5 Events that Trigger a Life Insurance Review

Life Insurance can be overwhelming.  Choosing the right type of policy, selecting limits, obtaining quotes and reviewing coverages can be a daunting task.

However, life insurance is one of the best ways to protect your family if you were to unexpectedly pass away.  It will give your family the financial security needed to pay the mortgage, college tuition, loans, and other family expenses.

What about when you already have a policy?  We have found there are certain life events that should trigger a review of an existing policy to ensure you still have the right policy and coverage for you needs.

If you have any questions or concerns about life insurance, please feel free to reach out to our office.


Top 5 Life Triggers

1. Births, deaths, divorces and marriages: Whenever there is a significant life event in your family it makes sense to review your life insurance coverage.

For example, when your children become independent, your financial burdens are reduced and you might not need as much life insurance. Likewise, if your spouse lands a great job, that might also reduce your need for life insurance.

2. Change in financial situation:  Changes in your financial situation could signify a need to adjust coverage limits or policy type.

For example, the loss of a job may signify the need to change from a whole life policy to a term policy.  Whereas, if you were to sell a property or business, you may be liquid enough to reduce the current amount of coverage you currently have.

3. Retirement:  The goal at retirement is to have enough passive income generated by investments and pensions.

Depending on your situation, that might mean you don’t need life insurance anymore. On the other hand, if your spouse wouldn’t have enough to income if you were to pass away after you retire, you might actually need more life insurance.

4. Tax-law changes: Right now, very few people need to worry about estate taxes, but that could change anytime. If you end up having a taxable estate, life insurance is a great way to solve that problem.

5. Every two years:  Unfortunately, many of the situations that predicate a need to change life insurance are impossible to predict.  And even if you know something is going to happen, you can’t guarantee that you’ll be insurable when they do.

That’s why the most important trigger is time. Insurance is meant to protect your family against possible future risks.  This is why we recommend regular to reviews to ensure you have the right coverage and policy all the time.

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Keeping Kids Safe with Cell Phones

It’s natural to worry when your child is ready for her first cell phone, even if you think he or she is generally responsible. Yes, this device is an instrument of connection, and it will allow you and your child to be more connected when you’re apart. But it’s also a symbol of separation, a reminder that your child is now spending enough time at a distance from you – and other supervising adults — to need it. Worse, it’s a harbinger of the dangers lurking in the outside world that threaten to pop up and menace your child at any time, without you there to stop them.

Unfortunately, the statistics around children and cell phone usage won’t help:

  • Studies show that texting begins in the fifth grade, on average.
  • Half of all kids admit they are addicted to their cell phones and worry that they use them too much. Their parents agree, and 36 percent of parents say they have daily arguments with their kids about their phones.
  • Only 4 percent of parents believe their teens have ever texted while driving, while 45 percent of teens admit that they routinely text while driving.
  • Only 11 percent of parents suspect their teens have ever sent, received or forwarded a sexual text, while 41 percent of teens admit they’ve done so.

The problem isn’t with kids today. In fact, the research shows that teens today are more responsible than previous generations. No, the problem is that smart phones pose new risks. Luckily, as a parent things can be done to decrease the risks around cell phone usage.  Below we have listed a number of tips to help:

And while we can’t be there to have these conversations in your stead, we’re here to help protect you most all other risks faced by you and your family.  For any insurance questions, you can always contact our office.


Cell Phone Tips

1. Don’t give your child a phone too early. If your child is with a trusted adult, he shouldn’t need a cell phone. It’s when kids start to walk to school by themselves, or otherwise are without supervision, that they need a cell phone for safety reasons. The younger your child when she gets the cell phone, the more you’re asking of her, because it will just be harder for her to act responsibly with it. Can you trust that she’ll follow your rules about which apps to download, for instance?  How often does he lose things? Some parents give their younger child devices that are more limited than a smart phone, that can’t be used to go online, or to call anyone not authorized by the parent.

2. Agree to rules, before that first cell phone. Most parents think a “contract” with their child is unnecessary and silly. But a written agreement is a great way for your child to step into this new responsibility without you “over-parenting.” When that first cell phone comes with written rules and responsibilities in the form of a signed agreement, young people learn how to handle them responsibly. If you ask your kids what they think the rules should be, and negotiate until you’re happy, they will “own” those rules.

