What Is a Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF)?

Underwriters' meetingNew insurance agents can get a grounding in the basic skills, such as underwriting, needed to succeed in the field by becoming a Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF). After completing the required training, agents will have greater expertise in prospecting, selling, practice management as well as insight into practice specialties including life and health insurance, employee benefits and annuities. Having a LUTCF also can aid new agents in acquiring a job with an agency and in marketing themselves to prospective clients.

The LUTCF is overseen by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors (NAIFA). The training and testing are provided by education company Kaplan through its College for Financial Planning division.

LUTCF Certification Requirements

The core of the certification requirements for the LUTCF is a set of three courses. Each course consists of eight weeks of instruction followed by a week for review and testing.

The first course is an introduction to life insurance and managing a life insurance practice. It covers business planning, ethics, life insurance product basics, risk management, prospecting, selling skills and financial planning.

The second course goes deeper into life insurance as well as annuities, mutual funds and insurance for health, disability, long-term care, group coverage and property and casualty. Risk management, retirement and estate planning are among the subjects covered in the third course.

The third course deals with risk management applications. It covers retirement and estate planning as well as special situations.

The courses are available as self-paced prerecorded lectures. They are also taught live and via interactive online classes. After completing each of the three courses, students must pass a two-hour test. To pass, they must correctly answer 70% of the 50 questions on each test.

The training costs $950 per course for a total of $2,850. The only prerequisite for the LUTCF is to belong to NAIFA, which has a sliding membership fee scale. People in their first year in financial services pay $10 to belong to NAIFA. The fee increases annually until it reaches $56 a year after a member has five years of experience in the field.

After receiving the designation, LUTCF designees can renew it by paying a $50 renewal fee every two years. As part of the renewal process, they also have to demonstrate that they have completed three hours of ethics continuing education every two years. In addition, LUTCF holders must agree to follow standards of professional conduct and be subject to a disciplinary process.

LUTCF Holder Jobs

Insurance worksheetsLUTCF seekers are usually insurance agents at the start of their careers. They may be interested in obtaining the designation as a way to convince potential employers of their commitment and knowledge about the life insurance industry. Having the LUTCF initials on a business card is also seen as an aid in marketing to prospects. The LUTCF is an optional certification and does not confer any specific powers or privileges on holders.

The designation has been around since 1984 and approximately 70,000 people have earned an LUTCF during that time.

Comparable Certifications

There are only a few entry-level certificates available to life insurance agents. In addition to the LUTCF, new agents can choose from:

Financial Services Certified Professional (FSCP) is offered by the American College of Financial Services, which originally co-sponsored the LUTCF with NAIFA. In 2013 the organizations ended their association and the American College of Financial Service began offering the FSCP. It requires passing seven courses on financial services and ethics topics at a combined cost of $3,230.

Registered Financial Associate (RFA) is a designation from the International Association of Registered Financial Consultants. It is offered to agents and other financial professionals who have already received a life insurance license, Series 65 securities license, bachelor degree in a related field or any of a number of professional designations, including a LUTCF. RFAs also have to pay a $250 fee. The only requirement other than that is to pass an examination on the organization’s code of ethics for financial professionals.

Bottom Line

Business meeting

The Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF) certification is one of the first designations sought by beginning life insurance agents. To get one, students have to learn about life and other forms of insurance, mutual funds, annuities, employee benefits and financial advising, in addition to managing a life insurance business, prospecting and selling.

Tips on Insurance

  • A consumer considering purchasing life insurance can increase the chances of making a good decision by having a relationship with a trusted and experienced financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Entry-level designations for financial services professionals like the LUTCF indicate that an advisor is interested in learning about the field and following best practices. More advanced certifications such as Chartered Life Underwriter and Certified Financial Planner are likely to indicate that a professional is a more experienced and well-informed source for financial advice.

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The post What Is a Life Underwriter Training Council Fellow (LUTCF)? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Health Insurance Myths Debunked

A health insurance policy is essential for anyone seeking to safeguard their future and avoid the catastrophic consequences of high medical bills. Whether you’re buying coverage for yourself or a health plan for your family, it’s important to get complete coverage. But despite this fact, millions of Americans remain uninsured, often because they believe one of the following health insurance myths.

Myth 1: I’m Young and Healthy; I Don’t Need Health Insurance

You’re never too young to start shopping for health insurance plans because you don’t know what’s around the corner. Medical expenses can be astronomical at any age and anyone can have an accident, fall ill or be diagnosed with a serious disease. 

It’s not pleasant to think about and many people prefer to bury their heads in the sand and live as if they are invincible, but they’re not. No one is.

