I hear this question fairly frequently: Why does my auto insurance go up when I haven't had any accident, any claims or tickets and when my cars are getting older and worth less. I came across the piece below from Safeco that helped illustrate some of the reasoning behind rising auto insurance premiums over the past few years so I thought I would share it.
The Ultimate Guide to Fire Extinguishers By: Abby Badach | August 3, 2016 After a close call in my apartment–who knew olive oil is bad for high-heat cooking? – it dawned on me that I had never used a fire extinguisher. I’m no fire chief, but learning on the fly while your smoke detector is blaring seems like the wrong time to figure that out.
Fortunately, I removed my smoking pan from the heat before anything could ignite—but the experience left me reeling.
Don’t wait until the heat of the moment to wonder about fire extinguishers. Here’s what smart homeowners (and renters) need to know.
Do I need a fire extinguisher?
Short answer: Yes.
It’s a good idea to have at least one, although many experts, like the National Fire Protection Association, recommend having a fire extinguisher on each floor. Place yours near an exit, in an easy-to-grab spot.
A fire extinguisher can make a big difference in an emergency, but it can’t replace your most important safety tools: working smoke alarms and a fire escape plan.
What if I rent?
If you rent, your landlord is typically responsible for providing smoke detectors in each unit – but not necessarily fire extinguishers. That depends on your state and local fire codes, so ask your landlord to be sure. If you end up buying one, it generally won’t break the bank. Fire extinguishers typically run from $20 to $70, depending on the type.
Types of fire extinguishers
Not all fires are the same, and neither are fire extinguishers. The letters A, B and C on the label refer to the types of fire the extinguisher is capable of putting out.
Typically, fire extinguishers are sold in 2-pound, 5-pound or 10-pound canisters. Larger sizes pack more punch, but choose a size that you can lift easily. If it’s too heavy, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
How to use a fire extinguisher
First things first: If there’s a fire of any size in your home, call 911. Remember that fire spreads rapidly – even if you end up extinguishing the fire yourself, it’s a good idea to have the pros on the way to check your work.
If you do need to use your extinguisher, the National Fire Protection Association uses the handy acronym PASS:
If you’d prefer a hands-on learning experience, call your local fire department. Most offer training on how to use a fire extinguisher.
When to replace a fire extinguisher
Fire extinguishers don’t last forever. All models can lose pressure over time. Depending on the model, they last between 5 and 15 years – even if no expiration date is listed.
To make sure your fire extinguisher is in good working order, check the pressure gauge monthly. If it’s in the green, it’s functional. If it’s in the yellow or red, it will need refilled or serviced. Replace yours ASAP if you notice any of these things:
Recently, CrestPoint Health announced that they will discontinue offering Medicare Advantage plans starting June 1, 2016 http://yourcrestpointhealth.com/. In case you have not seen this announcement we wanted to make you aware of it and if this change impacts you, please feel free to contact us to see if we can help you find a different Medicare Advantage or Supplement Plan that meets your needs.
What if I end up in a black ice skid?
There are ways to recover, and they depend on the kind of car you drive.
Front-wheel drive means that only the front two wheels are powered by the engine. This makes these vehicles better in harsh weather conditions than rear-wheel drive vehicles. That said, they are still vulnerable to skids. If you find yourself in a skid in a front-wheel drive car, turn the steering wheel into the skid. If the skid reverses, change the direction of your steering wheel to follow the skid. Allow the wheels to maintain their speed—don’t apply the brakes or the accelerator. If your vehicle has a manual transmission, push the clutch. Your car will begin to gain traction as the wheels’ speed catches up to the car. Remember, you may need to make several wheel corrections before the car gains traction.
Rear-wheel drive cars require the front wheels to steer while the rear wheels push the vehicle. This benefits braking and acceleration, but they are more prone to skids than front-wheel drive cars. However, recovering from a skid in a rear-wheel drive car is often easier than it is with a front-wheel drive car. If you find yourself in a skid in a rear-wheel drive car, steer in the direction you want to go. This may mean a counter-steer if the back of your vehicle swerves away from this direction. Be gentle with the wheel as an overcorrection could send your vehicle’s back end in the opposite direction. Once you straighten out your vehicle, apply gentle pressure to the accelerator until your car’s engine speed matches the road speed.
