Life Insurance: Buy What You Can Afford

There are a myriad of formulas that can help you determine how much life insurance you should carry. Some use a multiple of your annual income, others will consider your current debt and dependents. Is there a simpler way to determine how much life insurance a person should have?

It may be as simple as purchasing an amount that you can afford.

You see, if you secure more life insurance than you can afford or if you place a priority on other things in life, you may not be motivated to keep that life insurance in force. Of course, if the policy is not kept in force through timely payments, it fails to do its intended job. So while some large amount of life insurance may be warranted and beneficial, if it doesn’t fit in your budget, it does little good. This is particularly true with whole life insurance that can build value the longer it is kept in force.

What this means, of course, is that even if you don’t feel you can afford the amount of life insurance that may be appropriate for your situation, you should at least acquire something to get started. Perhaps you’ll start with enough to cover final expenses and debts like credit cards and student loans. This will at least provide some comfort and peace of mind for those left behind. As your financial situation improves, revisit your life insurance plan to see if you can adjusted upward. The point is to get started at some level now.

We can help. Our independent insurance agents can shop multiple companies to find the best coverage and price for you. They can explain your options when it comes to term or whole life insurance. They can help you get started while perhaps even setting a goal for future coverage.

The process is simple. Just answer a few basic questions and make your first premium payment to bind your coverage. If you are in reasonable health, there likely won’t even be a physical medical exam required. You’ll have at least some coverage and be started on your path to more financial security for your family.

Don’t wait. Remember, the younger you are when purchasing life insurance the less expensive it can be. Contact us today.

The 10% Rule: Should You Drop Your Comprehensive & Collision Insurance?

One of the most frequently asked questions about automobile insurance for those who own an older vehicle is when is it no longer economically wise to carry comprehensive collision coverage on that vehicle. For most, the 10% rule is a reasonable guideline. Here is how it works.

The 10% Rule Defined

The 10% rule is based on the premise that you should consider dropping your collision and comprehensive automobile insurance coverage when the cost of such coverage meets or exceeds 10% of the book value of the car. It sums that the MOST you can get to repair your vehicle is its book value so paying 10% or more for that protection provides diminishing returns.

Let’s take, for example, your vehicle has a book value of $5,000. Ten percent of this value would be $500. If the premium for the comprehensive collision coverage portion of your policy exceeds $500 annually, it is probably no longer a good value to maintain that coverage. You may be better off reducing coverage to just liability. Of course, it will depend on your tolerance for risks. You my also lose some other valuable protection by eliminating comprehensive collision coverage. It is best to ask your independent insurance agent how such a reduction will impact your coverage.

Why Minimum Coverage May Not Always Be Best

Understandably, most don’t want to pay any more than they have to for automobile insurance. This, like most things in life however, doesn’t necessarily mean you should get the cheapest or least expensive plan available. Just because states have minimum standards does not mean that may be sufficient for you. You may benefit considerably through the acquisition of under or uninsured motorist insurance, a rent-a-car provision when experiencing a loss of use or even higher minimums of overall coverage. This is particularly true for those who have more financial resources at risk.

One of the best solutions when you have questions about your automobile insurance coverage is to get an auto insurance review. If you prefer, your review can also include a quote from multiple insurance companies who compete for your business. This allows you to base your choice on value, not just price. Contact one of our independent insurance agents and get started today! Get the protection you need without overpaying for your automobile insurance.

This Biggest Cause of House Fires May Surprise You

It wasn’t that long ago fires could destroy major cities virtually overnight. London, Chicago and San Francisco are among the examples. Wooden structures crowded together, poor and inadequate fire fighting equipment and narrow streets all contributed to these catastrophic fires. Today, better planning, zoning and building codes have all lead to the decrease in house fires. Well-equipped fire fighting agencies have also contributed to the decline. That’s not to say house fires aren’t still a problem Each year there are an average of over 350,000 homes that catch fire, resulting in an annual average death toll of over 2,600 people along with 11,000 injuries. The resulting financial losses from these house fires is nearly $7 billion.

What however, is the major cause of modern house fires? The top five list may surprise you.

