Grandparents, It’s Time to Baby-Proof Your Home
By Arthur Murray
You’ve got a new grandchild. Right now, at only six weeks old, he’s pretty safe in your home. But it won’t be long until he’s mobile, crawling from danger spot to danger spot. That means you’ve got to start thinking about baby-proofing it.
A side benefit from keeping the baby safe, of course, is protecting your own stuff. No matter how much you love the kid, you don’t want some of your prized possessions to be wrecked.
Following are some tips, by category, for protecting both the child and your things:
- Many families set their water heater temperatures at 120 degrees or higher. But if an infant will be in the house, turn the temperature down to 110 degrees to avoid accidental burns.
- Don’t leave standing water in a sink or tub. Purchase and install toilet lid locks. Babies like water and will play in it, regardless of source.
- Keep safety latches on cabinet doors to keep the infant out of any cleaning solutions or other potential poisons – this also applies to kitchen cupboards. Just in case, keep this number handy for the national poison control center: 800-222-1222.
- Cover all unused electrical outlets with safety plugs. Check behind furniture to make sure you don’t miss any. It doesn’t take much for the baby to get a burn or shock.
- Even if you don’t light a fire while the baby’s there – and you shouldn’t, you’ll need a hearth cover to keep the child from getting too close to the fireplace. Store any heavy fireplace tools elsewhere.
- If you have sliding glass doors, put decals on them so the toddler won’t run into them.
- Put covers on any doorknobs you don’t want the child to turn.
- Keep furniture or anything else that can be climbed away from windows.
- Adjust windows so they cannot be opened more than six inches.
- It’s a good idea to install safety glass in low windows – you don’t want the glass to shatter should a child fall into it.
- Keep the stairway clear so you won’t trip while carrying the child.
- Put a gate at the bottom of the stairs to keep the child from crawling up. Experts are divided on gates at the top of stairs. Many say the child could climb the gate and fall. They recommend placing gates on upstairs rooms where the baby will be kept.
- Don’t keep coins, paperclips or other small objects on low-lying tables where babies can grab and swallow them.
- Furniture edges should be shielded with bumper pads.
- Keep dresser drawers closed when you’re not using them.
- Fasten bookcases to walls so they can’t be pulled over.
- Cook on back burners whenever possible. Always turn pot and pan handles toward the back of the stove.
These are just some starting points for keeping your grandchild safe while he or she is visiting your house. Use some common sense and evaluate other dangers for yourself. If in doubt, ask the child’s parents for advice.
How to Get an A+ for Your Child’s Graduation Party
by Arthur Murray
Remember your high school graduation? Remember how you celebrated? Remember all the trouble you could have gotten into? Now think about your graduate and how to make sure he or she has a fun – but safe – celebration.
Consider throwing a graduation party for your teen and his or her friends. That way you can keep track of what’s going on. But go into it with your eyes wide open. A legal doctrine called social host liability holds you responsible for guests at parties you throw. Thirty-seven states hold hosts liable if guests drink at their parties – even if the hosts are unaware of it. Consider that nearly 70% of high school students have tried alcohol, and you can see the potential for trouble.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep the party – and the party-ers – as safe as possible.
Know the rules
Check the regulations in your state – your home insurance agent can probably help you with this. Agents also can tell you what kind of liability coverage you could expect in connection with the party. Once you learn the rules, have a heart-to-heart with your graduate and explain why alcohol cannot be present at the gathering.
Be clear about the party
Make sure your invitations clearly communicate that drugs and alcohol won’t be tolerated at the party. Limit how many graduates you’ll invite. Teens often find safety in numbers when they want to break the rules.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Before you get too deep in the planning process, recruit enough chaperones so you’ll have plenty of help policing the gathering. In addition to the people on the inside, you’ll need at least one set of eyes regularly checking outside to make sure things aren’t getting out of hand there. Be clear with the adults that you need chaperones – not party-goers – and that adults will be setting an example by not drinking as well. In fact, you should lock up your alcohol for the night, along with any prescription medications.
