Making it easy to find the right insurance

UPDATE: Hurricane Predictions

May 31st, 2006 by Megan Mahan

Good news (maybe) from Colorado State University today.

The Insurance Journal reported that the Colorado State University forecast team has predicted that, despite the high probabiltiy of an active hurricane season, fewer storms will make landfall than originally anticipated. The team previously predicted that 17 named storms would form between June 1 and November 30. Of those 17, nine are predicted to become hurricanes; of those nine, five are now expected to make landfall.

Despite these better-than-originally-predicted predictions, the team still maintains that there is an 82 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will hit U.S. soil and a 69 percent chance that a hurricane will hit the East coast this season.

But let’s not end today’s post on a discouraging note. :) Here, a feel-good quote from Phil Klotzbach, a member of the Colorado State University hurricane forecast team:

In any one season, most U.S. coastal areas will not feel the effects of a hurricane no matter how active a season. The probability of landfall for any one location along the coast is very low. However, low landfall probability does not ensure that hurricanes will not come ashore, so coastal residents should always be prepared.

Indeed, Phil, indeed. And, to help our coastal friends prepare, here are some helpful hurricane preparation links:

Check out the links and err on the side of caution this hurricane season. And, if you have questions about home and/or flood insurance, don’t hesitate to shoot them our way via comments–that’s what we’re here for!

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Used-Car Heaven…or Nightmare?

May 31st, 2006 by Penny Hagerman

Pulling off the lot in a brand-spanking new car, many of us have felt the rush and excitement that new piece of shiny metal brings to our otherwise doldrum lives. But then the monthly payments hit, and we’re left wondering if we really needed that awesome ride with the new-car smell, or if we could actually have lived with something cheaper (and less depreciating!).

Millions of Americans routinely purchase used cars to avoid just this type of scene. But if you’re among the members of Used Car Buyers Anonymous (UCBA–OK, I made that up), have you ever wondered exactly where that 30,000-mile vehicle came from? I mean, did old Mr. and Mrs. Smith from down the road really just drive it back and forth between the grocery store, the post office and home the past 5 years…or did their grandson, 16-year-old Billy, rip around town in it every day with a car load of his friends?

Worse yet, just what kind of hidden damage has that used car suffered, totally unbeknownst to you? Could it have been one of thousands of vehicles damaged by flooding during hurricanes Katrina, Rita or Wilma? How would you ever know the difference?

…Read the rest of this entry »

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18 Million Americans Unfit to Drive?

May 30th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

I can be a pretty paranoid driver–I tend to trust other drivers on the road about as far as I can throw them, which isn’t much, since you know, cars are heavy and I’m a rather small girl. And, according to second annual GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test, it looks like my paranoia might be justified. Make phone calls after you park!

According to the study, one in eleven American drivers would fail a state drivers test. That’s a total of 18 million “unfit” drivers that are on the road with you and I every day. Heck, maybe we are part of that 18 million. And not only does the study indicate that drivers lack adequate knowledge of the rules of the road, it also shows that drivers “exhibit bad behavior behind the wheel.”

Among our bad behaviors, U.S. drivers seem to ignore pedestrians (the Institute for Highway Safety reports that one in three drivers usually don’t stop for pedestrians, even if they’re in a crosswalk or the light turns yellow) and treat drive time as an opportunity to catch up on the things they didn’t get done at home or at the office.

The most common driving offenses are:

  • Talking on a cell phone [74 percent]
  • Eating [62 percent]
  • Sending text messages [24 percent]
  • Selecting songs on an iPod [20 percent]
  • Applying makeup [8 percent]
  • Changing clothes [8 percent]

Text messaging? Changing clothes? Oy vey. That’s pretty bad. I agree with Gary Kusumi, CEO and president of GMAC Insurance, when he says that the driving rules and laws shouldn’t be something you learn once when you pass your first driving test. And I wasn’t always one to preach, believe me. I had to take the written drivers test a couple years ago to renew my license and it wasn’t easy. I actually had to study! Suffice to say, though, that I’m a better driver because of it.

