2018 New Year’s Resolutions: Homeowners Insurance
When it comes to homeowners insurance, you have two components to consider: the dwelling and your possessions.
Throughout Colorado, real estate prices have been climbing steadily. Aside from our well-known homeowner’s risk (hail storms), increasing home values, along with rising building material costs are issues that impact our costs of insurance.
When considering your possessions, think about the following:
- Do I have more stuff now than when I initially purchased my homeowner’s policy?
- If a catastrophe occurred, what would be the financial impact?
Taking a regular inventory of your items helps to figure out if you have the adequate amount of homeowner’s insurance.
Regarding your stuff, The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers a free smartphone app, myHOME Scr.APP.book, which is an excellent tool to help you determine how much insurance is necessary. (Available for both iPhone and Android) From the Google Play Store: The MyHOME Scr.APP.book home inventory application lets you quickly capture images, descriptions, and serial numbers of your prized possessions. The app organizes information by room or by category and even creates a backup file for email sharing. It is great for determining how much insurance you need and for filing a claim.
My RightTrack Telematics Experience
As an independent insurance agent, my job is twofold:
- Help people protect what matters to them by providing appropriate insurance coverage.
- Always be on the lookout for the best insurance deals for my clients.
One of the latest technologies in the insurance space is that of “usage-based insurance (UBI)” also known as “telematics.” Telematics insurance works by fitting your car with a small device that records speed patterns and distance traveled as well as the time of day you drive. Insurance companies then use this data to calculate the cost of your insurance and adjust your premium accordingly, with each aspect affecting the price that you pay for auto insurance.
Early this year I began offering this service as a way to save money for clients on car insurance premiums. In June, I thought I better put my money where my mouth was and try the program for myself! As a customer of Safeco Insurance, I signed up for their “RightTrack” program. In hindsight, it was easier and much less daunting than originally thought.
The process works like this:
- Order device and install. The device fits in your hand and simply plugs into a port beneath the steering column.
- Drive with the device installed for 90 days. It tracks mileage, time of day driven, hard stops, and quick starts.
- Along the way, you can track your progress online to see where you stand regarding a discount on your car insurance premium. (I received a 5% discount just for using the program, regardless of how crazy my driving was).
- After 90 days, return the device via the company provided envelope, and that’s it, done!
Once the term completed, I earned a 19% discount and my wife 17%. We used the program as a friendly competition of “who is the better driver”? Well, numbers never lie, but I’m sure that question will be a point of contention going forward!
I found the process enlightening in that not only did it save us money but that in average driving, I tend to follow too closely…oops! For those of you that have ignored your agent’s advice because you don’t want “big brother” watching…I ask you this: do you have a phone? Then they are already watching.
Telematics/UBI whatever you call it, I recommend giving it a shot. Not only will it help you save money, but it will also make you aware of your driving faults and most likely make you a better driver. Sounds like a smart deal to me!
Your Identity Belongs to You.
A 2009 survey shows that identity theft is on the rise – and it’s more likely to start with a stolen wallet than an online phishing expedition.
Researchers at Javelin Strategy & Research reported that the number of identity theft cases increased 22 percent to 9.9 million in 2008.
Crimes of opportunity, such as stolen wallets, represented 43 percent of cases, compared to 33 percent in 2007, indicating an increase in the desperation of criminals.
Women were 26 percent more likely to be victims of identity theft, reporting a higher incidence of lost or stolen information during purchases in stores.
Only 11 percent of cases involved online access.
The smartest way to protect yourself from identity theft is to prevent it from happening to you. However, if your identity is stolen, you’ll be able to lessen problems by acting quickly.
• Call your credit card companies immediately. Explain what happened, and ask where to send a copy of the police report.
• Call and report to the police. Make several copies of police report.
• Complete a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Theft Affidavit and FTC report (call 1-887-ID-THEFT to request the forms).
• Call your bank. They can place an alert on your Driver’s License number and Social Security Number, and freeze your account.
• Call fraud units of credit report agencies: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.
Fortunately, identity theft protection is available as an endorsement on most homeowners’ policies at a small cost. For example, Safeco offers Identity Theft Protection for $12 a year to homeowner policy holders. The coverage reimburses certain expenses associated with identity recovery. Customers can also get guidance on how to protect themselves from ID theft before it happens and may receive assistance with identity restoration.
