How to Get Your Home Ready For a Safe Halloween

Witches and ghouls are scary for the kiddos, but as a homeowner, you know that the real terror of Halloween lies in vandalism, lawsuits, and liability claims. Use these tips to make your home and belongings safe on Halloween night, both for you and your spooky visitors.

Be All In or All Out

Trick-or-treaters expect to get candy when they knock on your door, but it is understandable that you may not be in the spirit of the holiday or have the finances to supply candy every year.

When it comes to Halloween, it’s in your best interest to stick to your plan. If you give out candy, have your porch light on and be prepared for the foot traffic! If you’re not giving out candy, turn out the main lights and make it appear as if you aren’t home to the best of your ability. Greeting trick-or-treaters with no candy is awkward, and in some cases, it can lead to the worst kind of person being vindictive and coming back later to vandalize your home. It sounds bad, but it happens more than you’d think!

Hide Your Car

Halloween is a notorious night for automobile shenanigans. From toilet paper and water balloons, to eggs, paint, and bologna, vandals can pull “pranks” that wind up doing real damage to your car. If you’re not out and about on Halloween night, keep your car locked in the garage or at least park it behind the house.

Keep Your Pets Inside

Our furry friends don’t understand the spirit of Halloween. All they know is that masked figures keep ringing the doorbell to their home, and it is understandable that they get scared and defensive. No matter how sweet your pup usually is, he may still turn into Cujo on Halloween if he’s under enough stress! Don’t put your home insurance policy’s liability limit to the test over a dog bite or other, unintentional injury; keep your dogs safely in the house until the night’s excitement is over.

Light Up the Night…

Little trick-or-treaters are so excited to get candy, they tend to run up the driveway to your home. Make sure your porch and walkway are well lit and unobstructed so they don’t stumble on their way to the door. Not only could a fall ruin their fun night, but a real injury could come back to haunt you as a homeowner. Play it safe and keep it bright outside!

…But Don’t Use the Candles

Those glowing Jack-o-lanterns are super spooky and cool, but costumes, straw, and paper decorations are all very flammable. Use battery operated tea lights instead of real candles so your Jack-o-lantern only looks dangerous.

How Smoking Affects Your Health Insurance Premiums

You are probably aware of how smoking can affect your health, but do you know how it changes your health insurance premiums?

Determining Factors

Health insurance premiums are determined based on five factors: age, location, plan category, number of dependents, and tobacco use. Insurance companies define tobacco use as the use of tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and chewing tobacco) on an average of four times a week and within the last six months.

Tobacco Rating

Health insurers cannot outright deny coverage to smokers, but they can charge them higher premiums than non-smokers. The Affordable Care Act allows insurance companies to charge smokers up to 50% more for premiums. The explanation for this is simply that smokers are more likely to develop health concerns in the future, and therefore represent a greater risk for insurance companies. This surcharge is also known as tobacco rating, and states may opt out or charge below 50%. At this point most states charge the maximum 50% rate, but there are a handful that have taken the other options.

Honor System

It is important to point out that when applying for health insurance, lying about your smoking habits in order to receive lower premiums is considered a form of insurance fraud. In effect, by lying about tobacco use you are misrepresenting your health risks. Even if you use a smoking cessation device such as a vaporizer or an e-cigarette, many insurance companies will still consider you a smoker and raise your premiums in the same they will for tobacco product users.

Uninsured Dangers

Because of the higher premiums, some smokers may opt out of health or life insurance altogether. This can be a costly mistake due to the increased risk of diseases that commonly arise from long term tobacco use. If an uninsured smoker does become diagnosed with something like cancer or heart disease, they will surely wish they had insurance coverage to assist with treatment.

Preventative Care

There is some disagreement over whether higher insurance premiums actually help people stop smoking, but there are some providers that offer coverage for smoking cessation programs as preventative care.

Having healthy habits is not only beneficial to your wallet; it is also beneficial to you and those who love you the most. Health insurance can help ensure that you’ll be there for family and friends for many more years to come. Reach out to one of our agents today to learn more about what you can be doing to take precautions for the future of your health.

