Friday, June 22, 2018

Stay Protected this summer with an Umbrella Policy

Summer is here and millions of Americans will be hitting the road to travel and make the most of the sunny days with occasional rains. You and your family will probably be among them. You may have the safest of vehicles and be an excellent driver, but there are factors beyond your control that could affect your safety on the road.

An accident could occur at any time for no fault of your own. Fender benders are no big deal, but if it is a major accident resulting in major vehicle damage, serious injury or in the worst case, the death of someone in the car, you depend on insurance to get you through the terrible time.

Nevertheless, what happens if the driver at fault does not have auto insurance or has inadequate coverage? How will the medical and other expenses be covered? This is where an umbrella insurance policy can save you.

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This could happen to you

Peter and Martha along with their children are driving to the neighboring town for a party. The car is in good condition and Peter is a safe driver. However, the kids in the back seat soon start fighting, and this distracts Peter. He pulls over to stop the quarrel and pacify them; still distracted a bit, pulls out into the traffic without checking for other vehicles.

You are out for a Sunday drive with your family, when Peter suddenly pulls out in front of you. There is no time to avoid the imminent accident; your car is badly damaged and all of you in the car suffer major injuries.

You all need hospitalization, surgeries and long rehabilitation. If Peter is underinsured and his policy is not enough to cover your expenses, what happens? You could sue him for the money, but that will be a long battle, and he could declare himself bankrupt, in which case you are back where you started. If you have an umbrella insurance policy, that will kick in, after Peter’s policy is exhausted, to cover your medical expenses. It's as simple as that.

Obviously, this is a worst-case scenario. You hear reports of things like this always happening to others, and thank God for that. However, there is no absolute certainty that it will not happen in your case. Maybe in other contexts, what you thought the remotest possibility would have taken you by surprise by becoming a reality. Umbrella insurance is a very inexpensive way to get the extra protection you need even in a worst-case scenario.

Why an umbrella policy?

Umbrella insurance is a simple and safe way to protect yourself from situations where other insurance coverage is not enough for your medical and other expenses. An umbrella policy can also cover pain and suffering as well as emotional distress and lost wages. It is the most cost-effective way to get the extra coverage you need to remain protected.

Consult a reputed insurance broker to know more about the advantages of an umbrella policy; they will tell you what kind of coverage is right for you.

Life Insurance Questions you need to consider

Buying life insurance is a major decision that impacts not just the lives of all those who depend on you, but also your own life and the way you live your life. Life insurance is today an extremely complex subject with a vast number of companies offering a huge number of coverage options. Trying to find your way through this maze can leave you dazed to the extent that you could easily make the wrong decisions on your coverage.


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Often the flaws or nasty catches in a policy will not be realized until the holder passes away, and the dependents do not receive the benefits as the policyholder had planned. Having a life insurance policy is not enough – you must have the right and foolproof coverage.

Seeking a reputed professional insurance agent would be the best way to ensure that the policy you buy is what you actually need, and the terms and conditions of the policy have no traps. Here are a few basic questions you should consider yourself first, and later in consultation with the insurance agent.

Do you need it?

Only a person with no dependents can do without life insurance. You do need life insurance, if: you have people who depend on you; your salary is what is supporting your family (either fully or in part); you have a mortgage to pay off; you have recurring expenses. The benefits that accrue on your life insurance will meet your financial obligations after you are gone.

How much coverage do you need?

No standard formula is available to help you calculate the ideal coverage you need. It is contingent upon the number of dependents, the stages they are in life, their and your lifestyles, and the financial obligations of every one of you. There is, however, a thumb rule that the policy value should be 10 times your annual income, and here again every family is different from every other. It is important, therefore, to have professional advice when calculating the value of a tailor-made policy you should buy.

What type of policy is right for you?

Term policies that pay the insured sum promptly on the death of the policyholder are the least expensive. Whole life policies that have a death benefit, as well as cash value, are more expensive. Within these two broad categories, there are options, and so you should get again expert advice on what is right for you.

