Umbrellas Are Important on Sunny Days, Too

You have homeowners insurance. You have auto insurance. You’re covered, right? Your skies look clear. Why would you need an umbrella policy?

Picture this: You’re hosting a neighborhood barbeque. Bill from down the block slips on your deck and suffers serious injuries. Your homeowners policy liability coverage pays out $250,000. That’s great, but his total medical expenses, plus lost wages, create a grand total of $450,000. How will you come up with the additional $200,000?

This is where a personal umbrella policy comes into play. It’s designed to extend your liability coverage beyond your auto and homeowners policies. In a case like Bill’s, or if you encounter a similar situation with a car accident, your personal umbrella will cover you. Once you reach the limit of your standard policy, the umbrella coverage kicks in. This additional policy can make a huge impact when you face a large liability claim.

Million-dollar claims

Personal umbrella policies are typically available in million-dollar increments, and most personal umbrella policies cover between $2 million and $5 million. While this amount may seem high, keep in mind that 13% of personal injury liability awards and settlements total $1 million or more. With today’s higher health care costs and hefty litigation awards, one incident can become very costly.

Umbrella policies are helpful for those with considerable assets as well as for those without much money in the bank. If you have few savings, an umbrella policy will provide the much-needed funds to cover a large liability cost. If you’re wealthy, opportunists may be more likely to file lawsuits, knowing you have the funds to pay their settlement. With this extra coverage in place, both groups are fully protected; your savings and assets won’t be at risk if you have an umbrella policy in place.

Contact your insurance pro, who can help you determine how much additional coverage you may need.

Why Would I Want to Raise My Insurance Deductible?

We’re all looking for ways to save a buck or two. When it comes to homeowners insurance, a great way to put more money in your wallet is to bump up your deductible.

“Won’t I have to pay more when I make a claim?” most people ask. Yes, but you’ll likely save in the long run.

If you’re like the average homeowner, you’ll make a claim only once every nine years (and often wait considerably longer). If you can save a little more than $100 a year in premiums by raising your deductible, the math typically works out in your favor.

Making this adjustment to your deductible results in a threefold benefit:

Lower premiums: A higher deductible reduces the cost of your insurance.

Increased cash flow: With less money flowing out of your account to cover insurance premiums, you have more on hand to cover other regular expenses (like groceries, the heating bill, and transportation expenses).

Reduced claims: If you have a small loss or theft, where costs will likely fall short of your deductible amount, you can opt to not file this claim and decide whether you want to replace the item. Fewer claims help keep your premiums lower.

If you decide to go this money-saving route, it is important to establish a savings “buffer” by creating an emergency fund that you can easily access if you need to cover the full deductible. Your insurance advisor can review deductible and premium options with you to determine the best fit for your financial needs.

Three Ways Life Insurance Can Help Your Dependents

Life insurance typically is used to provide replacement income for those who depend on you – spouses, children, or others. Here are three ways replacement income from your life insurance policy can help your dependents:

Funeral costs and estate taxes

When you die, you may leave taxes due or other end-of-life costs, such as funeral expenses. For example, the most recent information from the National Funeral Directors Association pegs the national median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial at $7,181 – and that doesn’t include additional costs such as monuments or markers, flowers, or published obituaries. A life-insurance policy can be used to cover these expenses, freeing your loved ones from paying for funeral and final estate costs.

Higher education costs

Perhaps you have children who have not yet attended college. Or perhaps your children are already in college or recently graduated, in which case they may have tuition costs or student loans outstanding. In these cases, your life insurance proceeds could be used to finance your children’s college education or to pay off their education-related debts.

Medical expenses

The population is aging: In 2014, the latest year for which data is available, 14.5% of the U.S. population (some 46.2 million Americans) was 65 years of age or older. By 2040, the population of seniors is expected to grow to 21.7% of the population. As we age, we get ill, and many of us will suffer prolonged illnesses prior to death. We may need extended-care facilities, which can be costly. Consider giving your loved ones the gift of not worrying about medical or extended-care bills that may come due after your death by earmarking your life insurance policy to cover such costs.

No one likes to contemplate death when they’re young and healthy, but this is the best time to plan ahead and ensure your family members are looked after when you die.

Flu in the Spring? It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over

You may think you’ve avoided the flu this season, but maybe not. Many flu cases occur late in the season, well into spring. Don’t let your guard down in March; the fact is that the flu can strike year-round. So be prepared.

Flu symptoms vary, but can include any or all of the following: fever, cough, nausea, diarrhea, headaches, and body aches. A trip to the doctor will suffice for milder flu symptoms; however, a visit to the emergency room may be in order for more serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, dizziness, confusion, or severe vomiting.

Also, other medical conditions often referred to as “comorbidities” can increase the likelihood of additional problems should you contract the flu. These are diseases or conditions you may already have that could be negatively influenced by the flu and vice versa, as the disease or condition may be worsened by the flu or can make your immune system less able to fight the flu. Asthma is one example, and doctors recommend those with asthma receive a flu vaccination to avoid complications, including pneumonia and acute bronchitis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following tips to avoid the flu or mitigate its effects:

  • Unless you’ve been advised not to by your doctor, get the annual flu vaccination.
  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid contact with individuals who appear sick.
  • Visit your doctor if you experience flu symptoms. If he or she prescribes it, take flu antiviral drugs to decrease symptoms and shorten your downtime.