How Marriage Can Change Your Insurance Needs

You already know that marriage will change a lot of things in your life. When you say “I do” you are combining your entire world – and often your home – with someone else’s. Among the changes that come with married life are adjustments you should make to your insurance coverage.

Home & Property

If you and your spouse move in together after getting married, you will want to have both of your names listed on the policy to ensure you both benefit from its protection. In addition to this change, you should consider increasing or adjusting your personal property coverage. Even before the wedding, you will want to get the engagement ring covered. Even if you never take the ring off and have no chance of losing it, there is still a chance that stones could fall out. Over the course of your engagement and even after the wedding, you may also receive valuable gifts. Whether you live together prior to marriage or combine your households after, wedding gifts can increase the total value of your possessions and require updates to your personal property coverage.

Auto

Auto insurance can undergo some of the biggest changes for married couples. Studies have found that married people have fewer motor vehicle accidents and take fewer risks while driving. Your auto insurance rates may decrease significantly after you get married. However if one spouse has a poor driving record, combining policies may not be the best option. It is best to get your agent’s advice on this matter, since he or she will be in the best position to tell you how you and your spouse can benefit from policy changes.

Life

If you and your future spouse do not already have life insurance policies, the event of your marriage is a good reason to consider purchasing life insurance. After all, once the two become one, you will most likely come to reply on each other financially. If either of you already possesses life insurance, you may want to update your beneficiary information to include your new spouse. Younger couples may not believe they need life insurance, but this coverage is likely going to be the least expensive while you are young and healthy. Life insurance will help protect your new family from the unexpected for years to come.

Health

Marriage is one of the qualifying life events that allow you to make changes to your health insurance policy outside of open enrollment. Usually valid within 60 days of the wedding, you can change your policies or add your spouse to your plan. Even if both partners already have health insurance through your employers, it can be worth it to speak to your agent about whether your current health coverage has everything you need.

Last but not least, if you are changing your name after getting married, be sure to submit the change to your insurance company after finishing the legal side of the process! Marriage can be a wonderful thing, and when you have the proper insurance you are able to enjoy it even more fully.

WHY STAY AT HOME PARENTS NEED LIFE INSURANCE

You may think that the only parents who need life insurance are working parents, but that isn’t exactly correct. A stay at home parent is more than just a mother or father. These individuals wear many hats: tutor, chef, chauffeur, housekeeper, caretaker, and more. The true value of these duties is priceless, but the economic value of them is clearly measurable. Purchasing a life insurance policy for a stay at home parent is a smart and compassionate way to ensure that your family is financially protected in the event of the unthinkable.

THE VALUE OF THE INVALUABLE

Purchasing life insurance for a stay at home parent may seem strange since one of the purposes of life insurance is to replace the insured’s income that dependents rely on. Even though they do not earn an income, a stay at home parent’s work may be valued at over $100,000 a year. This means that in the case of a stay at home parent’s death, the surviving parent could be responsible for over $100,000 of equivalent services each year. Daycare alone can cost up to $20,000 a year, depending on the state you live in and the age of the child. Even if it doesn’t cost that much, this kind of expense can put a heavy burden on a surviving parent – and this is only one example. For this parent to continue earning an income, some or all of the work the stay at home parent previously performed will need to be outsourced. Having a life insurance policy in place for the stay at home parent can assist in alleviating these newfound financial responsibilities.

CONSIDER TERM LIFE INSURANCE

A term life insurance policy is a good option for a stay at home parent since it can cover a range of years in which the family is at the most risk in case of the stay at home parent’s death. After children are grown, there are fewer services that a stay at home parent performs, and less coverage may be needed.

OTHER ADVANTAGES

In addition to providing assistance with the duties of child and home care, life insurance for a stay at home parent can also provide financial help with final expenses, debts, and other common uses for life insurance.

SPEAK TO AN AGENT

If you and your spouse are considering purchasing life insurance for the stay at home parent in the family, the best way to figure out what kind of coverage is best for your needs is to speak to one of our independent agents. We are here to help you think about the difficult things so your family can be better protected.

