Thursday, March 28, 2013

So how many of you have read your insurance policy?

There is an ongoing debate on who's job it is to make sure that you, the insured, understand your coverage and your coverage options. The carriers like to say it's the insured's and their agents, the agents say the carriers have some responsibility in educating insureds, and most insured's say my agent and the carrier should make sure I'm covered, I don't have to read the policy.

Needless to say, what it boils down to is that you, the insured, our client, need to understand what you have. Only then can you ask questions of your agent and carrier about what gaps there are in coverage and what you need.

For example, do you have children that have had to move back home due to school and the economy? Their personal property (clothes, stereo, cd's, books, computer, etc.) may not be covered  under your homeowners policy. Your child may need to get a renters insurance policy to cover their stuff.

Another one to look out for is who is insured. When you look at your declarations page (the page that lists what coverage's you have and in what amounts) is everyone that should be on the policy listed? Is there a section (like in auto policies) for excluded persons? Are they correct? When your child gets a learners permit you need to make sure that they are added on to your policy.

Are the coverage amounts correct? Are they too little? Way, way too high? Be careful here. In California there are certain rules that carriers have to follow when calculating rebuild costs on property. This may seem high to you, but when you get into the costs of reconstructing and removing debris it adds up quick. A little more is better, but if you have insurance on a 1,500 sq.ft. house for $500,000 you had better have gold plated everything and imported marble.

How does your carrier define words? Look at the definitions page. Just because a word means something to you does not mean your carrier has the same meaning. This can get real confusing.

Included vs. excluded. Read the sections of what is covered and then what's not covered or excluded. Look for sub limits on jewelry, electronics, business property, etc. You may need to talk to your agent about adding coverage. Also look at the endorsements that are on your policy. This is another spot where coverage can be added, limited or excluded.

Yes, it can be confusing. but it's worth it to read it now and address any issues before you have a claim and find out you're not covered or that coverage is limited. Talk to your agent, ask questions, ask them to point out where in the policy your question is addressed.

Now go have a drink!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

You'd Better Watch Out!

Hackers are out there everywhere. Antivirus and firewall software can’t keep up. What should you do? Disconnect your life from the digital world? Well, not just yet. Here are some tips for keeping yourself safe online.
1. Do not use any word found in a dictionary. Say you like to use panhandle as your password. Change it to panndle for example.
2. Use at least 8, preferably 12, characters. That includes symbols and numbers.
3. Do not include any personal information. I know that using your birth year or that of your children or spouse is a good way to remember. Hackers know this too. Same with your name, identification numbers, etc.
4. Be creative. Use a license plate number that you see in traffic (not yours or anyone you know) and add symbols and a few letter and numbers. Or try using a phrase for example "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain" and then narrow it down, like "triSsmitp67!".
5. Change your password regularly. Experts say once every three months, some more practical folks say twice a year, sooner if you suspect something has happened.
I know, it seems nuts and that Amish, Hutterite or Eskimo settlement is looking really good. Keep in mind that it's part of living in the digital world we live in and come up with a method that works for you. There are also many sites and password programs out there that will help you generate passwords and create secure lists that you can reference. These are just a few ideas. Search the web for more things you can do and check out computer magazine sites like PC World.
I wonder how to hook up a plow?