Health care is very expensive in the United States, there’s no escaping that fact. This is one of the few developed nations in the world where being the victim of an accident or attack could lead to insurmountable medical expenses and essentially ruin your life. You can’t rely on luck and you can’t assume you’ll be safe just because you’re young, fit, and healthy.

In fact, buying at this young age has many benefits, including the fact that you’ll likely clear all exclusion periods by the time you actually need to start claiming.

Myth 2: The Benefits are Lost if I Don’t Renew by the Due Date

You should always try to pay your monthly premium on time, thus avoiding any issues and ensuring you are covered at all times. However, your health insurance coverage does not end the minute you miss a payment.

Insurance companies have a grace period, during which time your policy will remain active. This period allows you to gather the funds needed and to pay your monthly premium, thus keeping your policy active. 

Typically, this grace period lasts for between 7 and 15 days, but it differs from provider to provider. Check your policy for more details but try to avoid playing fast and loose with your payments as they could be the only thing protecting you.

Myth 3: It’s All About the Deductible

The deductible is the amount of money you pay before the health insurance policy takes over and to many consumers, it is the single most important part of any health insurance policy. However, while it is important to consider the deductible, you should not choose your policies based solely on which one has the lowest deductible.

Look for the sort of cover that they provide and whether this will suit your needs or not, and then focus on the deductible. 

It’s also important to find the right balance between a deductible that is cheap enough for you to afford when the time comes, but is not so cheap that it sends the premiums through the roof. To do this, avoid focusing on how much your first monthly payment will cost and ask yourself what you would do if you had to pay for a medical expense today.

Would you have an issue paying the deductible? Would it require you to borrow money from friends or family? If so, it’s too high and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Myth 4: I Have Insurance from My Employer so I Don’t Need any Additional Cover

If your employer offers any kind of group health insurance cover, take it, but don’t assume that it will cover you for everything you need. Read the small print, look for gaps, and seek to fill those gaps with your own cover.

With your own policy, you’ll also be protected if you lose your life. If anything happens in the time it takes you to find a new job, you could be left to foot the bill, making this an even scarier and more stressful time. But if you’re covered, you can take your time as you search for a suitable role.

Myth 5: It’s Not a Pre-Existing Condition if I Didn’t Know About it

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions you will be subject to an exclusion period, one that may last for up to 48 months. During this time, your insurance company will not pay out for any issues related to this condition and contrary to popular belief, not knowing about the condition is not enough to avoid this exclusion period.

If, somehow, it is proven that you had a medical condition that was simply not discovered at the time you applied, it will still be subject to an exclusion period. The good news, however, is that you can no longer be refused because of pre-existing medical conditions, which means that everyone can benefit from health insurance.

Myth 6: I Don’t Need Health Insurance If I Have a Life Insurance Plan

A life insurance policy can cover you for critical illness, which could be used to cover health care costs. You can also purchase accident and dismemberment insurance to cover you in the event you lose a limb. However, life insurance is designed to pay out a death benefit when you die. It goes to your loved ones, not you, and is therefore not a viable replacement for health insurance.

For complete cover, you should look into getting both life insurance and health insurance. You can find low-cost options for both.

Summary: Common Myths Debunked

If you don’t have any health insurance coverage, it’s time to change that and start looking for coverage today. Take a look at our guide to choosing a health plan to get started. We also have guides on everything from life insurance (term life insurance, whole life insurance, and other life insurance coverage) car insurance and pretty much all other insurance products.

By purchasing all of these together you could even save some money while getting essential coverage! Just remember to do your research, plan ahead, and never settle for less than you need as you may live to regret it in the future.

Health Insurance Myths Debunked is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer

Could logging in to your computer from a deluxe treehouse off the coast of Belize be the future of work? Maybe. For many, the word freelance means flexibility, meaningful tasks and better work-life balance. Who doesn’t want to create their own hours, love what they do and work from wherever they want? Freelancing can provide all of that—but that freedom can vanish quickly if you don’t handle your expenses correctly.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches,” says freelance copywriter Alyssa Goulet, “and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

Nearly 57 million people in the U.S. freelanced, or were self-employed, in 2019, according to Upwork, a global freelancing platform. Freelancing is also increasingly becoming a long-term career choice, with the percentage of freelancers who freelance full-time increasing from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019, according to Upwork. But for all its virtues, the cost of being freelance can carry some serious sticker shock.

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“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on, but for that you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Most people who freelance for the first time don’t realize that everything—from taxes to office supplies to setting up retirement plans—is on them. So, before you can sustain yourself through self-employment, you need to answer a very important question: “Are you financially ready to freelance?”

What you’ll find is that budgeting as a freelancer can be entirely manageable if you plan for the following key costs. Let’s start with one of the most perplexing—taxes:

1. Taxes: New rules when working on your own

First things first: Don’t try to be a hero. When determining how to budget as a freelancer and how to manage your taxes as a freelancer, you’ll want to consult with a financial adviser or tax professional for guidance. A tax expert can help you figure out what makes sense for your personal and business situation.

