

People with higher incomes can now qualify for the credit. The new law raises the income limits for homes purchased after Nov. 6, 2009. The credit phases out for individual taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) between $125,000 and $145,000 or between $225,000 and $245,000 for joint filers. The existing MAGI phase-outs of $75,000 to $95,000 or $150,000 to $170,000 for joint filers still apply to purchases on or before Nov. 6, 2009.

This article is not intended to cover all the rules, but give you a few of the highlights. It is very important to fully research this credit before making the assumption you are eligible.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mortgage Insurance

To protect your investment in your home, you've most likely purchased insurance coverage for storm and fire damage and for prople getting injured on your property. But have you thought about mortgage insurance - how to continue making those mortgage payments if you or your spouse were to die prematurely? How would you make sure the other could afford to raise your family in your home?

A term life insurance policy can help. You may be surprised at how affordable it is if you are in good health. You can design a plan that fit your needs and mortgage.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

USB Drives - Beware!!

As technology advances, so do the risks! USB Drive/memory sticks came on the market a few years ago and could only hold a small amount of data. Now they can hold a significant amount of data and they are being used everywhere! The problem now is the increased likelihood that sensitive data can be lost or stolen or the devices can be used to inject viruses or other malware into computers. Data from a USB can be loaded onto a workstation without restriction, bypassing firewalls and other network defenses.

There is an interesting account of a consultant who was hired to probe the security of a credit union. Early one day he scattered 20 USB drives – disguised as promotional items- in the parking lot of the credit union. Each drive was infected with a virus that, when inserted into the SUB port, would send critical data back to the consultant. Amazingly, 15 of the drives were picked up by employees – all of whom subsequently plugged them into their computers. The software on each drive loaded itself onto the PC and the consultant received enough data not only to gain access to the infected PC but other systems on the credit union’s network as well!

If you need to use USB drives as part of your day-to-day business, then disk encryption software or a secure USB drive may be your best bet. Having a good security policy in force that addresses the use of these drives and other “outside software” being loaded onto company computers is not a bad idea either! It's important for you to consider your insurance policies – do you have anything on your business policy that would cover you if an employee did damage of this nature? Things to think about!

Think You Are Good At Multi Tasking? Think Again!

Many employees try to juggle several tasks at the same time – jumping back and forth from email messages to working an open project on the computer to answering phone calls. A recent study of college students reveals that multi-tasking may actually lower productivity.

Researchers at Stanford University studied 262 college undergraduates and found that students who regularly used various media at once were not very skilled at tests of memory, attention, or "task-switching." The results surprised researchers who had expected to find an innate ability in multi-taskers that made them skilled at handling multiple tasks at once.The participants first filled out questionnaires on their media use – how often they went online, watched television, read, listened to music, emailed and text-messaged, and how often they did a few of those activities at the same time. Based on these responses, the researchers classified the participants as heavy or light media multi-taskers and then put them through a series of cognitive tests.The test results suggest that heavy multi-taskers are not actually good at juggling numerous activities. They scored lower than those classified as light multi-taskers on filtering out irrelevant distractions, on organizing and filing away information, and on shifting their attention from one task to another.

Commentary: The results of this study cast doubt on the wisdom of using technology to jump around between tasks. Of course, there are times that interruptions are unavoidable, but employees may find it beneficial to stop answering emails and phone calls when working on a project requiring close attention. Efficiency experts have suggested that setting aside particular times of the day to answer emails and to respond to phone calls is an effective time management tool. Constant access to the Internet, telephone and other media may hurt rather than help productivity.

Amy Norton, "'Multi-taskers' are bad at one thing: multi-tasking," (Aug. 24, 2009)Amy Norton, "'Multi-taskers' are bad at one thing: multi-tasking," (Aug. 24, 2009)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Why is there such a hubbub about dog breeds by insurance companies?

