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Posts Tagged ‘personal insurance’

Watch Out For Being Over-Insured With These Handy Tips

Watch Out For Being Over-Insured With These Handy Tips

Here’s one of the core things we help our clients with. Understanding how to minimize personal economic dangers via insurance coverage. For example, the sudden death of a close relative can have a significant negative impact on your family’s financial well being. Having adequate life insurance can help address this. Your home might catch fire. Adequate homeowners insurance offers critical protection. And of course having appropriate auto insurance protects you from a loss in case your car is totaled.

It’s important to have insurance to protect against all of these different threats. But there is a cost to being over-insured… and not just in having a higher insurance premium. So here are a few tips to help you keep this from taking place.

Car insurance.

Having appropriate liability insurance on all your vehicles is critical. However, having collision and/or comprehensive insurance on a vehicle with a low resale value that’s also paid off isn’t helpful. Here’s a way you can test your need. If your car was in an accident could you afford to replace it without negatively impacting your finances? If yes, scrap the unnecessary coverage and pocket the savings.

Homeowners insurance policy.

Do you know how much it will cost to rebuild your home if it were to face devastation? This isn’t the same as what your home might be worth if you sold it tomorrow. Remember that the cost of land doesn’t factor into having adequate home insurance protection.

When you buy insurance for your home or condo, you are seeking the needed coverage in case the house (or a part of it) has to be replaced. This should be 1-for-1. For example, if you have a home that is carpeted, you wouldn’t pay for insurance that would replace the carpets with hardwood floors. When insurance is called upon, the coverage must be like-for-like. Making certain you have appropriate coverage can lower your total premiums.

Life insurance.

One of the biggest areas where folks are often over-insured is life insurance. Some folks view having a life insurance policy from a pride perspective. But do you really need a $1,000,000 policy? Carefully reviewing your needs is critical to avoid spending too much on life insurance. Having the right mix of insurance including term vs. whole can also offer savings.

Another thing to watch out for is costly riders. While there are too many to cover in detail here, riders add costs. It’s important to make certain that whatever riders you choose, they meet your unique needs.

Final Thoughts.

For the most part, being over-insured drives up the cost of premiums while offering you little genuine benefit. Eliminating these costs can help you save hundreds of dollars (or more) each year. Shifting these savings towards other goals such as investing can help you build financial security. This can include setting aside for college or retirement.

The best time to address insurance is when life circumstances change. Recently married? Having a child? Perhaps you’ve just received a big promotion? You may have won the lottery. Leverage these big life moments to be 100% certain you have adequate protection. As we review these life changes with you we’ll help you understand cost-savings opportunities. This includes making sure you avoid being over-insured. Contact us today for a complete review of your risk profile and insurance requirements.

Best of 2016: Financial Dangers of a Natural Disaster

Fires, floods, tornados, hurricanes, high winds, hail and lightning… Mother Nature has some serious weapons in her arsenal, and she’s not afraid to use them. With extreme weather becoming more common in many parts of the country, every home is likely at risk of incurring damage from more than one type of natural disaster. In some cases, even with insurance, the outcome is financially dangerous. Consider the following monetary hardships you may encounter.

You’ll probably pay clean-up costs out of pocket.

Even if these expenses are covered by your homeowner’s insurance, you may want to pay for them upfront in order to speed up the process. From removing downed trees to ripping out water damaged drywall and flooring, clean-up can run in the thousands. If you don’t have that kind of cash on hand, you’ll have to live surrounded by debris until you receive the check from your insurance company. Talk to your insurance agent about what your policy covers as well as how quickly payouts are usually made.

You’re going to need vital paperwork.

From your insurance paperwork to birth certificates, social security cards, bank account and credit card information, there are many important documents you’re likely to need in order to get your life back in order after a natural disaster. If they’re lost or cannot easily be accessed, it could delay the processing of your insurance claims and receipt of any government assistance to which you may be entitled. Experts advise making copies of important paperwork and storing it electronically using a cloud-based storage provider such as Dropbox. You might also consider keeping hardcopies of important documents in a safe or safe deposit box.

You might be on the hook for more than you realize.

