Gratitude

I admit I am one of those people who get angry when the Christmas decorations are out before Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving! Why? Simply put, it is the one holiday where we gather simply to express gratitude. It is a holiday that does not focus on gifts. I appreciate Christmas, the true meaning of Christmas. However, all of focus placed on buying “the perfect gift” really steals my joy! When I am running all over town, deperately searching online, for gifts, making sure I haven’t forgotten anyone on my list, it creates unnecessary stress! Thanksgiving is not about giving gifts, but celebrating gifts!

Thanksgiving, to me, is not stressful. I enjoy cooking recipes passed down over generations, using the “good dishes, and setting the table with fall décor. For those who do not enjoy cooking, I understand that may be stressful. Just remember, every burned meal makes for a good story!  My Thanksgiving is about gathering with people I love to eat delicous food, engage in liveley (aka loud) conversation, and celebrating our gifts.

Dreading a long  drive to visit family? Be grateful you have a family to visit (even though they may get on your nerves ) and a means in which to get there. Dreading cooking all day? Be grateful you have food to cook and eat. Dreading cleaning all day? Be thankful you have a home to clean. May we all find something to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Summer Must Haves….Grilling, Fireworks, Swimming, and….Insurance?

YES, you read that correctly. Insurance!

 

Insurance is one of life’s head ache causing, heart burn inducing, necessities. Insurance can also be an absolute lifesaver in the event of a loss. Summer is the perfect time to re-evaluate your insurance, examine your current coverage, and determine (with the help of an Independent Agent) if you have any areas that may leave you vulnerable in the event of a loss.

 

Did you know that the month of July historically has the HIGHEST number of grilling and outdoor activity related losses? That is perfectly logical if you think about typical “summer” activities, especially activities on July 4th! July 4th is a time to celebrate our country, and honor those who have fought for our freedoms. It also is a great excuse for people to gather with friends, grill out, spend a day on the boat, swim, and let’s be honest, Blow Stuff UP! Most of us have also never thought about how we could be held liable in these situations. The question “Am I covered?” needs to be asked BEFORE the loss, because AFTER may be too late!

 

First, make sure you have adequate liability limits. Think $100,000 liability is a good limit? Well it may be fine if you never have a claim. However, what happens if that firework you just blasted into space lands on your neighbor’s roof and sets their house on fire? Probably NOT enough coverage! Typically liability coverage, especially excess liability (umbrella) is one of the cheapest types of insurance to purchase. Buy as much as you can afford. Better yet, buy an amount that you can’t afford to lose!

 

Next, if you make any summer purchases (such as a Boat or personal watercraft) or plan an awesome trip, contact your Independent Agent to make sure you are properly covered! That awesome new 35 ft. sailboat you just purchased… may not be covered under your current policy. That cool new RV…probably NOT covered under your auto policy so you need a separate policy for that. Better check it out! (Side remarks, if the salesperson begins to give insurance coverage advice, ask for their state insurance license # before taking trusting their advice!) If traveling, discuss coverage limitations, especially regarding valuable items such as jewelry. Will you be renting a vehicle to drive? Better ask about your coverage first!

 

Lastly, make wise choices! Follow the guidelines and safety recommendations. The grill isn’t heating fast enough? Probably NOT a good idea to pour a whole bottle of lighter fluid on the fire! If you live in a neighborhood with homes close together, probably best to go somewhere else to shoot fireworks. Better yet, attend a local community supported firework show, with bigger and better fireworks. Plus you will not be literally burning up your hard earned money! Spent all day soaking up rays & drinking beer? Absolutely DO NOT drive that boat! You will NEVER have enough insurance to cover you for killing someone!

 

Be responsible and avoid future headaches, by properly protecting yourself and your family. Enjoy summer, wear sunscreen, and celebrate our wonderful country and the freedoms we enjoy.

Sharing is Good …Not Always!

 

Thinking of jumping on the “car sharing” or “ride sharing” bandwagon? You may want to think again!

“Car sharing”, or the loaning of your vehicle when you are not using the vehicle, is gaining popularity in larger cities. It is being marketed as an alternative to using the traditional car rental agencies. Owners sign up with a company who takes care of renting the vehicle for a specified period of time, and in turn receives money for the time period the company rented out the vehicle. Sounds simple and easy way to make some extra cash right? WRONG! First off, think about the way people operate rental cars. Do you want to risk someone driving your vehicle recklessly? Probably not! Also, is it sharing or renting? Sharing doesn’t always meaning receding money, but renting does! More importantly is how your insurance will respond in the event the reckless driving turns into a claim. The company renting out your vehicle is supposed to cover the vehicle…right? Yes, but who do you think will also be named in any suit resulting from an accident? The owner of the vehicle, YOU! Ever heard the phrase “You loan your car, you loan your insurance?” That most definitely would apply, and your insurance company isn’t going to like the idea!

