Personal Protection

Adding a Teen Driver? Do This

Recent findings by experts in the insurance industry show that the cost of including a teen on a car insurance policy is decreasing.

A few years ago, including a teen driver on one’s auto insurance would have added about 85% to one’s policy only 5 years ago. Currently, the rate change is about 78%.

While an improvement it is still a substantial amount. So why is the inclusion of the teen driver seen as an added risk? The main reason is that the adolescent driver is more likely to be involved in accidents than more experienced drivers are.

Indeed, reports by the National Highway Traffic Safety and Security Administration indicate that auto accidents are the main cause of death among teen drivers. About 2000 of youthful drivers died in auto related accidents in 2015, which was a significant rise of about 10% from the previous year.

The premium paid for adding a teen driver can be particularly painful when the teen involved is male. There is a major discrepancy between the insurance cost for male teens and their female counterparts. (On average adding a male driver increases costs by 89%, compared to only 66% for female teens. This cost also varies depending on the state.

Why are rates Falling?

  • There are fewer teen drivers getting drivers licenses.
  • Technology has made cars safer to drive. This is especially true for newer vehicles with advanced collision prevention systems.
  • Graduated driving programs impose greater restrictions on young drivers until they have more experience behind the wheel.

It is important when adding a teen to your car insurance that you work to prevent accidents so your rates don’t go even higher.

  • Have a strong commitment from your teen that they will not touch their mobile device while driving. (There is new technology on the way that can disable mobile phone apps while a vehicle is in motion.)
  • Instead of purchasing a “personal” car for a teenager, purchase a “family” car that they are allowed to use. It belongs to the house, not to them. Install monitoring devices to ensure speed limits are adhered to and that the car is being properly driven. Have a firm understanding that the care may be used with permission and if the rules are followed. This can also be tied to maintaining excellent grades, etc. Upon graduation, the car could be gifted to the teen as they move to college.
  • Be sure the car has plenty of automated safety features to protect your teen, their passengers, and others on the road. Airbags are a good start. Yet more modern cars are so much more capable of keeping drivers safe.

What can you do to reduce teen auto insurance costs?

  • The first year is a teen driver’s most important. A parent/guardian needs to take an active role in helping to establish good driving habits. These include how to handle a vehicle, show respect & courtesy to other drivers, and how to stay safe on the road.
  • Many Insurance companies offer classes for teens. Successfully completing these can reduce rates. In addition, insurance carriers often offer discounts on insurance if teens maintain good grades.
  • Many states have graduated driving programs. These limit the driving capabilities of younger drivers, particularly night time driving. Be sure your teen abides by these programs.

Naturally, we’re here to help answer your insurance questions and to make certain you and your teen always have the best insurance at the most affordable rate possible.

Check your Home Insurance to Be Sure You Are Protected From Disasters

Fewer than 22% of homeowners see changes in the environment or natural disasters as being an important factor to consider when updating their homeowner’s insurance coverage.

This information was found in a new study done by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). With the increase in natural disasters, the NAIC encourages homeowners to think about their risks and take the time to understand what coverages are included in their existing insurance policies.

For example, recent climate changes in the northern area of Nevada have been determined as the underlying cause of a catastrophic flood. State officials warn that the worst may not be over as they are preparing for additional flooding.

Another example: There is an increased risk for mud and rock slides because of erosion in the areas that have been affected by increasing wildfires.

Damage to your house or property caused by such disasters may not be covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Instead, you’ll need a special policy that offers specific coverage for things like flood insurance coverage.

Between 2005 to 2015 natural disasters caused roughly $24 billion in insurance claims. However, the study performed by the NAIC found that 56% of homeowners have not read through their homeowner insurance policies in over a year. Additionally, 14% are not sure if they have ever evaluated their plan.

It is important you review your policy with your agent to be sure you have the coverage you need.