3. Use parental controls.There are parental control apps available for all phones, and iphone have built-in parental controls that can be enabled.

4. Build a foundation. Don’t just buy a cell phone, give a lecture, and hope for the best. Instead, see this as a year-long project. In the beginning, plan to talk with your child every single night about his mobile use that day. Review with him what calls and texts came in and out, what apps he used. Ask how it felt to him to use his phone. Did it change anything in his life to have those calls and texts come in? Were there any challenges as he considered how to respond? When you see a mean text from one friend about another one, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to ask him about social dynamics, listen to the dilemmas he’s facing, and coach him about how to handle these challenges.

5. Talk, and listen. At the dinner table, comment on news stories that involve cell phones, from sexting to dangerous apps to driving deaths. Ask questions about what your child thinks, and listen more. You might find, for instance that your teen thinks sending nude selfies via Snapchat is fine because the photo will self-destruct. But does your child realize that the receiver can take a screenshot, and that there are now apparently ways to subvert the auto-notification that should tell the sender a copy has been made? And does your child know that having a photo of an underage person on his cell phone is illegal?


Cell Phone Suggested Rules

1. Never write or forward a photo, or anything in a text, that you wouldn’t want forwarded to everyone in your school, your principal and your parents.

2. Always ask before you forward a text or photo.

3. Always ask before you take a photo or video.

4. Never post your cell phone number on Facebook, or broadcast it beyond your friends (because it leaves you open to stalking.)

5. Never broadcast your location except in a direct text to friends (because it leaves you open to stalking.) Don’t use location apps that post your location.

6. Never respond to numbers you don’t recognize.

7. If you receive an unsolicited text, that’s spam. Don’t click on it. Instead, tell your parents so they can report the problem and have the caller blocked.

8. Don’t download apps without your parents’ permission.

9. Set up your charging station in the living room so your phone is not in your room at night.

10. No cell phones at the dining room table.

11. No cell phones out of your backpack while you’re in class.

12. If you’re driving, turn off your cell phone and put it in a bag where you can’t reach it in the back seat. (Make sure you have directions before you start out.) Cars kill people.

13. Monitor your phone usage to prevent addiction. Our brains get a little rush of dopamine every time we interact with our phones, so every text you send or receive, every post or update, feels good. Why is that a problem? Because it can distract us from other things that are important but maybe not so immediately rewarding, like connecting with our families, doing our homework, and just thinking about life. To prevent addiction, make sure you block out time every day — like during dinner or homework — when the phone is off.

What is uninsured motorists coverage?

Did you know that approximately 1 in 7 drivers on the road is currently uninsured? This, according to the latest study done by the Insurance Research Council (IRC), shows that roughly 14 percent of all drivers are uninsured.  The study actually broke down the findings by state and showed that in some states almost 28 percent of drivers are uninsured!

This brings to light a few questions we are often asked as agents:

  • What is uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage?
  • Why do I need it?
  • How much does this coverage cost?

We hope the following report will help shed some light on those questions.  If you have any further questions or concerns, would like to add this coverage, or simply verify this coverage is on your current policy, please feel free to contact our office.

What is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage?  

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage can pay for your injuries, injuries to your passengers, and, in some cases, damage to your property when there is an accident with a driver who is uninsured or underinsured and is legally responsible for the accident.

Uninsured Drivers, by definition, means a driver who does not have any insurance, does not carry insurance that would meet the state-minimum requirements, or whose insurance company denies the claim.  Hit-and-run drivers are also considered “uninsured.”

An Underinsured Driver is someone who carries enough insurance to meet minimum state requirements, but whose limits are not high enough to pay for the damage they caused.  (In many states the minimum insurance liability requirement is as low as $15,000!)

Why Do I Need Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists Insurance?  

While many states do not mandate the purchase of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage, it is still highly recommended that you purchase it.  If you do not carry this coverage and you are hit by an uninsured driver, the financial toll it could take on you and your family could be devastating.

