If your homeowner insurance rates are creeping up even though you haven’t filed any claims, it may be time to take a look at how you can bring those prices back down. Research, smart shopping and even some home upgrades can make a noticeable difference in your insurance premiums. Explore the cost-savings potential with these tips.
Save Your Way to Lower Home Insurance
(Family Features) If your homeowner insurance rates are creeping up even though you haven’t filed any claims, it may be time to take a look at how you can bring those prices back down.
Research, smart shopping and even some home upgrades can make a noticeable difference in your insurance premiums. Explore the cost-savings potential with these tips from the experts at CertainTeed, a leading manufacturer of exterior and interior building products:
Shop for the best rates. It’s easy to be complacent when you’ve used the same insurance company for years, but if getting the best rate is your objective, it’s a good idea to shop around. To do effective comparison shopping, have a copy of your current policy ready and contact a handful of competitors. Provide them the exact same coverage details so you can compare like rates, but also be ready to listen to information about additional coverage options that may suit your needs.
Combine homeowner insurance with other policies. Most insurance carriers offer multiple policy discounts, which they apply when you insure more than one item. For example, if your homeowner insurance carrier also insures your cars, you’re likely to save money on the rates for protecting both your home and automobiles.
Update your home’s first line of defense. Many homeowners focus on aesthetics when it’s time to make upgrades, but there are some important functional improvements that can make a difference when it comes to your insurance premiums. For example, as extreme weather becomes more commonplace, the first line of defense is often the type of roofing material chosen. Many insurance companies even offer discounts for using impact-resistant shingles. Check with your insurance provider before making a final selection, but in general, look for products that include “impact-resistant” in their name and specs, and “Class IV Impact Resistance,” the highest rating available for roofing materials.
For example, NorthGate Class IV impact-resistant shingles from CertainTeed are engineered to have a higher probability of resisting hail. These shingles are made using rubber-like polymers that offer flexibility and impact resistance, as well as crack and shrink resistance, even in cold weather. So when severe weather strikes, your home can be protected and stay looking good.
Install a home security system. An intruder alarm can provide more than peace of mind. Insurance companies often reward homeowners who take steps to minimize the chances of burglary or vandalism. After all, a well-protected home is less likely to result in a claim for losses. Some companies offer varying degrees of discounts on insurance rates depending on the type of system you install, so be sure to thoroughly research the options. For example, a system that simply emits a loud noise when triggered may generate one level of discount, while a system that dispatches emergency personnel when activated can lead to an even better rate.
Insurance rates are one place to save money on your home costs. Learn more about impact-resistant shingles and how they can save your home and wallet at certainteed.com.SOURCE:
Don’t fall victim to the financial risks and mental stresses associated with owning a home. Appliances have set lifespans, breakdowns are inevitable and repairs and replacements are costly. Make sure your home is covered, so you and your wallet can rest assured that your home is taken care of.
(BPT) - Nobody bats an eyelash when it comes to buying homeowner's insurance, but many homeowners don’t apply that same logic to planning for home repairs — not what might happen, but what will happen.
Only a fraction of the 120 million U.S. households today are protected by a home services plan, also known as a home warranty.
That number is growing, as homeowners recognize the value of coverage when appliances go on the fritz, hot water heaters run cold in the middle of winter or a leaky faucet drives up their water bill. Perhaps one reason more homeowners don’t have home service plans is because they think they are covered through their homeowner's insurance policy.
Homeowner's insurance doesn’t protect you from the natural home aging process.
Insurance kicks in when damage occurs from an outside force, like a busted sewer line or roof damage due to a major storm. While insurance covers you when Mother Nature strikes, it doesn’t protect you from the natural wear and tear that your home’s major systems and appliances go through during the aging process. Understanding how home service plans work and how they fit into your financial and risk-planning strategy allows you to be prepared for covered breakdowns, without breaking the bank.
Let’s start at the beginning. What is a home service plan?
Home service plans typically cover the repair or replacement of major home appliances, including refrigerators, washers, dryers, ovens or cooktops, and components of major systems like plumbing, HVAC and electrical.