Teens and Distracted Driving

Starting to drive is one of the most exciting experiences for teenagers, but it can also be one of the most dangerous. According to the CDC, teenagers are the most likely age group to get into a traffic accident. Teens are more likely to speed and less likely to wear seatbelts than older drivers. They are also much more likely to become distracted while driving, resulting in a much higher potential for injury-causing or even fatal accidents. What are the most common distractions facing teen drivers, and what can be done?

Cell Phone Usage

Perhaps the most obvious cause of teen distracted driving is the use of cell phones while on the road. Cell phone use while driving is illegal in some states, but many people–especially teenagers–still engage in it. Both talking on the phone and texting are dangerous for the teen driver, and many teens will even open and use social media apps while driving. Distracted driving causes 15% of all injury-causing accidents, so as the most susceptible to distracted driving, teens should be made highly aware of the potential consequences of their actions.  

Talking on the phone can cause mental distraction and manual distraction, and even hands-free conversation methods can cause distraction. Texting while driving is much more dangerous, as it causes mental, manual, and visual distraction. Taking your mind off the road is never good, but focusing your mind, hands, and eyes elsewhere is an incredibly dangerous combination. When you are distracted in these ways, reactions to potential dangers are much slower or may be completely missed.

Other Distractions

Cell phones are a serious distraction for teen drivers, but they are not the only source. Anything that takes your hands off of the wheel and mind or eyes off of the road can cause an accident. This includes activities such as eating, changing the music, applying makeup, and interacting with passengers. This last is perhaps the most dangerous of all. Studies have found that teenagers’ chances of a crash increase significantly with each additional passenger in the vehicle. This is especially true if the fellow passengers are teen peers.

Solutions

It is important for parents to share the dangers of distracted driving with their teenage children, but it is even more important for adults to model responsible driving behavior. Teens will not heed warnings against phone usage or other risky activities if they regularly see their parents engaging in these behaviors.

There are also some mobile apps that will prevent cell phone usage while a car is in motion or when manually enabled before driving. These apps can be a good way to help teens become accustomed to leaving their phone alone while driving, so that in the future they can practice self control on their own.

Be Prepared

Educating teens about distracted driving and helping them find ways to combat these dangers can greatly help reduce teenage traffic accidents. However, we cannot control everyone on the road, and even the safest drivers can experience a collision. Make sure you and your family is covered in the event of a car accident with the right auto insurance.

Strategies to Reduce Employee Illness and Injury

As a business owner, the health and safety of your employees should be a top priority. Not only are healthy employees happier, but they are more productive, too. Ultimately, having high health and safety standards will also reduce costs to your business since insurance premiums will be lower with a cleaner safety record. Additionally, having employees that are healthy and able to work will reduce costs that would arise from loss of productivity or hiring and training in the case that your employee has an accident and is unable to continue.

ROOT CAUSES

Workplace injuries or illnesses can occur for a number of reasons. Improper application of safety procedures or protective gear, misuse of equipment, lack of ergonomic solutions, and overexertion from overtime work are common themes that lead to workplace injury–or even death. It is important to pay attention to the past injuries or accidents that have occurred at your business, so you can plan to prevent them in the future.

EDUCATION IS KEY

The best way to ensure that health and safety standards are met in your workplace is to regularly educate both management and staff about the proper procedures. While everyone may receive this kind of training in orientation, employees that stay on for several years will eventually forget what they learned and may unintentionally lapse in their duties to uphold the company’s standards. For this reason, it is a good idea to schedule employee health and safety refreshers at regular intervals.

DEVELOP A PLAN

With regular meetings about wellness and safety comes an increased awareness of the unique safety concerns that may be present at your business. Each type of business will have its own specific concerns. Meetings can be an excellent way to hear the concerns and opinions of all employees and identify matters that may need to be investigated or procedures that may need to be adjusted. If your business does not already have a health and safety plan, use these meetings to develop one based on the input of your management and staff.

GET INSURED

Implementing high health and safety standards can do a lot to reduce the frequency of employee illness and injury, but accidents may still happen. In the case that they do, you want to make sure your company has the right insurance coverage to take care of your employees and prevent losses to your business.

