Don’t Set It & Forget It

KneeI got good news today from my doctor, telling me that instead of the surgery I was dreading for my worn out knees, that I likely just need Physical Therapy (PT).  For many reasons this is welcomed news as well as an eye opener for me.

The reason for the PT is because years ago I had my knees operated on and then I just moved on with life.  I failed to do any PT after the surgery and the muscles in my legs never fully recovered.  I just moved on and forgot about it.

The bad news is that my knees are now weak and in bad need of PT, the good news is that I can now do something about it.  I met with a physical therapist and he has me on a plan to help me strengthen my knees that will help improve my life.

The attitude that I had about my knees reminds me of the attitudes some people have  toward their insurance plan.

Insurance AgentThey meet with an insurance person once, purchase a policy and then move on with life.  They “Set it and Forget it.”

Insurance is not a “Set it and Forget It”.  It is important that you review your coverages with your agent at least every 12 months.  Another important time to review your coverages is when you have a “Life Event”, such as a wedding, a new driver, or a new room addition to your house.

Don’t treat your insurance plan like I did my knees.  Take the time to review your coverages as often as necessary with your agent.  Life changes and your insurance needs will change with your life.

Homeowners Insurance Exclusions

Does your homeowner’s insurance policy include comprehensive perils? Do you know what that means? Nearly every insurance policy has exclusions (perils that the policy excludes against). The exclusions can include earthquakes, flooding, and sump pump failure.

The short video below will help you with your understanding of what your homeowners insurance policy may or may not cover.

As always consult with your agent if you have specific questions about your homeowners insurance

The Power of Life Insurance

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month.

There are very few things in this life that will have such a profound effect on the future of others then life insurance.  No other financial vehicle in the world has such power!

Here are my top five reasons why I believe that life insurance is the most powerful purchase that you will ever make.088

  1. The Power to Change Lives! What would your family be able to do with a tax free check of $1 Million?  Your family history could be changed forever by a wise investment into your future generations.  It’s a great idea to invest into your own retirement and future, but don’t forget that your descendants will eventually be standing on your shoulders as they try to provide for their families.
  2. The Power of a Lasting Legacy! Make a statement that will help your name to live on by donating the proceeds of a life insurance policy to the charity that you are passionate about.  Are you passionate about the future of your town, your church, your school, your organization?  Let the future generations know about your passion by using the proceeds of a life insurance policy to fund an endowment or scholarship.
  3. The Power of Education! Ensure that your children and grandchildren will be able to attend college even if you die.  College tuitions continue to rise while the importance of a post high school education grows even faster.  Your children and grandchildren will want to accomplish something great in this life!  Help them with their future (which is your future) by leaving money behind to help pay for their post high school education.
  4. The Power of Living Debt Free! Wow, what a gift that would be!  When you pass away, your family will be good-credit-vs-bad-creditdealing with the stress and heart ache of losing you.  Don’t leave them with the more burdensome task of figuring out how to pay your debts!  Have enough life insurance to pay off the mortgage and all of your other obligations.
  5. The Power to Replace your Income! What a blessing it would be for your family to be able to continue at their same lifestyle even without your income.  In my own family I have seen the devastation left behind by someone passing away without life insurance, as households were torn apart and financial futures wrecked.  While no person is ever replaceable, you can replace your income to help lessen the financial effect your death has on your family.

The Growing Problem of Identity Theft, Part 2

Part 2, How we can protect ourselves

As discussed in Part 1 the terms data breach and identity theft are relatively new terms that can have devastating effects on our personal lives. Billions of personal records have been stolen and it seems that data breaches are in the news every day.ID Theft

In today’s world your credit rating is very important. It’s a determining factor in the amount of interest that you pay; it affects your insurance rates; it can affect your employment, and your children’s future. Therefore it is vitally important that we do everything that we can to protect our good name.

What can we do to protect ourselves? There are both preventative and reactionary measures that we can take to protect both our credit and our identity.

For the individual, insurance companies offer a type of reactionary identity theft protection. If your Identity is stolen they will then step in to try and help bring your name back to where it was before the incident. There are limitations to this coverage but these coverages do help to alleviate some of the expenses in regaining your identity.

