Why Identity Theft Insurance is so Important

According to a report by Internet security firm Kaspersky Lab, in what could be one of the largest bank heists in history, more than 100 banks and ATMs have been rigged so that thieves could steal up to $1 billion in cash.

Hackers from Russia, Ukraine, China and Europe were involved in the organized crime ring that was just recently exposed. The hackers installed spying software on bank computers, studied bank employee workflows so they could learn how to mimic their actions and used their knowledge to transfer money into bank accounts set up in other countries.

While the report did not name specific bank institutions, it stated that financial institutions in at least 30 countries were affected, including the United States.

We all know that identity theft is the act of taking someone’s personal information and using it to impersonate a victim, steal from bank accounts, establish phony insurance policies, open unauthorized credit cards or obtain unauthorized bank loans.

What many people don’t realize, though, is that 7% of all U.S. citizens will be victims of identity theft over the next 12 month resulting in over $50 billion in costs. Identity theft is also a long, arduous process for victims as they try to repair their credit, erase erroneous collection accounts, and restore their lives.

Did you know that many homeowners insurance policies actually offer some form of identity theft as part of the policy? You can find out more about this coverage, its cost, and provisions within the rest of the of article below.

If you would like to see if your policy includes identity theft coverage or would like to receive quotes on this coverage, please feel free to give our office a call.

Identity Theft Insurance

What is it?

Some insurance companies now include coverage for identity theft as part of their homeowners insurance policy. Others sell it as either a stand-alone policy or as an endorsement to a homeowners or renters insurance policy.

What does it cover?

Identity theft insurance provides reimbursement to crime victims for the cost of restoring their identity and repairing credit reports. It generally covers expenses such as phone bills, lost wages, notary and certified mailing costs, and sometimes attorney fees (with the prior consent of the insurer). Some companies also offer restoration or resolution services that will guide you through the process of recovering your identity.

What does it cost?

Some insurance companies will include identity theft coverage for no additional cost. However, most will charge anywhere from $25 to $100 annually for the additional insurance coverage.

Tips for Avoid Identity Theft

  • Keep the amount of personal information in your purse or wallet to the bare minimum. Avoid carrying additional credit cards, your social security card or passport unless absolutely necessary.
  • Always take credit card or ATM receipts. Don’t throw them into public trash containers, leave them on the counter or put them in your shopping bag where they can easily fall out or get stolen.
  • Do not give out personal information. Whether on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet, don’t give out any personal information unless you have initiated the contact or are sure you know who you are dealing with and that they have a secure line.
  • Proceed with caution when shopping online. Use only authenticated websites to conduct business online. Before submitting personal or financial information through a website, confirm the site is secure.
  • Make sure you have firewall, anti-spyware and anti-virus programs installed on your computer. These programs should always be up to date.
  • Monitor your accounts. Don’t rely on your credit card company or bank to alert you of suspicious activity.
  • Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. Make sure it’s accurate and includes only those activities you’ve authorized.
  • Shred any documents containing personal information such as credit card numbers, bank statements, charge receipts or credit card applications, before disposing of them.

Does Auto Insurance Cover Stolen Items?

One of the questions we often receive is in regards to how auto insurance policies respond to personal items that are stolen from your car.  We want to spend this post providing some insight into this question.

Please keep in mind that every insurance policy is different and the information below may or may not address how your policy would specifically respond. 

What If My Laptop or Other Personal Items are Stolen from My Car?

Auto insurance does a good job of protecting, repairing, or replacing your vehicle if there is a claim.   It does a very poor job, though, of providing any type of coverage for personal items inside the vehicle.   In fact, most auto policies actually exclude coverage for personal items.

So then where do you get coverage? Your homeowners or renters policy will typically pick up the claim for stolen or damaged personal items located in your vehicle.  Keep in mind, though, the claim will be subject to the policy deductible, which will typically be either $500 or $1,000.

Our best recommendation is to avoid leaving items in your vehicle as best you can.   If you do have to leave items in your car, be sure to keep them out of plain view. Thieves will typically target those items that are easiest for them to get to.

Are My CDs Covered by Insurance if They’re Stolen from My Vehicle?

While CDs are quickly going the way of cassette tapes and being replaced by iPods or other portable electronic devices, this is still a common question we receive.

