How to Insure Jewelry and Expensive Valentine's Day Gifts

Whether you’re giving your sweetheart a gorgeous diamond ring for Valentine’s Day or you’re the one who gets to wear the bling, don’t forget about protecting it with insurance. I know looping in your insurance agent may not seem romantic, but it can prevent a lot of heartaches if that expensive piece of jewelry gets damaged, lost, or stolen.

How to insure your valuables

Today, you’ll learn how to keep your Valentine’s Day gift or any valuables safe.

1. Get insured before you buy it

Anytime you’re thinking about making a big purchase, such as expensive jewelry, watches, or electronics, make sure you have a plan to insure it. Think about how devastated you’d be if you bought diamond earrings for your sweetie, and they got stolen or lost. I’m sweating just thinking about it!

Anytime you’re thinking about making a big purchase, make sure you have a plan to insure it.

Before you buy something valuable, communicate with your existing home or renters insurance representative or company. Find out if you need additional coverage—it’s likely that you do! In just a moment, I’ll give you some recommendations if you don’t already have a home or renters policy.

Let your insurer know what you’re planning to buy and how much it costs. If you’re still negotiating on price or you’re buying a second-hand item with an unknown value, start with your best estimate.

2. Get a certified appraisal

If the value of your Valentine’s Day jewelry is over a certain amount, your insurer will ask you to submit an appraisal. It must come from a gemologist who uses a variety of tools and their expertise to identify and value gems. It includes photos of your item and an estimated value.

Your insurer needs an appraisal to know precisely what they’re insuring. The document also protects you in case you need to make a claim.

The retailer who sells you a new piece of jewelry should provide you with an appraisal. However, an insurer may want an independent appraisal to verify the value. If you purchase heirloom or estate jewelry, it may not come with an appraisal.  

You can find an appraiser by getting recommendations or doing some research online. The cost varies depending on how intricate the item is and how long the work may take.

For instance, an antique ring with many stones and old-fashioned gem cuts will take longer to analyze than a brand-new diamond solitaire. For a relatively simple piece, the appraisal may cost in the range of $150 to $250. But I’ve had heirloom pieces that cost nearly $500 to appraise.

While your great-grandmother’s wedding ring or a necklace from your valentine might be priceless to you, insurers will only pay you its appraised or actual value.

It could take a gemologist several weeks to complete your appraisal, and they need to have the item in their possession the entire time. So, don’t wait until the last minute to find out what’s required to get a Valentine’s Day gift insured.

Also, note that you can’t insure the sentimental value of any item. While your great-grandmother’s wedding ring or a necklace from your valentine might be priceless to you, insurers will only pay you its appraised or actual value.

3. Don’t assume you already have coverage

If you assume you have coverage for a lavish Valentine’s Day gift simply because you have homeowners insurance, that could be a big mistake. The amount of insurance on your home is different than the amount of coverage for your personal belongings.

Most standard home and renters policies include coverage for personal items like jewelry. However, specific categories of belongings come with coverage limits or caps. Jewelry, watches, and furs typically have a low insurance cap, such as $1,000 or $2,000. If you’re a big spender, that could be a fraction of the cost of your gift.

For example, if you buy an engagement ring worth $4,000, and your homeowners or renters policy only covers $1,000, you’d come up $3,000 short of replacing it. Plus, the cap applies to an entire claim, not individual items. If you had multiple pieces of jewelry stolen, you’d only receive up to the policy limit.

Jewelry, watches, and furs typically have a low insurance cap, such as $1,000 or $2,000. If you’re a big spender, that could be a fraction of the cost of your gift.

Other types of personal belongings that have insurance caps include silverware, computers, firearms, musical instruments, collectibles, and antiques. Keep reading to learn how to make sure your expensive items are adequately insured.

4. Get an insurance rider

If your existing homeowners or renters insurance doesn’t have a jewelry limit high enough to cover your posh purchase, one solution is to “schedule it.” You’ll also hear this called a rider, floater, or an endorsement to your policy. Scheduling an item means that you add more detail about it to your existing insurance policy.

