A list of your belongings will make filing an insurance claim much easier!
In the event of a fire or other disaster, would you be able to remember all your possessions? Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance. Here's how to create one.
Start your home inventory now
If you're just setting up a household, starting a home inventory is relatively simple. If you’ve been living in the same house for many years, however, the task of creating a list can seem daunting—but it doesn’t have to be. Get started here.
Use technology to make your home inventory easier
A simple pencil and paper will suffice, but technology can make creating a home inventory much easier.
Keep your home inventory up-to-date and safely stored
Your home inventory is only useful if it's accurate and you can access it to provide information to your insurance company in case of fire, theft or other destructive disaster. Regardless of the medium you've used to create your list, keep it backed up and in a safe place.
Next steps: After you've taken your inventory, learn how much homeowners insurance you need.
Your home protects you from the elements, but heavy rains can weaken that protection. With a little maintenance and a lot of vigilance, it’s not hard to stay safe and dry.
The first step is finding and fixing any immediate problems as soon as it’s safe to do so. Then, you’ll want to take measures to prevent those problems from happening during the next downpour!
Where is all that rain going?
Your roof and gutters form a key line of defense for your home – and in a storm, they’re vulnerable, because so many things can damage them. Trees, hail, and other objects can create weaknesses that might lead to leaks in your roof, so check for missing shingles and other issues. And keep your gutters clear so all that water drains properly.
Are you checking everywhere?
Water dripping from the ceiling is hard to miss. Water in your crawl space, however, can easily go undetected because hardly anyone ever checks there. Don’t forget to look down there after a storm (or have a professional do it) to make sure everything is nice and dry. If you do see moisture, you’ll want to get it out with a sump pump as soon as possible.
And don’t just look up – another place to check is your home’s exterior, whether it’s siding, brick, or another material. Weak spots can be hard to see, so look at various times of the day in different lighting conditions.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure your doors and windows are properly sealed to keep the elements out, too.
What about around your property?
Storm water has to go somewhere, and if your property doesn’t drain well, or if runoff goes toward your foundation, you could have problems. So watch for patterns, and grade property so it drains away from your home if possible. Always be wary of hillsides and tilting trees after heavy storms, because the land might not be stable.
And don’t forget to keep storm drains clear of leaves and other debris. This can prevent flooding both on the streets and your own property.
What should you do during the storm?
During powerful storms, stay inside. This is not the time to check your roof, your exterior, or your property unless there’s an emergency and you know it’s safe to go out. Monitor your interior, making sure no water is getting in. If it is, do what you can to alleviate the situation in the moment, even if it means just placing something under a leak to collect the water. For more serious problems, though, remember that safety is the most important thing. If your basement is flooding, for example, don’t go down there – you could be trapped and even drown.
Thankfully, powerful storms only hit once in a while. Preparing for them, however, should be on your mind a lot more frequently, because the next one could be tomorrow.
4 Things to Consider When Changing Your Auto Policy
Whether you are adding a vehicle or a new driver, updating your address, or considering a new insurance provider entirely, the process of making changes to your auto policy can be intimidating. Read on for things to keep in mind when adjusting your auto policy.
1. Let Your Independent Agent Do the Work for You
As with any important decision, consider talking to a local expert who can help you navigate the decisions involved in switching to a new car insurance company. While paying the lowest possible rate may seem attractive at first glance, any responsible agent will explain that getting the coverage you need should be one of your top priorities.
For example, if you frequently drive with your dog in the backseat, you might ask your agent whether or not your dog is covered in the event you are in an accident. A professional independent agent can recommend an auto insurance policy that automatically covers any potential pet medical bills if you get into an accident. Not all insurance companies include this coverage. This is an example of how protecting what matters most to you is more important than the savings you get from buying insurance online. The foresight to look ahead and anticipate coverage needs is one of the many benefits of working with an independent agent.
