Gunning Daily News
January 6, 2014 9:21 pm
As you shovel your driveway and dig out your car from recent snowfalls, it may be time to consider your homeowner's and auto insurance policies.
First, damage to your house and its contents caused by weight of snow or ice, creating a collapse, is covered under standard homeowner's insurance policies. Freezing conditions such as burst pipes or ice dams, when water is unable to drain properly through the gutters and seeps into a house causing damage to ceilings and walls, is also covered.
Most damage resulting from fallen trees is covered by your homeowner's policy, but consumers should check with their company before calling a tree removal service as removal costs may also be covered.
Consumers should also ask their insurance company about food spoilage as a result of a power outage, debris clean up, structural damage to your home, rain spouts, sewage problems, broken water pipes, freezing pipes and furnace damage, to name a few.
For drivers, your auto insurance coverage pays for damage you, or someone driving the car with your permission, may cause to someone else's property due to ice, snow and slippery roads. This also includes damage to lamp posts, telephone poles, fences, buildings or other structures your car may hit.
Damage to your car resulting from colliding with another car, object or as a result of flipping over is covered if you carry the optional collision coverage of your policy. It also covers damage caused by potholes.
If you opted to carry comprehensive coverage on your auto policy, damage to your car caused by heavy wind, flooding, falling ice or tree limbs is covered.
The Insurance Department recommends these steps to help make the insurance process easier to navigate:
- Contact your insurance company immediately and follow the instructions given to you by claims personnel. Keep a log of the people you spoke with and ask questions if you do not understand instructions.
- Separate damaged and undamaged property for the adjuster to examine. Do not throw away damaged property until your company's adjuster advises you it is all right to do so.
- Wait for the adjuster to arrive! Do not call anyone to repair or replace your loss without first getting instructions from your adjuster.
- If your home is damaged, make only temporary repairs until a claims adjuster looks at the damage. Permanent repairs could trigger a denial of your claim.
- Be careful when choosing a contractor to make repairs. Before signing a contract, check references to make sure you are working with a reputable firm.
- If your claim is denied, review the terms of your policy for what is or is not covered. You may also file an appeal to your insurance company's claim manager. If questions remain, feel free to contact the Insurance Department.
January 6, 2014 9:21 pm
Housing codes. Local regulations that set minimum conditions under which dwellings are considered fit for human habitation. It guards against unsanitary or unsafe conditions and overcrowding.
January 6, 2014 9:21 pm
A: Your real estate agent has information on lender loan requirements and will be able to calculate a rough monthly figure you can afford based on the maximum monthly payment for the loan, taxes, insurance, and any type of maintenance fees. This pre-purchase evaluation by the agent can save you a lot of time spent looking at properties you cannot afford.
Lenders also routinely calculate what you can afford and can pre-qualify you for a loan even before you begin your home search. This way, you know exactly how much you can afford to buy.
Lenders generally stipulate that you spend no more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income on a mortgage payment or 36 percent on total debts.
Ultimately, the price you can afford to pay for a home will also depend on other factors besides your gross income and outstanding debts. They include the amount of cash you have available for the down payment, your credit history, current interest rates, closing costs and cash reserves required by the lender, and the type of mortgage you select.
January 4, 2014 3:33 pm
For many baby boomers looking to retire in the next few years, the biggest worry is not whether or not they can retire, but if they’ll outlive their savings.
It’s a valid concern: One of every four people turning 65 today can expect to live past their 90th birthday, and one in 10 will live past 95, according to the Social Security Administration.
For a married couple, there's a 58 percent chance that one of them will live to 90.
With 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day, according to the Pew Research Center, it’s something on the minds of many Americans.
“I went into this business because I hated seeing people who’d followed the rules – saved money in a 401k, put their kids through college, gave to charity – get to retirement and find they didn’t have enough to sustain them for more than a few years,” says Andrew McNair, founder and CEO of SWAN Capital, and author of “Don’t be Penny Wise & Dollar Foolish.”
