Are your insurance polices protecting you?
Having the right insurance policies in place can soften the blows from unexpected events that would otherwise mean financial catastrophe for you and your family. But if you’re like many people, you may not fully understand all the policies you have, let alone whether they’re adequate to meet your needs.
As part of your annual financial checkup, here are some tips to help you assess your current coverage and decide whether you need to make any changes.
Home Is Where the Risk Is
Homeowners insurance may protect you financially in the event of everything from natural disasters to household mishaps. But as millions of homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy found out the hard way, standard homeowners insurance doesn’t protect you against every type of danger.
One of the most common mistakes people make about homeowners insurance is thinking that it covers flood damage. But typical policies specifically exclude flood damage from their coverage. To get flood protection, you have to obtain additional insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. Similarly, in earthquake-prone areas, you may need to get special earthquake coverage added to your policy, or else it won’t necessarily cover damage from a quake.
Even if you have good homeowners insurance, it may not cover all of your belongings. Often, insurers will only cover up to a certain amount for high-value items like jewelry, cash, and artwork as part of their base policies. You’ll need to add special provisions for protection above that amount. So if you’ve obtained any particularly valuable items in the past year, talk to your insurance company about what you need to do to get them covered.
A Matter of Life and Death
The reason we need life insurance is something no one likes to think about, but a policy can be invaluable in providing for your family if something happens to you. Even if you already have coverage, though, doing an annual insurance checkup can lead to cost savings.
As life expectancy has risen over the years, prices of term life insurance policies have generally fallen. So for instance, if you bought a 20-year term life policy 10 years ago, you may find that rates have fallen enough that obtaining a new 10-year policy could actually be cheaper than continuing to pay to retain your existing coverage.
The major area where people make insurance adjustments is in how much coverage to have. Family events like getting married or having a child can boost your insurance needs, so talk to your agent about whether your current policies provide enough benefits to overcome the financial burden your family would face if something happened to you.
Taking a Healthy Interest
Another area where a beginning-of-the-year review makes sense is in health insurance. By now, you should have most of your 2012 medical bills in, and looking at what you spent on health care over the past 12 months can give you valuable information about what type of health insurance is best for you.
Many people pay for expensive insurance plans even when they never use the vast majority of the benefits they provide. By looking at your expenses now, you’ll be ready the next time open enrollment season comes around to make smart decisions about your health insurance choices — potentially saving you a boatload in insurance premium savings while still getting the same benefits you currently use.
What Are Your Wheels Worth?
Auto insurance is expensive but it’s vital to protect you from liability and injury in an accident. Still, you can produce substantial savings by making regular adjustments to your coverage.
One of the easiest ways to save big comes from dropping collision and comprehensive coverage from your policy. Typically, when you have a new car, having collision and comprehensive coverage is smart to protect you from a major loss. Yet as your vehicle ages, the value of collision and comprehensive coverage goes down. Giving that coverage up once your vehicle’s value drops below a certain point will produce noticeable monthly savings that you can apply toward a new vehicle or other savings goals.
Make Sure Your Smoke Alarms Protect You!
Do you have at least one smoke alarm in your house? If not, you and your family are twice as likely not to survive a serious house fire than if you had smoke detectors.
But, even if you do have smoke alarms, you and your family could still be at great risk. Smoke alarms can give you a false sense of security unless you do the following:
- Buy smoke alarms that have the seal of approval from an independent testing firm such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Your house should have at least one smoke alarm on each level—and preferably one outside each bedroom.
- You should test your smoke alarms at least once a month—follow the manufacturer’s instructions—and replace the batteries in the smoke alarms at least twice a year.
- Make certain everyone in your family can recognize the sound of the smoke alarm, and make sure they understand it’s critically important to act immediately if they hear it.
- Plan at least two escape routes from every room in the house. Make sure every family member understands and practices the escape routes from his/her bedroom and from all the common use rooms in the house.