For instance, just like a regular employee, you will owe federal income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. When you’re employed at a regular job, you and your employer each pay half of these taxes from your income, according to the IRS. But when you’re self-employed (earning more than $400 a year in net income), you’re expected to file and pay these expenses yourself, the IRS says. And if you think you will owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a given year, you may need to file estimated quarterly taxes, the IRS also says.

That can feel like a heavy hit when you’re not used to planning for these costs. “If you’ve been on a salary, you don’t think about taxes really. You think about the take-home pay. With freelance, everything is take-home pay,” says Susan Lee, CFP®, tax preparer and founder of FreelanceTaxation.com.

When learning how to budget as a freelancer it’s necessary to estimate your income and expenses before setting aside savings for tax payments.

When you’re starting to budget as a freelancer and determining how often you will need to file, Lee recommends doing a “dummy return,” which is an estimation of your self-employment income and expenses for the year. You can come up with this number by looking at past assignments, industry standards and future projections for your work, which freelancer Goulet finds valuable.

“Since I don’t have a salary or a fixed number of hours worked per month, I determine the tax bracket I’m most likely to fall into by taking my projected monthly income and multiplying it by 12,” Goulet says. “If I experience a big income jump because of a new contract, I redo that calculation.”

After you estimate your income, learning how to budget as a freelancer means working to determine how much to set aside for your tax payments. Lee, for example, recommends saving about 25 percent of your income for paying your income tax and self-employment tax (which funds your Medicare and Social Security). But once you subtract your business expenses from your freelance income, you may not have to pay that entire amount, according to Lee. Deductible expenses can include the mileage you use to get from one appointment to another, office supplies and maintenance and fees for a coworking space, according to Lee. The income left over will be your taxable income.

Pro Tip:

To set aside the taxes you will need to pay, adjust your estimates often and always round up. “Let’s say in one month a freelancer determines she would owe $1,400 in tax. I’d put away $1,500,” Goulet says.

2. Business expenses: Get a handle on two big areas

The truth is, the cost of being freelance varies from person to person. Some freelancers are happy to work from their kitchen tables, while others need a dedicated workspace. Your freelance costs also change as you add new tools to your business arsenal. Here are two categories you’ll always need to account for when budgeting as a freelancer:

Your workspace

Joining a coworking space gets you out of the house and allows you to establish the camaraderie you may miss when you work alone. When you’re calculating the cost of being freelance, note that coworking spaces may charge membership dues ranging from $20 for a day pass to hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated desk or private office. While coworking spaces are all the rage, you can still rent a traditional office for several hundred dollars a month or more, but this fee usually doesn’t include community aspects or other membership perks.

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If you want to avoid office rent or dues as costs of being freelance but don’t want the kitchen table to pull double-duty as your workspace, you might convert another room in your home into an office. But you’ll still need to outfit the space with all of your work essentials. Freelance copywriter and content strategist Amy Hardison retrofitted part of her house into a simple office. “I got a standing desk, a keyboard, one of those adjustable stands for my computer and a squishy mat to stand on so my feet don’t hurt,” Hardison says.

Pro Tip:

Start with the absolute necessities. When Hardison first launched her freelance career, she purchased a laptop for $299. She worked out of a coworking space and used its office supplies before creating her own workspace at home.

Digital tools

There are a range of digital tools, including business and accounting software, that can help with the majority of your business functions. A big benefit is the time they can save you that is better spent marketing to clients or producing great work.

The software can also help you avoid financial lapses as you’re managing the costs of being freelance. Hardison’s freelance business had ramped up to a point where a manual process was costing her money, so using an invoicing software became a no-brainer. “I was sending people attached document invoices for a while and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Hardison says. “And then I lost a few of them and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be losing things. This is my income!’”

As you manage the cost of being freelance, consider digital tools and accounting services to keep track of invoices, payments and income.

Digital business and software tools can help manage scheduling, web hosting, accounting, audio/video conference and other functions. When you’re determining how to budget as a freelancer, note that the costs for these services depend largely on your needs. For instance, several invoicing platforms offer options for as low as $9 per month, though the cost increases the more clients you add to your account. Accounting services also scale up based on the features you want and how many clients you’re tracking, but you can find reputable platforms for as little as $5 a month.

Pro Tip:

When you sign up for a service, start with the “freemium” version, in which the first tier of service is always free, Hardison says. Once you have enough clients to warrant the expense, upgrade to the paid level with the lowest cost. Gradually adding services will keep your expenses proportionate to your income.