Unfortunately, the answer is your auto insurance most likely does NOT provide any coverage for CDs if they are stolen from the vehicle.   Some companies, though, will now allow you to purchase an endorsement on your policy that will provide limited coverage for the CDs.

Your best chance of finding coverage for this type of claim is to submit a claim through your homeowners or renters policy.   Many policies will provide $1,000 in coverage for “electronic apparatus, while in or upon a motor vehicle.”  However, before you rest easy thinking you are protected in the event of a claim, many insurance companies have interpreted “electronic apparatus” to not include CDs and will deny the claim.

Due to the ambiguity in regards to coverage for your CDs, we have a couple of suggestions:

  1. Check with your agent to see how your auto and homeowners policies will respond if your CDs are stolen.  It is so much better to know ahead of time how the policy will likely respond rather than waiting for the actual claim.
  2. Ask about the possibility of purchasing a coverage extension through your auto insurance company.
  3. Keep a digital copy stored on your home computer or an external storage device as a backup.

Personal Articles Insurance

If any of the following incidents were to happen, do you know if your homeowners insurance would pay the full claim, part of the claim, or deny it completely?

  • Your golf clubs are taken out of your car.
  • Your expensive digital camera is dropped and broken.
  • Your home-office computer is ripped off.

Unfortunately, with just a standard homeowners insurance policy, the likelihood of your full claim being paid is not great.

While your homeowners insurance policy does provide some coverage for valuable items, it is usually limited in the types of covered claims and payment amounts.

In order to have full coverage for the incidents above you would need to purchase a Personal Articles Floater. A personal articles floater provides coverage for possessions with higher monetary values like:

  • Cameras (video or still) and related equipment
  • China and crystal
  • Firearms
  • Golfer’s equipment
  • Jewelry
  • Musical instruments
  • Personal computers
  • Silverware
  • Works of fine art

It will also provide some additional coverage for things like mysterious disappearance and breakage. And the best part is that this type of policy isn’t very expensive at all.

Why should I consider a Personal Articles Floater?

Benefit 1: A personal articles floater will provide higher limits on your valuables.

Standard insurance policies limit coverage for the items listed above at anywhere from $500 to $1,500 depending upon the item. In many cases that may be sufficient; however, if the item is rare or valuable, the regular might not be enough.

One of the benefits of a personal article floater is the freedom you have in selecting your limits. Rather than predetermined limits, insurance companies are more willing to provide higher limits (as long as you can provide proof of said value).

Benefit 2: Claim payments are facilitated in a more proficient manner.

Claims for a personal articles floater usually paid one of two ways:

  1. Replacement Cost: Your insurance will pay the necessary amount to repair or replace your item with another one of like kind and quality.
  2. Agreed Value: The insurance company will use an “Agreed Value” limit for the item. This means that, in the event of a covered claim, your insurance company will simply just pay you the amount listed on the policy.

An agreed value limit is great when you’re insuring items like jewelry, fine art, antiques, and other unique items because it means if you suffer a loss on a covered item, you will not have to negotiate a settlement price with the insurance company.

Benefit 3: A personal articles floater provides expanded coverages.

A standard homeowners policy does not include some vital coverages for rare or valuable items. For example, a personal articles floater can provide coverage for “mysterious disappearance” or “breakage.” So if you were to lose a valuable piece of jewelry or accidentally break some fine china, your policy would pay the associated claim.

Benefit 4: Coverage can be expanded worldwide.

While most homeowners policies will typically only cover items located on the premises listed within the policy, personal articles floaters will provide coverage anywhere in the world.

For example if you lost your expensive camera while on vacation, your policy would pay for a replacement.

Benefit 5: Most personal articles floaters do not have a deductible.

A standard homeowners insurance policy will usually include a $500 to $1,000 deductible. A personal articles floater is different; many of them actually remove the deductible removing any out-of-pocket expenses as the policy owner.

Some Tips when Adding this Coverage

  1. Make sure to keep a detailed list of the items listed on the policy, including copies of the appraisals.
  2. Photograph each piece of your collection and store the photos in a safe place. This will make it easy to list each item on you claim report if your entire collection is stolen or damaged.
  3. If you have a number of high value items, it may be in your best interest to store them in a safe deposit box or install a security system in your home. Doing so will help discount the premiums on your policy as well.