If you’re interested in learning more, call Kevin Volz at (303) 359-1799 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things to keep in mind when buying a car
Buying a new car is an exciting time — but it can also be stressful. After all, you’re trying to get the best deal on price, while also deciding on the make, model and features you need.
Here at Badger Insurance Advisors, we can’t really help you become a master negotiator when it comes to buying a car. But we can give you some things to consider when you’re looking around the lot — and when you’re trying to answer the age-old question of “new, or used?” Read on with an open mind, and you might just come to a different decision the next time you’re on the car lot.
Ah, that new-car smell. It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s one of the things that people love about climbing into a brand-new car. And while they make air fresheners that supposedly give you that same smell for your used car, it just doesn’t seem the same, does it? Still, there are other benefits to buying new — and, of course, there are drawbacks as well.
- PRO — maintenance: Some manufacturers offer free scheduled maintenance for a set period of time after you buy the car, and you likely won’t need a new battery, tires, etc., for several years after your purchase.
- PRO — peace of mind: Your new car may have a warranty for up to 10 years, and also is covered by “lemon laws” that could allow for a replacement or refund if the car has serious defects.
- CON — cost: Depending on the make and model, buying a new car is almost always more expensive (at least in terms of the purchase price) than a used car.
It’s also worth noting that if you purchase a new car in its first model year (meaning it’s a new model for the automaker), there won’t be many user reviews available, and data on reliability and repairs will be limited. In addition, sometimes newly introduced cars have some kinks that generally are ironed out by the second and third model years. These aren’t necessarily serious issues, and the warranty should cover them, but in some instances, you and your car could be headed to the shop more than you’d like.
Don’t care about the new-car smell? Looking to save some money on your purchase? Well, a used car might be right for you. There are many advantages to buying used, but you’ll want to be a little more careful. After all, it’s hard to know exactly how well the previous owner treated the car. But you can limit your risk with a little bit of work.
- PRO — cost: New cars depreciate quickly after they’re purchased. By buying used, you’re letting someone else take that financial hit over the first few years of the life of the car.
- PRO/CON — reliability: Buying a used car is less of a gamble than it used to be, particularly with the advent of “certified pre-owned” programs many automakers now offer. However, used cars generally don’t carry the same warranties as new cars, even though the original manufacturer’s warranty is usually transferrable to a second owner.
- CON — maintenance: While a used car theoretically shouldn’t need more frequent maintenance than a new car, you’ll likely need to replace things like tires, headlights, etc., earlier. And scheduled maintenance probably isn’t covered by the automaker.
- PRO/CON — history: You’ll need to check the car’s title history to make sure it hasn’t been in a serious accident or salvaged. Ask the dealership to provide this information, usually from Carfax.
Of course, whichever car you purchase, the important thing is that it’s a good fit for you. Bear in mind that certain makes and models can result in higher insurance costs for you, so feel free to check in with us before you buy.
Have fun shopping — and we’ll see you on the road! #carinsurance
You should work with an independent insurance agent
Tape 3, side A
Simple, yet complicated. Doesn’t that accurately describe an insurance contract? In my opinion, I have one job… make sure you fully understand your coverage. Are all of my risks covered (or excluded)? And obviously, make sense of the insurance math: deductibles and limits you should carry. After purchasing insurance, an agent’s work isn’t over – instead, we’re always on standby to help answer your questions, update your policy and make coverage recommendations. Whether you live in Wisconsin or Wash Park, an independent agent’s mission never changes, help you understand what your insurance contract means to you.
Tape 3, side B
One-Stop Shops: at many independent insurance agencies, you can take care of all your needs at one time, reducing the headaches involved with managing multiple business relationships. As an example, if you own a small business, you can most likely obtain commercial insurance coverage from the same agency that insures your personal belongings. If it’s life insurance coverage you need or a worker’s comp policy for your business, many insurance agents are willing and able to provide solutions.
You should work with an independent insurance agent
Tape 2, side A
As an aside to assist your shopping efforts, a lot of independent insurance agents actively help your local community. Community Involvement is important to most of us! As local business owners, many agency principals place a strong emphasis on giving back. Whether sponsoring fundraisers at the nearby church or donating to local charities, there are many ways you can feel confident that your nearby agent is making a sincere effort to help on the local front. Personally, I’ve been the golf coach at Lutheran High School in Parker for a few years now. Each spring and fall, I get a chance to connect with new students and families. Sure, the golf component is fun; but it’s truly a joy watching young people become adults and learn a sport they will be able to enjoy for the rest of their lives!