- Got guests? Make sure they know how to get out of their bedrooms—especially chil-dren. You might just save the life of a guest who would otherwise be totally disoriented in your home in the event of an emergency.
Exercise Just A Little
Exercise Just A Little
Getting a little bit of exercise is better than getting none at all. A new study shows this may be especially true for women. U.S. government guidelines suggest getting 150 minutes of exercise each week. The study showed that even people who exercised less lowered their risk of heart disease. The researchers based their findings on 33 studies of physical activity and heart disease. The study showed, though, that more is definitely better.
People who exercised 150 minutes weekly had a 14 percent lower risk of having heart disease than people who did no exercise. People who did 300 minutes lowered their chances even more. The link between more exercise and greater health benefits was stronger in women than it was in men. However, the study stated it was unclear as to why. It could be that women have an overall lower risk of having heart disease than men do. The benefits of exercising just 150 minutes of moderate exercise is best, you can start with less. Adding a few more minutes each week can make a difference. MayoClinic.com describes some ways that exercise can improve your life. Here are just a few:
- Exercise controls weight. Exercise can help keep you from gaining too much weight. It can also help keep weight off once you’ve lost it. When you do physical activities, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn. If you can’t do an actual workout, get more active throughout the day. You can walk the stairs or do some household chores.
- Exercise improves your mood. Exercise can make you feel better and reduce stress. Physical activity releases chemicals in your brain that can make you feel happier and more relaxed.
- Exercise promotes better sleep. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. Try not to exercise too close to bedtime, though. It may make you too energized to fall asleep.
- Exercise puts the spark back into your sex life. Regular physical activity can leave you feeling energized and looking better. With most people, that has a positive effect on their sex life.
- Exercise can be fun. Exercise and physical activity can be a fun way to spend time. It gives you a chance to unwind. You can enjoy the outdoors or simply do activities that make you happy. Physical activity can also help you connect with family or friends. So, take a dance class, hit the hiking trails, or join a soccer team. Find a physical activity you enjoy, and just jump in and do it. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t do 30 minutes of exercise when you first start. Everybody has to start somewhere. You may be surprised at how quickly you add to your exercise times. If you haven’t exercised in a while, check with your doctor first.
“Rental car insurance is a rip-off?”
Yes, the optional insurance offered at the counter is a huge profit center for rental car companies. And yes, some rental outfits are so obnoxious about pushing the coverage that you may be tempted to blow off their hard sell. But sometimes the smart choice is to buy at least some of the coverage you’re offered.
Here’s what you need to know:
Your auto insurance coverage may have holes. The coverage on your personal auto policy typically transfers to rental cars. If you dropped comprehensive and collision coverage on your older vehicle, you typically won’t have it on your rental, either, which would leave you on the hook if the car was damaged or stolen. Also, your coverage may not extend to rentals in other countries or rentals lasting more than a certain period (such as 30 days). You may not be fully covered if your personal vehicle is worth less than the rental. You should call your auto insurer to confirm the type of coverage you have, how much you have and what restrictions may apply to rentals.
Credit card coverage varies considerably. If you pay for the rental with a credit card and decline the rental company’s collision coverage, many credit cards promise to pay whatever your primary insurance doesn’t, such as your deductible if you get into an accident. But there may be limits and exceptions to your coverage; in many cases, for example, you may not be covered if you rent a luxury car, SUV or pickup. You could invalidate your coverage if you’re caught speeding or driving recklessly, while drunk or on unpaved roads. If you plan to rely on your card coverage, ask your card issuer to send you a summary of the coverage in writing and read it so you understand the details.
- “Loss of use” fees are a big issue. If you wreck your rental, the company may bill you for the money it supposedly loses while the car is being repaired or replaced, along with “administrative” charges and “diminution of value” fees. You don’t want to be on the hook for these charges, which can total hundreds of dollars, so check to see if your insurance or your credit card covers them. Even then, you may still face a tussle, because credit card companies often balk at paying these fees, said Michelle Crouch, who investigated credit card coverage for CreditCards.com.
