Home Computer Security – History of the Password

History of the Password

Over the last 20 plus years, widely available personal computers, tablets, and smart phones have revolutionized our interaction with almost everything. With a few clicks of a mouse, or swipe of a finger, we can order clothing, book flights, reserve a hotel, deposit a check, pay a bill; there isn’t anything we can’t do from the comfort of our own home, or the neighborhood coffee shop.

Our personal information is stored, somewhere, by a seemingly uncountable number of vendors, institutions, marketing companies web sites. Unfortunately, criminals, adept at using software to invade our home computers or smart phones are also aware of the vast amount of information available. Criminals search for security weaknesses to extract our personally identifiable information, such as credit card or social security numbers, birth dates and more to able to set up false identities or deplete our online accounts. Criminals also seek to install ransomware, locking corporations and users from accessing computers.

Just as we secure our homes with a lock on the front door, we also need to secure our online identity, our most basic protection is the humble password. The password in combination with an email address or username, identifies the authorized user of frequently accessed sites or apps and any retained personal information.

Too often, we underestimate the importance of passwords, selecting something easy to remember rather than difficult for an attacker to break.

In this multi-part series, we examine various security threats from personal computing and techniques to best protect yourself from the dangers of criminals wandering the internet looking for victims.

History of Passwords

Passwords are secret data, typically an arbitrary string of characters which include letters, digits, or other symbols. If the permissible characters are constrained to be numeric, the corresponding secret is sometimes called a personal identification number (PIN). A key attribute in picking a password is to select something which is hard to guess, so a password may be composed of multiple words, separated by spaces: a passphrase.

The longer the password (or phrase) the harder it is for software password-breakers to reveal the actual password.

Passwords have been in use for much longer than the internet or computers. There are historical references to the use of “watchwords” in the Roman military. Sentries challenging anyone wishing to enter an area to supply a password or watchword, only allowing entry upon hearing the correct password.

Passwords were used by the military over the years, evolving to include both a password and a counterpassword. During World War II, GIs would challenge any individuals entering an area with a password, to be replied with a counter password.

The first time a password was used in computing was 1960 at MIT. The university had a large mainframe computer to be shared by numerous researchers. Each shared not only the mainframe but a single disk file as well. The password was developed so users could access the computer for their allotted time (in 1960, computing resources were severely limited) and only have access to their own specific files.

The first time a computer password was hacked was also 1960, when researchers started using others’ passwords to gain more computer time.

Though the password is a less than perfect approach to security, it went on to become the go-to method for computer security due to its simplicity, which is also a disadvantage.

Attempting to reduce the password disadvantages, a cryptographer at Bell Labs devised a technique called “hashing” where the entered password values were converted to numeric output which could be used to compare to an entered value to validate the passwords but could not be used to reverse engineer the password.

With hashing, the actual password is not stored, only the numeric values to validate the password entered matches. Hash functions used in cryptography have the following key properties:

  • It’s easy and practical to compute the hash, but “difficult or impossible to re-generate the original input if only the hash value is known.”
  • It’s difficult to create an initial input that would match a specific desired output.

Thus, in contrast to encryption, hashing is a one-way mechanism. The data that is hashed cannot be “unhashed”.

Additional layers of security include “salting”. Modern password databases to further protect a password by inserting random data with the password, then hashing the resulting values.

Another security technique is “encryption”, where a key is used to convert a set of entered values to something which appears to be meaningless, but which can then be unencrypted. This technique is only used when the password or pass phrase must be known and reviewed for validation.

In our next installment we discuss how customers can increase their security.

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family run business in Denver, Colorado servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our professionals for home or business insurance and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Coastal Flooding

Changing sea levels are an integral part of global climate change. Melting polar ice, raises sea levels, which inundates both low-lying wetlands (historically a high tide barrier to storm surge) and dry land. The shoreline erodes (reducing the effectiveness of the low-lying wetlands) contributing to coastal flooding increasing the flow of salt water into estuaries and nearby groundwater aquifers.

Higher sea levels also leave coastal infrastructure, such as homes, boardwalks, parks, more vulnerable to damage from storms.

“Relative sea level change” refers to the height of the ocean relative to the land at a particular location. As relative sea level rises due to climate change, one of the most noticeable consequences is an increase in coastal flooding.

Flooding typically occurs during seasonal high tides and storms that push water toward the shore. In recent years, however, coastal cities are flooding more frequently outside of extreme tides or high winds, due to rising sea levels. This type of coastal flooding is expected to increase in depth, frequency, and extent in the United States during this century.

Compare the number of flood days between 1950s and 2010s. According to the Environmental Protection Agency:

City                  Flood days between 1950 and 1959:             Flood days between 2011 and 2020:

Key West, FL                           0                                                                      5

Charleston, SC                        0                                                                      6

Atlantic City, NJ                       1                                                                      10

Bar Harbor, ME                       2                                                                      10

Seattle, WA                             2                                                                      3

This does not include “nuisance”, or high tide flooding when tides push water levels temporarily higher than the normal tidal line. This flooding has minor impacts, flooding some streets or overwhelming storm drains.