You knew you needed insurance, but you also wanted to keep your premiums low. You may have bought a policy with a higher deductible as a result, and you’ll have to put that much cash towards clean-up and repairs before your insurer will cover any difference. Talk to your insurance agent now—before a natural disaster strikes—about the deductible and coverage limits on your insurance policies. If you live in an area where certain types of extreme weather are common, it might make financial sense to increase coverage and reduce your deductible.

You’re probably going to need access to cash.

After a major natural disaster, power outages are not uncommon—and they can last weeks and cover large areas as well. Whether you need to secure a hotel room for your family, buy clothing and toiletries, or just pay for pizza delivery until you can use your stove again, you may need to use cash if debit and credit card machines are down. Consider putting some cash in a safety deposit box at a bank in a neighboring town. Set up direct deposit with your employer so your earnings will automatically go into your bank account as well.

Do you know what your insurance policies cover? Are you concerned about the financial implications of a natural disaster? Call us today to review your coverage and discuss options to lessen the financial burden should Mother Nature decide to strike your home.

Tips How To Save On Home Insurance

Tips How To Save On Home Insurance

If you own a home or condo, having a home insurance policy is required. But once you have it, most folks end up ignoring it after they have it in place.

Yet for most of us, a home is the most valuable asset we’ll own… and it is filled with all the things we’ve collected over a lifetime. A home or condo policy must offer enough coverage to restore the house to its former glory in case it is damaged. But you also have to factor in the value of your belongings as well including antiques, collectibles, jewelry, high tech items, etc.

There’s no magic time to think about home insurance… so check out these tips on how to get the most value in your home owners policy.

  1. Manage Your Credit

Over the last several years, there’s been a shift in home insurance where your credit matters. For many carriers, the better your credit rating the better your insurance rates. In fact, some carriers won’t accept high-credit risk applicants. So maintaining a solid credit history is really in your favor.

  1. Let Us Search For You

As an independent insurance agency we write insurance for a number of carriers… so one call to our team is all that’s needed to shop for great rates among multiple carriers. You’ll save time & energy as well.

  1. Explore Your Deductible

Talk with us about your deductible. The key is to make sure your deductible is something you can afford to pay in case of a serious issue. For a claim on a home insurance policy, one rule of thumb is to have the deductible be high enough that you don’t make a claim for “just anything” that goes wrong with your house. Home insurance really should be reserved for catastrophic situations. The higher the deductible the more you can save… some premiums can be cut by up to 30 percent.

  1. Check Out Discounts

If you have two or more insurance policies (auto / home for example) with the same carrier, you can save 5% to 15% off the policies. Typically, that will be a less costly approach than cobbling insurance coverage together from various companies. Definitely give us a call to explore your discounts… especially if you happen to have some of your insurance with other carriers.

  1. Make Sure You Aren’t Over-Insured

Some people think buying more insurance than they need will give them some sort of advantage. It won’t. You simply need an adequate amount of coverage to cover the expense of replacing your home and its belongings. For example, you won’t replace the land, so that doesn’t factor in. Likewise, different areas have different costs of construction so factor that in as well.  IMPORTANT: Be careful not to UNDERINSURE your home. The key here is to have a candid conversation with our insurance team so that we can make sure you have the RIGHT protection.

One Final Tip

Many carriers offer extra discounts of 5% or more when you’ve been with them at least 3 to 5 years… so definitely keep that in mind as you evaluate your homeowners policy.Remember, we’re here to help you, so call us today to make sure you are getting the greatest value out of your insurance.

Factors that Affect Homeowner’s Insurance Rates

Factors that Affect Homeowner’s Insurance Rates

Unlike motor vehicle insurance, homeowner’s insurance is not required by law. However, if you purchased your home with a mortgage, your lender likely required you to buy a homeowner’s insurance policy to protect their investment in case of a fire or natural disaster. It’s important coverage to have—even if you own your home free and clear—and you may even be able to reduce your annual premium once you understand the factors that generally affect homeowner’s insurance rates.