Prior to Natural Disasters

We recommend asking yourself these questions each year:

Is my home in increased danger of:

* Floods,
* Wildfires,
* Earthquakes?

Next ask yourself:

* Has anything changed in my house?
* Has there been any change in the total number of people living in my house or the value of the personal belongings in the house?
* Have I added any major acquisitions such as art or other valuable belongings?
* Have I had any updates to the house such as renovations, an updated security system, or any other major changes to the home?

Then ask:

* Are there any new fire prevention or protection solutions offered in my area?
* Do I have a fire safety zone around my home? Has it been adequately maintained?

And remember, our team of insurance professionals is at the ready to help you. Please reach out if you have questions.

Telling White Lies Can Void Your Car Insurance

Many motorists feel car insurance costs are higher than they want to pay. Rates are indeed on the rise. But some folks have taken to telling “white lies” to mislead insurance companies and get lower car insurance rates.

A nationwide survey conducted by a leading online financial firm showed that almost 85% of survey participants had given misleading information to keep the cost of their car insurance as low as possible. This figure is far higher than the estimates previously thought.

Drivers have come up with all sorts of creative story-telling. According to the survey quoted above, the following ranked as the basis for the top five “white” lies that drivers used to lower insurance costs:

1. Failure to accurately report on accident history and previous insurance claims.

2. Falsification of details regarding where the car is parked overnight.

3. The use or purpose of the motor vehicle – family, social, business, traveling, etc.

4. Falsification of the estimated annual mile driven.

5. Failure to properly identify who the primary driver of the vehicle is.

Why mislead on the above?

The main motivation for these little white lies is monetary. The insured knows very well that tinkering with the truth can save money on premium costs.

However, this is a risky move. Carriers are on the lookout for these and if they catch you, your insurance policy can be nullified. That can be especially problematic if you make a claim and the carrier determines you didn’t tell the truth on your insurance application. They will not honor your claim and you’ll be unprotected.

And remember, you’ll be on the hook for more than the damages to your car. You could be responsible for medical expenses of everyone involved in an accident found to be your fault.

A “little white lie” to save a few bucks simply isn’t worth the risk.

And that is not all. That little white lie could very well get you into trouble with the law. It is a criminal offense to falsify the details required by an insurance underwriter as you are seeking for a car insurance policy. Insurance fraud is a thing best avoided.

And remember, this applies to who is driving the car the most as well. Many parents think they should list themselves as the primary driver on a car that their teen mostly drives. This again is the kind of “white lie” that can result in all the previously mentioned problems.

What are the Long Term Effects of Non-disclosure?

As discussed above, failure to give all the necessary details on an insurance application can result in a claim not being honored as well as potentially being taken to court for fraud. YIKES!

And if you’re “found out”, such non-disclosures can have a negative impact on your ability to get a great rate on future policies.

The good news is that our team of specialists strive to help you find the best rates on auto insurance by obtaining multiple quotes from different carriers. We make insurance companies compete for your business and that helps you pick the best mix of budget sensitive features to fit your exact needs.

If you need to review your auto insurance, please reach out to us. We’re here to help!

Why a Good Driver May Still See Auto Rates Go Up

Many motorists have noted, with justifiable concern, that car insurance costs went up by a significant margin in 2016. A closer look at the market trends gives the indication that auto insurance costs have been steadily rising for the last 5 years across the U.S.

And the reason for this is quite understandable: there are more accidents happening on our roads every year. This is directly because there are more cars on the road combined with an increase in accidents caused by driver inattention.

Insurance underwriters have had to raise the premiums on insurance as a result. Unfortunately, this increase in the cost of insurance has affected all auto owners – even those who have a clean, accident-free history. Many auto insurance policyholders are quite perplexed by this.

Why Has There Been a Rise in Cost of Auto Insurance?

a. Increase in auto accidents

Certainly, everyone understands that insurance firms are for-profit business entities. They need to ensure that they are giving profits to shareholders. But insurance firms primarily exist to protect clients from risk.