How drive-savvy are you? Visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles online and take the practice drivers test. The results might surprise you–but then again, they might make you a better driver. Oh, and safer driving habits may lower your auto insurance down the line, too. :)
[Source]: Insurance Journal

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Peculiar Posting: UK Football Fan Buys Insurance for Possible World Cup Trauma

May 26th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

Paul Hucker just can’t deal with the pain and agony of seeing England get knocked out of the World Cup Tournament. That’s why he’s purchased a 1£ insurance policy to cover himself against the potential trauma of seeing his team lose the tournament…again.

Traditionally, Britain hasn’t had the best of luck at the World Cup; in recent years they’ve bowed out early in the competition, losing through penalty shootouts–probably the most nerve-wracking and devastating way to lose a soccer match.

“The pressure of this World Cup is not just on the players and the managers. I think a lot of supporters are under a lot of pressure and suffer because of England’s performance,” said Hucker. “I find when it goes to penalty shootouts it gets very difficult and I wanted to insure myself against psychological trauma.”

Hucker purchased the policy from a; if England is knocked out of the tournament in the first round, the insurer will consult with five sports commentators to judge if the team’s exit is “premature.” According to BelfastToday, Hucker will then have to provide medical proof that he has suffered “severe medical trauma” because of the World Cup events. Then, and only then, will Hucker receive his seven-figure payout.

As a Chicago Cubs fan who, like the entire generations of Cubs fans, has suffered under the curse of the Billy Goat, I sympathize with Hucker. I really, truly do. But aside from the fact that he’s buying an actual insurance policy to help him get over any residual trauma, doesn’t the act of buying the policy mean that he’s betting against his own team? Seems like bad sports karma just waiting to happen. :)

Have happy and safe holiday weekend, everyone. See you back here on Tuesday.

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Earthquake Preparedness Urged in Some States

May 26th, 2006 by Penny Hagerman

Officials from five states lying on what’s known as the New Madrid Faultline are urging residents to prepare for an impending earthquake now, while they still can.

Although no one knows when a catastrohic quake might occur, their sheer unpredictability combined with a history of tremors every every 50 years or so, tell geologists a major quake is now overdue.

The faultline, which runs from the northeastern corner of Arkansas through four other states ending near Cairo, Illinois, poses serious threat to the residents of Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois, says the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

From 1811 to 1812, this fault produced some of the strongest tremors ever to have struck the continental U.S. According to a recent article in Claims Guides, a leading online insurance publication, “scientists say similar quakes [today] could kill and injure thousands from St. Louis to Memphis.”

The Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis agrees, and recommends residents of the affected states get ready now in order to reduce losses when faced with this kind of unannounced monster.

Because homeowner’s policies do not typcially cover earthquake damage or loss, residents of the affected states should also talk to their insurance agents to determine how best to cover their home and possessions in case of a debilitating quake.

[To find out how to ready yourself and your home for an earthquake, read the Claims Guides article here.]

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Marketers to Start Text Messaging Consumers?

May 25th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

I should preface this post by saying two things:

  1. Text messaging sort of annoys me. It’s good for short communications to a friend, when, say, your date has just made a spectical of himself by flexing his biceps in a five-star restaurant and you can’t slip away to call your friend to share–and that’s about it.
  2. I tend to take some things more seriously than I probably should.

Now that that’s out of the way, on to the meat of the matter. SeedsOfGrowth, a blog geared toward generating ideas for small businesses, recently posted about the growing trend of mobile messaging and how marketers can reap the benefits of text messaging prospects and clients.

The topic, which was recently discussed in length by Scott Springer at, left me with my mouth agape.

In the U.S. 67 percent of the population subscribes to a mobile phone service, with an estimated 36 percent of the subscribers using some kind of mobile data application, as reported by Yankee Group. Of those users, 72 percent use SMS [simple messaging service] text messaging. The time is right for retailers to embrace the technology of text messaging.

Mobile marketing provides retailers the opportunity to reach customers with a reminder or incentive anytime, anywhere. More often than not, it is outside of the home, which allows for the opportunity to impact customers while they are out making shopping decisions or in transit.

I shuddered at the thought that I could start receiving text messages from anyone, ranging from insurance agents to long distance phone companies. Could marketers really do that?