When your air conditioning system breaks, or your washer or dryer stops spinning, you want the confidence of having a home services plan in place that will help protect your budget.
This is where the true value of a home service plan comes in. Home service providers such as American Home Shield accept service requests and assign professionals to diagnose the problem and offer a solution through its vast network of skilled and trusted contractors, which includes more than 15,000 licensed and qualified pros throughout all 50 states.
What’s the bottom line?
With a home service plan, you won’t pay the full cost of repairing or replacing items covered by your plan. Regardless of age, make or model, your contract helps cover the repair or replacement of items covered in your plan. For example, if your refrigerator malfunctions, your service provider will connect you to a quality contractor to diagnose and repair the problem. This can help reduce the hassle of repairing it yourself and help protect your budget.
Think about your home’s future (and yours).
Service plans can come in handy when selling a home. The appeal speaks for itself: When buyers are making that final decision around one of the biggest investments in their lives, having a home service plan in place gives the new homeowner confidence that the home’s systems and appliances are protected, and they won’t bear the entire financial impact of repairing or replacing it if it breaks down.
The choice seems obvious: Don’t fall victim to the financial risks and mental stresses associated with owning a home. Appliances have set lifespans, breakdowns are inevitable and repairs and replacements are costly. Make sure your home is covered, so you and your wallet can rest assured that your home is taken care of.
No matter where you are in life, whether you’re just starting your career or nearing retirement, it’s important to understand the voluntary benefits available to you that can complement traditional health insurance. With the right information about the options available you can make choices that best fit your lifestyle and budget. Consider these common voluntary options.
Understanding Insurance Benefits
(Family Features) No matter where you are in life, whether you’re just starting your career or nearing retirement, it’s important to understand the voluntary benefits available to you that can complement traditional health insurance.
While health insurance can help cover medical costs in the event of injury or illness, sometimes there are additional expenses your health care plan doesn’t cover. Voluntary benefits, such as life insurance, disability insurance and dental insurance, offered by your employer or as portable options through a company like Colonial Life can help bridge the gap should an unexpected event occur.
“Even if an employee has to pay a nominal sum for a voluntary benefit like disability insurance or dental coverage, it can be well worth it,” said Sharlyn Lauby, president of ITM Group Inc., creator of the HR Bartender blog and contributor to Colonial Life’s WorkLife blog. “Think of voluntary benefits as those specialized, personalized extras that make your overall benefits package exactly what you’d like it to be.”
Benefits can be complex, but with the right information about the options available you can make choices that best fit your lifestyle and budget. Consider these common voluntary options:
Critical Illness Insurance
Learn more about how you can live healthier, enjoy more success at work and take full advantage of your benefits at worklife.coloniallife.com.
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(BPT) - The homebuying process is exciting, but can also seem fraught with added costs, like a home inspection, title insurance and closing costs. And if you can’t afford a full 20 percent down payment on a conventional home loan, then you will most likely pay for private mortgage insurance (MI). Some people consider private MI yet another added cost, but it helps creditworthy middle-income homebuyers qualify for home financing sooner with a low down payment. Is it really an added cost if it saves time and money in the long run?
For most people, low down payment home loan options include conventional loans with private MI and government-backed loans like those offered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). While comparable, each of these options has important differences. For example, the minimum down payment for an FHA mortgage is 3.5 percent while it’s only 3 percent on a conventional, privately insured mortgage.
Another key feature of private MI is that it can be canceled when a borrower reaches 20 percent equity in his or her home. Borrowers who purchase a home with private MI can typically cancel it within 5 to 7 years, resulting in their monthly bill going down. Private MI’s cancelability makes it a more affordable option over FHA-backed mortgages, which typically require mortgage insurance premiums for the entirety of the loan term. Both are offered by most mortgage lenders, so it’s smart to ask a loan officer for both options so you can compare and do the math.
