Archive for the ‘Personal Protection’ Category

Why a Good Driver May Still See Auto Rates Go Up

Many motorists have noted, with justifiable concern, that car insurance costs went up by a significant margin in 2016. A closer look at the market trends gives the indication that auto insurance costs have been steadily rising for the last 5 years across the U.S.

And the reason for this is quite understandable: there are more accidents happening on our roads every year. This is directly because there are more cars on the road combined with an increase in accidents caused by driver inattention.

Insurance underwriters have had to raise the premiums on insurance as a result. Unfortunately, this increase in the cost of insurance has affected all auto owners – even those who have a clean, accident-free history. Many auto insurance policyholders are quite perplexed by this.

Why Has There Been a Rise in Cost of Auto Insurance?

a. Increase in auto accidents

Certainly, everyone understands that insurance firms are for-profit business entities. They need to ensure that they are giving profits to shareholders. But insurance firms primarily exist to protect clients from risk.

Insurance counts on the precise understanding of costs and risk and then creates rates based on that understanding. The goal is to ensure that an Insurance company can always meet its obligations to its insureds.

So a dramatic increase in claims related to auto accidents will translate into massive unexpected payouts. As a result, insurance companies have to raise rates to be sure they will always have the funds available to meet their obligations.

b. Medical Costs

The good news is that cars are getting safer. However, there are still many older vehicles on the road that lack the advanced safety features found in the latest automobiles. Injuries and death arising from motor vehicle accidents have been noted to be some of the biggest contributors to the increased auto insurance premiums.

People often assume that their medical costs are covered by their health insurance but the laws that govern this vary state by state. In many states, health insurance is specifically excluded from being responsible for covering the costs of auto accidents and medical costs are resolved through auto insurance.

c. Expensive Repairs and Replacements

Auto insurance costs are also guided by the cost of repair of the car or truck involved in the accident. As cars have become safer they have also become more expensive. The average cost for a family sedan today is what individuals paid for luxury cars not too many years ago.

Additionally, the “crumple zones” that are necessitated by safe car design mean more cars will likely end up being totaled. While this saves lives and reduces injuries, it also results in more vehicles that are unable to be repaired after an accident.

d. Government Policy

The government requires that every auto insurance company must have adequate reserves of funds to cover claims in case of unprecedented level of accidents resulting from disasters. Government agencies are always on the look-out to enforce this rule, and where they find the funds are too low they will advise the company to look for ways to raise it. Often, auto insurance companies realize the dangerously low level of their reserves when they conduct their own internal audits. Under such circumstances, the insurer has no alternative but to raise the level of reserves by adjusting the cost of auto insurance.

e. Unusual Weather

Nature can also negatively impact on the cost of insurance. In states that are prone to catastrophic climatic conditions and other freaks of nature, the cost of auto insurance is bound to be high. For example, American states that are to the South and South-East of the country are prone to tornadoes, hurricanes, and hailstorms. Customers in the states that are disadvantaged by nature will pay more auto insurance premiums… and will see rates climb in their markets if insurance carriers have had to make a significant number of payments resulting from recent, unanticipated bad weather.

f. Poor Credit Rating

Insurers have found that poor credit is a leading indicator of people making claims. In fact, 77% of individuals with poor or low credit will invariably make claims. If a carrier discovers your credit rating is low or has declined your rates may go up regardless of your driving history. Some states such as Massachusetts, Hawaii, and California restrict auto insurance providers from using the credit rating to profile customers.

What’s The Best Way to Handle to A Rise in Auto Insurance Premiums?

Even though insurance firms have every legal right to increase auto insurance premiums, there are two things you can do to ease the situation:

a. Seek an Explanation

If you see an unrealistic rise in your cost of auto insurance, call and talk with your independent insurance agent to review your specific situation. Sometimes insurance companies make computing errors as they factor in credit histories. Sometimes there are other computer glitches that fail to give you credit for the discounts you deserve.

