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How to Make a Car Emergency Kit

Whether it’s a flat tire or a run-in with a winter storm, a vehicle emergency can really catch you off guard. The first step you should take in creating a road emergency plan is to give your insurance agent a call. Many insurance carriers offer roadside assistance services as a policy add-on if it is not already part of your auto coverage. Often, available roadside assistance services will include towing, battery jump-start, flat tire change, fuel delivery, lockout service, and winching service. Your agent will be able to tell you if you can benefit from your auto insurance carrier’s roadside assistance coverage or assist you with adding it to your policy.

There is no such thing as being too safe, and you should still consider creating a car emergency kit in case your roadside assistance is delayed or unavailable for some reason. Here are some items you may want to include in your own kit.

 

Tools to Fix Your Vehicle

Say you get a flat tire. Perhaps your cell phone has died and you don’t have a car charger or you’re in an area with no cell service. In this case, you will not be able to contact roadside assistance, and it’ll be up to you to get out of the emergency situation. You can be prepared for this possibility by having a car emergency kit that includes items such as a properly inflated spare tire, tripod jack, and wheel wrench. It’s always a good idea to include jumper cables in your kit as well, and don’t forget a reflective vest and reflective triangles that will make you visible to passing cars as you walk around your vehicle-making repairs.

 

Supplies to Prepare for Anything

Speaking of dying cell phones, your emergency kit should definitely include a car cell phone charger or even a portable charger. The latter also called a power bank, is a device you “power up” at home and can use anywhere to charge your cell phone. These power banks can hold a charge for several months if fully charged once and kept at room temperature. This may be an issue if you park your vehicle outdoors, but you can rectify the problem by regularly recharging your power bank and placing it back in your vehicle for storage. Consider also including a basic first aid kit, flashlight with replacement batteries, water bottles, and nonperishable, high-energy foods such as protein bars and nuts.

 

Emergency Phone Numbers

Even if your cell phone dies, a passerby may pull over and have a phone you can use. If this happens, you’ll want to be able to access phone numbers for your roadside assistance service, insurance agent, or emergency contact. Have these numbers typed or written on paper that you can keep in your glove box instead of keeping them only on your cell phone.

 

Cold Weather Specific Items

If you live in an area with lots of cold weather, it’s a good idea to take this into account when putting together your emergency kit. A shovel and ice scraper are useful tools to have, cat litter helps provide tire traction, and you’ll likely need warm clothing and blankets if you are stuck for a period of time.

 

What Else Can You Do?

Practicing responsible car care is the best way to ensure your vehicle won’t get into any emergency situations. Unexpected situations do arise, but some emergencies can be prevented. Keep up with your vehicle’s maintenance and always keep a full gas tank. And remember – be sure to check with your agent first and foremost to find out about securing roadside assistance through your auto insurance carrier.

Preparing Your Business for the Event of a Flood

Just like your home, your business can flood and potentially experience extensive damage. However, your business has a completely different set of risks than your home does. After a flood in your place of business, you could experience loss resulting from damage to records, inventory, equipment, and technology as well as other valuable property and assets. You also face a potential loss of business income in the time it takes to restore your facility – not to mention the cost of debris removal, cleanup, and restoration. Business owners can mitigate risk by developing a flood disaster plan and, of course, by having the proper insurance coverage in place.

 

Flood Damage is Serious Business for Your Business

Flooding can be caused by many events, including heavy rainfall, overflow from rivers or ponds, or a breach in a levee or dam. Often, flash floods can occur with almost no warning. In regards to damage, floods do more than simply make everything wet. Flooding can cause structural and electrical damage. The floodwater itself often contains sharp debris like metal or glass fragments or hazardous, unsanitary matter, and this water can contaminate anything it touches. Of course, if employees are present at the time of the flooding, their lives can also be in great danger.

 

Ask Your Agent About Available Insurance Coverage

Most standard commercial policies do not cover flood damage. However, some carriers offer coverage that is specifically tailored for business floods. The majority of these policies are provided through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The NFIP only covers commercial property, so you will need to ask your agent about adding flood-specific business interruption coverage to protect your operation against loss of income.

 

Create a Comprehensive Workplace Flood Disaster Plan

One of the most important ways you can prepare your business for the event of a flood is to keep copies of your insurance documentation and other vital documents in a location that will be safe from any potential flood damage; you can even keep these documents off-site if you are able. In addition to important documents, you will want to keep a backup list of all employees’ contact information. The next step is to assess the risks your building faces – check all walls and seams for cracks, move valuable items from bottoms floors if possible, and consider installing a sump pump to help prevent water from getting inside your building. Finally, in the event of an emergency during work hours, you will need an evacuation plan that all employees are trained in.