How Much Does the Coverage Cost?

Now the big question, right? How much does a policy of this type cost?

Personal article floaters are actually much cheaper than you think given the coverage they provide. The increased cost can be anywhere from $20 to $2,000 annually, depending upon the type of items insured and their associated value.

*The above information is to be used as guidance only, and should not be considered as definite in any particular case. Every policy is different and you need to read through your policy and consult with your agent to best determine how your coverage will respond. Within this article we simply cannot analyze every possible loss exposure and exception to the general guidelines above.

 

Trampoline Safety

Did you know that if you own a trampoline that your homeowners insurance will either surcharge you for the increased risk or exclude the claim from coverage? In fact, many insurance companies will refuse to write policies for homeowners with trampolines altogether.

Why are insurance companies so adverse to covering trampoline-related claims? They seem harmless enough, right? In reality, trampolines are actually very dangerous and can put you and your personal assets at risk if someone were to injure themselves on your premises.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, trampolines account for over 100,000 emergency room visits every single year at a cost of over $100 million.

Of those injuries 92.7% involve children under the age of 16 and 59.5% resulted in a broken bone. Even worse, an AAP study from 2012 pointed out that current data on netting and other safety equipment indicates no reduction in injury rates.

If you do own a trampoline, please follow the safety items below to help prevent injuries.

Trampoline Safety Measures

The first safety measure with trampolines as recommended by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the Canadian Pediatric Society, and the Academy of Sports Medicine is to avoid them altogether.

As one E.R. Doctor recently lamented to the parent of a child injured on a trampoline, “Trampolines are our worst nightmare in terms of the number of accidents they cause.”

If you do own a trampoline, we highly recommend taking these steps to help prevent tragic deaths and serious trampoline injuries, especially paralysis, fractures, sprains and bruises:

  • Allow only one person on the trampoline at a time.
  • Do not attempt or allow somersaults, because landing on the head or neck can cause paralysis.
  • Do not use the trampoline without a full net enclosure and shock-absorbing pads that completely cover its springs, hooks and frame.
  • Place the trampoline away from structures, trees and other play areas.
  • No child under 6 years of age should use a full-size trampoline as they are the most susceptible to bone injuries.
  • Do not use a ladder with the trampoline, because it provides unsupervised access by small children.
  • Always supervise children who use a trampoline. (Though, it is worth noting that over half of all trampoline injuries occur with parental supervision nearby.)

How Will Driverless Cars Affect Premiums

Self-driving cars are definitely on the way. In fact, one transport scholar at the University of Minnesota estimates that by 2030 every car on the road will be driverless.
From a safety standpoint this could be great news as most accidents are caused by human error. If this factor can be minimized by taking control of the moving vehicle away from the driver, accident rates should tumble.

The risk of an accident is unlikely to be completely removed, though, since events are not totally predictable and automated systems can fail. In addition, the transition from hands-off driving to hands-on promises to be tricky.

Additionally, driverless cars are still fraught with a number of safety questions:

  1. What kind of training will people need to safely handle these types of vehicles?
  2. How well prepared will drivers be to handle emergencies when the technology returns control to the driver?
  3. What are the insurance implications of autonomous vehicles?
  4. Who is ultimately liable in an accident – the manufacturer or the driver?

Many of the questions above will be appropriately answered by the time the first driverless cars actually hit the road. But in the meantime we have gathered some research data and insight on how insurance companies are starting to view this new risk.

Insurance Implications

Except that the number of crashes will be greatly reduced, the insurance aspects of this gradual transformation to driverless carts are still unclear. It will also be interesting to see if the accidents that do occur lead to a higher percentage of product liability claims, as claimants blame the manufacturer or suppliers for what went wrong rather than their own behavior. Liability laws will also have to evolve to ensure autonomous vehicle technology advances are not brought to a halt.

Auto Insurance: Some aspects of insurance will be impacted as autonomous cars become the norm. There will still be a need for liability coverage, but over time the coverage could change, as suggested by the 2014 RAND study on autonomous vehicles, as manufacturers and suppliers and possibly even municipalities are called upon to take responsibility for what went wrong.

