Gold, Silver and Bronze – The Challenge of Insuring Olympic Medals

September 11th, 2008 by Brad C

The athletes have gone home, the cameras are unplugged, and the countdown has begun  until the 2012 Olympics in London.  But for the 302 Gold Medal winners, life will never be the same.  Even though the medal is really mostly silver and Michael Phelps Will Insure His Eight Olympic Gold Medalsonly about six percent gold, it’s the most important medal of their lives.  So the next question is – How to protect it and insure it?

 

Lloyd’s of London tackled that question on their website.  Although the actual cost of the medals may not be as high as one might think, the sentimental value is enormous.  Things like that can be insured at whatever value the owner and insurance company agree on, especially since it may be impossible to actually replace the medal.

The value of the medals is also affected by geography and sport.  While Morten Joergensen’s gold medal for rowing is huge in Denmark, its value in the US is much less.  But just think what one of Michael Phelps’ gold medals would go for on eBay?

The bottom line is this – Olympic medals represent the crowning achievement of a lifetime devoted to training and the pursuit of excellence, which makes them absolutely priceless.

By the way, if you’ve never seen an Olympic medal, visit the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago.  Several of the gold, silver and bronze medals won by swimmer Matt Biondi in the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympics are on display there, and they are amazing to behold.

Listen to Gold, Silver and Bronze – The Challenge of Insuring Olympic Medals
Listen to Gold, Silver and Bronze – The Challenge of Insuring Olympic Medals

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Employee Health Care Costs Rising Again in 2008

September 26th, 2007 by Brad C

Employers will be digging deeper next year to fund employee health care.  According to Tower Perrin’s annual Health Care Cost Survey, rates are expected to grow about 7% or $577, to an average cost of $9312 per employee.  Though most of the companies surveyed were primarily Fortune 1000 members, the implications affect small business health insurance costs as well.

Employers subsidize 78% of premium costs while employees pay 22% plus the co-pays, deductibles and coinsurance costs.  Expected 2008 co-pays should be about $20 for a regular doctor visit and $30 for a specialist.  Prescriptions average $10 for generics or $25 for brand-name drugs.

Overall, however, as benefit values decrease and out-of-pocket costs increase, though the premium cost share remains the same, employees will spend about $156 more next year for the same health insurance services. 

Fewer companies (only 47%) are subsidizing retiree medical coverage, and they are asking retirees to increase their contribution to the cost.  Most retirees will be asked to increase their share approximately 8%, making their portion 50% of the overall cost.  Experts forecast this shift in supporting active employees at a greater level to result in older workers remaining in the work force to receive employer-subsidized health care.

Some companies are experiencing much smaller increases in their health care costs because they have actively taken steps to control many of the factors involved in calculating premiums.  These companies are called “high performers” by Towers Perrin, and mirroring their actions can benefit any company, whether you have a Fortune 100 giant or a Mom & Pop shop.  Tomorrow we’ll discuss the changes made by “high performers” that can reduce quotes for both large and small business health insurance policies.

Listen to Employee Health Care Costs Rising Again in 2008
Listen to Employee Health Care Costs Rising Again in 2008

Posted in Insurance, Small Business Insurance | No Comments »

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare $650 Million?

September 25th, 2007 by Jeannine C

That’s what Washington residents will be asking, if a motion to repeal Referendum 67 fails in November. 

Originally passed into law by the state legislature without going to voters, Referendum 67 allows consumers to collect triple damages if an insurer is found to have unreasonably denied a claim or to have violated unfair practice rules.  That so significantly increases the risk to issue insurance policies in Washington that premiums are expected to rise up to $650 million dollars.

Supporters claim that R-67 helps consumers by severely penalizing Washington insurance companies that fail to treat everyone fairly and equally.  Opponents are concerned that the law will result in frivolous lawsuits, resulting in higher insurance rates for everyone, which has happened in the five other states which have similar laws.

Honestly, how many people do you know who were happy with an insurance settlement from an incident, or think they received a great rate?  I know I wasn’t happy with the check I received after a woman rear-ended my car at a stoplight.  Suing could only have been marginally better, so it wasn’t worth the effort.  But if I could have received triple the payout, who knows?  I might have considered it. 

Bottom line – it seems as if the only ones who will benefit from this law are the trial lawyers. 

Listen to Hey Buddy, Can You Spare $650 Million?
Listen to Hey Buddy, Can You Spare $650 Million?

