Small Businesses Need E&O Insurance Too

Companies aren’t perfect. As much as we’d all prefer our businesses run like well-oiled machines, even the most finely tuned organization can make a mistake. If humans play a role in your business, the occasional mistake is virtually inevitable.

The good news is, that’s OK. It’s why we have insurance. Specifically, it’s why you should have errors and omissions (E&O) insurance. Knowing there is a strong likelihood of errors, you can establish proper coverage beforehand.

Here are some FAQs on E&O insurance:

What is it?

Errors and omissions insurance, also called malpractice insurance or professional liability insurance, covers you and/or your business in the event you’re held responsible for an undesired outcome of your services. If you or someone you employ makes an error or omission (or a perceived error or omission), this policy will cover you.

Who needs it?

E&O insurance is not just for professionals like lawyers, doctors, or accountants. If you provide a service for a fee (and that includes small businesses such as commercial printers, contractors, and Internet hosting companies), you should have this coverage in place.

What is covered?

If an error or omission causes financial loss for a client, E&O coverage provides protection. It pays for judgments, settlements, and defense costs. Without E&O insurance, companies leave themselves open to significant financial risk. And keep in mind, these losses are not covered under your general liability policy.

Even if a client’s allegations are eventually dismissed, you’ll spend thousands of dollars defending a lawsuit. If you must pay a settlement, you will pay defense costs plus the judgment amount. Such suits can bankrupt small companies and cripple larger ones.

When should I get E&O insurance?

The sooner the better. Don’t wait until you’ve experienced a significant loss before taking action. It’s always best to get insurance established before you take the risk. For some companies, this coverage can even be a selling point to clients.

What E&O policy is right for my business?

As with many aspects of business ownership, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The E&O policy must be tailored to meet the demands and risks of your industry and the specific services you offer. For example, the same policy is not appropriate for a doctor as for a plumber. Work closely with your agent to determine your exposure and the E&O policy that is best for your specific circumstances.

How much does E&O insurance cost?

Because these policies are business-specific, E&O insurance premiums vary greatly. Your location, claims history, exposure, payout limits, and other variables all affect the cost of E&O insurance.

Consult with your agent today if you don’t currently have E&O as part of your insurance portfolio. He or she can help you review your needs and decide what coverage is appropriate for your company. As you review options, bear in mind the losses your company could suffer without this coverage. Ultimately, the cost of not having this policy far outweighs the premium cost.

Prepare Your Commercial Property for the Fall Season

Summer is ending, and the season change is a good time to review key items on or around your commercial property. Keeping tabs on these items each fall will help you avoid claims year-round. For healthy maintenance of your property, don’t head into storm season without checking:

The roof. Summer storms often cause roof damage. If it’s minor, it can go unnoticed – for now. But if missed, that minor damage can become a large problem over the winter. Take the opportunity to stop trouble before it starts. Give your roof a thorough inspection for potential problems down the road, then take care of any issues right now.

The HVAC system. Regardless of your heating needs, fall is a good time to check your HVAC system. In warmer climates, your AC probably had a good workout this past summer; it’s wise to ensure your system is still going strong as you end the season. For those in chillier regions, a professional tune-up will ensure you’re ready for the coming winter.

The trees. Is it trim time? Trees promote energy efficiency and add natural beauty to your property, but they should be properly pruned to remain healthy and safe. Look for any potential property damage or safety concerns. Did spring and summer growth bring limbs too close to roofs, windows, or power lines? Do your trees have any dead limbs that should be removed? Improve their structural integrity (and their aesthetic appeal) by trimming them each fall.

And be prepared. Now you can face fall.

New Season, New Insurance Needs?

Fall is a time for getting your ducks in a row and preparing for the future. As summer comes to a close, assess whether your insurance needs have changed. Review them by answering these questions:

Has your family changed? If you got married this summer, you may qualify for a discount on your auto policy. If you combined households, you may need to update your homeowners policy. If you’re newly divorced, be sure to update all your policies. If you had a baby, review your life insurance coverage to determine whether any changes are needed.

Did your household add or lose drivers? If your teen just acquired a drivers’ license, it’s typically cheaper if you add him or her to your policy than it is for the new driver to get a separate policy. Plus, you’ll likely receive a multi-policy discount. If your child has left the nest for college, you can usually adjust your policy to reduce coverage.

