Is How You Use Social Media Setting You Up for Identity Theft?

09/06/2018 | No Comments

Are you setting yourself up to be among the nine million people that the Federal Trade Commission estimates have their identities stolen each year? You may be doing so by the way you use social media, especially Facebook.

At last count, according to TechCrunch, there are nearly 1.4 billion users on Facebook alone. Of those, 890 million are daily users. Not all users are honest users. Moreover, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center  study, 58% of adults use Facebook just in the United States. And most of them use multiple platforms. Yet Pew found that most people on Facebook only know about 50 of their (average) 155 friends. Two-thirds of their connections on Facebook are strangers. And this is true across social media platforms.

But it’s not really the frequency with which you use social media that leads to identity theft. It’s how you use those social networking platforms. Remember, you don’t know most of the people you’re connected to well. But based on what you share—which is often shared by others, too—identity thieves may use your social media platforms to get to know you very well. Then, they can assume your identity.

Being a Tell-All Makes You a Target for Identity Thieves

You may be making the common identity thief’s work easy by what you reveal on social media, especially if you use poor security. You may think sharing pet pictures and names, favorite stores, purchases or intended purchases, or family pictures is no big deal. But that’s like walking through a mall showing everyone everything in your wallet. Did you know that identity thieves can use that information to build a personal profile on you?

“People share way too much on social media,” says credit expert Beverly Harzog. Her latest book, “The Debt Escape Plan: How to Free Yourself from Credit Card Balances, Boost Your Credit Score, and Live Debt Free,“ discusses identity theft through social media.

“Very little is needed by identity thieves to break into someone’s accounts,” she continues. “What you share can be used to hack your credit card, bank and other financial accounts.” Those accounts, of course, contain even more information about you that can be used to create a complete profile. Thieves use that information both to steal other assets and create ID documents that can be used to commit other crimes.

Harzog gives the example of giving your dog’s name on social media. “Some people use their dog’s name on Facebook or other social media and then use the dog’s name as part of their password someplace else,” she states. She says it’s common for people to use personal information they share—like kids’ names and birthdays and those of their significant others—on social media as part of passwords, too. Then the most determined identity thieves, who are adept at using that information to determine your complete passwords, can hack your accounts.

Moreover, weak passwords coupled with poor social media security settings make you a bigger target. So what’s the solution? Clam up online and lock down your social media profiles

You Do Have Things to Hide on Social Media

Thieves of all kinds like easy victims; identity thieves are no exception. Therefore, don’t make yourself one. Maintain some mystery about your life online and hide information you don’t want stolen. Says Harzog, “Determined thieves will scan a year of your social media postings and piece a lot of things together about you that can be used to steal your identity.”

So if you’re a private citizen, stay that way. To maintain your privacy, there are lots of things you shouldn’t talk about or share on social media. Many of them are pretty obvious by now, like your travel plans, schedules, full birthdate, social security number or credit card or bank account numbers. But what else should you avoid sharing on social media or, if you must, share with care?

  • The types of credit cards you use and how you make purchases. You can talk about where you bought things but not what you used to make the purchase, particularly if you’re naming your credit card carrier.
  • Your banking information. Don’t reveal where you bank or the name of your credit union. Have those conversations privately, using secure email or phone.
  • Your home phone number. This is especially true of it’s the phone number you use for your credit card or bank accounts. Even if that’s not the case, that information can be easily used to determine your carrier and, ultimately, your address, which for most people is the one they use on their bank accounts or credit cards.
  • Your full address. It’s okay to say where you live generally, like your city, but not specifically, like your street and house number. Even revealing your neighborhood may put you at risk of identity theft. Stick with the closest metro area when revealing where you live.
  • Your hometown. Again, stick with metro areas, especially if you’re from a small town. And if you do reveal your hometown on your social media profiles, don’t use it as an answer to security questions online or part of a password.
  • Your high school or college alma mater. Be careful sharing this information if you use it as part of your security set-up on any other accounts, especially financial accounts.

Doubling Down on Security

Harzog says. “Don’t use any part of the information you share on social media as part of your passwords.” Use strong passwords and don’t use any information revealed on social media as answers to security questions, either. Make up your own randomized passwords, where possible.

Also, make sure your privacy settings are strong on social media and vet every online connection you make carefully. Using these strategies, you can protect yourself from the prying eyes of those who would rob you of your financial security by stealing your identity.

Does a Healthy Lifestyle Really Decrease the Cost of Life Insurance?

05/03/2018 | No Comments

There are numerous positive benefits related to living a healthy lifestyle that should provide a good incentive to stay on a program of regular exercise and healthy eating.

The potential for a longer life and the opportunity to lower your risk profile when it comes to issues like heart disease and diabetes, for example, demonstrates that there are rewards attached to committing to following a healthy lifestyle.

Maintaining a healthy weight, looking after your heart and your body, and being mindful of the impact of many lifestyle choices offers certain tangible rewards in a good number of cases and there could be a financial reward for your diligent approach to a healthy lifestyle.

A better health profile can result in potentially lower medical costs if you are taking steps to look after your body and there is also the chance that you might enjoy lower rates when it comes to arranging life insurance cover.

Here is a look at whether it is the case that a healthy lifestyle could reduce the cost of your life insurance and what factors insurers might be looking at when setting their rates.

There is also some guidance on what key steps you can take to improve your health profile.

Living a longer life

The bottom line when it comes to all life insurance companies setting the rate they are going to charge you for life cover is that they will be able to charge you a lower monthly price if the answers to a series of lifestyle questions suggest that you are likely to live a reasonably long life.

All insurers will ask you a series of highly relevant medical and lifestyle questions that are aimed at helping them decide how risky you are to insure and how much to charge for insurance protection based on the answers you give them.

All insurers use an underwriting process that helps them to decide whether to accept your application for life cover in the first place and what sort of risk you represent.

Although each insurance company will have their own set of underwriting rules the basic concepts remain the same, Namely, if you can successfully demonstrate that you take regular exercise and enjoy a healthy diet with good lifestyle choices this makes you a less risky applicant.

Your past and present health history definitely influence how much you will pay for life insurance cover and getting healthier by taking steps to take greater control or improve your health profile will help to reduce the cost of life insurance.

Armed with the knowledge that insurers are prepared to change their opinion about you if you demonstrate that positive changes are made to your lifestyle and will charge less when you reduce your risk, should provide you with an incentive to make the required adjustments.

A classic example of this would be when it comes to heart disease and high blood pressure. These issues are commonly attributed to obesity and smoking, so if you manage to lose weight and give up smoking for at least 12 months before applying for life cover, there is every chance that the rate you are quoted will be lower than before you made those important changes.

Smoking and drinking

Smoking tobacco and drinking too much alcohol are big factors in putting your health at greater risk.

The best thing you can do for your heart is to quit smoking without any further delay. The act of smoking cigarettes has a detrimental impact on your cholesterol, amongst a number of things that are clearly bad for your health profile, and smoking cigarettes can reduce your good cholesterol while encouraging your bad cholesterol to stick to the inside of your arteries.

Smoking is a major factor when insurance underwriters decide to increase your life insurance premiums.

Another key question when you are applying for life insurance is about how many units of alcohol you consume each week and your answer will determine how much of an insurance risk you are considered to be and how much potential damage you might be doing to your health.

