October, Adopt a Shelter Dog month, is a great time to add a dog to your family. Be careful which breed you adopt, though. Insurance companies use data from insurance claims and public health studies to create a high risk dog breed list, and your homeowners insurance premiums can increase based on the type of dog you adopt. You can save money when you choose a dog that’s not on the high risk list.
Working Breed Dogs
Agile, powerful and intelligent, Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and Siberian Huskies are also fiercely protective. If they’re not trained properly, these breeds could be potentially dangerous, especially to young children and small pets.
Loyal and protective, American Pitbull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers have been bred to hunt. These traits mean they can become aggressive and tenacious if they’re cornered or frightened by one of your family members or guests.
Police departments, military personnel and ranch hands appreciate this breed because the dogs are intelligent, hard-working and powerful. They’re also suspicious of strangers and won’t back down, which makes them a challenging breed for inexperienced owners to handle.
Independent and strong Chow Chows are often kept as companions. These fluffy dogs can be aloof and stubborn, though, and should only be adopted by experienced dog owners.
Wolf Hybrid and Presa Canarios dogs exhibit strength and protective characteristics. However, they can also be unpredictable and quick to attack, making them potentially dangerous breeds. Friendly and docile Great Danes are listed on the high risk list, too, because of their size.
A dog adds fun and companionship to your home and family, and adopting a shelter dog is socially responsible. Before you choose a new pet, though, consider whether or not it will increase your homeowners insurance cost. If so, you may choose a different breed or reduce your home insurance premiums by installing a dog fence or raising your deductible.
Fall is officially here on Tuesday, September 22, 2020. Managing your property includes caring for the landscaping. Proactive measures this fall protect your plants and ensure vitality next spring. Implement several tips as you maintain attractive landscaping and improve the safety of your property.
Mow the Lawn
During the fall, grass will continue to grow so mow all season. During the final cutting, mow the grass as short as possible to prevent winter matting and promote lawn health all season.
Remove dead leaves, grass clippings and other debris from the lawn, flower beds and hardscape. This debris can encourage harmful disease to grow, block drainage systems and damage the environment. It’s also an eyesore.
Fertilize the Soil
Add nutrients to the soil for landscaping health. The ideal fall fertilizer is rich in phosphorus and potassium, two nutrients that stimulate grass root growth in the future.
Summer drought can affect plants long into the fall and winter. Water plants if necessary to combat water deficits.
Prune and Wrap Plants
Create a neat and tidy appearance, reduce storm damage risk and invest in healthy landscaping into the future when you prune shrubs and trees. Then wrap plants with burlap to protect them during the cold winter months.
Protective mulch prevents weeds from growing and insulates soil from water loss and cold weather damage. It’s also attractive, so spread a healthy layer of mulch around all your plants.
Insects, mites, voles, and other pests can wreak havoc on your landscaping in the fall and winter. Hire a professional exterminator to treat your property.
Plant Winter Greenery
A variety of flowers, shrubs and trees bloom during the winter and brighten your property. Consider planting greenery that adds texture, color and style to your property’s appearance.
Inspect your parking areas, sidewalks and other hardscape. Repair and seal the cracks and holes to prevent further damage, improve safety and protect your investment.
Drain the Sprinkler System
If you have a landscaping sprinkler system, drain it during the fall months. Remove the water to prevent frozen or burst pipes and expensive repairs.
Perform a Storm Damage Audit
Walk around your property and identify any areas that could be affected by storm damage. You may need to trim tree branches that hang over power lines, move dumpsters that interfere with snow removal or repair perimeter fencing. Remember to update your property insurance coverage, too, before winter storms strike.
Schedule Snow and Ice Removal
Plan for winter weather now. Schedule snow and ice removal to reduce slip, fall and accident risks.
When you take care of your property this fall, take proactive steps that enhance the landscaping. Keep it attractive and healthy all season.
Life insurance gives you peace of mind as it provides financially for your loved ones, favorite charity or another purpose. September is Life Insurance Awareness Month, and it matters for several reasons.
Spouse or Life Partner
A successful marriage or partnership includes sharing life and provisions with each other. Continue this arrangement after your passing when you purchase life insurance. It provides financial resources that can pay for final expenses, debts and daily living expenses. You continue to provide for and support your loved one when you purchase enough life insurance.
Caring for your kids is one of your greatest responsibilities in life. Continue caring for them in the future with life insurance. It covers their daily living expenses, funds college or provides additional support as they grow and mature. With life insurance, your legacy lives on as you care for your children.
The home you buy often includes a 30-year mortgage, utilities, insurance, and taxes, expenses that continue even after your passing. Life insurance can pay for these expenses, allowing your family to remain in the home you shared. You minimize stress and give your family peace of mind when you purchase enough life insurance to cover home expenses.