Here are a few facts for you to chew on:
  • Dog bites account for one third of all liability claims
  • In 2007, claims reached a new high, up 28% since 2003
  • In 2007, there were 4.7 million dog bites, resulting in 800,000 injuries requiring medical treatment
  • $356,700,000 (yes, that's millions of dollars) was paid in claims, up 10.5% from the previous year
  • In 2007, there were 14,500 dog bites claims filed; the average claim payment was about $24,511

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Returning Plates to the Registry

If you turn plates in at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, be sure to notify your insurance agent or company that you want coverage cancelled. The Registry does not make this notification. We cannot remove the vehicle until the date after the plates are returned.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do's and Don'ts When Disaster Strikes

For Fire and Smoke Damage - This list of Emergency Tips has been compiled from many years of experience in fire and smoke damage repair and cleaning.

  • Clean and protect chrome trim on kitchen appliances with a light coating of Vaseline or other oil.
  • Blow off or brush-vacuum loose smoke particles from upholstery, draperies and carpets.
  • Open windows for ventilation.
  • Change furnace filters if blower is operating.
  • Empty freezer and refrigerator completely if electricity is off and prop doors open with a rolled towel or newspaper.
  • Clean and protect smoked bathroom faucets, tub fittings and towel bars with light coating of oil.
  • Pour antifreeze in toilet bowls, sinks and tubs to prevent freezing if heat is off in winter.
  • Wash plants with water on both sides of leaves (water softener helps).
  • Call plumber to drain heating system if heat is off in winter.
  • Remove pets (especially birds) to clean environment.


  • Wipe or attempt to wash walls, ceilings or other absorbent surfaces.
  • Use upholstered furniture if it can be avoided.
  • Use exposed food items or canned goods which have been subjected to excessive heat.
  • Use TVs, stereos or electrical appliances until they are cleaned and checked.
  • Send smoked garments to an ordinary dry cleaner (improper cleaning may set smoke and odor).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Car Breakdown Safety

If you are involved in an accident or your car breaks down, safety should be your first concern. Getting out of the car at a busy intersection or on a highway to change a tire or check for damage are probably two of the worst things you can do. The Insurance Information Institute recommends the following precautions when these situations occur:
  • Never get out of the vehicle to make a repair or examine the damage on a busy highway. If possible, drive the vehicle to a safe place before getting out. If you've had an accident, motion the other driver to pull up to a safe spot ahead.
  • If you can't drive the vehicle, it may be safer to stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Use a cell phone to summon help. Under most circumstances, standing outside the vehicle in the flow of traffic is a bad idea. If you must leave your vehicle, be sure to stay behind any guardrails or well off the side of the road.
  • Carry flares or triangles to alert other drivers once you get to the side of the road. Marking the location of your vehicle to give other drivers advance warning can be critical. Remember to put on your hazard lights!
  • In the event of a blowout or flat tire, move the vehicle to a safer place before attempting a repair - even if it means destroying the wheel getting there. The cost of a tire, rim or wheel is minor compared to endangering your safety.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Should I purchase an umbrella liability policy?

If you are ever sued, your standard homeowners or auto policy will provide you with some liability coverage, paying for judgments against you and your attorney's fees, up to a limit set in the policy. However, in our litigious society, you may want to have extra liability protection. That's what a personal umbrella policy provides.

An umbrella policy kicks in when you reach the limit of liability coverage on your homeowners or auto policy. It will also cover you for such things as libel and slander.

For about $150 to $300 a year, you can but a $1 million personal umbrella policy.

Because the personal umbrella policy comes into play after the underlying limits have been exhausted, there are certain limits that insurers will require on your auto and home policies. Most companies will require avout $250,000 auto liability limits and $300,000 homeowners liability limits to purchase an umbrella policy

Friday, July 24, 2009

So often we find out that our insureds are leaving the state, whether it be our customers or their children. It's important to ask this question: What do I do when I leave the state and how can I cancel my insurance?