There is a certain amount of conflicting information available relating to what sort of alcohol intake you can safely enjoy on a regular basis.

There are a number of medical problems that can arise through excessive drinking or consuming too much alcohol on a regular basis. Drinking in moderation is tolerated by most insurance companies who would probably not raise their premium if you have an acceptable alcohol intake.

However, a regular or excessively high alcohol intake can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, such as cardiomyopathy, for example. This is just one medical danger that you face if you have too much alcohol in your daily and weekly lifestyle routine.

Although certain aspects of drinking habits might be subject to contention what isn’t really in doubt amongst medical experts is the fact that binge drinking is bad news for your health.

Binge drinking raises your prospect of suffering from irregular heart rhythms known as arrhythmias. Add in the fact that alcohol often contains a substantial amount of calories which can have an impact on your body weight and you can soon see why insurers adjust their rates upward when an applicant appears to be drinking more than a tolerable level of drink.

You are what you eat

Obvious risks to your health such as smoking and drinking are easy to pinpoint when it comes to identifying some major changes you can make to improve your health profile, but what you put on your plate and in your mouth also has a major influence too.

You will find a plethora of different diets and eating trends that gain popularity and come under the media spotlight and that can make it confusing to know what to eat to ensure that you enjoy a balanced and healthy diet.

If you simply take a look at the basics of what a healthy diet should consist of you can use that as the template and then add ingredients that qualify based on your personal preferences.

There is no coincidence in the fact that the advice issued by various government bodies and leading medical authorities tends to center around the same basic essentials. A Mediterranean-style that contains plenty of fruit and vegetables together with a reasonable amount of whole grains and pulses often gets mentioned as a good way of enjoying a healthy and balanced diet.

If you can restrict the amount of fat, sugar, and salt that you are consuming and try to limit the amount of processed meats, butter, and items that are high in saturated fat, you will be making a positive contribution toward improving your health profile.

Try to incorporate plenty of healthy fresh ingredients, lean meat, oily fish, as well as using vegetable oils in your cooking, and you will be boosting your chances of enjoying good cholesterol.

Finding a good diet

There are always going to be trends and certain diets that have a spell in the limelight but with so much information at your disposal and so many options to consider it can prove to be a real challenge finding the specific diet that is particularly right for you and your body.

You should be able to build a healthy diet around the basic principles of what is normally recommended in terms of the amount of fruit and vegetables, plus other key ingredients that you need to consume regularly, and then adjust it to incorporate items that appeal to your tastes.

If you know that you should be trying to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables in your diet you can choose your favorites to fulfill that criterion.

A public health document called The Eatwell Guide is a good example of the sort of information you can make use of to help you achieve the aim of eating a healthy and well-balanced diet.

Limiting your consumption of processed foods and aiming to drink between six and eight glasses of water each day will all help you to stay healthy. You can also take the view that eating certain foods that are shown to have a positive influence on specific organs such as the heart, liver, and brain will further enhance your chances of not just enjoying a balanced and healthy diet but also help to lower your risk of health problems now and in the future.

Certain foods are capable of delivering known benefits to specific organs as well as being healthy foods in general.

For example, an oily fish such as salmon or mackerel is rich in omega 3 fatty acids and is considered good for your brain by helping to combat cognitive decline. Avocados have soared in popularity since it was highlighted how they can improve your heart by lowering bad cholesterol levels, and if you want to look after your kidneys, apples, blueberries, and strawberries are just some of the foods highlighted by bodies like the National Kidney Foundation as being considered good for your kidneys.

Here are some resources to help you find out which foods might be good for each of your vital organs.

Regular exercise

Another key component in helping you achieve a healthy lifestyle and profile is regular meaningful exercise.

The benefits of regular physical activity are well documented and some of the headline benefits include taking greater control of your weight, reducing the prospect of suffering from type 2 diabetes, lower the odds of suffering from cardiovascular disease, and numerous other positives to consider.

It is perfectly feasible that you may not be able to be as physically active as you might want to be if you have certain problems are just out of shape but that should not be a barrier to making positive changes.

It’s good advice to always start modestly with your exercise regime and build up your levels of activity and intensity over a period of time as your physical capacity and fitness levels improve and strengthen.

Exercise and physical activity are considered beneficial to almost everyone irrespective of any health and physical impairments that might restrict you. Following a regular exercise program that is appropriate to your current limitations and abilities can help you maintain a healthy body weight, lower your risk of suffering from a variety of diseases, together with making a positive contribution toward improved cognitive function and potentially giving you a stronger chance of living a long and healthy life.

Getting the financial reward for your efforts

The bottom line is that you want to know that the underwriters working to calculate the cost of life insurance are prepared to adjust their view of the level of health risk you face if you improve your health and make noticeable lifestyle changes like quitting smoking.

A good way of analyzing that question is to look at the impact on healthcare costs incurred by companies who offer their employees wellness programs.

In this case study, two companies who deployed Fitbit corporate wellness programs were able to achieve a reduction of over $2 million in employer cost savings by delivering healthier outcomes for the program participants.

The results showed that employees who signed up to the fitness program enjoyed savings of over 20% against annual healthcare and insurance costs compared to those employees who did not take part.

Smoking is one of the key lifestyle components that increases the cost of life insurance as it significantly increases your chance of health problems and dying earlier. What difference does it actually make to your annual insurance costs if you manage to quit the habit?

Getting yourself on a smoking cessation program is going to help demonstrate that you are taking a step in the right direction. In terms of how soon the life insurance will reward you with lower costs as a non-smoker, it is likely you will need to shop around as they all seem to have a different timescale on what period of time counts before you are classed as a non-smoker.

You might have to wait for a period of up to three years before you can get a preferred plus rating(standard example from one insurer), which not only involves being a non-smoker but requires you to demonstrate lifestyle changes such as lowering your weight if it’s too high, and reducing your blood pressure, which should come with those changes to your lifestyle anyway.

To answer the original question, it has been positively demonstrated that following a healthy lifestyle through a series of key aspects such as watching your diet, reducing alcohol intake, avoiding smoking, and taking regular exercise, will all help to ensure you pay the lowest possible amount for your life cover.

The prospect of paying a lower amount each month for life insurance as a reward for your commitment to pursuing should be an incentive to keep your body and mind in good order, but knowing that you are taking a positive step in preserving your longevity should also be all the motivation you need.

Think about the answers you give to an insurance company when asking their questions and what they say about your current health and lifestyle, then consider what you can do to make the underwriter view you as a lower risk of dying earlier than predicted.

Useful Resources:


For a personalized policy, contact your Tri County Agent today!

6 Financial Mistakes Millennials Should Try To Avoid

10/24/2017 | No Comments

High schools, trade schools and colleges can provide valuable knowledge and job skills, but in most cases, these educational institutions do little to teach students about how to manage their personal finances. Some people are lucky enough to have had financial guidance throughout their lives, whether from parents or mentors; for most young people, however, the transition from relying on the help of others to managing on their own can be difficult.

Below are six of the most common financial mistakes people tend to make in their young adulthood. Avoiding these mistakes can go a long way toward leading you to a financially secure future.

