How To Maximize An Umbrella Policy Like A Champ

Large umbrella policyIf you have assets that amount to more than what your car insurance and home insurance coverage provides, then you should probably get an umbrella policy for protection. The amount of umbrella policy coverage you should have is an individual choice. If you want to be safe, get an umbrella policy equal to your estimated net worth.

I’ve personally taken a “riskier” approach by getting an umbrella policy less than my net worth. I figure, I’m not doing anything particularly offensive or risky in day-to-day life, nor is my business putting anybody in physical danger. If I was running a roller coaster amusement park on the other hand, you bet your buns of steel I’m getting maximum coverage!

The point of this article is remind people to protect their assets, have a talk with your insurance company since you’re paying for coverage, and make sure the insurance coverage is aligned to expectations. Spending a lifetime of work only to see it get wiped away by some random act would be unfortunate. 

How Much Does My Car Insurance Go Up If I Get A Traffic Ticket?

Car Accident insurance going upThe first thing I did when I got home after receiving a speeding ticket was call my car insurance company to find out how much my car insurance premiums would go up. Interestingly, they couldn’t give me a straight answer.

If I get convicted and don’t go to traffic school, I will receive one point on my driving record for the 10 mph over the speed limit violation. When I asked the car insurance agent for specifics, she kept on ducking the answer. For all of you who have received a traffic ticket or will get one, this post should help give you a good idea of what’s at stake when it comes to insurance premiums going up.

Damn, It Costs A Lot To Die! Cremation vs. Burial Costs

In an absolutely fascinating post on Daily Capital, I’ve learned that the cost of a funeral has risen from just $983 in 1971 to over $7,000 today. Meanwhile, as a result of the rise in funeral costs, cremation rates have SOARED from just just 6% to now over 43% in the same time period. Cremations “only” cost $3,000 a body, or roughly 55% less than a funeral.

Take a look at these charts by the National Funeral Director’s Association:

MEDIAN FUNERAL COST IN THE US

cost-of-funeral

Subsidy Amounts By Income For The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

Patriotic dog and US flagThe Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is a potentially great way to help lower income individuals afford health care. I’m a supporter of ACA despite the trappings of ever bigger government running our lives because disease and accidents do not discriminate between rich or poor. In a nation as rich as ours, nobody should die or get stuck in a permanent loop of poverty just because they can’t afford medical treatment.

The two most common reasons why people don’t retire earlier are: 1) Lack of money and 2) Uncertainty regarding health care access and costs. As an early retiree in 2012 with a full 30 years to go before being eligible for Medicare benefits, I was worried about health care until I did some research on cheap health care alternatives. Now that I’ve spent a good amount of time studying what healthcare.gov has to offer, I’m not worried but thrilled for the potentially millions of other people who don’t have health care or who have no desire to work into their 60s.

I’ve also discovered that even millionaires will be eligible for health care subsidies. More equality is a welcome relief from the constant class warfare rhetoric and discriminatory policies we hear from Capital Hill.

The Ideal Amount Of Home Insurance To Protect Your Property

Old San Francisco VictorianEvery year I review my home insurance policy to make sure I’ve got the proper coverage. The reason why it’s important to check is because insurance policies change all the time. There might be discounts or special offerings for one. Meanwhile, your insurance company might slip in some extra charges without you even knowing. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, building costs are always rising thanks to inflation.

One of the worst things that can happen after a mishap is your home insurance policy covering much less than the true replacement cost. Even if your home appreciates by only 2% a year, if you don’t update your home insurance policy for 16 years, your policy will only cover half the rebuild cost! Let me share with you one of my rental property insurance mishaps and things you should think about when figuring out how much home insurance to get.

MAKE SURE YOU ARE COVERED 

Cheap Health Insurance Options For The Unemployed, Self-Employed, Or Early Retiree

Restless In Warnemunde Germany

Whether you are unemployed by choice or due to unfortunate circumstance, having health insurance is a must. According to The American Journal Of Medicine, 62% of all bankruptcies in 2007 were health related and that’s before the economic meltdown. What’s more frightening is that back in 2001, health related bankruptcies were “only” 45% of total. The epidemic is growing!

Say what you will about Universal Healthcare, with a nation as rich as ours going bankrupt at the rate of 62% due to health expenses is an absolute travesty. Genetics and a drunk driver hitting you while crossing the street doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor. So why should one die while another lives when all it takes is money to save a life?

In 2009 roughly 2.3 million people were unemployed for longer than six months. By June 2012, the ranks of the long-term jobless soared more than 100 percent to 5.3 million. The employment market is thankfully recovering with a rise in corporate profits, but we are still at levels much higher than the natural rate of full employment.

You do not want to be unemployed AND uninsured. You’ve already lost your steady paycheck. The last thing you want is to have a medical disaster that wipes out your savings, emergency fund, and retirement funds. If you lose everything while unemployed, it will be brutally difficult to rebuild. You might very well enter a cycle of poverty and never get out.

AFFORDABLE HEALTH INSURANCE OPTIONS

How Often Should You Get A Physical And How Much Does It Cost?