Coverage for physical damage due to a crash and for losses not caused by crashes but by wind, floods, fire and theft (comprehensive coverage) is less likely to change but may become cheaper if the potentially higher costs to repair or replace damaged vehicles is more than offset by the lower accident frequency rate.

Underwriting: Initially, many of the traditional underwriting criteria, such as the number and kind of accidents an applicant has had, the miles he or she expects to drive and where the car is garaged, will still apply, but the make, model and style of car may assume a greater importance. The implications of where a car is garaged and driven might be different if there are areas set aside, such as dedicated lanes, for automated driving.

During the transition to wholly autonomous driving, insurers may try to rely more on telematics devices, known as “black boxes,” that monitor driver activity. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, use of telematics is forecast to grow to up to 20 percent within the next five years.

Liability: As cars are become increasingly automated the onus might be on the manufacturer to prove it was not responsible for what happened in the event of a crash. The liability issue may evolve so that lawsuit concerns do not drive manufacturers and their suppliers out of business

Repair Costs: While the number of accidents is expected to drop significantly as more crash avoidance features are incorporated into vehicles, the cost of replacing damaged parts is likely to increase because of the complexity of the components. It is not yet clear whether the reduction in the frequency of crashes will lead to a reduction in the cost of crashes overall.

Childproofing Your Home

Parents worry endlessly about how to protect their children, but many overlook one of the biggest threats to their children’s safety and well-being — their own home. Experts say that children between the ages of 1 and 4 are more likely to be killed by fire, burns, drowning, choking, poisoning, or falls within the home than anything else.

In fact, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control about 2.3 million children are accidentally injured every year and more than 2,500 are killed. That’s why it’s so important to carefully childproof your home.

We know that home safety measures can seem overwhelming, so below we have provided some tips to properly protect your children from potential accidents.

Scope out the territory

The most effective way to ensure your baby’s safety is to take a baby’s-eye view of your home. Get down on your hands and knees and see how things look from down there.

What’s within reach? What looks tempting? Where would you go if you could crawl, toddle, or walk?

This will help you figure out which cupboards, drawers, and other spaces your child might get into. As he starts walking and climbing, you’ll have to reevaluate again, looking higher each time.

Carefully lock up or stow away every potential poison or other hazard, including cleaning products, medicines, vitamins, and knives. Use gates to limit your child’s access to areas of your home that might contain dangerous items.

Protect outlets

It’s a good idea to protect electrical outlets with outlet covers. Unfortunately, the removable little plug-in caps can easily end up in your baby’s mouth. Instead, replace the outlet covers themselves – at least those that are accessible – with ones that include a sliding safety latch.

If you’re using extension cords in your home, cover any exposed outlets with electrical tape.

Use caution with furniture and fixtures

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 16,000 children under the age of 5 went to the emergency room in 2006 with injuries caused when television sets, bookcases, and other furniture and appliances tipped over on them.

Large or heavy bookcases, dressers, and appliances are real hazards: Bolt whatever you can to the wall. Push items like televisions back from the edge of the furniture they’re on or move them out of reach, and then secure them, too. Always put heavier items on bottom shelves and in bottom drawers to make furniture less top-heavy.

Install gates

Most parents consider safety gates essential childproofing tools. They allow you to open outside doors for air while keeping your child indoors, they contain him within a designated room, and they block his access to dangerous stairways and forbidden rooms (such as the bathroom or kitchen).

Unfortunately, if out-of-date or used improperly, safety gates can themselves pose a hazard to children. In general, look for gates that your child can’t dislodge but that you can easily open and close. (Otherwise, you’ll be too tempted to leave them open when you’re in a hurry.)

Never use pressure gates at the top of stairs. Instead, install a gate that screws to the wall – it’s much more secure.

Check ties on blinds and curtains

According to the CPSC, the cords on window coverings are a frequent cause of strangulation of children, killing a child between the ages of 7 months and 10 years every month in the United States.

Window blinds pose a particular hazard because a baby’s neck could become trapped in the cords that raise the blinds or run through the slats. A child can become entangled in a looped window cord and strangle in a matter of minutes. Use cordless window coverings wherever possible, and avoid placing your baby’s crib near a window.

Secure your windows and doors

According to the CPSC, every year about eight children under the age of 5 die from falling out of windows in the United States, and more than 3,000 are injured.