LifelockAlso for the individual there are credit monitoring companies like Lifelock that will monitor your credit for you and notify you of any activity on your credit report. Lifelock will also monitor individual credit accounts as well as bank accounts.

For business owners that are concerned about their client records many insurance companies now offer data breach coverage with the Business Owner Policy. The amount of the coverage can be customized to the size of business and the exposure associated with the business. If an incident did happen the coverage would kick in to help out with the expenses associated with the notices that must be sent to potentially affected clients. These notices are required by law. In most cases the policy would also help with expenses in offering additional services to the affected clients and with any legal fees associated with the breach.

Both Insurance companies and credit monitoring companies are a good start to protecting you identity, but there is more that you can do.images8AMQY7Z5

While there is no 100% bullet proof way to keep a criminal from stealing your identity there are some things that you can do to protect yourself. Here is a list of 10 things that will help you to protect you identity.

1. Shred your personal documents instead of just throwing them in the trash. Thieves are not too proud to go dumpster diving.

2. Check your credit report once per year. You can get a free credit report at http://www.annualcreditreport.com. You can dispute inaccuracies at the credit reporting agencies.

3. Carefully read your credit card statements each month to make sure that there are no unauthorized charges. Even small unauthorized charges could be an indication that a thief is getting ready to make a big purchase on your card.

4. Don’t leave your mail in the mailbox for too long. A lot of personal identifying information comes to us in our daily mail via USPS.

5. Don’t give out your personal information over the phone, or in an email. In recent times it’s become clear that phone conversations can be monitored and emails can be hacked.

6. Protect your Social Security Number. We take it for granted, but people entering into the country illegally are in search for good Social Security numbers.

7. Keep your computer secure with antivirus software and firewalls. Sometimes that pesky virus on your computer is looking for your personal information.

8. Don’t let your credit card out of sight. A big scam that was going on in the Chicago area a few years back involved waiters taking the clients credit card to the back of the restaurant and stealing the information to use later on. Have the waiter bring you the card machine instead.

9. Avoid doing business online with companies that you don’t know anything about.

10. Don’t open attachments or click on links from people that you don’t know.

For more information on how you can protect your identity theft contact Brian Bragg at Bragg Insurance Agency at 317-758-5828, or by email at brian@bragginsurance.com. For related information visit http://www.bragginsuranceblog.com

When Optimisim is a Negative

“It won’t happen to me is not a good insurance program”

It’s quite amazing how many optimistsglass-half-full-233x300 that I run into on a daily basis. I too am a “glass half full” person, so I truly understand the optimistic mindset. While I consider myself to be a positive person I cannot hold a candle to some of the idealistic thinkers that cross my path. Recently I’ve been putting these Utopian-minded folks into 3 categories.

The Immortals – This group is the most sanguine. They are a confident group that thinks that they cannot die. They are usually young and believe that their youth and positive buoyant attitude will keep death at bay. They go about their day to day activities on cloud nine ignoring pessimistic thoughts such as death, and responsibilities.

Unfortunately “The Immortals” do die, and many times way too young. Sometimes they leave behind a family with both emotional and financial voids. They leave behind mortgages, motorcycle payments, car payments, children, spouses, and extra expenses related to their funeral.

The Conscientious Optimist – This group of optimists are so meticulous that an accident could never happen to them. They are superb drivers, their homes are danger free zones and they never take risks –Never! When they drive they are able to look 3 and 4 moves ahead of everyone else and they can actually read the minds of other drivers. These clairvoyant powers keep them out of the path of drunk drivers and they are able to spot deer before they look into the headlights.

Unfortunately just as Superman’s weakness was kryptonite, even The Conscientious Optimist is susceptible to accidents. A car sometimes appears out of nowhere, someone hits their vehicle when it’s parked in a parking lot, or they only looked away for a second and that’s when the accident happened.