What is the right premium?

Premiums vary depending on the insurance company and the plan you opt for. Each company has its own advantages and possibly some catches. An expert insurance broker that represents different companies will be able to guide you to the right company and the right policy.

Have you covered all the bases?

It is often difficult to consider objectively all the vital factors your insurance needs to cover.  Make a detailed list of all issues that will impact your policy choice. Discuss with the insurance agent who will be able to tell you if anything is left out.

Expert guidance is essential

These basic questions show how difficult it is to make the right life insurance decisions. The guidance of an experienced insurance broker will ensure peace of mind that comes from the right coverage you have made; in case of an unwelcome eventuality, those who depend on you will not suffer financially.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Preparing for a Life Insurance Medical Exam (Part-1)

One of the biggest questions people face when buying life insurance is how much coverage they can afford. Everyone wants the maximum indeed, because the policy beneficiaries can live in security and comfort after the policyholder passes away. The issue, however, is not that simple – of seeing how much a family can afford to spend on insurance premiums month after month.


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How much you pay for life insurance is dependent on a number of factors. Besides your age, a major consideration is your health. The reason is simple: insurance is a business and the healthier you are, the longer you are likely to live and that means you will be able to pay more premiums. That is more income to the insurance company and so the amount of each premium can be reduced.

Insurance is a very competitive industry: every company wants to attract as many customers as it can, and low premiums are the best way to do it. However, the business cannot run at a loss: a company, therefore, looks at the total amount it can expect you to pay. The calculation is the healthier you are, the longer you live, and the more income for the company.

On your part, you have your life cover with low premiums; you are content with the thought of security of and benefits to your family. Thus, the company and the policy holder are both winners. An experienced insurance broker can give you more information about this issue.

The difference that health makes

There is nothing you can do to exercise control over advancing age. The older you are, the more you will pay for insurance. Heath, however, is another matter. Every insurance company has its own policy on how it evaluates a customer’s health. There is no definitive rule in place. Having said that, customer health is crucial; it is typically divided into 4 categories:

1. The healthiest 20% are rated as “Preferred Plus” and pay the lowest premiums.

2.The next 30% are rated as “Preferred”. They will, on an average, pay about 20% for the same coverage.

3.The next 30% are rated as “Select” and pay about 20% more.

4.The last 20% are given a “Standard” rating and pay about 20% more in premiums.

This is only a general guide and the rating nomenclature will vary from company to company.

Better health saves money

The higher your heath rating is, the less will be your insurance premium. Consequently, you can reduce the cost of insurance or go in for a higher coverage. It is obvious that a lifestyle without adequate exercise, rest and sleep, or one that suffers from bad nutrition, smoking, excessive drinking, substance abuse and so on will affect your health. It will thereby increase the cost of insurance.

If you are planning to buy life insurance, changing your lifestyle just for a few days before the medical exam will not make any measurable difference to your health. However, you can do a few things before the medical exam. These simple efforts can surely help to improve your health rating; that way you can reduce the amount you pay towards insurance premiums.

The next part of this blog post will walk you through these useful things to score better in your medical exam results.

Preparing for a Life Insurance Medical Exam (Part-2)

Preparing for a life insurance medical examination is not cheating – that is almost impossible to do and usually illegal. What you can do is to have your health information ready and use the few days before the exam to reduce the bad effects your lifestyle may have had on your health. Here’s how to prepare for the day:

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  • Paperwork: Have all your paperwork ready. That includes your medical history and a list of your current and former doctors with their contact information.
  • Habits and health status: Have your answers ready. You will be asked about your current health status, any therapies you are undergoing or medications you are taking, any food or vitamin supplements you are using and why, and so on. You will also be asked about habits like smoking, drinking, use of narcotics etc. There is no point in trying to hide facts, it is better to be honest about any negative factors that may affect your health.
  • Dangerous activities: You will also be asked about any activities that could be dangerous such as motor racing, deep sea diving etc.
  • Remaining well hydrated: Once the paper work and questions are done, the usual blood and urine lab tests and measurement of height, weight, blood pressure and the rest will follow. Drink as much water as you can for the week before your exam. This will enable your body to flush out toxins and this will impact the test results. Being well hydrated will make drawing your blood easier, which will also be noted.
  • Eating for health: Stop eating junk food. Replacing carbs and saturated fats with lean proteins, leafy vegetables and fruit, and using healthy fats like olive oil will make a difference to your health. Also, cut back on sugar and salt as much as possible. Salt can affect your BP, and sugar consumption will affect your blood sugar levels.
  • No alcohol: Cut back on alcohol. If you can cut it out completely for a few days, your blood test will not show alcohol in your system, which is a positive.
  • Moderate coffee: Drinking coffee is not bad for you but excessive amounts of caffeine from coffee or energy drinks will not help your test results. It will also affect how well you sleep and how rested you are for the exam.
  • No smoking: Stopping smoking for a few days before the exam will not make much of a difference to your health. However, a medical exam is a good reason to stop it for good, and that is a huge health positive.
  • Remaining rested and relaxed: Take it easy the day before your exam and try to get as much rest as possible.
  • No tension: Do not worry about the exam. No one really ever enjoys perfect health: the more you worry about what may happen and how healthy you are, the tenser you will get. That will show up as a negative in the exam results.
The best person to give you advice on what you can expect from your life insurance medical examination and what you can do to prepare for it is your insurance broker.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Training for a Faster Recovery from Surgery (Part-2)

Basically, the process of training for surgery involves common sense things, which anyone can do easily. An impending surgery weighs on your mind so heavily often that you forget all about those common sense things; it is a pity! Getting started is simple, though! Here are a few such things you can do easily.

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Talk to your doctor

A detailed medical evaluation is usually done when a condition you face requires surgery. Discuss the evaluation with your doctor to find out exercises, if any, you should avoid, or any you should pay special attention to.

Start early

Seven days of training can help you in your recovery, even if your surgery is due in just a week. The longer you can train, the better would be the preparation.

Don’t overdo it

Since there is a definite cut off point, the date of the surgery, you may tend to push yourself too hard to get as fit and as fast as you can. That is a big mistake! Don’t overdo it!

Start slow

Begin with gentle exercises and as your comfort levels increase, move on to higher levels. Don’t force the pace – that could lead to more harm than good. If in doubt, consult your doctor.

The duration

How long you exercise is as important as the type of workout. That does not mean pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion, which could be counterproductive. Increase the duration the way you increase the intensity – slowly and gradually.

Be regular

Be as regular as possible doing your exercise – try to work out five or six days a week. If you miss a day, do not try compensating it the next day – you could hurt yourself doing extra time without knowing it.

Having company is nice

Since the reason for the training is a medical condition, having a friend along is a good safety net: they can spot signs of any new problems earlier than you do.

Food

If your doctor has not given you any dietary advice, it probably means that there are no restrictions on what you can eat. However, controlling your diet can be very beneficial to your recovery. Ask the doctor if you can consult a nutritionist or dietician for advice on changes in food habits that will help you to prepare for surgery.

Bad habits

If you have been planning to give up smoking or reduce your alcohol intake, this is the right time to do it. Even a few weeks without these habits can make a difference to your overall health and ability to recover.

Talk to your insurance agent

As soon as you come to know you will be going in for surgery, talk to your insurance agent. You should get a clear pre-surgery picture of your coverage, the costs covered by the policy and the amount you will have to pay from your own funds. That will make you get ready for the inevitable, with a better frame of mind.

The last thing you need is a hospital bill that would spell disaster. That kind of shock could slow down your recovery!