Mistake 1: Not Setting Money Aside for a Rainy Day

Conventional wisdom states that you should have three to six months of living expenses set aside in a savings account. This may seem like an unrealistic goal, particularly if you are living paycheck to paycheck, but it is not impossible. Just don’t expect to do it overnight.

When I got my first apartment, my grandmother gave me some great advice. She said, “Include yourself as one of your monthly billers.” I wasn’t making much money at the time, so I started out small with just $20, but I treated it as yet another of my monthly expenses and deposited it in a savings account. Every time I got a raise, I increased that amount. After a few years, I had a sizable savings account.

The important thing is that you keep this set-aside money in a separate account and not touch it unless you absolutely have to. Try to pretend it’s not even there. Life has a way of throwing unexpected expenses your way, so having that money easily available is likely to come in handy someday. If you do use the money, be sure to work toward rebuilding your savings soon after.

Mistake 2: Failing to Create and Stick to a Budget

Budgets are extraordinarily important. Without them, it is very easy to find yourself strapped for cash or drowning in debt with no idea where your money went. When setting up a budget, you should start by listing all of your monthly expenses from rent and utilities to clothes and entertainment.

Next, divide your list into “needs” and “wants.” Sure, you may feel you need to go out with your friends once a week, but that is actually something you want.  Your needs should include things such as rent, student loans, groceries and of course, your payment to yourself.

Determine how much money is required to pay the expenses in your “needs” column and subtract it from your total monthly take-home pay. What you have left is what you can afford to divide among your “wants.” If you only have $100 left after paying your necessary expenses and you use $80 to buy a new outfit, you will only be able to spend $20 on entertainment in that particular month.  Exceeding your budget is the fastest way to get yourself into unmanageable debt.

Be sure to keep track of how much you are spending in each category of expenses. If you find this difficult to do, you may want to look into using free personal finance software. There are several options available, including Money Manager Ex, HomeBank and AceMoney Lite; or, if you prefer, you can use online programs such as Mint or Rudder. The important thing is to find a system that you find intuitive and then actually use it.

Mistake 3: Not Using Coupons and Apps to Save Money

Among the expenses in your budget, groceries can be one of the highest. According to the USDA, adults between the ages of 19 and 50 spend between $166 and $334 per person per month on groceries. That is a very large spending range, and you will want to try to keep your grocery spending on the lower end. While clipping coupons and checking for sales can be time-consuming, it is a great way to significantly reduce your grocery spending each month.

There are also a number of apps that can help you save money on food and other important expenses, such as cleaning supplies and grooming products. SavingStar is one example and it is my favorite, since instead of seeing the savings at the register, the money you save goes into an online account that you can transfer directly into your savings account. That’s cold, hard cash given to you just for using the app while buying products you would have bought anyway.

A number of other retailers offer ways to reward customers with savings, whether through apps, text-based coupons or loyalty cards. Be sure to take advantage of everything that is offered by the stores where you shop the most often. You may be surprised how much that can help you stretch your budget.

Mistake 4: Allowing Credit Card Debt to Build Up

There are a number of good reasons to use credit cards: they can help you build your credit rating, they can make it easy to review your monthly expenses, they provide a lot of convenience, and many give you cash back on your purchases.

However, unless you are careful with how you use them, credit cards can also be very dangerous.The interest rates on credit cards are extremely high, particularly if you have not yet established a good credit rating. Unless you pay your card off in full each month, this interest and your remaining debt can build up very quickly.

Do NOT pay only the minimum required monthly payment. Doing so can result in paying double—or more!—for everything you charge. When I got my first credit card, I was advised to pay a minimum of 25% of the total balance or $25, whichever was more, every month. That is a good minimum to stick by if you cannot afford to pay the full balance. Just be sure to avoid using the card again until you have caught up on your payments.

Your goal should be to pay off your credit card in full each and every month. If you find that you are unable to do this and the amount you owe each month increases continually, stop using the card immediately. If necessary, have someone you trust hold it for you and do not use it again until it is fully paid off. If you find that you do not have the self-discipline to keep debt from building up on your credit cards, you may want to cut them up, cancel them or just keep one around to be used only in the event of an emergency.

Mistake 5: Not Participating in Employer-Sponsored 401k or 403b Plans

If you work for a company that offers a retirement savings plan and you qualify to participate, you absolutely should. Even if you feel that you do not have any extra money to spare from your paycheck, failing to take advantage of this retirement savings plan while you are young can be one of the biggest financial mistakes of your life. There are a number of reasons:

  • Most employers will also contribute toward your retirement savings.  If your company offers a 50% match for up to 6% of your salary, for example, then you should invest at least 6% of your pay in order to reap the most benefit from this match. This is free money that is yours for the taking and it can result in a huge increase in your total retirement package.
  • Unless you are contributing to a Roth account, the money you contribute to the plan is not taxable until you take it out. This means that while you may be contributing 6% of your pay, your paycheck will not decrease by a full 6%. You may also qualify for other tax benefits simply for contributing to a retirement fund.
  • Compound interest is most beneficial when you have money invested for a long period. Though retirement may be a distant thought to you now, starting your retirement fund at this stage in your life can result in a very nice nest egg when you are older. You will thank yourself one day.
Mistake 6: Not Carrying a Sufficient Amount of Insurance

When you are working within a limited budget, you may feel that expenses such as insurance are a waste of money and not worth the cost. In some cases, such as insurance plans for cell phones or appliances, this may be true. But when you run the risk of losing a significant amount of money or property, such as if there is a fire in your apartment complex or you are responsible for a serious car accident, having sufficient coverage can mean the difference between getting by and catastrophic financial loss.

Of course, nobody wants to pay for more coverage than they actually need. This is why it is to your benefit to contact a Tri County Agent to discuss your risks, assets and insurance coverage options. We can help you find affordable coverage that will keep you and your finances properly protected.

Homeowners Insurance FAQ

09/06/2017 | No Comments

What Is Homeowners Insurance?

Homeowners insurance, also referred to as home insurance or property insurance, provides coverage for your private home and compensates you in the event of a loss. If your home is burglarized or is partially or totally destroyed by a cause that is covered by your policy, homeowners insurance will help you replace your belongings, repair your home, or even rebuild.

Homeowners insurance also provides liability coverage which protects you, the homeowner, in the event that someone is injured on your property or you are deemed responsible for personal injury or property damage through negligence.

The amount of compensation you receive in a claim, or that the claimant receives from your insurance company when filing a liability claim against you, depends on the limits set for your policy. A Tri County Agent can help you to determine the amount of coverage that makes the most sense for your home and your risk tolerance.

What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?