The Optimistic Procrastinator – Normally procrastination is associated as a negative word, but I’ve come to realize that Procrastinators are actually very positive people. They believe beat_procrastinationthat they can wait until the very last minute to take care of a duty or a task. Some of their most often used words are, “I meant to”, or “I was just getting ready to do that”, or “there’s plenty of time to do that later”

Unfortunately for the procrastinator his optimistic view of time often times runs out. His “meant to” turns into never did, and his “I was just getting ready to do that” turns into never got it done. The thing the optimistic procrastinator doesn’t realize is that when time runs out, his good intentions aren’t worth a hill of beans. He was derelict in his duties and responsibilities in spite of his good intentions.

pic-lhb-familyWe optimists are funny people. We really do see the glass as half full. But we also need to be aware of a balancing truth. We are not immortal, we do not have a magic force field around us protecting us from accidents, and we are not promised tomorrow.

So why not rather be an optimist that is prepared for the future? Live life to the fullest, but be prepared in case it’s your last day. Be a conscientious person that avoids all accidents, but have a plan in case the unexpected happens. Today, stop putting off those “meant to do” items and get them done today.

Brian Bragg owns and operates Bragg Insurance Agency and can be emailed at brian@bragginsurance.com

Spring Storms Can Bring Scam Artists

Watch for Scams after a Storm

Concerned WomanAs winter winds down and we draw closer to Spring you will begin to hear the importance of being prepared for the Springtime storms. As everyone knows we are at a greater risk for Tornados and serious wind and hail storms in the Spring and Fall.

These storms can turn your home and your life upside down. If your home is damaged in a storm you are eager to get your home repaired as quickly as possible so that you can get your life back to normal. It’s during this time of eagerness that you can become victim to another “natural disaster”, a scam artist.

Most contractors are reputable business people. But each year, there are a few dishonest ones who chase storms from state to state. They will try to convince you that you have hail or other damage and that you need a new roof when in fact you really don’t. They’ll ask to be hired for the work, explaining that your insurance company will pay for the repairs.th7JGJ1NLC

Most homeowner’s insurance policies will cover damage caused by hail and windstorms, but they will not cover the cost to replace a roof or siding when no damage has occurred. It is always recommended that you obtain a second and even a third opinion before starting any contract work.

What you can do?

If you’re beginning to repair or rebuild after a storm, or even if you are just planning a home improvement project, keep these tips, recommended by the Federal FEMAEmergency Management Agency, in mind for choosing contractors wisely:
• Get more than one estimate.
• Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away.
• Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations should be detailed.
• Check references before deciding which contractor to choose.
• Never sign a contract with blanks.
• Don’t pay a contractor in full until the work is complete.
• Check with county or city licensing authorities to see if the contractor is licensed in your jurisdiction, as well as checking for complaints with their regional Better Business Bureau.

Contact your local independent agent.

If you need suggestions about who to hire or how to repair your home after a storm, your local independent agent can help you contact an insurance claims adjuster. Most insurance carriers have professional claims adjusters who are trained to assess your property, identify storm damage and prepare an estimate for proper repair. They can also provide recommendations for reliable, licensed contractors in your area—although the final choice of contractor is always yours.

2014 Insurance Planning

Greeting the New Year is one of my favorite events. Beautiful-Happy-New-Year-2014-HD-Wallpapers-by-techblogstop-1It’s a time when I can reflect back at what has transpired over the past 12 months, and set goals and plans for what I hope to accomplish over the year. It’s a time when I can free myself of the past year’s failures and shortcomings, while I celebrate my accomplishments and prepare to be my best in the New Year.

Some people will resolve to lose weight or quit smoking in the New Year. I would imagine that a lot will sit down at the kitchen table with pen and paper in hand to do some financial goal planning. You’re planning to pay off that pesky credit card, or maybe you’re planning on putting in that swimming pool that you’ve always wanted.

Insurance AgentWith this in mind, let me suggest that the New Year is also an excellent time to review all of your insurance needs with your insurance agent. Insurance is not a “set it and forget it” financial product. It’s a financial product that needs to be continually maintained. As our lives change so do our insurance needs.