In the Event of a Flood…

You will be grateful that you have insurance to lessen the impact of the damage. Reach out to your agent today to find out more about your options to get covered.

Millennials and Life Insurance

More than any other generation, millennials (born 1981-1996) are going without life insurance. In some instances this is understandable; perhaps you are debt-free or never plan to have children. However, there are some considerations you should take into account before writing off life insurance entirely. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are a millennial considering (or who has never before considered) the possibility of purchasing life insurance.

 

DO YOU HAVE OTHERS DEPENDING ON YOU?

Whether it’s children, aging parents, or a disabled sibling, if there is someone who is financially depending on you for their future, life insurance will be there to take care of them. Although many millennials are waiting longer to get married and have children, life insurance is most affordable when you are young. This means even if you do not have children but plan to in the future, purchasing life insurance now is a good option. Once you begin having children, you can always adjust your coverage to fit your new needs.

 

DO YOU HAVE CO-SIGNED DEBT?

Americans owe over $1.56 trillion in student loan debt, and much of that debt belongs to millennial borrowers. While it is true that federal student loans are forgiven if you die, private loans are not. If you have a co-signer on your loan, such as your parents, they will be strapped with the responsibility of paying off the remaining debt if you pass. The same goes for any credit cards, cars, or mortgages with a co-signer. Having life insurance in place is a good idea for millennials with co-signed debts since it will assist your co-signers in paying off the remaining balance.

 

IS THERE A HISTORY OF HEALTH ISSUES IN YOUR FAMILY?

If your parents have heritable health conditions, there is a chance you could be diagnosed with the same condition eventually. Since it’s the most affordable to purchase life insurance when you are young and healthy, it is best to do it before you develop any health issues that may make life insurance more expensive or make you unable to qualify.

 

ARE YOU AN ENTREPRENEUR?

Many millennials are interested in entrepreneurship. If you own a business with someone else, they probably depend on you to keep the operation going. You can make sure the business you’ve built from the bottom up won’t be hurt by your death by purchasing life insurance, with the intent that the benefit is used for these purposes.

 

DO YOU LIVE WITH A SIGNIFICANT OTHER OR ROOMMATES?

It’s increasingly common for unmarried millennials to cohabit with a partner, and many live with one or more roommates. Unlike life insurance that benefits a spouse or children, a policy intended to assist housemates with the cost of rent will not need to cover a long span of years. It will only need to help with covering expenses through the end of your lease.

What to Do If Your Car Is Stolen

Remain Calm 

If you believe your car has been stolen, your immediate response is likely to completely freak out. This is understandable, but there is a chance you could be mistaken. It is possible that your car was towed or even that your teenager took it without asking. Make a few calls to local towing companies to see if your car is with them. If you determine that your car was, in fact, stolen, you must still remain calm so you can follow the correct procedures. 

Call the Police 

This is your first step once you know your vehicle was taken. To report your car as stolen, you will need to provide facts that the police can use to identify your car. This information includes a detailed description of the vehicle including make, model and year, color, and any unique features such as bumper stickers or dents. You will also want to have your license plate number and vehicle identification number (VIN) on hand to provide to police. If you don’t know these off the top of your head, consider keeping a note of them in your wallet or cell phone. It’s especially important to contact police right off the bat, since many carriers will not honor a claim unless a police report is filed first. 

Contact Your Insurance Agent 

After filing a report with the police, it is time to file a claim with your insurance. Only a comprehensive auto insurance policy offers coverage in the case of theft, but even if you do not have this policy it is a good idea to notify your insurance agent about the incident. By notifying insurance, you may still be able protect yourself against any damage that occurs to persons or property while the vehicle is in possession of the thief or thieves. You will want to have at hand the same vehicle information you provided to the police, as well as items such as the title, a list of the location of all keys to the vehicle, a list of any personal property that was in the vehicle, the police report number, and contact information for your finance or leasing company. You provide the information, and your agent will take care of the rest. 

Final Steps 

After taking the initial steps to report the theft to police and involve your insurance agent, you will want to tie up any loose ends by notifying other parties that have an interest in your vehicle. Your agent will likely take care of this, but you can also place a call to your finance or leasing company. Report the theft to the DMV as well. 

