Thursday, October 1, 2009

Navigating Life, Navigating Insurance

Be it going off the college, getting married, starting a family, buying or junking a car or settling into retirement, insurance needs can change with life's milestones.

Lisa Lobo (pictured at left) , vice president of personal lines underwriting, for The Hartford Financial Services Group in Southington, Conn., has several helpful tips to offer you on savings options and policy provisions to consider with certain life events.

One big influence on insurance costs is when you tend to pay your bills. If, for example, rent or mortgage or utility payments are late, then that will affect your credit score and have a bearing on the cost of insurance policies. Credit scores are factored in when insurance companies determine rates.

So, let's examine some of the changes that can affect your insurance needs.

  • Getting Married. This is an important time for you and your new spouse to take an inventory of individual, joint and new possessions - such as engagement and wedding rings - to make sure these items, and any other high-value possessions or gifts, are protected. "Know what each spouse is bringing into the household," Lobo said. One option is a personal articles floater policy. This is a separate policy from your homeowners or renters insurance that raises the coverage limit for personal items and protects from other potential problems, such as when an expensive item is lost or stolen. "They should consider multi-car discounts on car insurance. There are credits to adding the home to the (auto)policy," Lobo said. "I would suggest that they bring their assets together." Having insurance policies in both names means that in the event of a death, they automatically transfer to the surviving spouse. When it comes to health coverage, Lobo recommended assessing the benefits each spouse receives and whether you want to seek additional coverage beyond those plans.

  • Having a baby. At this point, it's especially important to make sure you have a valid will and expand your life insurance coverage so your child may be provided for if something happens to you, and to ensure that your spouse has the resources to continue to care for your child. "Take stock in everything that you have, and think: If I'm out of the picture, if my spouse is out of the picture, what will the need be?" Lobo said.

  • Sending a Child to College. Once your children head out on their own and prepare for their future careers, there are considerations for automobile, health and renters insurance. Will your children have health insurance through a collegiate plan if attending an out-of-state school or can they remain on a parent's policy during their school years? Will they need renter's insurance for an off-campus apartment? As an example of a savings opportunity, if your son or daughter won't be driving a vehicle while in school, then your premium could go down significantly. "There will be some benefit if your child will have no access to your vehicle or won't be the primary driver," Lobo said. Also, most insurance companies offer discounts for students with good grades.

  • Retiring. The decision to retire affects almost every aspect of life from income and spending to investments and saving to insurance. Driving less could cut costs and some home insurance companies provide automatic discounts for retirees or perks for living in a gated or retirement community. The chance of theft could be viewed as diminished due to greater presence around the home or spending more time at home, Lobo said.
  • Losing A Spouse. This can be one of life's most difficult changes. This grief is intensified when the surviving spouse is forced to take on a new role in managing the family finances. While life insurance is the primary consideration in this situation, it is also important to speak with a financial advisor on any changes that need to be made to your investments. In addition, this is a time to remove your spouse from insurance policies and change beneficiaries if a secondary beneficiary has not previously been named. "You will continue to pay for that spouse until we know they're no longer on the policy," Lobo said.

For auto and homeowners insurance, The Hartford offers trained customer service representatives and resource guide books to assist older adults with managing the financial decisions and changes that result from becoming a widow or widower.

Coming Sunday: Lisa Lobo offers "3 Steps, 10 Minutes to Auto Insurance Savings"

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