Training for a Faster Recovery from Surgery (Part-1)

Health insurance is a highly contentious subject that generates a great deal of heated debate on both sides. The insurance options and the issue of deductibles do cause often a great deal of confusion among those who want to buy or renew their policies. Consulting with an insurance professional is the best way to get the coverage you need, at a price you can afford. They have the expertise to evaluate objectively your health needs and then work out the coverage that is best for you.

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Even with health insurance, surgery can leave a big hole in your pocket, because of the deductibles and direct costs.  If the procedure is not an emergency and you have time to prepare for it, there are things you can do to reduce the eventual financial burden. This is relevant at any age, but the older you are, the more important it is.

Benefits of preparing for surgery

Preparing for surgery means toning up your body; it will help reduce your recovery time and the duration of your stay in hospital. Both these factors will bring down the overall costs and the amount you will have to shell out from your own savings.

Preparing for surgery is akin to training for a sporting event for an optimal performance. Unfortunately, few if any, believe that training for surgery helps. No two people are alike and the way they prepare for surgery depends on age, overall health, the nature of the surgery and other factors. No preparation/training should be done without the surgeon’s approval.

Training for surgery is not just a concept: clinical research has long been done at the University of Michigan. Patients were encouraged to exercise, practice breathing techniques and follow controlled diet charts. Preliminary results show that patients in the experimental group saved well over $2,000 in hospital costs, when compared to those patients who did not train for surgery.

Similarly, impressive results are available in a similar research program on seniors at Duke University Medical Center. Elderly patients who did not prepare for abdominal surgery spent an average of six days in hospital, while those who did spent just four days. About 62% of the former needed home health care after leaving hospital, while only 51% of the latter required such care.

The University of California, San Francisco, has a regular Surgery Wellness Program for senior citizens who are slated for surgery. The objective is to reduce the recovery time as much as possible. The program includes interaction with dieticians, physical trainers and occupational therapists.

According to the Chair of the American College of Surgeons Geriatric Surgery Task Force, “Preparation is as important if not more important than the surgery itself.” This is a new and expanding field of medicine; unfortunately, not all hospitals have the facilities to help patients in this area.

Training for surgery is more than just reducing the amount of hospitalization expenses you will have to pay yourself; it is as well about recovering faster with greater comfort. However, there are a few things that anyone (with medical approval) can do to prepare for surgery. The second part of this blog will say more about this possibility.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Insurance Basics for the Newly Married

Typically, an unmarried person has only minimal insurance coverage; even that is often limited to what is mandatory, such as auto insurance for purposes of legal driving. The whole picture changes once you get married. You need to be responsible for another person. There is a spouse now and a family that will grow and hence you should reconsider your insurance cover.

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Even if both spouses are working, the loss of a car, a home or one income could be catastrophic. Of course, with two people involved, the risk of sickness or injury becomes much greater, no matter how healthy you are. For all these reasons and more, it becomes critical to consider the right insurance coverage in order to protect your future with your partner.

The four main areas of insurance that you should act on as soon as you get married are the following.

1 Life Insurance

You didn’t need life insurance when you were single, with no dependents to support. Now, post marriage, should you die, your spouse could be in serious financial difficulties, if your life insurance is not enough. For example, the sudden loss of income could cause a financial disaster because:

                v  both incomes are needed to pay bills.
          
                v  one income is not enough to cover the mortgage payments 

                v  debts and liabilities are there to be dealt with.

Life insurance will provide crucial financial security for the surviving spouse.

2 Health Insurance

Generally, there is a fixed period each year, when you can buy or change health insurance. It’s called ’open enrollment’. However, when you get married you are usually entitled to buy health insurance even if it is not ’open enrollment’ time.

The rule is that you should have 60 days to enter into a new individual health plan, or 30 days during which you can become part of your spouse’s employer-based health insurance plan. Examine how satisfied you are with the policies you both have and the costs involved.

If you find that both are satisfactory, you could continue with separate health plans. However, in many cases, both spouses being on the same policy may be more economical and helpful in reaching sooner your annual deductible.

