Technology Helps Drivers Save on Insurance Premiums

Historically, auto insurance was created to protect drivers’ financial interests. Its basic principles remain the same, but now the auto insurance industry is using technology to help policyholders save money and drive safely. Here are a few of those innovations:

Use-based premiums

Devices placed in a policyholder’s car allow insurers to track mileage and driving behavior, important factors used when calculating premiums. The devices monitor mileage and habits such as speeding, and how often and how hard brakes are applied. Since these programs were initiated, newer technology has resulted in improvements, such as the MyRate program, in which information is wirelessly transmitted over cellphone networks.

Simulations

One way to save money is to avoid accidents, but reactions to potential dangers vary. Driving simulators allow new drivers – especially teenagers – to practice their reactions in a safe environment. It also offers parents discounts on the premiums they pay for teenaged drivers.

Crash test dummies

Used during safety tests so scientists understand how different crash types impact the human body, crash test dummies now more closely resemble humans and include ribs that break and spines that curve like ours.

Apps

Key2SafeDriving is a smartphone app that installs a device in the vehicle and places phones into “safe driving mode” when the car is being driven. Other apps, such as SaferCar, provide vehicle safety ratings, and RepairPal locates mechanics and requests repair estimates.

How to Prevent Grinch Visits Over the Holidays

Here’s a warning as the holiday season approaches: Wrapped presents don’t just excite kids – they tantalize burglars. And this comes with a big price tag; the average amount of property stolen in a home burglary is $2,119.

Here are some tips on preventing burglaries that are specially designed to prevent Grinch visits and on making claims:

Be prepared:

  • Don’t advertise your winter holiday on Facebook.
  • Risk is high before, during and after the holidays. Most burglaries occur when daytime routines return to normal.
  • Use classic “burglar prevention” techniques: light timers, holding subscriptions and mail, etc.
  • Recipients may not see the gifts you sneak in, but burglars might. Bring gifts home disguised and after dark.
  • Don’t pile empty boxes on trash day. It’s too obvious.
  • After a burglary, the chances of being burglarized again increase. Burglars know you’ll replace stolen items.

Only 21 percent of stolen property is recovered. Insurance is the best way of compensating for a loss. When choosing coverage and making claims, remember:

  • Avoid actual cash value (ACV) coverage, which considers depreciation. ACV covers cost at time of loss, meaning you won’t receive the full value of the item. Replacement cost coverage doesn’t consider depreciation, so that if someone steals your TV set, with replacement cost coverage, you would receive a TV set of like value.
  • You usually need proof of ownership of stolen items. This could include receipts, videos, photos and model numbers.
  • Usually premiums increase after claims, especially thefts. If policyholders become categorized as high risk, insurers can cancel or not renew policies after theft or fire claims.

It’s far better to prevent thefts as best you can than pay the emotional and financial costs of being a theft victim.

Ensure College Students Have Health Coverage

Going to college is exciting for both “traditional” students – typically age 24 or under – and “non-traditional” students, such as graduate or international students, or those over 24.

It has its challenges, however, including illnesses and injuries. And finding health insurance at any age can be difficult. Even more so, in 2014, when everyone will be required to carry coverage according to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Options for traditional students include:

Parents’ health insurance: The ACA permits children to remain on parents’ policies until age 26. This is the best option, but check with providers for limitations. For example, if a student is going to school out of state, coverage may be affected, and the result could be higher co-pays and deductibles and limited availability of in-network care providers.

College health insurance: Many colleges and universities offer student health insurance plans. Prices and coverage options vary by state and school. If a student is able to choose between a parent’s plan and a college plan, college plans are worth considering.

Individual health insurance: If neither of these options will work for your student, individual plans can be purchased from national providers. However, this is the most expensive option, and many may consider it a last resort.

Non-traditional students – including graduate and international students – usually have the same options unless they’re older than 26. Graduate schools often offer plans comparable to traditional student health plans, and individual plans are available.

For students traveling abroad, coverage may become limited outside of a certain region, so student travel health insurance may be the only option. School-sponsored trips may offer coverage, and some providers will tailor coverage to travel plans. Adding emergency medical evacuation coverage and 24-7 help lines are definitely recommended.

When you’re a college student, finding health insurance isn’t difficult if you know where to look. As for paying tuition bills? Well, that’s another story.

Review Your Health Care Benefits Prior to Year-end

As the end of the year approaches, many of us are thinking about health insurance; for example, most employers open up enrollment to health care benefits. Newer employees can sign up, and other employees can change benefits.

Now’s the perfect time to review options, reduce costs or add coverage. But many put off taking action because of the volume of paperwork and confusing terminology.

It’s particularly important to be proactive this year, as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be mostly implemented in 2014. Here are three steps that may help simplify your review process:

Learn the language: There are many terms exclusive to health insurance that have different meanings in other contexts. Online searches are great, but only visit reputable websites.

Update: This is the time to make necessary alterations if you’ve experienced a major life change, including marriage, divorce, having children, relocating or the death of a spouse.

Even if nothing has changed, review your coverage. Employers may have increased deductibles, removed options or be offering new plans. If you aren’t aware of any changes, ask.

Consider Health Savings Accounts (HSAs): Many employers offer HSAs. These are good options for young, healthy single employees, and also may be more attractive than Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) which have changed under the ACA. With an HSA, you contribute from your paycheck, pre-tax, to pay for health expenses such as co-pays and prescriptions. Unlike FSAs, money unspent in an HSA accumulates and earns interest.

Why so Many Women Now Need Life Insurance

Historically, life insurance has been considered a must-have for heads of household – the breadwinners who will need to provide for spouses and children on their deaths. In the past, that was usually the male partner; now, increasingly, the breadwinner is a woman.

Many Women are the Breadwinners

Women make up 51 percent of the population. The majority of college graduates are women, and more than half of the labor force is female. In fact, nearly 62.8 percent of women are wholly or partially their families’ providers. Nearly two-thirds bring home at least 25 percent of their family’s earnings.

With this economic trend comes the responsibility for ensuring the family’s needs will be met in cases of unexpected death – and that’s why it’s so important for women to consider life insurance.

Covers Short and Long-Term Needs

Life insurance can provide a lump sum of money to replace income in the event of the death of the breadwinner. This sum can cover short-term expenses, such as the cost of a funeral and paying off incurred debts. It can support requirements such as housing, food and clothing for surviving family members. And it can provide for long-term expenses, such as college educations or retirement nest eggs.

Help With Household Tasks

Life insurance can also help with some of the household responsibilities, which, for the most part, are still handled by women. These responsibilities, which generally keep households running smoothly, include child or grandchild care, and household chores.

With adequate life insurance, families are able to find other means of getting help around the house, either in the short term or for the long term.

Life insurance, of course, can never replace the individual, but it can help pay for the vital services provided to spouses, children and grandchildren. It only makes sense to consider it. An advisor can help you determine the best options for you and your family.