3. Health insurance: Harnessing an inevitable cost

Budgeting for healthcare costs can be one of the biggest hurdles to self-employment and successfully learning how to budget as a freelancer. In the first half of the 2020 open enrollment period, the average monthly premium under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for those who do not receive federal subsidies—or a reduced premium based on income—was $456 for individuals and $1,134 for families, according to eHealth, a private online marketplace for health insurance.

“Buying insurance is really protecting against that catastrophic event that is not likely to happen. But if it does, it could throw everything else in your plan into a complete tailspin,” says Stephen Gunter, CFP®, at Bridgeworth Financial.

Budgeting as a freelancer allows you to select a healthcare plan that best suits your employment status, income and relationship status.

A good place to start when budgeting as a freelancer is knowing what healthcare costs you should budget for. Your premium—which is how much you pay each month to have your insurance—is a key cost. Note that the plans with the lowest premiums aren’t always the most affordable. For instance, if you choose a high-deductible policy you may pay less in premiums, but if you have a claim, you may pay more at the time you or your covered family member’s health situation arises.

When you are budgeting as a freelancer, the ACA healthcare marketplace is one place to look for a plan. Here are a few other options:

  • Spouse or domestic partner’s plan: If your spouse or domestic partner has health insurance through his/her employer, you may be able to get coverage under their plan.
  • COBRA: If you recently left your full-time job for self-employment, you may be able to convert your employer’s group plan into an individual COBRA plan. Note that this type of plan comes with a high expense and coverage limit of 18 months.
  • Organizations for freelancers: Search online for organizations that promote the interests of independent workers. Depending on your specific situation, you may find options for health insurance plans that fit your needs.

Pro Tip:

Speak with an insurance adviser who can help you figure out which plans are best for your health needs and your budget. An adviser may be willing to do a free consultation, allowing you to gather important information before making a financial commitment.

4. Retirement savings: Learn to “set it and forget it”

Part of learning how to budget as a freelancer is thinking long term, which includes saving for retirement. That may seem daunting when you’re wrangling new business expenses, but Gunter says saving for the future is a big part of budgeting as a freelancer.

“It’s kind of the miracle of compound interest. The sooner we can get it invested, the sooner we can get it saving,” Gunter says.

He suggests going into autopilot and setting aside whatever you would have contributed to an employer’s 401(k) plan. One way to do this might be setting up an automatic transfer to your savings or retirement account. “So, if you would have put in 3 percent [of your income] each month, commit to saving that 3 percent on your own,” Gunter says. The Discover IRA Certificate of Deposit (IRA CD) could be a good fit for helping you enjoy guaranteed returns in retirement by contributing after-tax (Roth IRA CD) or pre-tax (traditional IRA CD) dollars from your income now.

Pro Tip:

Prioritize retirement savings every month, not just when you feel flush. “Saying, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over’ isn’t a savings plan, because whatever is left over at the end of the month is usually zero,” Gunter says.

5. Continually update your rates

One of the best things you can do for yourself in learning how to budget as a freelancer is build your costs into what you charge. “As I’ve discovered more business expenses, I definitely take those into account as I’m determining what my rates are,” Goulet says. She notes that freelancers sometimes feel guilty for building business costs into their rates, especially when they’re worried about the fees they charge to begin with. But working the costs of being freelance into your rates is essential to building a thriving freelance career. You should annually evaluate the rates you charge.

Because your expenses will change over time, it’s wise to do quarterly and yearly check-ins to assess your income and costs and see if there are processes you can automate to save time and money.

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“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches, and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Have confidence in your freelance career

Accounting for the various costs of being freelance makes for a more successful and sustainable freelance career. It also helps ensure that those who are self-employed achieve financial stability in their personal lives and their businesses.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on,” Goulet says. “But for that, you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

The post Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

5 Legal Documents You Need During a Pandemic

As Americans grapple with how to stay physically and financially healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical to make sure you and your family have the right emergency documents. It’s much easier to prepare for a potential disaster than to recover from one that blind-sides you. After a tragedy occurs, it may be too late to make critical decisions.

Let's talk about the different emergency documents and why you may need to create or update existing paperwork. If you get COVID-19 or have another unexpected illness or accident, these documents will help you manage your finances and make essential decisions with more clarity and less stress.   

5 emergency and legal documents to have during a pandemic

Instead of being caught off guard during a difficult time, consider if you should have these five legal documents.

1. Last will and testament

The purpose of a will is to communicate your final wishes after you die. Too many people don’t have one of these incredibly important documents because they mistakenly believe it’s something just for old rich people.

The fact is, every adult should have a will. If you die without one, the courts decide what happens to your possessions, not your family.

The fact is, every adult should have a will. If you die without one, the courts decide what happens to your possessions, not your family.