Posted in Insurance, Insurance Information by State | 3 Comments »

Is Your Fire Department a “10″?

September 23rd, 2007 by Brad C

One factor which affects your home insurance rates is the quality of your local fire department.  The Insurance Services Office (ISO) assigns each fire district a Public Protection Classification rank on a scale of 1 to 10.  A Class 1 rank is the best there is, while a Class 10 means local protection doesn’t even meet minimum criteria.

This matters to you because it will directly determine the quote your home insurance company offers for coverage.  Insurance rates are all about risk, and having a great fire department means that if there’s an incident, the fire could be put out quickly, thus minimizing damage and consequently risk. 

There are three primary factors involved in rating each fire district.

  • The local communication system – things like fire alarms, telephone systems, staffing and dispatching, basically how fast can the people who need to know find out about a fire.  This represents 10% of the total classification.
  • Fire department resources, such as equipment, training, staffing, and the location of each company in relation to concentrations of population, homes and buildings to determine the potential quality of the initial response.  This factor, which accounts for 50% of the rating, looks at specific things like pumping capacity and the equipment on each fire vehicle within each engine company.
  • The condition and maintenance of the water supply system.  Representing 40% of the analysis, this factor involves hydrant size, type, installation and condition.

Very few fire protection districts are awarded Class 1 distinction.  Most fall within Classes 4 to 8, with the majority at Class 6.  To see how the fire departments in your state have ranked, visit the ISO website and select your state.  I checked out Colorado, and found as a state we’re pretty average.

As a homeowner, if you live in an area with an average rating or less, make sure your homeowners insurance company knows that you are doing what you can to reduce the risk of a fire.  Install smoke detectors on every floor, keep a fire extinguisher in your home, and keep your property clean and well maintained.  These are some of the easiest ways to save money on home insurance.  If a vote comes up to increase taxes for the fire department, consider it carefully. Wouldn’t it be better to spend the money on local firefighters than on higher home insurance rates?

Listen to Is Your Fire Department a “10″?
Listen to Is Your Fire Department a “10″?

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South Carolina Home Insurance

September 21st, 2007 by Jeannine C

South Carolina residents should be very proud of their insurance commission.  In June new laws were passed concerning notification of non-renewal of South Carolina home insurance policies, which can be a huge issue for residents.  Since South Carolina is so vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms, not having home insurance is a risk no one can afford to take!

The new law increased the amount of notice that South Carolina home insurance companies must give announcing they are not renewing a policy.  Now a 60-day notice is required for policies which will expire from November 1 – May 31, and 90 days for policies ending June 1 – October 31.  The previous law required only a 30-day notice, regardless of the time of year, which left some homeowners high and dry during hurricane season.

South Carolina home owner insurance providers must also give the reason they are choosing not to renew a policy holder’s coverage, though almost any reason is acceptable.  The only exception is using your claims history as the cause, if all your claims were the result of Acts of God, such as storms.

Of course non-payment is a huge reason for immediate cancellation, which is permitted in South Carolina with just a 10-day notice.

Though South Carolina home owner insurance rates have been climbing steadily for the past few years, and are forecast to continue doing so, there are many ways to save money on home insurance.  We have included several money saving insurance tips in our article on South Carolina home insurance.

Listen to South Carolina Home Insurance
Listen to South Carolina Home Insurance

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Ten Tips to Thwart Car Thieves

September 18th, 2007 by Brad C

As someone who’s had a car stolen, I know just how terrible that can be.  Mine was stolen from the parking lot of a repair shop – it was an older car, easy to hotwire.  Fortunately, the gas gauge was broken, the thief ran out of gas, and left my car on the side of the road about 600 miles away.  I was one of the lucky ones – most cars are never recovered.  I didn’t want to have that kind of a claim against my comprehensive auto insurance either!

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) recommends a layered approach to protecting your car from thieves.  Here are some ways to discourage thieves from helping themselves to your car.

1.  Don’t leave your keys in the ignition.  Surprisingly, many people will do this, thinking that they’ll only be gone for a minute, but a minute is all it takes a professional to steal your car.

2.  If you are parking in a parking lot, park under the light.  That increases the risk of a thief being seen while forcing their way into your car, and could encourage them to go after another target.

3.  Close your windows and lock your doors, even if the car is parked in your driveway.  Even if you live in a safe neighborhood, this could lull you into a false sense of security and make your careless.  Thieves count on that.

