How to Read Your Declarations Page(s)

Have you ever read an insurance contract? Not many have.

However, this voluminous document has everything you need to know about your insurance coverage and is essential in the event of a claim.

There is a short cut: The Declarations Page.

This document outlines and summarizes your insurance coverage. And it’s easy to read and only a few pages. It’s also key to determining if you have adequate coverage at an affordable price.

Policy Number and Policy Period  This is the top of your policy.  If you need to speak to your Independent Insurance Agent about your policy, you should direct your attention to this section at the outset of your conversation.

The policy period also helps for you to mark your calendar so you can be reminded of your annual review.

Maybe your credit score is improved or maybe your kids are grown. These are just a couple examples of life events that can occur that warrant an annual insurance review.

In addition to lifestyle changes, there is the likely possibility that insurance carriers have revamped their policies. You may be eligible for new discounts or more competitive pricing.

Coverages and Premiums.  The different coverages of your policy are presented line-by-line with the attendant premium in the right column, or in some cases, the discount in a line item, such as a security device.

The coverages are accompanied by the coverage limit. For your homeowner’s policy for example, the dwelling limit will show what your house would cost to be replaced. Notice your liability limit. This coverage limit should never be lower than the value of your home.

Total Annual Premium.  Down at the bottom of the page is the TOTAL PREMIUM for your Insurance Policy.  Usually this will show as an annual number, although that may be different depending on your payment plan for the policy.  You can also see different payment options for your premium; some insurance plans give you discounts depending on the frequency of payments. 

These declaration pages will help when it’s time to review with your independent agent. Know your coverage, know your renewal date so you can discuss with your agent if your coverage is maximized and your premiums are competitive.

Please read our other blogs related to annual insurance review suggestions.

You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Managing Growth

Growth can sneak up on us.  Whether it’s your family or your business, one day you realize you’ve grown larger than when you started. 

  • Two cars when once there was one.
  • Five employees when previously you had two. 
  • A new spouse when you once lived alone. 

Growth is a good thing, it’s the keeping-up-with-growth that’s difficult.  Unless you’re organized and prepared, then growing becomes easy-peasy.

One area we often overlook, when growth occurs is whether it sneaks up on us or we prepare for it, is with our insurance.

Here’s where your Independent Insurance Agent comes in. We help your growth spurt feel smooth, organized, and best of all, prepared for any happenstance.

We often advocate that our clients undertake an annual review with us to see what coverages best suit their needs with natural changes over time. This helps to ensure quality coverage at an affordable cost whenever possible.

Our facility as your Independent Agent is there for you to advocate and manage when the “growth” word pops up.  Not only can we find the right insurance coverage for your new larger family or business, but we can help you control the costs of that insurance. 

Call us today so we can discuss all of your wonderful growth opportunities and reduce any growing pains so you experience the best possible insurance solutions.

You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

5 Ways to Reduce Your Insurance Costs. #3 Will Blow You Away!

Saving money isn’t a responsibility you should hand off to someone else, especially if that someone else is the insurance company. 

Knowledge is power.  With these 5 tips, you’ll have the power you need to negotiate lower premiums with your insurance carrier.  Take back the responsibility and own your power!

  1. Take a defensive driving class. Providing proof of your renewed defensive driving class will save money. In some states for 3 years.
  2. Shop for other carriers.  You should speak with your Independent Agent at least annually to see if your current carrier and other insurance carriers can offer lower premiums on the same (or higher) coverages when available.
  3. Reduce your coverage as your car gets older. Because you’re reviewing your policies annually, you can discuss updating your policy based on the advancing age of your vehicle. Collision can be expensive and may not be required.
  4. Increase your deductible.  Look for the perfect equilibrium between the affordability of a larger deductible and lower premiums.
  5. Bundle your auto coverage with your Homeowners and Umbrella Liability policy.  Can you say “Multi-Line Discount?” 