  1. Your home’s age and construction.

When setting a homeowner’s insurance rate, the insurer estimates how much it will cost to rebuild the property in question should it be damaged or destroyed. Materials and features common in older homes—such as hardwood floors and ornate details—cost more to repair and replace. Whether the exterior was constructed out of brick or wood will also factor into the cost, as will the age of the electrical, heating/cooling and plumbing systems. Upgrades reduce the likelihood of loss and often lower homeowner’s insurance premiums.

  1. Pools and hot tubs on the property.

If your home includes a swimming pool, spa or hot tub, your homeowner’s insurance is going to be more expensive because additional liability coverage will be required. While most policies include a minimum $100,000 in liability protection, your insurance agent may recommend increasing it to between $300,000 and $500,000 as well as adding an umbrella policy with at least $1 million in protection. If you want to minimize your homeowner’s insurance costs, avoid purchasing properties without outdoor pools and hot tubs.

  1. The location of the nearest fire department.

Direct property loss as a result of home fires has been estimated at $7.3 billion annually. If your home is near a fire department (or even a fire hydrant), you’ll pay less for your homeowner’s insurance as a result. Homes in urban and suburban areas usually have better fire protection than those in rural areas as well. So if you want to keep your homeowner’s insurance costs as low as possible, consider location when buying a home.

  1. The location of the nearest body of water.

If your home is near a coastline, large body of water, or in a floodplain, you’re going to pay higher homeowner’s insurance premiums. Depending on your location, your policy may have a separate deductible for hurricanes and windstorms. And flood damage—from any exterior source—is not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance policies. You’ll need a policy specifically for flood insurance if you’re in a high-risk area.

  1. Your past insurance claims history.

Even if you’ve purchased a new home and changed insurance companies, any claims you made at your previous residence will be considered when setting your homeowner’s insurance rate. Insurers can access this information through the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, which reports filed claims for seven years. In general, the amount of the claim carries more weight than the reason for the claim.

Whether you’re in the process of looking for your next home or just want to explore ways to lower your current homeowner’s insurance rates, your insurance professional is your best resource for information on these and other factors that will affect your premium.

Should You Install Electronic Door Locks?

Should You Install Electronic Door Locks?

Traditional house keys may soon go the way of rotary phones thanks to new lock technology. From fingerprint sensors to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled systems, keyless entry products are rapidly transforming the way Americans secure the doors to their homes. Are these easy-access locks the right choice for you? If you’re not comfortable with technology, they probably won’t be. However, if you have no problem programming your DVR, universal remote and household thermostat, a keyless lock may be a good option.

Types of Keyless Locks Available Now

  • Biometric locks recognize your fingerprint, allowing you to unlock your home with a swipe of your finger. This type of keyless lock requires you to program it with your fingerprint as well as those of the rest of your family or others you want to allow to access your home.
  • Proximity locks use RFID technology and work with a key fob that you carry with you. Much like electronic car door locks, you can unlock or lock them with a press of the fob button. Some don’t require you to remove the fob from your pocket or purse first, either—a handy feature if you regularly enter or exit your home after dark or often have your hands full.
  • Smartphone-controlled locks synch with your mobile phone via Bluetooth. This allows you to control entry to your home remotely as well as track who is coming and going. Some of these locks will actually text you when someone else opens your home’s door. Others will automatically unlock your door when you approach it.
  • Keypad locks, the earliest type of keyless locks available for homes, are still a good option as well. They all require you to program an entry code, though newer, more complex models may allow you to have individual codes for specific people or even program a greeting that will play when the door is unlocked. Surveillance varieties take photos of whoever opens the door.

Prices for electronic door locks range from $100 to more than $1,000, depending on the type of lock and features included. While they can make entering and exiting your home easier—unless there’s a power outage or the circuit board fails—they aren’t necessarily more secure than traditional keyed locks are.

Burglars generally enter homes through unlocked doors or windows or by forcing open a window or door. If security is your main concern, you’re probably better off investing in solid wood or steel exterior doors rather than the latest electronic lock technology. Door jams reinforced with steel plates will also make it more difficult for an intruder to kick in the door.

Whether you opt for traditional keys or a new, high tech electronic lock for your home, it’s important your property is adequately insured in the event of a break in. If you don’t currently have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, talk to an insurance professional about your options. If you already have a policy, it’s wise to review your coverage at least once a year and make appropriate adjustments.