You should continue working with your insurance agent to see about rental vehicle coverage, but the only thing to do once all these steps have been completed is to wait. Your car may be recovered, but unfortunately there is a chance it may not be. Your agent will be there by your side throughout the process, whatever happens. 

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. 

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. 

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 distractions. 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 are covered in the event of a car accident with the right auto insurance. 

Should I Pay My Auto Insurance Premium Monthly or Annually?

When it comes to automotive insurance, you may find yourself faced with multiple decisions to make. Should you choose a high or low deductible plan, minimum or maximum coverage, or pay premiums monthly versus an annual lump sum? Although there is truly no wrong answer, it is important to ensure you have the best possible coverage for your budget, driving habits, and lifestyle. Your local insurance agent can guide you toward the ideal policy for your needs, but this may still leave you questioning the frequency of your payments. 

Depending on your budget, it may be harder for you to pay your insurance premium up-front. However, this is still the most cost-effective way to purchase coverage. Insurers may offer what seems like a discount when you pay annually, and this absolutely benefits you as the consumer. However, what this also means is that those who elect to pay monthly or quarterly are actually being charged added fees as a penalty for delaying payments. These fees cover the insurer’s “carrying cost” of delaying collection, the back-office expense for processing multiple transactions, and the risk of consumers terminating payments earlier than expected. If you are able to pay annually without causing financial strain, this is a great option for you. 

Of course, the most ideal payment schedule remains one that you can manage. Paying annually in a lump sum could leave you strained to cover other bills such as a car payment, or you could find yourself facing significant late fees if you aren’t able to make the next year’s annual payment. Should you choose to pay monthly, a major benefit is being able to maintain a consistent budget schedule without falling behind or incurring late fees. 

One additional payment preference is using either a personal debit or credit card or setting up automated electronic funds transfers (EFT). When using a card to make a payment, you may run into additional card processing fees from the insurer. Some providers will offer an incentive discount should you choose to pay via an EFT, which comes directly from your bank and does not charge the insurance provider additional fees. 

Overall, there is no incorrect method for making payments toward your auto insurance premium. Keep your budget in mind, and be sure to speak with your local insurance agent to obtain the appropriate level of coverage. Once you understand the policy that is best for you, you can make an informed decision regarding how often to pay. Your agent can help provide clarity around the price differences between paying monthly and annually, so contact your local insurance agent today. 

How Non-US Citizens Get Life Insurance

Selecting a life insurance policy is an important step for planning ahead and taking care of the financial well-being of your family. But can you still get coverage if you aren’t a US citizen? In most cases, yes. There are very few instances where your citizenship status disqualifies you from coverage. The circumstances of your policy are different than those of current citizens, so there will be some more hoops to jump through, but there are plenty of providers who should be able to give you the coverage you need.

Learn more about obtaining life insurance as a non-citizen here:

Your Identification Makes a Difference

Whether or not you’re going to have a simple time of getting life insurance depends on the type of ID you have. If you are a green card holder, you are considered a permanent U.S. resident, and you shouldn’t have any problems applying for any life insurance policy you want. The only additional step you will need to take is sending proof of your immigration status to the insurance company.

Things start to get trickier if you hold a visa or a student visa. Visa card holders can be approved by many different carriers, but the companies have varying criteria for determining your residency. Most of these criteria are based on substantial presence and significant interest (more on that below).

The group most likely to have problems qualifying for life insurance coverage is non-citizens who hold student visas. Most insurance companies are hesitant to approve policies because they know that the visa is only temporary. However, it isn’t impossible to get life insurance with a student visa. You just need to speak with your insurance agent to determine the best route to take.

Substantial Presence & Significant Interest

Substantial presence and significant interest are the two primary factors that insurance companies consider when visa card holders apply for a life insurance policy.

To qualify under substantial presence in the United States, you typically need to have lived stateside for a minimum of one year. Many carriers require you to prove you have lived in the US for one or two years, and some require as many as five years. Ask your agent which carriers you best qualify with based on your time spent in the US.

In order to qualify based on significant interest, you need to have a vested reason to remain in or frequent the US. You must prove to the insurance carrier that you own a sizeable amount of property or assets in the country, such as a home or business.

Rely on Independent Agents

Shopping for a great insurance policy within your budget can be difficult enough to begin with. If you are not a US citizen, qualifying for life insurance can present even more obstacles. Trust an experienced independent agent to find a variety of good carriers with policies you qualify for!