6 Ways to Know if Your Brakes are Failing

Brake failure is easily one of the most dangerous malfunctions that can occur in your vehicle. There are many reasons why brakes fail, but even if you aren’t a mechanic, you should know the signs of brake failure so you can get your car serviced as soon as you start noticing them! Here are six ways to know if your brakes are starting to malfunction.

YOUR BRAKE PEDAL HAS FALLEN

A falling brake pedal is one of the classic signs of brake failure. When your brakes are in good condition, your pedal will stay in the same position every day. If it falls toward the floor, it will be impossible not to notice. This means that your brakes are likely out of adjustment, and it could mean that there is a mechanical failure or air in your vehicle’s system.

YOUR BRAKES ARE SQUEALING OR GRINDING

Brakes that squeal or grind aren’t just nuisances. They’re actually a pretty serious problem, because these noises can indicate that your brake pads are wearing thin and/or that the brake is worn all the way down to the rotors.

YOUR BRAKE PEDAL IS VIBRATING

When we say vibrating, we don’t just mean the slight shudder caused by your anti-lock brake system (ABS)  when you slam on the brakes really hard. We mean a shudder that happens when you hit your brake normally, often accompanied by a chattering noise and a hard-to-control steering wheel. The chattering sound is usually produced by warped rotors, which the brakes can’t clamp onto as easily to stop the vehicle.

YOU THINK YOUR ALIGNMENT IS OFF

If your car is pulling to one side or the other when you brake, don’t automatically mistake it for a slight misalignment! If you notice the pulling only when you apply pressure to your brakes, it could mean that one of the car’s wheel cylinders or calipers is seized or frozen. It could also mean that you have fluid leaking on the brake pads or shoes.

YOU HAVE TO HIT THE BRAKES HARDER

If you begin noticing that you have to press your brakes harder than usual to slow down or stop, it could mean that one of your brakes or an axle isn’t performing the way it should. Don’t let this continue for awhile; call your mechanic and bring your car in for a checkup as soon as possible.

WHAT TO DO

If you think your brakes are failing, it is imperative that you get your vehicle checked out as soon as you can. Properly functioning brakes can do more than save you from a fender-bender and an insurance headache – they can save your life.

How to Lower Your Premiums on Home Insurance

As long as you own a home, homeowners insurance doesn’t go away. What’s worse is that insurance premiums have the tendency to increase over the years. Whether you are shopping for homeowners insurance for your first home or looking to decrease your premiums for your current home, here are a few tips to help you make your insurance more affordable.

Improve Your Home Security

By decreasing vulnerabilities in your home, you can potentially cut your insurance premiums by as much as 15-25 percent. Methods of improving your home security can include adding a smoke detector, burglar alarm, dead-bolt locks, sprinkler system, and professionally installed storm shutters and doors. With these added safety measures in place, your house is less likely to receive damage from unforeseen instances such as storms, floods, fire, or burglary. If you do make these safety upgrades to your home, keep a record of your receipts in case your provider wants proof before lowering your premium.

Know Your Location

If you haven’t bought your home yet, check the CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report of the home you are interested in. These reports will be able to tell you the property’s insurance claim history so you can be familiar with any problems the house has had.

Increase Your Deductible

A deductible is the amount of risk you agree to accept before the insurance company starts paying on a claim. The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on your insurance premiums. You could save up to 25% on your premiums simply by doubling your deductible.

Bundle Your Home and Auto Policies

If you already have auto insurance, consider either purchasing your home insurance with the same provider or moving your auto insurance to your new home insurance provider. More often than not, you can save a lot of money on your premiums by bundling the two with the same provider. In fact, bundling can save you anywhere from 5 to 15 percent on your monthly payment.

Determine if Loyalty Matters

Insurance providers typically reward their loyal customers by offering policy discounts. Some insurers will reduce your premiums by 5 percent if you stay with them for three to five years and by 10 percent if you remain a policyholder for six years or more. However, while loyalty has its benefits, some providers offer cheaper discounts to new clients who switch over to their agency.
Make sure you do not ignore such opportunities by occasionally checking your price with other policies that could potentially be cheaper from the beginning.

