August is National Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month

August is National Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month. While you’re likely focused on back-to-school shopping and planning, this is a reminder to schedule your annual eye exams as well. Eye exams are especially important at a young age since good eyesight leads to better learning.

How can an eye exam help my child?

Eye exams can identify a number of complications that are easily treated early on. Children’s eye exams can not only tell you if your child needs corrective lenses but can also spot astigmatisms and “lazy eyes” and correct them.

When should I schedule my child’s first eye exam?

The American Optometric Association (AOA), recommends that a child’s first eye exam should be at six-months old. At this age, doctors can ensure that your child’s eyes are developing normally.

The AOA suggests school-aged children receive annual examinations, especially outside of school-offered vision screenings. As children grow, their eyes can change quickly, so annual check-ups are a great way to spot and track any changes.

How can I pay for my child’s eye exam?

Paying for glasses and contacts can be expensive. However, vision insurance can help cover the costs of eye exams, as well as part of the costs associated with glasses and contacts.


How can I get the most out of my vision insurance?

There are multiple ways to get the most out of your vision insurance aside from scheduling annual check-ups. At your checkup, ask to try on glasses so a doctor can give you accurate measurements for your glasses size. Consider buying glasses and contacts online rather than at the eye doctor. Purchasing online is most often the cheaper route, and sites like Warby Parker even offer a free home try on the package.

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Do All Parents Need Life Insurance?

In May we celebrate and thank Mom for everything she does.  In June we celebrate and thank Dad for everything he does.  In July we celebrate and thank them both!  Did you know that the fourth Sunday in July is National Parents’ Day?  Parents deserve thanks every day, but three national holidays dedicated to them is a good start.

I imagine that being a parent is the most challenging, yet rewarding, experience you can ever go through.  When you have your first child, you realize the world is bigger than just you.  As you make decisions in life you think “How will this affect my kids?”  Buying life insurance is one of these important decisions.  “If I die and don’t have life insurance, what happens to my kids?”

Buying Life Insurance
Pros:
  • Children can stay in their childhood home
  • Surviving spouse can afford to take time off work to spend with children
  • Family’s standard of living won’t need to change
  • Spouse can afford to send children to college
  • It can be customized to fit in most budgets
Cons:
  • It’s not free

There are all kinds of parents:

  • Married spouses who co-parent
  • Divorced individuals who co-parent
  • Unmarried partners who co-parent
  • Single parents
  • Stay-at-home parents

No two parents are the same, but you know what they all have in common?  They all need life insurance to protect their loved ones should they die prematurely.  Term life insurance is affordable and provides many benefits.

Term Life Insurance for Married Parents

There is a gender gap in life insurance.  Fewer women than men have life insurance and, in addition, own less coverage on average.  If you have children and you both bring home a paycheck, you both need life insurance.  If you have children and only one of you brings home a paycheck, you both still need life insurance.

Is it written somewhere that dad is more likely to die unexpectedly than mom?  No.  You never know what life may bring – both parents need to own life insurance.

Married same sex couples need life insurance as well.  Same sex couples raising children need to think about what would happen if one or both of them should pass away.  With same sex marriage being legal across the U.S., same sex couples won’t have any issue purchasing life insurance on one another or naming each other beneficiary.

Term Life Insurance for Divorced Parents

In most cases, divorce doesn’t change the fact that you both love and care for your children.  Both parents need life insurance.  In fact, in some divorce cases the court may order the parents to buy life insurance policies to ensure the financial futures of the children.

In amicable divorces, some choose to leave their ex-spouse as their policy’s beneficiary still trusting that they will put their children’s needs first.  Others choose to change their beneficiary to their children.  However, if the children are still minors then an adult custodian would need to be named instead.

Term Life Insurance for Unmarried Parents

On average, today couples are postponing marriage, but not necessarily postponing having children.  You don’t have to be married to buy life insurance on each other, but it’s easier to prove insurable interest this way.  (Insurable interest exists when you would feel financial consequences upon the death of another person.)  However, having children together is proof of insurable interest.

You could also opt to own your own life insurance and name your partner as a beneficiary.  Be sure you name a contingent beneficiary whom you trust to use the policy benefit for your children in case both you and your partner die at the same time, such as in a car accident.  If you both pass away and you named no one else as a beneficiary, the policy benefits are then added to your estate and held up during the probate process as a court decides what to do with the money.