  1. Candles. We love the warm glow and tempting aromas of the house candles in our homes, but they are the fifth major cause of house fires in the United States, especially in the fall and winter holidays, when their use is so popular. Never leave lit candles unattended and keep them away from loose and flammable materials.
  2. Electrical Wires and Equipment. Frayed and damaged wires, short circuits in outlets and old switches are among the fourth main cause of house fires in the United States today. If you notice dimming lights or switches or outlets that don’t perform perfectly, have them replaced.
  3. Smoking in Bed. This may be hard for those who don’t smoke to believe, but smoking in bed remains a significant cause of house fires, at number three on our list. Making bedrooms a no-smoking area can help.
  4. Heating Equipment. From space heaters to furnaces, the equipment used to heat our homes is the number two cause of fires in our houses. Furnaces should be checked annually and filters replaced quarterly. Space heaters should be used sparingly and never while unattended.
  5. Cooking. The number one cause of house fires today is cooking. In fact, about 42% of all housing structure fires are cooking related. It may be another good reason to order out.

Yes, house fires are much less of an issue than generations ago but they are still a concern. If you want to be assured you have enough insurance coverage on your home, contact our independent agents. They can shop to find the homeowners insurance best for you!

The Benefits of Downsizing Your Household

Many people decide to downsize their households as they get closer to retirement age. There are a lot of good reasons for that, but there are benefits to downsizing even sooner. Here are just some of the benefits you can enjoy by downsizing your household.

There’s Less Clutter

There are multiple benefits to having less clutter. Some of them are mental and emotional. Having less stuff provides a bit more emotional freedom. There are also more tangible aspects, like not having to pay for storage space. Don’t kid yourself. Even if items are in a spare room, a basement or attic you are paying to store it in insurance rates, utilities and space that could be used more productively or eliminated all-together.

Smaller Living Space is Easier to Maintain

As we get older, we want to be less bound to cleaning and maintaining our living space. You can enjoy those benefits now. Downsizing to a condo or townhome can minimize outside maintenance and limit how much interior cleaning and maintenance is required. This is time you can use much more enjoyably.

Downsizing is Less Expensive

Generally, downsizing will save you on living expenses like property taxes, insurance, energy costs and even mortgage payments. You are not paying for excess space that is rarely used. Why have two or three rooms for visitors when rooms may only be used once or twice a year? Why pay for a pool if it is used infrequently?

Take Advantage of Built-Up Equity

Downsizing may allow you to take advantage of equity you have built up in your current home. Your home may have been perfect to bring up young children but as they grow into adulthood, that space may no longer be needed. It may be a good time to “cash in”.

It may be time to take another look at how much space you really need to live comfortably and explore your options. When you realize the financial benefits, it may be worth putting that money elsewhere to provide a better future. Is downsizing for everyone? No, certainly not. But unless you give it some consideration, you may not know if the time is right for you.

Does your homeowners’ insurance still fit your home? Contact us for a no-obligation quote on homeowners’ insurance. Our independent insurance agents may be able to find the best fit for you!

Five Cost-Effective Marketing Ideas for a Small Business

If you have a small business, you understand the importance of name recognition and keeping new prospects and customers flowing in. You are also probably faced with minimal resources when it comes to advertising and marketing. Here are five cost-effective marketing ideas small business can use to gain more attention and customers.

  1. If you have a storefront, maximize use of the space available. There are advantages and disadvantages to a bricks and mortar location. One of the benefits is the visibility it provides you. Make use of sidewalk and window signage to gain attention. Have brochures, your own coupons and business cards available at the counter or check-out area. Keep in-store displays attractive and provide attentive service.
  2. Build an email contact list. Many potential customers are more than willing to provide their email address for an incentive. It may be an entry for a prize or an instant discount. Start building an email marketing list and carefully utilize it to announce sales and promotions or to send digital email coupons. Email is an extremely cost-effective way to keep your company in front of prospects and to stay connected with customers.
  3. Co-promote with like-minded businesses with a similar target audience. Build mutually beneficial relationships with other businesses who have the same target audience. Mortgage brokers can work with real estate agents, jewelers with wedding cake bakers and home improvement contractors with furniture or appliance stores. Share the costs or flyers and advertising and work on a referral network.
  4. Use social media and content marketing. Start a blog about your area of specialty. Build your reputation as an expert in your field. Use social marketing to promote the blog and your business. Set aside time each week to freshen your social media and blog content and to respond to comments and emails. Create short videos about your product and services and upload online.
  5. Get involved. You can easily increase the visibility of your business by participating in civic events and creating a fundraiser for a favored charity or non-profit. Encourage staff to get involved. Community involvement is the right thing to do and it can increase your visibility and improve your reputation.

Are you getting the most from your business insurance plan? Are you overpaying? How would you know? We invite you to contact one of our independent business insurance specialists for a business insurance review and price quote. There’s no-obligation and nothing to lose. Contact us to discuss your business today!

