A Home Inventory Can Help You before and after a Disaster

If disaster struck, could you recall every item you own? And what you paid for it?

After a fire or a flood, a complete home inventory will help you verify your losses and settle insurance claims faster. It can also help you and your agent determine how much insurance you need. To prepare an up-to-date home inventory, follow these easy steps:

List it: Make a list of all your possessions. Walk from room to room, noting what each space contains. Include basic information such as the make and model and the cost. For major appliances, record the serial numbers. Don’t forget any items you have stored outside or off-site.

Document it: Keep sales receipts, contracts, and appraisals with your list. As you purchase new items, be sure to add them to this inventory. To stay organized, you may want to create an envelope system to group receipts based on type of item. Be sure to store your inventory and all receipts in a fire-safe box or in a safe deposit box to ensure it’s available after a disaster.

Picture it: For a thorough record of your belongings, take pictures. Capture entire rooms and/or individual big-ticket items. You may also want to shoot a video of your inventory. Walk through your home and describe the contents as you record them. These photos and videos can be extremely helpful when making an insurance claim.

Your insurance agent can be a great source of help when you’re creating your home inventory by providing tips, recommending inventory apps, and – most important – offering advice on the right coverage.

Resolved: To Review Your Insurance in 2018

More than 40% of us make New Year’s resolutions. But only 8% of us actually achieve our goals, according to a Forbes article.

Perhaps we’re focusing on the wrong things. Rather than another resolution that revolves around diet and exercise, try setting finance-related goals. Specifically, make the following insurance resolutions.

These can help you save money and better prepare for whatever 2018 has in store.

  1. Review your policies. Did you make any changes in 2017? Perhaps you got married, had a baby, bought a new home, or sold your boat. Carefully review all policies to ensure they’re still appropriate. Check that all information about your belongings, and more important, you, is accurate. Ensure adequate coverage is in place for your current lifestyle. Keep an eye out for any potential discounts.
  2. Reduce claims. Take steps to prevent claims this year. Use proper safety precautions in the kitchen. Keep your home and car secure by keeping things well-locked, well-lit, and well-protected. Use safe driving habits. For many, the key to all this is simply slowing down the frantic pace of life a bit. Take the time this year to focus on what you’re doing. Be “intentional.” You’ll have fewer mishaps at home and on the road. And the result will be a year highlighted, not with insurance claims, but with peace of mind.
  3. Visit your agent. With policies and inventory in hand, contact your insurance agent. The start of a new year is a great time to make an appointment so you can review all your coverage at the same time. He or she will help you determine what changes, if any, should be made for the year ahead. As well, your agent can recommend policy changes to save you money, point out discounts available, and make sure you have the right coverage for your current needs.

Keep these resolutions, and prepare for a secure 2018.

What Are Your Child’s Health Insurance Options?

A child’s illness can put a great burden on a family, particularly if he or she is not covered under your group health policy. But there are alternatives.

If your income is low, Medicaid benefits may be available. However, if your income is too high for Medicaid, but falls below a certain level (which changes annually), your child may be eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The healthcare.gov website has an online application process to help determine eligibility for CHIP.

CHIP coverage includes immunizations, routine checkups, and dental and vision care, and is administered by individual states working with their Medicaid programs. Currently, CHIP funding, which is provided by the federal government, is under debate.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – also referred to as Obamacare – has been offering coverage for children and young adults under 26. As the open enrollment period was over in mid-December 2017, you can only purchase ACA coverage if you have a qualifying life event. You may want to discuss this with your licensed health insurance agent.

Your agent will also advise you on the insurance plans available for children who do not qualify for CHIP or Medicaid, or parents who need private coverage. Each state has various laws regarding “child only” health insurance, so it is important to discuss this option with your agent. He or she is knowledgeable about the alternatives you have available to you and your child.

And, most important, your premiums will not be affected by working with a licensed health insurance agent.

Do You Need a Cash-Value Insurance Policy?

Life insurance helps you provide for loved ones after your death. But policies also may include a variety of options. Cash-value policies, for example, offer some interesting features.

Life insurance policies with cash value include a withdrawal feature along with a death benefit. Essentially, they accumulate funds that you can tap at certain times, either through withdrawals or loans.

You can even use the cash value to pay your policy premiums. Any money you withdraw simply reduces the amount of the benefit on your death.

The benefit of purchasing a cash-value life insurance policy is the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have an option if you need cash. The downside is that it typically costs more than traditional life insurance because your premium pays for both the death benefit and the cash value.

Whether or not a cash-value life insurance policy is right for you depends primarily on what you need from it. If you only require life insurance for your survivors, it may not be the answer for you.

On the other hand, if the unique features appeal to you, you may want to consider it. These features include the ability to borrow from it when necessary; plus, it offers a way to pay your premiums in retirement when cash on hand is scarcer.

You can also pass the cash value on to your survivors. And the cash value in the policy is somewhat tax-sheltered – the interest may not be taxable.

Cash-value policies are complicated, so before you buy one, be sure you understand what they can – and cannot – do. For example, cash-value life insurance policies should not be used as savings vehicles, because you’re taxed on the money you contribute (although, as noted, the interest is generally tax-free, as is the death benefit).

Your advisor can explain the options and details to help you decide if this type of policy is right for you.

