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Thos CookOne of the world’s oldest tour companies, Thomas Cook, abruptly announced it was going out of business yesterday. While not quite “fake news”, the advice provided by a travel expert on NBC Evening News during their report on this story can best be characterized as “glib news”.

In this NBC report, consumers are advised to seek travel insurance “when you have elaborate travel plans…. a tour, cruise, a safari – something bigger”.  Hmmm…

Whether my travel plans are elaborate or are not, the ability to return home is always a big priority for me. I wonder if the hundreds of thousands of travelers left stranded by Thomas Cook without transportation or lodging viewed their trip as sufficiently “elaborate” to merit the purchase of trip insurance …..that could have enabled them to secure alternate transportation home.

Regardless of whether your travel plans meet the subjective criterion of “elaborate”, strongly consider travel insurance for ANY trip that requires you to rely on others for transportation, lodging and the ability to return home.

Understanding it is difficult to navigate the many different insurance programs that are available, I recommend consumers visit InsureMyTrip to examine the wide range of different insurance programs. Even for trips that are not elaborate.  

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Can’t we just…

wwnfProbably because I was in New York City on Sept 12, 2001 and not the day before , my most vivid memories of the terror attacks of 9/11/2001 are actually the result of my experiences the following day. This is not just my convenient memory; my recollections are indelible and many.

On September 12, EVERYONE was kind to each other. EVERYONE cared about their fellow man. EVERYONE, as in no matter race or religion, or especially political beliefs. No matter the circumstance. We ALL acted like we actually cared about each other. Never had I thought I’d see such widespread kindness to strangers…in NYC!  I am told this occurred all over our great country.  You may recall this sentiment lasted for …… weeks.

Each year we memorialize the memory of those lost on 9/11. Sadly, however, it seems we fail to recall how we all acted towards our fellow Americans on the days that followed. Arguably, the only good outcome that arose from 9/11 is the same outcome that occurred 6 decades prior: we demonstrated as a people the spirit of the axiom “United we stand, divided we fall”.  Just as our forefathers had shown on 12/8/1941.

And then, gradually, the spirit of unity stopped. Why is it that the closeness we felt towards ALL fellow citizens just faded away? Part of the explanation may be that our news gathering and now social media habits have caused us to refocus on all of the small stuff that divides us. Digesting only content that appeals to our eyeballs and egos, while numbing our brains and hardening our hearts.

On this day each year I try to shift my focus not only to remember the tragic events of 9/11, but to recall the kindness and caring EACH of us demonstrated towards our fellow citizens starting on 9/12.  The REAL American ideals that we, intuitively, as a people, collectively demonstrated to the rest of the world during those days.  Among them:  indivisible. 

Can’t we all just…. try to honor the memory of those we lost on 9/11 by demonstrating the spirit of unity and humanity during the days and weeks that followed?  Who knows how long it could last….

 

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privacy-798250Many financially successful individuals and families I meet with become uncomfortable whenever I address this topic.  Such discomfort likely stems from the recognition that time and convenience has caused lapses in adhering to the best practices they have agreed will enhance their security.  Though I don’t want to be a fear monger, I remind the clients I serve that bad things can and do happen to good people who drop their guard. Knowing how to safeguard your private information is not valuable unless you consistently take the necessary precautions. My team and I work with specialists offering insurance protection from cyber intrusions, and more importantly a range of services to enhance your personal privacy.

Those interested in learning more about the risks families face keeping their personal information private can review this great article –  Could cyber risk break the bank, or contact for an introduction to an expert who can perform a thorough review of the cyber security solution and providers that are available.

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Earth-crying (1)If Mother Nature was trying to send us a message in 2017, it reminds me of the adage “When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.  Mountains ravaged by wildfires weaponized into a tsunami of mud, boulders, and fallen trees offers this clear message: we’d be wise to heed the lessons of the past and prepare for a continued increase in weather related catastrophes.

According to this this alarming report by Associated Press News, the U.S. experienced a series of unprecedented weather events in 2017.  Below are some of the “highlights” cited in the AP report :

  • Total cost for weather disasters in the United States was a record $306 billion
  • Three of the five most expensive hurricanes in U.S. history hit last year:
    • Harvey caused massive flooding in Texas: $125 billion
    • Maria’s damage in Puerto Rico: $90 billion
    • Irma’s damage, mainly in Florida: $50 billion
  • Western wildfires caused $18 billion in damage. According to NOAA, this total is three times the U.S. wildfire record.
  • NOAA also reported 2017 was the third hottest year in U.S. records for the Lower 48 states — a full 2.6 degrees warmer than the 20th century average.
  • This was the third straight year that all 50 states had above average temperatures for the year.
  • Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and New Mexico — had their warmest year ever.

Rather than using this post to debate the possible causes for such disturbing weather trends, I instead urge readers to ask this important question:

“IF my home and belongings are ravaged by a catastrophic weather event, will my insurance coverage provide the level of protection I want to rely on?”

With so much to lose, I encourage readers to sit down with an insurance professional who specializes in helping those they serve by crafting a protection program that “starts with the end in mind”.  I work with specialists in all 50 states and internationally, and would be happy to provide an introduction to a personal risk advisor who can help you to prepare now for a possible catastrophe tomorrow.

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KnownsNot knowing the right questions to ask about your insurance protection is among the key reasons far too many consumers hear the dreaded words “you’re not covered” at the worse possible time — after a personal property or liability insurance loss.

