Give Your Loved One Security This Valentine’s

As we prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day, it may be a good time to consider giving the ultimate gift to a loved one – the gift of security in the event of our death.

This is particularly true for those of us with stay-at-home spouses.

Stay-at-home spouses are invaluable to many families.

Homemakers provide childcare, look after the home, prepare meals and engage in many other time-consuming activities such as shopping for groceries.

If you have a spouse who is a homemaker and you die, how would he or she provide those services after rejoining the workforce?

Although relatives and friends may assist with money and time during the first few weeks after your death, eventually they will need to return to their regular lives, leaving your spouse on his or her own.

Clearly, beyond the obvious emotional repercussions of such a tragic loss, there would also be a significant financial impact.

There are no hard and fast rules for determining how much life insurance is enough, because no two families have the same needs.

In general, though, you might want to consider insurance protection that is equal to your annual salary times the number of years before your youngest child is out of college.

So, for example, if you earn $50,000 a year, and your youngest child will finish college in 15 years, the appropriate amount of insurance protection would be approximately $750,000.

Those numbers, of course, depend on your individual needs and resources.

Your calculation should also factor in other expenses you may want covered by your life insurance policy, such as funeral costs, probate fees, estate taxes and inflation.

A financial adviser can help you determine how much life insurance is suitable for you.

Plans for Golden Years Should Include Cost of Care

The talk of growing old together can be a romantic thought. Spending a lifetime with someone you love is wonderful.

But as the years progress, there will likely be a need for long-term care for one or both partners – whether it is acute skilled nursing care or just assistance with basic daily living activities such as bathing and getting dressed.

Today’s costs for care have skyrocketed, with the average annual cost for a private room in a nursing home standing at nearly $78,000 in 2011.

This expense can deplete a large chunk of retirement assets, taking with it the peace of mind and security that many couples save for all their lives. It’s a real problem, considering the likelihood that more than 40% of those over 65 will need care at some point in their lives.

What many people don’t realize is that government programs like Medicare and Medicaid were not designed to pay for the ongoing cost of long-term care. Both programs require that people meet very strict health and/or financial criteria to even qualify for coverage – and the benefits that are received may be limited, at best.

However, there is a solution available for covering some or all of the high cost of long-term care. Long-term-care insurance, once available to pay only for services that were received in a skilled nursing facility, now pays for care received in the recipient’s home as well.

In fact, in some respects, having a long-term-care insurance policy could even allow individuals to stay home for longer periods of time.

Today, there are many benefit options to choose from with long-term-care insurance policies. But prior to choosing a plan, it is important to have a good idea of an applicant’s income, savings and other expenses as well as age and current health status.

In addition, some policies even allow discounts on premiums for married couples that apply for coverage at the same time. All of these factors combined will help in determining which type of policy will be most suitable.

How an HSA Can Boost Your Medical Coverage

A health savings account (HSA) can be a good addition to a health insurance policy.

Such accounts are designed to work in conjunction with high-deductible health insurance policies for individuals or families.

They provide a way to pay for health- and medical-related services that are either not covered in an insurance policy or not reimbursed due to the deductible in the policy not yet being met.

How an HSA Works

The funds deposited into an HSA are for paying health-related expenses. Money placed into an HSA is income-tax-exempt, and any unused funds may earn tax-free interest.

Within certain guidelines, the money withdrawn from an HSA may be tax-free when taken out to pay for healthcare expenses. Should funds still be in the account when the account holder reaches 64, he or she is actually allowed to withdraw money for any reason – healthcare-related or otherwise.

Other Benefits of an HSA

Along with providing a way to pay for healthcare services when they are needed, the funds in an HSA can offer other benefits as well.

One of the primary advantages is that funds in an HSA can be used for wellness and preventive healthcare needs.

By having money available to obtain more regular checkups, patients may be able to detect certain health conditions before they become more serious. In many cases, this could mean early prevention of serious ailments. This alone can provide priceless protection for loved ones.

Have You Thought About Insurance for Fido?

Pet owners have one thing in common. They love and care for their animals like they’re their own children.

Dogs and cats, in particular, are popular in American households.

The American Pet Products Association 2011-2012 national pet owners survey found that there are approximately 78.2 million owned dogs and approximately 86.4 million owned cats in the United States.

Dogs and cats require full-time care. They must be fed, and dogs must be bathed and taken for walks.

In return, they give us unconditional love and loyalty.

But what happens if a pet gets sick or has an accident that results in a broken bone or terminal disease?

Like humans, there is insurance for pets.

Just like us, our pets can get health coverage for a very low rate.

Numerous companies offer pet insurance to cover just about every situation for under $20 a month.

You can find coverage for everything, including accidents, routine prescriptions, emergency care, X-rays, testing for cancer,

pregnancy, hereditary conditions, and spaying or neutering.

Plans come with deductibles ranging from $100 to $1,000.