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Rental Car Insurance: Waste of Dinero?

May 24th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

Fellow insurance bloggers over at RiskProf recently cited this MSN Slate article on the topic of rental car insurance–namely if it was actually worth the money or not.

Slate columnist, Tim Harford, makes the kind of points that are too spot on for me to paraphrase here, but the gist is that coverages like rental car insurance aren’t really worth it.

Here, Harford shares his recent experience at a rental car counter:

This was a strikingly overpriced offering. For each day’s rental I was being asked to pay $10 to protect me from the risk of paying $900. The mathematics are hardly difficult: The insurance is fair only if I crash into something every 90 days. If I believed that, I wouldn’t get behind the wheel at all.

The better solution: ask your insurance agent if your auto insurance policy will cover you in a rental car. If not, you can usually get this coverage added to your policy for much less than ten dollars per day. Of course, on a larger scale, I agree with Harford when he says that the best solution is to make sure you are properly insured against major catastrophes like a hurricane, house fire or severe accident in your vehicle–and try not to sweat the smaller things like a dent in your rental car.

Harford’s latest column is truly a must-read, as it will probably change the way you think about risk and insurance in general. And for more on unnecessary insurance coverage, check out our article, Unecessary Insurance Coverage: Policies to Avoid.

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The Latest on Foreign Travel and Life Insurance

May 23rd, 2006 by Megan Mahan

Could your foreign travel plans affect your life insurance premiums?

According to the Insurance News Network, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) recently met to evaluate current legislature to come up with a “universal model” for life insurers over whether or not to incorporate foreign travel into life insurance underwriting.

Today, many life insurers–including big names like Allstate, MetLife and New York Life Insurance Company–use an applicant’s future travel plans to determine their life insurance premiums. In some cases, insurers will even deny life insurance coverage if the applicant travels to high-risk areas, which are usually determined by the U.S. State Department travel warning list.

The issue of foreign travel and life insurance was put in the spotlight last year after U.S. Representative, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, was denied life insurance after she discussed possible future travel to Israel.

“As an American you can lawfully travel pretty much anywhere in the world,” Wasserman Schultz has been quoted. “You are asking Americans to choose between insuring their lives and legal travel.”

Insurance companies, on the other hand, argue that they should be allowed to increase premiums or deny coverage based on the fact that a person has a higher risk of death in certain areas of the world–treating world travelers much as they would a person with a history of cancer or other pre-existing medical condition.

My opinion falls somewhere in the middle. If my profession required me to spend a great length of time traveling and working in high-risk areas like Somalia, Liberia and Nepal, then I would expect to be turned down by one or two life insurance companies and, ultimately, to pay higher-than-average life insurance premiums.

However, if there’s a possibility that I might travel to Israel or Central Africa during the length of my 30-year term policy, I wouldn’t expect to pay more for life insurance than Helen Hermit, who leaves her house once a month. Call me crazy, but that just seems a little fanatical.

It will be interesting to see what state regulators and legislators come up with on the issue of travel and life insurance. I’ll be sure to post updates here.

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“Private Eyes”?

May 23rd, 2006 by Penny Hagerman

There’s a strange story out of Iowa today you may have been hearing about on the news.

A local insurance agent has apparently been peeping at who-knows-what through the lens of a wireless camera installed in the lady’s room of his local office.

Although the state found no evidence that Robert Speirs took pictures or made videos of any kind, police did find a monitor and receiver in his desk, says the Insurance Journal report.

What do you suppose was Mr. Speirs’s objective? To catch someone loafing on the job? Or maybe stealing toilet paper? OK, so I’m not really that naive….

An interesting bit of trivia related to this case: privacy apparently isn’t highly rated in Iowa, as state law there does not prohibit an attempt to view or photograph someone in a state of nudity without their knowledge. However, Associate Judge James Coil seems not to agree, as he overruled the defense’s motion to dismiss the case and set a June trial date.

The moral of the story? Iowans, be careful what you do in public…and watch out for those “private eyes.” You never know who’s watching (actually, that goes for all of us!).