These five simple steps can help you save hundreds of dollars in a given period of time.  All it takes is a few minutes to own your power and make the call!

Speaking of calling…call us today to learn about saving money on your insurance portfolio. Your piggy bank will thank you and so will we!

You can reach us by calling 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

4 Reasons to Purchase Insurance on a Car Rental

If you’ve ever been on vacation and had to rent a car, you’ve been confronted with the standard protocol of the rental agent asking you if you’d like to purchase (or waive) the optional car insurance.  

Most people are caught unawares and don’t give this simple request the full consideration it needs before they leave on holiday.

You won’t be caught unawares with this simple recommendation: always purchase the additional coverage.

When you purchase that coverage you will acquire some awesome features (you’re going to love Number 4!)

  1. Protection from a collision surcharge on your existing policy.
  2. You don’t have to worry about “loss of use” or paying for the days a rental car is out of commission and unavailable for rental for repairs due to damage you caused.
  3. Your policy deductible is waived!
  4. You get to walk away.

Technically speaking, if you already have PHYSICAL DAMAGE COVERAGE on your own auto policy, then you’re actually covered for property & liability on the rental vehicle.  That doesn’t stop us from recommending the purchase of the additional insurance even to our customers who have physical damage coverage in place.

I promised the recommendation would be simple.  Now when you’re at the car rental counter at the start of your vacation, worrying about getting to your hotel on time, hungry from a long flight, and stressed from the airport commotion, you won’t be a deer in the headlights at the rental counter.  You won’t have to stop and call your agent to inquire if you should take the coverage. You won’t have to text your neighbor if they purchase the coverage or not.

Just say, “Yes, I’ll take the coverage.”

One last piece of vacation driving advice: when driving on long winding roads in the dark, take extra caution for critters who might dodge out onto the road.  Like a deer in the headlights.

When was the last time you reviewed your insurance to ENSURE you’re INSURED properly? Don’t wait until it’s too late. Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Summer Preparedness Part 2: Your Household

Bags are packed; the car is loaded. And away we go!
What fun we’ll have on our vacation.

Pump the brakes!

We don’t want to be a party-pooper, but we want to remind you that while your home is unattended, if something goes wrong while you’re away, you’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise upon your return.

Prepare your house while preparing for vacation.  Create a checklist and check off these important items before you leave the house.

Plumbing
It’s always useful when doing a plumbing inspection to run all the faucets in your home at the same time.  Flush all the toilets and work your way from the bottom (basement) of your house up to the top floor(s) checking pipes and surrounding areas. 

Close valves and turn off water supplies to the entire house or to your least-used pipes, such as to the washing machine and water heater.

Consider also turning your water heater to “low” or “vacation” mode. 
Why burn up fuel heating water you’re not using while you’re away from home? Check drains for clear drainage to prevent any backups from unexpected water surges, especially your storm drains.

A quick inspection of all pipes and plumbing systems alerts you to any potential problems.  Do a quick check for leaks, the kind of small leaks you might be missing during your normal day-to-day living, but the kind of small leak that could become a big leak while you’re away.

Electrical
Unplug extension cords.  Unplug appliances. 

Storms can cause electrical surges that can damage your connected appliances, or worse, cause a fire.  Also, look for loose wall plates, loose plugs or any other potential hazard that could create an electrical event and maybe a fire.

Air quality 
How’s the air in your home?  Is there any chance that dampness in the air could create a mold condition while you’re away? Are all the windows closed? 

If you have a dehumidifier, set it up in strategic locations around the house in the weeks before your vacation.

Thermostat
Set the thermostat to a temperature, hot or cold depending on time of year, that doesn’t use unnecessary energy while you’re away.

Technology 
There are smart home devices including security units you can quickly and easily install to help protect your home from interior and exterior threats while you’re away.

Smart locks, home monitoring systems, and apps for your smartphones that allow you to monitor your home from the beach hundreds of miles away are all worthy investments for your holiday peace of mind.