Term Life Insurance for Single Parents

Arguably, single parents have the greatest need for life insurance.  There is no other parent for your children to fall back on if you should pass away.  Making a plan to protect them financially if you are suddenly no longer around to provide is essential.  You’ll want enough life insurance coverage to replace your income, pay for child care, and cover your final expenses.  It’s also critical that you choose a responsible guardian who is willing and able to care for your children should you die.

Typically couples will name each other as beneficiaries since they hope one will survive to care for the children, single parents should consider creating a trust and naming it as the beneficiary of the policy.  Minor children cannot receive life insurance death benefits so a trust can be set up to ensure the death benefit is distributed and used according to your wishes.

Term Life Insurance for Stay-at-Home Parents

Term life insurance is always explained as “income replacement” so if you don’t provide an income, then you don’t need life insurance, right?  Wrong.  A stay-at-home parent may not generate an income, but this allows a family to save money by not hiring out for various responsibilities such as child care.  According to Care.com, child care is the largest annual household expense, averaging $18,000 for U.S. families.  If a stay-at-home parent were to suddenly pass away, would the surviving parent be able to find an extra $18,000 per year to hire someone to care of their children while they were at work?  What about someone to clean the house or transport children to and from school and extracurricular activities?

It’s a mistake to think that life insurance is only for breadwinning parents.  Unless the family is considerably wealthy, the mortgage is paid off, and there is a substantial amount in the savings account, a stay-at-home parent needs life insurance too.

How much does term life insurance cost for parents?

Term life insurance is quite affordable and the term length and coverage amount can be customized to fit in most budgets.  A term policy can ensure your family is able stay in their home, provide funds for college tuition, and pay for your final expenses should you die unexpectedly.  How much life insurance you need depends on your individual situation.  Consider the following questions.

  • Do you have debt you want life insurance to pay off? For example, a mortgage, student loans, credit cards, or car loans.
  • How much monthly income does your family need? The amount your paycheck provides is a good place to start.
  • How many years do you think your family needs that monthly income before they are financially stable?

Remember: term insurance is structured to only last a specific period of time – typically when your family is most financially vulnerable.  How long you want the term insurance to last depends on a few factors such as how young your children are, how much time you have left on your mortgage loan, how close you are to retirement, and what your budget is.  For example, if your children are teenagers and you only have 10 years left on your mortgage, you probably don’t need a 30-year term policy.  However, if you just had your first child and want to make sure your child will have the funds to go to college, and recently purchased your first home, then you’ll want to consider at least a 20-year term policy.

Let’s take a look at some numbers to get an idea on how much life insurance costs.

Example:

 

The debt you want paid off if you die:

  • Mortgage loan = $215,000
  • Credit card debt = $10,000

The monthly income you provide: $4000

How many years your family will need this income = 5 years

Using the Needs Analysis Calculator on our website, $465,000 in coverage is a good estimate.  (Or you can manually add up 215,000 + 10,000 + (4000 x 12×5).) We’ll round up to $500,000 in the table below.

Your children are two and five years old.  You decide you want your term policy to last until they both are at least 25 years old so you decide a 25-year term policy is best.

 
Estimated Monthly Cost of a 25-Year $500,000 Term Life Insurance Policy
Healthy 30-Year-Old Male = $29 Healthy 30-Year-Old Female = $25
Healthy 35-Year-Old Male = $34 Healthy 35-Year-Old Female = $29
Healthy 40-Year-Old Male = $48 Healthy 40-Year-Old Female = $40
Healthy 45-Year-Old Male = $76 Healthy 45-Year-Old Female = $58

Do the costs surprise you?  Americans overestimate the cost of life insurance by as much as 213 percent, meaning some people think that a healthy 30-year-old male is actually going to pay $90.77 per month for the above policy instead of only $29.  That’s quite the difference.

As you can see, the cost of life insurance increases as you age and because women statistically live longer than men they have cheaper premiums.  Having some life insurance is better than having none at all, so if you are unsure you can easily afford the premiums of a 25-year $500,000 term policy, consider a 20-year term or decreasing the coverage amount.

It’s easy to try out different policy lengths and amounts on our quoting tool.  Easily find out premiums estimates for a 30-year $100,000 policy… a 10-year $500,000 policy… a 20-year $1,000,000 policy… you have many options.  Run as many quotes as you want – no contact information required and no commitment necessary.

If you have children, there’s no excuse to postpone buying life insurance.

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Be Informed About New Car Warranties

A warranty is a guarantee made to the consumer by the seller for a product that is sold. When a warranty pertains to a car, it is a contract that will provide coverage for the cost of repair and replacement of specific parts of the car for a certain amount of time.