Also, remember that not all insurance carriers are the same. What really matters is how you are treated during a claim process. Switching to a “cheaper” carrier to save 15% off the cost of your auto insurance isn’t helpful if they are notorious for bad claims processes.

b. Hunt for the Best Deal

Remember that your independent insurance agency is able to shop around to compare the auto insurance costs offered by different insurance carriers for packages that are similar. They may be able to help you find a better deal for your particular situation.

c. Adjust Your Policy

You may have coverages on your vehicle that you are paying extra for that may no longer be needed. For example, some policies have added riders in case you are underwater in your vehicle. (In case it is worth less than you paid for it.) But if your car isn’t underwater, you needn’t pay for that protection. Likewise, if your finances can afford a larger deductible, this can reduce your costs. Finally, if you are driving your car less than before, or if the car is no longer being used for a long commute into the city, all of these elements can be taken into consideration by your carrier when determining your rates.

d. Always Talk With Us

We’re here for you to serve your auto insurance needs. Our team of highly skilled insurance professionals is here to help you get the right insurance for your needs and budget. If you ever have questions about your policy or need money saving tips, let us know. We love helping our clients!

Do You Need Disability Insurance?

Imagine for a minute that you run quite a bit as a part of your daily routine. You think you’re healthy. Because you value your time and independence you are self-employed. You’ve bought life insurance and health insurance but have never considered disability insurance…

You turn another year older and are suddenly diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a condition which is often called Lou Gehrig’s disease and eventually leads to paralysis. Some of the common symptoms of ALS include difficulty in performing daily activities and walking, tripping and then falling, hand weakness, clumsiness, trouble in swallowing, slurred speech, weakness in the ankles, feet, and/or legs, twitching of tongue, shoulders, and arms, muscle cramps, difficulty in holding the head up, difficulty in maintaining a healthy posture, etc.

What would you do? How would you cope?

Many individuals are offered a long-term disability benefit by their employer. But if self-employed, you may not have given much thought to this important coverage. Likewise, even if an employer offers a disability insurance program, sometimes the best benefits are achieved by purchasing a disability insurance policy of your own.

One advantage of this strategy is that you remain properly covered even after leaving a job. Buying a policy early in life is a good decision as older people usually pay bigger premiums for coverage. Another advantage of buying disability insurance is that if you ever need to submit a claim, all benefits earned through the policy will be tax-free.

It’s important to remember that once you are over 50, you may spend up to around 4% of your annual income for coverage. For instance, if you are a 50-year-old individual and have an annual income of $100,000, you could end up paying $4,000+ per year.

But for many, this is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that their income will be protected in case of a disability.

And like other forms of insurance, the best strategy is to talk with your insurance advisor for tips on how to address this topic.

Your Credit and Home Insurance Costs

Poor credit report does not just affect just what you’ll pay on your home loan. It can cost you thousands of bucks in higher home insurance coverage sets you back too, inning accordance with a brand-new research.

In fact, house owners with “bad,” or below-average, credit history have to pay 114% more in costs than somebody with “excellent” credit score.

In some states, that gap can be much larger. In Arizona, for instance, an inadequate rating could force house owners to pay yearly premiums over of $2,820 a year, a 268% rise over typical prices of $765 in the state. In Oklahoma, a property owner with poor credit rating might have to pay 248% even more, or nearly $6,200 each year.

Your credit-based insurance rating is based upon a selection of consider your credit history, and is used by insurance companies to assist set rates. This score helps them “predict exactly how typically you are most likely to file claims, and/or exactly how pricey those insurance claims will be,” notes the American Insurance coverage Organization.

Sadly customers do not usually have accessibility to this sort of credit rating, as they perform with ones made use of by banks to figure out whether an individual can be provided a bank card. A lot of charge card loan providers allow you see your month-to-month FICO rating, given by one of the big 3 debt ranking companies, along with information concerning exactly what’s triggering your FICO to rise or done. Nothing like that exists for home insurance coverage.

Yet also having just “fair,” or typical, credit report can set you back. The typical homeowner with reasonable credit report invests 36% greater than a debtor with outstanding credit.In Indiana, that can bring about paying yearly premiums of greater than $1,500, instead of the state standard of $944. Nonetheless, there’s almost no distinction between property owners with reasonable as well as outstanding credit scores in North Carolina.

