Keep Your Home in Tiptop Shape With These Spring Home Maintenance Tips

Depending on where you live, spring may have sprung. For some of us in the Midwest, we’re still waiting.

No matter where you live, weather can cause damage to your home. Bonnie Pesch, senior personal lines underwriter shares areas to examine on your home after a long, cold winter.

Windows: In the winter, windows ideally keep the cold air out and the warm air in, and in summer, they should do just the opposite. If your windows don’t do this, you’re probably wasting money on your heating/air conditioning bills.

To make sure your windows are doing their job, check that the caulking and weather stripping are still in good condition. If not, replace them. If there’s condensation on your window, either the glass or the window should be replaced. Faulty windows, as well as window trim that’s not maintained properly, can allow moisture into your home. That moisture can lead to mold and damaged dry wall.

Gutters: Gutters should direct water away from your home and help keep it out of your basement. It’s important, however, that the water NOT be directed over a walkway or driveway. If it freezes, it could create a liability exposure for you if someone slips or falls. Gutters expand and contract, depending on the temperature; they should be flush with the roof and not sag or dip.

Roof: Check for loose, missing, or cracked shingles. Are the shingles curling? What about nail-pops? These issues should be addressed to ensure water doesn’t get into your home. An aging roof can be a concern as shingles lose the ability to shed water as they age. Older shingles are also more prone to hail damage. If your roof is getting old, or you see even a small amount of deterioration, don’t wait too long! Over just one summer, sun exposure can increase the rate of the roof’s deterioration, and then before you know it winter in here. Don’t let that aging roof sit in the snow, ice, and rain, hoping no water gets into your home. What a mess it could be!

Foundations: Be sure to examine the foundation for any cracks that can allow water in. Sometimes just caulking cracks isn’t sufficient. Consider contacting a foundation specialist to assess your home.

Exterior Walls: Do you have water stains on your exterior walls? If so, this may be an indication that your gutters aren’t adequately containing rain water. Perhaps the gutters need to be cleaned or straightened. If you have wood siding, check for holes or openings that can allow ants, woodpeckers, or other critters to nest or burrow through. If the paint on your wood siding is peeling, you should properly scrape and re-paint the wood to protect it from the weather elements.

Chimneys: Mortar deterioration can lead to moisture. Repairing the mortar and replacing deteriorated bricks can be a DIY project, but if you’re not comfortable on the roof, call a professional. Also check the cap and screen to be sure they keep water from entering the flue inside the chimney. You should have your chimney/flue inspected and cleaned every year to make sure there are no cracks, deterioration, or debris blocking the hot air/smoke to escape. During the winter, we see a large number of home fires associated with chimneys.

Decks: You should check your deck periodically to be sure the posts are still solid, the deck boards haven’t rotted, and the railings aren’t wobbly. All of these create a liability exposure on your premises. What if someone would fall down the steps because the post or railing wasn’t maintained properly?

When everything is finished and in good condition, I suggest you plant some beautiful flowers, sit back on the deck, and watch your neighbors figure out what repairs they may need.

 

Scott Stueber/West Bend Blog

Flood Insurance Basics

You’ve probably heard this horror story before — someone loses a home due to a flood and learns after the fact that standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flood damage. We want you to be educated about all of the risks you may face – before a loss occurs – so you can decide on appropriate insurance coverage before the damage is done. Spring is a prime season for flooding, so now is a good time to review your options.

Because very few companies offer flood insurance, the U.S. government created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 1968, which is available to homeowners, renters and business owners. Flood insurance is typically required when trying to obtain a mortgage on a home in a higher risk area for flooding.

But, even if you aren’t required to have flood insurance, you might want to look into a policy just for peace of mind. According to the NFIP, nearly 25% of the program’s claims occur in moderate to low-risk areas. Check out the questions and answers below to help determine if flood insurance is right for you.

Is flood insurance available in my area?

To participate in the NFIP, a community must adopt and enforce a floodplain management ordinance with rules regarding construction in certain flood-prone areas. In exchange, the government makes flood insurance available within that community. We’re happy to help you find out if you’re eligible for flood insurance. Just give us a call at 507-252-8720 or visit https://msc.fema.gov/portal.

What does it cover?

The NFIP provides coverage for both the structure and contents, though coverage for contents is optional in some cases.

Keep in mind that you typically can’t purchase flood insurance and have it take effect the next day. There is usually a 30-day waiting period. (Exceptions to this rule apply, however, particularly when the insurance is required by a lender and is purchased during the process of securing a mortgage.) If you think you need flood insurance, don’t wait to buy a policy!

What doesn’t it cover?

Generally, government-issued flood insurance will not cover the following: Buildings entirely over water or principally below ground, gas and liquid storage tanks, animals, aircraft, wharves, piers, bulkheads, growing crops, shrubbery, land, roads, machinery or equipment in the open and most motor vehicles.

How much does it cost?

