Newlyweds and Insurance: Have You Talked to Your Agent?


By RENAISSANCE ALLIANCE

Like millions of other couples this year, you may be putting the finishing touches on your plans for a wedding. In 2018, there were an average of 6,200 weddings per day in the US, but some months are more popular than others. The Spring is an active time, with 10% of all weddings in May and 11% in June. Statistics say that the average wedding budget is $20,000 and the average number of guests is 178. With COVID restrictions lifting in most states, the 2021 wedding season should feel a lot more normal than 2020.

From the event to the honeymoon, it’s a big deal with a lot of details, so it can be easy to overlook insurance. But we’re not just talking about wedding event insurance which, if you plan a costly event, you should definitely consider to cover cancellation or losses such as stolen gifts, damaged photos, rings or gowns and other unforeseen problems. In this case, we’re talking about insurance matters that you and your spouse should consider as you embark on a financial life together.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers a handy tip sheet about insurance matters that engaged couples should discuss: Combining Your Insurance: Just got engaged? Don’t forget to talk about insurance. It discusses decision points and money saving tips for homeowners and renters insurance, auto insurance, health insurance, and life insurance.

Of course the easiest way to cover insurance is to make an appointment with your local independent insurance agent, who can walk you through all the considerations both for the event itself and for the various coverage options you’ll need going forward. As you embark on a new life together, you no doubt have many hopes, plans and dreams. The right coverage can keep you on track by protecting you from unexpected losses. Your agent will know the best coverage options and the ins and outs for saving money.

Below is an infographic Insurance Survival Guide for Newlyweds, also from NAIC. (For a larger version, click the link or the image).

Insurance survival guide for newlyweds infographic

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

In the market for a new car? Calculate the full costs

If you’re in the market for a new car over the coming year, there’s a lot more to think about in terms of cost than just the sticker price. If you aren’t figuring in the associated financing costs, taxes, insurance, depreciation, gas and maintenance, you are only getting a partial picture of the true cost to drive a car. According to AAA, the cost of car ownership in 2019 was $9,282 or $773.50 a month. That’s 5% more – or $433 – than the prior year.

One of the key culprits to the costs? Finance charges, which AAA says average about 40% of the total costs.

“A key contributor to the increase was a large jump in financing costs. Rising federal interest rates and higher vehicle prices fueled a spike in finance charges, which rose 24% in 2019 from $744 to $920. It comes as long-term loans are becoming more common. Such loans offer lower monthly payments, but they ultimately cost the consumer more, meaning car buyers are paying more, and longer, for vehicles that lose value the moment they’re sold.”

Although long-term loans might seem cheaper, AAA says that they are ultimately costing the consumer more. They estimate that, on average, every 12 months added to the life of a loan adds nearly $1,000 in total finance charges.

One other key expense factor is that as new cars come equipped with more technology to make driving safer and more convenient, maintenance and repair costs go up. Sophisticated sensor in bumpers mean that a simple fender bender can require a costly replacement and recalibration of sensors. See our prior post on high tech cars equaling high cost repairs.

Because cars can be such a big budget item, it can pay to do advance research to ensure you make the best purchase and consider other factors than just the sticker price. Here are some car-buying tools to help you anticipate and calculate the total cost of ownership of various makes and models.

  • The Edmunds Inc. True Cost to Own tool calculates additional costs you may not have included when considering your next vehicle purchase. These extra costs include depreciation, interest on your loan, taxes and fees, insurance premiums, fuel costs, maintenance, and repairs.
  • Kelley Blue Book offers the 2019 Best Resale Value Awards and tools to check your car’s value.
  • Top Safety Picks are issued annually by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Also see the IIHS report on insurance losses by make and model.
  • Car Fax VIN Check  is an essential tool to check the Vehicle Identification Number on used vehicles before purchase.
  • Edmunds and Consumer Reports  track the most fuel-efficient vehicles.

Talk to your insurance agent!

One other source for keeping annual costs of a new car down is to talk over auto insurance options with your insurance agent.  Be sure you are taking advantage of any available discounts, such as discounts for safe drivers, low mileage, seniors, good students, and more. Plus, bundling your auto and homeowners policies with one insurer can yield discounts on both.

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

How do you protect your credit rating during the pandemic?

Worried about if the pandemic is affecting your credit? Here’s good news to help you monitor your credit status: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, the three major credit rating bureaus, are now offering free weekly online reports through April 2021. Normally, you are entitled to one report per year for free, so this is a great tool and it’s important that you take advantage of it.

The three nationwide credit reporting companies have joined forces to make it easy for you to request your reports through a central website annualcreditreport.com.  Beware of pretenders that will try to charge you – this is  the only authorized way to get free credit reports.