One benefit of scheduling an item, such as jewelry, is that you’re covered for all types of losses. For instance, if you accidentally lose a wedding ring swimming in the Caribbean ocean on your honeymoon, you’re covered up to your limit. When your valuables are covered by a standard home or renters policy, without being scheduled, you typically only have coverage for specific events, such as loss from a fire or theft.

One benefit of scheduling an item, such as jewelry, is that you’re covered for all types of losses.

Also, don’t forget that you must pay a deductible when you make a claim. So, if you have a $500 deductible and a jewelry limit of $1,000, the most you’d receive from a claim is $500.

But a scheduled item doesn’t require a deductible. That means you wouldn’t have to pay any amount out-of-pocket to replace a Valentine’s Day gift that gets lost or disappears mysteriously.  

Having a rider increases your premium, but it’s usually worth it. The cost might be $5 to $15 per $1,000 of insured value. So, an engagement ring that’s worth $6,000 could mean paying an additional $30 to $90 per year on your homeowners or renters insurance premium.

5. Get a stand-alone policy

Another option for insuring a precious gift is to get a stand-alone policy. This policy is separate insurance just for the item, not an add-on to an existing home or renters policy. Most insurers offer a valuable articles policy for specific items like jewelry, watches, furs, collectibles, and antiques.

Whether you own or rent your home, you’ll pay less for an insurance rider than for valuable articles insurance. The only exception would be if you have many expensive items to insure—so, shop and compare both options if you have a collection of valuables.

Most homeowners have insurance, but many renters avoid getting a renters policy because they mistakenly overestimate the cost. It’s surprisingly inexpensive; the average price is $185 per year. So, if you rent, get renters insurance first and then schedule an expensive item.

All the coverages I’ve mentioned protect your valuables at home or when they’re away from your home. Off-premise coverage kicks in when an item is stolen from your car or damaged while you’re traveling.

Additionally, home and renters insurance gives you liability coverage worldwide. It also pays living expenses, such as a hotel and meals, if you can't live in your home while repairs are made after a covered event, such as a natural disaster.

The bottom line is that if you rent and don’t have insurance, you’re putting your finances at risk. Take a few minutes to shop and compare quotes at sites such as Bankrate.com or Policygenius.com. But no matter your situation, you can always opt to insure a Valentine’s Day gift with a stand-alone policy.

6. Gift recipients are responsible for insurance

Many people are confused about who needs to buy insurance for a gift, the giver or the recipient? Well, it depends on who has the item. If you buy a gift to give, you need to have it insured while it’s in your possession.

If you have a receipt and appraisal, pass them along so the new owner has what they need to get proper insurance.

Once you give a gift away, the lucky recipient owns it and must insure it. If you have a receipt and appraisal, pass them along so the new owner has what they need to get proper insurance.

If you’re married or live together and have the same home or renters insurance policy, you don’t have to take any extra steps. But if you and your valentine have different households, the person who wears and enjoys the gift must make sure that it’s insured.

7. Keep an up-to-date home inventory

If you have home or renters insurance, but don't have a list of your personal belongings, it could be challenging to claim a loss. Imagine that your home or apartment got destroyed in a fire. Would you remember every item?

If you don’t have a home inventory, create one and add your Valentine’s Day gift to the list. At the least, have pictures or video of your belongings that you store in the cloud. While losing precious items can be devastating, the more documentation you have, the easier it will be to provide proof that you owned them and make an insurance claim.

If you got a cherished gift for Valentine’s Day or got engaged, congrats! Now make it a priority to protect it.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

10 Proven Ways to Lower Your Car Insurance

A woman wearing a yellow shirt drives a silver car.

We’ve heard the insurance tagline over and over: “Switch and save money today.” Every insurance company claims to have the best deal. But, how can you get a good deal while maintaining the appropriate amount of coverage? We’ve got you covered—literally, and with no extra cost to you. Check out these ten ways to help lower your car insurance. 