New car warranties offer a variety of benefits. When a consumer purchases a car from a manufacturer, they receive a guarantee that if there are problems such as mechanical failures or defects, the cost to replace or repair those parts will be covered by the warranty. There are two types of new car warranties. The powertrain warranty covers the parts of the car that make it run, while a bumper-to-bumper warranty covers the parts of the car from the back bumper to the front bumper.

New car warranties provide motorists with peace of mind when they get those daunting repair bills from their mechanic.

 

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Extended Car Warranty, How To Choose The Right Plan

 There are many extended car warranty programs to choose from but it can be a bit tricky to find a “reputable” plan to suit your needs. The best way to choose a reliable extended car warranty program is to find a company that makes the following criteria…

1. Make sure the company is in business for 10 years or more. This assures you that they are not only in the business of selling coverage but also successfully paying claims.
2. You want to choose a company that has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and perhaps more importantly, is accredited by the BBB which holds them to a much higher standard of excellent business practices and customer service.
3. You want the warranty program to be directly underwritten by a US-based insurance carrier holding at least an A rating with an industry rating service such as AMBest or Standard & Poors. This will assure you that if any part of the claims administration process fails the underwriter will directly pick up all claims if needed.

There are also many different levels of coverage available for your vehicle. These levels are Powertrain, Major Component Plus, High-Tech Component, Component Type Bumper-To-Bumper, or Exclusionary Bumper-To-Bumper coverage. Depending on the age and mileage of the vehicle all or most of these levels could be available. It is important to look through the different levels of coverage for any companies you are considering side-by-side to make sure that you are purchasing the best coverage available for your needs. Do not rely on plan names such as Platinum, Elite, or Gold as they do not always correctly define the level of coverage you are purchasing. Some less than reputable companies will take a very basic plan and label it with a very fancy name. You want to look at the actual list of what is covered to make sure you are getting what you’re paying for.

All in all, an extended car warranty is an excellent investment and can save you thousands of dollars over the term of the coverage. To begin researching the different types of coverage you can visit Auto Advantage and see what the choices are. It is a great idea to fill out the quote request form and let them send you the specifics including coverage details and pricing.

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5 Home Warranty Myths Debunked

While home warranties can be an additional level of protection for your home, some homeowners may have chosen not to purchase one and others may not even know what one is. If you’re wondering how a home warranty could help protect your home, here are five misconceptions and myths debunked.

Myth #1: “I don’t even know what a home warranty is, so I probably don’t need one.”

The more you know about the home systems and appliances in your home that may be covered by a home warranty, the more you may likely appreciate the value. Home warranties usually cover big-ticket items, like your furnace, air conditioner, plumbing, electrical systems and appliances — some of the essential things you use on a daily basis. A home warranty may help cover the repair or replacement of covered items that break down due to normal wear and tear.

Myth #2: “A home warranty is expensive; it’s not worth it.”

Have you ever thought about how much it would cost if you were to replace a major home system?  According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of replacing a furnace may range from $2,298 to $5,550. Generally, a basic home warranty may cost you between $350 to $500 a year.

Myth #3: “I don’t need a home warranty, because I have all new appliances.”

Unfortunately, new items may break down, too. Without a warranty, you may be leaving yourself open to a potentially expensive repair on a new appliance.

Myth #4: “I maintain all my appliances and systems, so I would never need a home warranty.”

Breakdowns can happen unexpectedly, even to the most attentive homeowners. Routine maintenance can be a great thing and certainly helps, but it is no guarantee that things may not go wrong.

Myth #5: “I have homeowners insurance, so I don’t need a home warranty.”

This is a common misconception. Homeowners insurance and a home warranty are two separate things and offer different coverage. Homeowners insurance may cover things that happen due to an unexpected event, such as a fire or theft. But a home warranty is a service contract that provides for the repair or replacement of covered items when they break down due to normal wear and tear — things that can happen to just about any homeowner at some point.

Make sure to weigh all of the facts, and then decide if a home warranty may be right for you and your home.

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Auto Warranty Company Fake Testimonials, Endorsements, Recommendations and False Claims…

We are often questioned on why we don’t post any testimonials of our happy customers on our website. It is unfortunate, but it is become the practice of many companies, both reputable and not reputable, to either create their own testimonials or higher a public relations firm to do it for them. This is obviously a dishonest and poor way to run a business. We choose not to post testimonials, though we have many, as we simply will not fall into this group.

