Homeowners Insurance and Fences, Playhouses and She-Sheds

We tend to view homeowners’ insurance as a loss protection product that limits financial damage in the event of a liability claim or if someone, or something, damages our home. Our home is our castle, after all, and the purpose of homeowner’s insurance is to protect that castle.

Our homes, however, are more than just a structure. Our homes are made of the contents, improvements, and the surrounding property. Our homes are a combination of everything contained on our property that makes living there feel so comfortable. This is why homeowners’ insurance is so valuable. We have spent time, money and effort in creating an enjoyable space. We want it protected.

Most of us are seeking to improve our lives and our homes. We may want to upgrade landscaping, build a privacy fence, add a playhouse for the kids or move forward with that exceptional She-Shed, Man-Cave or in-home theater. Will your homeowner’s insurance continue to provide the protection you need as you move through these improvements?

The answer is “perhaps”. But the fact is most of us don’t want to live with “maybe’s”. We want to know if, when and how we will be covered as we improve our property. This is why you should stay connected with your homeowners’ insurance and your independent insurance agent.

Whether you are making a major improvement to a kitchen, bath, adding a sunroom, building a fence or adding a playhouse or she-shed, you should notify your independent insurance agent. Your agent can advise you if your current coverage is sufficient or whether you should take further steps. They can alert you if you are approaching limits to your coverage that should be addressed.

When you improve your home, you are adding to its value, and potentially adding to your risk of loss. Your homeowners’ insurance limits should increase to reflect these improvements.

If you haven’t had a homeowners’ insurance review in recent years, and especially if you have made significant improvements to your home or property, contact us. Our independent agents can review the homeowners’ insurance policies of any company, and if you like, we can offer potentially money-saving alternatives. At the very least, we can show you where your current coverage may be lacking.  Contact us to schedule a no-obligation insurance review and to get a quote. Everything about your home is special. Make sure it is properly covered.

Some Surprising Ways Major Cities Got Their Names

You are likely familiar with some popular nicknames of cities across the country. The Windy City, Big Apple, and Motor City are just a few. But what about their original name? You may not have given it much thought but here are how some of America’s cities got their names.

Chicago

The name of this large Illinois city is derived from the Native American word shikaakwa. Botanists know this as Allium Tricoccum. Robert de LaSalle is credited with first using the word Checagou around 1679, which eventually evolved into Chicago.

Cleveland

This Northern Ohio city was founded in 1796 by surveyors from the Connecticut Land Company. The city was initially referred to as “Cleaveland” after General Moses Cleaveland.  It was in 1831 that the local newspaper, The Cleveland Advertiser changed the city’s name to Cleveland, leaving off the first “a” so the name would fit on the newspaper’s masthead.

Philadelphia

Philadelphia acquired both its name and nickname from the Greek word “Brotherly Love”. William Penn founded the community in 1682.

Atlanta

Founded in 1837, this city was named because it was located at the end of the Western & Atlantic Railroad line. The name Atlanta serves as the feminine equivalent of Atlantic.

Buffalo

Once known as Buffalo Creek, there are several versions of how this Western New York city got its name. One suggests that it was derived from the French Beau Fleuve, or “beautiful river”. The other is that it was simply named for the Buffalo that may have once extended to this part of the country.

Cincinnati

This Southwestern Ohio city was once called Losantiville but was changed because the Northwest Territory’s governor disliked the name. It was changed to Cincinnati, after a Roman soldier named Cincinnatus.

Nashville

The Country Music Capital of the World was located near the original Cumberland settlement of Fort Nashborough in 1779. It was named for Francis Nash, an American Revolutionary War hero. Even back then the community was known for fiddlin’, the roots of it becoming Music City.

Portland

It would seem a no-brainer that Portland would be named so because it is a port city. That would not be correct, however. The city’s name was actually deiced on a coin flip and should the coin had fallen differently, the Oregon city would have been named Boston.

