Here’s a New Year’s resolution that might save you thousands of dollars: Review your homeowner’s, auto and life insurance policies.
Insurance isn’t necessarily the most scintillating topic for consumers, yet it’s essential to your financial well being. You and your family are at risk big time if you don’t have sufficient coverage.
A Bankrate study found that nearly four in 10 parents with children under age 18 have no life insurance. A third of those who are insured have less than $100,000 in coverage.
Meanwhile, having insufficient coverage on your home and possessions could hamstring your finances in the event of a big property loss, like a fire.
Now might be a good time for a checkup.
Cover Your Valuables
Let’s say you received some pricey gifts this year, including fine art or jewelry.
Think about protecting your new luxury items with a valuable personal property policy, which is available as a rider to your existing homeowners’ or renters’ insurance.
If you already have a collection of baubles and other hard-to-value property, be sure to have them appraised so that you can adequately insure them, said Scott Teller, a customer segmentation officer for personal risk services at Chubb.
“The cost to rebuild your home is more, because now you have a brand-new kitchen that you’ll need to fully replace.”
Meanwhile, if you’re treating yourself to a new kitchen or bathroom, be sure to notify your insurance provider before you start.
If your remodeling project is major, you may need to consider a builder’s risk policy, which will protect your home from damage that’s incurred during construction, including vandalism, theft of materials, and wind and rain.
Dig into the details of your construction crew’s insurance policies.
Make sure that your contractor has sufficient liability coverage to protect you in the event they damage your home, said Loretta Worters, vice president for the Insurance Information Institute in New York.
Confirm that your contractor is carrying workers’ compensation coverage, too. These are details that you can request, Worters said.
Hold on to your receipts, copies of contracts and photos from before, during and after your remodeling job. You’ll need to forward these to your insurance company and discuss raising your coverage after the revamp.
“The cost to rebuild your home is more, because now you have a brand-new kitchen that you’ll need to fully replace,” said Worters.
Perhaps you’re starting off the new year with a brand new car.
You’ll need collision and comprehensive coverage, which covers damage from vandalism, theft and falling objects. You might also want to consider increasing your liability insurance limits, said Worters.
With an older car, less insurance may equate to more savings.
“If it isn’t worth putting comprehensive coverage on your old car, then that’s something to consider,” said Worters. In that case, go for collision and liability insurance only.
“If the market value of your older car is worth less than 10 times the auto insurance premium you pay, then that’s when comprehensive coverage may not be effective,” she said.
Life Insurance Needs
Take a second look at your life insurance policy if you had a major life change during 2016, including having children, getting married or divorced, or finding a new job.
All of those developments should make you consider whether your death benefit is sufficient, according to Matt Cosgriff, a certified financial planner at BerganKDV in Minneapolis.
“We don’t like rules of thumb, but if your death benefit is equal to 10 times your income, then that’s a starting point,” he said.
A financial planner can help you determine the amount of insurance that’s right for you and your household.
NerdWallet estimates that a 30-year term policy for $500,000 will cost a healthy 30-year-old man about $400 a year.
Permanent Life Insurance
Permanent life insurance policies don’t expire after a stated period, and they include whole, universal and variable life. This type of coverage is commonly used for retirement income strategies and estate planning.
If you own this sort of policy, be sure to ask your insurance company for an in-force illustration. This is a snapshot of your contract. It will detail your current death benefits, the premiums you paid and the tax-advantaged cash value that’s growing within the policy.
Cash value can grow based on a stated rate of interest or it can reflect the performance of an underlying investment portfolio.
You need an in-force illustration because if your cash value isn’t growing as the insurance company had originally projected when you bought the policy, you may need to take additional steps to shore up your coverage.
“Maybe you can reduce your death benefit to make it last, or you’ll need more premiums,” said Scott J. Witt, founder of Witt Actuarial Services in New Berlin, Wisconsin.
“Until you get an in-force illustration with realistic assumptions, you won’t know what you have,” he said.