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Wildfire Safety: Protecting Your Home

May 22nd, 2006 by Megan Mahan

We all remember the words of Smokey the Bear: Only you can prevent forest fires! enfuego.jpg

I have a particular affinity for Smokey the Bear; as a nature nut, I just can’t help myself. But I was also enamored by Pluggie the Fire Hydrant growing up, too. It’s possible he was just a Cedar Falls Fire Department mascot, but Pluggie was a mechanical fire hydrant that would visit your school or your mall and talk to you about fire safety. Then he’d squirt you in the face, which I did not enjoy or find otherwise humorous.

Whether you’re a Smokey the Bear kind of person or a fan of Pluggie (sans water in the face), you know how devastating a fire can be. Wildfires can be equally as devastating, and as the temperatures rise in various parts of the country, it’s a good idea to go over your home insurance policy and do some maintenance around your property to keep wildfires at bay.

Firewise, an organization that promotes wildfire safety and education, recommends protecting your home from wildfire by:

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Peculiar Posting: Owner of Insurance Agency Finds Rodent Tooth in Peanuts

May 19th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

It doesn’t get much weirder than this.

Not surprisingly, this story is one of the Insurance Journal’s most emailed stories this week. Check out the IJ report here, and my commentary on the subject over at the InsureMe Agent Blog.

We’ll be back Monday with more insurance excitement. Have a good weekend! :)

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“Click It or Ticket”: Buckle up, America!

May 19th, 2006 by Penny Hagerman

When you jump into your car in the next couple of weeks, you might want to double check and make sure your seat belt is fastened.

The annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign, aimed at getting people to buckle up and play it safe on the nation’s roads and highways, launches Monday and runs through June 4.

The program involves checkpoints, patrols and advertisements to help enforce seat belt laws across the country, and is endorsed by transportation departments nationwide, says the Insurance Journal.

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Kissimmee, Fl. Releases New Preparedness Handbook

May 18th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

I apologize if you all are getting bored to tears by my recent hurricane-related posts. Yes, the topic may be growing stale for some, but the truth is, as more and more resources become available to folks in hurricane-prone areas, I’m more and more inclined to sift through them all and pass the worthwhile stuff along to you. And I think this one is pretty valuable.

Earlier this week, the Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA) released a free, 40-page handbook on hurricane preparedness. The handbook has been “revised, updated and enhanced” to provide residents with the most up-to-date information available.

The handbook includes:

  • tips for creating a family evacuation plan
  • a disaster supplies checklist
  • a hurricane tracking chart
  • helpful telephone numbers

Other topics include information on emergency shelters, evacuation routs and power outage restoration. It’s one of the most comprehensive hurricane guides I’ve seen, and while it’s information like emergency routes and phone numbers are specific to the Kissimmee area, there are plenty of tips in the handbook that apply for homeowners everywhere.

You can download the handbook free of charge from the KUA website here. And for more hurricane resources that are specific to your state, call your state’s Department of Insurance (DOI) or visit them online. You can find your state’s DOI web page by clicking here.

[source]: PRWeb

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Interstate–or Speedway?

May 18th, 2006 by Penny Hagerman

If any of you bloggers out there are Texans, we’d love to hear from you on this one….

Following legislation passed last year, speeds on two West Texas highways may soon increase to 80 miles per hour.

Why? Because, according to transportation officials, most drivers are already driving nearly 80 miles per hour anyway.

Here’s where I studder: According to a recent story in the Insurance Journal, the Texas Department of Public Safety wants to make driving on the interstate safer. But how will raising the speed limit accomplish this?

…Read the rest of this entry »

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Mental Health Month: Tips and Resources

May 17th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

May is Mental Health Month and yesterday NPR’s Talk of the Nation discussed the topic of finding good mental health care for children. Guests included Pete Earley, author of Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness (and former reporter for The Washington Post), Raymond Crowell, clinical psychologist and VP of the National Mental Health Association and Dr. David Fassler, child psychiatrist and clinical professor at the University of Vermont.

The experts discussed the importance of finding proper mental health care for children (under 18) who need it, as well as other tips, resources and questions parents can ask to better understand how to help their child and where to find support.