4.  If you have a garage, use it and lock it!  If you don’t have a garage, park front end first for a front-wheel drive car, and back in if you have a rear-wheel drive car.

5.  Always turn your wheels to the side and set the emergency brake; it will make your car harder to tow if that’s the thief’s plan.

6.  Don’t hide a spare key in the vehicle – the thieves know all the places to look to find it.

7.  Consider spending a few dollars on some vehicle protection items, like an ignition kill switch which is spliced in your ignition and disables the vehicle.  Hood locks will prevent access to engine parts, and a steering wheel lock won’t let anyone turn that wheel their way.

8.  Vehicle alarms do work.  Thieves do not like lots of noise drawing attention to them in the act.  Just remember to learn how to work your alarm system so you won’t wake up the neighbors at 2 a.m.

9.  VIN etching involves permanently etching the vehicle identification number onto the car’s windows and windshield.  Before a thief could sell the car, he would have to replace everything, which just wouldn’t be worth it when there are easier vehicles all around.

10.  Go the whole route and install a Vehicle Tracking Device, something like ADT Auto or On-Star into your vehicle.  That way if it’s lost or stolen it can be instantly tracked and even disabled, literally stopping the thief in his tracks.

Things like VIN etching and Vehicle Tracking Devices can actually lower your auto insurance rates.  Make sure to ask if a discount is available when you are comparing car insurance quotes. 

It only takes a few minutes to do many of these things, yet they can make the difference between driving your car home or having to file a police report.  Taking the time to protect yourself is always worth it in the long run.

Listen to Ten Tips to Thwart Car Thieves
Listen to Ten Tips to Thwart Car Thieves

Posted in Auto Insurance, Insurance | 1 Comment »

Time for a Life Insurance Check-up

September 16th, 2007 by Jeannine C

If you purchased a term life insurance policy ten or fifteen years ago, it may be time to revisit that decision.  Just think how many changes there have been in your life during that time – do you think that your family would still have what they would need financially in case you’re not there anymore?

Here are some questions to consider.

Housing – Have you moved or refinanced?  If you have, perhaps the mortgage is now larger and would require a higher pay off amount.  Even if you hadn’t planned on your spouse paying off the house, make sure you have enough set aside to cover at least a few months of mortgage payments during the difficult transition period.

Children – Is there a new member of your family, that wasn’t there when you originally purchased your term life insurance plan?  Then you must plan for that child’s expenses, allowing for everything from braces to college.  In fact, allow enough for tuition increases that many years down the road. 

Health – Has your health improved since you originally bought the life insurance policy?
Perhaps you lowered your weight, quit smoking, or dropped your cholesterol.  It is quite possible that a new term life policy for the remainder of the original period could have a lower premium than the original policy. 

Time – One of the best advantages of the internet is the ease it brings to shopping for term life insurance.  There’s so much competition in the industry that dozens of companies are lined up to give you a free life insurance quote.  The only thing it will cost you is a few minutes of your time to see if the term life insurance quote you originally received is still your best deal.

There’s no time like the present to check your term life insurance rates now!

Listen to Time for a Life Insurance Check-up
Listen to Time for a Life Insurance Check-up

Posted in Insurance, Life Insurance | 1 Comment »

Colorado Auto Insurance

September 15th, 2007 by Brad C

With Colorado’s winding mountain roads and super fast highways, having auto insurance is a must, even if it wasn’t required by state law.  The minimums for Colorado auto liability insurance are $25,000 for bodily injury for an individual and $50,000 per accident, plus $15,000 for property damage liability.  Colorado also allows a single limit liability policy of $65,000.

Colorado once ranked highest in the nation for the number of uninsured motorists on the road; now a computerized system available to police has helped to improve that ranking, but uninsured motorist coverage is still strongly recommended.  The state changed the laws on medical coverage in 2003, requiring each individual to initially pay for their own medical bills, so most people carry at least $25,000 in medical payments coverage as well.  (If you have health insurance, this will usually pay for initial treatment, but check with your health insurance provider.)

Adults over 55 enjoy a great break on Colorado senior auto insurance because the state requires insurance providers to give a discount to anyone completing a DMV approved driving course, such as the ones taught by AARP.  The discount is good for three years.