Not knowing what we don’t know is a dangerous and common cognitive bias that contributes to many regrettable decisions. Discerning between the knowns, unknowns, and known unknowns can be confusing, as memorialized in this explanation by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The KNOWNS

Following are just a few examples of the questions many consumers know to ask about their insurance protection:

  1. Can you lower my premiums?
  2. How much liability insurance do I really need?
  3. Am I “fully covered”?
  4. What is my deductible?

Questions like these are all valid and worthy of answers. Meanwhile, relying on prior experience, advertising campaigns or glib “how to buy” articles in the media prevents consumers from getting far more important answers to the many questions they don’t know to ask.

The UNKNOWNS

Consumers who want their insurance program to protect their assets from a wide range of threats need clear answers to many more questions than they know to ask. These questions are the “unknowns”. For example, consumers should press for clear answers to these questions:

  1. In addition to the risks I am covered for, what are the risks I am not currently insured for?
  2. Are there any coverage gaps, policy exclusions or forms of coverage that have not been not offered that are exposing my assets to uncovered property or liability losses?
  3. How does the claims settlement process differ among insurance carriers?
  4. Are there effective strategies to control the cost of coverage without requiring me to sacrifice important protection?
  5. What services are available to help prevent or reduce the risk of loss?
  6. What can I do now to ensure the best outcome in the event of a large property or liability loss?

 Uncovering the KNOWN UNKNOWNS

Although there are MANY more questions to accompany those shown above, I believe there is one question ALL consumers should first examine:

Who is responsible to know the right questions I need answered to help me reduce the risk of experiencing an uncovered loss?  

Independent insurance agents who serve their clients as personal risk advisors know the unknowns, and can provide insightful answers to the many important questions few consumers know to ask. Consumers need the assistance of an independent agent who functions as a de-facto risk-coach, and not simply an insurance company promoting a “better deal” on an insurance policy.

Where to find one?

To learn whether you are working with an insurance agent who is truly focused on helping you make well informed decisions to properly manage your risks, here’s a good question to ask that person:

“Are there other questions I have not asked that can help  you better assess my exposure to uncovered losses?” 

The answer you receive to this question can help you determine if the person whose job it is to help you understand and manage your risks is even focused on meeting that objective.  For those who wish to speak with an independent insurance agent who provides their clients clear answers to the important questions they don’t know to ask I’d be happy to provide an introduction.

 

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Broke

It is likely old news to most insurance consumers that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) administered by FEMA is plagued with challenges.

Challenges as in problems. Many. Big. Problems.  This excellent New York Times article provides a sobering analysis of those problems.

 

THE BIGGEST PROBLEM: As illustrated by the excellent chart below, although many policyholders feel their flood insurance premiums are already too high, the costs to pay all claims occurring in years with catastrophic flooding events GREATLY exceed the total premiums received over many years combined. The NFIP is not exactly a good business model.

SOLUTIONS ARE AVAILABLE: Consumers should be aware there are a number of private insurance carriers that provide alternative and/or supplemental coverage solutions to the National Flood Insurance Program. These private carriers can often provide expanded protection, cost improvements, and sometimes a combination of improved coverage and a lower cost.

WHERE TO FIND THEM: To evaluate private placement flood insurance solutions, insurance consumers should contact an independent insurance agent that represents multiple carriers.  As with all forms of insurance, coverage terms and conditions vary among carriers, and established independent insurance agents are often able to help consumers explore multiple coverage solutions from different insurance carriers. I can help consumers  in need of such assistance by providing a recommendation to local agencies located throughout the United States offering great expertise and market access.

As always, let the buyer BeAware!

flood chart

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auto-insurance-price-increase-imageThe rising cost of auto insurance is a source of frustration for most of us.  Many I speak with want to know how insurance companies determine the premiums they charge, and why those costs are rising.

Insurance companies use actuarial science to analyze a lot of data to help them assess the probability of a future loss and the projected claims costs for any given policyholder. Before setting the rates, regulators in each state require carriers to document how the factors being used directly correlate to the rates the carrier seeks to charge. Whether consumers agree with the factors or not, most I speak with understand the more common factors used by carriers to determine the cost of auto insurance, including:

o   Age, gender, and marital status

o   Where you live, and how many miles you drive to and from work

o   Your credit rating

o   Your driving record and claim history

Meanwhile, analyzing prior claims results to determine the cost to offset future losses is not always reliable. When forecasts prove inaccurate and the cost to pay all claims outpace the premiums collected, carriers must document the reasons to support their request for increased rates when filing their new rates with state regulators.  Insurance carriers have experienced a number of factors that have contributed to more frequent claims and a higher cost to settle many claims, leading to higher auto insurance premiums for many consumers. Following are those factors:

o   More miles driven. Vehicle miles traveled increased by 3.5% in 2015, the largest annual increase in nearly 25 years, and an additional growth of 3.1% occurred in 2016.

o   More drivers driving. The number of people employed has increased significantly. Simply put, more cars and drivers on the road leads to a higher probability of accidents.

o   Increase in accident severity. The average cost per paid bodily injury claim increased 32.1% from 2005 to 2013, and medical costs are on the rise.

o   Increase in auto repair costs. The U.S. set a new car sales record in 2015, and new cars have more advanced technology and are more expensive to repair.

o   Increase in traffic fatalities:  deaths on the roadways increased 8% in 2015 to the highest level since 2005.

Should you wish further information on this topic, this excellent article and video by Central Insurance Companies is especially insightful: What’s driving my auto rates?

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