As you probably know, there are many changes imagesMAO8Q7F8taking place in insurance right now, and not just in health insurance, but also in home and auto. Premium rates are increasing and coverages are decreasing. You’ve probably noticed the increasing premiums, but did you know that your coverages may not be as good as they once were?

I thought that I was covered is not an insurance program. Make an annual insurance review part of your new year’s financial strategy. You will be glad that you did.

 

Has Your Deductible Changed Without Your Knowledge?

For the past several years homeowner’s insurance companies in Indiana have been losing money, primarily because of wind and hail claims. Storm patterns in recent years have pelted the Midwest with wind and hail related claims that reach into the $ billions. In fact many insurance companies are paying out 2 dollars in claims, for every dollar they receive in premium.Hail-damage-house-OK-6-2011-lg

This has been the primary reason the industry has seen such an increase in homeowners insurance premiums over the past few years. While this trend is not likely to end any time soon, some insurance companies are also changing the way they pay out claims.

Traditionally a homeowner’s policy has a dollar amount named as the deductible. That amount is subtracted from the amount of the claim. For example, if the policy has a $1,000 deductible and there is a $5,000 claim, the insurance company would pay out $4,000.

However there is a trend in the industry that has some companies changing their deductibles from a dollar amount to a percentage, especially if the claim has been caused by wind or hail.

Hand over your moneyI recently spoke to a married couple who had damage to their roof caused by the outbreak of tornadoes we experienced in the month of November. They called their insurance company to file a claim, and discovered that their deductible for a wind claim is 10% of their dwelling value. Their dwelling value is $360,000 which made their deductible $36,000. Needless to say they ended up having to pay for the repairs to their roof out of their own pocket.

Did you catch that? Their deductible was $36,000 for wind and hail damages!

Unfortunately many other companies are following suit. Some very large and well-known insurance companies are changing their wind and hail deductibles to a % and most of their clients are unaware of the change. Often times clients are only notified of this change within the mountain of paperwork they receive in the mail from the company at the policies renewal.

Let’s face it; most people do not have the time to sift through that much paperwork. They file it away and assume that the coverages have remained the same.

The example given above of a 10% deductible is the most extreme case that I have seen. More frequently I am seeing wind and hail damage deductibles changing from a dollar amount to 1% or 2% of the dwelling coverage. 1% or 2% of the dwelling is still a significant amount of money to pay out of pocket at the stressful time of a claim.take action

Protect yourself.

1. Review your documents. Take the time to review the documents when you receive information in the mail from your insurance company. If you do not understand the language or have questions, take the policy to your agent and have them explain the coverages.

annual review2. Insist on an annual review. Your agent should be sitting down with you on an annual basis to review your coverages and to answer your questions. There are too many changes taking place in the homeowner’s insurance arena right now to ignore the paperwork and hope for the best.

3. Educate yourself. Too often times I hear people say that they paid their premium so the assumed everything was OK. Don’t turn a blind eye to your insurance coverages. Insurance is expensive so you should do you best to make sure that you understand what you are paying for.

Replacement Value or Actual Cash Value

Do you have Replacement Value or Actual Cash Value? This is an important question that needs to asked when determining which insurance program is right for you.

ConfusionReplacement Value Insurance means that if your covered item is destroyed you will be paid the amount of money it takes to replace that item with a brand new item. There are a few caveats in each policy and you must subtract your deductible, but this is a good definition of Replacement Value.

Actual Cash Value Insurance (ACV) means that if your covered item is destroyed you will be paid the value of that item at the time of the occurrence. If your item is 10 years old the item will be depreciated accordingly and you will be paid the cash value of that item minus your deductible.

Here are two examples.

Your roof blows off of your house in a bad storm. You get an estimate of $15,000 to replace your roof.Limestone Tornado Damage

If you have Replacement Value Insurance with a $1,000 deductible the insurance company would pay the roofing contractor $14,000 and you would pay $1,000, the amount of your deductible.

If you have ACV with a $1,000 deductible the insurance company would then do some calculations to determine the value of your roof at the time of the occurrence. If your roof is 8 years old, they would depreciate the value of your roof by 8 years. They may determine that the cash value of your roof to be $11,000. The insurance company would then pay the roofing contractor $10,000 ($11,000 minus your deductible of $1,000), and you would pay the roofing contractor the remaining $5,000.