And once you have a will, don’t forget to update it periodically to make sure it addresses all your wishes, assets, and beneficiaries. Critical life events—such as getting married, divorced, having a child, or losing a spouse or partner—should trigger you to update your will.

If you’re starting from scratch, make an inventory of your assets—like bank accounts, investments, real estate, vehicles, expensive belongings, and sentimental possessions—and decide what you want to happen to them. You can list beneficiaries for specific items, like who gets a piece of heirloom jewelry or an artwork collection. You can also create distribution percentages, such as 50 percent of the value of your assets go to your partner and 50 percent to your only child.

In addition to dealing with your possessions, a will allows you to name a guardian for your minor children.

In addition to dealing with your possessions, a will allows you to name a guardian for your minor children. And don’t forget to leave instructions for what you want to happen to your pets, digital assets, intellectual property, and business assets. You can create a plan for your funeral, such as where you want to be buried and whether you want your organs donated.

Someone must carry out your final wishes and legal details. You can name a designated family member, friend, or attorney to be your “executor” and handle all the arrangements. Depending on the size of your estate, this can be a challenging and time-consuming task. So, make sure they’re capable and willing to do the job.

The bottom line is that having a will makes death easier for the loved ones of the deceased. It can help keep peace in your family by settling disagreements, minimizing bureaucracy, and even saving your heirs from unnecessary expenses. You don’t need a lawyer to create a will, but if you have a high net worth or many different types of assets, it’s a good idea to hire one.

2. Living will

In addition to a last will, you also need a living will. This document specifies what you’d want to happen regarding your end-of-life care. It would help if you were unresponsive for an extended period or in the final stages of a terminal condition.

Having a living will makes your wishes clear when you’re facing death. It’s an essential guide for family and doctors who might need to know if you’d want to extend your life by artificial means or to die without any interventions.

3. Health care proxy

When it comes to your health care, another critical document is a health care proxy. You might also hear this called a health care power of attorney or a health care surrogate. In it, you designate someone to make medical decisions for you when you can’t.

Imagine that you’re in an accident or come down with a severe illness and become mentally incapacitated. Having a health care proxy allows the person(s) you choose as your representative to make medical decisions for you or admit you into a health care facility.

Having a health care proxy allows the person(s) you choose as your representative to make medical decisions for you or admit you into a health care facility.

You might want to name two proxies in case one isn’t available when you need them. Consider who you’d trust with your care and discuss the responsibilities and your wishes with them.

Some hospitals won’t allow medical professionals to disclose any information about you—even to your health care proxy—unless you have a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability) medical privacy release. Your family needs to speak to your doctor about your medical situation without creating a legal problem for the doctor, so consider having this legal document as well.

4. Power of attorney

Even if you don’t need a designated proxy to make medical decisions for you, you likely need someone you trust to help with other types of decisions, such as managing your finances or legal affairs. Creating a power of attorney (POA) allows another person to stand in for you as an agent if you’re incapable of making routine transactions, such as paying bills or signing contracts.

You can use it power of attorney any time you’re not capable of doing something like selling real estate, making insurance claims, filing taxes, or making financial decisions.

There are different kinds of POAs, but the most common is a durable power of attorney. You can use it any time you’re not capable of doing something like selling real estate, making insurance claims, filing taxes, or making financial decisions. You can also create one or more limited powers of attorney, which name people to act on your behalf for specific transactions during a limited period.

Having a POA is how the financial end of your life can run smoothly if you become incapacitated. It’s also a tool for giving someone the authority to manage nearly any aspect of your life if you’re unavailable or don’t have time to handle it yourself.

5.  Childcare authorization

If you’re the parent of a young child, you should have a childcare authorization. This document can address a variety of situations, such as whether your child’s school or daycare can release them to another individual.

You can use this authorization to allow someone else, such as a partner or nanny, to temporarily make decisions for your child in your unexpected absence.

Do you need emergency documents if you’re married?

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you don’t need emergency or legal documents because you’re married. While a spouse may be able to make some crucial decisions for you, you could both die or become incapacitated at the same time.

Let’s say your spouse is in a coma in the hospital due to a disease or accident. If you had a financial hardship and needed to sell assets, such as jointly owned investments or real estate, it could be difficult. Each of you would have to authorize the transaction.

Married couples and domestic partners should give each other power of attorney to avoid having financial restrictions during a crisis. And each of you should have wills and healthcare proxies.

Therefore, married couples and domestic partners should give each other power of attorney to avoid having financial restrictions during a crisis. And each of you should have wills and healthcare proxies.

Also, consider what would happen to your minor children if you and your spouse were in an accident together. It’s critical to name a guardian in your will, so the court doesn’t appoint one for you that you may not like.

Where should you keep emergency documents?