Watch them coming and going
Have just one way to get into – or out of – the party. That way, you can check everyone out as they arrive to reassure yourself they’re starting out sober. Likewise, give guests the once-over when they leave to make sure you’re comfortable with them getting on the road. Don’t allow anyone to bring water bottles or backpacks into the gathering: Both are easy ways to sneak alcohol into the house.
Throwing a party for a group of high school seniors might not be something you’d choose for fun. But consider the alternatives: Trusting another graduate’s parents to keep a close eye on things or allowing your grad to attend a completely unsupervised party.
By holding the party yourself, you’ll be in the best position to make sure your graduate – and others – remains safe. They’ve got a lot riding on this night. So do you.
Mother’s Day: Is Your Mother Covered?
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about things you can do to show your mom how much you love her. Sure, you can buy her flowers, take her out to eat and spend the afternoon reminiscing about what a perfect child you were, but this year consider reviewing her home insurance policy. You can still do the other things, but making this effort to ensure that she’s covered will give you both great peace of mind, and nothing beats that.
Check policy limits
Does her policy offer adequate coverage to replace her home and all of its contents in the event of a covered loss? Look through the policy forms carefully. If, for example, she has jewelry with a value that exceeds the policy limit, the difference will not be covered unless she schedules an endorsement or adds a rider to increase that limit.
What type of coverage does she have? If she has replacement coverage, her home and its contents will be replaced after a covered loss with materials of like kind and quality without deducting for depreciation. On the other hand, if her policy is written on an ACV, or Actual Cash Value basis, any claims paid will have depreciation deducted.
Does she need additional policies such as flood or earthquake? These perils aren’t covered under homeowners insurance and must be added separately. On the flip side, make sure she isn’t paying for coverage she doesn’t actually need by talking with her insurance company about anything you see on the policy that you don’t understand.
Help mom save money on her insurance
You should also make sure mom is taking advantage of any available discounts offered by her insurance company. A few to look for are:
Auto/home bundle: Most insurance companies will give mom a discount if she buys home and auto coverage from the same provider.
Safety and security discounts: If mom has a monitored security system, dead-bolt locks and a working fire alarm in her home, her insurance company will likely reward her with a discounted premium.
There are a lot of things you can do to show mom how much you care. This Mother’s Day, give her the peace of mind that comes with saving money and knowing she’s well protected in case the unexpected happens. It’s a gift that will last long after the flowers are faded and gone.
With summer approaching, many families are finalizing vacation plans. Those plans should include at least considering travel insurance to make sure you don’t lose out financially in case something derails your getaway.
First, think about the scope of your trip. If you’re just spending a weekend at the beach or staying a few days with your sister and brother-in-law in a neighboring state, you’re probably OK without buying insurance. But if you’ve got bigger plans – maybe that trip to London or Rio you’ve always dreamed about – you should definitely consider insuring your trip.
Here are a few reasons why:
- What happens if you get sick or injured? This is especially relevant if you’re leaving the country, whether it’s for that trip to London or Rio or whether you’re taking a cruise to Jamaica and the Caymans. You probably didn’t know that a medical evacuation back to the U.S. can cost as much as $100,000. And that’s only part of the problem. Some health insurance policies in the U.S. do not cover you once you leave the country. Many hospitals in foreign countries make you pay up front for treatment.
- You arrive at your destination only to discover that the guy who jostled you at the airport took your wallet and passport.
- Your spouse injures her knee the weekend before you leave and has to have surgery.
- You booked a condo in Orlando, Fla., for a week and the threat of a hurricane causes you to leave early.
Travelers insurance can help in each of these scenarios, whether it’s getting the health care you need in a foreign location, replacing your passport and providing some emergency cash or being reimbursed for nonrefundable expenses.