When you are preparing to leave, call us and let us know so update your address information. Once you've relocated and gotten your new license plates, please mail us your old Mass. plates; without them we cannot cancel your policy! Once we've received them, we will cancel your policy effective the day after we receive them. (Call us to discuss how to handle this if your plates have been lost or stolen.)

If the state you move to requires insurance, once you get your new insurance policy, we can usually cancel your policy effective your new policy date. Just send us a copy of the policy through the mail or fax.

If there is premium due to you, you will receive it once the Mass policy has been canceled. Abd by updating your address we will be able to ensure it goes to the right place.

We wish you the best in your new home and hope you find a wonderful agent to work with. If you ever need anything we are always here for you!! AND when you decide to move back, we can help you with that, too!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Insurance Rates - Who Sets Them?

Some customers of Independent Insurance Agents think that the agent is the one who determines the rates for insurance policies and retains the premiums. The truth is -- this could not be further from the truth! The insurance companies set the rates which must then be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Insurance. Most premiums are sent directly to the insurance company (e.g. Travelers, Safety, Plymouth Rock) who pay the agent a modest percentage of that premium.

Agents want to help their customers get the best rate for the best protection for their individual situations. Customers should fully answer agency questionnaires and provide complete answers to questions from their agents; that's how the agent will be able to find all the applicable discounts and rating advantages for the customers.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Let Pictures Tell the Story

If you're involved in an auto accident, take pictures of the crash site and the damage to all vehicles with your cell phone or digital camera. Or if your have a loss in your home or apartment be sure to take pictures before you take some steps to minimize additional damage (boarding up a window, putting a tarp on a damaged roof, for example).

When it comes to recreating the circumstances of the accident, pictures will make it easy.

Progressive Insurance to Pay Massachusetts $120,000

From The Boston Globe 5/27/09
Progressive Direct Insurance Co. agreed to pay the state of Massachusetts $120,000 to settle charges that it inflated the rates for rival companies, according to Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Specifically, Coakley's office accused Ohio-based Progressive, the nation's fourth-largest automobile insurer, of comparing its six-month rates to the 12-month rates offered by other companies. Progressive inaccurately listed all the rates on its website as six-month prices.

Progressive, which started offering policies in Massachusetts on May 1, 2008, stopped quoting rivals' rates on its website and through its call center late last year, and notified Coakley's office about the mistake.

Why Choose an Independent Insurance Agency

There is a difference. Some people think it doesn't really matter where they buy their insurance. But this misconception could be costing them money, service and protection. Buying insurance isn't like buying bread or milk. Insurance is an important safety net for your family, your home, your car or your business. Don't treat the purchase lightly!

There is a difference in where you buy your protection.
1. Captive Agents, who can sell you the insurance products of only one company.
2. Telephone Representatives, who can offer you the insurance products of one company and only on the telephone.
3. On line websites often limit coverage options available, provide quotes that significantly differ from the actual premium that you will be billed and don't allow customization to meet your needs.
4. Independent Agents, who represent an average of eight insurance companies and research with these firms to find you the best combination of price, coverage and service.

Don't Count on the RMV to Send Reminders

The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles no longer mails out license renewal notices.

It is your responsibility to know when your driver's license expires. Check the expiration date on your license and set up a reminder for yourself.

If you forget to renew your license and get pulled over, it is a criminal offense. Your vehicle can be impounded; you will have court costs, fines and surcharges. Be sure to renew your driver’s license at least seven days before your birthday to guarantee that you receive your new license before your old license expires.

Driving on an expired license is considered "unlicensed operation" and is an arrestable offense.

You can do many registry activities online at

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Replacement Value vs. Market Value as it relates to Homeowners Policies

Many people wonder why their Homeowners Coverage A - Dwelling - amount may increase even though the current market value of their home is decreasing. What most people don’t understand is that the amount your home is insured for is not a reflection of market value, but rather replacement value – the cost to rebuild your home from top to bottom in the case of a total loss.