Sometimes things are not as they may seem. The same can be said for your insurance. There may be unknowns about your coverage or you may even be paying too much. Contact us for an insurance review and a no-obligation quote today!

Independent Insurance Agents and Business Insurance

Why are independent insurance agents better suited to assist business owners, especially small and medium business owners? The answer is simple. It is because they have so much in common. It is a matter of mission, attitude, and resources.

An independent insurance agent, like a businessman owner, answers first and foremost to his customers. Our independent agents aren’t working for a single large insurance company. We work on behalf of our clients to find them the best price and products and to provide superior customer service. We know, like our business owner clients, that the key to success is providing quality products at the best possible price. Because we are independent agents, we can offer business insurance plans from a variety of insurance companies to best suit the needs of our customers. We are not held captive by one large company.

As independent agents, we understand we must be competitive to win. We understand that by working with our business owner clients to keep their costs down, it helps them stay competitive. We, in essence, serve as their partners in helping them compete. That is part of our job as independent insurance agents.

Being an independent insurance agency is also a part of whom we are, and how we want to conduct business. We provide our clients with options and choices to best serve their particular needs. We are not a “one size fits all” agency. Like you and your business, we must adapt, improve and keep earning the business of our customers. This keeps us sharp and it keeps us competitive.

As a business owner, you probably have frequently been in a position to ask a prospective client to give you an opportunity to earn their business. That is what we are asking. We are an independent insurance agency who understands your challenges as a small to medium business and would appreciate the opportunity to assist you. Contact us for a no-obligation business insurance review and a potentially money-saving quote. Let’s work together towards your success.

Life Insurance and Loan Value, Cash Value and Surrender Value

You may be aware that there are generally two broad types of life insurance; term life insurance and permanent, or whole life insurance. You may even know that permanent or whole life insurance usually builds some equity over time. This equity may be tapped into to help get you through a difficult time or to take advantage of an opportunity.

You may not, however, be aware of the meaning of the different phrases describing this value. Here is a look at the differences between “cash value, “surrender value” and, “loan value” of a permanent life insurance policy.

Cash Value

The cash value of a life insurance policy is the cash or account value that the policy has accumulated over time. The longer the policy has been in force and the larger the premiums, the larger the cash value is likely to be.

Loan Value

One of the benefits of a permanent life insurance policy beyond that it builds value, is that the value can be accessed through a low interest loan. This allows funds to be accessed by the policy owner while still maintaining some of the protections of the life insurance policy. Money that is loaned through the policy can be repaid to restore the full value of the policy or the loan amount will be deducted in the event of the death of the insured.

Surrender Value

A policy’s surrender value is the net value of a permanent life insurance policy once any loans and/or fees are deducted. If the cash value of a policy, for example, is $5,000 and loans, interest and fees against the policy total $1,000, the surrender value would be $4,000. It is important to remember that if a policy is “surrendered” for its value, it is no longer in force. Any death or other benefits associated with the policy are negated. Surrendering a policy for its value, in essence, cancels the policy.

If premium payments on a permanent or whole life insurance policy stop, the policy may still provide coverage through its build up of cash value. This cash value will frequently be used to extend the coverage unless a policy is surrendered for cash or if its value is absorbed through unpaid loan interests and fees.

If you have a life insurance policy and would like to know if it has value, you can request a policy status from the issuing company. This will provide general details about the policy. If you have other questions, please feel free to contact our independent agents.

How Effective is Automobile Safety Equipment?

Looking at automobile accident statistics can be disturbing. American deaths in automobiles crashes reach over 30,000 annually. Worldwide, the numbers are almost unimaginable. Every year, over 1.25 million people die in car accidents. In addition, it is estimated that another 20 to 50 million people are injured or disabled across the globe. This, in spite of an increasing array of safety features available for cars each year. It begs the question then, how effective is automobile safety equipment?

