Category Archives: Insurance

Cancer Can Happen to Anyone

cancer-blowsCancer is a very scary word for most people. Most adults know someone who has cancer or knew someone who died from cancer. There are many different types of cancer and many different causes of cancer. A recent publication from Johns Hopkins stated that, “All cancers are caused by a combination of bad luck, the environment and heredity,” and came to the conclusion that roughly 2/3 of cancer “is due to ‘bad luck,’ that is, random mutations arising during DNA replication in normal, noncancerous stem cells.” Luck was much more important than genetics or life style. Although things like smoking still cause the bulk of lung cancer deaths and genetics was very important in some cancers.

Unfortunately, I am one of the unlucky ones who got cancer for no apparent reason other than bad luck. I have a cancer of my blood plasma called Multiple Myeloma (MM). No one else that I know of in my family history had MM. It is an incurable cancer that I have been living with for at least 5 years. The average lifespan for someone diagnosed with MM is 4 years. I currently bounce from chemo drugs that have pretty bad side effects, to radiation therapy. The radiation gets rid of tumors that are just under the skin, and gives my body time to heal from the chemo drugs.

Even with all my various cancer treatments and their side effects, my wife and I continue to live and save as we always have. I want to leave my wife with ample funds for her retirement, and we both would like to eventually leave our son an inheritance. We certainly do not want to burden him with taking care of his mother later in her life. We have also saved quite a bit in our son’s 529 college fund, and continue to add $500 every month. We want him to be able to graduate with zero student debt.

We have great health and disability insurance through work. All my cancer treatments have hardly cost us anything. We also took out a 25 year $500k term life insurance policy when our son was born that we continue to keep current.

It makes me happy to know that my family will be financially OK because we had good insurance for health, disability, and term life prior to my cancer diagnosis. I always shake my head in disbelief when I read about someone who can afford it saying that they don’t want to waste money paying for health insurance because they are healthy. I was very healthy before I got cancer, too. As the Johns Hopkins study pointed out, many cancers, including mine, are mostly bad luck for which no one knows the cause.

Life, whether it’s long or short, is what you make of it. I continue to be the best husband and father that I can be under our current circumstances.

Please, if you are under-insured, or know someone who is, take heed of the recent “Cancer is Mostly Bad Luck” study. We are all mortal, and stuff happens.

Being a Single Parent is Hard

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Due to a family emergency, my wife has been called away unexpectedly. She did what she could to get me help with our son’s busy schedule, but we were not her number one priority as she prepared to fly across the country.

Our son is in the 7th grade now, and not as young as he was when the picture, above, was taken. He has his usual schoolwork to deal with every day. He is also in the school’s concert band as well as the jazz band. They had the final concert of the year earlier this week. My wife’s dad and step mom were nice enough to attend the concert and give support.

There is a visit with our son’s doctor later today. We missed a planned trip last Sunday to this year’s Maker’s Fair due to having too much to worry about with my wife leaving. We did manage a visit with my mom on Saturday, though.

And then there is a Renaissance Fair at our son’s school all day this Friday. My wife was signed up to help out. I don’t know what will be expected of me.

Raising a kid with both parents can often be difficult. It seems like our son always has some sort of extra-curricular thing scheduled every week. I know many people successfully raise children as a single parent, but I can’t imagine how.

One thing that helps is knowing that our situation is only temporary. But what if I were permanently a single parent? I would need to be able to afford some after-school care, as well as pay for summer camps and other programs for our son using just my income. That is where term life insurance comes in.

Everyone who has dependents should carry enough term life insurance to cover their lost income if they were to die, for the time period that the dependents will need to be provided for. Term life insurance for a healthy young parent is probably one of the cheapest insurances available, and yet the payout, if necessary, can be a life saver to the surviving parent with dependents.

Make sure that you leave your spouse with the resources they need if you were to unexpectedly pass on.

I can’t wait for my wife to get back home.

What to Do If You Are Ever In a Car Accident

car-crashHopefully, you will never get in a car accident, but if you are, there are several things you should do. I compared lists that I found on Clark Howard’s website with that on my insurance carrier’s website (Geico.com). There was a good bit of overlap, but there were enough differences that I decided to post both lists.