Vision Care Is About More Than Just Glasses

Over half the population of the U.S. requires vision correction. Should you see your way clear to purchasing vision insurance?

While many people have group health coverage that includes vision care, many don’t. But the cost of eye exams, glasses, and, in some cases, corrective eye surgery can be reduced with vision care insurance for a relatively small monthly premium. Depending on your plan, you can visit an optometrist of your choice or have access to a provider network of dispensing optometrists.

Even if you don’t need glasses, you need eye exams. There are many hidden health problems that can be identified through a regular eye examination. The Mayo Clinic recommends exams every one to two years for adolescents and individuals over 65 and once every five to 10 years for those in their 20s and 30s. If you have a family history of eye problems, you should consider more frequent exams.

Children under three, in particular, should be examined by their pediatricians for early identification of potential problems such as crossed eyes or a lazy eye. Between the ages of three and five, children should undergo a more wide-ranging examination. Stand-alone plans, such as those obtained through an employer, are not required to cover children’s eye care needs. Serious eye conditions in a child are covered under the ACA and are subject to deductibles and copays.

If a problem such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, or cataracts is discovered during a routine examination, the follow-up isn’t covered under your vision plan; you’ll need to contact your regular health insurer. Medicare does offer some benefits for medical conditions impacting your vision but usually doesn’t pay for routine vision testing. Medicare Advantage or a Medigap plan may provide additional coverage.

Depending on your situation, vision care insurance may be important for you and your family. To assess your options, discuss vision coverage with your insurance agent.

Do You Need a Supply Chain Interruption Policy?

Is your business completely self-sufficient? If your operations are like most in today’s marketplace, you rely on the delivery of goods from others. While you may find these sources reliable, it’s possible their supply could one day fail. Are you prepared if the chain should break?

If materials or finished products are delayed, your business suffers. A significant delay or cancellation can cause a complete shutdown of operations. And lacking the resources it needs, your business could come to a temporary standstill or even close.

Many business owners underestimate the effect this supply chain failure can have. It’s important to note that it can take more than two years to recover, as this type of failure affects distribution, costs, service, and ultimately your bottom line. From small businesses to global corporations, companies need proper protection against broken links in the supply chain. The right insurance can’t stop the chain from breaking, but it can stop your business from doing the same. For proper coverage, business owners have two main options.

Option 1: Contingent Business Interruption Insurance

Contingent business interruption (CBI) insurance reimburses lost profits and extra expenses caused by the interruption of someone else’s business. Your company does not have to suffer shared damage for coverage to apply. The point of the policy is to provide for your business when your supplier can’t. This coverage is appropriate when:

  • You rely on a single supplier for materials.
  • You depend on one manufacturer for most of your merchandise.
  • You purchase the bulk of your products from one business.
  • You rely on a leader property (a neighboring business) to help attract customers.

While CBI offers helpful protection, it is limited. The policy only provides coverage if your supply chain is interrupted due to physical property damage at a “partner’s” business. If it has a fire, for example, you’re covered. However, if its employees can’t get to work due to road closures, you aren’t. In short, CBI doesn’t cover all perils or circumstances that could negatively impact your supply chain.

Option 2: Supply Chain Insurance

Supply chain insurance offers broader coverage than CBI. Like CBI, it covers disruptions to your supply chain caused by property damage to your supplier’s business. However, it also covers losses due to other events. Remember that fire that wasn’t covered by CBI? Did the thought of road closures scare you? Supply chain insurance offers a broader umbrella that includes these threats. This type of policy can cover:

Public health emergencies, natural disasters, industrial accidents, riots, labor issues, road closures, political upheaval, regulatory action, financial issues.

Make Your Chain Stronger

Obtaining the proper insurance coverage is essential to protect your business from supply chain risk. To determine which option is best for your operations, talk to your insurance agent and take the following steps to avoid making a claim:

  • Evaluate your supply chain. What risks and weaknesses exist? Do you need to make changes?
  • Identify backups. What other suppliers and vendors could you use in a crisis?
  • Create a contingency plan. This includes securing appropriate insurance coverage for your business.

Rolling the Dice: Business Insurance Gambles to Avoid

You can afford to take risks on some things. But business insurance isn’t one of them. Too many small business owners make mistakes when setting up their business insurance. Here are three of the most common mistakes you don’t want to gamble on taking. Losing may cost too much.

“Let it ride”: Check with your agent to determine the proper coverage for your company. For example, a home-based business is not covered under homeowners insurance, and a client’s policy doesn’t offer coverage for your contracting business. If you are basing your security on false hopes of coverage, you could lose it all on one bet.

“All in”: It’s true that all businesses need certain basic policies. These include property insurance, liability insurance, business vehicle insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. But don’t view insurance as one-size-fits-all; each business has its own industry-specific risks that may require specialized policies.

“Winning streak”: You have avoided disaster so far. Don’t let this winning streak convince you that you’re invincible. Without proper coverage, your entire business is at risk. Many small businesses don’t recover after a disaster. Ensure you have proper policies in place, and consider business interruption insurance to provide income if your business closes temporarily.

Rather than gamble with your business, seek sound counsel from your insurance provider. Your agent will lead you safely away from gambling with your company, and walk you through the appropriate steps to provide adequate coverage for your business. With extensive insurance knowledge and your best interests in mind, your agent is a sure bet.