Keep your original signed legal documents safe, such as at your attorney’s office, in a fireproof safe, or a bank safe deposit box. Also, maintain copies of everything at home in case you need them at night or on the weekend. You should scan and upload them to a cloud-based storage service, such as Dropbox or Evernote.

Do yourself and your family a favor by getting all your emergency documents created as soon as possible. If you already have them, put an annual reminder on your calendar to make any necessary updates. You’ll feel at ease knowing you’re as prepared as possible for the unexpected. Your emergency documents make sure that you and your children’s future is protected no matter what happens.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance?

Coronavirus hasn’t entirely ended life as we knew it, but it’s certainly caused changes, some of which are likely to be with us for a very long time.

For some the coronavirus is literally a matter of life and death, and it raises an important question: how does coronavirus affect life insurance?

No one likes to think about the possibility of losing their life, or that of a loved one to this virus, but for over 150,000 families here in the US, it has turned out to be a reality.

Let’s examine the impact it may have on your existing policies, and perhaps more importantly, how it may affect applications for new life insurance coverage.

How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance You Already Have?

There’s good news if you already have a life insurance policy in place. Generally speaking, the insurance company will pay a death benefit even if you die from the coronavirus. With few exceptions, life insurance policies will pay for any cause of death once the policy is in force. There are very few exceptions to this rule, such as acts of war or terrorism. Pandemics are not a known exception.

If you’re feeling at all uncomfortable about how the coronavirus might impact your existing life insurance policies, contact the company for clarification. Alternatively, review your life insurance policy paying particular attention to the exclusions. If there’s nothing that looks like death due to a pandemic, you should be good to go.

But once the policy is in place, there are only a few reasons why the insurance company can deny a claim:

  • Non-payment of premiums – if you exceed the grace period for the payment, which is generally 30 or 31 days, your policy will lapse. But even if it does, you may still be able to apply for reinstatement. However, after a lapse, you won’t be covered until payment is made.
  • Providing false information on an application – if you fail to disclose certain health conditions that result in your death, the company can deny payment for insurance fraud. For example, if you’re a smoker, but check non-smoker on the application, payment of the death benefit can be denied if smoking is determined to be a contributing cause of death.
  • Death within the first two years the policy is in force – often referred to as the period of contestability, the insurance company can investigate the specific causes of death for any reason within the first two years. If it’s determined that death was caused by a pre-existing condition, the claim can be denied.

None of these are a serious factor when it comes to the coronavirus, unless you tested positive for the virus prior to application, and didn’t disclose it. But since the coronavirus can strike suddenly, it shouldn’t interfere with your death benefits if it occurs once your policy is already in force.

How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance You’re Applying For?

This is just a guess on my part, but I think people may be giving more thought to buying life insurance now they may have at any time in the past. The coronavirus has turned out to be a real threat to both life and health, which makes it natural to consider the worst.

But whatever you do, don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from applying for coverage. Though you may be wishing you bought a policy, or taken additional coverage, before the virus hit, now is still the very best time to apply. And that’s not a sales pitch!

No matter what’s going on in the world, the best time to apply for life insurance is always now. That’s because you’re younger and likely healthier right now than you’ll ever be again. Both conditions are major advantages when it comes to buying life insurance. If you delay applying, you’ll pay a higher premium by applying later when you’re a little bit older. But if you develop a serious health condition between now and then, not only will your premium be higher, but you may even be denied for coverage completely.

Don’t let fears of the coronavirus get in your way. If you believe you need life insurance, or more of it, apply now.

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That said, the impact of the coronavirus on new applications for life insurance is more significant than it is for existing policies.

The deaths of more than 100,000 people in the US is naturally having an effect on claims being paid by life insurance companies. While there’s been no significant across-the-board change in how most life insurance companies evaluate new applications, the situation is evolving rapidly. Exactly how that will play out going forward is anyone’s guess at the moment.

What to Expect When Applying for Life Insurance in the Age of the Coronavirus

If you’re under 60 and in good or excellent health, and not currently showing signs of the virus, the likelihood of being approved for life insurance is as good as it’s ever been. You can make an application, and not concern yourself with the virus.

That said, it may be more difficult to get life insurance if you have any conditions determined to put you at risk for the coronavirus, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

These include:

  • Ages 65 and older.
  • Obesity, defined as a body mass index of 40 or greater.
  • Certain health conditions, including asthma, chronic kidney disease and being treated by dialysis, lung disease, diabetes, hemoglobin disorders, immunocompromised, liver disease, and serious heart conditions.
  • People in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

Now to be fair, each of the above conditions would require special consideration even apart from the coronavirus. But since they’re known coronavirus risk factors, the impact of each has become more important in the life insurance application process.

If any of these conditions apply to you, the best strategy is to work with insurance companies that already specialize in those categories.