3 Homeowners and Renters Insurance

Presume that your spouse and you both had individual renters or home insurance coverage before you got married. Now that you are married and going to live together, one of the two policies can be canceled. The retained policy will cover both spouses but the insurance company must be kept informed so that the spouse’s name can be added to the policy.

4 Auto Insurance

In a similar way, compare the individual car insurance policies you both had before marriage to find which one offers the best rates. Also, check out other insurance companies for better options available for the two of you.

Any new policy must be effective from the day an old policy ends. If this is not done, future insurance costs could be higher. Look for discounts that may be available with a multicar policy or a bundled car and homeowners policy.

Life after marriage is very different from that before. It is essential to understand the nuances of the insurance needs of a single person and those of a couple. It is even more essential to plan and cover your obligations and liabilities.

Do seek the guidance, at the earliest, of an experienced insurance professional; arrive at the right kind of protection you need at the right cost. 

Fire Risks and Home Insurance in California

According to reliable news sources, insurance companies are in the process of reclassifying high bush fire risk areas in California. The object of this exercise is to provide homeowners in the state with the information they need to understand and evaluate the risks they face from bush fires.

With this information, they will be able to make informed decisions on the actions they need to take to protect their property and belongings. While the results of reclassification may be good news for some homeowners, it may not be so for others.

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Risk level of your home

Obviously, insurance companies are reluctant to issue policies in high-risk areas. If they agree to issue policies, the premiums will be rather high. Furthermore, policyholders in high-risk areas fear the prospect of cancellation of their insurance policies. This could happen of course, but no insurance company can afford to carry out unilaterally the cancellation en-mass of policies in these high-risk areas.

In order to cancel or refuse renewal of a policy, the company has to inspect first each home. The policyholder has to be provided with reasonable justification for its decision. The company must point out the problems that can increase the risk of damage or loss. In addition, policyholders will have to be given adequate time to take action to fix those problems.

Common causes for cancellation

The most common reasons for cancellation or non-renewal of insurance policies include the following.

      v  Old or poorly maintained roofs

v  Trees overhanging the roof

v  Less than 500 feet of defensible space and clearance from trees and brush

v  Poorly maintained yards

v  Plants like ivy growing on the side of the home

v  Homes that are vacant, under construction, being used for home stays by agencies like Airbnb, or rented when it is listed as owner-occupied

Your home insurability may suffer from any of the causes listed above or others. It will therefore be a good idea to take pre-emptive action to fix the issues before the insurance companies start raising them. An insurance company that is eager to offer a policy is much easier to deal with than the one that is reluctant to do so because of the inherent risks involved.

Insurance companies can refuse to renew the policy, in case the problems that increase the risks are pointed out, but not fixed by homeowners. Additionally, the companies can refuse to take on new customers in areas where they feel the risk is too high.

Knowing your real situation 

As a homeowner, you wouldn’t certainly like your insurance company’s intimation that your policy will be canceled or not renewed because of high bush fire risks. You would try your best to protect your home from those risks, and satisfy conditions that would facilitate sufficient insurance cover for your home.

It would be best to seek, at the earliest, a professional insurance agent’s expert guidance on where you stand and what you are required to do to ensure that your home stays properly insured.


Monday, January 22, 2018

New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

Everyone makes New Year resolutions and most relate to giving up bad habits, improving lifestyle or losing weight. In many cases, they are abandoned or forgotten in a matter of days.  As a homeowner, you should consider some resolutions that will protect your home – the fulcrum around which all future resolutions will be made. You just cannot afford to abandon or forget these issues.


Plan maintenance

No one knows your home as you do. You know what kind of repairs you need to do during the year. Sit down with a calendar and make a schedule of when you can take up the jobs and how long you need to complete them. Remember to add preparatory work, if any, before the job starts.

Have a fixed day of the month for doing all the routine maintenance chores such as replacing air filters, checking smoke alarms, cleaning out the garbage disposal and so on. Do mark the days on the calendar. If you stick to the dates and time frames, your house will surely be protected. There are quite a few apps available to help you with the scheduling.