Have you renovated? Review any home projects you completed. Home additions or upgrades can drastically increase the value of your property. Consult with your agent to determine if your homeowners insurance is still adequate. Don’t forget to include structures you added to the outside of your home, such as gazebos or pools.

Are you now a renter or a landlord? If you’ve moved into a new rental, or if you’ve become a new landlord, be sure you have the right policies in place. As a tenant, you need renters insurance to cover your belongings, even if the owner has coverage for the building. As a landlord, ensure both property and liability coverages are adequate.

Did you retire? A major reduction in commute time could translate into a significant reduction in auto insurance premiums. Plus, your senior status may qualify you for a 55+ discount.

Report any of these life changes to your agent as soon as possible, and don’t take the chance of being underinsured.

Just Married? ‘Insure’ Your Future and Live Happily Ever After

If you tied the knot this summer, congratulations!

Marriage changes things forever, including your insurance needs. If you’re a newlywed, ensure you consider these issues now for a happily-ever-after future.

Multiple policies: As you combine your households, do the same for your insurance coverage. Most couples have separate policies, often with different companies. Combine multiple auto and home policies with one carrier to receive a multiline discount. It’s likely you’ll also qualify for a discount simply because you’re married. (It turns out marital bliss isn’t the only benefit to getting hitched.)

New home: Whether you’re moving into his place or her place or buying a new home together, now is a good time to review your homeowners coverage. A new location may mean new perils. Consult with your agent to make sure you include coverage for location-specific perils, such as hurricanes. Also important: discuss with your spouse whether you want replacement cost or actual cash value coverage.

Spouse discounts: Is your newly beloved a member of an alumni or another organization? If so, your household may now be eligible for a discount. Check with your agent to discover any savings available.

Policy limits: Review your homeowners policy to ensure you have the right protection for your personal belongings. Your household possessions may have just doubled, so your policy should have a sufficiently high limit to cover the increase. You may also now need a special rider for high-value items; make sure coverage is adequate for newly acquired gifts, and, naturally, those wedding rings!

Should You Shop Online or with an Agent? You Decide

While you may be tempted to search for a Medicare supplement policy online, it’s always advisable to buy through a licensed health insurance agent. Here’s why:

  • Expertise from a licensed agent costs you nothing. You pay the same premium for a supplement whether you buy online or use an agent.
  • You can explain any unusual circumstances, and ask questions such as: Is now a good time to switch plans? Is my doctor a covered provider under this new plan? Will my prescription copays change? Best of all, you’ll receive a timely response.
  • Your information is private. Some websites will sell your information, but it’s secure with your licensed insurance agent. He or she is only interested in helping you make the best health insurance choices.
  • Your agent is likely to offer more choices than most websites. If you’re on one insurance company’s website, you’ll only see its plans. Your agent may have access to many plans and can help you compare.
  • Rather than trying to solve a problem online, you can turn to your agent to advocate for you; you are very unlikely to get this assistance online.
  • Shopping online is time consuming. To meet with an agent, make one call and set up an appointment. He or she may even come to your home.

Your local agent supports your community, is right there when you need help. Thanks to the relationship you develop with your agent, they should be able to provide all the information you need to make this important decision.

Travel Insurance Is Crucial for Those 50+

In today’s uncertain world, a health travel insurance policy makes more sense than ever. But if you’re over 50, you definitely need to consider purchasing it before setting out abroad or on a cruise. Injuries and illnesses arise during travel, and ensuring you have the proper medical coverage to meet your needs is crucial.

New situations, different terrain, and riskier activities, such as parasailing or hiking excursions, can contribute to injuries, particular for older travelers. Even driving in a strange country can be a problem for many.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the top cause of death of U.S. citizens abroad.

Medicare and Medigap

If you have Medicare, your coverage applies in the U.S. wherever practitioners accept it. But if you have a Medicare or Medigap supplement, check with your supplemental insurer on overseas coverage. The Medicare.gov website offers travel coverage advice, and warns that Medigap policies have a lifetime travel emergency coverage limit of $50,000.

Evacuation and repatriation coverage

The best way to ensure you have the broadest coverage overseas is with a travel insurance policy. For example, travel insurance provides emergency evacuation and repatriation. If injured overseas, you (and your spouse) may want to return home for treatment and recuperation. This coverage goes beyond transporting you after an injury or illness. It includes advice, coordination of admission to a local facility, medical air transport and escort when needed, and ground transportation coordination at both ends of an evacuation; it also smooths immigration and flight clearances and assists with travel arrangements.