5 Key Actions in Case of a Ransomware Attack

Imagine this: you are seated at home working on your computer, either answering your email or polishing a work related presentation. Suddenly, a message blinks on your screen. The message curtly demands that you send cash to a certain destination, failure to which you will be unable to access any of the documents stored on your computer. You also discover that your keyboard has become unresponsive. Logically, you decide to restart the computer. The screen comes right back on, but to your shock, you are still unable to access any of your files and folders. It dawns on you that your data has been remotely locked via a device on your network, and that no matter how much you try you cannot access it.

The above scenario clearly illustrates what happens in a typical ransomware assault. This has become an acute problem globally, with the WannaCry attack being the latest ransomware attack to affect the largest number of individuals on a worldwide scale. The victims are usually at a loss on what to do.

You can use a ransomware attack as a learning point, and consequently take measures to enhance your protection against similar attacks in the future. Here are five steps that you can take if you have been a victim:

1. Do not pay the Ransom Money

Internet security experts advise that it would be a disastrous mistake to pay off the aggressors. For one, it is an indicator that you have given up control of the situation to the attacker, and that you trust they will amicably resolve the situation. Honestly, this never happens. The aggressor is only interested in ripping you off. Once you pay the ransom, it is unlikely that they will unlock your documents. If in the unlikely event they do, be certain that they will see you as soft victim and mark you for repeated blackmail attacks. Giving in to the attackers’ demands also gives them the impetus to continue perpetrating further attacks on more victims.

Christopher Budd, a security supervisor for the electronics security firm Trend Micro, emphasized the above point in a business article he wrote last July. In the article, he advised victims of ransomware attack not to pay, but to keep in mind that they are handling bad guys. He reiterated that giving in would not guarantee that, as a victim, you would get back all your documents. It would only help the criminals perpetuate this criminal activity. As a worldwide communications threats expert, Christopher Budd definitely understands the pitfalls of giving in to the aggressors.

2. Use a Backup to Reinstall Your Files

Using a computer back up system comes with numerous advantages. Many people use computer backups to access their data in case the computer breaks down. In the same way, the backup will come in handy in case you fall prey to ransomware attacks. You will be able reinstall all your files and folders from the backup system, without having to refer to the aggressors. For this to be effective, ensure that you have set your system to automatically backup all the data that you handle via the computer. Once the backup system is well set, it will operate automatically and you do not have to keep thinking about it; unless something happens and you need to access the data.

3. Update Your OS and Anti-virus

It is important that you regularly update your OS and anti-virus with the latest versions. Microsoft is quite aggressive in addressing security concerns. Actually, the latest update of Microsoft’s Window 10 is fully secure against WannaCry -the latest global ransomware assault. There are several firms and individuals, however, who still use earlier versions of windows, or do not activate automatic updates on the later versions. These firms and individuals would not be protected in case an attack is imminent.

4. Engage the Services of Your IT Division or an Anti-Virus Firm.

The personnel in the IT department of your company may have the technical expertise to recover your data in case your computers are attacked. Inform them immediately you notice the problem, and allow them to try and salvage the situation. Conversely, you may opt to ask anti-virus companies to assist. There are some anti-virus software that could help, but do not peg most of your hopes on this.

5. Reformat Your Hard disk

This is a tough decision to make, because it means you will lose all your data. However, it is a good move compared to the alternative of giving in to the aggressors. So, if all the other solutions are not tenable, go ahead and reformat your hard disk and reinstall the OS. Take the entire ordeal of the attack as a lesson well learnt, and ensure to back up your data once you are back in business.

Importance of Identity Theft Protection

Of course, these kinds of attacks indicate that your computer has been violated. Attackers may have gotten access to important information from your system, in addition to holding it hostage. Just as it is important to protect your computers and devices with operating system updates and anti-virus / anti-malware software, it’s also important to protect your identity. Many carriers offer identity theft insurance endorsements on homeowners or renters insurance policies. Some also offer stand-alone identity theft protection options. If you are concerned about the financial implications of having your identity stolen, be sure to check with us for advice on your best options.