Tape 2, side B
Local Knowledge – Of course It can be rewarding to witness your insurance agent supporting the community, but another benefit you may not think about is your agent’s knowledge of your neighborhood. As a resident of the Wash Park neighborhood of Denver, I see first-hand the effects of the occasional hail storms (yes, I’ve made claims too), and the numerous car wrecks on University Boulevard…Damn text-and-drivers! I know, I’m not the underwriter, but I am witness to the many risks facing all of us in our community. Having local knowledge comes in handy, insurance companies appreciate it as well!
If you’re looking for more reasons, stay tuned of course, or call us at 303.359.1799
You should work with an independent insurance agent
Tape 1, side A
Saving Money & Time – You’ve all seen the commercials with promises to save hundreds of dollars a year. Sometimes this is true, and sometimes it isn’t! Insurance companies that promise to reduce your rates in minutes may seem cost-effective at the moment, but often cost you more money in the long run. Working with an independent agent can save you money and time over the long term. Instead of providing you with an instant rate, independent agents will ask questions and take the time to familiarize themselves with your situation to ensure that the coverage recommended will adequately protect you and your assets in the event of a loss. Let’s face it: Your insurance premiums are going up! Renewals happen, and insurance premiums usually don’t go down. As an independent insurance agent, our job is to help you find the best insurance at the lowest price, without any conflicts of interest regarding insurers or commissions. In a consultancy capacity, we understand how the “game” works. Our mission: save you time, effort, and—literally—thousands of premium dollars over time.
Tape 1, side B
As a segue from side A, the independent agent operates as a Personal Shopper. My wife Barb is a real estate agent. Whether she’s showing properties in Wash Park or anywhere else on the Front Range, I’ve noticed how she takes a sincere interest in her buyer’s lives. She’s a great relationship builder! Once she has an accurate understanding of who the buyer is and what they need, she’s able to find them a home that is specifically for them. Akin to this, as an independent insurance advisor, my job is to find “your” insurance based on “your” situation. Many believe that this comes at an additional cost, but independent agents do not add extra charges to insurance companies’ rates. We’re here advocating for you! Assisting with coverage needs, claims issues, billing, general Q&A, always on your behalf, at no additional cost to you.
What are MVR and CLUE reports and why do they matter?
Motor Vehicle Records
Your motor vehicle record (MVR) is very important when it comes to car insurance rates and even as it pertains to jobs in some instances. This report says more about you than just your driving history. Many view this record as a way of telling how dependable you are. A poor MVR doesn’t just raise a red flag to all car insurance carriers; it’ll raise your car insurance rates!
The report contains all of your non-moving and moving violations. If you drive in a professional capacity, violations are always more severe. A friend of mine in Denver drives a truck for a living; he has told me he couldn’t afford a poor driving record, it will affect his ability to get another job if he ever desired. Don’t even mention DUI…that would be an automatic termination. Most insurance companies give you some leeway of two to three moving violations in the past three to five years. Anything above that, your rates are sure to rocket higher! These violations will typically remain on an MVR for approximately five years.
How severe are your violations? DUI’s and drug-related offenses obviously are bad news! MVR tracks all accidents you have had, how many overall incidents you’ve had, and who was at fault. These are all factors that car insurance companies will look for on your motor vehicle record.
Many companies have reward programs in place for good drivers that have a clean MVR record. A clean report is one of the biggest elements of keeping your Denver area auto insurance rates low!
Your CLUE Insurance Report Matters
Similar to the MVR, the CLUE database is used by most insurance companies, and your claims history follows you from one insurance provider to another. Every claim you make on your homeowner’s insurance is reported in an insurance industry database called CLUE, short for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange.
Your CLUE insurance report keeps your homeowner’s insurance claims alive for five years—and that most likely will cost you on your insurance premiums.
Suppose a storm rolls through your area, lightning strikes, and tree falls on your roof. You file an insurance claim, collect on the claim, then fix your roof. End of story, right? Not exactly. As previously mentioned, CLUE reports with claims may affect your rates and don’t disappear immediately.
The CLUE report also includes claims made on your property before you even bought it. This fact matters, and is especially important for home buyers. So if you are looking to buy a new home or sell your existing one, you should check your CLUE report – what information it contains may be surprising. What’s inside the report can affect the insurance premiums on your new home, or even prevent you from getting coverage.
The CLUE report is divided into two parts: 1. your record of claims (“Claims for the Subject”) and 2. the claims on your home (“Claims History for Risk”). The number of claims in either section will affect whether you can get insurance for your home, how much coverage will be provided, and how much you will be charged for insurance premiums.