“It’s not enough to have a certain amount of money in your portfolio, you want to have a guaranteed check coming in, in addition to your investments.”
Whether you’re years from retirement or planning for it now, McNair says these three New Year’s resolutions will be the best you ever made:
• Resolve to plan for expenses in retirement to equal or exceed your expenses today. Many people assume their expenses will decline once they retire – they forget that they’re going to have a lot more free time to do what they love, McNair says. “What are your dreams? Will you want to travel? Take up a new hobby? Meet friends for golf two or three times a week? Those likely are going to be expenses you don’t have now,” he says. Also, once you retire, things don’t magically last forever. The rug in the dining room, the fridge in the kitchen – eventually they’ll need to be replaced or repaired. Also, as you age, medical expenses either appear or increase. Sit down and think about what your ideal retirement looks like, and presume that it will be for at least 30 years. Make a list and take a guess at what those activities cost – even if your retirement is years away. How much money will you need coming in each month or year?
• Resolve to get most of your investments out of tax-deferred plans. If you’re working for a company that provides a match for 401k contributions, by all means, contribute up to the maximum match. “That’s free money – you’d be crazy not to take advantage,” McNair says. But investments that can be more strategic in terms of taxes should also be considered: Roth IRA, municipal bonds, life insurance or real estate. No one expects taxes will go down – they’ll be going up. Uncle Sam already has a lien on your IRA or 401(k); don’t let his lien, the taxes you’ll owe, continue to grow. Go ahead and pay now, and your future retired self will be glad you did.
• Resolve to have a portfolio that generates a steady or guaranteed paycheck. The ideal financial security for retirement is having a guaranteed income that increases with inflation, McNair says. “I suggest planning for an income that meets or exceeds your annual income now so, for example, if you’ll be getting $1,000 a month from Social Security at age 62 and your current income is $4,000 a month, you need to have a plan to guarantee $3,000 a month to cover that gap.” Annuities and life insurance are investments that may provide an income you cannot outlive, so consider them for at least part of your portfolio. “You don’t want them to make up 100 percent of your portfolio, but they should provide the foundation,” McNair says.
It’s important to start thinking now about where you want to be in retirement and what combination of investments will ensure you have the lifestyle you want for as long as you live, he says.
“At 65, you don’t want to be making risky investments because you’re panicking about not having enough money.”
January 4, 2014 3:33 pm
(BPT)—We live in a busy world full of demands on our time and attention—everything from keeping up with our families and careers to making sure we are taking care of ourselves and answering our cellphones by the third ring.
To meet all of life's challenges, sometimes you need to take a step back, sometimes you need to take charge, and other times it makes sense to delegate tasks to someone else - often times a professional such as a contractor, attorney or financial advisor. But for most people, turning things over to someone else shouldn't mean tuning out completely—especially when it comes to something as important as your financial future. When it comes to money and investing, most people feel more confident keeping one hand on the wheel to help ensure their best interests are being served.
But how do you know if you're doing that now or not? Here are three questions every person who invests should ask to determine how involved they are with their investments and if they're getting the level of engagement they want from their current investment professional:
1. Does my broker encourage me to be actively involved in my investment strategy?
Ninety-seven percent of Americans who are highly engaged in various activities in their lives say they want to be involved in the decisions that their broker is making, according to a Schwab study of engaged Americans conducted in May 2013. Does your broker make this easy for you to do? Sitting down and having a conversation with your broker to discuss the level of involvement you want is the first step. You should determine how and when you'd like to be contacted so your broker can keep you up-to-date on major developments in your financial situation. Make sure you feel empowered to ask questions and your broker's answers make sense, you are comfortable giving feedback, and your broker encourages you to check in as frequently as you want - on your terms.