What to look for
Here are some of the factors you should consider as you look for a policy:
- Single trip insurance vs. annual insurance. Most vacationers should opt for single trip insurance. It provides coverage for one single trip. The cost is determined by the cost of the trip, the age of the traveler and how long you’ll be staying. It can include trip cancellation and interruption coverage. Annual plans are best for business travelers who make several trips during the year. They mainly provide medical and medical evacuation service.
- A Cancel for Any Reason benefit. Face it, the most likely reason you’ll use travel insurance is because you’ve had to cancel your trip. Many policies limit the reasons you’ll cancel; if you take one of those, you’re still gambling.
- Personal liability coverage. You might not think of this one, but suppose you rent a car in your destination and cause an accident. Your auto insurance policy likely won’t be in effect, so you could be on the hook for major expenses.
How much will it cost?
The short answer is less than you might think. Policies generally range from between 4% and 8% of the total cost of your trip, depending on how much coverage you want.
No one wants to spend part of the vacation budget on insurance. But consider the high costs you could incur on the trip and the money you’ll lose if you have to cancel. You might decide that it’s a smart investment to buy some peace of mind.
Today, nearly 10% of American families utilize some sort of off-site storage space. Here are a few insurance factors to consider if you’re part of that statistic:
Coverage from your existing home insurance or renters insurance policy
Many homeowners and renters insurance policies include off-premises property protection for theft and damage from disasters such as fire. However, different insurance companies have different rules and regulations for how that coverage applies to items in storage. Typically, stored belongings may be covered if their total value is less than 10% of your overall homeowners insurance coverage, but you should check with your provider to be certain of your coverage.
If you’re using a unit to store your kids’ old college futon or other low-value items, your off-premises coverage may offer all the protection you need. However, if you’re storing high-value items such as antique furniture, you may be underinsured. Some renters choose to raise their insurance coverage limits or purchase separate floaters on their existing policies in order to protect their stored belongings. Others simply opt for different storage solutions, such as a bank safe deposit box for valuable jewelry.
Coverage from the storage facility
Many self-storage facilities offer insurance options for renters. In fact, a large number of storage facilities require a minimum amount of coverage and other regulations in order to even sign a rental agreement. About 75% of storage unit renters are covered by this type of insurance.
Within your rental agreement, it’s also important to note the maximum value your facility allows per unit. While the value of the contents in your unit probably won’t ever actually be appraised, this figure typically doubles as your renters’ insurance coverage limit – the maximum amount you could recover should you experience a total covered loss. That means if you’ve stored $10,000 worth of belongings in a unit with a $5,000 coverage limit, you’re way underinsured and should be prepared for the possibility of losing half your investment. Consider renting multiple units or raising your coverage limits.
Choosing the right facility
Typically, if your belongings are destroyed as a result of a poorly maintained storage unit, you’re on your own. For example, if the facility that houses your valuables doesn’t properly maintain its storm drains or other safety features, a heavy storm could leave your entire unit water-logged. The resulting water damage, mold and mildew most likely will not be covered by your homeowners insurance.
The Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends doing some research on a facility before storing any valuable items there. Check for a high level of security as well as good maintenance. For example, a permanent, reliable pest and rodent extermination contract is an excellent sign that the facility is well-maintained. You should also be sure to inventory every item you place in storage by taking photos and maintaining receipts and other documents in case you have to prove what you’ve lost in a covered claim.
If you have questions about how your belongings are protected when they’re in storage, contact your storage facility and your licensed insurance agent.
The term ‘multigenerational household’ may sound a little dated, but the concept is anything but. In fact, as our parents (and their parents) live longer and our homes grow larger, it only makes sense that more families than ever are welcoming elderly relatives into their homes at some point.
Additionally, adult Americans are moving back in with their families in record numbers. It’s less unusual for post-college grads to consider moving back home while they search for employment in a tough market.
Shared households are becoming commonplace. But while your home may be suited to accommodate more residents, is your home insurance policy ready as well?