The myth that a homebuyer needs 20 percent down to obtain a mortgage is simply not true. Low down payment mortgages are widely available and used every day across the country. In 2018, the National Association of Realtors found that first-time homebuyers typically put down 7 percent, while repeat buyers put down an average of 16 percent. Many homebuyers choose a lower down payment option to preserve some savings for home improvements or save for other goals. The time it could take to save up a 20 percent down payment is significant. On average, it could take up to 20 years to save a full 20 percent, plus closing costs, for a $257,700 house — the national median sales price. With home prices on the rise, the amount of time it takes to save up could only increase. Private MI can mean the difference between getting into the home of your dreams sooner or waiting for years.
For over 60 years, more than 30 million homeowners of all backgrounds have used private MI to successfully buy their homes. In the past year alone, private MI helped more than one million borrowers nationwide purchase or refinance a mortgage. According to a study by U.S. Mortgage Insurers, 56 percent of purchase borrowers were first-time homebuyers and more than 40 percent had incomes below $75,000.
For decades, millions of homeowners and prospective homebuyers have relied on private MI to help them affordably and responsibly purchase their homes — in turn helping them build personal wealth. Today’s historically low mortgage interest rates are a good reason to buy a home now. It is estimated that in 2019, the average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will be around 5 percent. Borrowers should take advantage of these historically low mortgage interest rates because experts forecast that primary mortgage rates are on the rise.
Getting a mortgage with private MI and keeping more of your hard-earned money in the bank can be a very smart way to invest in your future. Check out lowdownpaymentfacts.org to learn more.
(BPT) - If you haven't made solid financial plans, now would be a good time to consider a life insurance policy to protect you and your family in your time of need - or protect your loved ones in your absence.
Given the importance of life insurance, it's surprising that 37.5 million American households lack such a policy, according to the 2016 Facts About Life study by the industry group LIMRA. That may be because many people misunderstand how such policies work and how much they cost. For example, recent Insurance Barometer studies by LIMRA and Life Happens found 63 percent of Americans cite expense as the reason they don't carry term insurance, yet 80 percent overestimate the cost - millennials by 213 percent and Gen Xers by 119 percent.
While some Americans hope to rely on other sources to protect their families, they may not realize all the benefits life insurance offers. Every family has different needs, and some life insurance products are flexible enough to offer customizable options to provide a measure of financial security to your spouse and children - the people that matter most.
Consider these other common myths about life insurance:
Myth: Life insurance is only available through financial advisors. In fact, quality policies for your entire family are often available through your employer or your spouse's employer. For example, Boston MutualLife Insurance Company offers a range of workplace solutions paid for by employers, employees or both, including permanent life, term life, critical illness, accident and disability insurance. Talk to your company's HR department about the process involved in securing comprehensive coverage for your family.
Myth: Workplace policies can't offer enough options for your needs. You'll find that well-established life insurance companies understand the market well enough to offer a range of flexible products, including policies that are payroll deductible, stable in cost regardless of your age, portable when you're changing jobs and available with add-on riders or other insurance types through the same carrier.
Myth: Young, healthy people don't need life insurance. The truth is, your health can change at any time and it's best to expect the unexpected. Uninsured people can easily leave behind personal, medical or mortgage debts and/or funeral expenses that end up burdening family members or executors when they die.
Myth: Your life insurance policy only covers you, not your family. Not true. Some products protect you, your spouse, your dependent children and even your grandchildren, often at one affordable cost. That's why marriage and becoming a parent can be excellent reasons for buying new policies.
Investing in life insurance is a crucial step to take to protect yourself and your family from unexpected losses. But it doesn't have to be confusing or complicated. Find more detailed information about life insurance options for you and your family at www.BostonMutual.com.
Retirement is waiting just around the corner. People need good advice to help them build their nest eggs before "someday" becomes "now." Here are the best tips, advice and tactics for retirement planning from the top financial advisors in the business.
(BPT) - You're 10 years or less away from retirement. You can clearly see the next phase of your life down the road and it's coming up fast. Are you ready for it? Do you have a comprehensive plan in place so you don't outlive your savings?
If you're not as prepared for retirement as you should be, you're not alone. The Federal Reserve did a study and found that one-fourth of Americans have no retirement savings or pension. And a Money article reports 56 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved.