While some travel policies cover both medical and repatriation, you still may require two policies. Also, although some insurers offer coverage for a single trip, if you make frequent trips in the same year, an annual plan may be the best choice for you. Snowbirds in particular may benefit from this type of plan.

How to Calculate Your Life Insurance Needs

It’s hard to generalize when it comes to life insurance. What one family needs may differ drastically from what another family in similar circumstances requires.

How can you know if you have enough?

One way to determine how much life insurance you need is to peg it to 10 times your yearly income. This method, however, doesn’t provide much guidance to people who are not employed, such as stay-at-home parents.

If the spouse at home dies, the survivor may need life insurance funds to pay for the child care and home maintenance costs that had previously been provided free of charge.

A better way to come up with your specific number is to figure out exactly how much money your family will need at the time of your death.

Start with your family’s debt, which includes mortgages, auto loans, student loans, and credit-card debt. Determine your future cash needs – the monthly amount needed to sustain the household – as well as any major future expenses, such as tuition, new cars, medical bills, and estate-settlement costs.

Add these together, then subtract your current liquid assets – whatever your family currently has in savings, such as amounts in bank and brokerage accounts and tuition savings plans.

As an example, say you are married with two children (for example, ages 8 and 6) and earn $50,000 a year. If you were to die now, you’d want to support your spouse for 15 years, until your youngest child is out of college. To do this, you’ll need $750,000 in income replacement ($50,000 for 15 years), $200,000 for two college educations, and $5,000 for funeral costs.

But you also may want to pay off the $100,000 you owe on your mortgage, the $10,000 in car loans and the $5,000 in credit card debt. That takes your total to $1,070 million. From that total, subtract what you’ve saved, and that’s how much you will need in life insurance.

Prepare for Cyber Threats before They Happen

Cyber security events are on the rise. From malware to ransomware, businesses are at greater risk than ever from cyber attacks. Is your company protected?

Proper security requires a well-informed team, tight security protocols, and the right insurance. Here’s an overview of what you should know to be prepared for cyber threats to your operations.

Small business does not mean “small target”: Owners of small to midsized businesses (SMBs) often assume they’re under the radar of cyber hackers. In fact, SMBs are the target of 43% of cyber attacks. You may not have billions in profits to drain, but you have essential information hackers seek (such as health records), access through your network to reach larger companies, and files that are so key to your business you’d be willing to pay a ransom to get them back.

Ransomware has increased 300%: In this form of cyber terrorism, attackers hijack data and demand payment to unlock it. In 2016, an average of 4,000 ransomware attacks occurred each day. This is a 300% increase over 2015. As more and more businesses rely almost solely on digital files and processes, this form of cyber attack continues to grow.

Cyber attackers getting craftier: Business owners must stay one step ahead of cyber attacks. This is no easy task, since techniques are becoming more targeted and more cunning. One example, which is growing in leaps and bounds, is “spear-phishing,” defined by Google as “the fraudulent practice of sending emails ostensibly from a known or trusted sender in order to induce targeted individuals to reveal confidential information.” An employee who opens this type of email opens your whole system (and those of your networks) to the attacker.

Cyber security requires a multifaceted approach: To safeguard your business against cyber attacks, you must shore up your defenses on all fronts. This includes:

  • Networking equipment
  • Desktop protection
  • Privacy programs
  • Data security
  • Employee security training
  • Business continuity
  • Data recovery
  • Cyber insurance

Cyber attacks can kill companies: The average cost of recovery from a cyber attack for SMBs is $36,000; even more frightening is that more than half of small to midsized businesses close their doors within six months of a cyber security event. The final cost includes more than just the cash outlay; it may damage your reputation, making it almost impossible to come back from the attack. It’s essential to have cyber insurance in place to assist you in recovering from the security breach and all that it entails.

Cyber insurance includes:

  • Privacy liability – In case you fail to protect sensitive personal or corporate information.
  • Payment card loss – In case you fail to properly manage payment card data.
  • Data breach – If your data is breached, you will incur costs to retain legal services, notify those affected, and provide those people with credit monitoring services.

Don’t wait until an attack has occurred to take steps to protect your business. Consult with your insurance provider to establish the best policy to guard your business against this growing threat.