Recurring coastal flooding can cause frequent road closures, reduced stormwater drainage capacity, and deterioration of infrastructure which was not designed to withstand frequent inundation or exposure to salt water.

40 percent of Americans live near the coast, and more than $1 trillion of property and structures are at risk. Flooding is the costliest natural disaster in the United States, accounting for more than $268 billion in damage in 2017. Make no mistake, flooding is not just a coastal problem. In the past 10 years, every state has experienced at least two major floods.

Protecting Your Coastal Home

Given that so much is at stake, what steps can a coastal homeowner take to protect their investment? Homeowners insurance policies don’t routinely cover flood-related damage.

Instead, a separate policy is required from the National Flood Insurance Program. Purchasing flood insurance at all could prove to be a challenge for homes severely damaged in a flood, or for those that have experienced repeated flooding. And without flood insurance, it is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain a mortgage from a bank or lender, or to sell your property.

To be eligible for coverage through the program, there are four possible approaches.


The first approach is elevating a flood prone home.

In elevating, wooden pilings are sunk deep into the soil with the structure raised to sit on top of the pilings. Where raising is unfeasible, the structure is torn down and rebuilt on pilings. The objective is to raise the living quarters and essential services (heating and air conditioning, for example) above the what’s called “the 100-year flood,” or, what FEMA refers to as the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).

The higher the lowest floor is above the BFE, the lower the risk of flooding. Lower risk usually means lower flood insurance premiums.”

Statistics show that the coastal bottom lands of the East and Gulf coasts are most likely to experience this kind of flooding. But 90% of natural disasters in the U.S. involve flooding, which also hits homes near lakes, rivers, and small streams. Even dry areas of California, scorched by wildfire that has destroyed trees and vegetation, are vulnerable.

FEMA’s BFE yardstick means many coastal homes (or homes in flood prone areas such as rivers, lakes, and small streams) must be raised 7 to 9 or more feet, with the ground level either left open, or enclosed only for storage, workspace, or a garage.

The cost of raising a house onto pilings isn’t cheap: first the structure must be lifted off the old foundation and placed into a “crib” temporarily. Then, the home is raised again, now onto the pilings. Once on the pilings, walls frequently need to be repaired and stairs must be built to enter the raised first floor.

Given what appears to be a high dollar ticket project, why elevate?

One reason is your homeowner’s insurance will not cover future flood damage. If your home has already flooded, it may be easier to get insurance to pay for the elevation.

Your flood insurance policy could cover up to $250,000 of loss to the structure and up to $100,000 of personal property. Filing an Increased Cost of Compliance claim may enable you to receive up to $30,000 (check with your insurance agent for your specific coverages).

FEMA also has a Hazard Mitigation Program called Flood Mitigation Assistance which may help you cover the cost to elevate. Also, elevating or flood-proofing your home will lower your flood insurance rates. Without it, your rates could climb 20% a year over the next five years. Since FEMA is $20.5 billion in debt from continuing hurricanes and other disasters, cheap flood insurance—which still averages less than $1,000 a year—could be a thing of the past.

The other approaches:


The reality is some homes are too damaged to elevate or restore or, due to erosion, it is too dangerous to rebuild on that location at any level. For those homes or structures, the only real option is to tear down and remove the home or structure.

Not ideal, and it may be easier and cheaper to rebuild in a not-so-flood-prone location and elevate, rather than restore in place.


Relocation is recognition that it is impractical to rebuild or elevate. Doing so will just put off the inevitable. So, here, the home, business or structure is removed from the site moved to a less flood-prone location.


Floodproofing is typically an option for non-residential buildings. In floodproofing, the building is made watertight through a combination of adjustments or additions of features to the building. The intent is to reduce the potential for flood damage.

“If you don’t have a mortgage, you’re not required to have flood insurance,” says spokesperson Mark Friedlander, of the Insurance Information Institute. You can still have regular property insurance, but as any home insurance agent will tell you, it doesn’t cover a flood, whether it happens in a hundred years . . . or this one.

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family run business in Denver, Colorado servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our professionals for home or business insurance and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Flood Insurance


Headlines from August 2021
  •        Record Rainfall Causes Flash Floods in Flagstaff Burn Areas, Arizona
  •        98 Rescued, 35 Missing in North Carolina Floods After Rain From Tropical Storm ‘Fred’
  •        State of Emergency After Flash Floods in Steuben County, New York
  •        More Deaths Reported Following North Carolina Floods
  •        10 Dead, More Missing After Record Rainfall and Catastrophic Floods in Tennessee
  •        Death Toll Rises in Tennessee Floods, Over 20 Still Missing

Many of these areas had never seen flooding before, or at least, not flooding to this level. Both global climate change and population expansion are combining to flood (pun intended) the news with reports of lives lost and property destroyed by rising waters.