Homeowners insurance provides coverage for a range of risks that you may face as a homeowner that otherwise can be financially challenging to cover out of pocket. These include:

  • Property damage: This includes damage and destruction to your residence and/or detached structures. You will receive compensation, up to the limits of your policy, if your house or storage shed is damaged due to a covered hazard. Standard covered circumstances include things like hurricanes and vandalism, but other hazards such as earthquakes and floods are excluded. Be sure to check your homeowners policy for exclusions.
  • Personal property loss: Includes damage or theft of personal property, up to your set policy limits for covered circumstances, which typically excludes flooding, earthquakes, and personal negligence. If your personal property is very valuable (such as collectibles or antiques) you’ll likely need additional “riders” or special endorsements on your policy. Be sure to talk with a knowledgeable agent about your personal belongings and valuables, as standard limits may not be adequate to cover a major loss.
  • Personal liability: If you, your family member, or even your pet causes an accident, injury or property damage, your homeowners insurance can protect you. Whether the issue requires medical care or repair of property, you will typically have coverage up to your liability limits. There are exclusions, such as aggressive acts against a neighbor, so it is important to fully understand your liability coverage. Be sure to talk with an agent about how to choose adequate policy limits that protect your finances in the event of a lawsuit.
  • Added living costs: If your house is uninhabitable, your homeowners insurance can pay for alternative living arrangements while your home is repaired or rebuilt. Depending upon your homeowners insurance company and the specifics of your policy, this may be included or may be an optional coverage. You will typically have daily and total overall limits for this coverage.

How Does Home Insurance Work?

When you buy home insurance, you’re buying a safety net for your home. If your home is damaged or destroyed, it can cost thousands of dollars – even hundreds thousands of dollars – to repair or rebuild.

Without home insurance, that money has to come out of your pocket. But if you’re insured, you can file a claim to pay for the damage and help rebuild your dreams. Your homeowners insurance will also cover theft of your personal belongings, includng when you take them with you in your car or while you travel.

In the event you suffer a loss, whether from burglary, fire or a severe storm, call your insurance agent or insurance company to begin the claims process. An adjuster will work with you to assess the damage and determine your compensation.

The benefits you receive will depend upon several factors, including:

  1. The limits set on your policy, both for your structural property and your belongings.
  2. The deductible amount you pay before your coverage kicks in.
  3. Whether you have chosen coverage for the actual cash value (depreciated) or the replacement value of your home and belongings.

Is Homeowners Insurance Required?

Your state may or may not require homeowners insurance, but your mortgage lender typically will require coverage in order to provide a home loan. Even if you own your home outright and you are not required to buy homeowners insurance, it’s still a good idea to protect your investment with an insurance policy. That way you can get the financial compensation you need to repair or rebuild after a loss. Not only that, but your home coverage can help to protect you financially in the event of a liability claim that leads to a lawsuit.

Why Is Homeowners Insurance Important?

Homeowners insurance is important for a variety of reasons:

  • If you’re insured, any significant repairs or rebuilding after a disaster can potentially be covered by your insurance policy, up to your set limits.
  • If you owe money on your mortgage and your home is completely destroyed, you will still be required to pay your home loan, unless you have adequate homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance can help pay for the rebuilding cost. If you insure your house at full replacement cost value, you will have the means to fully rebuild, if needed.
  • Liability coverage is arguably the most important aspect of homeowners insurance. If something happens to a visitor on your property, your liability coverage can cover that person’s medical costs, well as your legal fees if you are sued. Lawsuits are expensive and hiring a lawyer can cost thousands of dollars. If you’re found responsible, you could be ordered to pay large sums of money in a personal injury suit, a cost that can be offset by your liability coverage.

When Should I Get Homeowners Insurance?

You should purchase homeowners insurance before you contact a mortgage company for a loan. Most mortgage companies will require you to have homeowners insurance in place prior to giving you a home loan; but don’t wait until the last minute to start thinking about insurance.

It’s important to shop around for the right policy for your needs. There are many factors that determine the right insurance coverage. A Trusted Choice member agent in your area can help you compare policies and quotes to find the best coverage for your needs.

How Much Does Homeowners Insurance Cost?

The value of your home and the amount of coverage you buy will largely dictate the amount you will pay for your premiums. But there are other factors that can affect your premium as well, including things like the crime rate in your area, and how many claims you have filed in the past. Another important factor is the state you live in, as average costs can vary significantly from state to state.

Because there are so many factors that affect the cost of homeowners insurance, a typical annual premium can range anywhere from $400 to $1500, or more for a high value home. If you choose additional coverage, you may pay a higher premium, but you will also have better protection.

It’s always important to comparison shop for the best homeowners insurance rates and the best value. An independent agent in the Trusted Choice network can compare prices from several different insurance companies to find the right policy for you at the right price.

Is Homeowners Insurance Tax Deductible?

Your insurance premiums are not tax deductible except under special circumstances. You do receive other tax benefits as a homeowner, but they are not related to homeowners insurance.

If you’re a landlord or a homeowner who uses part of your home for business purposes, you may be able to deduct a portion of your homeowners insurance. A tax advisor is your best resource in determining what you can and cannot deduct on your taxes.

Is Homeowners Insurance Included in the Mortgage Payment?

Homeowners insurance is not included in your mortgage payment, unless it is escrowed. Today, creating an escrow account that covers your mortgage payments, your home insurance and even your property taxes is common practice.

Additionally, your mortgage insurance is typically included in your mortgage payment. This is paid if your loan exceeds 80 percent of your home’s value. Mortgage insurance does not insure your home. It insures the bank if you default on your loan.

Can Your Homeowners Insurance Be Canceled?

Homeowners often ask “Can my homeowners insurance drop me?” Yes, your insurance company can drop you, but it’s important to know that being dropped (considered a non-renewal) is different from being canceled.

When you are dropped by your insurance provider, your insurance policy is not renewed at its expiration date and you must pursue another provider. You will be informed if your policy is going to be dropped so you have adequate time to shop for new coverage.

Your homeowners insurance can be canceled at any time as long as you are notified that it will be occurring. During the first 60 days, the insurance company can cancel for a variety of reasons. After 60 days, the reason for cancellation must be due to a specific circumstance such as non-payment, misrepresentation or increase in risk. You’ll typically receive a cancellation notice 10 to 30 days in advance of cancellation, depending on the reason your insurer cites.

How Much Homeowners Insurance Do I Need?

Make sure your homeowners insurance covers the following areas:

  • Structure of home: Insure your home for its replacement value. This is how much it would currently cost to build your home from scratch. (Be sure you have an accurate estimate of your home’s value.) The amount it would cost to sell your house is not a good indicator of the replacement value.
  • Personal belongings: Most policies cover your personal belongings at 50 to 70 percent of your home’s value. This may not be enough coverage if you have many valuable items. Conduct an inventory of your personal belongings to find out how much coverage you need and insure them at replacement cost. For antiques or high value items, you may need to purchase a personal articles policy or additional “rider” that can provide more complete coverage.
  • Liability: A basic policy might include $100,000 to $300,000 of liability coverage. Considering the cost of personal injury lawsuits, you may want to purchase liability insurance with higher $300,000 to $500,000 limits.

For additional protection and peace of mind, consider buying an umbrella liability policy, which can add another $1 million or more in liability coverage. An umbrella policy is an excellent way for anyone to increase liability protection, but it’s an especially good idea for anyone with more valuable than average assets to protect, or particular liability concerns.

How Is Homeowners Insurance Paid?

You can always pay the insurance company directly for your homeowners policy, but you have other options. You can ask your mortgage company about escrow, which allows you to pay your homeowners insurance payment along with your mortgage payment. The insurance payment is placed into an escrow account where it is held by the mortgage company until the annual premium is met. At that point, the mortgage company pays the homeowners insurance annual premium to the insurance company.

This allows you to break your insurance premiums into smaller payments and you only work with one company. Escrow may not be available for everyone, though, so check with your lender.