All-wheel drive without antilock brakes
All-wheel or four-wheel drive cars provide the best balance and are the most resistant to skids. Many people, however, mistakenly believe that they are impervious to skids. A patch of black ice can still cause an all-wheel drive vehicle to skid. If you have an all-wheel drive vehicle without antilock brakes, resist slamming the brakes when you start to skid. This is especially important with all-wheel drive vehicles because you are cutting power to all four wheels, making the vehicle operate like a front or rear-wheel drive vehicle. Instead, give the brakes a repeated light tap (known as pumping the brakes) while steering the wheel with simple, precise movements until you navigate yourself out of the skid.
Anti-lock brakes (applies to front-, rear- and all-wheel drive vehicles) Anti-lock brakes (ABS) offer better control and decrease the distance needed to stop your car. They are designed to prevent skidding. It’s important to brake normally if your car has anti-lock brakes. Don’t pump your brakes; the car automatically does that for you.
In many parts of the country, driving through wind and snow is just a part of your average winter. However, it’s not every day that you get caught driving in a whiteout. Drivers are often caught off guard when snow is being blown across roadways and visibility becomes virtually nonexistent. If weather conditions are bad enough, make an executive decision to stay home. However, if you absolutely have to go out— or conditions aren’t quite bad enough to warrant staying home—follow these tips when driving in a white out.
1. Slow down: Speed limits are set for summer conditions, when snow and ice aren't an issue. If you're driving in a whiteout, drive slowly. Also periodically check your speedometer—without visual cues passing by, it's easy to speed up without realizing it after a while. 2. Avoid abrupt acceleration, braking and steering: Drive cautiously and gently to avoid slipping and sliding on the road. Also avoid jerking the wheel—overcorrections could put you in a tailspin. Instead, smoothly guide your car where you want it to go.
3. Don’t tailgate: This is important at any time, but especially when you’re driving in a whiteout. Leave more room than you normally would between your car and the car in front of you.
4. Avoid changing lanes or passing other drivers: Reduced visibility makes it hard to see when someone else has the same idea.
5. Avoid using cruise control: Tapping the brakes to turn off cruise control can cause your tires to lose traction. If you need to slow down, take your foot off the accelerator and let your car slow down gradually.
6. Look beyond the car in front of you: It’s easy to lock your gaze to the taillights in front of you. It’s a better bet to keep your gaze further ahead.
7. Put your fog lights or low beams on: Low beams are a better choice than high beams since there’s less bounce back from ice particles in the air.
8. Defrost your windows: Activate the defroster for the front and rear windows. It’s best not to press the recirculate button—doing so tends to make your windows fog up more due to the increased moisture in the air.
9. Reduce distractions: Beyond obvious ones like refraining from texting while driving, you might consider turning off the radio, refrain from eating or smoking, and putting any conversations on hiatus so you can really focus on the road. (The one exception: Tuning into weather reports.)
10. Be prepared to reroute: If a weather report says a certain area is closed off or backed up, reroute your course. The announcer often will give an alternative route.
11. Watch out for black ice: It’s extremely slippery and dangerous—so make sure you know how to spot it and how to handle driving on it.
12. Pull over: If conditions are bad enough that you can’t see the roads, put on your four-way flashers and park in a safe place off the road. Avoid going to the side of the road unless it’s an absolute emergency, as this can create a dangerous situation for you and other drivers. - See more at:
Erie Insurance recently issues comments on Drone Coverage on their Homeowners policy (please remember each insurance company may view this coverage differently therefore please consult your individual policy). Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), better known as “drones”, are becoming increasingly popular with an estimated 1 million being sold in the United States this holiday season alone. The Federal Aviation Administration recently announced a requirementthat most drones be registered and numbered for identification.
To help you answer Customer inquiries and provide guidance, rest assured ERIE has historically provided property and liability coverage to homeowners flying model airplanes through an exception to the aircraft definition in the policy jacket. SinceERIE considers a drone to be a model airplane, a Customer operating a recreational drone is afforded protection. Our personal catastrophe liability (PCL) policy alsoextends excess liability protection for model airplanes (aka drones).