Mail
With a quick visit to your local post office to fill out of a simple form, your mail is held by the Postal Carrier until after your return from vacation.  If you get newspaper delivery, notify your carrier of your pending holiday to hold deliveries while you’re away. Piles of mail and newspaper deliveries attracts vagrants and burglars.

When was the last time you reviewed your insurance? Don’t wait until it’s too late. Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329 for a free, no-obligation annual review. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Summer Preparedness: Part 1: Vacation

You’d think preparing to go on vacation would be as tranquil as the vacation.  Too often it’s not.  The hectic days leading up to vacation time include preparing for the departure from home and office and preparing for the vacation. 

Here’s some tips that might help you prepare more efficiently…and more calmly…for your vacation.

PACKING
The dreaded packing of the suitcase ritual can make anyone crazy!   Prepare for your packing process well in advance.  After all, many of the clothes you’ll take on vacation are not the clothes you wear everyday, are they?   Spend 20 minutes a week for the three weeks in advance of your vacation and pack small amounts at a time.  Setup your suitcase in one spot, where you won’t move it.  Then add to the suitcase in small increments. 

IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
Passports, credit cards, plane/train tickets, printed itineraries need to be collected well in advance and stored together.   Any office supply store has perfect sized, closeable plastic envelopes and containers that  are ideal for collecting your important travel documents into a single convenient location.  Try to use a bright color for the container so it’s easy to find in a hurry, or in the dark.   If all else fails, a resealable plastic storage bag, the kind you use in your kitchen, is a great solution too.

PHONE NUMBERS
In your address book on your Smartphone, create a new address category where you can save important phone numbers for easy access.  This way, in the event of an urgent phone call  you can pop open a single address category and access all the numbers you’ll need to call, text or email.  Remember, you’re on vacation!  If you have to make urgent contact with folks back home, you’ll want to do it quickly so you can get back to the real work of relaxing!

HOME SECURITY
Checklists are the best way to efficiently prepare your home for your absence.  Windows locked? CHECK.  Alarm company notified of vacation dates? CHECK.  Lamp timers installed and correctly set to match sunrise, sunset? CHECK.   Think like an airline pilot: create a checklist and review the checklist at least two weeks before you leave for your vacation, and then once more the night before or morning of your departure.

INSURANCE
Preparing your insurance for your vacation may be the easiest part of your holiday preparations.  One call to your Independent Insurance Agent to review your insurance policies can help you determine what you have, what you will need, what you’re covered for while you’re away on vacation.

Call us today to be prepared to vacation without a worry.

Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329.

Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

How Much is Your Property Worth?

Some possessions in your home are more valuable than others.  These items can be a curated collection, such as fine porcelain figurines, baseball cards or comic books.  Other valuable items can be heirloom jewelry or fine art pieces, including paintings, sketches, and sculptures.

The value of these special items is not defined only by a monetary figure.  There is also the intrinsic value, the emotional value to you.  There is a fond family memory surrounding a particular heirloom object. What about the satisfaction of assembling learning about a particular collection of items, such as sculpted glass paperweights or famous autographs. This can be appraised but cannot be monetized due to the emotional value they hold.

Your homeowners insurance likely only covers a minimal amount of these valuable items, not necessarily covering the true market value in the event of a calamity that damages or destroys these valuable possessions. 

These special items need to be appraised by a professional to create a monetary record of their worth.  The expense of such an appraisal is well worth the cost in the event of a claim against your Homeowners Insurance and your desire to obtain the proper recompense for the damage or loss to these valuables.

There are two avenues to obtain an appraisal of your valuable items.  The first, and possibly less-costly, is to obtain an appraisal through a recognized expert.  For example, a jeweler can complete an appraisal of your heirloom jewelry items.  Likewise, an expert in art, or objets d’ art can be consulted to provide an appraisal opinion for other items you may own.  