1. Get Quotes Annually 

Insurance rates are increasing every year, so your insurance premiums will naturally increase over time. However, a huge spike in your insurance bill might mean it’s time to switch providers. Every year or two, use a car insurance quote finder to compare your current insurance rate to competitors. You can also sign up for Jerry.Ai, a tool that automatically checks for the lowest insurance rates before your policy renewal. Requesting quotes annually will ensure that your rates remain low and competitive. 

2. Bundle Your Insurance Plans

Insurance companies often offer discounts when you bundle home, auto, or life insurance. Plus, you have the added convenience of paying all your insurance on one bill. If you’re satisfied with your insurance rates, you can stay with the same company to build up discount opportunities. Some insurance companies will give discounts to their long-term customers, also known as a customer loyalty discount. Bundling and customer loyalty can help you lower your overall insurance costs. 

3. Get Rid of Insurance You Don’t Need 

Older vehicles require less insurance depending on their overall value. For example, you may not need collision and comprehensive coverage on a vehicle if its value is less than your deductible combined with your insurance premium. If you have a car that’s only worth $1,000–$3,000, you might decide to get rid of some of your insurance and purchase a replacement vehicle out of pocket in the case of an accident. If you don’t drop unneeded insurance, you can end up spending more on your premiums than what the total car is worth. 

4. Increase Your Deductible 

A deductible is the amount of money you pay out of pocket as a result of an accident. An increased deductible means lower premium rates. This is a great option for individuals who can keep enough cash savings to cover their deductible in the event of any emergency. Ask your insurance agent about raising your deductible to see how your premiums will fluctuate. 

5. Drive Safely  

This one might seem kind of obvious, but driving safely is the best way to keep your insurance rates low. Insurance providers record your driving history, including any accident reports or traffic tickets. These instances accrue points that eventually lead to increased insurance rates. Even if you switch insurance providers, companies will be able to access your driving history. Try your best to avoid speeding, running red lights, and driving recklessly. Be smart, and drive smart. 

If you do get a ticket, take a defensive driving class to get the points taken off your record. A defensive driving class is an online or in-person course created by individual states to teach drivers how to anticipate dangerous situations and make educated driving decisions. In some states, taking this class can reduce your insurance by 10 percent.

The defensive driving course may seem expensive for a single ticket, but it will end up saving you money on your insurance premiums. You can usually take driving school once a year. If you keep a clean driving record for three to five years, you could save on your insurance rates. 

6. Improve Your Credit Score

Studies show that drivers with a higher credit score are more responsible behind the wheel. Drivers with higher credit scores cost the insurance company less than individuals with a low credit score. A credit score is just another way for insurance companies to measure risk—the very thing insurance companies seek to avoid. Improving your credit score can also help you qualify for auto and home loans. Study your credit report and find ways to improve your overall credit score.

Are you looking for a way to monitor your credit needs? Check out ExtraCredit by Credit.com. It has five killer features, each specifically designed to help you out—no matter what shape your credit is in. 

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

7. Pick the Right Vehicle 

Insurance rates fluctuate based on the make and model of a car. This is something to consider when purchasing a new or used car. A car such as a Toyota or Chevy will be significantly cheaper to insure than a Porsche. That’s because it’s less risk for insurance companies. Remember, getting a cheaper insurance premium is dependent on your ability to minimize risk for the insurance company. Picking a car brand with an affordable initial price and reasonable upkeep costs can help you save money on insurance and your vehicle in general. You can also save on car insurance by selecting a smaller car with installed safety features.

8. Choose a Group Insurance Plan 

People under the same household can create a group policy to save money. The plan will be more expensive as you add individuals to your group policy, but cheaper than if everyone was on their own insurance plan. Members of the insurance plan either need to be related or have joint ownership of the car. Each of the drivers will be insured for all the cars your family owns. Younger drivers will be more expensive to insure because of their added risk. Look for additional discounts to minimize your total group rate. 