2. What are my broker's recommendations based on?
Do you ask for the rationale behind the recommendations your broker is making for your money? Not only do you deserve an explanation, but you need to understand how your broker's recommendations are suitable for your unique goals, risk tolerance, time horizon and ongoing changes in your personal and financial situation—as opposed to being the same cookie cutter ideas everyone else receives. It's also a good idea to make sure you understand how your broker is compensated for the advice you receive and the products being recommended.
3. Do I understand the progress I am making toward my goals?
Schwab's study of engaged Americans from May 2013 found that 56 percent of those surveyed have a customized financial plan, which is an important first step to taking ownership over your financial future. But do you understand the progress you are making in that plan? It's important to have simple and transparent benchmarks and measures, so make sure your broker offers the tools you both need to track progress against your goals.
If you weren't able to answer these questions on your own, it may be time to ask your broker. Communication is key to any good working relationship and your broker is no exception. It's worth the time and effort to make sure you are on a path toward a successful financial future.
January 4, 2014 3:33 pm
Installment payment. Periodic payment, usually monthly, of interest and principal on a mortgage or other loan.
January 4, 2014 3:33 pm
A: Many people flock to refinance while mortgage interest rates are low, particularly when rates are two percentage points below their existing home loans.
Other factors, like when to finance, will depend on how long you plan to hold on to your home and whether you have to pay considerable fees to refinance. It also will depend on how far along you are in paying off your current mortgage.
If you expect to sell your home shortly, you are not likely to recoup the costs you incurred to refinance. And if you are more than halfway through paying your current mortgage, you probably will gain little by refinancing. However, if you are going to own your home for at least another five years, that is probably long enough to recoup any refinancing costs and realize real savings as a result of lowering your monthly payment.
In fact, if it costs you nothing to refinance, you can gain even more. Many lenders will let you roll the costs of the refinancing into the new note and still reduce the amount of the monthly payment. Plus, there are no-cost refinancing deals available.
Contact your lender, and its competitors, before you refinance.
January 2, 2014 5:03 pm
Okay, so you’ve spent the holidays stuffing your mouth with fudge, eggnog, and lasagna. It’s a seasonal lapse, one we all give into, but a new year is here. If healthier eating is on your to-do list for 2014, here are three simple tips from nutritionists at Good Housekeeping to set you and your family on the road to healthier eating and making it fun for all:
Veggies are for way more than salads – Plan to include them in every meal and snack. Throw some kale or beans into your breakfast smoothies along with the yogurt and fruit. Eat salad for lunch, and have at least three kinds of veggies with dinner. Try roasting carrots, onions and bell peppers for a yummy, caramelized treat. And don’t forget dessert. Grate a little zucchini into your brownie batter or cut down on the sugar and add some leftover mashed sweet potato to homemade oatmeal cookies.
Try something new – Get the family involved in finding and preparing new foods and recipes to try. Go for main dishes featuring natural foods like quinoa or faro. Grate raw beets (or even carrots) on top of salads. Try some of the many kinds of squash – like spaghetti or acorn squash – you may not have experienced before. Peruse the local farmer’s market with the kids to find new and exotic veggies.
Be prepared – When you’re tired, starving and in a rush, you may not feel like preparing veggies. Get into the habit of prepping them for meals and snacks when you bring them home from the market. Cut vegetables store well in plastic bags or containers – so dice them for smoothies, peel and cut them for snacking and for packing into lunchboxes and brown bags. Tempt skeptical kids with mini-kabobs of colorful veggies strung together on toothpicks.
January 2, 2014 5:03 pm
Trimming ongoing expenses is a popular New Year's resolution for many people. While there are smart ways to save on homeowners and auto insurance, making the wrong choices can result in being dangerously underinsured, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
"There are simple steps you can take to cut the cost of your home and auto insurance while continuing to be financially protected against a catastrophe," said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I.