Where Can I Get Homeowners Insurance?

When you start your search for homeowners insurance, it’s important to assess your needs to determine the right amount of coverage. It can be tempting to choose a policy based on price alone, but you probably won’t get the right amount of protection using that method. Protecting your investment doesn’t mean breaking the bank. You can get a range of quotes and options from an independent Trusted Choice agent.

When you work with an independent agent, you’ll never have to wonder if you should have looked at more policies from different companies. You will have the opportunity to compare several options from top companies and find the best policy and value for your needs, all while letting your agent do the legwork.

Contact us today for personalized homeowners insurance quotes.

Professional Liability Insurance

07/27/2017 | No Comments

Is the Type of Job You Have Putting You at Risk for Being Sued?

We live in the age of lawsuits, and if you operate in certain professions, there is a good chance you will be sued at least once over the course of your career. Statistics show that medical professionals are the most likely to be sued. According to data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, insurers forked out $3.3 billion in medical-related lawsuit payments in 2013. Lawyers are also common targets of lawsuits. American Bar Association statistics show that attorneys have a 17% chance of being sued each year.

Unfortunately, professionals of all types can be sued. If you are in the business of providing advice or guidance, you could find yourself on the wrong side in a lawsuit. Professionals at risk include financial and accounting professionals, architects, designers, consultants and health and wellness practitioners. Despite the well-known risks, many professional service providers simply don’t acknowledge the risk of a lawsuit until after a client or patient hires an attorney.

It’s best to be prepared before a lawyer comes knocking. Protecting your business, finances, and reputation with a professional liability policy is imperative if your clients pay for your expertise, knowledge, advice or care. A Tri County agent can compare professional liability insurance quotes from a variety of insurance companies and find you the right coverage at a competitive rate.

What Is Professional Liability Insurance?

Almost everyone has heard of medical malpractice insurance, but professional liability insurance is not as well-known. The exact definition of professional liability insurance varies depending on the professional being insured; but in general, it protects you against “errors and omissions” that occur when rendering professional services. Basically, it safeguards you against mistakes or negligence that result in a financial loss for your client. It differs from a general liability policy, which is designed to cover bodily injury and property damage claims.

Professional liability insurance covers the cost of legal defense and any judgments or settlements up to the policy limits. Lawsuits can be extremely costly, with damages running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in a major suit.

Professional liability insurance goes by a number of different names and can be applied to a wide variety of professions. Here are three of the more common types of professional liability insurance:

  • Malpractice insurance: This coverage is designed especially for medical professionals. It protects against suits that allege negligence or mistakes. Anyone working in the healthcare field should consider a malpractice policy.
  • Errors and omissions liability insurance (E&O insurance): This type of coverage is ideal for lawyers, consultants, real estate agents, stock brokers, insurance agents, designers, architects and others. These professionals offer their advice and knowledge to earn a living. Clients who act on that advice, whether it be buying a certain type of insurance or purchasing a particular stock, are at risk and may feel that the service provided resulted in a financial loss.
  • Directors and officers liability insurance (D&O insurance): This coverage is specific to high-ranking executives in a company. It handles a variety of circumstances, including unlawful acts, poor investment decisions, the release of confidential information, issues with hiring and firing, gross negligence, conflicts of interest, and other errors.

Professional liability insurance comes in two different flavors, claims-made and occurrence. A claims-made policy must be in effect not only when a lawsuit is filed, but also when the incident that prompted the lawsuit took place. This is the most common type of policy and is usually cheaper.

Occurrence coverage covers any incident that takes place during the coverage period, even if the suit is filed after the policy has expired. These policies provide more comprehensive coverage, but tend to be expensive.

What Kinds of Professionals Can Be Sued?

The list of professionals who can be sued by their clients is endless, but some are more likely than others to find themselves in court. If you fall on this list, professional liability insurance is a must. In many states, doctors and attorneys are required to carry professional liability, but it’s optional for others. Here are a few professionals who should consider this type of coverage:

  • Accountants
  • Engineers
  • Graphic designers
  • Information technology consultants
  • Insurance professionals
  • Investment advisors
  • Management consultants
  • Real estate agents and brokers
  • Software developers

This list is hardly complete. Anyone in a profession where a mistake can result in a financial loss should consider professional liability insurance. Dentists, wedding planners, transport professionals and even hairdressers can find themselves the target of lawsuits.

Large organizations need to protect their directors and officers. Lawsuits can come from a variety of areas. The 2015 JLT Specialty U.S. Directors and Officers Liability Survey found that 32% of lawsuits were employment-related (hiring and firing), 35% were related to shareholder suits, 18% were fiduciary, and 15% fell under the regulatory banner.

D&O coverage is available in three different types, sides A, B and C; the differences are who is covered under what circumstances. Consult with an independent agent to learn which D&O or personal liability coverage is best suited to your company.

Why Should I Get Professional Liability Insurance?

Just about any professional can be sued these days. Professionals of all types can benefit from the protection of professional liability insurance. If you are concerned that your company may not support you during a lawsuit, you will want to protect yourself with individual professional liability insurance. For example, if for any reason there is a conflict of interest, your company’s insurance policy won’t provide coverage. The costs of legal defense and possible settlements or judgments may then be taken from your personal financial assets.

Here are a few real-life examples that help answer the question: “Who needs professional liability insurance?”

  • Financial advisors: Brokers and financial advisors are especially vulnerable to lawsuits, regardless of the legitimacy of the claim. Suits happen when clients see investments go south, even if they have been advised of the risks. Legal fees can be enormous, even on a bogus suit, making E&O coverage a necessity.
  • Private investigators: These professionals spend lots of time researching information and digging up data that their clients use to make major decisions. These decisions can involve marriage, employment, or whether to enter into a contract with another party. If any of this information is incorrect, or details were overlooked, it could cause a financial loss to their clients.
  • Lawyers: According to the Washington Times, roughly 50% of all malpractice claims in the legal industry involve mistakes related to the law. Common errors are inadequate discovery and not knowing the relevant law. Administrative errors, such as missing deadlines and calendar dates, rank high in one-person firms. Professional liability insurance will protect you regardless of whether the suit has merit.
  • Consultants: Business and tech consultants are often at risk for lawsuits. Clients rely on their expertise to make important decisions regarding their business. Tech consultants may make a mistake that shuts down a client’s website or inadvertently introduces a virus into their system, resulting in a lawsuit.
  • Contractors: General contractors are exposed to a variety of lawsuit risks. Mistakes and miscalculations can cause time delays and budget issues. Contractors can also be held liable for faulty work done by their subcontractors. A costly lawsuit could easily bankrupt your company if you’re operating without professional liability coverage.

Even if your profession does not fall into these categories, if you provide advice or expertise that could result in a financial loss to your clients, you should absolutely have a professional liability policy. Regardless of whether you are at fault, the risk of a lawsuit is real, and mounting a legal defense can easily bankrupt small or even medium-sized businesses. If you’re not protected by the right type of insurance, both your business and personal assets can be at risk.

Following are a few tips to help prevent lawsuits:

  • Be careful: When talking to clients or the public, avoid statements or activities that could be construed as questionable. Improper actions and statements can quickly lead to a lawsuit.
  • Find a great lawyer: Make sure you have a lawyer who can advise you on what to say and do if you are sued. Contact them immediately, before making any statements, and trust their advice.
  • Protect your data: Protecting your customer data is key. A data loss can lead to legal action from customers or suppliers.