According to Carolyn Gorman, Vice President of The Insurance Information Institute:

“You absolutely need this coverage, because, if you get into an accident with someone who is driving without insurance or doesn’t have enough of it, you want to be made financially whole again.  You have to protect yourself fiscally and physically, and uninsured/underinsured motorist protection can help you in this regard.” 

How Much Does It Cost? 

The cost to add Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage is fairly cheap.  In many cases it costs less than $100 per year to add the coverage.

This is an incredible value when you consider the protection this coverage provides.  Typically the coverage will not only pay for any physical injuries sustained by you and your passengers, but will often times include coverage for lost wages and pain suffering caused by the accident as well.

* Disclaimer . 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.  

Dog Bite Liability

Did you know that dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out last year, costing more than $530 million?

Also, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year and about 885,000 require medical attention for these injuries; about half of these are children.

With 68 percent of U.S. households, or 83.3 million homes, owning a pet, we thought it would be a good idea to share some insight into how insurance companies view pets (specifically dogs) and what can be done to ensure you have proper liability insurance coverage.

If you have any specific questions related to your homeowners insurance policy and pets, please feel free to give our office a call.


 

Claims: According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $32,072 last year. The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 67 percent from 2003, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing.

The trend in higher costs per claim is attributable not only to dog bites but also to dogs knocking down children, cyclists, the elderly, etc., which can result in injuries that impact the potential severity of the losses.

State and Local Legislation: Dog owners are liable for injuries their pets cause if the owner knew the dog had a tendency to bite. In some states, statutes make the owners liable whether or not they knew the dog had a tendency to bite; in others, owners can be held responsible only if they knew or should have known their dogs had a propensity to bite. Some states and municipalities have “breed specific” statutes that identify breeds such as pit bulls as dangerous; in others individual dogs can be designated as vicious.

Dog Owners’ Liability: There are three kinds of law that impose liability on owners:

1) A dog-bite statute: where the dog owner is automatically liable for any injury or property damage the dog causes without provocation.

2) The one-bite rule: where the dog owner is responsible for an injury caused by a dog if the owner knew the dog was likely to cause that type of injury—in this case, the victim must prove the owner knew the dog was dangerous.

3) Negligence laws: where the dog owner is liable if the injury occurred because the dog owner was unreasonably careless (negligent) in controlling the dog.

Insurers are Limiting their Exposure: Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability legal expenses, up to the liability limits (typically $100,000 to $300,000). If the claim exceeds the limit, the dog owner is responsible for all damages above that amount. Some insurers do not ask the breed of a dog owned when writing or renewing homeowners insurance and do not track the breed of dogs involved in dog bite incidents. However, once a dog has bitten someone, it poses an increased risk. In that instance, the insurance company may charge a higher premium, nonrenew the homeowner’s insurance policy or exclude the dog from coverage.

Some insurers are taking steps to limit their exposure to such losses. Some companies require dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites, while others charge more for owners of breeds such as pit bulls and Rottweilers and others are not offering insurance to dog owners at all. Some will cover a pet if the owner takes the dog to classes aimed at modifying its behavior or if the dog is restrained with a muzzle, chain or cage.

Preventing Break-ins

If you ever wondered what the chances are that an intruder will find his way into your home, you’ll want to read on. According to the FBI, the United States leads the world in burglary occurrences with over 2.2 million instances each year.\

In fact, 23.8 percent of property claims involve burglary, causing an estimated $4.6 billion in lost property.  Plus, with only 13 percent of burglaries cleared by police, the likelihood of retrieving your stolen items is fairly small.

This brings up two important questions:

  1. Are there items that make homes more susceptible to burglary?
  2. What can be done to help prevent it?

Below is a breakdown on where and how burglaries occur, along with some additional information on protecting your residence from potential break-ins.

If you have additional questions on how your homeowners insurance responds to burglary, please feel free to give our office a call.

Where do burglaries occur?
Of all burglaries, 60.5 percent involved a forcible entry with another 33.2 percent as unlawful entries (without force).  The majority of break-ins occur in the following locations:

  • Front Door: 34%
  • First-Floor Windows: 23%
  • Side Entry: 22%
  • Garage: 9%

What can I do to help prevent it?