Always open double-hung windows from the top or fit them with locks to prevent small children from opening them.

Low windows shouldn’t open more than 4 inches. Window stops are available that can prevent windows from opening more than this. Some newer windows come with window stops already installed.

Window screens are not strong enough to prevent falls. To make windows safe, install window stops or window guards, which screw into the side of a window frame, have bars no more than 4 inches apart, and can be adjusted to fit windows of many different sizes.

Prevent drowning

According to the CPSC, more than 430 children under age 5 drowned between 2005 and 2009 – not in a pool, but in their own home. Accidental drowning is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4.

Most in-home drowning deaths involve babies in bathtubs. Never leave your baby unattended in the tub – even if he’s in a ring or bath seat. Supervise your child whenever he’s in the bathroom, and install a safety latch on your toilet lid to prevent him from accidentally falling in.

Additional Distracted Driving Tips

Employers May Be Held Liable

Not only is distracted driving dangerous for individuals, but there is a growing concern among business owners and managers that they may be held liable for accidents caused by their employees while driving and conducting work-related conversations on cellphones.

Under the doctrine of “vicarious responsibility,” employers may be held legally accountable for the negligent acts of employees committed in the course of employment. Employers may also be found negligent if they fail to put in place a policy for the safe use of cellphones.
Tips for Safer Travel

Keep these safety tips in mind when driving:

  • Pull Off the Road – Don’t drive while calling or texting; pull off the road to a safe location.
  • Use Voice-activated Dialing – If you must dial from the road, program frequently called numbers and your local emergency number into your phone and use voice-activated dialing.
  • Never Dial While Driving – If you must dial manually, do so only when stopped or have a passenger dial for you.
  • Take a Message – Let your voice mail pick up your calls while you’re driving. It’s easy—and much safer—to retrieve your messages later on.
  • Know When to Stop Talking – If you must make or receive a call while driving, keep conversations on brief so you can concentrate on your driving. If a long discussion is required or if the topic is stressful or emotional, end the conversation and continue it once you are off the road.
  • Don’t Take Notes While Driving – If you need to write something down, use an audio recorder or pull off the road.
  • Know Where You’re Going – If you’re using a navigation system, program in your destination before you start driving and use the audio setting to avoid having to look at the screen for directions.
  • Don’t Eat or Drink While Driving – Eating takes both your hand off the wheel and your eyes off the road, so don’t do it. Furthermore, spills can easily cause an accident. If you have to stop short, you could also be severely burned.
  • Groom Yourself At Home – Shaving, putting on makeup, combing your hair or other forms of preening are distractions and should be done at home, not while driving.

Top 8 Auto Insurance Myths

When it comes to auto insurance, deciphering coverage provisions, exclusions, and premium calculations is already hard enough. However, to complicate matters there are a number of myths floating around that can make it near impossible to understand your policy.

In fact, in a recent survey by insure.com, 52 percent of respondents had a misunderstanding of their auto insurance coverage. There were some questions where over 65% of the participants answered incorrectly!

Below we are going to point out the most common myths associated with auto insurance and provide the correct information in regards to each one.

Please remember that if you ever have a specific question in regards to your auto insurance policy, please feel free to reach out to our office.

One speeding ticket will make my car insurance rates go up.
Sometimes this is true, but in many cases, you have to get two tickets before your rate goes up. Your driving history, the length of time you’ve been insured with a company and how fast you were going when you were cited can affect whether your rate increases or not. Keep in mind that a speeding ticket may not be the sole reason your rate increases, as several factors are considered when reviewing them.

If someone driving my car causes an accident, I won’t be held responsible.
It’s possible you’ll be financially responsible for an accident — even if someone else is driving your car. In most states, the car insurance policy covering the vehicle is considered the primary insurance, which means that the insurance company for the vehicle must pay for damages caused by an accident. Even so, it’s still possible that the driver’s insurance company could be responsible for some of the damages. Why? If the vehicle’s insurance limits are too low and don’t cover all the damages, the driver’s insurance may be next in line to pay for the remainder of the damages.

Car insurance rates go down dramatically when drivers turn 25.
Younger and older drivers typically have the most car crashes, and customers of different car insurance companies have different claims experiences. When determining auto insurance rates, insurers generally consider a variety of information about you, including age, vehicle information, claims history and the claims experience of other customers like you.