For decades, all flood insurance policies were written by the federal National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). A change in 2021 allows private insurance companies to now offer a second option that may provide the same insurance at a lower cost for many homeowners.

Before calling your local agent, though, understand some of the key differences between private and NFIP coverage. For one thing, where the NFIP guarantees renewal of its policies, a private insurer has the right to decide not to renew a policy, or outright cancel it. As private flood insurance represents new products, there’s uncertainty about what policies might cost in the future and which companies may still be writing them.

National Flood Insurance

The NFIP, established by the federal government in the 1960s, was intended to provide flood insurance and to establish floodplain standards for the country. The 1960s was a time of expanding suburbs and settlement of exurbs, with folks choosing to raise their families outside the city.

Many of those areas, were in flood plains, with a history of 100 year flooding. Meaning, once in 100 years, the flood plain would again flood as heavy rains and storms caused rivers and stream to rise above their banks.

Around 90% of residential flood insurance in the U.S. is provided by the NFIP. 

Federal flood insurance includes two coverage types, each with their own separate out-of-pocket deductible.

  • Building property coverage: Pays to repair flood damage to your home or garage. Maximum building coverage limits for residential property is $250,000, which was more than needed in the 1960s, but with today’s real estate market, may not be enough to fully repair damage caused by flooding. 
  • Personal property coverage: Pays to repair or replace flood damaged furniture, electronics, appliances, and other personal property. The maximum personal property coverage limit is $100,000. 

Prior to July 1, 2019, if your mortgage was federally backed and you lived in a high-risk flood zone, the mortgage company could require flood insurance purchased exclusively through the NFIP. As of July 1, 2019, mortgage lenders were required to accept private flood insurance, as long as the policy had at a minimum of the same quality coverage as provided by NFIP.

Standard homeowner’s insurance policy does cover certain types of water damage, but will not cover damage from natural flooding, which is why mortgage lenders often require separate flood insurance for homes in special flood hazard areas. And now, coverage may be available on the private market.

While private flood insurance makes up a tiny fraction of the market, it’s becoming an increasingly popular, and occasionally cheaper, alternative to the NFIP. Private flood insurance tends to have a wider array of coverage options and higher limits of protection than the NFIP plan. 

NFIP vs Private Insurance

Coverage Differences

A significant difference between NFIP and private insurance is coverage options.

The NFIP maximum building coverage limit is $250,000. Private carriers can offer up to $1 million in coverage, with some companies offering higher limits. As the replacement cost for houses continues to increase, it may be worth purchasing that additional coverage.

Private flood companies also offer coverage not available through NFIP. Replacement cost under NFIP is only offered for primary residences. Other property types and contents are only covered at actual cash value. Private flood carriers can offer the option to add replacement cost coverage for both contents and secondary residences. 

Other optional coverages available only through private flood are:

  • Additional living expenses – coverage for temporary housing while the primary residence is under repair and restoration
  • Pool repair and fill – covers damage to the pool itself, as well as filtering equipment
  • Business income coverage – lost income while recovering from damage
  • Enhanced coverage for detached structures – for example, garages, offices, carriage houses

Waiting Periods

Another major difference between NFIP and private is the policy waiting period.

NFIP has a mandatory 30-day waiting period from the date of payment to the date coverage begins, with exceptions for loan closing requirements. However, the maximum private flood policy waiting period is only 15 days. And some companies allow coverage to go into effect immediately. 

Final Consideration 

With the rising number of flood emergencies, (six in August of last year alone affecting the entire country from California to Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and Rhode Island), flood insurance helps protect your property.

The NFIP is required to be reauthorized by the government every so often (the most recent reauthorization was extended to February 18 of this year). If the NFIP were to expire, no policies through the program could be written or renewed, leaving private carriers as the only option.

As private flood carriers do not have to follow FEMA regulations, coverage rates can fluctuate. As there are multiple carriers, there is the option to shop coverage with multiple companies. Competition is always in the best interests of the consumer.

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family-run business in Denver, Colorado servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our professionals for home or business insurance and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Social Media Privacy

It is no secret how pervasive social media has become in our society. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, TikTok all worm their way into our day-to-day consciousness demanding we post text and pictures describing our current exploits. Even something as mundane as last night’s dinner or someone else’s cute kitten at play must be posted, shared, and commented upon (and hopefully, “liked”).

However, our social posting addiction has a potentially negative side effect. Artificial intelligence (AI) combined with the harvesting of photos, videos, and postings can discern buying patterns and recommendations for further purchases. Although marketing products may be relatively benign, there are other purposes that may be gained from the skillful use of data, photos, and other personal information we freely give to the gaping maw of social engagement.

TikTok Privacy Violation

The design and technology site Gizmodo reported that TikTok had attempted to modify its privacy policy allowing TikTok to automatically collect mountains of voice and face data from U.S. users. In a series of 21 lawsuits, many filed on behalf of minors, plaintiffs accused TikTok and a now-defunct sister app, Musical.ly, of using a “complex system of artificial intelligence to recognize facial features in users’ videos”.