Car Seat Safety

Car Seat Safety

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the United States. In 2013, 638 children ages 12 and younger died in motor vehicle crashes. Another 127,250 were injured.

Many of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented with the use of a proper child safety seat. Car seat use reduces the risk of death for children under age 1 by 71 percent and children ages 1 to 4 by 54 percent. Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury in children ages 4 to 8 by 45 percent compared to the use of seatbelts alone.

If you want to ensure children riding in your car are doing so safely, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Know your state’s child passenger safety laws. While requirements vary based on age, weight and height, all states require child safety seats for infants and certain children. Many require children to ride in the rear seat whenever possible, as well as the use of rear-facing infant seats, forward-facing child safety seats, and booster seats for older children. You can review state-by-state laws here.
  • Make sure the car seat is appropriate for your child’s size and age. Rear-facing car seats should be used from birth to age 1 at minimum. However, it’s wise to keep your child in a rear-facing car seat until he/she reaches age 3 or outgrows the height and weight limit specified by the manufacturer. At this point you can transition your child to a forward-facing car seat until he/she is age 7 or again outgrows the manufacturer’s height and weight specifications. Booster seats are recommended for children age 7 and older who cannot fit in a seat belt correctly without one.
  • Only buy car seats rated and recommended by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These seats meet Federal Safety Standards as well as strict crash performance standards. You can find a list of NHTSA rated car seats, along with information on their ease of use, here.
  • Make sure you install and use your car seat or booster seat properly. Seats must be carefully installed according to the owner’s manual instructions. If you need assistance, you can consult a child passenger safety technician (find one here) or visit a car seat inspection station (find one here) in your area. Local law enforcement agencies may also hold periodic car seat inspection events.
  • Put your child in the middle of the vehicle. When travelling with one child or only one child in a safety seat, place it in the center of the backseat. In the event of an automobile collision, this is the safest location in the vehicle.
  • Register your car seat with the NHTSA.Unfortunately, recalls happen. If you want to avoid using an unsafe car seat that has been recalled, you can register with the NHTSA to receive notices about safety-related defects and recalls.

Financial Dangers of a Natural Disaster

Flooded Street

Fires, floods, tornados, hurricanes, high winds, hail and lightning… Mother Nature has some serious weapons in her arsenal, and she’s not afraid to use them. With extreme weather becoming more common in many parts of the country, every home is likely at risk of incurring damage from more than one type of natural disaster. In some cases, even with insurance, the outcome is financially dangerous. Consider the following monetary hardships you may encounter.

You’ll probably pay clean-up costs out of pocket.

Even if these expenses are covered by your homeowner’s insurance, you may want to pay for them upfront in order to speed up the process. From removing downed trees to ripping out water damaged drywall and flooring, clean-up can run in the thousands. If you don’t have that kind of cash on hand, you’ll have to live surrounded by debris until you receive the check from your insurance company. Talk to your insurance agent about what your policy covers as well as how quickly payouts are usually made.

You’re going to need vital paperwork.

From your insurance paperwork to birth certificates, social security cards, bank account and credit card information, there are many important documents you’re likely to need in order to get your life back in order after a natural disaster. If they’re lost or cannot easily be accessed, it could delay the processing of your insurance claims and receipt of any government assistance to which you may be entitled. Experts advise making copies of important paperwork and storing it electronically using a cloud-based storage provider such as Dropbox. You might also consider keeping hardcopies of important documents in a safe or safe deposit box.

You might be on the hook for more than you realize.

You knew you needed insurance, but you also wanted to keep your premiums low. You may have bought a policy with a higher deductible as a result, and you’ll have to put that much cash towards clean-up and repairs before your insurer will cover any difference. Talk to your insurance agent now—before a natural disaster strikes—about the deductible and coverage limits on your insurance policies. If you live in an area where certain types of extreme weather are common, it might make financial sense to increase coverage and reduce your deductible.

You’re probably going to need access to cash.