Take The Warnings Seriously
But we can learn from survivors and weather forecasters
Two months after both legs were amputated, she was walking. Now Decker, 38, has a foundation (stephaniedecker.com) that works to require insurers to pay for the most sophisticated prosthetics and to get youngsters with artificial limbs playing sports. “I’m a pretty tough individual,” Decker says. Being a victim “wasn’t an option for me.”The family had a plan: Head to the basement, where flashlights, blankets and other supplies were ready. But she hadn’t thought to make sure her children wore shoes — her son Dominic, then 8, ran barefoot across debris to get help.
The Decker’s now have a weather radio; their new home will have a safe room with a medical kit and enough food and water for a week. “We are going to feel safe and protected,” she says. Decker, who is working on a book and a film, urges having a plan and practicing it. “When you hear sirens, take , them seriously.
On the same day as the Henryville tornado, the Rev. Kenneth Jett and his wife, Jeanene, were in the basement of the United Methodist Church in West Liberty, Ky., when a killer tornado destroyed it. Jett, 63, echoes Decker’s advice. “Take warnings seriously.”
Scientific advances allow more precise forecasting of tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards, but Weather Channel meteorologist Bryan Norcross says weather will always be mysterious. New tools improving meteorologists’ ability to anticipate dangerous weather include sophisticated computers that analyze global patterns — although U.S. computers lag behind Europe’s — and dual polarization radar. The new radar system, which reads atmospheric conditions vertically as well as horizontally, is being installed across the United States. The National Weather Service says the new radar saved lives by providing more accurate forecasts of a Feb. 10 tornado in Hattiesburg, Miss. Next research challenge: a better way to issue warnings.
At the scene of weather disasters, posters of missing animals are a common sight. Sad separations can be avoided with planning, says Dick Green, disaster response director for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He helped rescue pets after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and says that storm led to federal, state and local plans for animals. Green’s tips: Don’t leave pets behind if you must evacuate your home. Have medicines, records and carriers ready. No cat carrier? Use a pillowcase. “Get those harder-to-grab, harder-to-find animals out” before they hide. Line up a relative or friend willing to house pets if shelters won’t. Use window stickers that tell rescue workers what pets are inside .
Disasters can deal a paralyzing blow to unprepared small businesses. “They are more vulnerable than large companies,” says Carol Chastang of the Small Business Administration.
Her survival tips for entrepreneurs:
• Consider purchasing a business interruption insurance policy.
• Make a list of alternative vendors in case primary ones are hit.
• Have cash on hand.
• Assemble important records, insurance policies, an inventory of assets and contact information for employees, vendors and customers. Keep extra copies off-site.
Not sure how to handle a disaster’s aftermath? Take a class. Here are two options: Coursera.org, a university partnership that offers free online courses, has a class that teaches students to write extensive personal preparedness plans. More than 10,000 people have enrolled, says instructor Michael Beach of the University of Pittsburgh. He stresses the need for a positive outlook in crisis. “If you have the wrong attitude and you panic,” he says, “you’re not going to survive.” Heather Taracka of Port Townsend, Wash., teaches preparedness and offers a free version of the class at GetEmergencyPrepared.com. She says, “We can’t bury our head in the sand and tell ourselves nothing bad will happen.”
They may seem old-fashioned, but Gaffney, S.C., fire chief Jamie Caggiano says sirens are vital. Gaffney just installed three sirens that blast at 130 decibels; the single, old siren was half as loud. He suggests you pair sirens with higher-tech alerts. One option: a new tornado app from the American Red Cross that includes a siren; to get it, call red cross” from your smart phone. In Monroe County, Tenn., “We want to save people’s lives,” he says.
Loudoun Electric Cooperative asked the Tennessee Valley Authority to donate 12 old sirens worth at least $5,000 each. They’ll be installed in four towns. “We want to save people’s Lethal tornadoes in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2011 renewed interest in community shelters that house up to 3,000 people, says Ernst Kiesling of the National Storm Shelter Association. He suggests communities consider adding shelters to schools and public buildings.