As with all insurance policies, the cost of flood insurance varies depending on your situation. If your home or business is in a high-risk area, such as a “special flood hazard area,” your premium naturally will be higher than those in low or moderate-risk zones. Premiums are based on how old the building is, how many floors it has, the location of its contents, your deductible and more. Renters insurance is typically less expensive, as renters generally insure their belongings and not the building.

Mark Zoller/Atlas Insurance Brokers

Ten Reasons Why It’s Not Too Late to Buy Term Life Insurance

As you look to the next chapter of your life, you would probably laugh if someone suggested to you that not it’s too late to go back to college, take up a new career, or relive your 20s backpacking days in a far-flung location. You may feel like those days are long behind you (or you may want to dive in to a new experience—hey, have fun!) but it most likely isn’t too late for you to buy term life insurance.

1. Term Life Insurance Protects Adult Children and Grandchildren

If you’re one of the nearly 70 million grandparents in the USA, it might not surprise you to learn that more than 60% of you spend significant amount of time and money each year supporting the needs of adult children and their families.

Even if you’re not a grandparent yet, it’s likely you’re still supporting your child in some way. In fact, nearly 75% of parents of millennials provide them with financial help, and 40% let them move back home after college (if they ever left). This might not be how you envisioned your golden years, but it’s the reality for many families.

If it’s possible that your adult children may require your continued help, your financial plan should include term life insurance that will provide for them and help protect your spouse or partner.

2. Term Life Insurance Replaces Loss of Income

For most people nearing 60, this may be your last opportunity to get a term life insurance policy that can help provide some additional financial security during a time when many are leaving their jobs or hoping to do so soon.

Let’s look at the working landscape at this age:

Although only about 19% of seniors 65 and up are still working in some capacity, nearly 60% of those who are are working full-time. Although many of the 9 million older workers are still at their jobs by choice, a significant number—35%—do so because high costs makes it impossible for them to retire and maintain a comfortable standard of living.

If you think you may be a part of this group who is working past the traditional retirement age, then you should have a term life insurance policy that will protect your loved ones from the impact of lost income when you are gone.

If you are working past the traditional retirement age, then you should have a term life insurance policy that will protect your loved ones from the impact of your lost income when you are gone.

3. Traditional Retirement Benefits Aren’t Certainties

A retirement pension is no longer a certainty in the life of the American worker. In fact, thousands of firms have eliminated pensions altogether, and only about 13% of private sector workers are currently covered by active pension plans.

What’s more, your social security benefits might not even be available to your loved ones after you pass on. In most cases, your spouse will have to choose to receive either your social security benefits (if they are eligible for them) upon your death or their own benefits in the future or social security benefits would have provided for your spouse or partner, while eliminating the need to make them choose.

4. You May Need to Protect Taxable Inherited Assets

Capital gains taxes and state inheritance taxes are just two of the variables that may impact the value of the legacy left to your loved ones, should tax laws change in the future.

While certain wealth transfer tools such as the Roth IRA may provide a buffer, your term life insurance policy will offer your family the monetary security that can help them weather future changes in federal tax laws.

If you’re curious about this particular aspect of your financial future, you can learn more about IRA options and how the best term life insurance can complement your existing retirement plans while supporting your long-term financial goals.

5. Group Life Insurance May End at Retirement

Your employer may offer life insurance as part of your benefits package, but that coverage may end when you retire.

The amount of coverage offered might also not be enough to provide for your family if you have grandchildren, take in an adult child, or help send a grandchild off to college.

While group insurance can be a valuable part of your financial security, we recommend purchasing an individual term life insurance policy that can serve as your base policy.

With your group insurance policy as a supplement, you’ll be assured that your family will still be protected after your retirement, regardless of the amount and term of your group coverage.

6. Accelerated Death Benefit Riders Offer Protection If You Become Terminally Ill

An accelerated death benefit rider allows your family to access a portion of the proceeds of your term life policy early—to use for any purpose—should you develop a terminal illness or should you need to be cared for in a nursing home.

As Baby Boomers now have the longest life expectancy rates in history—84.3 years—it is important to have a term life insurance policy that offers an accelerated death benefit rider to protect your family in the event that you become gravely ill.

7. Term Life Insurance Can Provide for Your Great-Grandchildren

Although it may be far off, as a grandparent you have the opportunity to leave your grandchildren with funds that they can set aside for their own children.

This can help them pay for college, buy a home, or start a business. That means that your legacy can reach across two generations, and it doesn’t require you to be a billionaire to do so.

8. You Can Still Support a Cause That You Believe In

Your favorite charities will likely continue to support causes close to your heart long after you are gone.

If you have altruistic intentions for your finances, you can even name a charity or other non-profit as a beneficiary for your life insurance policy. The best part is that your posthumous donation may be far more than you could have afforded if you were simply paying out-of-pocket, making a bigger impact with your legacy!

» Learn more: Using Life Insurance to Help Your Favorite Charity

9. Term Life Insurance Can Pay Off Outstanding Debt

At the end of your life, there may be bills and expenses that remain unpaid, along with assorted fees related to the transfer of your estate.