A Tri County agent can help you assess your risk of a lawsuit and determine the proper amount of coverage to protect your assets.

How Do I Get Professional Liability Insurance?

Unfortunately, people love to sue and it should be clear by now that carrying a professional liability policy is essential to protecting your business and personal assets. When shopping for a professional liability policy, one of the first things to consider is the claim limit. The amount of coverage needed can vary. One of the best ways to get advice on recommended coverage levels is to talk to industry leaders and a Trusted Choice agent who specializes in your industry.

Another factor to consider is defense costs. Some policies subtract the cost of your defense from the claim limit, which leaves less money available to pay any judgments. Other policies pay for defense costs on top of your claim limit. Finally, check for a loss of earnings clause. Policies that offer this benefit pay for the time that you spend in court, while policies without it don’t cover those costs.

Costs for professional liability insurance can vary widely depending on the work that you perform. To get an accurate quote, contact us. These agents have access to many professional liability insurance companies. They will advise you on appropriate coverage levels and search for multiple professional liability insurance quotes that fit within your budget.

Bikers: Reduce Your Risk of Being Hit by a Car

06/15/2017 | No Comments

Motorcyclists understand something that those riding in vehicles (“cagers”) don’t: There’s something supremely liberating about taking to the open road with nothing between you and the environment but your good fortune and a bit of leather. When on a bike, you are not only more aware of your surroundings; you are also more one with the road.

As with all things, however, this feeling of exhilaration comes at a price. As a motorcyclist, you are far more likely to be injured or killed in an accident than those who are protected by their steel cages. By nature, most cagers expect to see only other cars on the road. Bikers (and bicyclists, and even pedestrians) must be aware of this fact.

Furthermore, the feeling of invulnerability that comes with having multiple airbags in a two-ton crossover or SUV sometimes leads to inattention or aggressive driving. This can spell trouble for someone on a motorcycle. Regardless of who’s at fault for an accident, the biker always pays the price when it comes to injuries. Fortunately, you can take a few precautions to minimize your chances of a collision with a car.

How to Reduce the Risk of Being Hit by a Driver Who Is Changing Lanes

It’s not uncommon for motorcyclists to be hit by cars when the drivers are changing lanes. It is almost as though motorists are simply unable to see bikes. A few precautions on your part can go a long way toward maintaining your safety.

  • When possible, avoid riding in the driver’s blind spot.  Drivers don’t always bother to turn their heads to check if someone is approaching before changing lanes, and your motorcycle is small enough to easily fit into the areas that can’t be seen using mirrors alone.
  • Stay alert to traffic patterns. You can usually predict when a driver is likely to want to change lanes.
  • Don’t assume that drivers will hear you approaching. If they’re jamming away to “Uptown Funk” or some other turned-up music, they’re likely to be lost in their own little worlds.
  • Keep in mind that if you can see a driver’s eyes in their side-view mirror, they can see you. Try to make sure that you are seen before riding past the car.
How to Reduce the Risk of Being Hit by a Driver Who Is Making a Left Turn

Drivers making left turns are responsible for a full 42% of all accidents in which a car and motorcycle collide. That’s one of the biggest hazards faced by bikers.  These accidents most frequently happen when the biker is going straight through an intersection and a driver going the opposite direction makes a left turn into the biker.

Accidents of this nature involving two cars happen often enough, but because motorcycles are smaller and are frequently overlooked by motorists, it makes for an even bigger hazard. Naturally, you can’t control the actions of drivers, but you can take some precautions to reduce your risk of being involved in this type of accident:

  • Avoid speeding, particularly through intersections.
  • Do not attempt to pass cars or weave through traffic while approaching or riding through intersections.
  • If you notice an approaching car with a left turn signal on, be prepared to take any necessary defensive maneuvers.
  • Ride on the left side of your lane. Cagers may be more aware of bikes directly ahead of them, and will most likely clear your path earlier if they continue their turn.
  • When riding with others, avoid riding two bikes right next to each other in the lane. Proper technique requires that one bike follow the other, staggered on the left and right sides of the lane.
  • Approach all intersections with your hands over the brake and clutch levers, prepared for emergency avoidance maneuvers. Be aware of other cars following the leading car, in case you need to make a last-ditch swerve into an oncoming traffic lane.
  • Install headlight modulators, devices that flash headlight high beams that can be used to wake up inattentive or negligent drivers.
  • Practice emergency avoidance maneuvers every month or so. A bit of practice on this vital skill can quite literally save your life.
How to Reduce the Risk of Being Hit while Lane Splitting

Most motorcyclists have done this, especially if they’re riding an air-cooled bike. While stuck in stopped or slow-moving traffic, it is easy to operate a motorcycle between two lanes to keep moving along. However, this practice is not only dangerous; it’s actually illegal in many states.

Lane splitting is hazardous because it requires to you ride in a narrow space, which leaves little room to maneuver around any obstacles. Furthermore, drivers rarely expect a motorcyclist to appear in this space between the lanes and may hit the biker with their car while trying to move into a different lane or even just by opening their car door to dump a cup of ice on the road.

Naturally, you’re safest if you simply don’t do lane splitting. However, if you feel that you must and you are riding in a state where it’s  legal, you can reduce your risk of injury by adhering to the following tips:

  • Engage in lane splitting only when your bike is in danger of overheating; and then, only if it’s legal in the state you are in.
  • Be wary when one lane is moving faster than the other. Aggressive drivers are likely to suddenly change lanes.
  • Be extra careful while riding in drivers’ blind spots.
  • Ride faster than the speed of traffic, but not much faster.
Ride Safely and Save on Your Insurance

All of the tips listed above are likely to be covered, explained and practiced in a motorcycle safety course. These courses are recommended for riders of all levels, so just because you’ve been riding for 20 years doesn’t mean the course is useless to you. Best of all, in addition to learning ways to avoid accidents and injury, successful completion of a safety course can earn you significant discounts on your motorcycle insurance. Speak with your local Tri County insurance agent to learn more.

Get Ready…It’s Hurricane Season!

05/09/2017 | No Comments

Get Ready…It’s Hurricane Season!

The most important thing you can do as hurricane season approaches is to get yourself, your family and your home prepared. By starting early, you’ll avoid the rush at home supply stores, grocery stores and other venues typically crowded and often chaotic when hurricane watches and warnings are issued.

Preparing Makes Sense

How Can I prepare

  • Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio Station for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS)
  • Secure any items that can be lifted by wind
  • Secure windows and doors
  • Set your freezer and refrigerator to its coldest settings
  • Turn off propane tank and unplug small appliances
  • Fill your car gas tank
  • Have an evacuation plan set
  • Evacuate immediately if advised by authorities
  • Keep emergency contact numbers handy
  • Make arrangements for pets (if you are evacuated- most shelters will not allow pets)


What Supplies Should I Have?

  • Ample water – At least 3 days worth (One gallon per day, per person)
  • 3 days worth of non – perishable food (don’t forget pets)
  • Flashlights (avoid candles)
  • Battery powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7 days worth)
  • Copies of personal documents
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Extra cash – ATM’s may not be working
  • Insect Repellant
  • Tools to secure your home
  • Warm Clothing
  • Blankets
  • Camera for photos of damage


What should I do after a Storm?