Why an Independent Agent is Your Best Option for Life Insurance Quotes

Congratulations! You made the decision to either acquire or increase the amount of life insurance coverage you carry. Maybe the decision is participated by a marriage, the birth of a child or maybe you just decided it’s time to start adulting. The next question is where to get started. Who can help you through the process?

There’s cousin Billy but last week he was cleaning pools. There’s that guy from high school but you haven’t talked to him for years. How about you seek out the help of a professional? Great! Now what?

You should understand that insurance agents fall into two basic camps. There are what are called captive agents, those that represent the products of the insurance company they work for. Captive agents may work for some pretty big, well known, name brand companies. On the other hand, there are independent agents. These independent agents offer the products of a multitude of insurance companies. Some are well-known companies you have heard of and others are smaller, lesser known companies who offer some terrific life insurance programs.

Why is an independent agent your best option when it comes to life insurance?

First, while a captive agent works for a insurance company, an independent insurance agent works for you. They will seek out life insurance programs from different companies to see which may work best for you. They are not held captive to offering just one company’s products.

Independent insurance agents tend to know a lot about the various plans offered by a variety of companies. They know what companies specialize in various forms of insurance. This knowledge can be put to work for you in finding optimum coverage at a price you can feel comfortable with.

See for yourself. Contact one of our independent agents and request a no-obligation quote for life insurance. They can help you determine whether term or whole life insurance is better for your situation. They will then go in search of an insurance company to best fulfill your needs.

Choice is good. It is just one reason an independent insurance agent can work best for you. Contact one of our agents today to get started.

Independent Agents and Car Insurance: How They Can Save You Money

Who doesn’t want to save money? Driver’s have been known to shop for a car for weeks to save a few hundred dollars or drive miles to save a few cents per gallon on gas. We are always looking for the best price on oil changes, tires and other routine maintenance. Yet somehow that doesn’t always apply when it comes to automobile insurance. Oh, we may shop once every few years or so, especially when we experience a significant rate increase or customer service issue. But for the most part, many just continue to pay for their insurance month after month, renewal after renewal.

What is it about auto insurance that makes us reluctant to change or even compare? Perhaps we perceive it is too difficult to switch or the process is too confusing. Maybe we believe once we’ve checked for the best deal it will always be the best deal. It could be we just feel we are too busy to consider a change.

This is why working with an independent insurance agent can be so beneficial. You see an independent insurance agent is not restricted to just offering the products of once insurance company. Our independent agencies can seek quotes from multiple companies, effectively doing the shopping for you. You will be presented with a choice of options where you can select the plan best for you. One of the best aspects of working with an independent insurance agent is you can make this request to compare annually or whenever you wish. This helps ensure you are getting the most value for your auto insurance premium.

You have a choice when selecting an insurance agent. You can choose a captive agent who can only represent the policies of his own company or choose an independent agent who can seek out multiple quotes from a variety of companies. The choice is yours. Of course, we think it makes more sense to select an independent insurance agent.

Discover the difference an independent insurance agent can make when comparing automobile insurance premiums. Contact us today!

Six Common Sense Tips to Make Your Home Safer and More Secure

Ask any home builder, property manager or real estate agent and they’ll likely tell you one of the most desired features in a home today are those that enhance security. You may not have the resources to build a secure fence and electronic security gate around your home or perhaps not even a multiple video camera system, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t relatively inexpensive, practical steps you can take. here are six common sense ways to make sure your home is more secure.

  1.  Add Outdoor Lighting. Outdoor lighting can range from a simple floodlight operated by a switch to a more extensive solar or timed security lighting system. Outdoor lighting keeps unwanted visitors aware from your window and makes your home less attractive to thieves. It is effective and inexpensive.
  2. Install a Deadbolt in Entrance Doors. There is a significant difference between breaking into a home with a handle like lock and one that is reinforced with a deadbolt. If upgrading to steel entrance doors is not in your budget, a deadbolt is an affordable option.
  3. Secure Sliding Doors. There are a variety of products available to better secure sliding doors. One effective way is simply place a cut broom stick in the channel of the closed sliding door at night or when you are away.
  4. Secure Window Air Conditioners. Windows that house air conditioning units can be susceptible to being opened from the outside. Place a bar above the unit on the inside of the window to prevent the window from being raised or use some other device to prevent its opening. Even a screw drilled halfway through the sliding window channel can prevent it from being opened.
  5. Store Valuables in Unexpected Places. If someone should enter your home, the first places they will look for valuables is generally bedrooms and closets. Store valuable elsewhere.
  6. Don’t Advertise You Will Be Out of Town on Social Media. Unless you have your social media accounts locked down to just a few family and friends, be cautious about posting vacation pictures while you are away or touting out of town visits in real time.

