Top 11 Qualities of an Outstanding Insurance Agent

Chances are, at some point in your life, you’re likely to want the services of an insurance agent. Homeowners, auto, health, disability, and life insurances can prevent financial disaster due to a crisis.

A good insurance agent can help you protect one of your greatest assets: your money.

How do you find an exceptional insurance agent? Will you know one when you meet one?

Consider these qualities of an excellent insurance agent:

1. Demonstrates good listening skills. If an agent pressures you to select a certain type or amount of insurance and hasn’t yet listened to what you have to say, turn around and go the other direction. An effective agent is attentive and listens well.

2. Takes time to get to know you and your situation. A good insurance agent will sit down with you and focus on your financial needs and desires. His recommendations are solutions that work well with your own personal circumstances.

3. Returns calls promptly. Whenever you have questions or comments about an insurance policy or claim, a quality agent will call you back within 24 hours if he was unavailable when you called.

4. Employs quality staff. A good agent understands the importance of having office workers who show up on time, dress appropriately, and use courtesy and kindness when dealing with you. Such an agent realizes that his customer service is only as good as his staff’s professionalism.

5. Uses tact, understanding, and knowledge. An effective agent understands where you’re coming from. He’ll listen to you and then present you with facts and examples that educate you regarding the insurance you seek.

6. Shows honesty. He will tell you the downsides as well as the benefits of the policy.

7. Has the capacity to sell you one of a number of insurance products. The more insurance companies that the agent interfaces with, the better the chance that he’ll be able to find a policy that fits you and your needs like a glove.

8. Possesses some legal and tax knowledge. A good agent should be able to explain to you general legal and tax ramifications of a policy. Specific legal and tax knowledge, however, should still be directed to an attorney or tax professional.

9. Is involved in the local business community. He knows many of the local bankers, store owners, and major employers in your town. You might see him at your local street fair or farmer’s market on Saturday.

10. Is friendly and open with others. A competent agent will have a smile on his face and openly chat with you.

11. Will refrain from being overly aggressive or pushy. A good agent knows that being too pushy with a prospective customer rarely helps to get a successful sale.

When you’re seeking an insurance agent you can trust, look for these characteristics. Trust your own instincts about whether someone is the right agent for you. Before you know it, you’ll find a competent agent whose focus is to fulfill your insurance needs so you can protect your precious assets.

Could You Benefit From Umbrella Liability Insurance?

If you prefer to plan ahead for anything unsavory that might happen to you financially, you might want to consider purchasing umbrella liability insurance. Umbrella liability insurance can protect your assets from large claims or lawsuits.

Review these elements of an umbrella liability insurance policy. Maybe the time is right for you to obtain an “umbrella” of your own.

1. An umbrella policy is additional insurance. You can purchase an umbrella liability insurance policy as an adjunct to your homeowners’ or auto insurance policy. With some policies, you can also add to other coverage, like your boat insurance, with an additional charge.

2. It provides extra financial protection. Should you ever be sued for liability, having an umbrella policy to fall back on will provide extra coverage past the limits of your homeowners’ or car insurance policy. For example, if you cause an accident, liability claims could easily go way past your normal policy limits for property damage or medical care.

3. Umbrella policies are large. The least liability amount you can obtain through an umbrella liability policy is $1 million. Also, most umbrella liability policies require that your main policy (vehicle or homeowner’s insurance) already cover you for at least $300,000.

4. Your assets don’t have to be large. It’s not necessary for you to have $1 million worth of assets in order to obtain such coverage – or to be sued for such an amount. After all, you could, for example, get sued for a million dollars and only have assets totaling $200,000. Without an umbrella policy, your future income and assets are also at risk!

5. Your family and pets are covered. An umbrella policy covers everyone in your family living in your household, including your pets. So even if your pets get loose and cause some damage, you’re covered. Many policies even extend coverage to others, such as when you let someone else drive your car somewhere and they get in an accident.

6. Your legal fees are covered by an umbrella liability policy. Umbrella liability coverage will even pay for your legal fees if a liability suit is brought against you.

7. The cost for umbrella insurance is reasonable. The first $1 million of coverage costs as little as $200-$400 per year. Each additional $1 million is only about $100. Raising your regular deductible might even provide enough savings to pay for an extra million dollars of coverage!

8. Obtain an umbrella policy from your current insurer. Ask your auto or home insurance agent about adding an umbrella liability policy to your coverage. You might even get discounts on all your liability policies when you bundle all of them with the same carrier.

Here’s an example of how your umbrella liability policy would work:

You’re on a car trip and have typical vehicle property liability coverage of $50,000. You’re involved in a major car accident. You collide with an expensive recreational vehicle (RV). The RV is less than a year old. The insurance estimate to repair the RV is $90,000.

Your regular car insurance policy would cover only $50,000 toward repairing the RV’s damage. However, with an umbrella liability policy, the remaining $40,000 worth of damage would also be paid. You won’t have to pay anything out of pocket (other than your primary car insurance deductible amount).

It’s a comforting feeling to know that you can protect all your current and future assets, plus cover legal fees, with such a small investment. In the unfortunate event that someone brings a liability suit against you, you’ll be prepared.

Open your “umbrella” policy to protect you and your family!

Do You Have All the Insurance You Need?

Part of your financial plan should include protecting your assets, including your possessions, as well as your income, loved ones and health-related financial concerns. Insurance isn’t very exciting, and it can certainly be expensive. But when you need it, you’ll be glad you have it. Unfortunately, there’s no single policy that will give you all the coverage you need.

Take inventory of your insurance coverage. Do you have these 5 important policies?

Life Insurance

Life insurance protects those people who depend on you financially if you die unexpectedly. Consider the hardships on your loved ones if you should happen to die prematurely.