Insurance counts on the precise understanding of costs and risk and then creates rates based on that understanding. The goal is to ensure that an Insurance company can always meet its obligations to its insureds.

So a dramatic increase in claims related to auto accidents will translate into massive unexpected payouts. As a result, insurance companies have to raise rates to be sure they will always have the funds available to meet their obligations.

b. Medical Costs

The good news is that cars are getting safer. However, there are still many older vehicles on the road that lack the advanced safety features found in the latest automobiles. Injuries and death arising from motor vehicle accidents have been noted to be some of the biggest contributors to the increased auto insurance premiums.

People often assume that their medical costs are covered by their health insurance but the laws that govern this vary state by state. In many states, health insurance is specifically excluded from being responsible for covering the costs of auto accidents and medical costs are resolved through auto insurance.

c. Expensive Repairs and Replacements

Auto insurance costs are also guided by the cost of repair of the car or truck involved in the accident. As cars have become safer they have also become more expensive. The average cost for a family sedan today is what individuals paid for luxury cars not too many years ago.

Additionally, the “crumple zones” that are necessitated by safe car design mean more cars will likely end up being totaled. While this saves lives and reduces injuries, it also results in more vehicles that are unable to be repaired after an accident.

d. Government Policy

The government requires that every auto insurance company must have adequate reserves of funds to cover claims in case of unprecedented level of accidents resulting from disasters. Government agencies are always on the look-out to enforce this rule, and where they find the funds are too low they will advise the company to look for ways to raise it. Often, auto insurance companies realize the dangerously low level of their reserves when they conduct their own internal audits. Under such circumstances, the insurer has no alternative but to raise the level of reserves by adjusting the cost of auto insurance.

e. Unusual Weather

Nature can also negatively impact on the cost of insurance. In states that are prone to catastrophic climatic conditions and other freaks of nature, the cost of auto insurance is bound to be high. For example, American states that are to the South and South-East of the country are prone to tornadoes, hurricanes, and hailstorms. Customers in the states that are disadvantaged by nature will pay more auto insurance premiums… and will see rates climb in their markets if insurance carriers have had to make a significant number of payments resulting from recent, unanticipated bad weather.

f. Poor Credit Rating

Insurers have found that poor credit is a leading indicator of people making claims. In fact, 77% of individuals with poor or low credit will invariably make claims. If a carrier discovers your credit rating is low or has declined your rates may go up regardless of your driving history. Some states such as Massachusetts, Hawaii, and California restrict auto insurance providers from using the credit rating to profile customers.

What’s The Best Way to Handle to A Rise in Auto Insurance Premiums?

Even though insurance firms have every legal right to increase auto insurance premiums, there are two things you can do to ease the situation:

a. Seek an Explanation

If you see an unrealistic rise in your cost of auto insurance, call and talk with your independent insurance agent to review your specific situation. Sometimes insurance companies make computing errors as they factor in credit histories. Sometimes there are other computer glitches that fail to give you credit for the discounts you deserve.

Also, remember that not all insurance carriers are the same. What really matters is how you are treated during a claim process. Switching to a “cheaper” carrier to save 15% off the cost of your auto insurance isn’t helpful if they are notorious for bad claims processes.

b. Hunt for the Best Deal

Remember that your independent insurance agency is able to shop around to compare the auto insurance costs offered by different insurance carriers for packages that are similar. They may be able to help you find a better deal for your particular situation.

c. Adjust Your Policy

You may have coverages on your vehicle that you are paying extra for that may no longer be needed. For example, some policies have added riders in case you are underwater in your vehicle. (In case it is worth less than you paid for it.) But if your car isn’t underwater, you needn’t pay for that protection. Likewise, if your finances can afford a larger deductible, this can reduce your costs. Finally, if you are driving your car less than before, or if the car is no longer being used for a long commute into the city, all of these elements can be taken into consideration by your carrier when determining your rates.

d. Always Talk With Us

We’re here for you to serve your auto insurance needs. Our team of highly skilled insurance professionals is here to help you get the right insurance for your needs and budget. If you ever have questions about your policy or need money saving tips, let us know. We love helping our clients!