Product Recall Costs Can Sink Your Company

Product recalls can cost a company millions of dollars, and liability suits resulting from harm to consumers can rack up millions more in settlements. So, what’s a business owner to do? Answer: Avoid these situations. Take the following measures to minimize problems with your products and steer clear of recalls and lawsuits.

Check the details. What are the industry code standards for your product? Be sure to examine every aspect, including color, texture, and size. Ensure your product’s specs meet the exact requirements for production.

Check with suppliers. Will your products include parts or materials from suppliers? Most do. If so, make sure the supplier will be able to provide exactly what you need. Create formal legal agreements. Include expectations of the supplier and consequences if these are not met. Conduct quality audits of plants that are supplying your materials.

Check quality control. It’s essential to have a quality control system in place. Inspect materials to ensure they’re up to par. If you’re handling a high volume of product, you may need a sampling plan as part of this system.

Check your system. Conduct a mock recall once a year. This will ensure your quality control system works. Tracing your products verifies that communication channels and distribution systems are functioning properly.

Check your coverage. Even with these precautions in place, it’s important to have insurance. Product recall insurance can help cover the costs of the recall and, most important, assist in reestablishing your reputation. Consult with your provider to determine what coverage is appropriate for your business.

Your Collection Deserves to Be Protected

A vintage New Yorker cartoon pictures a character surrounded by his collections. The caption reads: “Possessions are part of the self.”

If you’re a collector of something – and many of us are – you’ll relate to the cartoon character. Whether it’s a prized art collection, Beatles memorabilia, or antique teapots, it means something to you, and it should be protected.

Many collectors underestimate the value of their collections, and while no one wants to consider the impact of a break-in, flood, or fire on their valuables, they should. Do consider insuring your collection before you’re faced with a disaster. To any serious collector, the alternative is just unthinkable.

Homeowners insurance: The assumption many collectors make is that homeowners insurance covers these items. However, this policy is typically limited in coverage and has maximums that are probably insufficient to cover your collection. To ensure proper coverage, consider adding an endorsement to your homeowner’s policy, or purchasing a separate floater policy that offers the right amount of coverage. Of course, this means knowing what your collection is worth. Even if you know what you paid for an item, its value in today’s market may be quite different. And that means getting a current appraisal.

Appraisal tips: To have your collection appraised, follow these steps.

  • Make a list of items.
  • Gather as much information as you can, including purchase receipts, restoration records, and other relevant details.
  • Let the appraiser know the purpose of the appraisal.
  • Avoid using an appraiser who also buys and sells the types of items you want appraised. It may constitute a conflict of interest.
  • You do, however, want an experienced appraiser. Get references from dealers, museums, and organizations such as the International Society of Appraisers.
  • Get a detailed, itemized report. This will provide the documentation you need in the event you need to file a claim.

Summer’s Ending but Summer ‘Toys’ Still Need Protection

Summer is a time for toys! Warmer weather means afternoons on the water and evenings cruising in your convertible. Summer invites everyone to pull out classic cars, jet skis, or speedboats.

In warmer states these can be year-round vehicles, but if you use them infrequently in winter, it’s easy to overlook the need for insurance during the off season. Many vehicle owners are unaware of the requirements as well as the options available for boats and summer cars. Here’s the scoop:

Boat insurance: Small watercraft such as canoes and kayaks are typically covered under your personal property through your homeowners insurance. But larger motorized water vehicles such as wave runners, yachts, and speedboats require a separate policy. Boat insurance typically covers bodily injury and medical payments. And while you may not need this coverage after you dock for the season, boat insurance also covers property damage and theft. This is crucial for protecting your boat in storage, so don’t terminate that policy when Labor Day rolls around.

Summer car insurance: If you know you won’t be driving a car once summer has ended, you may be eligible for a reduced rate while your vehicle is in storage. Don’t cancel your insurance entirely; you’ll want to maintain basic coverage, as your vehicle remains at risk for damage when in storage. In fact, this may be required by law in some areas. Ask your insurance agent about reducing collision or comprehensive coverage, but be sure to maintain coverage for damage due to storm, fire, or theft.

Are You Ready for Medicare Open Enrollment?

Early fall is the time to meet with your Medicare insurance adviser. If you are a Medicare recipient, “open enrollment” from October 15 to December 7, 2017, lets you switch plans in some cases. Use this time to ensure you have the best plan for your health considerations.