Rather than deplete your assets and leave a diminished legacy to your loved ones, your term life insurance policy can take care of your debt so that your family receives the full amount that you planned to leave them.

10. Term Life Insurance Covers End-of-Life Expenses

Burial and funeral expenses may be a significant burden for your family.

We know that’s probably the last thing that you would want for your loved ones as they are managing their grief. Term life insurance benefits can cover burial and funeral costs that may impact their finances at an already trying time in their lives.

While there are some age limits for those who want to qualify for a term life policy, the insurance advisors at Quotacy have been helping seniors and their families find policies that protect loved ones across generations.

Even if you’ve passed the perfect age to get life insurance, there are still life insurance companies that offer policies to individuals who are in their later years.

by | Feb 19, 2018 | InsuranceLife /Quotacy Blog

The Importance of Having a Healthcare Power of Attorney

Before we get into the importance of having a healthcare power of attorney, let’s define some key terms.

Power of Attorney – A power of attorney (POA) is a document that states a person or organization you name to act on your behalf in regards to handling financial and business transactions.  Unless the POA is durable, it becomes invalid if you become incapacitated.  For example, a non-durable POA may be used to grant someone the power to close on real estate in your name if you’re out of the country.  A durable POA gives someone the power to make financial decisions on your behalf even if you become mentally or physically incompetent.

Healthcare Power of Attorney (also referred to as Medical Power of Attorney) – A healthcare POA is a document that states a person you name who has the authority to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so, for example if you’re unconscious or mentally incapable.

Living Will – A living will is a document that states your medical care wishes should you become incapacitated or seriously ill and you cannot communicate your preferences.

A Last Will and Testament – A last will and testament, simply known as a will, is a document that states what you wish to have happen to your assets after your death.  This document also states who you wish to become guardians to your children (or even pets) if you have them.

These four estate planning documents are all important and it’s a smart move for you to have all four in place.  This blog post will focus on healthcare power of attorney, but we’ll mention the other documents as well.

Lack of Estate Planning Can Create Chaos

You may remember the Terri Schiavo case from the 90s.  Schiavo was in her home when sudden cardiac arrest occurred.  She was successfully resuscitated but was left comatose.  The doctors who examined her believed she would never emerge from her coma.  Her husband wanted her feeding tube removed to allow her to die since she was in a permanent vegetative state.  Schiavo’s parents disagreed and a court battle begun.  This federal court case would even reach President George W. Bush.

For over 15 years, Terri Schiavo was kept on life support as her parents and husband disputed what should happen to Terri.  Terri’s husband believed Terri would not want to be kept alive in such a state.  Terri’s parents believed she would have wanted to live by any means necessary.

They had to guess because Terri Schiavo had no living will nor a healthcare power of attorney.  In March 2005, Schiavo’s feeding tube was finally removed for a final time.

The Schiavo case is just one of many in which families are torn apart because a loved one dies without having the proper planning documents in place.

A living will deals with your health wishes while still living. A will states what you wish to have happen to your assets when you die. It’s not one or the other, you should have both.

Why is a healthcare power of attorney important?

A living will and healthcare power of attorney work well together.  In a living will, you describe your wishes for medical treatment in the event that you are unable to express them yourself.

  • Would you prefer life-prolonging treatment regardless of your quality of life?
  • Would you prefer doctors to withhold treatment if you couldn’t feed yourself?
  • Would you want a respirator but only up to a specific period of time?
  • Would you want your body donated to science?

These are just some of the things you can address in a living will.  To clarify, a living will is different than a last will and testament.  A living will deals with your health wishes while still living.  A will states what you wish to have happen to your assets when you die.  It’s not one or the other, you should have both.

If you’re over the age 18, have no healthcare POA, and suddenly become incapacitated, typically doctors will reach out for health care decisions to family and friends in the following order:

  1. Spouse
  2. Adult children
  3. Parents
  4. Siblings
  5. Grandchild
  6. Close family friends
  7. Guardian of the estate

This may cause family strife if your loved ones don’t agree and courts may get involved which can be emotionally and financially draining and time-consuming.

What is a health care agent?

A trustworthy person with your best interests at heart is ideal when choosing a health care agent – this is the person who carries out the healthcare power of attorney.  While your living will states your wishes, it is only put into effect if you have been medically determined to be in a permanent vegetative state or terminally ill, and therefore unable to communicate medical preferences.  Your health care agent can make medical decisions on your behalf even if you do not fall into that category.  For example, if you have Alzheimer’s and become mentally incompetent your health care agent becomes your healthcare decision maker.

Oftentimes people name the same person to be both their healthcare power of attorney and general durable power of attorney, but this isn’t required.  If you pick two different individuals for these roles, it’s important that they see eye-to-eye.  One is in charge of your health care decisions and the other is in charge of your finances and these need to coordinate.

For example, say you have Alzheimer’s and your health care agent believes you would want to have in-home 24-hour care, but your power of attorney refuses to pay for 24-hour care and believes a nursing home to be a better choice.  Now what?  If they can’t come to terms, they will need to go to court to figure it out.