What – and who – is covered
While insurance varies from state to state, in most regions of the country, family members who move in with relatives are covered under the existing homeowner’s policy. If, however, the individuals who move in are not related to the homeowner, they will typically not be covered under the existing policy.
Consider Umbrella Coverage
With a larger households comes larger risks for liability claims and other damages. If you’re concerned about gaps in your coverage, consider purchasing an umbrella policy. Umbrella policies offer pure liability coverage over and above that afforded by your regular policy. In the case of multigenerational households, your umbrella policy will help cover any gaps in your home or auto liability coverage.
The first rule in insurance is to never assume you know what’s covered. If you are welcoming an elderly relative or an adult son or daughter back into your home, make sure to report these changes to your insurance company. Your agent will let you know what exactly is – and isn’t – included under your existing policy.
You’re a social media junkie. You hang out for hours on Facebook, you tweet like you’re a bird welcoming spring back after the long winter. Heck, you’ve even been known to try to communicate with the sparse crowds on Google+. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But anything taken to extremes is, well, extreme, and it can bring the law of unintended consequences into play. Going too far with social media, for example, can affect your home insurance.
You always let everyone know where you are and what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter too much if you’re just going to the corner McClane’s for a GruBurger and some fries – but could matter a lot if you’re announcing to crooks that you’re going to be gone for the night. It could especially matter if your profile isn’t particularly secretive about where you live. Unless you’ve mastered the ever-evolving Facebook privacy rules, your post could be seen by nearly anyone.
What’s the big deal? Well, if you announce you’re eating at Chris’ Chris Steakhouse – and the time you’re going to be there – it’s not too hard for a criminal to figure out you’ll be out of the house for a while. That gives him a definite window to break in, look through your stuff and get out of there – maybe even before you finish posting a photo of your crabtini appetizer.
It gets even worse when you go on vacation. If you’re posting photos from a cruise ship, then a crook casing the house – and lurking on your Facebook profile – has a pretty good idea he can wait for his opportunity to strike without you being there.
The end result: You come home and find a bunch of stuff missing from your house – all your electronics, some cash you left on the bar and other valuable items. You could be cleaned out before you clear customs and you’d never even know it until you get back home.
Of course, you can file a claim under your home insurance policy for your missing stuff. But that doesn’t solve everything. You’ll be out your deductible, for one thing. And the end result could be an increase in your homeowners insurance premium.
The better option: Keep your friends in suspense a little. Post your photos and updates AFTER you get home, whether it’s from a restaurant or a vacation. You can still be social – just don’t give too much information away.
Criminals aren’t quite like vampires. They don’t have to be invited to enter your home. But many people seem to be inviting them anyway. Did you know that more than a third of all home break-ins happen when the criminal enters the front door?
Now that doesn’t mean that people are leaving the front door wide open or even unlocked. But if you have an older door, many times all a criminal has to do is kick it down or even just push it open. What to do? Get a sturdy door with a deadbolt lock.
Think that’s a pretty simplistic suggestion? Here’s the thing: Criminals are a pretty lazy lot – they much prefer low-hanging fruit than having to work for it. The second most common way they gain entry to homes is through first-floor windows. Nearly a quarter of crooks use that method. What can you do about it? Don’t just close your windows when you leave the house – lock them. A security system with window sensors is the best solution, of course. But something else you can do that won’t cost a dime – keep bushes in your yard trimmed so they don’t obscure your windows.
Attached garages also are a common entry point – nearly 10% of criminals use that. Many people don’t close their garages, much less lock them. And the door from the garage to the rest of the home can be pretty easy pickings, too, even if you lock it. Again, the best bet is to have deadbolts on all doors into the home.
Why does it matter? Every 13 seconds in the U.S., there is a home break-in, according to the FBI. These break-ins are not the work of professional burglars – the yield, which averages $2,185 per incident – is too small to attract the pros. More than 85% of home burglaries are committed by nonprofessional crooks. Only about 13% of break-ins are ever solved.