Please keep in mind that Bodily injury, property damage or personal injury arising out of business pursuits of anyone we protect is excluded by policy language; so commercial use of a drone (photography business, surveying, etc.) would not be covered under personal insurance.
Trees can be tricky, but for the most part homeowners are responsible for what falls into their own yard. So if your neighbor’s tree falls in your yard, your homeowners insurance would typically help cover the cost of removing the tree and remedying the damage it caused, after your deductible. The same is true in reverse: If a tree on your property falls in your neighbor’s yard, your neighbor should file a claim with his or her insurance company. In most cases, neighbors are able to work things out without too much trouble. If there’s ever an issue, you can rely on your claims adjuster to help straighten everything out. The claims process If a tree falls on your house, make sure to take some photos. Then call your claims adjuster, who will evaluate the damage and explain how your homeowners coverage comes into play. It’s recommended that you call your claims adjuster before you contract to have the tree removed. Sometimes trees fall on cars. If it’s not safe or possible to remove the tree from the car yourself, you should call a professional to remove it. (Again, talk to a claims adjuster first and take a few photos of the fallen tree on your car.) Depending on the damage, both your homeowners and the optional comprehensive coverage you may have under your auto policy could provide coverage for the loss. Preventing tree damage Preventive measures matter when it comes to trees. Start by looking for signs of distress such as dead limbs, cracks in the trunk or major limbs, leaning to one side and branches that are close to a house or power line. Mushroom growth on the roots or bark can also signal trouble. “A homeowner should be concerned about the health of their trees,” says Gary Sullivan, vice president of Property and Subrogation Claims at ERIE. “The best thing to do is to regularly have large trees trimmed.” (The Tree Care Industry Association lists accredited tree care professionals.) To learn more and to ensure you have the right coverage for your home, contact an Erie Insurance Agent in your community. - See more at: https://www.erieinsurance.com/blog/2014/neighbors-tree-falls-in#sthash.NLDrwFNv.dpuf
Reviewing a Homeowners insurance policies may be a bit confusing for some but it is essential that you understand the major components of this critical coverage. Don't switch or change insurance based on price alone, make sure you really understand what you are getting in return for your insurance dollar.
Homeowners Policy Overview & Description:
Coverage Example: Amount of Section I - Property Protection Insurance Dwelling $299,500 Other Structures $59,900 Personal Property $224,625 Loss of Use Actual Loss up to 12 months Section II - Liability Protection Personal Liability $300,000 Medical Payments to Others $5,000 Deductible $1,000
This section shows the Coverage Limit you have for the Dwelling or structure itself if a covered loss occurs. We strongly recommend a policy which covers your Dwelling on a Guaranteed Replacement Cost or Replacement Cost Basis. (An ACV or Actual Cash Value policy brings depreciation into the picture and will not provide you with enough coverage to "replace" what was lost). Your home should be insured based on the cost to "replace" it not based upon what you paid for the house or what the current fair market value is. Your concern should be the ability to rebuild your house if it were completely destroyed.
Other Structures (sometimes referred to as Dwelling Extension)
This section shows you the Coverage Limit for other structures separated from the Dwelling such as garages, fences, shelters, tool sheds and carports. This coverage amount is generally calculated by default as a percentage of the Dwelling coverage amount (in the example above 20% - $299,500 x 20% = $59,900)
This section shows you the Coverage Limit for personal property owned by the insured (or anyone the insurance policy protects - family members etc). Please know that this section usually contains Special Limits of Insurance for certain types of property and arising from certain perils. For example - your Personal Property coverage limit would generally not cover a stolen ring with a value of $10,000. Most policies limit theft of jewelry, guns etc to $1,500 or $3,000 per item for theft, misplacing or losing. You should carefully review your policy to see if there may be higher value items that you may need to Schedule (insure the item individually/specifically) for an additional charge.
Loss of Use
This coverage may be shown as a dollar amount or based on a period of time such as 12 or 24 months. This coverage part provides coverage if a Loss makes your residence uninhabitable. The insurance company will pay reasonable additional living expenses while you are forced to reside elsewhere (this may include hotel, apartment, rental house and additional expenses for dining and laundry service since you are not able to do so in your residence)
This sections shows the Coverage Limit for sums the insured may become legally obligated to pay as damages because of Bodily Injury Liability and Property Damage Liability and with come policies Personal Injury Liability caused by an offense committed by the insured. This section also provides the insured with defense (legal fees) coverage related to these liabilities.