There’s an app for that thanks to San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management. With game-like quizzes (plus emergency contacts and checklists), the app at sfheroes.com lets kids earn points and badges to put on Facebook and Twitter. “The heroism of knowing what to do in any kind of emergency resonates through any age group,” says SF Heroes developer Kristin Hogan. “It takes away fear.”
Move Over Traffic Laws
Move Over, America
More than 150 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed since 1999 after being struck by vehicles along America’s highways, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. To lower that deadly toll, a new coalition of traffic safety and law enforcement groups is launching a nationwide public awareness campaign to protect emergency personnel along our nation’s roadsides.
“Move Over, America” is a partnership originally founded in 2007 by the National Safety Commission, the National Sheriffs’ Association and the National Association of Police Organizations. Most recently, the partnership has also received the full support of the American Association of State Troopers. The campaign is the first nationally coordinated effort to educate Americans about “Move Over” laws and how they help protect the law enforcement officers who risk their lives protecting the public.
According to a national poll by Mason Dixon Polling & Research, sponsored by the National Safety Commission:
- 71 percent of Americans have not heard of “Move Over” laws;
- 86 percent support enacting “Move Over” laws in all 50 states; and
- 90 percent believe traffic stops and roadside emergencies are dangerous for law enforcement and first responders.
The poll was conducted among 625 registered voters from June 23-25. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent.
Forty three states have passed “Move Over” laws, which require motorists to “Move Over” and change lanes to give safe clearance to law enforcement officers on roadsides.
Colorado move over law was implemented in 2005, The fine is 250 dollars.
The State of Our Insurance Industry
Many of us in the insurance business are actually quite thrilled over the idea that 2012 has come and gone. It was by far one of the most active periods in the last 20 some odd years with mega-disasters that hit us around the globe. With many of these disasters, most had insurance coverage available and best of all — these disasters were paid. The insurance industry is well-funded and was able to sustain all of the disasters that occurred during 2012. So as we begin a brand-new year, TAG The Bob Hart Agency will give you, our customers and friends, our view as to where we see the insurance markets for the next 12 months. In this article, we will break down where we see items happening in the various important portions of our markets to give you a little more insight into our business.
AUTO INSURANCE Automobile insurance in 2013 will remain competitive and I’m sure we will have no shortage of television and radio commercials looking for business. Some carriers will be taking modest premium increases throughout the year as costs increase on the medical portion of the insurance premium. We recently learned that Encompass Insurance has filed for a 6.9% rate increase with the Department of Insurance.. We will continue to offer significant discounts for home and auto combinations.
COMMERCIAL INSURANCE, including General Liability, Commercial Auto, and Workers compensation is also being affected this year. Catastrophic events that happened in 2012 as well as the overall increased demand for commercial insurance are causing an upward trend in premiums. As far as coverage availability, there is no evidence of any major changes coming. (assuming no mega disasters in 2013)
HEALTH INSURANCE our office has written several articles on the recent changes to our healthcare law, which most people now know as Obama-Care. The legislation has survived challenges before the United States Supreme Court and is now the law of the land. Many provisions of the Health Care Act will go into effect in 2013 as well as in 2014. Many of the individual directives associated with the law have yet to be written by the appropriate federal agencies. We will continue to publish a newsletter every month, as well as place educational information on our various websites as well as in our email notices. We want you to know that if you need us, we will be here to answer your questions and help out anyway we can. Please call 303-456-6800 we will be happy to review your policies.