The second method is to engage a Certified and Licensed Appraiser.  Typically we think of appraisers as professionals in the real estate trade, to appraise homes.  But Appraisers are trained in specific valuation methodologies.  There is a regimen that Appraisers follow to assemble a high-grade valuation of your personal property.  This regimen is based on professionally-accepted standards necessary for an appraisal to be certified.

While the cost of the latter valuation method may be higher than that of an expert opinion, you may want to incur the higher cost to provide your insurance carrier with the best possible valuation.   If you are using an expert opinion, be sure the documentation they use is acceptable to your insurance carrier.  You don’t want to find out that your carrier will not accept valuation documents when filing a claim.

Call us today to discuss how to appraise the true value of your treasured possessions and how to understand your coverage. That’s what happens when you work with an Independent Insurance Agent! Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

Agency vs. Online

“You get what you pay for.”  

Everyone loves to shop for a bargain, a discount, a reduced price, more features for less money.  One might also say, “You don’t get what you don’t pay for.”

When you’re buying insurance, the “don’t get” part and the “don’t pay for” part can lead to you paying a lot more money than you bargained for later on when you need the insurance the most. 

Your insurance is supposed to be there to anticipate risks to your life, your livelihood, your wealth and your health.  If you pay for less coverage because you need to get that bargain price, you’re putting all of the above at serious risk.

Time is money.  Spend your time with an independent insurance agent.  The independent agent is working for your best interest, both in today’s premium pricing and in tomorrows unforeseen costs. 

For me, it’s difficult to be objective on this topic. I’m an independent agent in business for several decades. I can’t be objective when it comes to protecting my clients and providing them with the best insurance their money can buy.  

If your sole objective is the lowest premium price, we can certainly help you with that goal. If your objective is the best premium price with comprehensive coverage that prepares you for worst case scenarios, we can help you with that as well.

If your objective is all of the above with the added value of a trusted, local, experienced insurance professional, the one who thinks of you as a real person and not an unknown internet shopper, then the Independent Insurance Agent is the only way to go.

So, what is your objective: solely price, or price combined with quality service, local experience and good old-fashioned “looking out for my reputation by looking out for the customer” business sense?

That’s not to say you can’t get lucky and find a direct connection online with an Insurance Carrier who can provide such experience, accessibility, superior service and price.  It’s easy enough to spend your time searching. 

In our experience as Independent Agents, we’ve heard the stories, lots and lots and lots of stories about consumer experiences when working with online quotes and purchasing from an unknown representative on the internet.  Pretty much every time, these horror stories result because the consumer focused solely on lowest price.

Too often the lowest price online quote comes with no explanation of what exactly it is the consumer is buying.  The coverage can be horribly mismatched with the customer’s needs. Many times, the online quote fails to consider local conditions that must definitely be taken into account to provide an accurate insurance policy for real risks unique to a locality.

Your local Independent Agent knows about those risks that may be unique to where you live.  And your Independent Agent wants to work for your best interest, not the interests of the quick “low-price” sale.

Compare next time you need to purchase or renew insurance.  Consider the time spent by your Independent Agent just on the initial interview questions.  Those questions, and your answers to them, affect the advice you’ll receive on the best coverage for your unique situation.  

Now match that to the experience of filling in some boxes on a webpage and receiving the instant gratification of the lowest premium price in seconds!  Price: great!  Coverage: unknown because it relies on the consumer knowing, in advance, the eventualities that come into play when assessing your needs of future risks.

We’d love to be on one side of your comparison shopping! 

Call us today to experience the true value of your money when you work with an Independent Insurance Agent! Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

The Two Most Effective Steps When You File A Claim

Your Insurance is in place to protect you from risks that may affect your wealth and your health.  When an incident occurs, you’ll want to file your claim in order to receive payment for your loss as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Luckily, there are two easy steps to ensure a smooth claim process.  Best news of all, you can manage these two easy suggestions in a short time, maybe even while you’re binge watching whatever is the latest and greatest on Netflix. 