Perhaps you have purchased original Medicare only because your out-of-pocket costs are minimal. If your health profile has changed, you may have higher copays and other out-of-pocket costs, and you may want to consider a supplemental plan.

If you currently have a supplemental plan, take time to meet with your insurance adviser to make sure your doctor is working with your current plan or to determine if it’s time to change your supplemental insurance, especially if new health issues have recently arisen. Other recent changes such as a marriage or a divorce may also affect your plans and should be mentioned.

Shopping Medicare supplements involves many options. A Medicare Advantage plan or any traditional Medicare with a Medigap plan offers a number of choices. Your insurance agent can help you make the best decision, as he or she understands your medical and prescription needs better than an anonymous online or telephone contact.

If you are turning 65 in the near future, you will become Medicare eligible. Don’t wait until that deadline to review supplemental plans. As insurance agents become busy at the end of the year, call soon to ensure your adviser has ample time to review your health care choices and confirm that your doctors remain in your plan.

‘Dual Coverage’ Reduces Your Dental Costs

If you have your own dental coverage as well as coverage under a spouse’s or parent’s plan, you have what insurers call “dual coverage” or “dual dental.” And this is a good thing, as it can help reduce out-of-pocket dental costs. However, it can be somewhat complicated.

Your “primary” plan. Your primary plan could be your private dental coverage or dental coverage provided by your employer. It’s the one that pays as if no other coverage is in place; if you do have dual coverage, your primary is the plan that pays first.

Your “secondary” plan. The other dental insurance – your secondary plan – usually will not pay until it confirms the amount paid by the primary, and then may pay all or part of the remaining amount.

Coordinating benefits. Most plans have a “coordination of benefits” clause that indicates which plan pays first, and spells out any special rules regarding payment. If one plan does not contain this clause, that plan is usually the primary.

When both plans contain a coordination of benefits clause, whichever one covers you directly is the primary. This could be your employer’s plan or Medicare, for example. In your secondary plan, you’re usually the dependent, as you would be on your spouse’s employer plan.

Dual plan doesn’t mean twice the benefits. Most insurers coordinate the benefits of both plans to reimburse you up to 100%. But your dual dental plans will not reimburse for you more than 100% of your costs. If, for example, each plan provides for two dental cleanings a year, you can’t double the cleaning benefit to get four. And if your secondary plan has “carve-outs,” such as a “non-duplication-of-benefits” clause, you may still have some out-of-pocket expenses. How the state requires insurers to coordinate benefits may also affect your payment.

Dental insurance plans vary, and as mentioned, it’s complicated. Contact your insurance agent to have your options explained.

Discuss the ‘4 Ws’ with Your Beneficiaries

The purpose of life insurance is to provide for your loved ones after you die – but for that to happen, your loved ones need to be aware you have life insurance.

This seems obvious, but in fact, many people don’t discuss their policies with their beneficiaries, perhaps because they’re uncomfortable with discussing death with their spouse and/or children.

But even if you believe you have time later to talk about it, tackle the subject as soon as possible, and ensure your loved ones know the “who, what, when, and where” of your policy.

The 4 Ws

That includes the name and address of the insurance company that holds it, as well as the policy number, what it covers, the amount and date it was issued, and whom to contact in the event of your death, plus where to find your insurance records.

Without this information, your loved ones may not even realize this source of financial security exists, and won’t obtain the money you intended them to have. Your goal in buying life insurance – ensuring you protect those you will leave behind – would have failed.

Life insurance companies do try to contact your beneficiaries, but if they’ve moved to another state, and/or changed their names, phone numbers, or email addresses, the company may not be able to locate them and will likely abandon the search.

Keep records

The Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends you keep copies of your life insurance records in two separate places, so should you lose one copy, another one will still be available.

One copy of your life insurance policy information should be stored at home with your other important papers; the other, in a safe deposit box or lawyer’s office.

Talk to your loved ones today. Tell them you have life insurance and that they are beneficiaries. They (and you) will be glad you did.

Is Your Business Prepared for a Disaster?

You may have the best plans in place for marketing, customer service, and growth, but if your business isn’t prepared for a disaster, it could all be for nothing.

When disaster strikes, businesses that aren’t prepared often don’t survive. Whether it’s natural or man-made, a major catastrophic event could close your doors forever if you’re not ready for it. It’s essential to get up and running again quickly. And this is possible only if you plan ahead.