After a major natural disaster, power outages are not uncommon—and they can last weeks and cover large areas as well. Whether you need to secure a hotel room for your family, buy clothing and toiletries, or just pay for pizza delivery until you can use your stove again, you may need to use cash if debit and credit card machines are down. Consider putting some cash in a safety deposit box at a bank in a neighboring town. Set up direct deposit with your employer so your earnings will automatically go into your bank account as well.

Do you know what your insurance policies cover? Are you concerned about the financial implications of a natural disaster? Call us today to review your coverage and discuss options to lessen the financial burden should Mother Nature decide to strike your home.

Important Insurance Moves When You’re Expecting

Personal Protection-Is Your Home Over- or Under-Insured

Nearly 4 million. That’s the number of babies (3,988,076 to be exact) born in the U.S. in 2014 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s equal to about 10,926 births every day. If you’re among one of those families expecting a newborn—especially if it’s your first time—you’re probably thinking about a zillion things other than insurance. However, if you want to truly protect that little bundle of joy from life’s potential calamities, the right insurance coverage is essential. Consider these important insurance moves you should make before you welcome your baby into the world.

Invest in Life Insurance (or Adjust Your Coverage)

Whether you’re in a relationship or a planning to raise your child on your own, you—and your partner if you have one—need life insurance. The premium may even be lower than you think. Individual policies are available for less than $1 a day, though the amount of coverage you need and type of policy you choose will affect your actual costs. Ask your insurance agent for help with analyzing your situation and purchasing an appropriate policy.

Keep in mind, a medical exam is often required if you want to buy term life insurance or whole life insurance and health issues connected to pregnancy—such as increased weight—may affect your rates. If they do, you may be able to have a recheck after you’ve delivered your baby so the rate can be adjusted down accordingly.

If you already have life insurance, make an appointment to review your coverage with your insurance agent. The more children you have the more money will be needed to support them if something happens to you or your partner.  Adjust your coverage accordingly.

Review Your Health Insurance

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), it became mandatory for health insurance policies to cover pregnancy and delivery. However, there are a couple exceptions to the rule. For example, if your previous health insurance plan was ‘grandfathered’ in, it may not include maternity care. And if you’re under the age of 26 and still on your parents’ health insurance policy, you may not be eligible for maternity coverage if your mom or dad’s employer is self-insured and able to exclude that coverage for dependents.

Even if you’re sure your health insurance plan covers maternity care, you should still take time to learn more about the specifics. Depending on the plan you have, it’s very possible you’ll need to pay at least a portion of the costs of your hospital stay. Make sure you choose an in-network doctor and hospital to minimize your out-of-pocket expenses.

If you don’t yet have health insurance, you’ll need to wait until the open enrollment period—from November 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017 for 2017 coverage—before you can purchase a policy. Employer-sponsored plans may have a different open enrollment period, so talk to your company’s human resource department or benefits administrator.

Don’t forget to add your new baby to your health insurance as soon as he/she is born. Birth is considered a ‘life changing’ event under the ACA and qualifies for a special enrollment period of 60 days from delivery for marketplace insurance plans and 30 days from delivery for employer-sponsored plans.

Evaluate Your Car and Homeowner’s Insurance Policies

If you’re moving to a new home so you’ll have more room for a child, you’ll need homeowner’s insurance. If you don’t plan to move, you’ll still need to update your home inventory to include all the accoutrements a new baby requires.  Without that documentation, you may not be compensated for those new belongings if they’re destroyed in fire or stolen by a burglar. You’ll also need a new car insurance policy if you’re investing in a newer or bigger vehicle. Your insurance agent can help you shop for the best coverage at the lowest price.

Is Your Home Over- or Under-Insured?

 Personal Protection-Is Your Home Over- or Under-Insured

Shoes that are too tight can hurt your feet. Pants that are too loose will fall down. Whatever clothing you’re putting on your body, it’s important to find the right fit if you want to look and feel your best. The same can be said about homeowner’s insurance. If you purchase more coverage than you need, you’re wasting money. But if you underinsure your home and possessions, recovering from a burglary, fire, flood or other natural disaster could be even more costly.

You need homeowner’s insurance with coverage that’s just right for you. And with a little time for research and a few conversations with your insurance agent, it’s absolutely possible to get it.