The AI used that collected data to determine a user’s age, race/ethnicity, and gender in order to recommend content and profiles for the user.

TikTok agreed to settle a $92 million class action lawsuit allowing any TikTok user prior to Sept. 30 to apply for restitution. Court documents related to the case state:

“By utilizing this private and biometric information, TikTok maintains a competitive advantage over other social media apps and profits from its use of improperly obtained data, all while failing to comply with the minimum requirements for handling users’ biometric data…”

Suits were filed in Illinois where the Biometric Information Privacy Act grants the right to sue companies accessing biometric data without consent.

TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, denied that it ran afoul of the law, agreeing to settle the suits in order to avoid going to trial. In a statement, ByteDance said:

“While we disagree with the assertions, rather than go through lengthy litigation, we’d like to focus our efforts on building a safe and joyful experience for the TikTok community.

As part of the suit, TikTok has also agreed to stop disclosing users’ personal data to third parties like Facebook and Google, according to NBC News, and will also cease to record users’ facial features and track their location using GPS.

The questions each social media user should be asking right now are:

  • What are companies doing with my photos, videos, and online presence?
  • Is my personal information being used for something I approve of?
  • Am I protected from misuse of my personal information?

For a great many of us, our answer to all three questions would be the same: “I don’t know”.

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family-run business in Denver, CO servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our insurance advisors and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Small Business Cyber Losses

It should be no surprise that cyber-attacks are on the rise. Many small business owners may feel they do not need to worry as cyber losses “only” affect large companies. Though, nearly 60% of small business owners have had data compromised, experienced a security breach, or both. This is according to a survey by The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

25% of survey respondents reported an incident in the past 12 months. 54% experienced a cyber event during the past two years. These survey findings confirm that small businesses are frequently targeted. Hacker attack methodologies are automated searching any publicly accessible website (and what company does not have a public-facing site?) for a possible entry point.

Not only have more than one of half survey respondents experienced an incident; three-fourths reported more than one cyber event and one-third have had at least three, the center reported.

Cost of Cyber Recovery

Survey results also show the cost of recovering from cyber events: 44% of small businesses spent $250,000-$500,000 to cover the costs, while for 14%, the cost to recover was between $500,000 to $1 million. For many small business owners, having the capital to cover these expenses required 36% of businesses owners to borrow, 34% to raid cash reserves. Less than 30% turned to their cyber insurance to help cover the expenses.

More than 40% of businesses needed one or two years to recover, while over 25% said it took three to five years to recover.

While hackers and external threats launch most incidents, the survey found only 40% of breaches were a result of external actors.

Malicious employees and contractors accounted for 35% of incidents, while remote workers were responsible for 25%. Third-party vendors, failure to secure cloud environments, software flaws, and phishing schemes were also leading causes. The source of 3% of data and security breaches is unknown.

Small business owners should take positive steps to combat the threat of hacking and protect the business from external and internal threats.

Aspen Insurance Agency is a family-run business in Denver, CO servicing clients nationwide. We work with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers a wide variety of risk reduction coverage at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our insurance advisors and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Work-At-Home Workers Compensation Claims

Work-At-Home Workers Compensation Claims

Working from home became mandatory for office workers during the Covid Pandemic. To prevent illness and the spread of disease, workers were sent home, with computers in hand, to maintain company and employee safety.

And for many workers, what a great thing it was! Commuting as far as the kitchen for a cup of coffee saved American workers hours in commute time and, for many, the cost of business clothes.

However, just because work was performed from the safety of the home did not eliminate worker on-the-job injuries. The fact is, from using ergonomically challenged workspaces to changing mind frames, working from home hosts a range of risks for soft-tissue injuries.

Location, Location, Location

The modern office work environment includes ergonomically friendly desks, keyboard trays, supportive chairs, and safe walking spaces, meant to reduce the potential for injuries. Sadly, working from home may mean, working at the kitchen counter from a stool. Or perhaps propping the laptop on a coffee table working from the couch. Whatever the setup was, and perhaps still is, those on-the-fly, makeshift work-from-home setups are leading to an increased risk of soft tissue injuries.

While the dining room table and chair set might be a great place to share a meal, it isn’t designed to support someone throughout a workday, The same goes for those couch potatoes slouched over a laptop or hovering above a coffee table.

“There is also a blurring of lines of when we work and don’t work,” explains ergonomic experts. “The computer is sending out messages to us, ‘a little more time, a little more time.’ Even if you had a work setup at home, and not many did, they weren’t set up to take the breaks you normally would during the day.”

This always-on mind frame can also lead to employee burnout.

Over time, typing away with inappropriate posture and ergonomically unfriendly spaces — combined with employees not taking breaks or doing exercises — increases strain on the back and that can lead to neck and back pain.