Help prepare your business for disaster (and prevent minor events from becoming disasters) with these suggestions:

Evaluate and rate your risks

Start by evaluating your business. What disasters are you most likely to encounter? Rate them in terms of probability and severity – would your business be more affected by a hail storm or by a data breach? Once you’ve determined where your biggest risks lie, you can focus your efforts on protecting your business.

Back up data safely

It doesn’t matter the type of business; in today’s marketplace, every company relies on the electronic files that are critical to its operations. Have you backed up this information somewhere safe? Cloud storage now makes this process fairly simple for small businesses. Make sure all your critical data is backed up daily, and ensure you and your employees know how to access backups in case of emergency. You should also verify regularly that your backup systems are functional and reliable.

Communications plan

Do you have an emergency communications plan? If your business flow is interrupted by disaster, you need to be able to communicate both internally and externally, even when regular means of communication are down. Establish backup communication channels now so they’re ready when you need them.

Employee involvement

You may need to protect some aspects of your disaster preparedness measures, but do share as much of your disaster preparedness plan as possible with employees, so they know what their roles are in an emergency. Conduct drills, and develop an emergency preparedness manual to discuss in employee meetings. Answer any questions your employees might have.

Available resources

You don’t have to make these preparations alone. In fact, you shouldn’t; you have important internal resources available. Enlist the help of key employees. Assign them roles to fill if your company is faced with a disaster.

As well as internal resources, you also have a number of external resources available to you. The Small Business Administration, for example, offers emergency preparedness resources, including a strong focus on disaster recovery options. The link is www.sba.gov

Your insurance provider is also a resource. Discuss with your agent whether you have sufficient insurance coverage in the event of a disaster.

In considering your company’s degree of disaster readiness, have you now identified areas where you may not be prepared? Don’t wait; deal with these gaps now. Disasters are rarely expected. You may not know when they are coming, but you can take the right steps to ensure your business is prepared – and can fully recover – when one hits.

How to Make Your Insurance Claim as Easy as PIE

There’s been an incident. You need to start the claims process. To many in this scenario, this responsibility not only looms large, but can feel intimidating. Whether the situation involves an employee injury, an auto accident, or property damage, follow this PIE recipe to make the process faster, easier, and less intimidating.

Photograph: Capture images of the scene. Photograph vehicle damage, physical injuries, and the location of the incident. Documenting everything when it happens will help provide accurate information for all parties involved.

Inscribe: In addition to taking photos, write down all the details. Things may seem crystal clear at the time, but memories fade. Create clear notes that cover who is involved, where it happened, what time, what the circumstances were, and any other pertinent data. This material will be helpful for insurance providers as well as for you when you review the situation later on.

Expedite: File the claim ASAP. The sooner you can get all the information to your insurance provider, the better. Fresh information is clearest. Supplying details right away also allows the carrier to provide quicker and more accurate service.

As you go through this process, keep in mind that your insurance provider is your partner, there to help you through every step. Like you, the insurer wants your claims process to be as efficient and painless as possible.

Contact your agent if you have questions, and respond as quickly as possible to your insurer’s requests. Providing additional documentation or statements in a timely way will help create a seamless process for your claim.

How to Make Your Auto Insurance B.E.T.T.E.R.

For most of us, car insurance is not an expense we can avoid. The good news is, while we may not be able to eliminate the cost, we can make it B.E.T.T.E.R. Here’s how:

Buy a car with insurance in mind: When it comes to insurance, not every car is created equal. If you’re purchasing a car, consider how much the insurance will be. Vehicles with certain features and good safety records are cheaper to insure. Consult with your agent as you car shop to determine your best options.

Embrace a higher deductible: Many people get anxious at the thought of a higher deductible. Don’t be intimidated. It could actually save you in the long run. You may be able to reduce your premium by up to 40%.

Take teen discounts: Insuring your adolescent children can get pricey. Take advantage of any discounts available. Do they get good grades? Will they be away from home for college (and only need coverage during breaks)? Can you assign them to your least-expensive vehicle? Ask your agent what options are available.

Trim your coverage: Do you have an older vehicle? If you have full coverage, you may be over-insuring the car. Check its value. If it is less than 10 times the premium cost, it might be best to drop any coverage beyond liability.