Also known as guest medical, this shows the Coverage Limit (without regard to fault or legal liability) for medical expenses as a result of bodily injury for guests as a result of an incident, accident, occurrence. If more expenses are incurred than are provided for in this coverage part then the Personal Liability portion of the policy comes into play.
The amount you/the insured must pay before the insurance company begins paying for a loss. In some cases, when the Dwelling is a total loss the deductible will not apply. In the example above the insured pays the first $1,000 and then the insurance company begins paying.
There are additional coverages, options and endorsements that are very important but beyond the scope of this overview.
Car shopping—do you love it or dread it?
If you’re like most shoppers, you might find wading through all the makes, models, options and pricing a complicated process.
“Buying a new car can be scary, aggravating, expensive, time consuming, confusing—in short, a downright pain,” said Joel Grey, a former car salesperson who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After helping hundreds of people over the past 15 years save money during the car-buying process, Grey condensed all his new car shopping tips into the book called “I Never Wore Plaid: Insider Secrets from a Former Car Salesman.”
If you’re in the market (or just want a few car shopping tips), Grey said that the first thing you should do is to identify what type of buyer you are. Typically, there are three types of car shoppers:
Renting out your home for a short stretch of time is a hot trend.
From sites like airbnb.com and couchsurfing.com to old-fashioned weekly and monthly rentals, there are lots of options for people looking to rent out everything from their entire home to a single bedroom.
In addition to pricing things right, marketing your property and finding good, trustworthy renters, have you thought about what would happen if a guest accidentally caused a fire? Would you be covered if a person slipped and fell in your home or stole personal property from your home?
Unfortunate things can happen. To protect yourself, it’s imperative that you talk with an insurance agent to help ensure that you have the right protection in place for short-term rentals.
Here’s how insurance for short-term home rentals works for some of the most common options.
Airbnb is a website that lets people rent out their homes or apartments. Airbnb has members in virtually every country in the world.
Its listings are equally diverse, with everything from single rooms to castles to tree houses. Airbnb has soared in popularity since debuting in 2008.
If you’re thinking of renting out a room or your entire residence, you should know that Airbnb automatically offers property owners $1,000,000 of property insurance through Lloyd’s of London. So, unless you have an exceptionally expensive home, you should be covered when it comes to your property. Just be aware the coverage excludes cash and securities, collectibles, rare artwork, jewelry and pets. You’ll either want to remove these things from your premises before guests arrive or talk to an insurance agent about separate coverage.
Airbnb does not cover is liability. So if a guest gets hurt on your property, you cannot rely on Airbnb to help out. In this instance, you’ll definitely want to talk to an insurance agent. He or she can alert you to any potential coverage gaps and suggest coverage to bridge them.
Couchsurfing International, Inc. bills itself as the world’s largest travel community. On its site, travelers can browse listings of couches where they can spend the night. The only caveat is that hosts cannot charge travelers.
Since you’re doing this as a goodwill gesture and there is no money exchanged, your homeowners or renters policy should provide coverage. Still, it’s better to be on the safe side by talking with an insurance agent about your situation. This is especially important to do if you plan to couch host often.
Traditional short-term rentals
Perhaps you have an extra home that you live in only part of the year. If so, renting out your home for a few weeks or months can help you generate income to cover the costs of having that extra home.
Insurance coverage for short-term rentals can be tricky since each risk and its circumstances are considered on a one-off basis. Sometimes a homeowner’s policy is enough; other times, a commercial policy is needed. There are so many variables that it is hard to pigeonhole an exact answer about how much or what type of coverage you may need, so definitely contact an insurance agent to discuss your situation.
A final word of warning: Some carriers will not let you maintain your regular homeowners coverage if you extensively rent out your home. That’s why it’s key to discuss your particular situation with an agent to help you purchase the right insurance for short-term home rentals.
Before you remodel a leased space, review your coverage
If you lease an office and make improvements to the space—such as interior remodeling—you need to review your insurance coverage. Generally, if you've installed any after-the-fact alterations, it's up to you, not the property owner or landlord, to insure them.