So how is a consumer supposed to know what companies are reputable and what companies are not? The last thing a customer wants to do is invest their hard-earned money in a warranty program that will simply not pay claims as they promise. The best way to protect yourself as a consumer is to make sure you follow the following guides…

• First, make sure the company you choose for your warranty coverage has been in business 10 years or more so they have shown experience successfully paying claims, not simply selling plans and collecting premiums.
• Second, make sure the plan you choose is directly underwritten by a US-based, A rated insurance carrier. Many “so-called” auto warranty companies are simply corporations or risk retention groups and have no financial or insurance backing. Having a directly underwritten plan means that if the warranty administrator ever fails to exist, your claims will automatically be paid by the insurance carrier and your coverage will be valid regardless.
• Third, you want to choose a company that has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and perhaps more importantly has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau.

The bottom line is that as you research the different coverage available to you, do not only look at the items covered and the price of coverage, look at the tenure and reliability of the company you are purchasing from. Though we are not the only company in the auto warranty industry, we are one of the best. To obtain a quote visit our webpage.

 

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5 Ways Critical Illness Insurance Can Be a Financial Life Saver

It was a world-famous heart surgeon, Dr. Marius Barnard, who created critical illness insurance, as he saw how the financial stress that accompanied cancer, heart attack and stroke was killing his patients. This type of insurance typically gives you a lump-sum cash payment if you are diagnosed with one of the illnesses specified in your critical illness policy.

No matter how you’d use the money, critical illness insurance always does one thing: It reduces financial stress.

But one of the challenges of critical illness insurance is understanding the many ways you can use the benefit—the money paid out—if you ever need it. Here are some of the ways I have seen:

1. To pay for deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket expenses related to health care. This is the most obvious use, especially as deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance plans continue to increase.

2. Expenses not covered by health insurance like travel, hotels, babysitting, etc. I know a person who had a great health insurance plan. He was diagnosed with colon cancer. His doctor told him, “You need to go to MD Anderson.” Complicating the whole issue, he and his wife had just had a child. So, they took his father-in-law along to watch his son. He had to charge airfare, meals and the hotel costs to his credit card. Several years later, he was still paying off that credit card.

3. Income protection, especially for the self-employed. If a self-employed person has an income-protection plan, including disability insurance, it most likely will have a 90-day elimination period before benefits are paid. One self-employed person I know was diagnosed with cancer. She would take her chemo treatments on Fridays. Then she would use the weekend to recover and try to be back at work on Monday or Tuesday. She did not miss enough days from work to meet her elimination period. Did cancer impact her income? Significantly!

4. Mortgage protection. Many people purchase life insurance so that if anything happens to them, the family’s home will be paid off and the family will be able to stay in the home. But what’s more likely to happen while paying on a mortgage—death or a critical illness? Depending on age, you could be as much as four times more likely to suffer a critical illness while paying a mortgage than to die.

Typically, insurance that covers from two to five years of mortgage payments will help significantly through the transition. A great thought-provoking question is, “Would it reduce your financial stress if you are diagnosed with cancer to know your mortgage will be paid for two years?”

5. Retrofit a home or car. I had a woman tell me that her husband had had a stroke. The couple had to take out a second mortgage to make modifications to their home, including a wheelchair ramp, significant changes to their bathroom, and the widening of doorways to accommodate the wheelchair.

No matter how you’d use the money, critical illness insurance always does one thing: It reduces financial stress. There is always emotional stress for a family with a family member who has a critical illness. Emotional stress increases directly with financial stress. A critical illness plan reduces the financial stress, which then reduces emotional stress. If you’d like to learn more about this important coverage, contact your insurance agent or advisor.

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The Truth About Home Warranties And Are They Worth It?

When you buy a new home you always have the option of purchasing a home warranty that, theoretically, covers the cost of repairs to various appliances and other home systems. But are these home warranties worth it and what should you be aware of before you actually buy one of these?

Before I get into some of the nuts and bolts behind these home warranty products let me explain that I actually managed the extended warranty program for Circuit City Stores for a period of time and these home warranties are a very similar product. In addition, I've studied the economics of insurance before and home warranties are basically insurance policies. So I know a fair amount about the economics of home warranties.

A Home Warranty Is An Insurance Policy

When you buy a home warranty - and they start around $420 - you are basically buying an insurance policy. The reason this is important to recognize is that insurance companies are in business to make money and that means that they expect to make money on the average policy they sell, which means that on average the people who buy these policies will lose money. Buyers will most likely pay more for the policy than they receive in return over the life of the policy.