Why aren't more people prepared? There are myriad reasons. Some people are stretched thin. Credit card debt, student loans, rising mortgage and interest rates all conspire to make it difficult for them to save. Others may lack information on the importance of retirement savings, or lack the financial savvy to be comfortable managing their own investments. And then there's the gap between men and women. The Federal Reserve’s study found that among women with any level of education, investment comfort is lower than among similarly educated men.
Yet, retirement is waiting just around the corner. People need good advice to help them build their nest eggs before "someday" becomes "now."
That's why the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA), a national organization representing Fee-Only financial advisors, conducted a poll of its members to get their top tips and advice for people who are nearing retirement. They want to raise consumer awareness about the urgency of preparing for retirement and the importance of having a comprehensive plan in place.
Here are the best tips, advice and tactics for retirement planning from the top financial advisors in the business.
1. Make a list of retirement “needs” and “wants.” If you do not have enough savings for all of your “needs,” make a ten-year plan to increase your funds.
2. Take a hard look at any major debts you have and develop a plan to eliminate them.
3. Brainstorm any “big ticket” financial commitments (caretaking for a family member, etc.) for the next 10 years and consider how these items might affect your ability to save for retirement.
4. Continually monitor and analyze your asset allocation to make sure it is the right one for you. Understand whether you should move to a more conservative asset allocation or continue investing for growth.
5. Be tax efficient with your investments. For example, you should defer as much of your salary as you can to your defined contribution plans.
6. Save to an emergency fund and stay aware of your company’s financial situation. Companies are prone to reorganizations and layoffs, and older workers can be vulnerable.
7. Ask your HR department about the relationship between your current health insurance and Medicare, as well as what your options are when you reach age 65. Get information about any pension or defined contribution options and any other retiree benefits.
8. Research when stock-based compensation might expire and what stock awards you can retain after retirement.
9. Double check your reported Social Security earnings and resolve any discrepancies now. Explore your Social Security claiming options and make sure you understand the timing of applying for benefits.
10. Make sure that all of your estate documents are up-to-date. Verify that your named executors and proxies know your wishes and are willing to act on them if needed.
If you think you’ll need help creating and sticking to a financial plan, NAPFA recommends working with a Fee-Only financial advisor who adheres to a strict fiduciary standard. These advisors are required to put your best interest first and don’t accept commissions on the products they recommend, which reduces potential conflicts of interest. For more information and resources on retirement planning, check out NAPFA’s infographic about the poll. To find a Fee-Only financial advisor in your area, visit the NAPFA website at www.napfa.org and NAPFA’s “Find an Advisor” search engine.
Homeowners insurance is a practical investment to help protect you, your family and your property in the event of unforeseen and unexpected losses. Traditionally, it’s associated with fire damage, burst or leaking pipes, or stolen property, but occasionally it covers unusual events that make for sensational news stories and viral videos. Here are four claims homeowners never thought would happen to them.
(BPT) - Homeowners insurance is a practical investment to help protect you, your family and your property in the event of unforeseen and unexpected losses. Traditionally, it’s associated with fire damage, burst or leaking pipes, or stolen property, but occasionally it covers unusual events that make for sensational news stories and viral videos.
Here are four claims homeowners never thought would happen to them.
1. Bear B&B
Bears are notoriously curious and intelligent creatures that also have an acute sense of smell.
People who live in areas with bears for neighbors must not entice them with the aromas of food. Keep doors and windows on ground floors closed and locked while cooking or if you leave the house. A bear can easily get through the screen of an open window or manipulate a lever-like door handle to enter your home and cause significant damage.
“Encountering a bear inside your home would be a very frightening experience,” says Christopher O’Rourke, Vice President of Property Claims at Mercury Insurance. “Safety should be your first priority, so call your local police or animal control station to have them help you with the situation. You can worry about any potential damages after the animal leaves the residence, because your homeowners policy will most likely cover any damage to your home (though not your personal property), unless of course the bear is a family pet.”