For those employees experiencing back pain, getting an accurate diagnosis early is critical to achieving better outcomes. However, diagnosing and treating soft tissue injuries is difficult, as they are very subjective.

“Relying on someone self-reporting an injury, especially when not in the workplace, presents an extra challenge for employers,” says Mary Reaston, founder and CEO of Emerge Diagnostics, a medical diagnostic technology company helping clients in multiple industries diagnose soft tissue injuries.

On the Clock? Or, Around the House?

This also presents a predicament for workers’ comp: how do you determine if a self-reported remote work injury was an on-the-clock incident or an “around the house” injury?

“That is the billion-dollar question. There is no good way to tell,” Reaston says. “If you reach behind you to grab a bag of Cheetos or a file and are injured, no one is going to be able to tell.” She notes the key is to get early intervention and a detailed history of how the employee describes the incident.

While it is not possible to eliminate these risks, they can be reduced. For instance, if the workforce is small enough, an employer could supply more ergonomically friendly working surfaces and tools, such as home office setups including worktables and ergonomic chairs.

“I think employers have to be tuned into their remote workforce and realize the same set of risk factors they have in a controlled setting, like an office, still apply with remote workers,” she says. “They need to talk to employees that are working from home and set some boundaries. Tell them not to let the lines blur (between work and home life). And tell them to report any injury early.”

Aspen Insurance Agency is in Denver, CO, and services clients nationwide. We are a family-run business working with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers the coverage they need at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our insurance professionals and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Protecting Small Business From Lawsuits

America is a litigious society: attorney TV commercials abound screaming “I can get you money!” The last thing you want is your business is being sued. Lawsuits are costly in money, time, and reputation, let alone the stress of fighting for your business as many times, lawsuits can put you out of business.

So, how can we minimize the risk of lawsuits?

Have Written Agreements: Keep Accurate Records

Signed agreements and good record keeping can be a business lifesaver, helping to resolve disputes and clarify the rights and duties of each party, if you’re sued.

Attorneys can advise the types of formal contracts you need, such as employment contracts and general sales and supplier agreements and, you will also want to capture the scope of services and products you promise to provide. For example, accurately and thoroughly record the scope of services or products you’ll provide, along with price and delivery date. Many disagreements arise when both parties misunderstand the scope of services or the accuracy of products to be delivered.

Make sure to retain all related records, including emails and notes from phone conversations, and make every effort to ensure those product or service details are part of the approved and final scope, in the event a conflict does arise.

Protect Your Reputation

A Marketing adage states: “a happy customer tells 3 of his friends: an unhappy customer tells 30”.

Businesses run on reputation. Complete every transaction with integrity in all dealings with customers, competitors, and the community. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you make a promise, keep it. Bending the rules or misrepresenting your business, products or capabilities could come back to haunt you in the form of general mistrust, lost business, and potential lawsuits.

Acting with honesty and integrity helps lay a foundation for a business to prosper.

Employ Sound Employment Practices

There are many state and federal laws that govern the workplace, laws regarding workplace harassment, discrimination, or the privacy rights of your employees. Familiarity with and adherence to these laws is important. Employment Practices Liability insurance can help protect you if an employee claims you engaged in wrongful employment practices.

Be sure you recognize which laws apply to your business and learn about the requirements of each. Then create and enforce policies to ensure you are complying. A human resources consultant or an employment lawyer can be a great advisor in this area.

Treat your employees fairly and honestly. Expect a good day’s work in exchange for paying a decent living salary and benefits.

Be Prepared with an Experienced Lawyer

When legal issues do come up in your business, consult with a lawyer you know, who knows you and your business practices, on those questions which could lead to a lawsuit.

Look for a reputable lawyer with expertise in matters associated with the size and your type of business. For instance, if you run a trucking company, working with an attorney knowledgeable on the issues facing logistics and delivery companies can proactively help you stay in compliance with the law and spot potential legal issues early.

One of the best ways to avoid a lawsuit is to evaluate your current practices looking for areas where you may have improvement opportunities.

Separate Your Personal Finances from Your Business

Many small businesses operate as sole proprietorships. Though the easiest and least costly way to set up and run a business, sole proprietorships also come with what some might consider a significant disadvantage. As the owner, you are personally liable in the event of a lawsuit.

Structuring your business as a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation is a protective measure allowing you to separate your personal assets from any liability-related lawsuits to your business.

Explore the benefits of this type of structure with your legal advisor.

Be Aware of Your Insurance Coverage Needs

Insurance is another way to reduce the financial impact of a lawsuit. General Liability Insurance, typically part of a Business Owners Policy, or BOP, covers small business risks, including claims related to bodily injury (for instance, injuries from customers or employee slipping and falling), property damage, and even advertising injury (copyright infringement in one of your advertisements). 

Commercial Auto Insurance can help protect your business and your employees against liability for driving-related accidents and protect your business autos for physical damage. Depending on your business, you may also need more specialized insurance.