  • Listen to NOAA for more updates Only use your phone in emergencies
  • Stay away from damaged powerlines
  • Check for spoiled food – when in doubt throw it out
  • Avoid drinking and preparing food with tap water (can be contaminated)
  • If you were evacuated, do not return home unless instructed by the authorities
  • When cleaning, wear protective clothing (avoid areas that can be dangerous)
  • Follow directions from emergency service personnel and fire response
  • Avoid operating electric appliances or tools around water


All NOAA Weather Radio stations broadcast on one of seven frequencies in the VHF Public Service band: 162.400 megahertz (MHz), 162.425MHz, 162.450 MHz, 162.475 MHz, 162.500MHz, 162.525 MHz, and 162.550 MHz. While some older weather radio receivers will only have three frequencies (162.400, 162.475 and 162.550), and receiver sold today should be able to pick up stations on any of the seven frequencies.

Consider buying a generator

If you use a portable generator, read and follo all the manufacturers instructions. Be sure to set it up outsied – not in your home or garage – and connect appliances directly to it. Don tot ire your generator directly to your breaker or fuse box, because the power you generate may flow back into power lines and cause injuries.

Helpful Links:

National Hurricane Center

American Red Cross  http:/

Preparedness Guides

Create a Family Emergency Plan

Designate a meeting place. Choose a location outside your house in case of a household emergency, such as a fire, and one outside your neighborhood in case you cannot return to your house. Make a plan now for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate. If possible, make arrangements to stay with the friend or relative who resides closest to your home and who will not have to evacuate. If a hotel or motel is your final intended destination during an evacuation, make a reservation before you leave. Post emergency telephone numbers by your phones and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.

Will Boat Insurance Keep You Afloat?

04/21/2017 | No Comments

Make Sure You Have Boat Insurance to Weather the Storm

If you enjoy fishing, sailing, yachting, or cruising around on a powerboat, make sure you have boat insurance that covers your liability risk as well as your watercraft, equipment and passengers. Perhaps you have a lake cabin and like to tow water skiers or tubing enthusiasts. Maybe you have the party boat and every Fourth of July you load up your vessel with guests, food and libations.

Water activities are a great way to bring people together, but it is important to remember that accidents, injuries and fatalities do happen, especially when alcohol is involved. To get the right coverage that will protect your financial investment, work with a Tri -County Agent. A local agent who knows the risks and regulations in your area can help ensure that you are fully covered when you head out on the water.

Critical Steps for Boater Safety

  • Take a boating safety course
  • Educate your passengers on safe boating techniques
  • Make sure all passengers wear life vests
  • Follow all rules of the waterway you frequent
  • Stay sober, particularly if you are at the helm
  • Get boat insurance to ensure you are protected for the risks involved in boating, from liability claims to theft, storm damage and capsizing

What Does Boat Insurance Cover?

The exact boat coverage you need depends on multiple factors. Small boat insurance is very different from yacht insurance, for example. However, for most types of boats, the three kinds of coverage in a basic boat insurance policy include:

  • Bodily injury liability for expenses related to the injury of another person
  • Property damage liability for expenses related to harming another person’s property
  • Physical damage for damage to your own property, including your boat and trailer.

You also may want to add additional types of coverage to your boat insurance policy in order to fully protect yourself and your property. Here are some examples of additional coverage:

  • Property coverage for equipment such as tools, life preservers, anchors and oars
  • Insurance for fishing equipment like your rods, lures, nets and tackle
  • Towing coverage when your boat becomes disabled and needs servicing
  • Medical payments coverage for hospital and funeral expenses for you or your passengers
  • Uninsured/underinsured boaters coverage if you have an accident with another boater whose insurance is not sufficient to cover damages

As with all insurance, the amount of benefit or reimbursement you have in the event of an incident is set at the time you buy your policy. Be sure to talk with an experienced Tri-County agent who can make sure you have sufficient insurance for the risks you encounter.

What Kinds of Boats Need to Be Insured?

You can insure just about any kind of vessel, whether you have a yacht, speed boat or personal watercraft (PWC) like a JetSki. Every type of boat has the potential to be stolen or damaged, and can be involved in an incident that results in harm to another person or their property. Even if your boat is docked or stored in your garage, it can potentially be vandalized, damaged in a fire or storm, or stolen.

Many owners of small watercraft such as canoes, rafts and kayaks assume they will be covered under a homeowners or renters policy. This may be the case, up to a specified limit in your home policy. However, when it’s time to make a claim, you don’t want to be surprised to find out that this limit is not adequate to cover the value of your investment.

Be sure to consider the amount of coverage you would need to repair or replace each of your boats and recreational vehicles if damaged or stolen and ask your agent to help you get the right coverage for those items.

Can You Buy Boat Insurance Online?

There is certainly nothing wrong with getting online boat insurance quotes when you are shopping around. Just make sure you are comparing “apples to apples.” For example, if you get multiple online quotes for boat insurance, you could start by making sure that each includes the same amount of liability, property damage and medical coverage.

Buying insurance is a personal matter, and many considerations go into choosing just the right coverage for you. For this reason, many people choose to work with an independent agent who can provide guidance and answer questions. That kind of support can be difficult to find in an insurance call center or online interface.

Contact us at Tri-County today to find the insurance policy that is right for you!

Car Insurance Prepares You for the Unexpected

03/23/2017 | No Comments

Traffic accident scenarios are common, from fender-benders to highway crashes. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, over 10 million accidents occur on U.S. streets each year. The key is to be prepared so that the costs involved in recovering from an accident are not devastating to your finances.

The Cost of Car Accidents in the U.S.

  • Automobile traffic accidents cost $299.5 billion annually in the U.S.
  • Crashes cost $61,600 on average
  • A critically injured person can accumulate $1 million in medical expenses

Legal defense alone can cause devastating financial hardship, even if it turns out you are not found to be at fault. For this reason, it is important to think carefully about the coverage you may need in the event of an accident. If you buy car insurance online without professional advice, you may not be fully covered.

How to Find Fast, Accurate Insurance Quotes

When you’re on the hunt for accurate insurance quotes, it’s also important to look for coverage that makes sense for your concerns and budget. Tri-County can help you get fast quotes that are tailored to your real life needs. Moreover, you can get answers to your questions about how much insurance is best for you, how to get discounts and how to keep your costs low.

Tri-County Insurance Agents offer several important benefits:

  1. Your local agent not only understands the factors that make up a quality car insurance policy, but knows the requirements in your state.
  2. Independent agencies partner with multiple carriers to find the best personal auto insurance coverage for you at affordable rates.
  3. Your agent will help you find car insurance tailored to your needs, not to a mathematical formula describing what the average driver should have.

Review Options from Multiple Auto Insurance Companies

When you work with an independent agent, you are not stuck with one insurance company and the solutions that company provides. Instead, you will have a range of choices from top insurance companies.

Your Tri-County Agent will assess your needs based on factors such as the number of drivers in your family and their ages. Your agent will also look at bundling multiple vehicles together, or combining your home and auto policies under one insurance company, so that you can get the best value for your dollar.