Many companies also offer various levels of coverage, from basic to the most deluxe of options, to fit your budget. And there may even be discounts for having more than one pet.

Ask your insurance agent what plan is right for you and your family’s best friend.

Do You Need Gap Coverage on Your Autos?

If you own a business and have auto loans or lease your vehicles, you may want to think about auto loan/lease gap coverage.

If one of the vehicles is totaled in an accident, you might think that you would no longer have to pay off the balance of any loan or lease attached to that car.

However, that is not the case, and it could present your business with a real financial strain.

Your insurance carrier will give you the depreciated value to replace the totaled vehicle. However, that depreciated amount may not be enough to cover the remaining outstanding amount of the loan or lease.

If, for example, a $25,000 car is totaled in the first year of ownership and the loan has not been paid off, you could be in trouble, because the insurance company would give you only the depreciated value of the car. If that figure were $20,000, you’d be responsible for the remaining $5,000 on the loan or lease. Therein lies the problem.

If you are a business owner with many vehicles, you can multiply this scenario to see how it could add up quickly.

Take a few minutes to take an inventory of the vehicles used in your business. If a vehicle is newer, there may be a larger loan or lease than on an older vehicle. Gap coverage could come in handy here. You may not want to replace older vehicles if they are totaled. In that case, gap coverage wouldn’t be needed.

Most insurance carriers offer gap coverage for a very reasonable premium. It could save you a lot of headaches.

Is Your Business Insured Against Water?

When your place of business is filling with water, the last thing you want to hear is that your commercial property or business owner’s policy does not cover the claim.

However, that could be the case if you’re not careful.

Commercial property insurance provides the broadest type of coverage that insurance carriers can offer to business owners.

It is a way for business owners to protect themselves from unforeseen circumstances.

It can also protect a businesses’ physical goods, like buildings, signs, equipment and other potentially valuable goods as well as employees’ personal property.

Commercial property insurance is one of the first types of insurance a business owner should look into when he or she launches a new enterprise.

The coverage protects business owners from some of the risk that the property they own could be lost, stolen or damaged.

In essence, such policies state that if it’s not excluded, it’s included.

While that provides a certain amount of peace of mind, it’s important to know what is not covered under such a policy.

Commercial insurance policies usually add a specific water exclusion endorsement to the policy.

A typical list of what is not covered could read like this:

1. Flood, surface water, waves (including tidal waves and tsunamis), tides, tidal water, overflow of any body of water or spray from any of these, all whether or not driven by wind (including storm surge);

2. Mudslide or mudflow;

3. Water that backs up or overflows or is otherwise discharged from a sewer, drain, sump pump or related equipment;

4. Water under the ground surface pressing on, flowing, or seeping through: foundations, walls, floors or paved surfaces;

basements, whether paved or not; or doors, windows or other openings; and

5. Waterborne material carried or otherwise moved by any of the water referred to in paragraphs 1, 3 or 4, or material carried or otherwise moved by mudslide or mudflow.

Such policies can state that the exclusion applies regardless of whether any of the above in paragraphs 1 through 5 is caused by an act of nature or other event.

An example of a situation to which the exclusion may apply is when a dam, levee, seawall, or other boundary or containment system fails in whole or in part, for any reason, to contain the water.

Such policies may also state that if any of the above in paragraphs 1 through 5 results in fire, explosion or sprinkler leakage, the insurance company will pay for the loss or damage caused by that fire, explosion or sprinkler leakage (if the sprinkler leakage is a covered cause of loss).

Simple Secrets for Making Your Home More Secure

In today’s world, home security is paramount.

You need to protect yourself from outside intruders.

You also need to protect yourself from computer hackers and dangers from the inside as well.

To guard against intruders from outside your home, there are a number of things you can do.

Outdoor lighting is key for discouraging burglars, especially by the garage and any doors at the rear of the house.

Sliding glass doors should have a proper locking device so they can’t be opened.

It’s important to have all outside locks checked on a regular basis to make sure that they are in proper working order.

Combination locks and dead bolts are better choices than locks with keys, because they prevent burglars from jimmying them.

Alarms and motion-sensor lights are other good deterrents.

You can also hire a security firm to create and implement an effective safety plan for your family.

Another area that needs to be protected is the technology in your home.

Keep your computer up to date with antivirus software and strong firewall protection.

Doing so can prevent someone from hacking into your computer to leave viruses and potentially steal very sensitive personal information.

Inside the home, there are other matters that need attention.

Carbon monoxide, radon and lead can pose problems.

Detectors for each of these poisons, as well as a fire alarm to alert your family, are necessities. Checking the batteries in the detectors on an annual basis, at minimum, will ensure your safety as well.

These preventative steps are not terribly expensive, and the devices do not take long to install.

Most retail chains or hardware stores carry the right equipment you will need to protect yourself and your family.