“Ride sharing”, the new cool way to carpool while making money, has taken off in large cities and now is moving to suburban areas. The service connects people who need a ride, with a registered driver and payment is made via credit card. So if it’s just carpooling, what’s the big deal? Well, the old way of carpooling was fine. People took turns driving to save money on gas and help reduce pollution. However, the new “ride sharing” is creating some issues for the insurance companies. “Ride sharing” is essentially turning your personal vehicle into a taxi service, because you are accepting payment for transporting people. If your vehicle is insured on a personal auto policy, you could potentially VOID your coverage if you are operating a “taxi” service. Many towns actually require drivers who participate in “ride sharing” to have a chauffer’s license (taxi driver)! The ride share companies claim to have coverage in excess of the individual drivers’, but your coverage will be primary!

In today’s economy, it’s easy to understand the lure of “easy” money. Before you consider either of these options, CALL YOUR AGENT!!! What seems like a simple way to make some extra money could end up costing you A LOT in the long run.

New Year…New Attitude

New Year… New Attitude

 

Ready or not here comes 2015! Most people make use the start of a new year to make resolutions. We resolve to lose weight, spend more time with family and friends, be better with finances, be more charitable, eat more vegetables, always drive the speed limit… and on and on they go! Sometimes we are successful, and sometimes we admit defeat. Maybe our resolution was a little too optimistic, we didn’t properly prepare and plan, or maybe we just get tired of waking up a 5am and running on a treadmill! Let’s take some advice from the business world on resolutions.

Businesses make resolutions aka Goals. We set goals intended to bring in more revenue, control costs, and help us be the best in our field. Our goals are specific, measurable, and achievable. Often we set a large goal, and smaller goals to help us achieve the larger goal. For instance our ultimate goal may be “Increase annual revenue by 30%”. We then set smaller, more specific goals such as “Write X amount of premium each month through new accounts and renewal business. Market to new business based on past success in the industry, markets which we previously were not competitive, referrals from existing clients, account rounding, and community connections.” Goals can be broken down to be as small and specific as needed, like a check list. Achieve one goal, mark it off and move to the next.

Approach your goals (resolutions) like eating a cookie. Don’t attempt to shove the whole thing in your mouth at once! Take small bites, slowly chewing and savoring the cookie. Enjoy the journey and celebrate each milestone that you reach!

Whatever the reason we failed in the past, let us not give up or be defeated in 2015!

Tis the season to be jolly..

With Christmas and New Year’s fast approaching, we are in the season of celebrations with family, friends, and loved ones. Insurance is often the last thing on people’s minds during this busy season. However, your insurance coverage could make all of the difference between a Merry and a Miserable holiday season.

Shopping:

Shopping poses many risks. Most of us know we should always lock the doors on our vehicles and keep packages out of sight preferably locked in the trunk. However, we often forget about other area we may be vulnerable. Do you pay for your purchases with cash? What happens if someone steals your purse or wallet? Would you be covered? Most homeowners policies have a small cash limit and would cover the theft of money; however the loss is still subject to the deductible. So if you have a loss of $300, you’re your deductible is $1,000 deductible, you are out of luck!

So to get around the cash issue you decide to use a credit card or debit card. Those are safer right? Remember all of the major retailers whose computer systems were hacked compromising the credit card information for thousands of customers? Internet sales, which are up this year, also mean more people are using debit/credit cards online, putting them at risk for theft. Identity theft is a HUGE problem. Most insurance companies offer an identity fraud protection endorsement, which will help pay some of the cost associated with restoring your identity. The premiums vary based on coverage limits, but are very affordable.

Parties:

Hosting a Christmas or New Year’s party? This is where it gets super tricky!

Where will the party be held? Hosting a party at your residence may seem more affordable. After all venues can be expensive, especially during “peak” seasons. However, venues typically will carry higher liability limits than the average homeowner, and the venue would be leasable first in the event of a claim. This being said, ALWAYS obtain a certificate of liability from the venue, and contacts your trusted Citizens Insurance Agency (a Trusted Choice Agency) with questions!

Will you have a caterer or are you going to channel your inner Food Network Star? If you hire a caterer make sure they are properly insured. Again, obtain a certificate of insurance from anyone you will be hiring. If you will be preparing the food, check your homeowner’s policy! Did you realize that if someone gets food poising from the food you provide (even if you didn’t prepare the food) you could be liable? Review food safety guidelines. Also, always check to make sure guests do not have food allergies to avoid a serious medical emergency.

Alcohol is the biggie when it comes to parties. Host liability is NO JOKING MATTER! If you are hosting an event where alcohol will be served, check your liability limits. If a guest of your party causes an alcohol related accident, you could be liable for medical expenses, costs for missed work, vehicle/ property damage, and huge monetary settlements related to death. To limit the risk, make sure you have adequate liability limits, and consider purchasing an umbrella policy. Umbrella policies offer high liability limits for very low premiums, and will cover you after the limits on your homeowner’s policy are exhausted. Having a caterer or bartending service serve the alcohol can also help limit your risk, as they will have a license and insurance to serve liquor (obtain a certificate of insurance!). Limit the type of alcohol, number of drinks served to guests, offer plenty of non- alcoholic drinks, and NEVER serve a guest who is visibly intoxicated. Consider hiring an off-duty police officer to monitor the party and handle any alcohol related issues with guests. Be a good host/hostess, have designated drivers, and be prepared to call cabs, or offer alternative transportation for guests.

Don’t let the Grinch steal your Christmas! Be prepared, be aware of your coverages, and call Citizens Insurance Agency with any questions about your coverage.