Then why would you ever buy an insurance policy? Because you are willing to trade off the certain cost for a very uncertain cost. The insurance company can play the averages game but many consumers cannot or don't want to play that game and they are willing to pay a premium for the certainty. This is especially true as it relates to health care where a catastrophic illness can cost over $1 MM.

But when it comes to home appliances and other systems what is the worst thing that can happen? Maybe you need a new air conditioner or a refrigerator that might cost you a couple of thousand dollars. So for people who can handle that type of expense out of the blue, there is no need for them to buy an insurance policy - they basically "self-insure" from their own savings. But if a new air conditioner would break the bank then you might want to consider getting a home warranty.

How To Beat The Home Warranty Companies At The Averages

There is one advantage that the homebuyer has over the home warranty companies. They know more about what is being insured than the warranty company does and this asymmetrical information allows them to make a better decision about when to buy the warranty than the companies can make about when to sell the warranty. In fact, the companies will pretty much sell a policy on any property to any buyer because they just can't afford to inspect every home before issuing a policy. But a buyer is going to be more likely to buy a policy when they can see that a home has been poorly maintained - e.g. a trashed short sale - and is, therefore, more likely to develop problems. That's what I did when I bought my short sale. I bought a policy from Home Warranty.

This asymmetrical information leads to a problem for the warranty companies called adverse selection - the tendency of these companies to get stuck with bad deals. Consequently, they have to raise their prices to offset this bias, which means that anyone who buys such a warranty on a well-maintained property is overpaying.

Beware The Exclusions

It's important to understand what you are really buying when you get one of these home warranties. The contract is full of fine print which excludes a huge list of situations that you would reasonably expect to be covered such as:

  • Improper installation
  • Plumbing fixtures
  • Whirlpool jets
  • Ejector and sump pumps
  • Doorbells associated with intercom systems
  • Alarm system repairs above $400
  • Security video equipment
  • Central vacuum cleaner repairs above $400
  • The remote components of an automatic garage door opener
  • Ice and water dispenser in a refrigerator. In fact, it's not even clear if they cover the ice maker in the standard policy. I don't think they do.

That's just a small sample of my WarrantyOnWarranty Home Warranty contract. The entire list is enormous. But you can buy a higher cost policy that will cover some of these excluded items. Like I said...these guys are in business to make money.

Beware The Pre-Existing Condition

Just like in healthcare these home warranties have pre-existing condition clauses. When you call in a claim they will ask you a series of questions and if your answers indicate that you don't know for sure that this item ever worked properly since you owned the home then they will simply deny the claim. Now you can buy a premium plan that will cover unknown pre-existing conditions but, even then, if they somehow determine that you knew the item wasn't working when you bought the plan they will deny coverage.

Beware The Deductible

Just like in healthcare you have to pay a deductible for every claim made. On my Home Warranty contract, it's a trade call fee of $100.

The Warranty Company Does Not Guarantee All The Work Performed

This one really burned me up. The home warranty companies contract with various repair companies to actually perform the work and they will make sure that your reported problem is ultimately solved. However, apparently, and once again I can only speak from my experience with Home Warranty if the contractor's work directly or indirectly damages your home or appliance you are on your own to work out the issue with the contractor. WarrantyOnWarranty will do nothing to help you resolve the issue other than note a complaint in their system for future reference in dealing with the contractor even if WarrantyOnWarranty sent out an unqualified contractor in the first place.

For instance, we had a gas leak in our dryer and WarrantyOnWarranty sent out Bender's Plumbing of Addison to fix it. They fixed the leak but after they left we discovered that the dryer was no longer venting outside. Bender's Plumbing was dispatched again to fix this problem but incredibly they decided it wasn't their problem. Reluctantly we paid an appliance repair guy $80 to fix it and he explained that when Bender's moved the dryer the vent hose disconnected and was then crushed as the dryer was moved back in place. If Bender's had known what they were doing they would have opened a panel on the front of the dryer to reconnect the hose and pull it out of the way as they slid the dryer back in place.

Bender's initially promised to send me a check for $80 but it never arrived and then they wouldn't return my phone calls. And even though WarrantyOnWarranty should never have sent out a plumber to do an appliance repairman's work they refused to help resolve this dispute.

Your Realtor Gets A Commission For The Sale Of A Home Warranty

And this is a lesser concern because it does not involve a lot of money but your realtor does get paid a small commission to sell a home warranty. It's around $70 I think, which is such a small amount that my company rebates it back to our clients to avoid any conflict of interest however small. But you should still be aware of this because some realtors will do anything for a buck.

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