How to Get a Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney

If you’re over 18 and considered of sound mind, you can create both documents.  While it’s preferable to hire a lawyer to create both to ensure you don’t miss anything, it’s not required.  Many lawyers will charge one flat fee to prepare both documents but this fee can vary anywhere from $300 to over $1000.

In lieu of hiring a lawyer, you can create both a living will and healthcare power of attorney yourself online.  There are many reputable companies that offer these services online at a reasonable cost such as LegalZoom, Rocket Lawyer, and Giving Docs.  The state you live in will have its own forms.  These forms will need to be signed in front of witnesses and most states require them to be notarized as well.

Don’t postpone getting these documents in place.  Your life can change drastically at any moment.  Be sure to discuss with your health care agent of choice before drawing up the documents and make sure they understand your wishes and their responsibilities.

Natasha Cornelius/ Quotacy Blog

Photo credit to: eliola

The Dangers of Hoarding And How It Affects Insurance Coverage

Hoarding has not only become a popular topic for media coverage, it’s also a trending topic in the insurance industry. Because it’s more prevalent in our society today, Jenny Bischoff senior personal lines underwriter will explain the practice of hoarding and how it affects insurance coverage and claims.

Approximately 1 in 20 Americans have hoarding tendencies. There are five levels of hoarding. They range from Level One where clutter isn’t excessive and all doors and stairways are still accessible, to Level Five where clutter is excessive, multiple appliances are broken, and the home has even suffered structural damage.

Many people collect things and having a large collection that’s properly stored and/or displayed isn’t hoarding. Like collectors, hoarders keep things that are important to them. The difference is that the items hoarders collect typically have no value and they collect excessive amounts. With only so much space in the home, accumulation often leads to losing access to such areas as stairs and exits. Hoarders also stop inviting family and friends over and generally won’t allow anyone inside.

Some of the risks associated with homes occupied by hoarders include water damage, mold growth, structural damage, and increased trip and fall hazards. Let’s review a few different scenarios of serious situations that could cause loss to the property, to those living inside, and to others who enter the home.

  1. Fire Risk. When a home has become so filled with possessions that there’s no access to exits and stairs, there’s a real risk of death should a fire start in the home. Occupants won’t be able to easily escape. First responders won’t be unable to locate people and animals to help them get out; blocked exits and stairs also increase the risk to their own safety.
  2. Water Damage. If there’s a leak in the kitchen, but the kitchen is so filled with “stuff,” the inhabitants can’t see where the water’s accumulating. This could result in a large claim for water damage to the home, as well as to the insured’s possessions. It could also eventually lead to mold growth. Even if the hoarder knows a plumbing issue exists — and where — they typically won’t call a plumber to fix the problem because they don’t want anyone in the home. This could mean plumbing problems go unfixed for so long, the facilities in the home (bathrooms, kitchen, etc.) become unusable.
  3. Structural Damage. Sometimes a hoarder has such a huge accumulation of belongings, the home can no longer bear the weight and this leads to structural damage.
  4. Fall Hazards. The number of items in the home, and the way they’re stored, can create an increased liability risk of trip and fall hazards. In addition, a pile of “stuff” could fall on top of the inhabitants or visitors.

When an insurance carrier is made aware of a hoarding issue, the underwriter will typically decide to stop providing coverage. The liability, fire, mold, and water damage risks associated with hoarding are reason enough, but the bigger issue is that there’s no easy or quick fix. A hoarder may be able to get the home cleaned up enough that it appears insurable, but for how long?

While it’s easy to point out the risks and liabilities associated with a home occupied by a hoarder, it’s not easy to discuss this problem with the hoarder. Reality TV makes light of the situation by turning it into an hour of entertainment for those not afflicted by this disease, but it’s a very serious condition. If you know someone who has this disease, there are resources to help you help them, and professional help is the way to go. Local resources are also available; here are a few options:

Hoardingcleanup.com, 888-577-7206
Hoarding.iocdf.org
Hoarders.com, 800-462-7337 (live help line)

Scott Stueber/West Bend Blog

How Do Life Insurance Policy Payouts Work?

Buying a life insurance policy is like buying a safety net for your family. You won’t be able to provide for them, so you buy a policy. The payout the policy provides will replace your income and help them stay comfortable and fed even after your death.

However, policies don’t automatically pay out right when the person they cover dies. When a family needs to file a life insurance claim, there is a process in place to help them and the insurance carrier through the payout.

How to file a life insurance claim

Filing a life insurance claim is actually a simple process. To start, you should try to track down the insurance policy that covered the person who passed away and search for the claims website of the carrier that issued it.

Today, most carriers will allow you to start your insurance claim online. However, some are still a little old-fashioned. If the carrier doesn’t accept claims online, it’s possible that you’ll need to mail or fax in physical copies of the documents they need.

Typically, there are only a few things you need in order to file a claim on a life insurance policy.