Here’s another example

Missing RoofIn that same scenario of the roof blowing off of your home, you have nearly all of your personal property damaged by rain water, hail damage, and wind.

If you have Replacement Value Insurance on your personal property the insurance company would calculate how much it would cost to replace the damaged personal property with new personal property of the same kind. If they determine that it is $100,000, you would be paid out that amount to replace your personal property. In this case the deductible was already paid through the roofing contractor.

If you have ACV on your personal propertyConcerned Woman the insurance company would then do some calculations to determine the cash value of your personal property at the time of the occurrence. You may only get $200 for your 10 year old couch, even though a new couch may cost $1,200. They may determine that your personal property had a cash value of $25,000 at the time of the occurrence. You would be paid out that amount to replace your personal property. Your deductible was already paid through the roofing contractor.

Summarizing these 2 example; if you had Replacement Value Insurance your insurance company would have paid out $114,000 (replacement of the roof and your personal property) and you would have had to pay out $1,000 (the amount of your deductible); and if you had ACV your insurance company would have paid out $35,000 (the ACV of the roof and your personal property minus your deductible) and you would have had to pay out $80,000 to replace your roof and personal property.

new roofReplacement Value Insurance cost about 10% more than ACV and there are some situation where ACV is called for. Some risks may not be eligible for Replacement Value Insurance because of the condition of the property, or the nature of the risk.

There are changes taking place in the insurance industry right now that you need to be aware of.  Some companies are changing the way that they pay out claims from what they may have done in the past. I am seeing deductibles increasing and policies that once had Replacement Value Insurance getting changed to ACV. Many HO3 polices have Replacement Value on the home but ACV on the personal property. Do you know what you have? logo3696786_mdIf you are unsure, contact your agent right away.

You can also contact Bragg Insurance Agency at 317-758-5828 for a free no obligation review of any of your insurance policies.

Be on the Alert for Deer

My favorite time of year is Harvest Season. I love the cooler weather, wonderful colors, fall parties, and watching the farmers in their fields. Fall is also deer season…not just deer hunting season, but also “watch out for that deer” season.White-tailed_deer

As the corn and beans grow during the summer deer can easily move from woods to woods without being detected and with very little human interaction, but when it’s time to cut beans or pick the corn that all changes. Grain farmer will confirm that they lose crops every year from deer who feed on the corn and beans.

When the harvest starts and combines go into the fields, deer sometimes freak out! They run, and sometimes they run right into a car.

To compound the issue bow hunting season starts (this year on October 1st) and then shot gun hunting season (this year on November LargerDrawnBow16th.)  Deer are constantly on the move, trying to avoid tractors, combines, and hunters.

Deer are also nocturnal and with our diminishing daylight hours they are much more active in the fall and winter months. Nearly 50% of all deer related accidents happen between the months of October and December.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about 1 million car accidents each year are a caused by deer / vehicle collisions. These collisions kill about 200 people each year (not to mention a lot of deer). The accidents cause about 10,000 personal injuries and cost about $1 billion in property damage.

If you’re from Indiana, I don’t have to tell you that hitting a deer can cause a lot of damage and even death.   In fact, I will bet you have either hit a deer yourself, or personally know someone who has.

What can you do to protect yourself?deer-and-car_100324859_m

1. Be on Alert! Especially at dawn and dusk, this is when deer are on the move. Also be aware of your surroundings. Are you driving in a rural area where deer are more likely to be seen? Are there farmers in the fields?

2. Watch your speed. If you are in an area and/or at a time where deer are likely to be seen, take your foot off the accelerator and slow down.

3. Use your high beams. Look for deer in the headlights.

4. If you see one deer there are likely to be more and take precautions.

5. Don’t swerve. This may cause you to lose control and hit another vehicle or lose control of your vehicle.

6. Wear your seat belt! Many deaths and injuries are a result of being thrown through the windshield. Seat belts save lives.