Thousands of Americans die each year from the flu. Don’t be a statistic. Particularly if you have an existing disease or condition that may be exacerbated by the flu, stay away from crowded venues and avoid traveling to places where there are flu outbreaks. In Australia, for example, the flu is most prevalent from May to October, with August as the peak time.

Ask First to Help Reduce or Prevent a Surprise Balance Bill

To attempt to keep premiums down, some insurers have narrowed their provider networks. Today, many patients find themselves with unexpected out-of-network charges. These charges can occur whenever you use a medical provider who does not have a contract with your health insurance carrier. Known as “balance billing,” an out-of-network charge costs much more than if you use an in-network provider.

Here are some tips to help prevent a surprise balance bill:

When you are hospitalized suddenly, you may not know whether all the providers treating you are in-network. However, if you schedule any medical procedure, you can avoid charges by ensuring all providers are in-network.

Many hospitals and other surgical facilities use contracted physicians to provide services. These can include pathologists, radiologists, and anesthesiologists, to name a few. When you schedule a medical procedure, even a routine colonoscopy or endoscopy, ask the facility to provide you with the names of all providers who will be involved with your care. Check each provider with your health insurer to be sure he or she is in your provider network.

While a few states prohibit or limit balance billing, you are responsible for out-of-network charges in most states. If you receive a balance bill, your best approach is to contact the provider directly and ask him or her to reduce the charges. Many providers will adjust the bill.

An unexpected balance bill is not fun, especially if you’re recovering from a hospital stay. It may take a bit of legwork, but asking first may mitigate this unpleasant surprise.

Reduce Liability Risk and Costs with These Tips

You’ve checked liability insurance off your list. Your policy is in place. You’re fully covered if you’re hit with a liability suit. That’s great news.

However, wouldn’t it be nice to avoid liability claims altogether? While it’s vital to have insurance to pay any liability expenses you incur, it’s even better to avoid the claims in the first place.

According to, reputation damage tops the list of the most costly small business insurance claims, and resolving these claims costs, on average, $50,000. Number four on the list is product liability, and number five is customer injury or damage.

However there is good news: You can take steps to avoid making a claim under your liability insurance simply by reducing your liability risks. Instituting a comprehensive risk-reduction program can save your company time, money, and damage to its good name. With the following suggestions, you can lower your risk and save significantly on liability costs:

Employee training: Do you have the proper safety training programs in place? Make sure your employees are well trained on general accident prevention and response as well as industry-specific safety issues. This can go a long way in stopping liability issues before they start.

Safe surroundings: Regularly inspect your workplace for safety issues. Ensure you have sufficient lighting in stairways and entrances. Repair tripping hazards on floors or stairways. Clean up spills or wet areas immediately. Regularly review outdoor areas and take action if issues are discovered. Repair parking lot potholes and clear trash, debris, and slipping hazards. Small fixes can have a huge positive impact.

Mindful marketing: In today’s world, advertising and marketing are essential. With the slew of social media and other digital options available, businesses can deliver a constant stream of advertising to customers and potential customers. But as you market yourself, take care to avoid liability issues. Don’t slander a competitor (or a client) and don’t make claims you can’t support.

Copyright warnings: In designing advertising, many companies have accidentally stepped into copyright issues. Be careful when quoting others or using images or logos, and get permission for testimonials before you publish them. It’s easy to repost or “borrow” content, but that can just as easily land you in a liability suit.

Property care: Do your operations involve customer property? Do you offer a service at their homes or provide customers with in-store repairs? If so, have policies in place that protect both you and your customers. The goal is to establish careful procedures for handling customers’ property. Two suggestions: consider having them sign a waiver before services are performed and/or document the condition of their property before and after services are rendered.

Customer service: Communication is key. When you’re open and honest and clearly communicate with customers, you’re more likely to have a healthy relationship with them. This may mean they’re less likely to sue. Make the extra effort to keep customers in the loop and follow up with them, and try always to exceed their expectations.

Storm Watch: Don’t Get Blown Away This Spring

During this “in like a lion, out like a lamb” month, the weather is nothing if not unpredictable. But the one thing you can usually count on is a storm; at some point this spring, your business will likely be pummeled by high winds and heavy rains. You might even be hit with hail.

Dangerous winds, flying branches, and large hailstones can wreak havoc on your property. Damages can add up quickly. To keep costs lower during storm season, try the following tips:

Keep a close weather watch: If the forecast calls for a storm, get your equipment inside. Don’t risk it. Ensure all your valuable equipment is safely stored before bad weather arrives.

Brace for impact: Keep everyone at your company safe. During inclement weather, avoid working outside or near windows. If you experience a significant storm, move everyone to a storm shelter or basement.

Inspect your building: Take inventory of the condition of your business at the start of spring. Reinspect after each storm to check for damage. Make repairs right away, even if they are minor, to prevent further damage during the next storm.

Get coverage: Two types of insurance policies are good for storm damage protection-commercial property insurance repairs or replaces property that is damaged by wind and hail; a business owner’s policy is tailored to small businesses and bundles your commercial property and general liability coverages together for an affordable rate.

Don’t get blown away; contact your agent to discuss the policies you’ll need to keep your company covered this spring.