  • A certified copy of the insured’s Death Certificate. You can get these from the insured’s funeral director.
  • The carrier’s official Claim Form. You can often complete these online through the carrier’s website, though some carriers will need you to print the form out and file a hard copy by mail.
  • A copy of the Insurance Policy. It helps to speed up the process of filing a claim if you can provide the policy number and your beneficiary information.

Depending on the carrier, you may also need to have a few other things. Some carriers require you to have the physical policy on hand in order to submit a claim. Others even request that you submit a newspaper account of the death, such as an obituary, though this is fairly uncommon.

To get started, either the agent or the beneficiary of the policy should get in touch with the carrier and provide the date and cause of death. Then, the carrier will send you a Claims Packet either via physical mail or email.

The Claims Packet contains the forms that you need to complete and a list of the necessary pieces of information you need to gather in order to submit your claim smoothly. Submitting all of the paperwork the carrier needs in one bundle will help speed up the process.

After you submit all of the information they require, the carrier will take a few days to verify the details of the insured’s death and pull together the money needed for the payout. From the moment you submit your claim to the moment you receive your payout, the process typically takes around one week, and rarely ever more than 14 days.

Why a carrier could dispute or delay your claim

Life insurance claims are normally a fairly seamless process. However, there are certain situations that might delay your claim. Most of these have to do with how the person being insured died, especially in situations where the carrier suspects insurance fraud. A claim might be delayed if any of these situations applies to the insured:

  • If the insured dies within the two year “Contestability Period” after buying their policy. (This period only lasts one year in a few states.)
  • If the insured’s death was caused by homicide.

In some cases, the carrier might have the ability to deny payment on a life insurance claim based on their policy’s terms and conditions. These include:

  • If the insured dies of suicide within the contestability period after buying their policy.
  • If the insured dies while doing something illegal, like drunk driving.
  • If the insured dies within the two year contestability period due to a risky hobby (like skydiving or auto racing) that wasn’t mentioned in their initial application.

Depending on the carrier, there may also be other stipulations that could delay or halt a payout. Talk to an agent if you’d like to know exactly what is in the fine print of a family member’s insurance policy.

From the moment you submit your claim to the moment you receive your payout, the process typically takes around one week, and rarely ever more than 14 days.

How receiving a death benefit works

If you receive the death benefit of a life insurance policy, you will have the option to receive the death benefit in a few different ways.

The most common option for receiving a life insurance payout is as a Lump Sum, in which the entire face amount is paid to the beneficiary at once. This offers quick access to the funds of the life insurance policy, which allows your beneficiaries to pay off large costs like mortgages quickly, eliminating interest costs in the future. This makes lump sum payouts the best choice for most beneficiaries.  

However, the benefits of a life insurance policy are also available in Installments: smaller payments over time. Getting a payout in installments means that it takes longer to get the full face amount, but because the carrier can hold on to a portion of your money for longer, they add interest to the policy’s value, like a bank. If you aren’t a savvy investor who knows how to get the most out of a lump sum through investment, an installment plan can net your beneficiaries more guaranteed money in the long run.

One thing to keep in mind about installment plans is that while the actual death benefit of a policy isn’t subject to income tax, any additional interest that builds up over time IS taxed as income. This means that while beneficiaries will receive more guaranteed money in the long run with interest, they might be able to make more by taking the lump sum and making smart investments.

Depending on the carrier the policy is placed with, you may have different options for receiving your payout. These five options are some of the most common and popular installment plans, but they may not be available on every policy.

Payout Checkbook

A relatively new type of payout, some carriers have begun offering beneficiaries a checkbook linked to the face amount of the policy. Basically, the carrier holds the money in an account that you are able to withdraw from by writing checks from the payout checkbook. Because they still hold the money, the carrier can offer interest on the portion they hold until the face amount is entirely used up.

Getting your payout as a checkbook offers a lot of flexibility. You can choose to pay individual costs and accumulate interest on top of the face amount, or simply write yourself a check for the entire face amount and transfer the money all at once. However, because it’s a fairly new way of handling payouts, not all carriers offer this option yet.

Specific Income

By choosing Specific Income, a beneficiary can set a schedule for their payouts to be delivered annually as a set amount of extra income.

For example, if the beneficiary of a $1,000,000 policy chose to receive specific income, they could ask to be paid $100,000 plus interest annually for 10 years, $50,000 plus interest annually for 20 years, or even an amount like $33,333 plus interest for 30 years. The beneficiary sets the payment schedule and the carrier pays regularly until the money has run out.

Interest Income

Interest income is a great option for large policies that will accumulate a good amount of interest year over year. Basically, the life insurance carrier will hold onto the death benefit itself, but will pay the interest to the beneficiary. These payments will continue either until the beneficiary’s death or a time they set when the claim is made.

If the beneficiary sets a time to stop receiving interest payments and is alive when that time comes, they will receive the full death benefit of the policy then. If the first beneficiary dies while receiving interest payments, the death benefit will go entirely to a second “contingent” beneficiary.