Following are five insurance mistakes that consumers should avoid, along with practical suggestions for ways to save money:
1. Insuring a home for its real estate value not rebuilding cost. The amount for which you can buy or sell a home can fluctuate for many reasons. But insurance is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding your home, not the sale price. Make sure you have enough coverage to completely rebuild your home and replace all your belongings in the event of a disaster.
A better way to save on homeowners premiums: Raise your deductible. An increase from $500 to $1,000 could save up to 25 percent on your annual premium. And don't forget to ask your insurer about all available discounts.
2. Selecting an insurance company by price alone. You want an insurance company that offers the type of policy and coverage that you are looking for; it should also be financially sound and provide excellent customer service.
A savvier way to pick an insurer: Ask friends and family for recommendations. Get the names of local agents and/or insurance companies that provided helpful information and a satisfactory claims filing experience.
3. Dropping flood insurance. Damage from flooding is not covered under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. Even though the cost of flood insurance is rising, don't be tempted to drop this coverage. Ninety percent of all natural disasters involve some form of flooding. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), as well as from some private insurance companies.
A smarter way to lower flood insurance costs: Before purchasing a home check with the NFIP to see whether the house is located in a flood zone. If so, consider buying a home in a less risky area. If you already own a home and it is in a flood zone, you still have some options: increasing your deductible; and elevating the structure. There may be grants available to help you with the costs of elevation—to find out more, talk to your community officials. You may also want to talk to your community officials about joining or improving their status in the Community Rating System. This is a FEMA program that offers flood discounts to communities that adopt standards that are higher than those required to join the National Flood Insurance Program.
4. Purchasing only the legally required amount of liability for your vehicle. In today's litigious society, buying only the minimum amount of liability means you are likely to pay more out-of-pocket if you are sued—and those costs may be steep. The insurance industry and consumer groups generally recommend a minimum of $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident.
A less risky way to cut auto insurance costs: Consider taking a defensive driver class that would offer a discount on insurance cost. You can also raise the deductible on comprehensive and collision coverage. If you are driving an older vehicle, you may want to think about dropping one or both of these coverages.
5. Neglecting to buy renters insurance. The average renters insurance policy is less than $200 per year ($187 dollars a year) or about $22 per month. For the price of a couple of fancy coffees a week, you can insure the contents of your apartment, as well as get liability protection in the event someone is injured in your home and decides to sue. Lastly, renters insurance policies also provide coverage for additional living expenses—so if you can't live in your home because of a fire or other disaster, you would get the money to live elsewhere temporarily.
A good way to cut the cost of renters insurance: Look into multi-policy discounts. Buying several policies with the same insurer, such as renters, auto and/or life insurance, will generally provide savings.
January 2, 2014 5:03 pm
As 2014 approaches, the go-to resolutions remain unchanged; weight loss, time spent with family and friends and budgeting. One way to cut back on funds is to invest some time and a little money into your home to save on energy bills in the long run. Here are 5 habits that custom homebuilder Nate Abbott, of Falcon Custom Homes, encourages his clients to implement in 2014 that will affect your energy bills in a positive way:
1. Invest in energy technology, like a programmable thermostat, power timers or a smart charger.
2. Vow to never again leave your electronic devices in standby mode. Here are a few items that you probably have in your home along with the amount of money wasted annually by leaving the devices in standby mode instead of shutting them off entirely:
- LCD monitor: $2.51
- Computer: $34.21
- Laptop: $15.90
- Laser printer: $12.43
- Plasma TV: $159.76
- DVD player: $8.67
- Game console: $25.73
- Convection microwave: $3.85
- Rechargeable toothbrush: $1.35
3. Caulk or weather-strip air leaks around doors and windows to keep the warm or cool air in, depending on the time of year.
4. Replace your furnace filter at least every three months for high air quality.
5. Turn off water when brushing your teeth or doing the dishes.
Although some of these tips only save pennies here and there, putting all these tips to use could save you hundreds of dollars annually. By putting these home-oriented resolutions into place, you will begin to find yourself with extra spending money to accomplish your other resolutions