You can spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars making your home more secure. It is better however, to take the common sense steps first. That may include a homeowners’ insurance review. Contact our independent insurance agents for a no-cost, no-obligation review today!

Seven Steps You Can Take Today to Gain Control of Your Household Budget

Does your household budget feel like it is getting away from you? Somehow, we may feel if we could just make 10-15% more each month things would be so much better. But what if we could save 10 or 15% a month? You can, if you are willing to do some work, and perhaps make some sacrifices. Here are 7 steps you can take today to get control of your household budget.

  1. Know Your Total Income VS Your Total Expenses

It is hard to get control of your budget if you don’t know your total net income vs your total net expenses. This will quickly show how big your challenges are and how significant your steps may have to be to get it under control.

  1. Cut Down on Energy Use

Here’s a way you can help the planet along with your budget. Minimize your energy use by lowering or raising thermostats by a few degrees. Close off unused rooms and shut vents. Make sure you are using the sun to your advantage. Turn off lights when rooms are empty. Consider hanging small loads of laundry to dry instead of using the dryer. Turn down your water heater. It is a budget-friendly step you can feel good about!

  1. Reduce Cellphone, Internet and Cable Costs

Face it. These have probably gotten out of hand. Reel them in by comparing rates with new providers or asking current providers about other, less expensive options. It may take a digital diet to get things back under control. Do you need 150 cable channels? Did you know you could get dozens of free channels with an inexpensive digital antenna? Revisit and reimagine how you could use technology less expensively.

  1. Eat at Home More Frequently

The cost of a dinner for two with drinks at a nice restaurant can buy a LOT of groceries. Consider sharpening your cooking skills and dining at home more often. Leftovers are a bonus and there are no tips or delivery fees to pay.

  1. Pay Off High Interest Credit Cards First

Research what your interest rates are for each of your outstanding credit card balances and pay more on the highest ones first. Then move onto the next and next.

  1. Track What You Are Spending Money on Each Day

The best way to find financial leaks is to track your daily expenses. Those latte’s can add up quickly and may be better replaced by a travel cup of coffee from home.

  1. Schedule an Insurance Review

Contact our independent insurance agents for a review of your auto, life and homeowners’ insurance policies to make sure you aren’t spending too much. They may be able to save you money!

You can get control of your finances once you make the commitment to get started. Begin today and start seeing the benefits of your efforts within weeks!

Five Facts About Small Business Insurance Most Aren’t Aware Of

Most don’t pay much attention to their business insurance unless there is a claim or potential claim. There are some interesting facts about small business insurance, however, that can make it a bit more interesting. Here are five of them.

  1. Small business insurance is very affordable. A recent survey indicates that about 50% of small businesses pay $1,000 or less annually on their business insurance. About 25% spend between $1,000 and $2,000 with the remaining 25% invest over $2,000 annually.
  2. The most frequent small business claim is theft.Burglary and theft are the most common claim under small business insurance policies. Losses from theft and burglary account for about 20% of all insurance claims made. Other common claims include water damage, customer injuries and product liability claims.
  3. Most small businesses carry business insurance. Surveys indicate that about 60% of small business owners say they have business insurance. The problem? That means 40% of small businesses are risking their future unnecessarily. A significant property loss or single liability claim can put a small business in jeopardy. In fact, 35% of small businesses said they experienced a business-related event within the past year that could have led to a claim.
  4. Small business insurance featured “bundling”  before bundling was a thing. The most popular small business insurance program is the Business Owners Policy or BOP. This combines the most common forms of insurance to cost-effectively protect a small business. It is in effect, a “bundled” policy that was available long before bundling became popular for consumers.
  5. Even small businesses are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Today, just about every state requires businesses to carry workers’ compensation insurance if they have any employees. Workers’ compensation insurance provides benefits to both the employees and employer in the event of a work-related injury.

If you are one of the approximately 40% of small businesses without any form of small business insurance, it is time to make a change. Small business insurance is affordable and our team of business insurance professionals can help you get started today. Simply call us and let’s discuss your business. Our independent agents will shop a variety of insurance companies that specialize in small business insurance. You can choose the policy and premium to suit you. There’s no cost or obligation when getting a quote. The coverage and peace of mind you deserve. Join the businesses that can operate more fearlessly. Contact us for your small business insurance quote today.