There are many factors that go into determining the replacement value of a home, some are more obvious than others. Although you may immediately think about the cost of lumber, fixtures, or other materials required to rebuild, you may not think about the rising costs of transporting those materials, the cost of new technology, new building codes and regulations or even the cost of labor and energy.

So, the next time you see your homeowners premium increase keep in mind that you are purchasing coverage needed to rebuild your home and not simply to purchase a new home.

The Etiquette Corner

Simply getting where you’re going every day raises a few questions for the manners-minded.

A tip on “At the Gas Pump”

At multi-island gas stations, drive slowly and carefully to accommodate people who are standing at the pumps or walking back & forth to the store. When possible, pull up to the gas pump that will allow other drivers easy access to unused pumps. Pay special attention to any “cash only” or “credit card only” signs on the pumps so that you won’t waste others time by having to move from one pump to the other.

Shop for items or attend to other business inside only if you’ve parked your car in a parking spot (leave it at the pump only when paying your bill inside). Remember, too, that you’re in a potentially hazardous environment. Avoid danger by turning off your engine before pumping gas and waiting until later to light a cigarette, cigar or pipe.

The difference in deductibles

Most people chose to have standard $500 collision and $300 comprehensive deductibles. The thing you need to know about deductibles is you may be paying more for the coverage than you will receive in the event of a claim -- or you may be saving very little money if you chose a higher deductible. Young drivers can pay about $500 a year for collision coverage. If they have a car that is valued at $2000, they will have paid more than they will receive if they pay that premium for four years. If they saved this $500 a year, plus the $500 for the deductible, they would have the money to replace the car themselves rather than a promise that they will receive this money if anything happens.

There is also the option of taking a $1000 deductible over a $500 deductible which can sometimes save money if you have a newer or more expensive car. The downside to this is that in some cases there is not much of a savings and you end up paying the higher deductible if you have a claim.

This is why having an agent is very important. He or she will work with you to help you decide what is best for you. Someone who knows the ins and outs of insurance is a very valuable asset to any consumer.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Why it's important to have high property damage limits on your Mass Auto policy

State minimum coverage for property damage on a Massachusetts auto policy is $5,000. This is a section of the policy that is frequently used in everyday accidents and needs to be carefully reviewed by the agent and insured alike.

When you get into an accident with another vehicle, if you are at fault, your property damage extends to fix the other vehicle. Suppose you are in an accident with a new Mercedes or BMW and that vehicle is totaled; chances are that $5,000 property damage will not be enough to cover a bumper, never mind the entire vehicle. Another thing to consider when choosing these limits is the possibility of a multi-vehicle accident and accidents caused by poor weather conditions.

We cannot always plan for or predict what will happen, which is why we have to be prepared with adequate limits on our insurance policy. McCurdy Insurance suggests having a property damage limit of $250,000, but definitely no less than $100,000.

Who does your insurance agent work for??

Do you know who your local insurance agent works for? What's your first thought? The insurance carrier who you have your policy with? Well ,you are wrong if that is what you think! Your agent works for YOU; they are the liaison between you and your insurance company.
The job of an insurance agent is to service your account, make sure your policy limits are where they should be, make recommendations when need be, ensure you are receiving all the discounts you apply for and, most importantly, answer your questions and ease your concerns and problems.

The insurance agent is not responsible for creating the insurance companies policies and procedures. We must follow their standards, but by no means do we set those standards. Agents aren't the ones charging billing fees, late fees, or increasing your premium due to getting in an accident or receiving a speeding violation. When inconveniences occur in regards to any of your insurance policies, your agent is going to help you fix it, get in touch with who needs to be spoken to and get answers for you and, more often then not, resolve it.

The insurance agent is there for you, has your best interests in mind and wants to do nothing more then to make your insurance experience positive, reassuring and stress free!