Do You Need Disability Insurance?

Imagine for a minute that you run quite a bit as a part of your daily routine. You think you’re healthy. Because you value your time and independence you are self-employed. You’ve bought life insurance and health insurance but have never considered disability insurance…

You turn another year older and are suddenly diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a condition which is often called Lou Gehrig’s disease and eventually leads to paralysis. Some of the common symptoms of ALS include difficulty in performing daily activities and walking, tripping and then falling, hand weakness, clumsiness, trouble in swallowing, slurred speech, weakness in the ankles, feet, and/or legs, twitching of tongue, shoulders, and arms, muscle cramps, difficulty in holding the head up, difficulty in maintaining a healthy posture, etc.

What would you do? How would you cope?

Many individuals are offered a long-term disability benefit by their employer. But if self-employed, you may not have given much thought to this important coverage. Likewise, even if an employer offers a disability insurance program, sometimes the best benefits are achieved by purchasing a disability insurance policy of your own.

One advantage of this strategy is that you remain properly covered even after leaving a job. Buying a policy early in life is a good decision as older people usually pay bigger premiums for coverage. Another advantage of buying disability insurance is that if you ever need to submit a claim, all benefits earned through the policy will be tax-free.

It’s important to remember that once you are over 50, you may spend up to around 4% of your annual income for coverage. For instance, if you are a 50-year-old individual and have an annual income of $100,000, you could end up paying $4,000+ per year.

But for many, this is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that their income will be protected in case of a disability.

And like other forms of insurance, the best strategy is to talk with your insurance advisor for tips on how to address this topic.

Your Credit and Home Insurance Costs

Poor credit report does not just affect just what you’ll pay on your home loan. It can cost you thousands of bucks in higher home insurance coverage sets you back too, inning accordance with a brand-new research.

In fact, house owners with “bad,” or below-average, credit history have to pay 114% more in costs than somebody with “excellent” credit score.

In some states, that gap can be much larger. In Arizona, for instance, an inadequate rating could force house owners to pay yearly premiums over of $2,820 a year, a 268% rise over typical prices of $765 in the state. In Oklahoma, a property owner with poor credit rating might have to pay 248% even more, or nearly $6,200 each year.

Your credit-based insurance rating is based upon a selection of consider your credit history, and is used by insurance companies to assist set rates. This score helps them “predict exactly how typically you are most likely to file claims, and/or exactly how pricey those insurance claims will be,” notes the American Insurance coverage Organization.

Sadly customers do not usually have accessibility to this sort of credit rating, as they perform with ones made use of by banks to figure out whether an individual can be provided a bank card. A lot of charge card loan providers allow you see your month-to-month FICO rating, given by one of the big 3 debt ranking companies, along with information concerning exactly what’s triggering your FICO to rise or done. Nothing like that exists for home insurance coverage.

Yet also having just “fair,” or typical, credit report can set you back. The typical homeowner with reasonable credit report invests 36% greater than a debtor with outstanding credit.In Indiana, that can bring about paying yearly premiums of greater than $1,500, instead of the state standard of $944. Nonetheless, there’s almost no distinction between property owners with reasonable as well as outstanding credit scores in North Carolina.

5 Key Actions in Case of a Ransomware Attack

Imagine this: you are seated at home working on your computer, either answering your email or polishing a work related presentation. Suddenly, a message blinks on your screen. The message curtly demands that you send cash to a certain destination, failure to which you will be unable to access any of the documents stored on your computer. You also discover that your keyboard has become unresponsive. Logically, you decide to restart the computer. The screen comes right back on, but to your shock, you are still unable to access any of your files and folders. It dawns on you that your data has been remotely locked via a device on your network, and that no matter how much you try you cannot access it.