Insurance companies rely on CLUE reports because statistics show that if you’ve filed a claim in the past, you’re more likely to file one in the future. It isn’t so much the amount of a specific claim that matters, but the frequency of claims you make in determining your premiums.
Why Is It Important to Check Your CLUE Report?
Few people are aware of the problems that CLUE reports can cause. Imagine you are about to buy a home, but you are not aware that the previous owner has filed a claim within the past few years. Not knowing about the claim history of a home can result in you not being able to buy affordable, or any protection for your prospective home.
Similarly, you may find it impossible to sell your current property if you have made even a small home insurance claim in the past few years. This information will be recorded in your CLUE report and may result in turning away prospective buyers.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to obtain one free copy of your CLUE report every year.
If you haven’t looked into your MVR or CLUE reports to see how they affect your current insurance premiums, give Badger Insurance Advisors of Denver a call at 303-359-1799. We’re happy to assist in any of your insurance needs.
Heading to Sturgis This Summer?
Whether you’re just driving around the Denver area, or hitting the Rocky Mountain back roads, we want you to be safe on the roads this summer. Here are a few top tips:
No one’s too old to wear a helmet
A motorcycle rider not wearing a helmet is 40% more likely to sustain a fatal head injury in a crash than a rider with a helmet.* A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study reports that “helmets saved 1,658 motorcyclists’ lives in 2006, and that 752 more could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.”* Buy a full-face helmet for the best protection for your head and eyes. Wear other protective gear as well: heavy leather or synthetic gloves, long pants and jacket, and over-the-ankle leather boots.
In a crash, the SUV wins
When cars and motorcycles collide, it’s usually because the driver of the car failed to see the cyclist. With more SUVs on the road, it’s even more critical to take extra steps to become more visible. Use your headlamps—both night and day—and wear yellow, red or orange jackets to make yourself easy to see. Make a point of positioning yourself in your lane for visibility.
Training saves lives
One out of four motorcycle drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2006 were driving with invalid licenses.* Many insurers offer discounts to riders who attend the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s safe riding courses or are active in one of 10 approved groups that promote safe riding. Do both those things, and you can reduce your premium.
New Gear? Update your policy
Some companies offer special coverage for custom parts and equipment—but you have to make sure each piece of equipment is listed on your policy. Any time you buy new leathers or safety equipment or customize your bike, call Kevin Volz at (303) 359-1799 or e-mail email@example.com before you head out on the highway.
Ok, I know I shouldn’t, but I’m throwing my dad under the bus here! I live in Denver, while my parents live in South Florida. On occasion, I get the call that goes like this: “Hi, how are you, what else… well, I gotta tell ya, I’m tired of being broke!” Sound familiar?
As a financial planner by trade, I go into the “I can fix this” mode. Admittedly, I’ve made plenty of money mistakes in my life, but you live and learn. What I have learned is that you need to be a consummate shopper! Shop everything, not just clipping coupons for deals at the grocery store, but examples like where do I fill up my car, should I buy online vs. a local retailer…the list goes on and on.
All of this brings me to my specific example here: the TV bill. I mean, wow! Having perused the recent bill, it looks like my parents spend on average $280 per month. By comparison, I use another provider, and my average bill is just under $100 per month. I’m not intending to knock on satellite company #1 or make an endorsement for #2, just an observation on how someone could save a bunch of money without really giving up something of great significance. Perhaps he watches more pay-per-view movies than I do, but $180 difference per month is significant!
Let’s dig into the math a bit here: If my dad were to make a change of TV providers, he’s still getting entertainment value, but would have an extra $180 per month to put somewhere, let’s say he invests it. As he approaches the end of his working career and nears retirement, certainly this savings would be useful?
180 * 12 = $2160 per year. He just turned 70, so let’s say he realizes these savings over the next ten years. $2160 * 10 = $21,600. I did not even factor in interest! If he were to invest the monthly savings of $180 at a compounded rate of 2% annually, the future sum would approach $24000.
My point here is that we can all be wiser consumers with almost any goods and services we utilize. When it comes to insurance, the story is the same! Whether it’s the big companies with wide marketing budgets that have something to do with “farm” or the lizard peddling cheap auto rates, there are savings to be had somewhere.
Do your homework, weigh the advantages of consuming the big name, big ticket product for a lesser known that may be of equal or higher value.