Annual US Deaths from Car Accidents

While the number of deaths in car crashes in the U.S. is alarming, its general trajectory is downward. This, in spite of the fact that there are more cars on the road than ever. For example, in 1937 the number of automobile related accidental deaths was about 37,800. In 2018, that number was about 36,500. In fact, automobile related deaths reached over 40,000 annually from 1963 through 1992, peaking over 50,000 several times throughout that period. It has remained below 40,000 since 2007.

Overall, one can assume then that safety equipment is having a positive effect. But what are the most effective elements?

Safety Belts and Harnesses

There is little doubt seat belts and harnesses are effective in limiting car accident injuries and deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control, seat belts have been shown to reduce the deaths of front-seat passengers by 45%. It is estimated the risk of serious injury can be reduced by 50% by wearing harnesses and belts. In addition, those not wearing a seat belt may be 30 times more likely to be ejected from a car during a crash. Since becoming standard equipment in cars in the United States in the fifties, cars have become safer.

Newer Technology and Safety

Today, there are an abundance of technological advances that are making cars increasingly safer. In addition, having some of these features on your next vehicle may actually save you on your car insurance premiums.

Advanced safety options to seriously consider include:

Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) that will adjust according to the amount of traffic and the speed of traffic you are traveling with.

Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) that will slow your vehicle if you do not take timely steps when warned of a rapidly slowing or stopped vehicle in front of you.

A Lane Keep Assist or Lane Departure Warning will alert driver should they begin to drift out of their lane without using a turn signal.

A Rear View Safety Camera will provide a clearer, sharper image of the road behind you when your car is in reverse, providing a lower point of view than a car’s mirror.

If you haven’t test driven a new car in years, you may be absolutely amazed at the modern technology available to make travel more convenient, comfortable, and safer.

Whether your car is technologically advanced or decades old, you’ll still want the best insurance coverage at the most competitive price. We can help. Contact our independent agents to get a quote today.

Jewelry, Termites, and Flooding: What Your Homeowners’ Insurance May Not Cover

It happens every day. People discover following an accident, fire or healthcare challenge that their insurance does not cover them to the extent they assumed it did. We have stressed repeatedly the importance of gaining a better understanding of your insurance protection prior to a claim to limit unpleasant surprises. It is why an insurance review is so critical. This is particularly true for homeowners’ insurance which is often forgotten once it is secured upon the purchase of a house.

There are three areas, in particular, homeowners should be aware of when it comes to homeowners’ insurance limitations. The three may seem unrelated and it is one of the reasons understanding your coverage is vital.

Floods

Homeowners’ insurance policies do not come with flood protection as part of their overall protection. Flood insurance is managed by FEMA through insurance agencies across the nation, and is offered on a case-by-case basis. If you do not have separate flood insurance coverage, you are not protected from rising waters. What’s more, homeowners can’t wait until the last minute to seek coverage. There is a 30-day waiting period for flood insurance protection to become effective after purchase. To understand the difference between water damage and flood damage, contact your independent insurance agent.

Jewelry

It is likely your homeowner’s insurance policy will offer some protection for jewelry that may be lost, stolen or destroyed. The issue can be that the limits to this protection are often much lower than the actual amount of jewelry a homeowner may have. Limits to jewelry loss may be $1,000 or $2,000 in some cases, frequently not enough to cover an engagement ring or wedding band. Over years, many families acquire significantly more value in jewelry than this. This is another reason why reviewing your homeowners’ insurance protection is important. Increasing these limits is often easy and affordable. Your independent insurance agent can help.

Termites

Even with homeowners’ insurance, homeowners are charged with maintaining their home properly. Damage from lack of maintenance may not be covered by your homeowners’ insurance policy. This includes termites. Homeowners are expected to have their homes occasionally inspected for termite infestations and to take necessary steps for treatment. If termites were to cause unchecked, structural damage to a home, homeowners’ insurance would not likely cover the damage.

While these are pretty specific examples, the point is knowing in advance is better than reacting too late. Contact us to discuss your homeowners’ insurance policy. Let us get you a no-obligation quote on the coverage you expect and deserve.