Lessons Learned from Insurance in Last Year
As dry as Colorado is right now, the fire danger is at an all-time high. Within the last 2 weeks we have had Red Flag Warnings for fires. Sadly enough for many of the homeowners in the Waldo Canyon Fire, whom lived in nice subdivisions not terribly close to the forest, didn’t think a forest fire would hit them. Here at TAG – The Bob Hart Agency, we didn’t have any personal or business ties to the homes that suffered; however, we have had enough claims to be able to stress how important it is to be prepared for these and many other difficult life lessons. Here are a few things I’d like for you to think about in terms of being prepared for difficult situations.If you received a phone call saying you had only 10 minutes to gather your belongings and evacuate the area, what would you take? FEMA suggests that you store seven days’ worth of provisions available to you in watertight containers. The essentials such as, clothing, bottled water, and any and all important documents which include insurance policies.You should make time to read and understand the insurance policies which you have purchased. If you would like, we would be willing to sit with you and thoroughly explain all of the provisions in the policy or policies you have purchased from us. We offer our clients an annual review, which is part of our March newsletter. We will review with you whether you have made any additional property purchases, built any additions to existing homes, purchased new toys (boats, RV’s, jewelry, etc.) or have perhaps made any other changes to your life that could be significant enough to insure. Once a storm or problematic event has started or has been forecast, it is more than likely too late to make changes to your existing insurance coverage.
Do we have the correct names of the individuals who own any real estate on your policy? Is the spelling on the all policies of the named insured correct?Claim payments are presently being held up because there have been discrepancies on policies regarding names as well as incorrect mortgage clauses. In many instances, a mortgage holder may not release claims checks if the spelling on the insurance policy does not match the spelling or names on the mortgage deed.
If there were to be a catastrophic storm and you had to evacuate or be relocated while repairs were being made, you should have immediate access to notify all important contacts, including our office. We suggest having a list of numbers at hand. In today’s day and age, it is vital that we maintain accurate records on hand to reach our clients and have multiple means in which to contact you. I fully understand privacy issues; however, many times it is worthwhile to update us with your cell phone number as well as your email address. We respect the privacy of our clients and will never give information out to a third-party. We have key rings with our name and phone number to put your house key on that you give to the person(s) who is/are watching your house while you are gone. Should something happen while you are away, this person will have our contact information and will be able to start the claims process for youWe have come across several unfortunate situations where a named insured or co-owner is deceased and their name remains on the insurance policy. If an owner or a co-owner of a property has died, we ask that you please notify us as soon as possible so that we may update our records. Otherwise, a claims check could be made out to a deceased individual and proper recognition paperwork would have to be filed in order for a new claims check to be made. This can delay the process by quite some time and, at a time of tragedy, it could mean more stress.
The Phone App is Finally Here!
After months of development and working with numerous phone app developers, we have FINALLY developed our own phone app for our valued clients that have smart phones to improve communications with our office & when needed the Insurance Companies you are with. I originally talked to a developer that told me he could have an app done in two weeks & to make a long story short, I am still waiting five months later. We researched & talked to many phone app developers & finally settled on one that has a very good track record & now we are ready to improve communications with our clients & to make dealing with insurance issues easier. We believe that by using this phone app, our clients will be able to,
* Communicate with our office easier & at your convenience at a touch of a button
* The ability to assist in reporting a claim including the ability to video record details of a claim
* Insurance documentation such as Proof of Insurance & Declarations pages for auto & home
* A listing of almost all our insurance carriers to contact them for payment of claims issues
* Agency alerts such as late payments or notifications from our office
* The ability to request a life insurance quote
* Request a policy change
* The different types of insurance policies we sell
* Weather updates for any zip code you want done through the National Weather Service.
* Communicate with our office either by email or a touch of a button on the phone
* Driving directions to our office
* Tell your friends and show them our referral program
The phone app is not intended to replace dealing with the office staff, it is intended to make dealing with us much easier to exceed your expectations for your insurance broker, The Bob Hart Agency Inc. hopes you will download the app to use it for your convenience in dealing with our office.
All you have to do is search for “bob hart agency” in your google play, itunes or play store.
A “must have” commodity in our daily lives is fuel for our automobiles. We would love to help you out with your gas costs. Just refer a family member or friend to us and we will send you a $10.00 gas card in the mail if they mention your name. Refer 5 and you just made $50.00! Remember, the greatest compliment a client can give is to refer a friend.