Your agent can help you review several policy choices, coverage limits, deductibles and pricing and choose the best fit for you.

Is Auto Insurance Coverage Required?

Drivers in every state are required to have auto liability insurance, such as personal injury protection (PIP).

Car insurance liability requirements vary by state, and include a minimum amount for bodily injury costs per person and per accident as well as a minimum for property damage liability. If you cause an accident, liability coverage pays those costs, up to the limits set for your policy.

In addition to required liability coverage, you may also want collision coverage to protect your investment in your vehicle. And depending upon your specific needs and risks, you may also want comprehensive coverage – now known as “other than collision.” Together, collision and comprehensive can provide protection for everything from accidents to theft and vandalism.

What Does Car Insurance Cover?

There are three primary types of insurance coverage:

  • Liability insurance: Covers the costs associated with injuries and property damage you are responsible for if you cause an accident.
  • Collision: Covers the costs to repair or replace your damaged or destroyed vehicle after an accident.
  • Comprehensive: Formally known as “other than collision,” this portion of your policy covers damage to your vehicle from causes such as auto theft and weather damage.

There are also several different types of coverage which may be available to you, including:

  • Medical payments: Covers the costs of injuries for you and others in your vehicle after an accident, regardless of who was at fault.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP): Similar to medical payments coverage, PIP coverage can pay your medical costs after an accident, regardless of fault. But PIP offers expanded coverage that includes coverage for lost wages.
  • Rental reimbursement: Pays a certain amount daily for a replacement vehicle if yours is in the shop for repairs.
  • Towing and roadside service: Provides emergency roadside assistance and towing to help you get your vehicle back on the road or to a shop for repair.

As you consider your policy needs, it is important to keep the coverage limits in mind. The costs of a severe crash can quickly exceed the limits. If that occurs, you will have to pay for costs out of your own pocket.

The Risks of Buying Auto Insurance Online

Shopping for insurance online may be a great way to get information and rough quotes, but there are drawbacks to actually buying your auto coverage that way. One of the drawbacks with buying car insurance online is that it may not match your needs. Many people go looking for instant online insurance, only to find that it is difficult to know whether it offers the right amount and type of protection. Buying a no-frills basic car insurance policy may meet state requirements, but may not provide the compensation you need to recover from an accident.

It is important to discuss your risks and coverage options with a qualified insurance agent who can help ensure that you don’t have coverage gaps. A Tri-County Agent can help you learn everything you need to know to make an informed decision about your car insurance.

Contact Tri-County today! We are here to help find the perfect coverage for you.

Find Affordable Health Insurance for Individuals, Families and Businesses

02/10/2017 | No Comments

The Affordable Healthcare Act stipulates that failure to carry health insurance can result in tax penalties, so if you are uninsured, you now have more motivation than ever to find coverage. Finding an affordable policy may seem like a daunting task, but today, those shopping on the private market have access to a greater number of options than ever before. With so much to choose from, how do you sort through plans, deductibles, and networks, and choose a policy that makes sense for you, your family or your employees?

An independent insurance agent who specializes in health insurance can be an excellent resource when you want to evaluate health plans. You may even discover that you can find a lower cost option through an independent agent than you can through your employer. This is because these agents can compare plans from multiple carriers to find the best fit and rates. Contact a Tri County agent and get all your questions answered right away.

How to Buy Health Insurance for Individuals and Families

If you are self-employed or you are not obtaining healthcare coverage through your employer, you need at least a basic health insurance plan to ensure that you are prepared for an unforeseen health condition or injury.

A full-coverage health insurance plan may be more suitable for your needs if you have dependents, you are getting ready to start a family, or you have a family history of certain health risks, such as heart disease. You should ensure that your healthcare plan helps you to pay for the broader set of services you need.

Use the handy checklist below to help you decide what kind of coverage may be right for you.

Use this checklist to decide what Health Insurance coverage you need.

Healthcare Costs, Co-pays and Coinsurance

Your healthcare costs are an important factor to consider when you want to buy health insurance, and you have a number of options for managing those costs. You can choose to pay a higher deductible to lower your regular premiums, which means you need to pay that deductible amount for doctor’s visits and medical bills before your health insurance kicks in. Alternatively you can pay a higher premium in order to avoid a high out-of-pocket cost in the event of a serious illness. Bear in mind that health insurance companies are now required to cover preventive care visits (such as routine physicals, gynecological exams, and mammograms) in full so you will not pay for these visits even if you have not met your deductible.

Co-pays and coinsurance are two methods health insurance companies use to share the cost of healthcare. Co-pays are a small amount you pay for doctor’s visits, whereas coinsurance is an amount you pay in the event you need additional care. Your doctor cannot charge a you a co-pay for preventive care visits. Be sure that you fully understand any coinsurance payments your health insurance plan requires. In the event of a serious illness or injury, these costs can become very high.

A local independent agent in the Trusted Choice network can help you compare medical insurance quotes and find the right healthcare plan to match your current and anticipated needs.

Health Insurance Coverage Plans

There are a number of different types of health insurance plans for individuals and families. The following table provides a brief overview of the most common health insurance plans.

A brief overview of common Health Insurance plans

An independent agent in the Trusted Choice network specializing in healthcare insurance can answer all of your questions. You can also learn more from the following Healthcare and Health Insurance FAQ.

Healthcare and Health Insurance FAQ

Q: Is it possible to buy good yet cheap health insurance?

A: Between the policies offered on your state’s health insurance exchange and those offered on the private market, you should be able to find a variety of low cost health insurance plans. Frequently, these plans have a high deductible but will allow you preventive care at no additional cost and can prevent a major injury or illness from becoming excessively expensive through limits on out-of-pocket spending. Talk to a qualified agent about ways to cut expenses without sacrificing needed care or putting your family at risk of a large burden of debt.

Q: How does the Affordable Health Care Act affect health insurance?

A: The Affordable Health Care Act was an extensive overhaul of the healthcare system. It eliminated the legality of predatory insurance companies and it ensures that everyone has access to basic preventive care at no additional cost beyond their monthly premiums. Furthermore, those with pre-existing conditions can no longer be turned down or price-gouged by insurance companies. To fully understand how this legislation has affected you, you can talk to a qualified agent and get your questions answered.

Q: Does health insurance cover long term care?

A: Health insurance plans typically cover your regular health care and major medical care, such as hospital stays and surgeries, with costs and limitations varying considerably from one plan to another. Long term care insurance is a supplemental insurance policy that helps individuals get the care they need in the event of a chronic condition, such as an injury requiring rehabilitation in a care facility, or the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Q: Does Medicare include long term care?

A: Medicare is a government health insurance program designed to help those over 65, and those with certain severe illnesses such as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It helps to cover the costs of hospital stays, doctor’s visits, and prescription drugs. Long term care insurance is a supplemental insurance plan that helps to cover the costs associated with care for individuals with chronic conditions and disabilities.

Q: Can I get a free health insurance quote?

A: Yes. The agents in the Trusted Choice network offer free insurance quotes and can help you assess your needs as well. These independent agents work with multiple health insurance companies, which means they can compare a range of policies and options for you, and help you evaluate the right coverage for your needs.

Contact a Tri County agent for assistance with your healthcare needs today.

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