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

Earthquake Fault Lines In SF Bay AreaHurricane 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.


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.


Auto Insurance Basics And Recommendations For Everyone

Car wreck

Why you need auto insurance!

Besides the purchase price of a car, one must also calculate the potential maintenance cost, and auto insurance cost. We often focus on the first two costs, but seldom do we realize the auto insurance cost differential until we’ve purchased the car!

I was so happy to negotiate $2,000 off the initial asking price of a $14,000, black on black, BBS wheels equipped 1997 M3 in 2003 that I didn’t realize my auto insurance would jump from just $500 a year to $2,000 a year!

Had I realized my auto insurance would jump so much, I probably would have negotiated even harder, or reconsidered buying a sports car altogether. Always get an auto insurance quote before you purchase a car please!

Having auto insurance is a law you don’t want to break. Accidents happen all the time whether they are your fault or not. If you end up wrecking someone else’s car and injuring a passenger, not having any car insurance could literally wipe you out financially and put you in poverty for the rest of your life! Check for a better auto insurance quote via Esurance online. They provide comparison quotes so you know you’re getting a great deal.


In Search For Empathy For The Unemployed

Unemployed Daughter With FatherMy no crying streak came to an end recently when I went to the Employment Development Department (EDD) to help out an unemployed friend and learn a little bit more about the process for my book.

Alex and I sat down in front of one of the public computers to get the EDD to resend a paper copy of the Continuing Claim Form.  Because Alex finally received his accrued vacation as part of his severance, he clicked “Yes” to the very first question of the online Continuing Claim Form questionnaire:

“Did you receive money other than wages (vacation, pension, etc) for the two week period ending XX/XX/XX?”

Instead of getting approved to receive unemployment benefits for the past two weeks like usual, the system denied his benefits and told him to file a paper claim form instead!  After verifying with the EDD in person, receiving vacation payment does not preclude one from receiving unemployment benefits if there is no set return date for employment.  Alex dodged a bullet and finally did receive his unemployment benefits a few weeks later.

During this process, I noticed a roughly 35 year old woman accompanied by her 65+ year old father (see picture).  I glanced over at her screen to see that she was editing her resume in order to apply for one of the many CalJOBS that were listed in the system.  The father sat quietly behind her daughter, waiting patiently for her to finish.

When the daughter finally submitted her resume to the various opportunities online, her father said, “Great job daughter, I’m so proud of you.


Winners And Losers Of Obamacare Hooray!

In N Out Double Double BurgersIn a close 5-4 decision, the Supreme court says Congress was acting within its powers under the Constitution when it required Americans to carry health insurance or pay a penalty!

The legislation is 1,000 pages long so I can’t even come close to understanding all the nuances of the bill.  All I understand is that those against Obamacare think the bill is a violation of individual rights by our big bad federal government.  In addition to the perceived violation of human liberties, the question is who is going to pay for universal healthcare?

Those for Obamacare say that the legislation is not a violation of individual rights but only a tax on people who don’t have healthcare.  Justice Roberts explains, “The mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning an income.”  I guess that makes sense.  The other reason for Obamacare is that in a country as rich as the USA, all people should be have health insurance, rich or poor.


There are supposedly 32 million people in America without healthcare.  Some of them think they are healthy enough that they don’t need healthcare.  Meanwhile, the large majority of people who don’t have healthcare is because they can’t afford healthcare!  Hence, the irony is that if you penalize people who don’t have healthcare with a 1-2.5% extra income tax hike a year, you are essentially making the poor even poorer!  They are already annoyed the government is making them abide by more rules!

Meanwhile, payroll taxes for small businesses and income taxes for the wealthier population will go up to fund Obamacare because income tax hikes on the poor are not going to cover the cost of the program. Supposedly most of the 32 million people without healthcare will get partial or if not full subsidy by the government to get healthcare.  Of course that is not going to make the people who have to pay more taxes happy.

If the poor and rich and independent people of America are all pissed off about Obamacare, who is really happy the bill may pass besides President Obama and the people who serve him?  If you have health insurance or can’t afford health insurance you’re likely unaffected.  Those who are stuck in the middle now need to watch out for the encroaching Sentinels!


What’s It Like Being Unemployed?