How do you determine how much life insurance you should get?

Consider these matters:

* Replacing your income. How much and for how long?
* Last illness expenses
* Funeral expenses
* Would you like to pay off certain debts, like your mortgage, so you don’t leave those behind for your loved ones?

No one likes to think about these things. However, if you deal with it now, it’s something your family doesn’t have to deal with later.

Health Insurance

Health insurance is expensive, but health care is expensive too, really expensive. A simple trip to the doctor can easily be several hundred dollars. A routine surgery that only results in being in the hospital for a couple of hours can be over $10,000.

Health insurance costs are a burden, but the cost of a genuine medical issue can be catastrophic.

If this isn’t something you can get through your employer, be prepared to do some legwork to find a policy that’s right for you.

Long-Term Disability Insurance

This insurance replaces a portion of your lost income if you become unable to work. The cost depends on the amount of income that you wish to replace, your age, health, the length, and the limits of coverage. Policies will also differ regarding what they consider to be a “disability.”

This coverage can also be quite expensive. Hopefully, you can also get this through your employer. If not, sit down with your life or health insurance agent to go over the details of this important insurance.

Homeowners Insurance

If you still owe money on your home, your lender requires homeowners insurance. If you don’t owe money on your home, you should still carry this type of financial protection. Consider how many thousands of dollars your house and the contents would cost to replace.

The price of homeowners insurance is quite small compared to the amount of coverage you’re getting.

Besides covering the structure of the house and its contents, some policies will even cover putting you up in a hotel until your house is repaired. Any injuries that occur to friends and strangers are also covered under your house policy.

Consider what you need; there are a lot of options for benefits, limits, and price.

Automobile Insurance

Nearly all states require automobile insurance to varying degrees (New Hampshire is the exception). Everyone should have coverage, even if you drive a 1975 Chevy Nova that has been paid off for years. Even in that case, you’re still financially responsible for the damage you cause to other vehicles and property.

Without automobile insurance, you might face a lawsuit that could potentially cost you everything you own. Ensure you have all the coverage you need, not only for your own vehicle, but to cover your liability as well.

Conclusion

Insurance isn’t exciting or sexy, but it’s a necessity. When looking at new policies, shop around because prices and coverage can differ widely from one company to the next.

One tip to save some money: Get a policy with a higher deductible. The more you have to pay before the insurance kicks-in, the less that insurance coverage will cost you.

Do your homework and find an insurance professional you can trust. Don’t just focus on what insurance costs you; think of what it will cost you if you don’t have it.

Renter’s Insurance and Retirees

Does your house feel empty and oversized now that your kids have homes of their own? Maybe now is the time to move to a condo or apartment. You’d be free of mowing the grass, cleaning out of the gutters, and shoveling the driveway. And perhaps best of all: no more property taxes!

If you decide to downsize your residence and rent instead of own, you’ll no longer need homeowner’s insurance. Even so, you’ll still have stuff to insure, and renter’s insurance is your financial solution.

What Does Renter’s Insurance Cover?

Consider these attributes of coverage with renter’s insurance:

1. Loss of property. Renter’s insurance will cover the loss of your personal possessions in the same situations that your homeowner’s policy covered. This will include occurrences such as fire, theft, storm damage, and water damage.

* Be aware that certain types of property like jewelry, high-end electronics, and antiques may require specific coverage with a rider.

2. Add a rider for earthquakes, floods, or hurricanes. As with homeowner’s policies, damage from earthquake and flood typically are not covered. Separate coverage or a rider is required if these are relevant to your geographical area.

* Inquire about damage from hurricanes if those can be an issue where you live. After a hurricane, you may find it difficult to collect, so ensure you know what you’re getting up front.

3. Actual replacement cost vs. cash value. When looking at policies, understand whether the policy covers the replacement cost or the cash value.

* If only the cash value is covered, for example, you won’t receive enough to fund the replacement of your 10-year old leather couch.

* Purchasing a policy that provides the actual replacement cost will cover what it really costs you to replace your property, but the premiums will be higher.

4. Policy limits. Know the limits on the coverage within your policy. Some policies have a cap on the total payout, too.

5. Liability. Renter’s policies usually cover some liability.

* For example, if someone slips in your apartment and breaks his arm, you’re likely to be covered.

* You may also be covered if your dog bites someone, but certain breeds are frequently excluded, so be sure to check on these restrictions if you have a dog.

* Any accidental damage you cause to the building is also usually covered. So if you trip and put your shoulder through the dry wall, your insurance should cover the cost to repair the wall.

Cost

The cost of coverage is usually quite low – often no more than $100 per year.

The factors that determine the cost include the amount of the deductible, your location, and your specific needs beyond the basics. Discounts are usually available for having safety features like burglar alarms, smoke detectors, and fire extinguishers. Having additional policies with the same insurance company can also reduce your cost.

You can lower your premiums by having a sprinkler system for fire, dead-bolt locks, only non-smokers in the household, electronic payments, and a good credit rating. Electronic payments require less labor to process, so many companies charge more if you mail yours. The other items are risk management issues. A non-smoking household is much less likely to have a fire.

Before you sign up for a specific policy, sit down with your insurance agent and see what other premium discounts might apply to your situation. You could save yourself a bunch of cash.

Document Your Property

Make a list of all your belongings, with photos, before you get your policy. It would be an even better idea to make a video. Store your list or video in a private location online or in a safe deposit box at your bank. Keeping the video in the video camera won’t help you much if the camera gets stolen or destroyed in a fire. The same goes for a list on your computer.

Becoming a renter instead of a homeowner doesn’t mean you no longer need insurance. Your possessions still need to be insured and you still have potential liabilities. Because of this, renter’s insurance makes sense. It brings you a lot of peace of mind for only a little money!