There are insurance companies that take a more favorable view of people with any of the following conditions:

  • Over 65
  • Kidney disease
  • Certain lung diseases, including Asthma
  • Liver disease
  • Certain heart conditions

More Specific Application Factors

But even with insurance companies that specialize in providing coverage for people with certain health conditions, some have introduced new restrictions in light of the coronavirus.

For example, if you have a significant health condition and you’re over 65, you may find fewer companies willing to provide coverage.

The insurance company may also check your records for previous coronavirus episodes or exposures. Expect additional testing to determine if you’re currently infected. Most likely, the application process will be delayed until the condition clears, unless it has resulted in long-term complications.

Travel is another factor being closely examined. The CDC maintains an updated list of travel recommendations by country. If you’ve recently traveled to a high-risk country, or you plan to do so in the near future, you may be considered at higher risk for the coronavirus. How each insurance company handles this situation will vary. But your application may be delayed until you’ve completed a recommended quarantine period.

Other Financial Areas to Consider that May be Affected

Since the coronavirus is still very much active in the US and around the world, financial considerations are in a constant state of flux. If you’re concerned at all about the impact of the virus on other insurance types, you should contact your providers for more information.

Other insurance policies that my warrant special consideration are:

  • Employer-sponsored life insurance. There’s not much to worry about here, since these are group plans. Your acceptance is guaranteed upon employment. The policy will almost certainly pay the death benefit, even if your cause of death is related to the virus.
  • Health insurance. There’s been no media coverage of health insurance companies refusing to pay medical claims resulting from the coronavirus. But if you’re concerned, contact your health insurance company for clarification.

Action Steps to Take in the Age of the Coronavirus

Many have been gripped by fear in the face of the coronavirus, which is mostly a fear of the unknown. But the best way to overcome fear is through positive action.

I recommend the following:

1. Be proactive about your health.

Since there is a connection between poor health and the virus, commit to improving your health. Maintain a proper diet, get regular exercise, and follow the CDC coronavirus guidelines on how to protect yourself.

2. If you need life insurance, buy it now.

Don’t wait for a bout with the virus to take this step. It’s important for a number of reasons and the consequences of not having it can be severe. Compare the best life insurance companies to get started.

3. Consider no medical exam life insurance.

If you don’t have the virus, and you want to do a policy as quickly as possible, no medical exam life insurance will be a way to get coverage almost immediately.

4. Look for the lowest cost life insurance providers.

Low cost means you can buy a larger policy. With the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus, having enough life insurance is almost as important as having a policy at all. Look into cheap term life insurance to learn more about what you can afford.

5. Keep a healthy credit score.

Did you know that your credit score is a factor in setting the premium on your life insurance policy? If so, you have one more reason to maintain a healthy credit score. One of the best ways to do it is by regularly monitoring your credit and credit score. There are plenty of services available to help you monitor your credit.

6. Make paying your life insurance premiums a priority

This action step rates a special discussion. When times get tough, and money is in short supply, people often cancel or reduce their insurance coverage. That includes life insurance. But that can be a major mistake in the middle of a pandemic. The coronavirus means that maintaining your current life insurance policies must be a high priority.

The virus and the uncertainty it’s generating in the economy and the job market are making finances less stable than they’ve been in years. You’ll need to be intentional about maintaining financial buffers.

7. Start an emergency fund.

If you don’t already have one place, start building one today. If you already have one up and running, make a plan to increase it regularly.

You should also do what you can to maximize the interest you’re earning on your emergency fund. You should park your fund in a high-interest savings account, some of which are paying interest that’s more than 20 times the national bank average.

8. Get Better Control of Your Debts

In another direction, be purposeful about paying down your debt. Lower debt levels translate into lower monthly payments, and that improves your cash flow.

If you don’t have the funds to pay down your debts, there are ways you can make them more manageable.

For example, if you have high-interest credit card debt, there are balance transfer credit cards that provide a 0% introductory APR for up to 21 months. By eliminating the interest for that length of time, you’ll be able to dedicate more of each payment toward principal reduction.

Still another strategy for lowering your debts is to do a debt consolidation using a low interest personal loan. Personal loans are unsecured loans that have a fixed interest rate and monthly payment, as well as a specific loan term. You can consolidate several loans and credit cards into a single personal loan for up to $40,000, with interest rates starting as low as 5.99%.

Final Thoughts

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article. But that’s because the coronavirus comes close to being an all-encompassing crisis. It’s been said the coronavirus is both a health crisis and an economic crisis at the same time. It requires strategies on multiple fronts, including protecting your health, your finances, and your family’s finances when you’re no longer around to provide for them.

That’s where life insurance comes into the picture. The basic process hasn’t changed much from the coronavirus, at least not up to this point. But that’s why it’s so important to apply for coverage now, before major changes are put into effect.