Establish good credit: Research reveals that people with better credit scores make fewer insurance claims. As a result, many insurers use credit information to help determine insurance rates. Stay out of debt, pay bills on time, and check your credit score regularly to ensure all the information is correct.

Request other discounts: Talk to your insurance provider about additional discounts that might be offered. Common discounts include multipolicy, good driver, limited mileage, and antitheft devices.

Insurance gives us piece of mind, but by making it B.E.T.T.E.R., we can feel comfortable financially, too.

What Happens to Car Insurance When Crossing Borders?

Are you planning a road trip? Does your adventure include crossing international borders? If so, make sure you have proper auto insurance before you hit the highway.

Most U.S. and Canadian insurance policies cover both countries. Insurance laws differ between the two, but your policy most likely includes a provision for travel across the border. When you cross, your policy is still active. However, it’s a good idea to contact your provider to confirm. Your agent may also send you a temporary insurance card to take with you. In addition to this documentation, you should also pack your proof of citizenship.

Traveling to Mexico is different. U.S. insurance companies may provide coverage for vehicle damage in Mexico but not liability coverage; you must purchase a separate policy from a Mexican insurance provider. You may be able to purchase coverage as you cross, but having it in place before you start your trek is preferable.

Do you plan to leave your car at home and travel abroad? If you rent a car in another country, your insurance policy usually doesn’t provide coverage. You will need to purchase rental insurance. The U.S. embassy in that country can provide information about the rental car insurance requirements there. Some places require coverage which is only available in that country.

Before you travel, contact your carrier. Let them know about your trip, find out exactly what your policy covers, determine if you need any additional documentation and make plans to purchase international coverage if needed.

Be a Happy Quitter: These Resources Can Help

Everyone knows the risks of smoking. But as many former smokers can attest, quitting smoking may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Some people have attempted to quit up to 30 times before they’re successful.

Even if you’ve failed before, there are many free programs and prescription medications that can help you succeed this time. For example: The American Lung Association (ALA) offers a program called Freedom From Smoking. Available online or by smartphone, this interactive program guides you through the quitting process with support from successful quitters. Additionally, Freedom offers small-group sessions around the country; you can find your local group through the ALA’s interactive national map, by clicking on your state.

Smokefree.gov is another source of help. Whether you want to quit or you need help after you’ve quit, visit the free website and click on an appropriate link to get needed support.

Your health care insurance provider is a great resource to help you stop smoking. Medicare, for example, benefits if you stop smoking, because medical interventions are typically less costly for nonsmokers. It covers smoking cessation medications, including sprays and some oral medications (Part D coverage may offer a wider range of medications than basic Medicare), and also offers up to four individual counseling sessions plus two quit attempts per year. And did you know that most health insurance companies also offer smoking cessation programs?

If you are currently enrolled in a plan through the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also called Obamacare), you may have some level of coverage for stop-smoking programs.

Future policy changes may impact your coverage, so if you’re hoping to quit at some point, you may want to look into these benefits now.

But never quit trying. When a smoker quits, that smoker and his or her family members all benefit. And while it’s difficult, you can do it with the help of these and other resources.

Discover the Health Benefits – and the Joys – of Walking

As summer arrives, walking can be a great way to increase your overall health. Like other forms of exercise, walking improves our mood and makes us more productive. Furthermore, as we age, the risk of falls due to balance issues increases; walking reduces the risk by improving coordination and balance. Best of all, walking can strengthen bones and muscles and help manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

To meet the 30-minutes-per-day activity goal set by experts, increase your footsteps by parking far from your destination and walking. You also can carve out a time at work to do stairs, and if you have a company gym, get in early and do the treadmill. As well, ask if your local indoor mall permits early-bird walkers.

Then there’s this win-win: make a new friend while improving your health, by joining nextdoor.com and looking for neighbors who are seeking walking partners.

Track your progress electronically. There are easy-to-install apps for smartphones that track your steps: S Health tracks steps, time, and even the amount of water you drink per day. Map My Walk shows your route and mileage.

Fitbit sets a goal of 10,000 steps per day (doable in just over an hour, spread throughout the day.) Fitbit’s a wearable, so unlike your easily forgotten phone, steps don’t go uncounted; you get credit for each step.

Finally, by walking outside at this time of year, you can take advantage of a bonus not all forms of exercise can provide: fresh air and sunlight!