While it’s generally true that rates will go down when you turn 25 if all information about you and your vehicle remains the same, changes in one or more of the other pieces of information used to calculate a rate could lead to you getting a higher, lower or the same rate when you turn 25.

Auto insurance rates aren’t regulated, so auto insurance companies can charge what they want.
Each state requires auto insurance companies to file how they calculate customer rates, and insurers cannot deviate from these filed rates. Each state also has regulators who review that information and the rates companies charge.

I only need the bare minimum amount of car insurance.
Many states have minimum car insurance requirements, but the minimum amount of required insurance may not cover all of your costs. If you cause an accident that results in a lawsuit and your insurance limits don’t cover all of the damages, your assets could be pursued.

Comprehensive coverage protects drivers in all situations.
Comprehensive coverage is one type of protection available on an auto insurance policy (others being Collision, Uninsured Motorist, etc.). Comprehensive coverage pays only for damage caused by an event other than a collision, including:

  • Fire
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Weather (hail, floods, etc.)
  • Vehicle collisions with animals

I can use Rental Reimbursement coverage to rent a car for my vacation.
Unless your insured car is in the shop as the result of an accident, you won’t be able to use Rental Reimbursement to rent a car for vacation. Depending on the limits you selected when you bought your policy, Rental Reimbursement coverage pays for some or all of the cost of a rental car — but only when your insured car is in the repair shop because of a car accident.

Cheaper cars cost less to insure.
If your cheaper car has a large engine, weighs a lot or is an unusual model, it might cost more to insure than a more expensive small car. However, if you have a cheaper car, you will pay less for comprehensive coverage, which covers damage caused by vandalism, hail, fire or animal accidents.

Life Insurance Purchasing Guide

Did you know almost 60% Americans don’t own any type of life insurance policy? This is according to the latest study done by the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (www.lifehappens.org).

Life insurance allows your spouse and/or family to receive money to help offset funeral expenses, lost income, and future financial needs.

Purchasing the right policy can be a daunting process, though, which is why we wanted to include what we feel are our top tips to buying a life insurance policy.

If, as you read this information, you have any questions or would like life insurance quotes to evaluate your options, please contact our office.

Why Should I Buy Life Insurance?
If someone depends on your income for their livelihood, like a spouse or child, then you should strongly consider buying life insurance. Life insurance provides the financial support families need if a loved one were to pass away unexpectedly.

How Much Life Insurance Should I Buy?
Figuring out the right limit to use depends upon a variety of factors. Lost income, funeral expenses, college expenses, mortgag

e loans, consumer debt balances, and additional expenses are just some of the elements you should consider as you evaluate how much to purchase. There are a number of life insurance calculators available to assist you with this process for free.

Which Type of Policy is Right for Me?
There are four basic types of life insurance to choose from; depending upon your financial situation, investment aspirations, and desired limit, some options will work better than others.

The four types of policies are term life, whole life, universal life, and variable life.

Term Life Insurance. Term life insurance, just as its name implies, is a policy that has a specified “term” to the policy. Typical terms are 10, 20, or 30 year, and it is the most common form of life insurance.

Term policies are typically the LEAST expensive because they only provide insurance protection and they do not accumulate cash value. Many term policies include the flexibility to convert them into whole life policies as the individual’s income and needs change.

Whole Life Insurance. Whole life insurance, also known as permanent insurance, provides protection through your entire lifetime. As long as you pay your premiums the policy will never expire, regardless of your health condition.

Another major difference between whole life and term is it accumulates a cash value that can be borrowed against or withdrawn. However, because of these two major differences the premiums for a whole life policy are higher than those of a term policy.

Universal Life Insurance. Universal life insurance is similar to whole life insurance in that it provides protection throughout your lifetime and accumulates a cash value. Where it differs, though, is in its flexibility with limits and premiums.

Universal life insurance actually gives you the freedom to increase or decrease your coverage and control the amount and frequency of your premium payments as your insurance and financial needs change.

Variable Universal Life. Variable Universal Life is very similar to universal life with one major addition: variable universal life policies allow policy owners to apply their premium dollars to a variety of investment options. This option offers the possibility for an increased rate of return over a normal universal or permanent policy, but that means it is also subject to market risks associated with investing.

