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KnownsNot knowing the right questions to ask about your insurance protection is among the key reasons far too many consumers hear the dreaded words “you’re not covered” at the worse possible time — after a personal property or liability insurance loss.

Not knowing what we don’t know is a dangerous and common cognitive bias that contributes to many regrettable decisions. Discerning between the knowns, unknowns, and known unknowns can be confusing, as memorialized in this explanation by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

The KNOWNS

Following are just a few examples of the questions many consumers know to ask about their insurance protection:

  1. Can you lower my premiums?
  2. How much liability insurance do I really need?
  3. Am I “fully covered”?
  4. What is my deductible?

Questions like these are all valid and worthy of answers. Meanwhile, relying on prior experience, advertising campaigns or glib “how to buy” articles in the media prevents consumers from getting far more important answers to the many questions they don’t know to ask.

The UNKNOWNS

Consumers who want their insurance program to protect their assets from a wide range of threats need clear answers to many more questions than they know to ask. These questions are the “unknowns”. For example, consumers should press for clear answers to these questions:

  1. In addition to the risks I am covered for, what are the risks I am not currently insured for?
  2. Are there any coverage gaps, policy exclusions or forms of coverage that have not been not offered that are exposing my assets to uncovered property or liability losses?
  3. How does the claims settlement process differ among insurance carriers?
  4. Are there effective strategies to control the cost of coverage without requiring me to sacrifice important protection?
  5. What services are available to help prevent or reduce the risk of loss?
  6. What can I do now to ensure the best outcome in the event of a large property or liability loss?

 Uncovering the KNOWN UNKNOWNS

Although there are MANY more questions to accompany those shown above, I believe there is one question ALL consumers should first examine:

Who is responsible to know the right questions I need answered to help me reduce the risk of experiencing an uncovered loss?  

Independent insurance agents who serve their clients as personal risk advisors know the unknowns, and can provide insightful answers to the many important questions few consumers know to ask. Consumers need the assistance of an independent agent who functions as a de-facto risk-coach, and not simply an insurance company promoting a “better deal” on an insurance policy.

Where to find one?

To learn whether you are working with an insurance agent who is truly focused on helping you make well informed decisions to properly manage your risks, here’s a good question to ask that person:

“Are there other questions I have not asked that can help  you better assess my exposure to uncovered losses?” 

The answer you receive to this question can help you determine if the person whose job it is to help you understand and manage your risks is even focused on meeting that objective.  For those who wish to speak with an independent insurance agent who provides their clients clear answers to the important questions they don’t know to ask I’d be happy to provide an introduction.

 

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Broke

It is likely old news to most insurance consumers that the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) administered by FEMA is plagued with challenges.

Challenges as in problems. Many. Big. Problems.  This excellent New York Times article provides a sobering analysis of those problems.

 

THE BIGGEST PROBLEM: As illustrated by the excellent chart below, although many policyholders feel their flood insurance premiums are already too high, the costs to pay all claims occurring in years with catastrophic flooding events GREATLY exceed the total premiums received over many years combined. The NFIP is not exactly a good business model.

SOLUTIONS ARE AVAILABLE: Consumers should be aware there are a number of private insurance carriers that provide alternative and/or supplemental coverage solutions to the National Flood Insurance Program. These private carriers can often provide expanded protection, cost improvements, and sometimes a combination of improved coverage and a lower cost.

WHERE TO FIND THEM: To evaluate private placement flood insurance solutions, insurance consumers should contact an independent insurance agent that represents multiple carriers.  As with all forms of insurance, coverage terms and conditions vary among carriers, and established independent insurance agents are often able to help consumers explore multiple coverage solutions from different insurance carriers. I can help consumers  in need of such assistance by providing a recommendation to local agencies located throughout the United States offering great expertise and market access.

As always, let the buyer BeAware!

flood chart

auto-insurance-price-increase-imageThe rising cost of auto insurance is a source of frustration for most of us.  Many I speak with want to know how insurance companies determine the premiums they charge, and why those costs are rising.