Some of the Most Famous Cars in Television and Movie History

Recently in Florida, the green Ford Mustang Steve McQueen drove in the 1968 movie “Bullitt “ was sold at auction. It ended up getting about $3.5 million for its owners, who had the car in the family for years, and actually once used it as their “daily driver”.

This classic Mustang is just one in a long line of vehicles made famous in movies and television. Here are a few, along with some interesting plot lines that helped make them famous.

My Mother the Car

This television show featured a 1928 Porter, an extremely rare car. What made it more rare was that it was supposedly the reincarnated mother of the show’s star, Dave Crabtree. “Mom” spoke through the car’s speaker and only to Dave. The show only lasted for one season. Shocker.

General Lee

This orange 1969 Dodge Charger was more popular than its Dukes of Hazzard co-stars. Yes, they did a lot of speeding, jumping and crashing in the General Lee. In fact, it is estimated that about 250-325 different cars were used and abused in the series.

KITT

Almost everyone’s favorite was this modified 1982 Trans Am that shared the screen with David Hasselhoff in the 1980’s Knight Rider TV series. Who could imagine having a car you could communicate with by talking?

Herbie

Herbie was a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle that starred in Disney’s 1966 “The Love Bug” and several offerings afterwards. He wore red, white and blue racing stripes, sported the number 53 and was exceptional at racing and rolling on two wheels. Herbie was a car of few words but wasn’t afraid to toot his own horn.

Christine

It can’t be easy making a classic car scary, but that’s what happened with the 1958 Plymouth Fury that starred in Stephen King’s “Christine”. This is a car that could troll, stalk and literally crush its enemies. It also had a jealous personality. Not a good combination.

The Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit

Few automobile movie stars have impacted sales like the black 1977 Pontiac Trans Am used in Smokey and the Bandit. Pontiac saw sales soar of its Trans Am after Burt Reynolds and Sally Fields got the best of Jackie Gleason playing Sheriff Buford T. Justice in it.

Back to the Future’s DeLorean DMC-12

Talk about perfect casting, the DeLorean looked like a time machine with gull-wing doors and a stainless steel body. Trivia buffs will remember the DeLorean needed to reach 88 mph to travel in time.

Your car may not be worth $3.5 million or have movie star DNA, but we can make sure you get the coverage you deserve at an affordable price. Contact us for your no-obligation automobile insurance quote today!

Classification Codes and Their Impact on Business Insurance

If you have a business, it will fall into one or more Standard Industrial Classifications (SIC). These are four digit codes that were first initiated in the United States in 1937 to allow the government to better “classify” businesses into common categories.

Agricultural related businesses, for example, will have an SIC code ranging from 0100-0999 followed by mining industries that range from 1000-1499. If your business has a SIC code from 1500 to 1799 it is classified in construction. This continues upward numerically to large broad categories such as “services” (7000-8999) and even up to those that are “nonclassifiable” which fall into the 9900-9999 range.

SIC codes are used in a variety of industries and government functions to group like-minded companies together. Organizations like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration all make use of these codes. They are also used to classify how risky one business can be when compared to another when it comes to insurance.

These codes can have a modest to a significant impact on what is being paid for Workers’ Compensation and liability coverage for a business, and should be monitored to make sure the most appropriate code is being used. Heavy construction, for example, can be risker than general construction although both may fall into a broad construction category.

This is yet another reason having a personal, independent agent on your team can pay dividends. Not only can our independent agents make sure your business is classified appropriately, they have the ability to seek out insurance providers who can offer businesses in your classification the most competitive products. Their experience and ability to contact multiple companies works to make sure you get the best coverage at a competitive price.

To learn more about how our team can help you, contact us. Ask for a no-obligation business insurance review. If you like, we can put together a loss prevention and protection plan for your business. You have nothing to lose and perhaps superior coverage at better rates to gain. We look forward to assisting you.