The above scenario clearly illustrates what happens in a typical ransomware assault. This has become an acute problem globally, with the WannaCry attack being the latest ransomware attack to affect the largest number of individuals on a worldwide scale. The victims are usually at a loss on what to do.

You can use a ransomware attack as a learning point, and consequently take measures to enhance your protection against similar attacks in the future. Here are five steps that you can take if you have been a victim:

1. Do not pay the Ransom Money

Internet security experts advise that it would be a disastrous mistake to pay off the aggressors. For one, it is an indicator that you have given up control of the situation to the attacker, and that you trust they will amicably resolve the situation. Honestly, this never happens. The aggressor is only interested in ripping you off. Once you pay the ransom, it is unlikely that they will unlock your documents. If in the unlikely event they do, be certain that they will see you as soft victim and mark you for repeated blackmail attacks. Giving in to the attackers’ demands also gives them the impetus to continue perpetrating further attacks on more victims.

Christopher Budd, a security supervisor for the electronics security firm Trend Micro, emphasized the above point in a business article he wrote last July. In the article, he advised victims of ransomware attack not to pay, but to keep in mind that they are handling bad guys. He reiterated that giving in would not guarantee that, as a victim, you would get back all your documents. It would only help the criminals perpetuate this criminal activity. As a worldwide communications threats expert, Christopher Budd definitely understands the pitfalls of giving in to the aggressors.

2. Use a Backup to Reinstall Your Files

Using a computer back up system comes with numerous advantages. Many people use computer backups to access their data in case the computer breaks down. In the same way, the backup will come in handy in case you fall prey to ransomware attacks. You will be able reinstall all your files and folders from the backup system, without having to refer to the aggressors. For this to be effective, ensure that you have set your system to automatically backup all the data that you handle via the computer. Once the backup system is well set, it will operate automatically and you do not have to keep thinking about it; unless something happens and you need to access the data.

3. Update Your OS and Anti-virus

It is important that you regularly update your OS and anti-virus with the latest versions. Microsoft is quite aggressive in addressing security concerns. Actually, the latest update of Microsoft’s Window 10 is fully secure against WannaCry -the latest global ransomware assault. There are several firms and individuals, however, who still use earlier versions of windows, or do not activate automatic updates on the later versions. These firms and individuals would not be protected in case an attack is imminent.

4. Engage the Services of Your IT Division or an Anti-Virus Firm.

The personnel in the IT department of your company may have the technical expertise to recover your data in case your computers are attacked. Inform them immediately you notice the problem, and allow them to try and salvage the situation. Conversely, you may opt to ask anti-virus companies to assist. There are some anti-virus software that could help, but do not peg most of your hopes on this.

5. Reformat Your Hard disk

This is a tough decision to make, because it means you will lose all your data. However, it is a good move compared to the alternative of giving in to the aggressors. So, if all the other solutions are not tenable, go ahead and reformat your hard disk and reinstall the OS. Take the entire ordeal of the attack as a lesson well learnt, and ensure to back up your data once you are back in business.

Importance of Identity Theft Protection

Of course, these kinds of attacks indicate that your computer has been violated. Attackers may have gotten access to important information from your system, in addition to holding it hostage. Just as it is important to protect your computers and devices with operating system updates and anti-virus / anti-malware software, it’s also important to protect your identity. Many carriers offer identity theft insurance endorsements on homeowners or renters insurance policies. Some also offer stand-alone identity theft protection options. If you are concerned about the financial implications of having your identity stolen, be sure to check with us for advice on your best options.

Controlling Auto Insurance Costs

Does it feel like automobile insurance rates just keep increasing? It is part of a national trend. Blame increased accidents resulting from distracted driving.