2. Ask the Right Questions About Insurance Carriers
It’s important to balance between being price-conscious and making sure your insurance needs are met. To ensure you receive the correct coverage to meet the needs of you and your family, ask these questions when you speak with your local independent agent:
3. Mind the Policy Gap
Timing is everything as you don’t want to be without coverage between policies. Fees might be involved if you change insurance providers mid-policy term, or discounts may be offered if you shop for a renewal prior to your expiration date, so you’ll want to plan your insurance switchover accordingly.
Failure to avoid a gap in coverage can have serious legal and financial repercussions, especially if a disaster strikes when you’re between insurers. Additionally, a lapse could mean that insurance carriers will charge higher premiums in the future.
4. Follow Through
Once you’ve switched, make it a point to stay in contact with your local agent. Make sure that your previous policy has been canceled. Avoid billing mistakes and credit bureau issues by obtaining written confirmation from your previous insurer that your policy has been cancelled.
If you are moving to a new state, plan to visit with your insurance provider. Because insurance laws vary by state, you’ll want to complete changes prior to your move.
With the right insurance carrier watching out for you, making the switch should be a straightforward process. And, Theodore & Associates is always here to help!
It’s easy to overspend during the holiday season. From presents to travel to decorations and all that food, here are 17 ideas for how to save money during the holidays.
1. Set a Budget
Figure out all the things you’ll need to purchase—gifts, food, decorations—and set a budget and stick to it. Be sure to think about little things that are easy to forget about such as charitable contributions, gas for travel and wine for a holiday party host. By setting a budget you will surely save money during the holidays.
2. Get Christmas Lists Early
The earlier you get your loved ones Christmas lists the earlier you can get shopping and hopefully find great deals. If you can brave the crowds, Black Friday is a great day to buy Christmas presents for a discounted price. And if you can’t handle the crowds, there’s always Cyber Monday to find gift deals online.
3. Use Cash Only
It can be hard to keep track of spending when using credit or cards, so make a point to use cash only for holiday-related purchases. When the money is gone, the shopping is over and saving money during the holidays is well underway.
4. Start Shopping Early
The earlier you start shopping for the holidays, the easier it will be to resist overspending. And starting early allows you time to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list, instead of having to shop at the last minute. And this makes it more likely you’ll blow the budget and won’t save money during the holidays.
5. Buy in Bulk
If you have a Costco or Sam’s Club membership, it’s smart and cost-effective to buy frequently used items like paper plates, napkins, paper towels and toilet paper in bulk during the holidays, especially if you are hosting holiday gatherings.
6. Cut Back on Extras (For a Month)
To ease the strain on your budget, try cutting back on extras for a month. If you give up that $5 latte you have each morning for 30 days, you can save $150 which could go toward Christmas gifts. And if you do splurge on yourself in the days leading up to Christmas, make sure it’s worth the price.
7. Go Potluck Style
Instead of serving a large holiday meal in which you’re responsible for all the food, ask guests to bring a dish to share. And not only will you save money during the holidays, everyone will enjoy tasting the variety of foods and sharing their recipes.
8. Try Secret Santa
If you have a large family, try using the Secret Santa method for gifts this year. By only buying one gift, it will relieve some of the financial burden and can also be a fun, new tradition. You can find several different ways to do Secret Santa gifts online.
9. Rethink Traditions
Holiday traditions should be memorable because they are fun, not because they’re expensive. Look for local Christmas festivals and performances, drive around to see Christmas lights. And go sledding or stay in and watch holiday movies or play board games together. All of these activities are free or relatively inexpensive and will save money during the holidays.
10. Think Outside the Decoration Box
If you normally purchase a tree, save money during the holidays by making your own alternative tree. Whether you use reclaimed wood, craft supplies or even wine corks, an alternative tree can save you money and space while still being festive.
11. Forget Traditional Christmas Cards
Instead of paying for Christmas cards and postage, try sending family and friends e-cards. Many websites offer free e-cards and some can be customized with your family’s photos and some even play music.