The post How Does Coronavirus Affect Life Insurance? appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

With the growing use of paperless forms, electronic information transfers and storage has become the norm. This is true about our medical information as well. So, how do we know that our sensitive medical records are being kept private? Thanks to a federal law entitled Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), health plans, health care providers, and health care clearinghouses are required to abide by a set of standards to protect your data. While this law does offer protection for certain things, there are some companies that are not required to follow these standards. Keep reading to find out where the loopholes are and how you are being protected by this law. 

What is the HIPAA Law and Privacy Rule?

Although HIPAA and Privacy and Security Rules have been around since 1996, there have been many revisions and changes over the years so to keep up with evolving health information technology. HIPAA and the HIPAA Privacy Rule set the bar for standards that protect sensitive patient information by making the rules for electronic exchange as well as the privacy and confidentiality of medical records and information by health care providers, health care clearing houses, and health plans. In accordance with HIPPA, Administrative Simplification Rules were created to safeguard patient privacy. This allows for information that is medically necessary to be shared while also maintaining the patient’s privacy rights. The majority of professionals in the health care industry are required to be compliant with the HIPAA regulations and rules. 

Why do we have the HIPAA Act and Privacy Rule?

The original goal of HIPAA was to make it easier for patients to keep up with their health insurance coverage. This is ultimately why the Administrative Simplification Rules were created to simplify administrative procedures and keep costs at a decent rate. Because of all the exchanges of medical information between insurance companies and health care providers, the HIPAA Act aims to keep things simple when it comes to the healthcare industry’s handling of patient records and documents and places a high importance on maintain patients’ protected health information. 

HIPAA Titles

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal law which was designed to safeguard healthcare data from data breaches, has five titles. Here is a description of each title:

  • Title I: HIPAA Health Insurance Reform: The objective of Title I is to help individuals maintain health insurance coverage in the event that they lose or change jobs. It also prevents group health plans from rejecting applicants from being covered for having specific chronic illnesses or pre-existing conditions. 
  • Title II: HIPAA Administrative Simplification: Title II holds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responsible for setting national standards for processing electronic healthcare transactions. In accordance with this title, healthcare organizations must implement data security for health data transactions and maintain HIPPA compliance with the rules set by HHS. 
  • Title III: HIPPA Tax-Related Health Provisions: This title is all about the national standards regarding tax-related provisions as well as the general rules and principles in relation to medical care.  
  • Title IV: Application and Enforcement of Group Health Plan Requirements: Title IV elaborates further on issues related to health insurance coverage and reform, one key point being for patients with pre-existing conditions. 
  • Title V: Revenue Offsets:  This title has provisions regarding company-owned life insurance policies as well as how to handle situations in which individuals lose their citizenship due to issues with income taxes. 

In day to day conversations, when you hear someone bring up HIPAA compliance, they are most likely referring to Title II. To become compliant with HIPAA Title II, the health care industry must follow these provisions:

  • National Provider Identifier Standard: Every healthcare entity is required to have a 10-digit national provider identifier number that is unique to them, otherwise known as, an NPI. 
  • Transactions and Code Sets Standard: Healthcare organizations are required to follow a set of standards pertaining to electronic data interchange (EDI) to be able to submit and process insurance claims.  
  • HIPAA Privacy Rule: This rule sets national standards that help to protect patient health information.
  • HIPAA Security Rule: This rule establishes the standards for patient data security. 

What information is protected by HIPAA?

The HIPAA Privacy Rule safeguards all individually identifiable health information obtained or transferred by a covered entity or business associate. Sometimes this information is stored or transmitted electronically, digitally, on paper or orally. Individually identifiable health information can also be referred to under the Privacy Rule as PHI. 

Examples of PHI are:

  • Personal identifying information such as the name, address, birth date and Social Security number of the patient. 
  • The mental or physical health condition of a person.
  • Certain Information regarding the payment for treatments.

HIPAA penalties

Health industries and professionals should take extra caution to prevent HIPAA violations. If a data breach occurs or if there is a failure to give patients access to their PHI, it could result in a fine. 

There are several types of HIPAA violations and penalties including:

  • Accidental HIPAA violations could result in $100 for an isolated incident and an upward of $25,000 for repeat offenses.
  • Situations in which there is reasonable cause for the HIPAA violation could result in a $1,000 fine and an upward of $100,000 annually for repeat violations.
  • Willfully neglecting HIPAA can cost anywhere between $10,000-$50,000 and $250,000-$1.5 million depending on whether or not it was an isolated occurrence, If it was corrected within a specific timeframe. 

The largest penalty one could receive for a HIPAA violation is $50,000 per violation and $1.5 million per year for repeated offenses.

HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com