2. The sky is falling
China’s Tiangong-1 space station plummeted back to Earth and made its re-entry into the atmosphere earlier this year, breaking apart over the southern Pacific Ocean. The odds of debris from the space station hitting you were less than one in 1 trillion, according to the Aerospace Corporation. If it had hit your home, though, homeowners insurance would’ve covered it.
3. Your house is stolen
Yes, you read that correctly. Your homeowners insurance will cover the entire house, not just the contents inside, if it is stolen.
O’Rourke explains, “We had an insured who was away on vacation and when he returned the foundation of his home was all that remained.
“A house moving company had mixed up the address with another house down the street that was scheduled to be moved. The movers came in, transported the house to another location and thought their job was done — wrong!
“You can only imagine his surprise at the mistake. While homeowners insurance covered the cost of getting things restored back to normal, I would suspect this was one of the strangest situations any insurer has ever encountered,” says O’Rourke.
Golf is a leisurely pastime enjoyed by millions in the U.S. It involves strolling across greens and riding in golf carts, so its slow pace may seem low-risk, but it can actually be quite dangerous. According to an article in Golf Digest magazine, nearly 40,000 golfers are admitted to emergency rooms annually after being injured while playing, most by errant golf balls and flying club heads.
Recreational golfers can also cause a lot of damage to personal property. If you live on a golf course, your house has probably been hit many times by errant shots — breaking windows, damaging roofs and leaving divots in exterior walls.
So, who’s responsible for these injuries and damage?
“Simply put, the golfer who hit the shot is responsible,” says O’Rourke. “There is good news, however, because recreational golfers would be covered by a homeowners, condo owners or renters insurance policy for damage or injuries that result from the wayward shot.”
Mercury recommends reviewing your homeowners insurance policy annually with your local insurance agent to ensure that you’re adequately covered for any unforeseen losses, both unusual and ordinary.
(BPT) - As our nation seeks solutions to help improve the health care system, there is at least one goal we can all agree on: the importance of making health care quality and cost information more accessible to all Americans.
This is an important effort that has the potential to help improve health outcomes and make care more affordable — laudable goals considering the nation’s health care system ranks among the least efficient in the world, according to a recent Bloomberg analysis.
More widespread use of health quality and cost resources may be part of the solution. Providing health care prices to consumers, health care professionals and other stakeholders could reduce U.S. health care spending by more than $100 billion during the next decade, according to a 2014 report by the Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center.
That is in part because there are significant price variations for health care services and procedures at hospitals and doctors’ offices nationwide, yet a study by Families U.S.A. concluded that higher-priced care providers do not necessarily deliver higher-quality care or better health outcomes.
Fortunately, there are many new online and mobile resources that help enable people to access health care quality and cost information, helping them to comparison shop for health care as they would with other consumer products and services. And people are starting to take action: nearly one third of Americans have used the internet or mobile apps during the last year to comparison shop for health care, up from 14 percent in 2012, according to a recent UnitedHealthcare survey.
These resources are far more accurate and useful than those of past generations, and in some cases provide people with estimates based on actual contracted rates with physicians and hospitals, including likely out-of-pocket costs based on their current health plan benefits. Some resources also include quality information about specific physicians, as determined by independent standards.
There are many resources people can consider when shopping for health care. In addition to online and mobile resources, people can call their health plan to discuss quality and cost transparency information, as well as talk with their health care professional about alternative treatment settings, including urgent care and telehealth options. Public websites, such as www.uhc.com/transparency and www.guroo.com, also can help enable access to market-average prices for hundreds of medical services in cities nationwide.
These resources can help people save money and select health care professionals based on objective information. A UnitedHealthcare analysis showed that people who use online or mobile transparency resources are more likely to select health care providers rated on quality and cost-efficiency across all specialties, including for primary care (7 percent more likely) and orthopedics (9 percent more likely). In addition, the analysis found that people who use the transparency resources before receiving health care services pay 36 percent less than non-users.
As people take greater responsibility for their health care decisions and the cost of medical treatments, transparency resources are becoming important tools to help consumers access quality care and avoid surprise medical bills.
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