12. Comparison Shop
When shopping for big-ticket items such as electronics, be sure to comparison shop. And take some time to research the items online and how much they cost at different stores so when you’re ready to buy, you know you’re getting a bargain.
13. Think DIY Gifts
Never overlook the value of DIY gifts, they definitely save money during the holidays. If you have a gardener on your gift list, try making them a terrarium. And put together a photo collage, build a plant stand or create an indoor hopscotch mat for a child.
14. Intangible Gifts
Want to give a gift but have a very tight budget? Try making a meal or baking a pie for a neighbor, or offer a night of babysitting to new parents. And you can even donate your time to shovel their driveway for a couple weeks.
15. Lighten Up on Lights
LED Christmas lights can save you money on electric bills. But those old incandescent lights can cost you $13.65 per month, according to Xcel Energy Colorado. Instead of going all Clark Griswold on your holiday light display, keep it simple and tasteful. Using fewer Christmas lights will save money during the holidays.
16. Take a Trip
Travelers can often find great deals on hotels over the holidays. Depending on your family, you may be able to forgo gifts and instead get away for a few nights and relax by the pool, have a meal together at a nice restaurant and visit a free museum.
17. Visit Discount Stores
When it comes time to wrap the gifts and stuff stockings, make a trip to the discount store. Dollar stores are a great place to load up on holiday wrapping supplies and tape. And they’re also a good place for stocking stuffers such as candy, ornaments and little toys.
This Thanksgiving Day, fire departments all across the nation will be called to nearly 2,000 homes for a cooking fire. Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, with Thanksgiving Day being the worst. Here are 5 ways to avoid having your holiday turn damaging, or deadly.
1) Never leave cooking unattended. It’s a contributing factor in 33% of the fires 49% of the deaths, and 46% of the associated injuries related to cooking equipment. “I just went to watch the replay” is all it takes for a fire to start and get out of hand quickly.
2) Have a kid-free kitchen zone. Children under age 5 were more likely to be hurt by touching hot cooking equipment or scalded by hot liquids than by actual fire. Create a 3-foot kid-free perimeter around anywhere cooking is taking place or that hot food is being staged.
3) Keep flammable materials away from burner. In 10% of cooking fires, something flammable was too close to the equipment. What’s most frightening, is this is also the cause of nearly 1/4 of all the deaths. Hot mitts, wooden utensils, curtains, and food packaging are all dangerous if too close to heat sources.
4) Don’t use power strips or extension cords for appliances. Small, temporary appliances like crock pots, electric skillets, Instant Pots and the like are very helpful to feed large numbers of people, but appliances like these should always be plugged directly into a grounded wall outlet to prevent overheating and overloading the circuits.
5) Don’t fry your turkey. Frying dominates the cooking fire problem, and FEMA recommends not using deep fat fryers for turkeys altogether. Oil spillover ignition and operating a fryer on wooden decks or too close to trees or structures are big hazards that must be avoided. (And when alcohol is involved, it can get even more dangerous.) To learn how to more safely use a fryer, visit the US Department of Agriculture’s website.
We hope these tips help you have a safe and fun Thanksgiving!
Winter has officially arrived, which has been blatantly apparent in our recent freezing temperatures (brrrr)! Check out these tips for added protection.
• Have all furnaces serviced and chimneys inspected and cleaned.
• Check your home’s perimeter and seal any air leaks with caulk and weather-stripping. Add additional insulation in the attic—most homes need at least 12-15 inches. Make sure insulation does not come in contact with recessed lighting that is not approved for insulation contact.
• Insulate pipes that go through exterior walls or colder areas such as garage ceilings or unheated attics.
• Turn water off to exterior hose bibs, and detach garden hoses and empty the hose bibs.
• Locate the water main shutoff valve and keep the access path clear in case a frozen pipe leak or other water issue needs to be stopped.