You may save an adequate nest egg to fund your retirement. Life insurance provides an additional supplement for your surviving spouse or partner. Your loved one may reinvest the money in a retirement account or use the money to pay daily living expenses, finance a move to a retirement community or cover other expenses.
Continue to support your favorite charities after your passing. Name one or more charities as the beneficiary on your life insurance policy or donate the policy to charity. In this way, you continue to support the causes you believe in.
As a business owner, you may provide group life insurance for your employees or purchase extra life insurance coverage for key staff members. Life insurance can also fund a buy-sell agreement. For these reasons, it’s a valuable asset for your business.
Your life insurance death benefit could become part of your estate. As such, it increases the amount of money you can give to heirs and other important causes.
Every life insurance policy includes a beneficiary. Review your policies this month and verify that you have chosen the beneficiaries you want. You may change your mind, choose more than one beneficiary or purchase additional policies to provide for your chosen loved ones or charities.
Life Insurance Awareness Month in September matters to you for several reasons. Make an appointment today to discuss your life insurance policies and needs with your insurance agent as you prepare for the future.
With data breaches becoming a fairly regular thing, everyone needs to know that they can freeze their credit to prevent identity theft. With a significant data breach, hackers are able to access the names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and addresses of millions of consumers, which put their identity and credit at risk. A credit report freeze is one protective measure Equifax (and other agencies) recommended. Every consumer, including you, should understand this protective measure as you protect your data, identity and credit.
What is a Credit Report Freeze?
A credit report freeze allows you to restrict who can access your credit report. When a freeze is in place, only certain professional entities can see your information, and it’s less likely that an identity theft can access your data.
Ways a Credit Report Freeze Affects You
When you place a credit report freeze on your account, it affects you in several ways.
1. It prevents certain entities from accessing your credit report. This includes potential employers, mortgage companies and car dealers.
2. Existing creditors and any debt collection agencies they hire and government agencies responding to a court order or subpoena may continue to access your credit report.
3. You can continue to access your free annual credit report.
4. It does not affect your credit score.
5. You will continue to receive pre-screened credit offers for credit or insurance. Call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or go online to optoutprescreen.com if you wish to stop receiving these offers.
How to Place a Credit Report Freeze
Contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies to freeze your credit report.
To place a freeze, you must provide your name, birth date, Social Security number, address and other personal information. You will also have to pay a fee. It typically ranges from $5 to $10 but varies based on where you live.
How to Know if Your Credit Report Freeze is Successful
After placing a credit report freeze, you will receive a confirmation letter from the credit reporting company. It includes a unique password or PIN you will need if you ever choose to lift the freeze.
How to Lift a Credit Report Freeze
Your credit report freeze remains in place indefinitely. However, you may want to lift it so you can apply for a job or credit. To do that, simply contact the credit reporting company to request a lift. You will provide your password or PIN, pay a fee that varies by state and indicate if you want a temporary or permanent lift.
A credit report freeze can protect your personal data and identity. Consider monitoring your bank, insurance and credit card statements, though, too, and purchase cyber liability insurance as a further protective measure.
This is about risk mitigation. To increase the chances that a loss will not shut operations down permanently, organizations must assess their exposures accurately by asking some questions.
- What is the most the organization could lose from a shutdown? Commercial Property insurance policies define “loss of income” as the sum of the expected pre-tax profit or loss and necessary continuing expenses. For example, if the expected profit is $300,000 and necessary continuing expenses are $100,000, the potential loss of income is $400,000. To calculate their exposure to business interruption losses, organizations should refer to their balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and cash flow statements. Insurance companies also have worksheets available to assist with the calculation.
- How much insurance should be carried? Once the organization knows the dollar amount of its exposure, it must decide how much Business Interruption insurance to buy. The key considerations are the length of time the insurance is likely to apply and the coinsurance percentage the organization must meet. Coverage usually begins 72 hours following the damage to the property and ends when business resumes at another location or when the building should be repaired with reasonable speed, whichever occurs first. If the organization decided that the coverage period would be around six months, it could buy an amount of insurance that would satisfy a 50% coinsurance requirement. If the interruption would last longer, higher coinsurance percentage and limits would be necessary.
- How long will it take business to return to normal? Even after operations resume, it could be some time before revenue returns to normal levels. Customers who had gone elsewhere during the shutdown might be slow to return. The standard insurance policy extends coverage for 30 days after operations resume, but some businesses might need more time than that, especially if their businesses are seasonal. For example, a seaside restaurant in New Jersey that makes most of its profits during the summer will need additional coverage even if it can re-open in November.
- How much of the normal payroll expense will continue during the shutdown? The organization will need the continuing services of some employees while it attempts to re-open, but other employees might not be necessary. For example, accounting staff will be needed to pay mandatory expenses such as property taxes and collect receivables earned before the shutdown. Employees who stock shelves will not be needed if there are no shelves to stock.