9. Ask Your Insurance Provider About Other Discounts 

Car insurance companies often have additional discounts for specific groups of people. For example, if you are a member of the military, you can get a discount at some insurance companies. You can also lower the insurance premium for your teenage driver through a good student discount. Some other car insurance discounts include the following: 

  • Government employees and retirees discount
  • Multiple vehicle discount 
  • Homeowners discount (separate from the bundling discount) 
  • Paperless billing discount 
  • Hybrid or green vehicle discount 
  • Driver education discount for people under 21
  • Automatic payments or paid-in-full discount 

Ask your insurance provider about additional discounts to see if you qualify. 

10. Find Out About Pay-as-You-Go or Usage-Based Insurance 

If you don’t use your car often, you may be able to save on your insurance. Some companies offer a discount for driving under 10,000 miles in a single year. Other companies offer a pay as you go plan that allows you to pay a base rate and then pay per mile. These discounts could save you money if you do not have a long work commute or if you rarely use your car. This may also be a good incentive to use public transportation when possible. 

Final Thoughts

We all want to save money on car insurance, but that’s not the only factor in becoming a smart insurance customer. Before diving into savings, first determine your insurance needs and goals. Do your research to find out the difference between liability and full coverage insurance. Once you have the right coverage, you can start chipping away at your rates by following these ten tips to lower your car insurance. 

The post 10 Proven Ways to Lower Your Car Insurance appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

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.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/FangXiaNuo, ©iStock.com/hfng, ©iStock.com/jhorrocks

 

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

Source: smartasset.com

Equifax Data Breach: Settlement Options

In the fall of 2017, Equifax experienced a massive data breach. Approximately 147 million people were victims of this data breach. Recently a federal court has purposed a class action settlement. If you are part of this data breach, you are able to file a claim today.

Was I Part of The Equifax Data Breach?

You can check if you are part of the Equifax data breach by going to Equifax’s data breach settlement website. You will need to enter your last name and last six digits of your social security number. After entering in this information on the settlement site, it will say if you were or were not a victim of the Equifax data breach.

Can I File a Claim?

You can file a claim if you if you are a victim of the Equifax data breach. To file a claim go to the Equifax data breach settlement site mentioned above to verify your eligibility. If you were a victim, the website will take you to a screen where you can file a claim.

What are My Claim Settlement Options?

Victims of the Equifax data breach, you can select from the following options:

  • A one-time cash payment up to $125 (if you already have credit monitoring)
  • Free credit monitoring service for 10 years. Which includes $1 million in identity theft insurance, identity restoration services (for seven years), and options to add more monitoring from Equifax.
  • Exclude yourself from the Equifax settlement

You can file a claim for eligible for reimbursement for time spent recovering from this incident if you were a victim of the Equifax data breach. You can also request compensation for reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses if you spent or lost money recovering from this incident.

Which Settlement Option Should I Pick?

A one-time cash payment of $125 sounds great, right? But the actual cash payment amount is expected to be much less. Equifax set aside $31 million for cash payouts. This means that if only 248,000 people select a cash payment, they will get the full $125. Don’t forget, there were 147 million affected by the Equifax data breach.

If you do the math and estimate 10% of the affected victims select the one-time cash payment, that is approximately $2.10 per claim. If 1 million people select the one-time cash payment, that is about $31 per claim.

Credit monitoring cost about $9 to $40 per month depending on the company you select and the credit-monitoring package. Estimating $15 a month for 10 years, this equals $1,800 – far more than a one-time cash payment of $125.

There has been a lot of publicity about the Equifax settlement. They are expecting a high rate of people filing claims. The FTC is warning victims not to expect the full one-time cash payment of $125.

What do you do if you have already selected the one-time cash payment but want to change to the credit monitoring option? You can contact Equifax to change your settlement option.

Changing Your Equifax Settlement Option

The Credit.com Editorial Team called the Settlement Administrator to find out. Settlement members can email Info@EquifaxBreachSettlement.com to change their settlement option. In the email to Equifax include the following information: your claim number, full name, and details about changing the settlement option. You only need to do this if you want to change your claim option.

Whichever selection you decide, make sure to do it before time runs out. You have until January 22, 2020 to file.