Controlling Auto Insurance Costs

Does it feel like automobile insurance rates just keep increasing? It is part of a national trend. Blame increased accidents resulting from distracted driving.

But there are some ways you can save on your policy:

  • If you are a student, you can save as much as 25% with good grades. It pays to strive for those A’s!
  • Higher deductibles can also help reduce your insurance premium costs. Just be careful about leaving yourself with too much exposure. (Your deductible should be something you can afford to pay.)
  • If you are over 50 you may be able to take defensive driving courses. These could qualify you for savings up to 10% per year depending on your insurance policy.
  • If you own a paid off older vehicle, it may make sense to drop coverage for collisions… but only if the car’s value is less than 10x the insurance premium.
  • If you are driving less than 7,500 miles a year, your costs may also go down since you are limiting your exposure by driving less.

Be sure to review your situation regularly with your insurance agent as life changes can also have an impact on your rates.

For example, in some states, an improving credit score can help reduce your insurance premiums.

Another life change that can have a positive impact is becoming a homeowner. If you own a home, be sure to talk with your agent about bundling. Combining auto and home policies with one carrier can offer savings. (Versus placing the home and auto policies with different carriers.)

And remember, your independent insurance agent is able to shop between multiple carriers to help you find the best rate for your specific situation. They can help you evaluate your risk profile to make sure you have the exact insurance coverage you need for your situation.

Automobile insurance rates are on the way up because of distracted driving…

More drivers are taking their eyes off the road. They are being distracted by mobile devices and it is resulting in more accidents. Worse, it’s inflating your costs for coverage as well.

In fact, a state-by-state evaluation has uncovered that rates have been increasing for the last 5 years.

There are a few factors that influence rates going up…

  • More people are driving.
  • Cars are more expensive to repair.
  • Texting while driving has become the largest cause of accidents…

(The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined distracted-driving deaths increased 9 percent in 2015 alone!)

Of course insurance companies have to bill more because of the increase in insurance claims… in some cases with rates increasing by hundreds over the span of a few years.

You can help reduce accidents by putting down your cell phone while in your car. But if you’re having a hard time separating yourself from your cell phone… you aren’t alone.

You see, it’s all about dopamine. Each time an Email or Text is responded to, it gives a feeling of satisfaction and creates a need to do more. The result? It’s difficult to stop checking cell phones for texts and Email.

And with their flashing and beeping and icons indicating there are unread messages, it all adds to the addictive effect. It’s a combination of classic conditioning and dopamine responses that make you feel like you’re addicted.

There is hope that technologies being introduced into vehicles will help to curb distracted driving. But for now, the best practice is simply to leave your device alone while driving… no matter how hard it might be.

Credit insurance scores poorly…

Many kinds of credit lines and installment loans offer credit insurance. These products are designed to “protect” an individual’s credit score by covering installment payments in case of certain qualifying situations.

Sadly these tend to be overpriced according to recent research. A study covering 2004 through 2013 demonstrated that 44.4 cents in benefits were paid for each dollar spent on such insurance policies. (By comparison, typical health plans offer 84.1 cents in benefits for each dollar spent.

So if the goal is to protect yourself in case you get sick or injured, you might be better off finding other forms of personal protection. (Be sure to check with your financial advisor for options.)

Also bear in mind, having such credit insurance is not a requirement for receiving a loan. It is always an option.

So when you are getting a line of credit, a car loan, or a store credit card, remember than this “insurance” may have a low payment but can be an expensive option when it comes to potential payout.

Also it is important to understand that options are limited. There’s virtually zero competition. Under normal circumstances you’ll be offered insurance from one provider… that’s it. There’s zero choice.

So what are your alternatives to Credit Insurance?

Term life insurance is a great way to protect beneficiaries. In the case of your death, your beneficiaries can leverage the funds to pay off your debts. Of course a life insurance benefit can cover all financial needs whereas credit insurance is limited to only covering that specific loan.