Unemployed Man On Dirty Beach In MumbaiMy name is Rachel, and I was unemployed for just a bit more than 6 months starting at the end of 2008, just when the “Great Recession” was in full bloom. The company I worked for was forced to close its office in my state and lay off all of its workers. I didn’t even qualify for severance since I’d started as a temp and was less than a month shy of the cut off date at the time of lay off.

The last thing I wanted was to be unemployed. The economy had already tanked, and now I would be forced to look for work along with 250+ of my coworkers with the exact same qualifications or better. I would have rather not taken unemployment, but the alternatives of moving cross country to live with my parents in the even worse economy of California or starve in the streets were unappealing.

I made about $500/week gross in unemployment benefits, which was the max benefit in my state. Had I lived on the other side of the state line, my benefit would have been reduced by $100/week. This matched my net, so I didn’t suffer any financial hardship being unemployed. The first $3000 you get on unemployment is tax free. After that, it is taxed at your income bracket. However, there is only a one size fits all option for withholding. It is a flat 10%. I decided not to have the government withhold anything, and it worked out well since my unemployment was spread out over two tax years. I got to take advantage of that $3000 tax break twice.


Can I Collect Unemployment Insurance If I Have Passive Income?

My friend and I have both developed a healthy amount of passive income over the years.  We are talking true passive income where we don’t have to do anything to make money.  It gets us excited thinking about passive income because we have the optionality of quitting our jobs, moving to some tropical paradise, and not die alone if we don’t want to!

My definition of passive income comes directly from CD interest income.  With an average yield of 4% (7-yr CD’s), my passive income isn’t sexy by any means.  But, it’s a great feeling knowing the principle will still be there and then some years from now.  Collecting dividends is not my idea of generating passive income, because you have to actively manage the portfolio as you could blow yourself up in a downturn.

We got to talking about the article, “Don’t Quit, Get Laid Off Instead“, and we began to wonder what if we successfully did engineer our own layoffs?  Would we be able to collect the ~$1,800 a month in unemployment income while generating five figures a year in passive income?

After speaking to people in human resources, a couple unemployed folks, and doing some searching online, I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter if we make $100,000 a year in passive (unearned) income, we still get to collect unemployment insurance.


Let’s say you work for 20 years and diligently save a majority of your after tax income every year. You somehow amass $2.5 million and decide to go really conservative and buy ten, $250,000, 7-year CD’s with a 4% interest rate. The reason why you buy 10, $250,000 CD’s is because of the $250,000 FDIC guarantee limit ($500,000 for couples per account). Fair enough.

You love your job, but due to a restructuring, you are let go. The $100,000 a year you earn in passive income has no bearing on your ability to collect unemployment benefits since the $100,000 a year is a result of your past work.  You are no longer working to make that money, as that money is now working for you. Your company could technically refute the unemployment benefit claim upon realizing you earn six figures in interest income, however, you don’t have to reveal your personal finances to your employer. And if they do deny you, you have recourse.

The more interesting question is, “Should you collect $1,800/month in unemployment benefits if you have enough passive/unearned income to live on?” My answer is, absolutely yes. Just look at your W2 and see all the federal and state income taxes you pay.  Mine makes me absolutely sick. Your employer is happily paying you less than you could truly earn so they can pay for unemployment insurance.

There really isn’t a moral question to taking unemployment insurance while earning enough money passively to survive.  You and your company have paid for it after all those years you’ve worked, and if you’ve found yourself out of a job for reasons no more than performance related, then you deserve to collect some money back for once!

Finally, if you can, always try and get laid off rather than quit. You’ll receive severance, unemployment benefits, and ongoing training. If you quit, you get nothing!

Passive Income X Factor – Starting A Website

It’s been around six years since I started Financial Samurai and I’m actually earning a good passive income stream online. The top 1% of all posts on Financial Samurai generates 31% of all traffic. The average age of the top 1% posts is 2.3 years old. In other words, after putting in the hours to write some very meaty content over two years ago, 10 posts consistently generate a monthly recurring income stream that’s completely passive.

I never thought I’d be able to quit my job in 2012 just three years after starting Financial Samurai. But by starting one financial crisis day in 2009, Financial Samurai actually makes more than my entire passive income total that took 15 years to build. If you enjoy writing, connecting with people online, and enjoying more freedom, see how you can set up a WordPress blog in 15 minutes with Bluehost. Who knows where your new adventure will take you?

Photo: Jitsu Relaxing At The Four Seasons, HK.  SD. Updated on 3/1/2015