For example, let's say you've leased space for an auto garage and then install a vehicle lift. The lift may not be covered. If you leased space for your beauty salon or florist shop and install new sinks and counters, you should determine whether you need to insure those items too.
In the insurance industry, we call these changes improvements and betterments. Essentially, it means that you're responsible in a leased space for insuring any alterations you have made, such as flooring, light fixtures, wall coverings, wiring, plumbing, cabinets, shelving or anything else that is attached to the ceiling, walls or floors.
Because these improvements might be essential to your business operations, it's important to understand who has responsibility for replacing them if they become damaged. If you do not update your business property insurance to cover these improvements, you could be underinsured and without the means to fully repair or replace the improvements if a covered loss occurs.
Below is a link to a great article from Dennis Miller related to Long Term Care Insurance. I think Dennis makes some great points worth considering.
Trees can be tricky, but for the most part homeowners are responsible for what falls into their own yard. So if your neighbor’s tree falls in your yard, your homeowners insurance would typically help cover the cost of removing the tree and remedying the damage it caused, after your deductible.
The same is true in reverse: If a tree on your property falls in your neighbor’s yard, your neighbor should file a claim with his or her insurance company.
In most cases, neighbors are able to work things out without too much trouble. If there’s ever an issue, you can rely on your claims adjuster to help straighten everything out.
Preventing tree damage
Preventive measures matter when it comes to trees. Start by looking for signs of distress such as dead limbs, cracks in the trunk or major limbs, leaning to one side and branches that are close to a house or power line. Mushroom growth on the roots or bark can also signal trouble.
“A homeowner should be concerned about the health of their trees,” says Gary Sullivan, vice president of Property and Subrogation Claims at ERIE. “The best thing to do is to regularly have large trees trimmed.” (The Tree Care Industry Association lists accredited tree care
To learn more and to ensure you have the right coverage for your home, contact an Erie Insurance Agent in your community.
Below is an article from Dave Ramsey about Long-Term Care that I think may be very insightful to those of you considering Long-Term Care or wondering when to consider purchasing.
Long-Term Care: Why Age 60?Few people argue about the necessity of long-term care insurance (LTC). Many of us have watched friends or family lose their savings to expensive medical costs, and most of us would much rather pay a monthly premium to protect our retirement nest eggs.
The LTC industry suggests that you’ll pay less if you buy your policy at age 50 instead of waiting until age 60 as Dave recommends. But Dave will never tell you to buy something based on how much the monthly payment is. That’s what broke people do, right?
True Cost ComparisonThe premiums may be cheaper if you buy LTC at age 50. But does that really make it a better deal? Here are the numbers we put together:
The average LTC premium for a healthy 50-year-old man is $1,340 per year. If the policy remains in effect until this person is 95, he will spend $60,300 in LTC premiums. For a healthy 60-year-old, the average premium is $2,170; it will cost him $75,950 to keep the policy until he is 95. So, on the surface, it looks like buying LTC at age 50 is $15,650 cheaper than buying it at age 60.
But what would happen if, instead of buying LTC at age 50, he invested that $1,340 each year until he is 60?
If his investment averages a measly 5% growth per year, he will have $17,412 when he turns 60—that’s all it takes to beat the “savings” on premiums for buying LTC at age 50. If he keeps that money invested until age 95 and never added anything to it, he’d have nearly $100,000 at 5% growth, and that is the low end of how he can expect his 35-year investment to perform.
A Personal DecisionMany people worry that if they wait until age 60 to buy LTC, they will develop a medical condition that will either prevent them from qualifying for coverage or significantly raise their premiums.
Dave suggests waiting until age 60 because you are much less likely to file a claim before that age. Statistically, 90% of LTC claims are filed for people over age 70. But if you have a family history of illness at a young age, or you are losing sleep because you’re worried about getting sick and not being able to afford care, then buy LTC when you can afford it. The peace of mind is worth more than any cash you’ll save on premiums.
Just don’t buy LTC at a young age because you think you’ll save money by doing it. As you can see above, that’s just not true.
If you are considering the purchase of life insurance but are not sure how much you need consider accessing the following link to a third party Life Insurance Needs Calculator.
Bill Loran, CFP® is a partner at CrossStone Insurance & Wealth Management, Inc. and is passionate about providing high quality insurance advice and solutions