And in case you are injured, disability insurance can be beneficial. As with term life insurance, disability insurance is far more flexible than standard credit insurance.

Is Pet Insurance Really Worth The Cost?

Owning a pet can be expensive. A well-bred puppy can easily cost $2,000+ for a desirable breed. Annual costs can be $700 or more including food and wellness checkups at the vet.

And that assumes things go well. If a pet requires an emergency visit to the vet, the costs for such visits can quickly skyrocket into the thousands of dollars. Treating chronic illnesses is expensive too.

But let’s face it. Pets become a treasured part of our families. Insurance becomes about more than protecting your investment in the animal. If your dog or cat gets sick, most folks struggle with the idea euthanasia if viable (but expensive) treatment options are available. In such situations, pet insurance offers a certain peace of mind. It can also offer protection against the financial stressors if a pet develops medical needs.

Most experts agree that over the life of an animal, you’ll probably pay more in insurance costs than what you’ll receive in covered expenses. But remember, insurance is there to protect against catastrophic events. From this point of view, pet insurance becomes a great option.

Presently only 1% of family pets are covered by pet insurance in the U.S. But it is a one of the fastest growing benefits that companies offer to employees.

Different polices exist. Some cover prescriptions and wellness visits. Others exist strictly as coverage against catastrophic events.

Bear in mind that animal insurance plans can be as complex as “people” health insurance. Plans can have deductibles and co-pays in addition to the regular premium costs. Likewise, premiums will vary depending on the features of the plan and a pet’s age. Also, watch out for the “fine print”. Pet insurance can have restrictions… for example some plans only work with specific vets while other plans may cap benefits.

You can check with your favorite vet to see what pet insurance options they offer. But you should also talk with your local insurance professional whether you are an individual considering pet insurance for your beloved animal, or if you are a business looking for a great benefit to offer employees. Your insurance professional will have great advice on your pet insurance options. And because they understand insurance, you can count on rock-solid guidance.

Is Pet Insurance Really Worth The Cost?

Owning a pet can be expensive. A well-bred puppy can easily cost $2,000+ for a desirable breed. Annual costs can be $700 or more including food and wellness checkups at the vet.

And that assumes things go well. If a pet requires an emergency visit to the vet, the costs for such visits can quickly skyrocket into the thousands of dollars. Treating chronic illnesses is expensive too.

But let’s face it. Pets become a treasured part of our families. Insurance becomes about more than protecting your investment in the animal. If your dog or cat gets sick, most folks struggle with the idea euthanasia if viable (but expensive) treatment options are available. In such situations, pet insurance offers a certain peace of mind. It can also offer protection against the financial stressors if a pet develops medical needs.

Most experts agree that over the life of an animal, you’ll probably pay more in insurance costs than what you’ll receive in covered expenses. But remember, insurance is there to protect against catastrophic events. From this point of view, pet insurance becomes a great option.

Presently only 1% of family pets are covered by pet insurance in the U.S. But it is a one of the fastest growing benefits that companies offer to employees.

Different polices exist. Some cover prescriptions and wellness visits. Others exist strictly as coverage against catastrophic events.

Bear in mind that animal insurance plans can be as complex as “people” health insurance. Plans can have deductibles and co-pays in addition to the regular premium costs. Likewise, premiums will vary depending on the features of the plan and a pet’s age. Also, watch out for the “fine print”. Pet insurance can have restrictions… for example some plans only work with specific vets while other plans may cap benefits.

You can check with your favorite vet to see what pet insurance options they offer. But you should also talk with your local insurance professional whether you are an individual considering pet insurance for your beloved animal, or if you are a business looking for a great benefit to offer employees. Your insurance professional will have great advice on your pet insurance options. And because they understand insurance, you can count on rock-solid guidance.

Watch Out For Being Over-Insured With These Handy Tips

Watch Out For Being Over-Insured With These Handy Tips

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

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

Car insurance.

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

Homeowners insurance policy.

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

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

Life insurance.

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

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

Final Thoughts.

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

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

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