You “Auto” Keep an Eye on It: Pros & Cons of Automatic Car Insurance Payments

Do you make your automobile insurance payments through a debit or credit card using an automatic payment system? “AutoPay”, as it is frequently called, is becoming increasing popular. In fact, recent surveys indicate that over a third of us, (35%) pay at least one bill through an auto pay system. There are some good reasons for this. There are also some things to be cautious about.

Here are some pros and cons of using auto pay for your car insurance and why you “auto” keep an eye on it.

Automatic Payment Pros

One of the most valuable reasons to sign up for automatic payment for your car insurance is that auto-pay usually comes with a discount. Making payments automatically can normally save a consumer the equivalent of a month’s payment or more over making individual payments “manually”.

Automatic payments eliminate the worry of forgetting a payment or making late payments. This is especially critical in automobile insurance. There is no need for postage or taking time each month to submit a payment online. For those ecologically minded, it saves on envelopes and fossil fuels used in mail trucks. Most automatic payment systems also allow you to select a payment date that is convenient for your budget.

Cons of Choosing Automatic Bill Pay

There are certainly benefits to making car insurance premium payments through an automatic bill payment system each month. There are, however, issues one should be aware of.

The biggest is perhaps, forgetting that an automatic payment will be made by check or credit card. This can lead to you exceeding your card’s limits, being overdrawn, or perhaps even having the payment rejected. This can create unneeded hassles and may cost you extra. Any savings achieved through auto-pay can quickly be spent through an overdraft fee.

Automatic payments are so seamless, drivers may often not pay attention to the amount of money they are being charged. Premiums may go up by only a dollar or two a month. Percentage-wise, however, those increases can be significant over time. Submitted payments manually keeps you better in touch with your expenses.

Auto-pay is just one way in which you can save money on your auto insurance. For others, please contact our independent insurance agents. They have the ability to shop multiple companies for the best rates for your circumstances. We look forward to assisting you.

What Are the Odds? Chances of a Natural Disaster Hitting Your Home

Every day, intentionally or not, we as humans play the odds. We play the odds when we get behind the wheel of our car, walk across the street or step into the shower. You can find the odds on just about anything that could possibly happen to you. If you are an amateur golfer, for example, the odds of you hitting a hole in one are about 1 in 12,500. For a pro golfer the odds drop to 1 in 2,500. Of course, if you don’t play the game at all the odds are non-existent. The odds of winning the Mega-Millions Jackpot are about 1 in 302 million and Powerball about 1 in 292 million. Even that doesn’t stop us from playing, however.

Some would argue that to some degree, insurance companies deal in the odds of something happening in determining premiums for their insurance policies. Certainly statistics play a critical role. Location, for example, is the most important issue in determining the odds of a calamity occurring. What are the odds of a particular natural disaster hitting home?

States with the most severe earthquakes:

Alaska
California
Nevada
Hawaii
Washington

It’s not surprising that Southern and Southeastern states see most of the nation’s most severe hurricanes. The top five include:

Florida
Texas
North Carolina
Louisiana
South Carolina

When it comes to tornados, states who have seen the most in recent decades include:

Texas
Kansas
Oklahoma
Florida
Nebraska

States with the most wildfires include:

California
Texas
Colorado
Arizona
Idaho

Florida has the most people who live in FEMA’s 100 year floodplain, followed by California and Georgia.

It is important that you review your homeowners’ insurance to ensure you have the coverage you may believe you have. If you do not have flood insurance and want to acquire it, our independent insurance agents can assist you. If your coverage for high wind damage doesn’t appear to be sufficient, we can help you. If you are concerned about tornados, sinkholes or lightning strikes, talk to us.

Our homeowners’ insurance reviews are provided at no cost, and if you like, we will do the research to find you better coverage at the best possible price. The choice is always yours.

What are the odds of you experiencing a calamity? The time to prepare is now. Contact us for a review and quote today.