Check out yesterday’s Talk of the Nation here; it’s a lengthy discussion but well worth a listen. For more information on mental health, visit the National Mental Health Information Center here.

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Disaster Prevention Tips

May 16th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

It’s hard to believe, but another hurricane season is upon us, officially starting on June 1…in case you haven’t heard. :) And, not surprisingly, many homeowners along the Gulf Coast are rushing to protect their homes from the kind of devastation seen last year during hurricane you-know-what.

In response to the fast-approaching storm season, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) released five disaster prevention tips today, encouraging consumers to take action now before the predicted storms reach the U.S.

The release is a must read, especially for homeowners along the coasts. Check out the press release here and learn what you can do to protect your home.

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What Time Is It? It’s Flood Insurance Time!

May 15th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

Today the Insurance Journal reported that Florida insurance commissioner, Kevin McCarty, has urged residents to purchase flood insurance before the official start of hurricane season on June 1. According to the IJ story, 80 percent of properties damaged in Mississippi and 60 percent of the properties in low-lying areas in New Orleans didn’t have flood insurance during last year’s active hurricane season.

While the IJ story pertains to Floridians, it’s a good reminder for the rest of us to make sure our homes are adequately protected. Think you don’t need flood insurance? A recent Rand Corporation showed that one-third of all floods occur outside of flood zones.

This is one statistic I’m going to harp on. My parent’s house in Iowa flooded twice; the second time occurred after a hard rain and the flush of a toilet. I’ll spare you the descriptions of the sewer backup, but we had to replace just about everything in our basement. We camped at the Holiday Inn for a couple days, during which time my parents learned that their home insurance wouldn’t cover the damages. Bad news.

Is there a silver lining? You bet your homeowning pants there is!

Flood insurance is now easier to buy than ever. You can buy a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which can be purchased directly through your home insurance agent. Your premiums will be primarily determined by the risk of flood in your area; give your agent a call and see if he or she can work up a quote for you. The NFIP offers a maximum coverage of $250,000 for homes and $100,000 for contents.

Other private insurers also sell flood insurance policies, many of which exceed the amount alloted by the NFIP and cover more flood-related perils. Last month, we posted about the Chubb Group’s new flood insurance policy, which can provide up to $15 million in coverage.

My guess is most of us won’t need $15 mil to cover our properties, but any way you cut it, flood insurance is an important investment for every homeowner.

[Related post]: New Flood Insurance Policy Provides up to $15 Million in Coverage

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Friday Fun Link: Snack Food Frenzy

May 12th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

FHC makes me go crazy!We all know that kids, plus snacks, equals juvenile bliss. But one snack in particular is wreaking havoc among some school systems: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

InsureMe’s own James Omdahl caught the story on NPR earlier this week and I found the full report here. Take a listen–it might be the funniest thing you’ve heard all week. Of course, it’s always good to learn what your kids might be getting into at school, too. :)

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Visit the InsureMe Consumer Resource Center!

May 11th, 2006 by Megan Mahan

The InsureMe Consumer Resource Center is up and running!

Take a look to find shopping and saving tips on home, life, auto and health insurance. We think it’s good stuff and we hope you will too.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Post a comment here and let us know what you’d like to see in the resource center. Remember, we’re here for you. :)

[Oh...and we've got all the state-specific insurance information you're looking for, too!]

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To Catch a Thief…Ahem, Killer

May 11th, 2006 by Penny Hagerman

A sad story out of Dallas yesterday makes me grateful anew for my husband, home and family.

Nearly a year after her husband was shot to death by a gang of car thieves outside their home, a Dallas woman is making an unusual offer to anyone who can help police catch his killers.

She’s offering all she has–his $10,000 life insurance policy.

After almost a year trailing the cold case, Dallas police were surprised when Mrs. Marquez walked into the police station this week with the idea of offering the $10,000 life insurance policy reward to anyone willing to help authorities catch whoever killed her beloved husband.

According to the story reported by CBS 11, Graciela Marquez and her children just want to know who did this to their family…and they’re not going to let their financial struggles stop them from finding out.

Read the entire story here…then go home and hug your family!

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