But there are some ways you can save on your policy:

  • If you are a student, you can save as much as 25% with good grades. It pays to strive for those A’s!
  • Higher deductibles can also help reduce your insurance premium costs. Just be careful about leaving yourself with too much exposure. (Your deductible should be something you can afford to pay.)
  • If you are over 50 you may be able to take defensive driving courses. These could qualify you for savings up to 10% per year depending on your insurance policy.
  • If you own a paid off older vehicle, it may make sense to drop coverage for collisions… but only if the car’s value is less than 10x the insurance premium.
  • If you are driving less than 7,500 miles a year, your costs may also go down since you are limiting your exposure by driving less.

Be sure to review your situation regularly with your insurance agent as life changes can also have an impact on your rates.

For example, in some states, an improving credit score can help reduce your insurance premiums.

Another life change that can have a positive impact is becoming a homeowner. If you own a home, be sure to talk with your agent about bundling. Combining auto and home policies with one carrier can offer savings. (Versus placing the home and auto policies with different carriers.)

And remember, your independent insurance agent is able to shop between multiple carriers to help you find the best rate for your specific situation. They can help you evaluate your risk profile to make sure you have the exact insurance coverage you need for your situation.

Automobile insurance rates are on the way up because of distracted driving…

More drivers are taking their eyes off the road. They are being distracted by mobile devices and it is resulting in more accidents. Worse, it’s inflating your costs for coverage as well.

In fact, a state-by-state evaluation has uncovered that rates have been increasing for the last 5 years.

There are a few factors that influence rates going up…

  • More people are driving.
  • Cars are more expensive to repair.
  • Texting while driving has become the largest cause of accidents…

(The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined distracted-driving deaths increased 9 percent in 2015 alone!)

Of course insurance companies have to bill more because of the increase in insurance claims… in some cases with rates increasing by hundreds over the span of a few years.

You can help reduce accidents by putting down your cell phone while in your car. But if you’re having a hard time separating yourself from your cell phone… you aren’t alone.

You see, it’s all about dopamine. Each time an Email or Text is responded to, it gives a feeling of satisfaction and creates a need to do more. The result? It’s difficult to stop checking cell phones for texts and Email.

And with their flashing and beeping and icons indicating there are unread messages, it all adds to the addictive effect. It’s a combination of classic conditioning and dopamine responses that make you feel like you’re addicted.

There is hope that technologies being introduced into vehicles will help to curb distracted driving. But for now, the best practice is simply to leave your device alone while driving… no matter how hard it might be.

Credit insurance scores poorly…

Many kinds of credit lines and installment loans offer credit insurance. These products are designed to “protect” an individual’s credit score by covering installment payments in case of certain qualifying situations.

Sadly these tend to be overpriced according to recent research. A study covering 2004 through 2013 demonstrated that 44.4 cents in benefits were paid for each dollar spent on such insurance policies. (By comparison, typical health plans offer 84.1 cents in benefits for each dollar spent.

So if the goal is to protect yourself in case you get sick or injured, you might be better off finding other forms of personal protection. (Be sure to check with your financial advisor for options.)

Also bear in mind, having such credit insurance is not a requirement for receiving a loan. It is always an option.

So when you are getting a line of credit, a car loan, or a store credit card, remember than this “insurance” may have a low payment but can be an expensive option when it comes to potential payout.

Also it is important to understand that options are limited. There’s virtually zero competition. Under normal circumstances you’ll be offered insurance from one provider… that’s it. There’s zero choice.

So what are your alternatives to Credit Insurance?

Term life insurance is a great way to protect beneficiaries. In the case of your death, your beneficiaries can leverage the funds to pay off your debts. Of course a life insurance benefit can cover all financial needs whereas credit insurance is limited to only covering that specific loan.

And in case you are injured, disability insurance can be beneficial. As with term life insurance, disability insurance is far more flexible than standard credit insurance.

Get Free Quotes Now

Policy Services