Make sure to pay your insurance premiums on time if you live in Colorado as there’s no grace period for late payments.  Non-payment is also one of the few approved reasons for cancellation of a Colorado auto insurance policy.

There are many factors which affect the quotes you’ll receive for car insurance in Colorado, plus a bunch of ways to save money on your policy.  Make sure you know them all before you start shopping for auto insurance in Colorado.

Listen to Colorado Auto Insurance
Listen to Colorado Auto Insurance

Posted in Auto Insurance, Insurance, Insurance Information by State | No Comments »

Residential Fires on the Rise – Ways to Keep Your Family Safe and Lower Your Home Insurance Rates Too

September 13th, 2007 by Jeannine C

The National Fire Protection Association just released final data on residential fires for 2006, and the total showed an increase of 4.2% over 2005.  The good news is that deaths due to fires were down 11.7%, just 3245 in 1.6 million fires, which is the lowest amount since the NFPA began recording totals in 1977. The scary part is that the financial loss from these fires was $6.9 billion dollars – just one more reason for having home insurance.

Every 76 seconds a residential fire occurs somewhere in the US.   By doing everything you can to avoid becoming a statistic, you’ll not only protect your family, but you can lower your home insurance rates as well. 

The first thing to do is install working smoke detectors on each floor of your home, including the basement.  Make sure that you change the batteries every six months and test each regularly to confirm they are working properly. 

Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.  In fact, it would be great to have one on each floor, and make sure that each member of the family knows how to use it.  We actually received a fire extinguisher as a wedding shower gift along with a card that our friend wanted to make sure we were always safe.  I thought that was a terrific idea.

Develop a fire escape plan so that each family member knows how to get outside the house quickly in case of emergency.  If you have a multi-story home, determine a way for those with bedrooms upstairs to escape in case the stairway is blocked.  Place stickers on the window identifying each bedroom and the number of children inside.  In fact you can even get stickers announcing pets in the family too.

When you apply for homeowners insurance, each insurance company will ask whether you have smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher, and give you a discount for doing so.  They’ll also ask how far your home is from the nearest fire hydrant and fire station.  By the way, these are just a few ideas for saving money on home insurance.

The most expensive, but safest way to protect your home is having a monitored service, which ties into your alarm system and notifies the fire department if an alarm goes off.  Unfortunately some home insurance companies do not offer much of a discount for this type of service, but make sure to ask about it anyway as you obtain home insurance quotes.

Listen to Residential Fires on the Rise – Ways to Keep Your Family Safe and Lower Your Home Insurance Rates Too
Listen to Residential Fires on the Rise – Ways to Keep Your Family Safe and Lower Your Home Insurance Rates Too

Posted in Home Insurance, Insurance | No Comments »

Planning for Retirement? Plan for Health Insurance too

September 12th, 2007 by Jeannine C

We all know that health insurance isn’t cheap, and that your rates are based in part on your medical history and risk.  That’s why the older you get, the more your health insurance costs.  Very few companies offer health care coverage as part of their retirement plans either.  So as you financially plan for retirement, the cost of health insurance must be considered.

One thing I’ve learned from my mother is that Medicare doesn’t cover everything.  In fact, The Washington Post recently noted that usually Medicare only pays 51% of medical costs, and coverage doesn’t start until you turn 65.  Medicare Part A covers hospitalization; this coverage is what you’ve been paying for during your working career, so there’s no charge for it.  Medicare Part B, which covers non-hospital expenses, runs anywhere from $93.50 to $161.40 a month, based on current income.  Medicare also has deductibles and no cap on out-of-pocket expenses.

My mom chose to purchase Medigap coverage, which helps to cover Medicare’s shortfalls and is available through many health insurance companies.  There are 12 standard policies to choose from, so you only need to compare prices, but even then there’s enough range that you still must shop.  “We still see enough of a difference that it’s worth checking out different insurers through different agents to find the best cost policy,” said Donna O’Rourke, senior health analyst for TheStreet.com.  She sited an example of one plan which was quoted with an $1100 difference between two different companies.

Bottom line – as you plan for retirement, include the cost of a monthly health insurance premium in your budget.  And no matter what age you are, it’s always important to shop for health insurance, comparing the quotes from several different health insurance companies to find the best price.

Listen to Planning for Retirement? Plan for Health Insurance too
Listen to Planning for Retirement? Plan for Health Insurance too

Posted in Health Insurance, Insurance | No Comments »

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