For instance, if your business offers professional advice or services to clients, Professional Liability insurance can help cover the cost to defend your business against a lawsuit claiming damages resulting from an error or omission in providing your services.

An additional layer of protection comes from purchasing Umbrella Insurance, additional coverage over and above the coverage limits of your primary liability policies. Umbrella Insurance helps defend against large, unexpected losses which are not entirely covered by your basic professional liability coverage.

Speak to your Aspen Insurance advisor to review your current coverage and determine if it is sufficient. Most liability policies only cover half of the liability judgments. Be prepared as if your business depends on it: as it might!

Aspen Insurance Agency is in Denver, CO, and services clients nationwide. We are a family-run business working with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers the coverage they need at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, commercial, and professional insurance to residential and commercial customers enabling the best rates available. Call to speak to one of our insurance advisors and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Is Real Estate Investing Boom or Bust?

Is the real estate market about to bust? Blackstone Group Inc. President Jon Gray doesn’t think so. He has advice for investors looking to make sense of the U.S. real estate market. “Don’t fear a bust anytime soon.

Home prices surged to their highest levels since 2005. Cheap mortgage interest rates are encouraging buyers toward new homes, while building costs are spiking due to rising raw material prices. Meanwhile, a worker shortage has reduced new construction. In commercial real estate, the wider acceptance of remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic is creating office vacancies across the country.

Despite all that, now’s a pretty good time for the market, according to Gray, who has been at the center of the biggest booms and busts in the industry over the past three decades.

The market isn’t showing the typical warning signs — too much leverage, too much capital, too much building, Gray said. There will be a “rediscovery” of cities such as New York and San Francisco, fueled by immigrants, creativity, entrepreneurship, and technology.

The billionaire also spoke about where he’d put $100,000 today, what to avoid pouring money into, the best way to invest in real estate, and how President Joe Biden’s tax policies could affect property owners.

Gray’s journey at the New York-based firm began in 1992 and by 2005, was running the real estate investment unit. Over the next 13 years, Gray built it into a behemoth with $115 billion of assets. The below is a condensed version of the Q and A between Gray and Bloomberg Wealth.

Question: The economy has been pretty good, but will probably head down at some point, so is this a good time to invest in real estate?

Answer: It’s still a pretty good time for real estate for a couple of reasons. There are two warning signs; one is too much leverage and too much capital, and neither is really the case in the real estate system today. The second is too many cranes and too much building, and we’re actually below historic levels in terms of new supply.

The other thing I’d point out is that the S&P 500 delivered something like four times the return of public REITs since the beginning of 2020, before Covid. So real estate is lagging coming out of the recovery because obviously people have been concerned about the physical world. As the economy reopens, people go back into spaces, real estate will see a little bit of a bounce. I think the risk is if interest rates move a lot.

Another positive thing about real estate is inflation drives up the replacement cost of buildings. And that gives you a little bit of a cushion on existing real estate.

Question: Is residential less or more risky than commercial real estate?

Answer: If you mean for-sale, single-family housing, there’s probably more risk in the sense that you’re building something and you’re selling it, and it’s a function of the market. If you’re talking about rental housing, such as an apartment complex, that tends to be less risky because it’s less cyclical. People don’t give up their apartments. There’s some volatility but nothing like, say, office buildings or hotels.

And then commercial real estate involves office buildings; warehouses, which has been the biggest theme for us over the last 10 years; hotels; shopping centers; senior living facilities. And all of them have different risk returns, depending on geography.

Question: New York City has seen a lot of people leave during Covid. Do you expect that people will come back, work five days a week, and use all the office space in New York or similar cities that they did before?

Answer: There is a sort of recency bias because we’ve been home, we assume that’s the way it will continue. When I think about our company, we know we’re better together. We’re better at being creative, we’re better at solving problems, we’re better at training our young people. It’s really an apprenticeship business, learning how to invest. We have a lot of smart, talented people who are connected by culture. Being together matters.

Some companies will conclude they don’t need quite as much space, so that’ll create some additional vacancies. People will be concerned about owning office buildings, and that may create an opportunity. There will be some headwinds for a number of years and then, over time, things will recover.

I would point out, though, outside the U.S., for instance, in China, buildings are back to full capacity. In Europe, people don’t have as much living space in their homes. So not all geographies are the same. And even here, I think there’ll be a bias toward going back to the office, even though it won’t be like it was before.

Question: A lot of people have moved to Florida and Texas, maybe for warm weather, maybe because those states don’t have income taxes. Do you think that trend will continue? And is that a good place to invest in real estate now?

Answer: It’s a bit of both. The weather, the lower cost of living, lower taxes, concerns about the quality of life. Texas is one of the fastest-growing states in the country, even though it’s enormous. I think that will continue, and it was accelerated a bit by the pandemic. On the other hand, New York City, San Francisco, are amazing places. And when you think about technology and innovation, entrepreneurship, immigrants, there will be a rediscovery of these cities. But, yes, Texas and Florida are well-positioned.