Don’t invite crooks to take your stuff. All the garlic and wooden crosses in the world won’t chase them away once they’re inside. Take precautions now to make sure you’re not making it easy on burglars.
If you become the target of a home burglary, it’s perfectly normal go through a wide range of feelings: violated that an intruder broke into your home, angry at the criminal, upset that your prized possessions have been stolen or tampered with, scared that it could happen again and more. However, it’s important to keep a clear head and follow these easy steps to help catch the intruder, recover what you’ve lost and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Call the police
The first thing you should do upon finding out your home has been burglarized is to evacuate and call 911. If there’s a chance the burglar could still be inside your home, it’s smartest to get to safety first and let the professionals handle it rather than try to be a hero against a startled criminal. In addition to the potential danger of surprising a criminal, you also risk contaminating any evidence left behind. Once the police arrive, let them clear the house for safety, investigate the scene and help them file a detailed report.
Check your home inventory
You should create a detailed list of everything that was stolen or damaged, including the estimated value of each item. It’s best to have prepared a home inventory in advance, so you can refer to a comprehensive list of all the contents in your home and be able to present photographs and receipts that prove ownership.
File a claim
Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible and file a claim for any lost or damaged property. If the burglar smashed a window, broke a sliding door, picked a lock or otherwise caused damage by forcing entry, an adjuster can help estimate the repair costs. Provide detailed information about each item that was stolen and present your home inventory to help speed up the process. Your insurance agent should help guide you through the rest of the process until you receive the settlement you deserve.
Take preventive measures
Finally, help make sure it doesn’t happen again by installing a home security system, deadbolt locks and other safety features. Even having a “No trespassing” or “Beware of dog” sign could help deter potential intruders. Keep a light or two on at all times to make it seem like someone is always home, and arrange with your neighbors to pick up mail and newspapers while you’re out of town. Never talk about your comings and goings on social media. The easiest way to help prevent crime in your home is simply to make it a more difficult target.
It will take time to overcome the fear and other emotions you experience after a break-in. But dealing with the immediate problems and then doing some long-range planning can help you feel more comfortable. Peace of mind will once again be in your grasp.
We talk a lot about homes here, it’s what we do. Every now and then a home will cross our paths—one of those outlandish Hollywood homes worth tens of millions—and we’ll spitball home owners insurance rates and make guesses about the content within that would need coverage.
Yes, we know it’s a nerdy game. Last week, it got even nerdier.
Someone in the office came across the home that inspired Tony Stark’s house in the Iron Man movies (it’s real, but not quite as extravagantly located). Instead of talking about that actual home, we launched into a debate about Stark’s fictional palace and the many, many expensive things he’d keep inside. Debating his home lead us to another fictional character with billions of dollars and penchant for fighting crime: Batman.
We came up with these (very) rough estimates for their yearly insurance rates.
Iron Man’s insurance costs: $200,000/year
Batman’s insurance costs: $115,000/year
Yikes. Good thing they’re billionaires. Batman’s was more difficult of course, because unlike Iron Man, he’s not open with his identity. Insuring his batcave could be tricky—he might not want that on the books.
Somewhere along the line we stopped talking about insuring giant homes with caves under them and moved into overall cost of fighting crime with no super powers and lots of cool gizmos. If you had a billion dollars, how far could you get? Which hero gets more bang for his crime fighting buck? One of our designers took that tangent home with him and made this awesome infographic.
It’s a little outside of what we normally post here, but come on, who hasn’t wondered this? Obviously, it’s cheaper to be Batman. He’s a bit more frugal, and seems to take better care of his stuff. He also doesn’t require the power of flight. Tony Stark is a little more cavalier with his equipment, maybe he recycles all those suits he trashes.
Did we get it wrong? Were our valuations of mostly fictional products way off? Feel free to debate in the comments below, or share and debate with your friends using the embed code.
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