Protect the House:

  • Make your home look occupied, and make it difficult to break in.
  • Leave lights on when you go out. If you are going to be away for a length of time, connect some lamps to automatic timers to turn them on in the evening and off during the day.
  • Keep your garage door closed and locked.
  • Don’t allow daily deliveries of mail, newspapers or flyers build up while you are away. Arrange with the Post Office to hold your mail, or arrange for a friend or neighbor to take them regularly.
  • Pushbutton locks on doorknobs are easy for burglars to open. Install deadbolt locks on all your outside doors.
  • Sliding glass doors are vulnerable. Special locks are available for better security.

Don’t Tempt a Thief:

  • Lawn mowers, barbecues and bicycles should be stored out of sight.
  • Always lock your garden sheds and garages.
  • Use curtains on garage and basement windows.

Locks…Get the Best:

  • No lock, regardless of its quality, can be truly effective. Key-in dead bolt locks provide minimum security.
  • Change locks immediately if your keys are lost or stolen.
  • When moving into a new home, have all locks changed.

Targeting the Outside:

  • Have adequate exterior lighting. A motion-sensitive light is recommended for backyards.
  • Trim trees and shrubs so that they cannot be used as hiding places for intruders.
  • Make sure your door hinges are on the inside.

Windows:

  • Most windows can be pinned for security.
  • Drill a 3/16″ hole on a slight downward slant through the inside window frame and halfway into the outside frame – place a nail in the hole to secure the window.

Alarms:

  • An alarm system is excellent for home security. It provides peace of mind to homeowners, especially while on vacation. There is a wide variety of alarm systems on the market.
  • If you have a home alarm system, use it! Activate your alarm system — Alarm systems are only useful when you remember to activate them.
  • Many individuals have alarm systems but do not arm them because it is inconvenient. Many burglars know this and will not be deterred by a window sticker or sign indicating that the home has an alarm system.

If Your Home Is Broken Into:

  • If you come home to find an unexplained open/broken window or door:
  • Do not enter – the perpetrator may still be inside.
  • Use a neighbor’s phone to call police.
  • Do not touch anything or clean up until the police have inspected for evidence.
  • Write down the license plate numbers of any suspicious vehicles.
  • Note the descriptions of any suspicious persons.

Other precautions you should take:

  • Never leave keys under doormats, flowerpots, mailboxes or other “secret” hiding places — burglars know where to look for hidden keys.
  • Keep a detailed inventory of your valuable possessions, including a description of the items, date of purchase and original value, and serial numbers, and keep a copy in a safe place away from home — this is a good precaution in case of fires or other disasters. Make a photographic or video record of valuable objects, heirlooms and antiques. Your insurance company can provide assistance in making and keeping your inventory.

The Secret to Achieving New Year’s Resolutions

Self-improvement, or at least the desire for it, is a shared American hobby. It’s why so many of us—some estimates say more than 40% of Americans—make New Year’s resolutions.

But for all the good intentions, only a tiny fraction of us keep our resolutions; University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.

Why do so many people fail at goal-setting, and what are the secrets behind those who succeed? Below we have provided some tips on ensuring that you keep your upcoming New Year’s resolutions.

Keep it Simple
Many people use the New Year as an opportunity to make large bucket lists or attempt extreme makeovers, whether personal or professional.

That’s a nice aspiration, but this type of approach is doomed to failure. Essentially, shooting for the moon can be so psychologically daunting, you end up failing to launch in the first place.

Make it Tangible
Setting ambitious resolutions can be fun and inspiring, but the difficulty in achieving them means that your elation can quickly give way to frustration. That’s why goals should be bounded by rational, achievable metrics.

Be specific. Don’t say you’re “going to start going to the gym” — set a clear ambition, like attending a weekly spin class or lifting weights every Tuesday or Thursday.

Make it Obvious
Experts recommend charting your goals in some fashion, although there’s no universal strategy for success. For some, making a clear to-do list is enough of a reminder; others rely on “vision boards” or personal diaries.

An emerging tactic: share your goals with your friends and family. It’s another way to build accountability, especially in the Facebook era.

Sharing the resolutions is a good way to hold yourself to them. In our increasingly public lives, social media can be used as a motivator.