Physical Exam BedBefore my COBRA (healthcare for departed employees) ran out, I decided to get a physical exam. It’s been three years and it was about time. Many insurance companies offer one free physical every year. Give your insurance company a call to find out if yours is one of them. That’s a $200-$500 “savings” every year if you take advantage of the perk. Depending on your insurance coverage, you will either typically pay a co-pay ($25 in my case), or a co-insurance (generally 20% of the overall bill).

Beyond the co-pay or co-insurance, sometimes there’s something called a “draw fee” as well. The word “draw” in this term refers to the drawing of blood, which is then sent off to a lab to get a multitude of tests done. My draw fee, to my surprise was $24 dollars. Hence, what I thought was initially “free” turned into a $49 dollar physical ($25 co-pay + $24 draw fee). Depending on my blood work, I may have to come back for more, which means another $25 in co-pay.

A $25 co-pay isn’t particularly cheap. I’ve had as low as a $5 co-pay before until I decided to change my plan to be more for “disaster prevention.” You want a low co-pay if you are chronically sick. In 10 years, I’ve seen the doctor perhaps seven times, including physicals. Hence, it makes sense for me to pay a higher co-pay in return for a lower monthly premium. I could take it a step further and do co-insurance, but I elected not to.

THE RECOMMENDED FREQUENCY OF PHYSICAL EXAMS 

Should I Get Roadside Assistance Coverage Insurance? Hell Yeah!

1989 BMW 335i CoupeEvery winter, I make the 180 mile trek from San Francisco to Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe to enjoy the epic snow. There is truly nothing more magical than spending hours riding on powder and having a beer or two in the outdoor hot tub when you’re finished! Oh, the stories I could tell you about what happens in the hot tub.

On the other hand, there’s nothing more frustrating than getting a flat tire at night in the mountains while it’s snowing. I know how to change a tire, but I sure as hell don’t plan to risk my life changing a tire in darkness on a one lane road in the mountains while cars zoom by. I might get a nice settlement if I do get into an accident. But, I also might lose a leg in the process!

Every month, I spend 98 cents to get roadside assistance insurance for Moose. Add up the cost over 84 months of ownership, and we’re talking $83 worth of premiums. And you know what? My roadside assistance insurance is worth every penny! I already mentioned how my alternator died just as I was pulling into my garage thank goodness. A tow truck came when I got back from vacation to follow me to my mechanic thanks to roadside assistance. What I haven’t told you about are my other more traumatic incidences!

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT

Should I Get Disaster Insurance For Earthquakes, Floods, And Hurricanes?

Earthquake Fault Lines In SF Bay Area

Hurricane Sandy is a stark reminder of the importance of getting disaster insurance. Actuaries estimate insurance companies will likely have to pay out more than $25 billion in claims as a result. Looking on the bright side, this means those paying for insurance are able to collect. On the dark side, lives have been turned upside down.

As a long time resident of San Francisco, I wonder about getting earthquake insurance every single year. San Francisco lies close to the San Andreas fault line which could start shifting at any moment. The last big earthquake was the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, 1989 which killed 63 people. After 23 years, perhaps we are due.

California mandates insurance companies send earthquake insurance prospectuses to all homeowners every single year. Each time I look over the earthquake insurance documents, I get this much closer to getting insurance, but I never go through with it because of the enormous deductible of around 10-15%. In other words, if my home is worth $2 million dollars, I’ve got to pay the first $300,000 out of pocket first before getting anything from the insurance company. Furthermore, the yearly premium is around $5,000.

A CHECK LIST TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO GET DISASTER INSURANCE

How Does An Umbrella Policy Work And How Much Does It Cost?

Umbrella PolicyWe’ve talked about all the different types of auto insurance. I’d like to now talk about whether you should get an umbrella policy given this was the most brought up next step in the comments section. An umbrella policy is also known as a personal liability insurance.

When you’ve spent a lifetime building assets for your retirement, the last thing you want is to get sued for all your’re worth. Accidents happen all the time and the more you are worth, the more the injured person will go after you. If someone in a $160,000 Porsche 911 Turbo GTS runs you over after running a red light, you’re probably more inclined to hire a lawyer and sue for big bucks than if you were run over by a 1985 Honda Civic!

Auto insurance policies only cover so much. My auto insurance policy has a maximum $500,000 liability per accident. I could get more liability, but the increase in premiums would make my insurance less worthwhile. My car is only worth about $5,000 max. Because I have assets over $500,000, I elected to get an umbrella policy to cover the rest of my net worth.

The chances of getting sued for over $500,000 is slim because: 1) I’ve got to be found negligent in the accident, 2) I’ve got to create massive damage in the accident, 3) The victim needs to go through the process of suing, 4) The victim needs to win, 5) Cases are usually settled out of court for less, 6) I drive half the national average, 7) I’m a pretty careful driver with a slow car, and 8) I’m a nice guy! Unfortunately, even nice guys get unlucky sometimes.

If I do get sued for say $1 million, I’m safe because my auto insurance coverage will kick in to pay the umbrella policy deductible, and then my umbrella policy covers me for the rest. The picture above illustrates the point clearly. The only out of pocket expense I incur will be my auto insurance deductible of $1,000.

SCENARIOS WHERE AN UMBRELLA POLICY MAKES SENSE