Keep your insurance in tune with your needs

Your home and car insurance needs will change with time. An annual review of those needs will help you catch up on the year’s changes and keep your coverage current.

Update your content insurance. Whether you use content insurance to cover high value  items or all of your belongings, it’s important to review your coverage once a year. Track down receipts for major items you purchased in the past year. If you use photos or videos to keep records of your belongings, it’s time to update them.

Keep these records secure: you can easily store copies of photos and videos online in private accounts. If your computer and paper files become damaged, you will still be able to retrieve online copies from another computer. You can store receipts for major items with your insurance policy, in a safe deposit box or a waterproof/fireproof safe.

Inspect your home. By inspecting your home annually for fire, theft, and flood hazards, and correcting the problems that you find, you can protect your family from perils. You will possibly prevent or limit damage to your home, and help yourself in the future if you need to file a claim.

Check your doors and windows for gaps where water can enter during flooding or heavy rain in typhoon conditions. You may need to install or replace weather stripping. You should also look for points of entry for intruders—deadbolts, window locks, and additional lighting can help deter burglars. Fires can develop from electrical problems, so test your outlets and look for signs of electrical damage. Test your smoke detectors, and replace the batteries if necessary.

Check if you’re eligible for home insurance discounts. Over the past year, you may have made improvements to your home to safeguard your structure and belongings against major perils. You may have installed smoke detectors, added typhoon shutters, or otherwise weatherproofed and secured your home. Not only do these actions protect your home and your family, but they also may make you eligible for a discount. Create a list of improvements to refer to when you visit or call your insurance broker or agent.

Update your car insurance. If a young driver moves away from home or no longer needs to drive the family car, an annual review can help remind you to adjust your coverage to your current number of drivers. You can also check for car insurance discounts if you have made any changes in the past year, such as installing a car alarm.

Adjust your deductible. If you have saved up enough to cover a higher deductible for your car and home insurance, you can adjust your deductible upward to save money on premiums. But before you do this, it’s a good idea to move those funds away from the financial accounts that you use frequently, to a standalone emergency savings account. If it’s easy for you to transfer funds from your savings and into your checking account, you may be more tempted to spend your deductible before you need it.

Discuss your situation with your broker or agent. Your broker or agent can talk to you about the changes you have made over the past year, and help you find discounts that you were unaware of. He or she can also help you re-shop for insurance, and find policies that are better suited to your needs and budget.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years experience in retail banking and with financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo.com.

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