Grinch Protection: Wrap Up Your Home This Season

Grinches aren’t always scary green creatures in caves. Sometimes they are masked men who pick locks and carry away all your presents in their sleighs.

Take steps to stop the Grinches this season. With the proper precautions, you can protect your home and ensure your holiday stays bright. Consider the following:

Chimneys aren’t the only access: Some people develop a habit of leaving patio doors unlocked or propping open apartment-building doors. Keep doors and windows locked. It’s also good to check window hardware regularly to verify it’s secure.

Make a list and check it twice: Create an inventory of your personal property. Be sure to include items you have purchased as gifts. This will allow you to know what’s missing in the case of a burglary.

Santa isn’t the only one who needs landing lights: You do, too. Dark, vacant houses make prime targets for thieves. Leave lights on or set a timer, to give the impression someone is home.

Don’t advertise your trip to the North Pole: Will you be traveling? Keep that under wraps. If you announce on social media that your home is empty, the wrong kind of elf might find out and decide your house is prime for pilfering.

Santa’s not yet in the building: Wait until Christmas Eve to put out your gifts. This avoids putting them on display for potential thieves.

Protect presents: If you’re expecting a package but won’t be home, arrange with the company to have it left at a local shipping center or placed in an inconspicuous area. Even better, ask a neighbor to take it in for you.

Holiday peace: Unfortunately, no matter how much you prepare, a theft could still occur. But you can have peace of mind by investing in homeowners or renters insurance. These policies will help you recover your cheer if the Grinches steal it.

Have a cheery holiday!

Does Santa Pay Higher Premiums If His Sleigh Is Red?

Whether or not you believe in Santa is up to you. But regardless of your opinion on the jolly man in red, don’t fall for the following myths about insurance for his sleigh (or your car):

The color of the sleigh affects the premium: Many believe that a flashy red sleigh is more expensive to insure than one painted reindeer brown. What actually matters is the type of sleigh. Vehicle insurance premiums are based on make, model, body type, safety record, and the cost of repair – not on color.

Santa’s age means his insurance will cost more: No, it does not cost more to insure your sleigh when you get older. In fact, many drivers over fifty-five may qualify for reduced rates. Check with your agent about senior or reduced-driving discounts.

Making the “Nice” list means you can go with basic liability: Basic liability may meet law requirements, but it’s rarely enough. Accidents often cost more than the minimum. Plus, standard liability usually doesn’t cover you if your sleigh is stolen by the Grinch, vandalized by South Pole elves, or damaged by snowstorms. However nice you are.

If an elf borrows the sleigh, the elf’s insurance will cover him: Typically, the policy that covers the sleigh is considered primary. This means that Santa’s insurance company must pay for damages, regardless of who has the reins. Laws differ by region, so if you’re considering loaning out your sleigh, check with your agent to ensure proper coverage is in place.

Life Insurance Needs Change after Age Fifty

There’s no specific age-related cutoff to help you decide when you’ll need life insurance, but once you pass age fifty, your needs may change. Here are a few things to consider:

What do you need insurance for? If you have a partner who is heavily dependent on your income, and few savings, you’ll probably need life insurance.

What are the options? There are two types of life insurance: term and whole. A term policy provides life insurance for a fixed period of time, from one to thirty years; if you die when coverage is in effect, the policy pays the beneficiaries listed on your policy a specific amount.

A whole life policy is permanent; assuming you pay the premiums, you will have coverage for your entire life. Whole life policies may also have a savings feature, whereby the money that goes into your policy is invested, and you can borrow against this cash value.

How does it work? With both types of life insurance, you make monthly payments to an insurance company (which typically remain fixed for the life of the policy) in exchange for coverage.

Which type of life insurance is best for those over fifty? It depends. Term life costs less than whole life, and is fine if you intend it to retire an expense, like a mortgage, that is expiring on a set date. Whole life, while it costs more, may be ideal if you have ongoing financial commitments. If your policy has a saving feature, you can build up your reserves.

Now or later? If you are relatively young, you may think you don’t need to purchase life insurance now, but both whole and term policies get more expensive once you turn fifty. You may not even be able to get term life insurance after age sixty, meaning you may be forced to buy a more expensive whole life policy.

Don’t Get Caught in a Health Insurance Eligibility Bind

Imagine after a divorce or other life-changing event owing thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills. It happened to a Texas man after a dependent eligibility verification audit (DEVA) found him ineligible for his former wife’s group health insurance.

Businesses that offer group health benefits look for ways to save costs, and one of those ways is with a DEVA. Auditors review an employer’s group health to find ineligible dependents who are receiving coverage under the employer’s plan.

These may include dependents who are unrelated to the employee, such as a niece or an ex-spouse, non-custodial children, or young adults older than age twenty-six. As part of the audit process, employers may ask employees to furnish documentation, including marriage and birth certificates and tax returns.

Auditors typically find 2% to 15% of group plan participants are ineligible. Their health coverage is terminated, and they usually have to repay amounts for medical bills paid out when ineligible.

The Texas man didn’t learn he wasn’t covered on his ex-wife’s plan until he owed thousands of dollars in medical care costs. And many people are in the same boat. Larger employers may offer COBRA coverage, but not all employers do.