Keep Believing You Can Do It
To be clear: Simply setting a goal does raise your chances of achieving that goal, significantly.

But within weeks or months, people begin abandoning their resolutions as they hit bumps in the road that throw them off their stride.

More often than not, people who fail to keep their resolutions blame their own lack of willpower. In surveys, these would-be resolvers repeatedly say that if only they had more self-determination, they would’ve overcome any hurdles and achieved their goals.

However there is an emerging body of research that willpower is malleable. In one study led by a Stanford University psychologist, scientists gauged whether test subjects believed they could exhaust their willpower, and sought to convince them otherwise. The researchers found that people “performed better or worse [on tests] depending on their belief in the durability of willpower.”

You have as much willpower as you think you have, essentially. Which means that on some level, your journey toward self-improvement will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

How Uber Affects Your Car Insurance

With more than 8 million U.S. users and 160,000 drivers, Uber is disrupting the transportation industry in an unprecedented manner.  By leveraging technology, they (along with other ride-sharing companies) are transforming the way we travel, especially in crowded, urban areas.

As the ride-sharing industry continues to exponentially grow, auto insurance companies are trying to figure out how and where to properly provide coverage for drivers that participate in these services.

Most personal insurance policies exclude all livery services and commercial insurance policies are expensive.  Many ride-sharing companies do provide insurance for their drivers while paying passengers are in the car; however, there are still gaps in insurance coverage that each driver needs to properly address.

Q: Why are companies like Uber and Lyft getting so much attention from auto insurance companies? 

A:   These companies are attracting significant attention from auto insurance companies due to their operations — providing ride sharing services by contracting with drivers who use their personal vehicles to transport passengers.  These drivers do not typically have a livery driver’s license nor are their cars registered or insured as commercial vehicles.

The issue at hand is that personal auto insurance is not designed, underwritten or priced to handle livery-type services.  They are written for personal use vehicles that may include the transportation of family and friends.  Therefore, most personal auto insurance policies exclude all livery services as those are typically handled on a commercial auto insurance policy.  In fact, most policies actually stop providing coverage from the moment a driver logs onto his ride-sharing app until the app is shut off.

Commercial auto insurance policies generally carry higher limits, are underwritten with the recognition that commercial vehicles travel more miles, and cover exposures not included in private-passenger policies due to the increased risk of accidents and subsequent claims.
Q: Why don’t insurance companies cover ride-sharing?

A: The short answer: Auto insurers have not yet determined how to underwrite the risks of personal-line policyholders using their private-passenger vehicles on a for-hire basis.

Given the proliferation of companies like Uber and Lyft, however, it is likely that auto insurers will at some point start to offer policies that provide motorists with coverage for both traditional private use of a vehicle and commercial vehicle use.
Q: What is government doing as far as insurance is concerned? Do any laws govern ride-sharing and insurance?

A:  For city and state governments the two key insurance regulation questions are:

  1. Must ride-share drivers be licensed in the same way that taxi and other for-hire drivers are?
  2. If private-passenger policies do not cover ride-share drivers when they are working, how do they become properly insured?

Though many municipalities have yet to properly address the concerns above, some governments have already started passing bills that insurance requirements and regulations for ride-share drivers.

For example, California recently passed a bill with the following requirements:

  1. Requires all ride-sharing companies to disclose to drivers upfront that the driver’s personal insurance policy will not apply while using their private-passenger vehicle for work activities.
  2. Requires commercial insurance from the moment the driver logs onto the app, until the driver logs off.
  3. Clarifies that their commercial insurance is primary coverage.
  4. Requires the ride-sharing liability insurer to defend and indemnify drivers when they have a claim, or accident, while on assignment.
  5. Ensures coverage is not dependent on a private-passenger auto insurer first declining coverage.

Q: How can prospective drivers learn if they have sufficient coverage?

A: Prospective drivers should ask the their ride-sharing company what level of coverage it provides. Most ride-sharing companies provide insurance coverage for their drivers, but only when they have a paying passenger in the vehicle.

Drivers should also contact their own auto insurer to address gaps, if any, in their liability protection. It is also recommended that ride-sharing drivers review a copy of their company’s insurance contracts so they know the exact terms and conditions of the coverage.