Why it’s important to monitor your credit reports

Your credit report is a historical record of your credit activity and loan paying history. Lenders use this information when you look to open a credit card, borrow money to buy a house or a car, or take a loan for other purposes. Credit reports may affect your mortgage rates, credit card approvals, apartment requests, or even your job application. In some states, they can be a factor in your insurance premium. Reviewing your credit report helps you ensure that its accurate and may help you spot signs of identity theft early.

It’s particularly important that you review your reports now if the pandemic has caused any disruption in your finances or if you took advantage of any financial aid through the CARES Act, which allowed postponement of some federally backed mortgages and federal student loans through September 30. Your credit should not be affected by this, but Consumer Reports says that some people are experiencing problems. See: How to Protect Your Credit Score During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an official US government website, also offers helpful information on protecting your credit during the coronavirus pandemic. They also maintain an excellent library of resources, and tools to help you protect your finances during the coronavirus pandemic.

Each of the major credit bureaus also offer advice, tools and resources on protecting your credit through the pandemic:

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

How financially prepared are you if a weather disaster strikes?

Last year was the fifth year in a row that 10 or more weather and climate disasters in the US logged at least $1 billion of associated losses. If you think 2020 threw everything it had at us and will now ease off, think again. While we all have our hands full with navigating the new realities of life under Covid19, nature is relentless and doesn’t slow down. Most Americans agree. According to a recent survey by American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), 61% or respondents said they were likely to be personally affected by a natural disaster in the next three to five years. Almost one in five said that prospect was highly likely. (see ThinkAdvisor: Few Americans financially prepared for a natural disaster: survey.)

Despite that, “… only 15% of respondents said they had created a disaster plan to protect their finances. Worse, 27% had not taken any steps at all to prepare for a natural disaster.” That’s rather daunting. Think about the problems and logistics in a hurricane, massive wildfire, or flood evacuation in the middle of a pandemic: public emergency resources are already strained. Plus, social distancing measures important to disease prevention will make things like finding emergency shelter and supplies even more challenging than normal at a time when many are suffering financial strain and economic strain from job loss.

AICPA has suggestions for financial emergency prep steps in their report on the survey:

Banking Without the Bank — If your bank branch is closed due to the pandemic, you may need some new options for accessing cash, depositing funds, and checking your account activity. Now is a good time to investigate alternative locations where you can use your ATM card to obtain cash without additional fees, and perhaps mobile banking which can allow most banking activities including check deposits and transfers between accounts.

Insurance Coverage — If you haven’t recently reviewed your coverage with your insurance agent, you’ll want to be sure your homeowner’s or renters insurance is up to date for changes in value, valuable items you’ve added like jewelry or watches, and special risks you may face like flooding. As a first step, be sure you know how to contact your agent, who may be working remotely or with a reduced staff under current conditions.

Safe Deposit Box — If you have documents in a safe deposit box that you may need after a disaster, you may find that your local bank branch is closed or operating under restrictions. You can check with the bank’s main office to learn how to access the box if local restrictions apply and may continue.

Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Health Care Proxies — If disaster results in incapacity, loss of a loved one, or serious injury, you’ll want to be sure that your legal paperwork is up to date. Your attorney may be working remotely under pandemic- related conditions. If your papers need an update, it pays to get a head start in contacting the professionals you will look to for help and advice.

Employment-Based Programs — Visiting your human resources department to check on items that may help you manage through financial survival in a disaster, like your disability coverage or ability to borrow from a 401(k) or similar retirement plan, is likely not an option if your workplace is closed due to the pandemic. You can take steps now to learn how to get the information you need, and request any needed updates, by phone or online.

AICPA offers more help at the 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy portal – see Disaster Action Plan: 5 Key Steps to Protect Your Family and Finances.

Other emergency prep planning tools:

 

 

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Ideas for a safe and fun Fourth of July in New England

Things are looking much more positive and festive in New England for July 4 than they were a month ago for Memorial Day, but Covid19 is still looming so we all still need to be safe and careful. We worked hard to bring our numbers down, but we can see from some other parts of the country, things can spiral downward quickly if we don’t keep our guard up.

But you can still celebrate and enjoy the holiday. We’ve gathered some ideas and guidelines for how to have fun this Fourth of July!

The state of the states

Can you take day trips or weekend trips to adjoining New England states? See Northeast: Coronavirus-Related Restrictions By State for summaries, or we have state travel information below.

Virtual Holiday fun

If you plan to stick close to home, the New York Times offers some fun ways to mark the holiday virtually in Honor America’s Birthday (Safely) in 2020. 