#1: Paperwork

Gather your insurance policies to an easy-to-find (and easy to remember) location.  You might want to consider scanning your policies to PDFs and saving those on your Smartphone, home computer, or Cloud Storage. 

If you’re saving paper or scanning to PDF, be mindful with how you label each document.  Using the Insurance Carrier’s name along with the purpose of the policy is helpful.  For example, “ABC INSURANCE Homeowners Policy.” 

Use different color post-it notes strategically placed on each paper document to easily flip through multiple policies. If you’re storing PDFs on a computer or Cloud drive, create different folders for each policy and be sure to “rename” each PDF for easy search.  In a pinch you’ll want to quickly locate “XYZ MUTUAL INSURANCE 2017 PONTIAC.”

#2: Photos

Smartphones make it easy to snap photos of your belongings around your home or to grab a quick photo of damage to your vehicle after an incident. Be sure to have the date stamp feature enabled.

In your home, while running your vacuum around or changing the bed linens, snap photos in each room where you have valuable belongings.  Take a photo of the entire room, too, with different angles. Capture clear, up close photos of individual valuables. 

Upload your photos and save to your home computer or Cloud Storage. Or both.

We’d be honored to spend a few minutes with you to discuss how to organize your files, review to see if your valuables are insured properly or to prepare the step-by-step of the “what to do” and “what not to do” after a claim.

When you’re organized in advance, your claim can be processed efficiently. This gets you paid faster in order to begin the repairs.

You can call us now for a free educational moment or to review your existing insurance policies to be sure you’re covered for every eventuality. Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.

4 Things Your Homeowner Policy Should Include

Shopping for Homeowners Insurance is often rushed and daunting.  And exhausting.  In the flurry of activity leading up to a Home purchase closing, the harried home buyer may speed through the insurance process with the goal of quick and cheap. Let’s slow down ever so slightly! 

Take your time and ask your insurance agent if the quoted policy includes the following 4 vital coverage parts. Your standard Homeowners Insurance Policy covers you in the event of damage from fire, lightning, hail, and explosions.   However, these 4 items are not automatically included.

#1: Higher Liability Coverage.  The dollar value of an insurance payout in the event of a claim is often the number one most overlooked and undervalued part of a quickly-quoted insurance policy.  We like to explain liability coverage to our customers like this: imagine if someone fell on the pathway leading up to your front door.  Imagine that person suffered a serious injury, such as broken bones.  Now imagine that person, whether friend, family, or otherwise, hires an aggressive Personal Injury Attorney to receive compensation for pain, suffering, and medical bills.   Do you think that $300,000 liability coverage is sufficient payout in such a dire event to protect your other cash assets (your bank accounts, your retirement accounts, your children’s college fund)?   Whether it is or is not sufficient, do you want to gamble your wealth away with insufficient liability coverage?   Consider increasing your Liability Coverage to at least $1,000,000.

#2: Storm Damage.  Severe weather over the past dozen years or so has cost Homeowners considerable sums of money.  These Homeowners lived in contentment with their homeowners insurance policies thinking they were covered for all kinds of occurrences.  When the severe weather hit—storm surges from oceans, rivers, and creeks; high-wind conditions; flooding inside basements from ground water saturation due to heavier than normal rains—too many Homeowners discovered to their dismay the lack of coverage for damage sustained due to severe weather.   Discuss flood insurance with your insurance agent.

#3: Power Outages.  Should your home lose power for a sustained period of time you could experience loss of foodstuffs due to your refrigerator not functioning.  Adding this extra coverage to your policy protects your money…and your food.

#4: Additional Coverage for “earth-movement”.  Have an in-ground pool in your backyard? If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, landslides, or sinkholes, you’ll want to add additional coverage to your standard policy to protect your assets and your home against these risks.

We’re happy to spend the time necessary to educate you on the best comprehensive insurance for your Home.  Call us today!

Call now at 617-298-0655 or text us at 617-409-0329. Click here to Visit our Contact Us page.