Don’t get caught in this health insurance bind. If you have a life-changing event like a separation or divorce, a job change, or a change in a custodial or a noncustodial child’s status, contact your health insurance professional.

He or she can help you decide the best, most affordable option for health care coverage.

Last Call: ACA Enrollment Period Ends January 31, 2017

The window on enrollment for Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance plans is closing fast. And if you’re considering purchasing a plan, it’s time to act.

The health care coverage you choose is one of the most important decisions you make in your life. And the open enrollment period for the ACA ends January 31, 2017. If you miss it, well, you miss it: You won’t be able to buy ACA coverage for 2018 on your state’s health care marketplace until late 2017.

In the meantime, you may find yourself facing fines for being uninsured: the penalty for not obtaining coverage through a qualified health plan is significant. The ACA penalty for 2017 remains at 2.5% of total household adjusted gross income. However, the flat fees (currently $695 for adults and $347.50 per child, capped at $2,085 per family) will be adjusted for inflation next year.

If, however, special circumstances occur such as a job loss, you may qualify for coverage of up to 60 days after the job loss. In addition, you may enroll in the Children’s Health Insurance Program or Medicaid at any time.

A note of caution: You will, of course, want a plan with the lowest copays, deductibles and coinsurance possible. However also be sure you review each plan carefully, paying particular attention to the insurer’s available medical providers to make sure your physician is covered.

On November 1, 2016, the ACA website posted final rates on its rate-review section; however, navigating the ACA website can be difficult and time consuming. As well, many people have recently become concerned about the lack of choice of ACA health insurers in their particular geographical areas. Contact your health insurance agent who can help you explore your options.

Resolve to Save on Business Insurance in 2017

Your business plan for 2017 might look nothing like your competitor’s. But they likely have a common theme: Boost the bottom line. Of the myriad ways to do this, one method is simple: Cut your insurance costs. How? Here are some tips for business owners:

Reduce risk: Fewer claims = savings. Set up procedures that prevent potential claims. Burglar alarms, employee training, and slip-and-fall precautions are great examples. Make a list of your biggest potential losses from accidents, and set up ways to prevent or minimize them. Having the appropriate measures in place will keep your operations running smoothly and your insurance costs low.

Bundle it up: Small businesses are often eligible for a business owner’s policy (BOP). This typically bundles your general liability, property, business interruption, and other riders together in one policy at a discounted rate. Check with your agent to see if your business qualifies. Common requirements include a business location and a low-risk profile.

Classify correctly: There are hundreds of worker’s compensation class codes that correspond to various positions. Each has its own ranking for potential risks, and each has its own price. Since your worker’s comp premium is based partly on your class codes, be sure you have designated each employee correctly. Don’t overpay by placing employees in a higher-risk code than required. It might seem simpler to tag everyone under one code, but this is rarely the right move.

Lump your sum: Many business owners pay for their coverage on a monthly basis. This is often done for budgeting purposes. However, paying annually might save you money. Ask your agent about payment plan options that could reduce your overall cost.

Revise restrictions: What are your current policy deductibles and limits? Have you reviewed them lately? If you have fairly low risk, it could be worth taking on a higher deductible to lower your premium. If your business has changed in the past year, you may be able to lower your policy limits. Or if you need to raise your limits, an additional umbrella policy might be the best option.

Make it a habit to review your policies at the end of each year with your agent to see what changes might save you money in the next four quarters.

Strengthen safety: Consider beefing up your safety measures in the next year. A safe work environment reduces worker’s comp claims and liability lawsuits. Develop or strengthen safety-training programs. Ensure all new employees are properly trained in your safety measures. Host workshops and training sessions regularly to ensure everyone is engaged. Incentivize safety by rewarding employees who maintain good records.

Ask your agent: Don’t let the calendar flip without contacting your agent. A quick call to your provider could save you crucial dollars in the next year. Your insurance pro is a valuable resource. Keep lines of communication open as your business needs change. This will ensure your policies not only meet your current demands, but also take less of your hard-earned money.

Do I Need Holiday Insurance for My Business?

You won’t find “holiday insurance” listed in your coverage options. However, business owners should be aware of special insurance considerations during the holiday season. Three areas in particular require extra attention. As you gear up for the festivities ahead, keep the following in mind:

Decorating: Do you spruce up your space for the public to enjoy? Do your employees add holiday cheer to their cubicles? Does HR add lights, a tree, or other decorations to your surroundings? Whatever you do to decorate, be sure to follow proper safety precautions to avoid filing a fire claim this season.

  • Keep flammable items at least three feet (0.9 m) away from heat sources.
  • Don’t string together multiple extension cords.
  • Discard items with damaged cords or parts.
  • Water live trees daily.

Celebrating: Will you be hosting a holiday bash for your employees? These events involve a level of risk of injury or other incidents. Check with your insurance agent about host liability coverage to ensure you are prepared for these risks. Limit drinks through the use of tickets or by restricting the bar hours.

Staffing: Many businesses beef up their staff for the holiday season. If you hire temps to get you through this busy time, verify their workers’ compensation coverage. Are you responsible for this, or is the temp agency? Does your general liability policy have any exclusions you should be aware of? Review your policies with your agent to ensure proper coverage is in place.