Get smart

Home automation is no longer just a bunch of gadgets designed to make your life easier. Advanced security and energy management systems are available to maximize the safety of your home for your family to live there happily. Energy-efficient systems can cut your utility bills without making the family suffer in heat, cold or darkness. These additions will enhance the value of your home.

Go green

If you have space in your yard, you can plant trees that provide large bands of shade. The more the house is in the shade in summer, the cooler it is and the lower the air conditioning costs are. Just be careful to plant the tree where falling branches will not damage the house.

Check your insurance policy

Everything you do to your home affects its value. Lack of maintenance and high-energy use are among the things that could reduce its value. Since your house is your biggest investment, you want no doubt to protect it and increase it worth. The insurance policy you took some years ago may not reflect the repairs and improvements that have been done, which have added value to the home.

If your home is damaged or destroyed, the insurance payout may not be enough to rebuild and resume your life as it was before the disaster. Don’t forget about the purchases you have made – expensive furniture, artworks, jewelry, electronics etc.; all of them need to be included in your insurance portfolio.

Working out the amount of insurance coverage your home needs is not simple. For example, the large TV you bought last year may now cost significantly more than it did then. How much do you insure it for? Professionals can control best the cost of the policy while ensuring the protection your home and family require.

Contact an experienced insurance broker and get the guidance you need on homeowners insurance that will enable you to rebuild if the worst happens. That is one New Year resolution you cannot afford to break!

Isn’t it about Time you reviewed your Life Insurance Policy?

Life insurance may appear to be a simple matter – you pay premiums and if the ‘inevitable’ happens during the validity of the policy, the beneficiaries you have nominated will receive a lump sum payout. However, there is more to it than that. The reason for the policy is to ensure that those who are dependent on you do not suffer financially after the demise, which in itself is great suffering.

Your circumstances, as well as those of your beneficiaries, are not static – they change with time; if your life insurance policy is not modified to suit changing needs, it may not serve its purpose of providing for your dependents in the manner you want. That’s why periodic reviews of your life insurance are important and the beginning of the year is a good time to do it.


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When to modify

Any change in your life could require a modification of your insurance. When you were single you might not have needed life insurance; however, everything changes when you get married. Similarly, with the birth of each child your coverage needs to increase to protect the larger dependent family. While regular reviews are important, here are four major stages of life when you have to change your coverage.

              1.      Marriage: Even in the case of double income families, the death of a spouse does not mean that the cost of living is halved and a single income will be adequate. There ARE various expenses to meet, debts to pay off, investments that cannot be abandoned and commitments that must be kept. Your life insurance should always reflect these demands and the coverage should be enough to meet them. 

             2.      Children: Children are often the biggest reason for life insurance. After birth, it takes more than 20 years for them to be financially independent. During that time, the world would have undergone many changes and you need to guide them through proactive education and provide a worthwhile base for their life.  Planning for their future in general terms will not be enough. As they grow older and their path in life becomes clear, your insurance cushion must be enough for them to pursue that path even if you are not there.
        
             3.      The empty nest: When the children have moved out, and started their own lives, you may be able to modify your coverage, as they are no longer dependent on you. However, keep your spouse’s needs in mind and consider the role that life insurance can play in estate planning.

              4.    Retirement: Your income will change on retirement and that could require some changes in your coverage and the premiums you pay. Your insurance needs to be enough to care for your spouse and cover any obligations or debts that you may have.

A balancing act

It is not easy indeed to find the optimum balance between what you can afford to pay for life insurance and the coverage that you need. That balancing act has to be performed, keeping in mind likely changes over time. Even if you were lucky to face no major changes, small things too can add up and have an impact on your life insurance needs.

It would be best to seek the help of an experienced insurance agent to review your changing income and the changing needs and work out the right insurance for each stage of your life.