For example, if a beneficiary chose to receive interest income from a $1,000,000 policy, and we assume that the interest rate stays at a clean 2%, they would receive $20,000 annually until their death, minus income taxes. When that beneficiary dies, the policy’s face amount would transfer over to another beneficiary, who can choose to receive the full face amount however they wish.

Because you’re only receiving the interest that your payout accumulates, the face amount of the policy stays intact, which can help stretch the money out for a much longer time.

Life Income

Using this plan, the insurance carrier will calculate a fixed guaranteed amount of monthly income based on the death benefit amount, gender, and age for the life of the beneficiary. However, this lifespan estimate doesn’t account for things like illnesses or conditions the beneficiary already has – only their age and gender.

For example, let’s say that a 60 year old female is expected to live to 80, and they are the beneficiary of a $1,000,000 life insurance policy. She would receive a calculated guaranteed equal amount each month she lives based on her age. This payout amount will remain constant even if the beneficiary outlives the carrier’s prediction.

For the personal finance experts out there, it helps to think of this type of payout as annuity built using fixed withdrawals from the policy. This means that the insurance company will calculate the amount of payout based on her age and this amount is fixed for her entire life.

However, when the beneficiary passes away, the insurance carrier will stop payments, even if the death occurs earlier than their prediction. With this option, there is a chance that a beneficiary could lose a portion of the face amount.

Life Income with “Period Certain”

This payout option is designed to offset some of the risk involved with the Life Income installment plan in exchange for smaller individual payments.

Basically, adding a “period certain” to a payout means that the carrier will pay for either your beneficiary’s expected lifespan based on their age and gender, or for a set amount of time – whichever is longer. To offset this additional cost, carriers offer lower rates of payment.

For example: Imagine a 50-year-old received a payout as life income with a period certain of 20 years. If they died at 65, their estate would receive the regular payments for an additional five years until the period ended.

 

If you ever have any questions about how to handle your life insurance payout, our agents and advisors can help – even if the policy you ask about wasn’t bought with us. Feel free to get in touch with Quotacy, and our team of experts will be able to answer your questions and walk you through the process.

Eric Lindholm/Quotacy Life Insurance Blog

Photo credit to Dawid Sobolewski

 

Little Changes in Daily Habits Can Produce Big Savings

You’ve survived the big spending season known as the holidays and may be dismayed at the state of your finances – credit card bills due, depleted funds in your savings account and a general feeling of being broke. Welcome to January.

If you’re like many people who make New Year’s resolutions, you may be dreaming about ending the cycle of spending too much with a firm resolve to increase your savings. Take courage – it’s not as hard as you may think. Here are some practical tips on how to live on less and save more in 2018:

Sign Up for Free Customer Rewards Programs

Plenty of retailers, online as well as actual stores, offer rewards for shopping at their business. These are discounts, rebates and special sales just for members of the club. The down side is having your inbox filled with offers, sometimes several times a week or even daily, from a single retailer. There’s a way to control the influx of messages, however, if you create a special email address on Google or Yahoo just for these offers.

Then when you need to purchase items, open your designated mailbox and look for deals. Resist browsing for sales when you don’t actually need to buy some random item offered at a great price. Impulse buying defeats the goal, which is purposeful saving.

Pause for 24 Hours

When you do come across something you think you have to buy this very minute, resist the temptation to engage in retail therapy to give yourself an emotional boost. The lure of the merchandise – an electronic gadget, an article of clothing, a new CD – will produce only momentary joy. All you really buy is something you most likely don’t need and that will chip away at your cash or add to your credit card bill.

Instead, wait for a day and think it over. If you still believe you need the item, instant gratification is probably not driving your decision. On day two, shop for the very best deal you can find on the item and go ahead and buy it.

Control Your Grocery Shopping

Strongly consider using cash only when shopping for groceries. It’s a well-known retail fact that you’ll spend about 30 percent more when you’re in a store with a credit or debit card. Instead, do a little research on what you’ve spent over the past few months for groceries and set a weekly grocery budget. Then get that much cash and plan a weekly shopping trip.

Check the ads for items on sale, plan your meals accordingly and make a list, following the layout of your grocery store. Then when filling up your basket, keep a mental tally – or use a calculator – to stay within your cash means. Stick to your list. Plan your grocery trips carefully to avoid times when you’re rushed and desperate for groceries – or worse, hungry –when the impulse purchases kick in. Use any leftover cash each week to roll over to the next week’s grocery shopping. If you still have a surplus at the end of the month, reward yourself with lunch or dinner out.

Use the Library

If you’ve been a stranger to your local library in recent years, reacquaint yourself with all it offers. LIbraries have more than books – music CDs, movies and TV series on DVD, audio books, games, puzzles, computer games, toys, special interest clubs and even free classes. All paid for with your tax dollars, but at no cost when you walk in the door.

You don’t even have to actually visit some libraries to take advantage of conveniences such as electronic books delivered right to your tablet or computer, or streaming music and movies. Stop in your local library, sign up for a card and discover all it has to offer, which is plenty of free entertainment and education.