I have printed out the lists and put a copy in my glove box. I know from experience that I am often not thinking entirely clearly after an accident. Having these lists of things to do may help make sure that I take care of everything I should following an accident.

From Clark Howard

  • Carry a cell phone; a pen and paper for taking notes; a disposable camera to take photos of the vehicles at the scene; and a card with information about medical allergies or conditions that may require special attention if there are serious injuries.
  • Move cars to the side of the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic if there are no serious injuries. If a car cannot be moved, drivers and passengers should remain in the cars with seatbelts fastened for everyone’s safety until help arrives. Make sure to turn on hazard lights and set out cones, flares or warning triangles if possible.
  • Even if it’s a minor accident, you want the police there and you want a report on file.
  • Get the other driver’s name, address, phone number, insurance company, policy number, driver license number and license plate number. If the driver’s name is different from the name of the insured, establish what the relationship is and take down the name and address for each individual. Also make a written description of each car, including year, make, model and color — and the exact location of the collision and how it happened. Finally, be polite but don’t tell the other drivers or the police that the accident was your fault, even if you think it was.
  • Document damage to all vehicles. Keep in mind that you want your photos to show the overall context of the accident so that you can make your case to a claims adjuster. If there were witnesses, try to get their contact information; they may be able to help you if the other drivers dispute your version of what happened.
  • If law enforcement officers don’t respond because there are no injuries, file a state vehicle accident report anyway. These are available at police stations and often on your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website. A police report often helps insurance companies speed up the claims process.
  • The whole insurance process will be easier following your accident if you know the details of your coverage. For example, don’t wait until after an accident to find out that your policy doesn’t automatically cover costs for towing or a replacement rental car.

From GEICO Insurance

  • Stay at the scene in a safe place to gather information
  • Exchange information (see “Information to gather following a loss” below)
  • Contact the police, or dial 911 if needed
  • Do not: advise your coverage limits or admit fault
  • Photograph
    • Damage (vehicles and/or property)
    • Accident scene (road conditions/skid marks/debris in roadway/vehicle positions)
    • Accident scene location identifiers (intersection/address/exit number)
    • Identification (clear photos of insurance cards, license plates, etc.)
  • Document
    • Names, phone numbers, addresses and e-mail addresses of all occupants, including the number of occupants in the other car(s)
    • Names, phone numbers, addresses and e-mail addresses of all potential witnesses
    • Location (intersection/address/exit number)
    • Company name, policy number and phone number for other insurance companies
    • If emergency services respond: police department, police report number, phone number, officer name, badge number, ambulance company, fire department
    • Report the accident to the state Department of Motor Vehicles and your insurance company

How your insurance company investigates an accident claim

  • The liability examiner reviews the insurance policy and the coverage in effect for the loss to determine what types of damage or injuries are covered.
  • The liability examiner attempts to contact everyone involved in the accident – drivers, passengers, witnesses, etc. – to get everyone’s account of the accident.
  • When there are conflicting versions of what occurred in the accident, the liability examiner conducts an in-depth interview with each person involved. These interviews help resolve disputes over the facts of the accident.
  • The liability examiner gathers and reviews additional relevant information, such as the police report, applicable state and local traffic laws, and photos of the scene and the vehicles involved.
  • Then the liability examiner considers all the facts, determines the cause of the accident, and handles the claim accordingly.

Settling a claim

If your car is safe to drive, you should schedule a time to bring it in for an insurance inspection. If it’s not safe to drive, the insurance company will send an auto damage adjuster to the vehicle’s location.

At the inspection, which usually takes about 30 minutes, the adjuster will evaluate the damage to your car and write up an estimate.

Repair

Once you receive payment from the insurance company, it is up to you to have your car repaired. Many years ago, I was in a parking lot fender bender where the other person backed into my pickup truck. I ended up with $500 from their insurance to repair the broken turn signal and bent front fender. Since I didn’t mind driving with a bent front fender, I used the $500 to purchase heavy duty pipe bumpers for my truck. I was really glad I had those bumpers when I ran into a deer a year or so later.