Aspen Insurance Agency is in Denver, CO, and services clients nationwide. We are a family-run business working with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers the coverage they need at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, auto insurance, commercial, and professional insurance to residential and commercial insurance customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our insurance professionals and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Seeing Through Auto Windshield Repair

Auto windshield repairs are the number one auto insurance claim in the United States representing 30% of all auto claims. 70-80% of those claims are for “edge cracks”: cracks affecting the initial two inches of the windshield perimeter. As windshields are made of multiple fused together layers of glass (“annealed”), windshields may have a manufacturing defect known as “residual stresses”, created during the annealing process.

Not surprisingly, the major cause of windshield damage is flying rocks, creating windshield chips. Gravel is everywhere on the road, and cars and trucks traveling on the highway can kick rocks up. Rocks traveling at a high rate of speed meeting your windshield while you are also traveling at a high rate of speed can chip the top liner or carry through into both the outer and inside glass, causing cracks. Semi-trucks and construction vehicles carrying gravel are the two largest causes of airborne rock debris.

Which prompts questions for auto owners. If my windshield is damaged:

  • Should I replace the windshield?
  • Should I have my windshield repaired?
  • Can I just leave the crack alone?
  • If I do repair or replace the windshield, can I claim the repair on my insurance?

Repair? or Replace?

Federal law holds that cracks and chips smaller than 3/4 of an inch are permitted if they’re three inches or farther from other chips or cracks and, are not located within the driver’s view. While most police officers probably won’t stop you specifically because of a cracked windshield (which is not to say they absolutely won’t), there is the possibility of a second violation added onto another ticket.

Even if the chip or crack is located out of the drivers’ view, you may not be safe from receiving a traffic ticket. States carry their own specific laws: for example, the state of Illinois prohibits anything that obscures the view through the windshield or impedes the function of windshield wipers.

Recognize that small chips or cracks could easily grow into long cracks. Normally, a crack shorter than six inches and chips or dings fitting under a credit card can all be repaired. Cracks longer than twelve inches may require a windshield replacement, although some manufacturers have developed compounds successfully repairing cracks up to twenty-four inches in length. Repairs should be done as soon as possible to prevent cracks from getting worse.

Replacing the Windshield

Windshields are an indispensable component contributing 70% of the structural integrity and safety of a vehicle’s passenger compartment. Consumers should be cautious as a replacement may not match the structural support of the original installation, resulting in injuries and fatalities.

According to a report by ABC’s 20/20, 75% of windshield installations are done incorrectly, because of the lack of industry regulations and requirements:

  • Glass installers do NOT have to be licensed to be in business.
  • Anyone can legally install auto glass regardless of knowledge or training.
  • Some companies use inferior products or cut corners to save money.

All of which could lead to costly and fatal consequences:

  • Roof Cave in During a Roll-Over Accident:  As the windshield supports the structural integrity of the vehicle during a rollover accident, if the windshield doesn’t stay in place, the roof will collapse.
  • Airbags Not Working: Your car’s airbags bounce off the windshield when deployed. If the windshield was improperly installed, it can cause the airbags to blow the windshield out of the vehicle instead of bouncing off it, increasing the driver’s danger.

This is not to say, the windshield should never be replaced. There are times the windshield damage is severe enough the windshield must be replaced. If you must replace your windshield, find a reputable installer who uses quality materials and employs trained and experienced installers.

When a windshield is replaced, expect to be able to drive within an hour. However, it may take 8-24 hours for the adhesive to fully dry, meaning 8 – 24 hours before the windshield is fully set and will not pop off in the event of an accident.

Can I Repair My Windshield?

Windshields should be repaired when:

  1. The glass is tempered, not laminated.
  2. The crack is longer than a dollar bill.
  3. The crack or chip is deep enough that it goes more than halfway into the windshield.
  4. The crack or chip extends to the outside edge of the windshield.

Windshields should be repaired as soon as is practical as a small chip can spread across the windshield upon hitting a big pothole, or when driving on a bumpy road, or if making an aggressive turn. In several states, it is illegal to drive a car with a cracked windshield.

Originally, damaged windshields had to be replaced, which became quite expensive. As the technology evolved to repair windshields, insurance companies chose to cover the full cost of repair, as it was much cheaper than replacing the windshield. Repairing is also desirable because it maintains the original factory installation (and structural integrity) of the windshield. Repairing also helps the environment by reducing trash.

You may wonder which is safer: repairing or replacing? In the 30-year history of windshield repair, there has never been an injury or lawsuit from a windshield repair. There has been a number of injuries and deaths caused by windshield replacements.

How Much Does It Cost to Repair a Windshield?

Repairing typically costs about $50 for the first chip, plus about $10-$15 per additional chip. Cracks are more expensive to repair. Depending on the length, a crack could cost up to $100-$150. Replacing a windshield is significantly more expensive; the average price is commonly around $400 and can be well over $1,000 if an OEM windshield is used.