 Preventing Identity Theft

It may seem impossible to prevent your personal data, but there are steps you can take to be proactive. Here are some ideas:

  • Be mindful of what your share on social media. A data thief can find out a lot of information about a person on social media. Limit your exposure by limiting what you share and whom you share it with. Don’t give away your address, date of birth and mother’s maiden name on social media. Are you already doing this? It’s a good idea to check your security settings every so often.
  • Take outgoing mail to the post office or a collection box. When you mail your mortgage payment and put the flag up on your mailbox, it is an open invitation to thieves to come check your mailbox to see what they can find. You can put a stop payment on a stolen check but the thief now has your bank account and routing number, which is a much bigger issue. Go for online bill payments or dropping off at a secure location.
  • Keep your Wi-Fi secure. Make sure your home Wi-Fi is password protected. If you are using public Wi-Fi, be careful what information you enter and view while on a public browser as others could see this information.
  • Opt out of prescreened credit card offers. You can opt out for five years or permanently. If you go with the permanent option, you have to mail something in. The five-year option allows you to complete the request online. To opt out, go to optoutprescreen.com. This will also eliminate waste since you will not receive offers you are not interested in. Next time you are in the market for a new credit card, visit Credit.com’s Credit Card Marketplace to review top offers instead. It is a much easier way to compare various credit card offers.
  • Freeze your credit if you have been a victim of identity theft. Freezing your credit report makes it harder for a data thief to open an account in your name. You can place a fraud alert on your credit report by contacting the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Final Thoughts

If you have been a victim of the Equifax data breach, or any other data breach, there are things you can to do to help prevent identity theft. Monitoring your credit report and credit scores are a very important part of preventing identity theft.

Make sure to review your personal data (bank accounts and other sensitive info), credit report and credit scores from the credit bureaus on a regular basis to help prevent identity theft. Consumers are entitled to a free credit every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also sign up with Credit.com to view your credit score. With Credit.com you get two credit scores every 14 days and a credit report card for free.

The post Equifax Data Breach: Settlement Options appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.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

5 Renovations That Don’t Increase Your Resale Value

Couple renovating their home

The first major home renovation my husband and I ever undertook was insulating the walls of a 1921 Craftsman bungalow we shared in Columbus, Ohio. This project made the house a great deal more comfortable in the winter and the summer, since the existing insulation was the least expensive option available in the 1920s — making it completely inadequate for maintaining heat in the winter or coolness in the summer.

Unfortunately, despite the undeniable improvement to our comfort, we found that our new insulation did nothing for our resale value. Even though we had put nearly $5,000 worth of work and materials into this renovation, we didn’t see that money and effort reflected in our sale price when we had to move several years later.

Not all renovations are going to increase your resale value. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should forgo working on your home if you won’t see the value when it’s time to sell. For instance, I would definitely insulate that house again, even knowing that the money is only going to improve my comfort. 

But there are some home renovation projects that you just can’t expect to recoup your investment on. Knowing that, you should consider how long you intend to live in your house and whether you’re renovating just to increase your home’s value before jumping into any of these home improvement projects.

1. Invisible improvements

Insulating our bungalow was the kind of invisible improvement that had to be done, but didn’t appear to change the house. Unlike "sexier" improvements like updating a kitchen or bath, or even putting on a new roof, invisible improvements don’t change the look of the house. These are things like re-grading the yard to keep water from getting into the basement, updating the HVAC system, tuck-pointing bricks and chimneys, and replacing gutters.

While these improvements often have to be done to protect your house, the downside is that you may not recoup the cost of these improvements when it comes time to sell. It can be helpful to think of these renovation expenses as a way of protecting your home’s current value, rather than as a way to increase your future resale value.

2. Swimming pool

While homeowners in Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and Southern California may find that having a swimming pool is a big selling point for their homes, this isn’t going to be the case nationwide. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to install a pool is over $27,000. That doesn’t include the annual maintenance costs, ranging between $500 and $4,000. It’s these maintenance costs, plus the work that homeowners will have to either do themselves or contract out in order to keep their pool sparkling clean that will turn off many potential buyers. Add in the additional insurance requirements that homeowners with pools will need to purchase, and it should be clear why many prospective buyers would rather not invest in a home that comes with a pool.