Have you ever been in an auto accident? Did your insurance take care of you?

Do You Need Umbrella Insurance?

umbrella insuranceOnce we paid off our mortgage, I got worried that we had too many assets that could be taken away if we accidentally injured someone. I decided that we needed an umbrella insurance policy. Our $2 million policy is with Geico Insurance. It costs around $350 per year.

Umbrella insurance is designed to kick in when the liability on your homeowner’s and auto insurance policies have been exhausted. It also provides coverage for claims that may be excluded by other liability policies including: false arrest, libel, slander, and liability coverage on rental units you own. It also pays lawyer fees to fight these lawsuits that may be brought against you.

Geico gives examples of the types of coverages provided by an umbrella policy and how they protect you:

Bodily Injury Liability — covers the cost of damages to another person’s body. Examples include the cost of medical bills and/or liability claims as a result of:

  • injuries to other parties due to a serious auto accident where you are at fault,
  • harm caused to others as a result of your dog,
  • injuries sustained by a guest in your home due to a fall, or
  • injuries sustained by a neighbor’s child who falls while playing in your yard.

Property Damage Liability — covers the cost of damage or loss to another person’s tangible property. Examples include the cost associated with:

  • damage to vehicles and other property as a result of an auto accident where you are at fault,
  • damage claims incurred when your pet rips a friend’s priceless oriental rug to shreds, or
  • accidental damage to school property caused by your child.

Owners of Rental Units — helps protect against liability that you may face as a landlord. Examples include the cost of liability claims as a result of:

  • someone tripping over a crack in the sidewalk of your rental property and suing you for damages, or
  • your tenant’s dog biting someone and you being held responsible for the injuries.

Coverage is also provided should you be sued for:

  • slander — injurious spoken statement,
  • libel — injurious written statement,
  • false arrest, detention, or imprisonment,
  • malicious prosecution,
  • shock/mental anguish, and
  • other personal liability situations.

Let’s say you cause an auto accident and the cost of the injuries you cause to others is $500,000. Let’s further say that the Bodily Injury limit on your auto insurance is $300,000. Your auto policy will cover $300,000 of the injuries. But who will cover the remaining $200,000? Your umbrella policy will. It will cover the amount above the limit set in your auto policy, up to the limit you choose for your umbrella policy.

Note that GEICO requires a minimum bodily injury limit of $300,000 per injured person/$300,000 for all injured persons, and a property damage limit of $100,000 on your auto policy to qualify for an umbrella policy. Homeowners/Renters Personal Liability coverage of $300,000 is also required.

I sleep much better at night knowing that we are much less likely to be financially wiped out if something happens to someone that we may be liable for.

Life Insurance for Elders

I have previously mentioned that my wife’s folks just bought a house not too far from us as well as other relatives. My wife asked me who our term life insurance was with because her step-mom asked her. I asked, “What for?”

Turns out that due to the higher cost of housing in the Bay Area, they had to finance a large portion of their new house. They could not use the proceeds of the sale of their old house in Seattle to purchase the new one outright.

They want to be able to pay off the mortgage if either person dies for any reason.

They do not have to have private mortgage insurance (PMI) and that would not help them to pay off the mortgage even if they did. PMI just insures to the lender that a large portion of the mortgage will be paid in the event the home buyer defaults. To actually pay the mortgage in the event of death, you need either mortgage protection insurance (MPI) or term life insurance. MPI is usually less expensive than term life because the amount the insurer has to pay decreases by a known amount over time even as the insured gets older.

If your goal is to ensure that the beneficiary has a roof over their head at the time of your death, then MPI may be the way to go. If you want to make sure that they not only have a roof, but also have other necessities, then more expensive term life is probably the way to go. The decision depends on the amount of other savings you have.

In the case of my wife’s parents, one works full time, and the other is looking to work part time while also taking care of my wife’s grandfather. The one working full time does not have any life insurance through work. Their savings are reasonable, but the survivors would be hard pressed to pay the mortgage as well as live off their remaining savings and Social Security with the loss of the full-time income. They obviously need MPI. They should probably also have long-term disability. MPI will not pay the mortgage in the case of disability.