  • They tell you how to enjoy televised NY fireworks, The Boston Pops and DC’s  “A Capital Fourth.”
  • They suggest several patriotic virtual tours such as The Statue of Liberty, Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park and other historic sites.
  • They offer a list of patriotic streaming movies, including a live recording of Hamilton on DisneyPlus.

The Washington Post also lists some holiday-related events, among them some real-world events in the capitol region and some televised and online events holiday events, such as July 4 at the National Archives, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts concerts, and an online ‘We the People’ Concert and Tribute at Washington National Cathedral, along with other virtual concerts.

Walking, Biking, and Hiking New England

Outdoor activities are among the safest things we can do.  Fortunately, here in New England, we have beautiful scenery. Here are some suggestions:

Entertaining at home

Here are a few helpful guides:

We’ve also summarized some tips for both hosts and guest that were suggested by various guides and health experts

  • Check in with invited guests in advance about any concerns they have. Let them know “the rules’ so they feel comfortable and will respect your wishes. For example, rules about social distancing, what they should bring (their own beverages) or shouldn’t bring (shared food dishes, unannounced guests) and any bathroom rules, such as flushing with seat down.
  • Respect boundaries if people decline an invitation. Don’t take things personally.
  • Know your local guidelines about gathering sizes, but all experts agree: smaller is safer – and likely more comfortable for your guests.
  • Maintain social distancing – measure the space on your deck or your yard in advance to see how many seats can be accommodated 6 feet apart and base guest numbers on that.
  • Keep it outside. Have a plan to postpone if the weather turns bad and keep an eye on the weather.
  • Wear masks when not eating.
  • Wash hands frequently, bring / supply hand sanitizer.
  • BYO beverage, or provide them in individual cans or bottles.
  • Avoid shared plates, utensils, seasonings or condiments – things that people handle repeatedly.
  • Use disposable plates, utensils, napkins and place at each seat.
  • Avoid shared food dishes and plates. Provide individual servings.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch areas like doorknobs and bathrooms before, during and after the party.
  • In bathrooms, provide paper towels, hand soap on the sink, disinfecting wipes.

 

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

Lightning Safety Awareness – Get the Facts

It’s National Lightning Safety Awareness Week. It’s good timing because July is the month with the most cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), four people have been killed by lightning so far this year. On average, 43 people died of lightning strikes each year over a 10-year period. Only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of disability. Your odds of being struck in a given year are about 1/1,222,000. Your odds of being struck in your lifetime if you live to be 80 are about 1/15,300.

From 2006 through 2019, 418 people were struck and killed by lightning in the United States.

  • 2/3 of the deaths occurred to people engaged in outdoor leisure activities
  • Males accounted for 79% of all fatalities
  • Fishermen accounted for four times as many fatalities as golfers
  • Beach activities and camping each accounted for about twice as many deaths as golf
  • Of work-related activities, farming was most dangerous
  • Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Florida are the top four states with the highest recorded number of lightning strikes
  • Florida ranks first in lightning strike fatalities
  • 1/3 of all lightning related injuries occur indoors
  • Lightning can have a range of up to 10 miles from the thunderstorm. It’s important to go inside at first sign of an approaching storm and to say inside up to 30 minutes after a storm has passed

Did you know that there are five ways that lightning can strike you?

Check out lightning myths & facts

NWS offers these tips about what you need to know to stay safe outdoors:

  • NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!!
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
  • When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up.
  • Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.

Last Resort Outdoor Risk Reduction Tips – If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:

  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
  • Never lie flat on the ground
  • Never shelter under an isolated tree
  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
  • Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)

For many years, the advice was to assume a crouch position if caught outside, but NWS stopped recommending the crouch in 2008 because it simply doesn’t provide significant protection

Indoor Lightning Safety

Some victims were struck inside homes or buildings while they were using electrical equipment or corded phones. Others were in contact with plumbing, outside doors, or window frames. Avoid contact with these electrical conductors when a thunderstorm.

  • Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
  • Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) says that power surges caused by lightning can damage the electronics in your home. They offer this advice:

  • Lightning protection systems intercept lightning strikes and provide grounding path for dangerous electricity to discharge safely, leaving occupants and homes safe from harm
  • Panel box surge protective devices (SPDs) serve as the first line of defense against harmful home electrical surges, limiting voltages by diverting currents at the electrical service entrance. Only qualified electricians should install SPDs
  • Point of use surge protectors protect electronics plugged into the device from surges, must be replaced over time or after a major surge event
  • Power strips do not provide surge protection
  • No surge device can handle a direct lightning strike. Unplug sensitive electronics well before a storm to prevent damage

Additional resources

Reprinted from Renaissance Alliance – no usage without permission.

 

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