This is why you should only commit to the cost of installing a pool if you truly want to use it yourself and expect to stay in your home for at least five years. Otherwise, it might make more sense to invest in a membership to your local pool. 

3. Bathroom and kitchen upgrades

Remodeling your bathroom and/or kitchen is an excellent way to increase your home’s value, right? Yes and no. While replacing dingy tiling and updating old appliances will definitely help your home shine for potential buyers, there’s such a thing as going overboard with your bathroom or kitchen upgrades.

Specifically, if you add granite countertops, custom-made cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and ceramic tiles to your kitchen and bathroom, but the rest of the home is still an ordinary suburban home, potential buyers will see the house as a work-in-progress, rather than a home that feels move-in ready. Over-improving the bath and kitchen could make buyers think that it’s not worth the effort to try to get the rest of the house to match. (See also: 9 Home Improvements You Should Always Negotiate)

4. Built-in high-end electronics

We may all dream of living in a George Jetson house — where every possible electronic need you have is already built in — but committing to this kind of renovation may hurt your resale value. 

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, while your personal movie theater (with remote-controlled state-of-the-art projector) may be exactly what you want from your home, a potential buyer may just see a room that will need to be torn out and remodeled as soon as they move in. Plus, technology advances at a breakneck speed, so your cutting-edge electronics will soon look as dated as shag carpeting and harvest gold refrigerators.

If you need or want built-in high-end electronics in your home, make sure you’re installing them for your own pleasure and comfort, because it’s unlikely a buyer will appreciate them too.

5. Extravagant landscaping

Making improvements to your landscaping requires a gentle touch. On the one hand, landscaping is often touted as an important aspect of curb appeal, and making sure your yard and garden look attractive and welcoming is certainly a great way to draw in potential buyers. 

On the other hand, an elaborate landscaping remodel can turn off buyers. Those with black thumbs might look at your vast flowering garden with sculpted shrubs and pond and decide they are not up for the challenge of keeping it up, and those who do love to garden might not like your vision and want to start over.

If recreating the gardens of Versailles is how you make your house feel like a home, then there’s nothing wrong with investing in this kind of renovation. But make sure you’re doing this kind of work for yourself, and not because you hope to make back the money you spent once you’re ready to sell. (See also: 14 Ways to Make Your Yard Look Awesome for Under $100)

Renovate for the right reasons

While many experts focus on resale value as the deciding factor on whether to take on a home improvement project, the important thing to remember is that you live in your house now. Deciding which home renovations to work on based on what someone else might like is the way madness lies.

When you make improvements to your home, make sure you take your own comfort, your plans for living in the home, and the potential resale value into consideration. They all matter.


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Per Stirpes vs. Per Capita in Estate Planning

Three generations of one familyWhen creating an estate plan, one of the most basic documents you may wish to include is a will. If you have a more complicated estate, you might also need to have a trust in place. Both a will and a trust can specify how you want assets distributed among your beneficiaries. When making those decisions, it’s important to distinguish between per stirpes and per capita distributions. These are two terms you’re likely to come across when shaping your estate plan. Here’s a closer look at what per stirpes vs. per capita means.

Per Stirpes, Explained

If you’ve never heard the term per stirpes before, it’s a Latin phrase that translates to “by branch” or “by class.” When this term is applied to estate planning, it refers to the equal distribution of assets among the different branches of a family and their surviving descendants.

A per stirpes designation allows the descendants of a beneficiary to keep inherited assets within that branch of their family, even if the original beneficiary passes away. Those assets would be equally divided between the survivors.

Here’s an example of how per stirpes distributions work for estate planning. Say that you draft a will in which you designate your adult son and daughter as beneficiaries. You opt to leave your estate to them, per stirpes.