Carry Your Lunch

Spending $10 a couple of times a week on lunch doesn’t seem like much, but it does add up to a big chunk of money. Buying a $10 lunch once a week costs you about $490 a year, while a daily $10 lunch habit will add up to $2,450 per year, based on an average work year of 49 weeks. Add 50 percent more if you work in a metro area where lunch out averages $15. That equals $735 a year for a once-a-week lunch, or $3,675 a year for a daily restaurant habit.

You can carry your lunch from home for a fraction of the cost, generally about $3 a day. Pack it the night before and vary the menu to avoid the same old, same old boredom. Rotate sandwiches with salads, soups and leftovers to keep your lunchbox more interesting and check cooking websites for brown-bag inspiration.

Recommit to a Savings Plan

Maybe you’ve always had good intentions of saving X percent of your paycheck, but real life got in the way and it doesn’t happen on a regular basis. Start the New Year right by paying yourself first, which is classic sound financial advice. Automate a monthly transfer of funds from your checking account to a savings or investment account.

If you’re saving for a specific purpose – a vacation, new furniture, a car – determine exactly how much you need to save each week to meet your goal. If you do get a pay raise this year, discipline yourself to increase your weekly savings to include half of your raise. Enjoy the rest of your pay hike, as you earned it, but keep focused on your goal and enjoy watching the results of your ongoing savings habit.

Try a few of these tips and enjoy the benefits of spending less and saving more, without really feeling any pain. How many more ways can you discover to boost your bottom line?

 SelectQuote Life Insurance Blog

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SelectQuote Life Insurance Blog

Building Your Cars Winter Emergency Kit

Challenging winter weather is a fact of life for much of the country. Frigid temperatures, freezing rain, snow drifts and icy roads may all be part of your winter driving season. Imagine that you’re driving late at night, and there’s a major snowstorm. Or, maybe you have car trouble. Perhaps you slide off the road and get stuck. Or, what if you got into an accident, and now the occupants of multiple vehicles are stranded? Keeping a properly stocked winter car emergency kit may help you survive.

What to Choose for Your Winter Emergency Kit

If you live in, or expect to drive through, an area that suffers from winter weather (including freezing temperatures, snow and ice), the Colorado Department of Transportation suggests your emergency kit should include these items:

  • First aid kit
  • Essential medications
  • Flares or reflectors to signal for help and warn other drivers
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Jumper cables
  • Snow and ice scraper
  • Snow brush
  • Survival blanket or sleeping bag
  • Tire chains and/or tow straps
  • Extra set of winter clothes
  • Snow shovel
  • Non-clumping kitty litter or sand for traction

Some Extra Things to Consider

If you want to be extra prepared, Ready.gov recommends a few additional things you may consider:

  • Keep a portable cell phone charger with you.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full.
  • Have a mechanic check your car’s antifreeze, brakes, heater and defroster, tires and windshield wipers to help ensure they are in good shape.

If you have an accident or get stuck in serious weather this winter, you’ll be relieved that you were prepared.

Allstate Blog

A Little More Gold in Your Golden Years

A Little More Gold in Your Golden Years – Working During Retirement

Financial Independence October 31, 2017

 

Some people live to work and others must work in order to live. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, if you’re over 65, US Social Security statistics indicate an average of 20 years of life yet to live. Two decades (or more) of retirement requires a healthy nest egg and investing in some good hobbies.

Whether for fear of outliving retirement savings or simply a desire to do something more than chase the grandkids or a little white ball, part-time work after retirement may be a good–or necessary–option.

And for good reason. Actually, seven:

  1. Income

According to Fidelity Investments’ annual survey, only 45 percent of Americans will be able to afford essentials such as housing, healthcare and food in their golden years. Working during retirement can help supplement your Social Security benefits, enable you to continue to save money and provide a better quality of life once you stop full-time work.

  1. Let the nest egg grow

The less you have to draw from your retirement savings, the more that remains in your 401(k) or IRA, enabling those assets to continue earning interest and/or dividends.

  1. More benefits

Medicare only covers a percentage of your medical expenses. Some large employers offer full medical benefits even for part-time employees, which may be better than Medicare or provide a valuable supplement.

  1. Less stress

Forget lying awake at night wondering where the next sale will come from, whether you’ll beat the deadline or if the client is happy enough. This is your chance to do something you love, or at least endure fewer sleepless nights when the stress isn’t full-time.

  1. Stay in the game

Post-retirement depression and anxiety is real. If you spend 40 to 50 years working, producing and functioning in a team environment, the psychological impact of a sudden stop can take its toll on your self-esteem. Continuing work, in whatever capacity, can ease the transition.

  1. Stay sharp

Let’s face it, when you have a work schedule to keep, it’s hard to forget what day of the week it is. Working in any job also demands some degree of problem-solving and other cognitive exercise. Like any muscle, as age advances, you must use your brain to stay sharp.