- Does the business depend on other businesses for revenue? A business can suffer a loss even if its own building is untouched. A loss that shuts down a key customer or supplier or damage to nearby property that causes authorities to close off access to the street can devastate a business’s bottom line (this happened to many businesses affected by 9/11). Special insurance coverage is available to protect against this possibility.
Our insurance team can help you answer these questions and identify insurance companies that can meet coverage needs. With some effort and planning before a loss happens, an organization can emerge from a shut down and return to profitability.
As the fires rage in Northern (and Southern) California, a topic like this is worth writing about. Earthquakes are always a threat, but floods, wildfires, hurricanes, and such are more apt to strike in the warmer summer months.
Please be safe and healthy.
There are three very important steps you can take to limit the effect natural disasters have on your life and property and expedite your recovery process.
1. Planning. There are some basics that any natural disaster plan should include:
- Always have several escape routes mapped out. Each family member should know where to meet, who to call for help, and where to call to signal their safety to other family members. Your family safety plan should be posted in a central location and the escape route and emergency contact numbers should be reviewed every six months.
- If possible, store irreplaceable items and documents like birth, marriage, death, and divorce certificates; passports; deeds; social security cards; expensive jewelry; and heirlooms in a safety deposit box during high-risk seasons if you live in an area frequently hit by natural disasters. You may also put video or photo documentation, a listing of serial numbers, appraisals, and receipts for these items in your safety deposit box.
- Scan your photos to your computer. You can store your photos with an online storage service or make a CD to place in your safety deposit box.
- You should have an emergency overnight bag ready to go for every person and pet in your family and always keep a credit card, emergency cash supply, and personal identification with you during high-risk seasons.
As far as disaster-specific planning goes, here are some key points:
Flood planning. Many people live in possible flood areas and don’t realize it. For example, those living in areas that recently had a wildfire and those living downstream from a dam could have problems with flash flooding. Those living in or near a construction area could find their risk of flooding increased due to changes in water flow patterns. You can assess your risk of flooding by contacting your local building authority and your insurance agent. Since basements aren’t usually covered by typical flood insurance policies, those with a basement need a plan on moving their valuables to upper-levels. Do make sure that you have an escape plan, as discussed above, in place for your family.
Hurricane planning. Most people in areas prone to hurricanes are already on high alert during hurricane season, but do keep in mind that hurricanes and the stormy remnants are often unpredictable. The flood planning from above is applicable to hurricane planning. Additionally, you’ll want to have a supply of nails and plywood ready to go so that you can board-up your home before evacuation. Remember, if your local authorities issue an evacuation, then you need to heed it.
Wildfire planning. Wildfires can begin unnoticed and spread rapidly with little forewarning. An effective evacuation plan is vital in many cases. If you do have forewarning, then stay tuned to the emergency broadcasts and follow the evacuation directions from local authorities. Remember to take your emergency evacuation bag with you.
If you’re under a warning, but haven’t been advised to evacuate yet, then you might have time to turn off your gas lines and propane tanks, soak your roof and shrubs with water, move flammable furniture to the center of rooms, and move large valuables to the safest location possible.
Tornado planning. Unlike many other disastrous events, leaving your home during a tornado warning is seldom a wise move. Everyone in your family should know where they should go during a tornado warning. While a basement is ideal, not everyone has one. You can use a central room; preferably one that doesn’t have windows or overhead objects. Be sure your emergency kit and phone numbers are in your designated room.
Earthquake planning. Follow the directions from tornado planning. You might also want to place an emergency kit in your vehicle and at your place of employment. Check to make sure your child’s school is also well-prepared.
Aside from living in an area not prone to natural disasters, there isn’t much you can do to avoid them. However, unlike most other natural disasters, wildfires can sometimes be prevented. You can personally prevent fires by being careful when using open flames, maintaining your chimney flue, and not throwing cigarettes outdoors. Of course, wildfires can happen regardless of your personal care with fire.
You can help to prevent flames from impacting your home by creating a defensible space. In fact, some insurers are now inspecting properties for defensible space before issuing or renewing policies. Your insurance agent, local agricultural organizations, and federal agencies like the American Red Cross and FEMA are valuable information sources on creating defensible spaces. The damage of flooding can also be limited by planning water diversions and landscaping as protective devices.
Last, but certainly not least, you should make sure your existing insurance is providing adequate protection. For example, your regular Homeowners policy most likely won’t provide coverage if a boulder falls or rolls into your home since such would be considered an earth movement and need to be covered by Earthquake insurance. Another example would be your regular Homeowners policy not covering damage from a water or sewage system outside your home breaking, or damages from a flash flood, as these would fall under Flood insurance. If you obtain Flood insurance, keep in mind that the coverage won’t become effective for 30 days and your basement usually still won’t be covered.