Insurance companies use actuarial science to analyze a lot of data to help them assess the probability of a future loss and the projected claims costs for any given policyholder. Before setting the rates, regulators in each state require carriers to document how the factors being used directly correlate to the rates the carrier seeks to charge. Whether consumers agree with the factors or not, most I speak with understand the more common factors used by carriers to determine the cost of auto insurance, including:

o   Age, gender, and marital status

o   Where you live, and how many miles you drive to and from work

o   Your credit rating

o   Your driving record and claim history

Meanwhile, analyzing prior claims results to determine the cost to offset future losses is not always reliable. When forecasts prove inaccurate and the cost to pay all claims outpace the premiums collected, carriers must document the reasons to support their request for increased rates when filing their new rates with state regulators.  Insurance carriers have experienced a number of factors that have contributed to more frequent claims and a higher cost to settle many claims, leading to higher auto insurance premiums for many consumers. Following are those factors:

o   More miles driven. Vehicle miles traveled increased by 3.5% in 2015, the largest annual increase in nearly 25 years, and an additional growth of 3.1% occurred in 2016.

o   More drivers driving. The number of people employed has increased significantly. Simply put, more cars and drivers on the road leads to a higher probability of accidents.

o   Increase in accident severity. The average cost per paid bodily injury claim increased 32.1% from 2005 to 2013, and medical costs are on the rise.

o   Increase in auto repair costs. The U.S. set a new car sales record in 2015, and new cars have more advanced technology and are more expensive to repair.

o   Increase in traffic fatalities:  deaths on the roadways increased 8% in 2015 to the highest level since 2005.

Should you wish further information on this topic, this excellent article and video by Central Insurance Companies is especially insightful: What’s driving my auto rates?

backupcameraWhile the answer is a resounding YES, there is a catch.

Not surprisingly, the impressive new safety features in modern vehicles first requires the driver to learn how to properly use those features.  Perhaps because old habits die hard, many motorists are not deriving a benefit from each of the safety features their vehicle provides.

Helping drivers to overcome this challenge is this great organization — https://mycardoeswhat.org/   After visiting this incredible website it is hard to imagine ALL drivers cannot learn something new to better utilize the safety features of their vehicle.

For those seeking further details, I highly recommend an excellent article from IRMI on automotive safety, Advanced Driver Assistance.

Do you know how to use all of the features available to help you drive More Safely?

 

Is 2FA a PITA?

cyber-securityA much bigger PITA is having your private information “hacked”, and then realizing 2FA could have prevented the pain.

If you do not already use 2 Factor Authentication, your information is much more vulnerable than it would be with 2FA. Keeping track of passwords is another common PITA.  Password manager utilities are a much better solution than using the same password for all sites.

To learn the importance of using 2FA, password managers, and to understand other issues that can expose your private information, I highly recommend you take 4 minutes to read this excellent article.

 

distracted_72bwWith Thanksgiving over, the New Year is fast approaching.  From a personal risk management perspective, I can share there is ONE major safety risk that can be easily managed, though each day many of us willingly invite this risk into our lives – and the lives of our loved ones.

Driving While Distracted is an increasingly pervasive risk that many of us simply chose to accept. For those who require the alarming statistical evidence, consider:

  • Over 2.5 million people in the U.S. are involved in road accidents each year, and 64% involved the use of a cell phone.
  • Texting and driving is 6 times more likely to get you in an accident than drunk driving. Yup — driving while intoxicated is statistically LESS less dangerous than driving while texting.
  • Reading a text message while driving successfully distracts a driver for a minimum of five seconds each time.
  • 94% of teenagers understand the consequences of texting and driving, but 35% of them admitted that they do it anyway.
  • 25% of teens respond to at least one text while driving, every single time.
  • On average, 11 teenagers die each day because they were texting while driving.
  • 10% of adults and 20% of teenagers have admitted that they have entire conversations via text message while driving.
  • When polled, 77% of adults and 55% of teenage drivers say that they can easily manage texting while driving.

The Holiday Season helps to remind us that the well-being of ourselves and our friends and family is what is most important to us.  I encourage all to make a resolution to manage the risk of distracted driving, and to compel those you care about to do the same.

There is a lot of information available to help make the changes needed to avoid distractions. The organization End Distracted Driving provides a lot of practical guidance, including a list of 11 simple steps to manage this risk: http://www.enddd.org/simple-steps-we-can-take-for-safer-driving/

Why not resolve to take the steps to manage this risk now?!

 

couture

As this image attests,  we can invest a lot of passion and funds in assembling a wardrobe over our lifetime. Those who invest in designer garments, shoes and handbags should make sure their insurance coverage properly protects collections that often represent a significant and highly vulnerable investment.

Just as with fine art, couture collections are subject to a broad range of risks that are often not covered by traditional insurance programs. Many collectors unwittingly expose garments to sunlight, improper climate and other circumstances that are not covered by insurance, and can damage the items in a collection irreparably.

AIG Private Client Group recognizes the importance of providing specialized couture coverage for those with bespoke wardrobes, and offers a range of risk management services to help collectors better protect their investment.  Check this link to learn more about this specialized coverage: https://www-200.aigprivateclient.com/index.php?Page=couture-collection-insurance  or contact me for advice on how to protect your couture collection.

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