• If you will be away from home, make sure heating is set no lower than 60 degrees so that even cold spots do not become too cold. Open sink cabinet doors to allow heat in, and let faucets drip slightly to prevent frozen pipes.
• Consider installing an automatic water shutoff valve to prevent extensive water damages.
• In high snowfall areas, make sure no exhaust vents become buried by snow.
• Install adequate attic insulation. This helps keep your roof cold, which prevents ice damming
as a result of snow continuously melting on the roof. When replacing a roof, consider an ice
shield membrane underlayment.
• Identify a local roofer that clears snow from roofs and removes ice dams to prevent roof
collapse or interior water damage. Not all roofers clear roof snow or ice dams.
• Service back-up generators and have adequate fuel supplies on hand. Do not store fuel
inside. Even if the generator is portable, it should never run indoors.
• Have emergency supplies on hand, such as flashlights, batteries and converters to use in the
car to charge devices.
• If a prolonged power outage means having to relocate, consider shutting off the water to the
house and draining the water lines, and follow the steps listed above for being away from
For more information, please contact us or visit www.aig.com/pcg.
The holiday shopping season will be here before you know it. But there’s an even more important shopping period to think about first: Open Enrollment.
Whether you’re buying your own health insurance for the first time or are considering switching plans, Open Enrollment may seem like a confusing, stress-inducing event. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s everything you need to conquer this year’s health insurance signup process.
What is Open Enrollment?
Open Enrollment is the annual period of time when everyone gets a chance to sign up for health insurance for the coming year. This year, you may have heard the approaching enrollment period referred to as “Open Enrollment 2020”.
Employers that offer health benefits also have an annual enrollment period to allow employees to switch plans. While most companies kick off their signup process toward the end of the year (usually October or November), the start date and enrollment window vary from business to business.
Why is Open Enrollment a thing?
Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010, signing up for individual health insurance was often a challenge. If you had a pre-existing health condition, or had a family history of certain types of diseases, insurers could deny you coverage or charge you much higher rates than healthy people.
These practices prevented people from gaming the system by only signing up for insurance after they developed a health issue. But they also kept many consumers from getting coverage, either because they were denied insurance or because they couldn’t afford it.
After the ACA was passed, new consumer protections were put in place to ensure everyone can get health insurance, regardless of health history. It also provided subsidies to help lower-income people pay for coverage. But these new policies removed the check in place to prevent people from getting insurance only when they really needed it. And thus, Open Enrollment was born.
Under normal circumstances, Open Enrollment is your once-a-year chance to sign up for health insurance. If you miss this window, you have to wait until the next Open Enrollment period to get a new plan (with some exceptions – more on that later). By restricting signups to a limited time frame, insurers are protected from people dropping in and out of plans, paying for coverage only when they have an active health issue.
What’s changed for this year’s Open Enrollment?
For the most part, this year’s Open Enrollment will look a lot like last year. The signup dates are the same. The state and federal Marketplaces still exist, and are one of several ways you can purchase a health insurance plan for 2020. Subsidies will still be available for those that qualify for financial assistance.
Looking for new health insurance for 2020? Start a free quote here.
When is Open Enrollment?For health insurance plans beginning in 2020, Open Enrollment starts on November 1, 2019 and ends on December 15, 2019. But some states have extended the Open Enrollment period until January to give people more time to sign up.
What information do I need to collect for Open Enrollment?
In order to sign up for a plan during Open Enrollment, you’ll need a few key pieces of information, including:
Can I sign up for insurance outside of Open Enrollment?
If you don’t sign up for a health insurance plan during Open Enrollment, and your life circumstances remain the same, you’ll have to wait until next November for your next chance to enroll. However, if your life circumstances do change, you may be able to get insured during a Special Enrollment period.
Special Enrollment is a 60-day enrollment window that happens when you experience a qualifying life event – a fancy phrase for a significant change that impacts your status. Qualifying life events include things like:
Contact our Benefits Department today to learn more and get covered!