Begin by reviewing your current policy. Will it reimburse you for the value of your home and property based on its current condition (actual cash value coverage) or will you receive the funds required to replace what you’ve lost (comprehensive replacement cost coverage). Depreciation will hurt you if it’s the former. The age of your home and belongings doesn’t factor into the equation with the latter.

Make sure your coverage limit is high enough. You’ll need enough to fully cover the costs of rebuilding your home (excluding the value of the land) and replacing the rest of your property. In the case of your residence, this is not the same as current market value. Rebuilding could cost more—or less—than what your home would sell for today.

Take a look at local construction costs. If you recently purchased a newly built home or refinanced a mortgage in the last year, the appraisal should offer a fairly accurate representation of replacement cost as well as actual cash value and market value. If you own an older home, talk to local homebuilders about the average cost per square foot of construction. Then purchase coverage accordingly.

Account for upgrades. If you’ve spent at least $5,000 on remodeling projects since you last adjusted your homeowner’s insurance policy, you should consider increasing your coverage. If you’ve made any other high-ticket purchases or the value of the items in your home has otherwise increased, you should also adjust your coverage.

Buy endorsements as necessary. If your policy only provides actual cash value on contents, you may be able to purchase an endorsement to receive replacement cost value. If you own valuable items that aren’t covered by the standard policy, you can purchase endorsements for those as well.

Don’t forget your liability coverage. By some accounts, the average liability claim for bodily injury and property damage is nearly $16,000. If you have a gathering at your home and someone falls down the stairs, or a delivery person slips on your icy sidewalk during the winter, being underinsured will hurt you.

If you’re worried about the cost of fully insuring your home and belongings, we may be able to help you find ways to make your premiums more affordable. These include bundling endorsements, eliminating unneeded riders, and adjusting payment limits on a variety of claims. Give us a call today to review your current policy and discuss money-saving options.

Questions to Ask Before Passing a Car Down to Your Child

 

Questions to Ask Before Passing a Car Down to Your Child

Your teenager just got his or her driver’s license and is begging you for a car. You’ve been thinking about buying a new one anyway, so you decide to give him your current ride. After all, an older vehicle should cost him less to insure as well as repair if he gets in an accident. Problem solved, right? Not so fast.

While hand-me-down cars can be money-savers, they also have potential drawbacks. One study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that 48 percent of drivers between the ages of 15 and 17 who died in crashes from 2008 to 2012 were in cars that were at least 11 years old. Before you gift an older car to your child, ask the following questions.

  1. How safe is it?

Older cars may lack the safety features available on new models. While front-collision air bags have been required on all cars produced since 1998, electronic stability control didn’t become standard until 2012. Side-curtain air bags—which can be lifesavers in rollover crashes—are fairly rare even in cars purchased this decade.

Review the owner’s manual to determine the car’s safety features. You may want to check out crash-test ratings as well. You can find many on the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety website.

  1. Has your teen driven it?

While the aforementioned study found that 29 percent of the fatally-injured teenagers had been driving a small car—and 35 percent operating mid-size vehicles—bigger isn’t necessarily better. In fact, handing down a car that your teen has already been driving regularly is a more important consideration than size.

For example, if your daughter is used to driving a small car and you give her your large SUV because you think it will be safer on icy roads, you could actually be setting her up for an accident due to the difference in blind spots and turning ratios. On the other hand, a teen who learned to drive in a large car may not be able to do so as safely in a compact vehicle.

  1. Is it in good mechanical condition?

If you’ve been diligent about maintenance, you’re probably confident in your car’s condition. However, it makes sense to have a mechanic look it over before you hand it down to your child. A review of the vehicle’s systems will cost you, but that’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind you can have knowing your teen won’t be stranded due to engine trouble.

  1. Will it really be affordable to insure?

Teenagers pay some of the highest insurance premiums due to their minimal driving experience. Certain cars—such as those that are more valuable or are expensive to repair—will bump the price of their auto insurance up even more. Ask your insurance agent for a quote on the hand-me-down make and model.

Is your teen about to become a licensed driver? Contact us today to discuss adding him or her to your insurance policy or to explore other car insurance options.