How do I know if the policy I buy is from a reputable insurance company? The policy you buy is only as good as the company insuring it. You need to know the company will be around if you need it to pay a death claim. There are actually a few different rating agencies that rate insurance companies on their overall financial strength and their ability to pay claims. A.M Best, Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch are all companies that independently evaluate the financial soundness of insurance agencies and assigned them ratings based upon their findings.

Each company rates insurance companies a little differently so you may want to look at multiple ratings as you select a company. You will want to look for an “A” (or AAA depending upon the rating agency) rating and a positive financial outlook to help ensure you select a financially secure insurance company.

How should I purchase my policy?
While you can certainly purchase life insurance online, we recommend working with a life insurance expert or financial planner. Working with a specialist can help you determine the right life insurance product and select adequate policy limits.

Also, by working with a licensed agent it will be much easier to make changes to your policy and receive guidance and answers to your questions as your needs change.

What kind of questions should I ask?
A lot of people simply don’t know what questions they should ask in regards to their life insurance. You should make sure you clearly understand the product you are purchasing, which is why we’ve included a few examples of questions you should be ready to ask.

  • Is the policy renewable?
  • Can the policy be canceled?
  • Can I make changes to the policy?
  • How long is the premium guaranteed for?
  • Are there any special policy provisions?
  • What are the exclusions on the policy?

What can I do to help reduce premiums?
There are actually a number of things you can do to help save on your premiums aside from reducing limits or changing insurance products. Since your current health condition is one of the primary factors used to determine your premium, any changes you can make to move yourself into a “preferred” or “super-preferred” risk class will greatly reduce your premium.

To do so, though, may involve losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, or lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. And, while it may take some work, moving into the more “preferred” risk classes can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a policy.

Should I always keep the same policy?
Financial situations and family additions are just a couple of reasons why you should evaluate your life insurance needs every few years. Income growth and additional children can significantly affect the limit and type of policy that will fit your situation. We recommend working closely with an agent or financial advisor who understands how to properly address your changing needs.

*The above information is to be used as guidance only, and should not be considered as definite in any particular case. Every policy is different and you need to read through your policy and consult with your agent to best determine how your coverage will respond. Within this article we simply cannot analyze every possible loss exposure and exception to the general guidelines above.

How to Properly Insure Jewelry

Insuring Jewelry

Knowing how much personal property coverage you have on your homeowners or renters policy is a good place to start with insuring jewelry. Most of the time, you’ll be covered up to a certain limit if it is stolen ($2,500 total). But with the average value of an engagement ring in the US costing around $5,000, homeowners insurance policies will most likely not cover the full value.

Since your standard policy most likely only covers part of your jewelry’s cost (and there’s usually no coverage for items that are lost or damaged), you may have to add additional coverage to insure the full cost should you ever need to replace your jewelry. This is done through a personal articles floater attached to your homeowners policy.

For high valued items, like engagement rings, the item is on a “schedule” and insured separately. Usually you can expect to pay around $1-2 per $100 of the item value. If the ring or piece of jewelry is brand new, the receipt from purchase can help determine the value.

Prior insurance carrier declarations are also good documentation to have on hand if your jewelry has been previously insured. It’s a good idea to get a professional written jewelry appraisal done to make sure that the item is being insured at its correct value. This is especially true if the jewelry is an heirloom or hasn’t recently been purchased.

Remember that the value of jewelry can change over time. It is important to have a recent appraisal done every 2-3 years and update your policy when the value of jewelry changes to ensure adequate coverage.

Another important factor is insuring your new jewelry in a timely fashion. You’ll want to make sure you’re covered even if something were to happen in the days after purchasing or receiving it as a gift.

Once you have jewelry insurance, keep your current appraisal, policy information, and any documentation about the piece in a safe place should you ever need to make a claim. It’s recommended you also take pictures of the pieces (which should be included in a professional written appraisal).
*The above information is to be used as guidance only, and should not be considered as definite in any particular case. Every policy is different and you need to read through your policy and consult with your agent to best determine how your coverage will respond. Within this article we simply cannot analyze every possible loss exposure and exception to the general guidelines above.