Don’t Buy What You Don’t Need

This might sound obvious, but don’t have insurance for things you don’t need to cover. For example, if you aren’t in a flood zone, flood insurance may not be the best option for you. Or, if you don’t have any expensive jewelry, you shouldn’t need a jewelry policy. So unless you have a good reason for having a type of insurance, you probably shouldn’t have it. With that being said, it would also be a good idea to reevaluate your coverage each year to make sure your policies are relevant to your current lifestyle. Having one that is unneeded will only make you spend unnecessary money that could be used elsewhere.

Shop Around

Odds are that you aren’t going to pick the cheapest insurance provider with your first choice. In order to make sure you don’t pay more than necessary, shop around either before purchasing home insurance or before renewing your current policy. Ask your friends who they are covered through and check consumer guides to be sure you get the lowest rates that fit your current situation.

To be sure you get the lowest premiums on your homeowners insurance, contact our agency today. We’ll do the shopping for you to get you the best coverage at the best price, whether it’s your first time or you need a readjustment upon renewal time.

How Will Adding a Teenage Driver Impact My Car Insurance?

So, your teen is ready to get their license. It’s an exciting time for them! And maybe for you too, although you may have a number of concerns when it comes to adding a less experienced driver to your insurance plan. There’s the matter of their safety, whether or not they will break certain rules and restrictions on the road, as well as how they will affect your car insurance rates.

Keeping a teenage driver covered under an insurance plan can be extremely expensive, but going without insurance is not an option. While adding a teen driver may be pricey and stressful, there are many ways to lessen the cost. Below are just a few ways you can keep costs down while sending your new driver out on the road.

Mentor by Practicing Good Driving Habits Yourself

If you’re not practicing good driving habits yourself, how can you be your teen’s best mentor? To avoid additional costs, you’ll want to do everything in your power to help them avoid an accident. Have your teen strictly follow safety practices when driving such as putting their phone away, limiting distractions, and buckling up. Make sure they know and follow basic rules of the road every time they drive with you, and hold yourself accountable as well.

Increase Your Liability Coverage

You’ll probably want to increase your liability coverage before your teen even gets behind the wheel. The car they will be driving is in your name, so that means YOU are liable for whatever happens when they’re on the road. Because they are just learning to drive, you’ll definitely want to make sure you have the right coverage plan in case you are held accountable for something you did not do. While you probably do not wish to add an additional amount to your bills, liability will literally save you should a bad accident and subsequent lawsuits occur.

Have Them Drive an Older or Used Car

Because teenage drivers are at a greater risk of getting in an accident, it would be wise to have them drive an older or used car. The car shouldn’t be so old that it’s not up-to-date regarding safety, but having them drive in a well-running vehicle that’s a bit older could save you a great deal of money in the future. These cars are much less expensive to repair should damage occur to them.

Enroll in a Driver Tracking Program

Today, a number of insurance companies provide small devices that monitor driving habits and patterns. These trackers can tell how fast you’re going, the distance at which you break, and other important factors that can give your teen insight as to how they are regularly driving. With this type of information feedback, teens should be able to recognize where their driving could use improvement. Once your teen begins implementing better driving habits, you may see your monthly rates gradually decrease.

Ask About a Distant Driver Discount

When the time comes for your teen to head off to college, they may not take a vehicle with them. Less than half of teenage drivers head off to college with a car in tow. If your child falls into this category, you may be able to get a discount during the time they are away and not driving. In many instances, they don’t have to be very far from home to qualify for a distant driver discount. Check with your insurance provider to see if your teenage driver qualifies you for this type of discount today.

As soon as your teenager begins to think about driving, you’ll want to inform your insurance agency so that your son or daughter can be added to your current plan. This way, they will be covered throughout the experience of learning this important life skill. Make sure they are under the right car insurance plan by having them covered with our agency. To get started, give us a call and let us insure you for all of your major life moments.