A Checklist Every Woman Needs To Fill Out & Understand
The mundane chores of daily life are just that -- boring. They also tend to be "avoided" when at all possible. Sometimes, though, avoidance of an issue will result in added cost or unnecessary difficulty in the future. Unfortunately, insurance is just one of those issues -- sort of a "pay it now or suffer later" item. In the hopes of avoiding the suffer later syndrome, the good folks of Thread MB would like you to review your insurance preparation for year-end 2015 and the beginning of year 2016.
It's simple. Look at the list below, consider the issues, and determine how prepared (or unprepared) you are. Check "yes" next to the items that apply to you in which you feel prepared. Check "no" next to the items that apply of which you feel unprepared and need to look into further and/or further down the road.
Ready...here you go!
a. If you do not have health insurance and agreed to pay a fine at tax time last year, expect that fine to increase 400% this year. It's time to call your state or the federal healthcare exchange at www.Healthcare.gov and shop for some health insurance. Utilizing your documented income and life situation, government subsidies, and plan availability, you may find extensive health insurance coverage at a reasonable cost. Health insurance will be offered regardless of your actual health condition. Coverage begins on the day of policy inception -- no exclusions. Advice here...go to the website or call the toll free number and find out what you need to know about the many health insurance policies offered to you.
b. Are you prepared for year-end use of your HSA funds, if not already exhausted. This year, you can carry forward $500 of unspent contributions, unlike previous years which fell victim to the "use it or lose it" practice. Keep in mind that many of you may have more than the allowable amount and still face the loss of "hard earned cash" if not properly utilized.
c. If you are currently covered by health insurance at your place of employment, be prepared for new choices of coverage that continue the trend of moving the burden of cost to the employee from the employer. This will take skilled thought and research to determine where you will best be covered and how much risk you are prepared to assume to keep your costs as reasonable as possible. If you cannot fully comprehend the offerings, ask your HR professional or a trusted insurance professional for advice. Utilizing the latest plan designs along with your individual tax and income situation, you may be able to offset some of the increased costs by intelligently structuring tax advantaged money (HSA's) vs purely manipulating out-of-pocket premiums and deductibles.
a. "Life Insurance" is an extremely important subject for women. Simply stated, if you have some coverage at work, that is only a starting point. Employment life insurance benefits usually end when the employment ends.
b. If you have a need, such as a family that counts on your income or daily care, you need life insurance that replaces 2-3 times your gross income at a minimum.
c. If you need more life insurance, avoid fancy cash "build-up" plans or investment schemes. Stick to pure term insurance for a term of years that covers your actual need. Shop for coverage through an independent broker that represents at least twenty A-rated AM Best or better life insurers. If you are in your thirties, check for 30 year-fixed premium terms; in your forties, look at 20-30 year terms; in your fifties, 10-30 years may be best. In your sixties, the term option starts to get expensive, so you'll need a good broker to fully outline each option.
d. Newer hybrid policies that combine a life insurance benefit with a long term care benefit are very appropriate for those who need to cover both exposures and have the available funds to do. Avoid pure long term care insurance as it has proven to be unreliable in both ultimate cost and actual benefit.
Auto and Home Insurance:
a. A sad but true statistic is that those loyal customers who have not "shopped" their insurance for quite some time are paying 20-30% more than those customers that review cost and benefits every few years. Don't be ashamed to call your local independent insurance broker and ask for a comparison quote that offers options and lower costs. If you bought from an 800#, look in your phone book or online for an Independent Insurance Broker in your area who can shop at least 4 competative companies for better coverage and costs. If you don't know a reputable broker, ask a friend for a referral.
b. "Cheap" is not the goal when buying home and auto insurance. "Quality coverage" from a reputable, A-rated AM Best or better insurer makes the most sense. You'll remember quality coverage and fair claims handling long after the accident occurred.
c. Insure homes with the proper replacement cost limits. Save money by utilizing reasonable deductibles and avoid add-on coverages that have little chance of being called on to pay a claim. Utilize professional, local independent brokers who represent reputable, household name A-rated AM Best insurers. Buy renters insurance if you rent an apartment or home. If you package it with your auto insurer, the cost will be small and the protection will be broad.
d. Insure autos for adequate "liability and property damage limits" for today's expensive vehicles and provide "collision and comprehensive coverage" where the auto has "value" in which you cannot replace out-of-pocket. Maintain deductibles that save money while offering protection that prevents a financial disaster if the vehicle is a total loss. Think carefully about "roadside assistance coverage" and "towing protection." Buying protection is inexpensive and important when you don't have coverage from somewhere else (AAA or new car warranties).
e. Check "renewal policies" to be sure that all drivers and all vehicles are listed on these policies. Make sure that homes or rental properties are fully listed and covered too.
4. Review all "voluntary Insurance products," including: accident, medical specific, through-the-mail insurance supplements, individual vision and dental plans, etc.
a. When approached by any sales organization to purchase insurance on the phone, through television or through the mail, proceed with EXTREME caution. In most cases, do not even entertain such offers, no matter how good they sound.
b. If you are considering buying a product through the mail or by phone or online, think three times about it. If you are still interested after that, discuss the product and cost with an insurance professional or a business-minded friend to get their opinion before purchasing.
Wow! Not only is insurance mundane...it is also complicated. Not a good combination for folks who really want to understand the ins-and-outs of the entire process and their needs!! For that reason, Thread MB invites you to email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, with specific insurance questions that you may have and require further insight. Either I or one of my associates will be happy to provide you with a timely response minus any expectations of "selling." We promise.
Steve Brill, RPLU. Steve is a licensed Property, Casualty, Life and Health Insurance broker for Financial Strategies Investment Advisor Services. His mission, as a financial and insurance advisor, is to advise clients on how integrated risk management fits into their overall financial plan.
Steve has 30 years of experience in all facets of insurance and risk management. His experience includes brokerage and client management for some of the largest and most sophisticated US insurance brokers. In addition, his product development and claims management experience at four major insurance companies, enables him to provide insurance and risk management advice that improves coverage while lowering the cost of risk.
Steve is licensed in Connecticut and New York. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from State University of NY, an advanced certificate from the College of Insurance, a Life Underwriter Training Council Diploma , and a Registered Professional Liability Underwriter designation.
Steve and his wife Ellen, a high school Culinary Arts teacher at Bethel High School, have been residents of Bethel, Connecticut, for twenty-four years. Their daughters, Stephanie and Amanda, are graduates of Bethel Schools and hold Masters Degrees in their respective fields.