If you pass away before both of your children, then they could each claim a half share of your estate under the terms of your will. Now, assume that each of your children has two children of their own and your son passes away before you do. In that scenario, your daughter would still inherit a half share of the estate. But your son’s children would split his half of your estate, inheriting a quarter share each.

Per stirpes distributions essentially create a trickle-down effect, in which assets can be passed on to future generations if a primary beneficiary passes away. A general rule of thumb is that the flow of assets down occurs through direct descendants, rather than spouses. So, if your son were married, his children would be eligible to inherit his share of your estate, not his wife.

Per Capita, Explained

Older couple signs a will

Per capita is also a Latin term which means “by head.” When you use a per capita distribution method for estate planning, any assets you have would pass equally to the beneficiaries are still living at the time you pass away. If you’re writing a will or trust as part of your estate plan, that could include the specific beneficiaries you name as well as their descendants.

So again, say that you have a son and a daughter who each have two children. These are the only beneficiaries you plan to include in your will. Under a per capita distribution, instead of your son and daughter receiving a half share of your estate, they and your four grandchildren would each receive a one-sixth share of your assets. Those share portions would adjust accordingly if one of your children or grandchildren were to pass away before you.

Per Stirpes vs. Per Capita: Which Is Better?

Whether it makes sense to use a per stirpes or per capita distribution in your estate plan can depend largely on how you want your assets to be distributed after you’re gone. It helps to consider the pros and cons of each option.

Per Stirpes Pros:

  • Allows you to keep asset distributions within the same branch of the family
  • Eliminates the need to amend or update wills and trusts when a child is born to one of your beneficiaries or a beneficiary passes away
  • Can help to minimize the potential for infighting among beneficiaries since asset distribution takes a linear approach

Per Stirpes Cons:

  • It’s possible an unwanted person could take control of your assets (i.e., the spouse of one of your children if he or she is managing assets on behalf of a minor child)

Per Capita Pros:

  • You can specify exactly who you want to name as beneficiaries and receive part of your estate
  • Assets are distributed equally among beneficiaries, based on the value of your estate at the time you pass away
  • You can use this designation to pass on assets outside of a will, such as a 401(k) or IRA

Per Capita Cons:

  • Per capita distributions could trigger generation-skipping tax for grandchildren or other descendants who inherit part of your estate

Deciding whether it makes more sense to go with per stirpes vs. per capita distributions can ultimately depend on your personal preferences. Per stirpes distribution is typically used in family settings when you want to ensure that individual branches of the family will benefit from your estate. On the other hand, per capita distribution gives you control over which individuals or group of individuals are included as beneficiaries.

Review Beneficiary Designations Periodically

Multi-generational family

If you have a will and/or a trust, you may have named your beneficiaries. But it’s possible that you may want to change those designations at some point. If you named your son and his wife in your will, for example, but they’ve since gotten divorced you may want to update the will with a codicil to exclude his ex-wife. It’s also helpful to check the beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, investment accounts and life insurance policies after a major life change.

For example, if you get divorced then you may not want your spouse to be the beneficiary of your retirement accounts. Or if they pass away before you, you may want to update your beneficiary designations to your children or grandchildren.

The Bottom Line

Per stirpes and per capita distribution rules can help you decide what happens to your assets after you pass away. But they both work very differently. Understanding the implications of each one for your beneficiaries, including how they may be affected from a tax perspective, can help you decide which course to take.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about how to get started with estate planning and what per stirpes vs. per capita distributions might mean for your heirs. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect, within minutes, with a professional advisor in your local area. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • While it’s always a good idea to consult with a financial advisor about estate planning, you can take a do-it-yourself approach to writing a will by doing it online. Here’s what you need to know about digital DIY will writing.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Georgijevic, ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/FatCamera

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The Best Renters Insurance of 2021

Renters insurance is so affordable, not having it is a huge financial risk. While your landlord’s home insurance may cover damages to the structure you live in, it won’t cover any of your belongings. Renters insurance costs an average of $180 a year, making it an incredibly affordable policy. You may be able to find […]

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