They’re trees. And as with so many things in life, proper maintenance is critical. Keeping your trees healthy will allow you to continue to enjoy them and their benefits — one of which is providing enough oxygen for four people every day!
Maintenance also will reduce the risk of a tree falling on your home or your car (or even worse, someone else’s home or car).
Here are some tips from the National Arbor Day Foundation to help keep trees healthy, identify warning signs and address problems. A healthy tree that you care for properly — and regularly — is far less likely to become a hazard. Remember, prevention is key!
Inspect your trees often This applies to all seasons! The sooner you spot a problem, the sooner you can take corrective action — and potentially save your tree. Check trees regularly each year, and have a qualified arborist inspect them annually.
Plant the right species Brittle trees can produce weak limbs that fall and injure people or property. Examples include Silver Maples, Lombardy Poplars, Box Elders, and Willows.
Prune the right way, at the right time Trees should first be pruned when they are young, and then at regular intervals as they age. Make the cut outside the branch collar, and never allow trees to be topped.
Plant in the right place Don’t plant trees that will grow to be large close to your home or under power lines.
Learn to spot problems According to the National Arbor Day Foundation, there are several key things to consider when evaluating your trees for potential issues.
If you have a dead or dying tree, it should be promptly removed unless it is in an area where structures or people won’t be threatened. And have an expert do the job — bringing down a large tree is extremely dangerous, and accidents can result in severe damage, injury, and even death.
The law typically holds the owner responsible for damage or injury caused by a defective tree. So don’t forget about them when you’re working in the yard or examining your landscaping. Keeping your trees healthy can limit the potential for disaster — in addition to keeping your space beautiful and vibrant.
Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hundreds of people in the U.S. die from carbon-monoxide (CO) poisoning—and the invisible, odorless gas sickens thousands more.
The numbers seem even more tragic when you consider that most of these deaths and illnesses are preventable. Here are tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to help protect yourself and your loved ones at home and work.
In general, the same precautions for homes apply here, but there are a few additional considerations for the workplace, particularly one where gas-powered machinery is used:
Whether you’re at home or work, always be on the lookout for symptoms of CO exposure: They include dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and nausea. If you suspect an issue, leave the area as soon as possible and call 911—because when it comes to CO, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so we've compiled some information that may be useful to you!
These days even the most old school of business involves technology in some way, whether it be email, cell phone usage, a credit card machine, or even an online customer database. Even the smallest business with only a small amount of online interaction may be vulnerable to cyber hacking or attacks. Every business can benefit from some level of Cyber Liability coverage.
Are You At Risk?
Does your business engage in one or more of the following activities?
If you said yes to any of the above then your business is at risk for data breaches, security issues and even lawsuits for things like copyright infringement, intellectual property theft and plagiarism. Cyber Liability insurance can help.
Why You Need It
In just one week, virus removal software companies identified 30 new computer viruses to add to the long list of thousands (possibly millions) of known viruses from around the world. Each of those can be transmitted in a number of ways, including email, instant messaging, malware and malvertising.
Data breaches may also occur via accidental means such as an employee losing a laptop. Less accidental ways may include employees revealing passwords or customer information on social media. In fact, your employees may be more of a threat to your cyber security than hackers.
The losses due to global cyber crimes are estimated at $400 billion per year. In just one year, companies like Target and eBay were hacked, as was the federal government (click here for a list of recent breaches). Big companies like these make the news, but small businesses may be even easier to breach, and the cyber crime may go unnoticed for even longer.
Cyber Liability Coverage Can Help
Data breaches can be costly. When you think about all of the ways a data breach can affect your business, the financial losses add up quickly:
Take Preventative Measures
A data breach or hack doesn’t have to mean the end of your business. Contact Theodore & Associates to get a quote on a Cyber Liability insurance policy.