  1. Stay on purpose

Maybe you spent your career teaching, coaching, calculating, lawyering, cutting deals or whatever. Chances are you did it because that’s your gift. You can now pass on that gift to someone else, without dealing in all the politics of the workplace and the need to climb the ladder.

What About Collecting Social Security?

How a job affects your base benefits depends on when you start taking them. Although full retirement age might be 67, you can start receiving benefits at 62, even if you’re still working. However, if you elect to receive benefits prior to full retirement age, you may only earn up to $16,920 before Social Security deducts $1 from your benefits for every $2 you earn.

Once you reach 67, though, the limit goes to $44,880, and then $1 is deducted for every $3 you earn, and only from earnings prior to the month you reached full retirement age. Starting in the month you reach full retirement age, you can make as much money as possible without losing any benefit payments.

Whether you’ve reached the top of your career ladder and are looking for a less rigorous pace or need to climb your way out of a retirement savings hole, doing some part-time work through retirement can definitely add some extra gold to your golden years.

 

Select Quote Life Insurance Services Blog

Real-World Options to Pay Down Debt

Real-World Options to Pay Down Debt

Financial Considerations

 

Debt—it seems to sink its claws into just about everyone at some point. From student loans and credit cards to car loans and mortgages, eight out of ten Americans have debt of some sort according to a July 2015 study from The Pew Charitable Trusts. Still, becoming debt free isn’t impossible. In fantasy land, you might inherit a cool million from a long lost aunt thrice removed and voila, you have the windfall you need to eliminate your debts. But for those of us facing reality, fear not. These real-world steps will work for anyone who is on a journey to pay down outstanding balances.

Understand Your Numbers

Total up your debt

Before you can begin to slay your debt, it is essential to know exactly where you stand. While you are running the numbers, make sure you are clear on what debt actually is. Anything you don’t own outright is a form of debt.

While you may have heard that mortgages are “good debt,” you still will want to include it in your calculations. Once you are clear on what your debts are, grab a pen and paper, use a spreadsheet program or net worth calculators in free apps such as Personal Capital or Mint to total up all of your debts and to keep your balances all in one place.

Calculate the interest

Now that you know how much debt you have, you should look at how much interest is being charged on each account. Typically, your consumer debt from credit cards and student loan debt will have the highest interest rates. Depending on when you took out your mortgage or car loan, those rates may be significantly lower.

Figure out your expenses

Once you know how much debt you have, you’ll want to know how much of your income and expenses are taken up by debt each month. To do this, you will want to track your spending for several months to understand your expense categories and determine an average amount of expenses. Then, use a budgeting spreadsheet  you create or an online budget tool to stay on track.

Make a Plan

Choose a payoff method

With an understanding of how much debt you owe and how much interest you are being charged, you can now put together a payoff plan. Some people prefer to tackle their smallest loan first in the debt snowball method to build momentum, while others prefer to go after the debt with the highest interest rate in the debt avalanche method.

Trim expenses

To make your payments pack a real punch, consider trimming back on some of your expenses. Cut back on happy hours to once a month. Ditch cable. Switch from your regular cell phone service provider to a low-cost carrier. Rein in your grocery bill by shopping sale ads and using up items in your fridge and pantry. After you have reduced your expenses, transfer that savings directly to your debt.

Increase income

At this point on your journey, you have a payoff plan and you’ve accelerated your payments by trimming expenses. Still, cutting expenses can only go so far, especially if you put your ramen noodle days behind you once you left college. Increasing your income by asking for a raise, creating side income streams, or even switching jobs can go a long way in paying down debt as long as you remember one key step: save, don’t spend, the increase.

Create an Emergency Fund

You will also want to build up an emergency fund in a separate savings account. Baby steps are great. Set aside whatever you can spare, start small with $10 or $20 a week and work your way up to $50 or $100 a week. That way, if you are hit with unexpected expenses such as an illness or major car repairs, you won’t be tempted to swipe your credit card. After all, you’re working on decreasing debt, not building more of it.

Get Creative

Find free activities

To sustain a debt-free lifestyle, you may want to add some frugal and fun activities to your week. Swing by your local library, not just for reading material, but for audiobooks, DVDs or museum passes. Spend more time in the great outdoors. Recruit your friends for game night or take turns hosting happy hour at home. There are countless ways to have fun without breaking the bank.

Start a side hustle

If frugal living isn’t your jam, consider a side hustle or passion project to boost your bottom line. This side income streams could range from pet sitting or running an Etsy shop to tutoring or mystery shopping. Flexjobs.com, Upwork.com and Freelancer.com are just a few of the popular sites with listings where you can pick up part-time, freelance or “gig” work. You have to pinky promise you’ll bank your income rather than inflate your lifestyle. That way, when you dump your debt, it’s the forever kind of breakup.

Living Debt Free

It’s no secret that many Americans feel like they are drowning in debt. In fact, many people accept it as a way of life. However, being debt free doesn’t have to be a fantasy. If you are willing to manage your debt by understanding your numbers, making a plan and getting creative, these real world options will help you pay down your debt faster than you can imagine.

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