When looking for repairs, always get multiple bids and use reputable installers. We also recommend:

  • Look for companies affiliated with the Auto Glass Safety Council.
  • Ask what kind of warranty covers the work.
  • Get more than one written estimate when you’re looking for a repair company.
  • Pay only once the work has been completed.

How Does My Car Insurance Help?

Normally, cracks in windshields are covered under the Comprehensive section of your car insurance policy. Not all policies include comprehensive coverage, so you do want to confirm your coverage. Also, the cost of repair may not be covered by your deductible (the normal deductible amount being $500). However, some states require no deductible (in which case you pay nothing), and others have lower deductibles.

Some insurance companies encourage motorists to repair rather than replace windshields by covering the full cost of repair (far cheaper for the insurance company than paying for replacement). If the windshield does need to be replaced, be advised you can open a claim, and you will be subject to paying your deductible.

Always feel free to speak with your Aspen Insurance advisors for expert advice on handling windshield problems.

Aspen Insurance Agency is in Denver, CO, and services clients nationwide. We are a family-run business working with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers the coverage they need at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, commercial, and professional insurance to residential and commercial customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our insurance advisors and see how painless insurance shopping can be.

Avoid Business Insurance Purchasing Mistakes – Part II


Owning and operating a business takes a lot of time and energy: satisfying customers, attracting, finding, and retaining talented employees, marketing products and services. The list goes on and on, and on. One responsibility which may not receive the attention it should is ensuring your business has appropriate insurance coverage.

Here are some of the mistakes made by businesspeople when choosing insurance.

Failing to Read Your Policies

Your insurance policy does not make for exciting reading but knowing what is and is not included is crucial.  It is the only way to know what risks are covered and which are excluded. Looking at your policies after a loss occurs is not effective timing. You cannot buy coverage for a loss that has already taken place.

While many insurance policies are written in simplified language, they still contain some “legalese.” If you have trouble comprehending the wording, ask your trusted insurance advisor or attorney to explain the policy wording.

Buying Too Little Property Insurance

When insuring buildings and personal property under a commercial property policy, make sure to have adequate limits. This is essential even if your policy includes replacement cost coverage. While the replacement cost coverage will automatically cover the cost to repair or replace your damaged property, it will not pay more than the limit of insurance. If the cost to repair or replace your property exceeds the limit, your policy will only cover that portion of the loss within the policy limits.

Watch out for coinsurance clauses and agreed value provisions, which are often found in property policies. Both impose a penalty for underinsuring your property. If a loss occurs and you have failed to maintain a minimum amount of insurance, your insurer will not pay the full amount of the loss. Deliberately underinsuring your property is not a good way to save money on property premiums.

Failing to Insure Potential Income Losses

Many business owners are careful to insure their company’s physical assets but fail to consider a common consequence of physical losses, namely a loss of income. A company will lose income if its premises suffer a physical loss and the business cannot operate until the damage is repaired.

Business Income insurance is intended to help companies survive an interruption in operation by reimbursing the company for the income it would have earned if the loss had not occurred. It also covers continuing expenses like rent or electricity regardless of whether your business is operating.

Your business may also need Extra Expense insurance: which covers expenses you incur to avoid or minimize a shutdown when property has been damaged by a covered peril.

Failing to Accurately List Entities or Locations

Under most liability policies, only the people or entities shown in the declarations qualify as named insureds. People or entities not listed on the policy generally are not covered.  Failing to list a business entity on a general liability, commercial auto, umbrella, or other liability policy can have disastrous consequences.

For example, for tax reasons, you transfer ownership of all your business property to a newly created subsidiary. However, your liability policy only lists your company name as the named insured, not the new subsidiary. Were an accident to occur on the property and the subsidiary sued, your insurer can refuse to cover the claim as the subsidiary was not named on the policy.

Similar problems can occur if business locations are omitted from a commercial property policy. Most property policies cover physical loss or damage to covered property at the premises described in the declarations. If damaged property is situated at premises not shown on the policy, the damage may not be covered.

Sticking With the Same Insurer or Policy for Too Long

While a long-term relationship with an insurer can be an asset, avoid staying with an insurance company no longer meeting your needs. An insurer (or insurance policy) that was suitable for your business in the past may no longer provide adequate coverage.

Insurers do change over time. Some grow and expand their product offerings, some improve the quality of their service while others allow theirs to decline. You can determine whether your insurer is still competitive in the marketplace by asking your trusted insurance advisor to obtain quotes from other insurers.

The best advice is to meet with your trusted insurance advisor every few years for a full assessment of your risks and insurance needs to determine you have the most appropriate coverage for your current and future business needs.

Aspen Insurance Agency is in Denver, CO, and services clients nationwide. We are a family run business working with multiple insurance carriers to offer our customers the coverage they need at the lowest possible cost. We offer a wide range of personal, commercial, and professional insurance to residential and commercial customers enabling the cheapest rates available. Call to speak to one of our insurance advisors and see how painless insurance shopping can be.