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Do I really need travel insurance?


Imagine this:

While traveling on your dream vacation to France, your luggage is lost on the flight. Since you only packed light clothing and minimal toiletries, you aren’t too worried–until you realize your iPad and good DLR camera was tucked away in your luggage as well. Considering it a big loss, but nothing life changing, you go on with you trip. Then, when it comes time for your flight back to the U.S., you get a terrible case of food-poisoning and miss your plane, causing a non-refundable $1200 loss.


Total in losses? $5000.

While we never want to imagine such a thing happening to any of our friends, clients or family, incidents like the above can happen. Which is why it is important to be prepared with travel insurance. Travel insurance is meant to protect you from unforeseen accidents while traveling, like your flight getting canceled or baggage being lost and whether or not you purchase it depends on a variety of factors.


What does travel insurance cover?

  1. Trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance coverage, which reimburses non-refundable travel costs if your trip is cancelled or seriously delayed due to a natural disaster, illness or if the airline goes out of business.
  2. Baggage and personal items coverage can be used in the event someone steals something from your bag or your luggage is lost. Keep in mind most baggage and personal belongings coverage only pay up to $2,000; it’s your homeowners policy that will do a better job of covering your personal property. So in our example above, you would be out $3,000. If you’re looking to protect your belongings, travel insurance can only help to a certain amount.
  3. Emergency medical insurance provides coverage when traveling abroad. Before buying, check with your insurance agent to see if the insurance you currently have will protect you in case there is a health emergency outside of the country.
  4. Accidental death or dismemberment insurance includes coverage if you or a loved one dies on the trip or suffers a life-changing accident. Again, check with your insurance agent as this may already be covered in your personal insurance and may not be needed.

Be prepared for peace of mind!

Having the right insurance protection in place before leaving for your vacation can relieve a lot of worry and stress. Before heading out on your vacation, talk with your insurance agent to see what your current insurance covers and if there are any additional policies you need to purchase.




Do I need rental car insurance on my vacation this summer?


vacation car rental insurance

Vacations give your mind a break, but they definitely do not your bank account a break. Here are just a few vacation expenses to plan for:

  • Food
  • Hotel Stays
  • Gas
  • Toiletry Items
  • Tourist related expenses – ie tours, behind the scenes adventures
  • Rentals


Now that you have all these expenses added up, do you really want to add rental car insurance to the list?


Technically the answer is “yes.” But whether or not you need to purchase insurance from the rental car company depends on two things:

  1. Your personal insurance company, which usually covers a rental car at no cost.
  2.  Whether or not you want to have the EXTRA peace of mind should an accident happen.


If you have full coverage on your personal vehicles, your personal auto insurance should extend to your rental car. Full coverage means you have two types of coverages:

  1. Collision coverage (if you wreck your vehicle and it is your fault, your insurance company will fix your vehicle)
  2. Comprehensive coverage (any other loss you may have to your vehicle such as, theft, flood, hitting a deer, etc.)


Are there any accidents full auto coverage won’t cover?

Yes, while you may have full auto coverage there are still some instances that will not be covered and will require additional policies.


  • Loss of use: Loss of use is simple that, the loss of use of the rental car. If you wreck the car and the accident was your fault, you will be responsible for the lost time and money in which the vehicle is being fixed.
  • Loss of depreciation/value: This is coverage that comes into play in the instance that you wreck the rental car and the value of the car becomes less than before the accident.


Before you leave for vacation, decide whether buying rental car insurance is something that needs to be added to your list of expenses. Talk with your insurance agent and review your auto insurance policies to identify any gaps in coverage. This way, you will enjoy your vacation without the worry of rental car coverage and you will avoid any surprise expenses should there be an accident.




Three things small businesses can learn from Chipotle’s mistakes


learning from chipotle's mistakes


Recently, Chipotle, a national Mexican food restaurant chain, came under attack due to a food borne illness that contaminated their food and caused multiple customers to become extremely sick. While this is a nightmare scenario for any restaurant owner, it’s important to take a look into what went wrong with Chipotle to learn how to prevent any similar situation from happening to your business.


Here are three things restaurants can learn from Chipotle’s foodborne illness outbreak.


#1 – Make sure you have the right business insurance


All restaurants need liability insurance, as well as a few other policies that provide coverage specific to businesses, including standalone foodborne illness coverage and business income coverage.


General liability insurance policies cover the restaurant in the event a customer gets sick and decides to sue the restaurant. This insurance will cover doctor’s bills, any time they needed to take off work to recover and any other damages.


The standalone food borne illness policy covers loss of income due to the food borne illness outbreak and pays for things like dealing with health departments and hiring public relations to restore your brand.

A business income policy will cover any loss of income your restaurant may experience due to an outbreak at another restaurant related to yours.


#2 – Encourage your sick employees to stay home

The chipotle outbreak stemmed from a sick employee that decided to come into work. As a business owner, stress to your employees how important it is for them to stay home when sick. Not only is this important for their health, but it is also important for the health of your entire team and your customers.


#3 – Keep your business practices up to date with technology

Everyone is online these days, which is why it’s important to ensure your business is enforcing best practices when it comes to use of the internet and securely storing information. A breach of information can mean that not only your important business information has been hacked, but also the information of all your customers, especially in restaurants where credit cards are ran multiple times a day.


Improving your business and learning from Chipotle

While the situation Chipotle experience was devastating for both the restaurant and the customers that became sick, it’s important to learn from the mistakes they made in order to  improve your own business practices. With the right internal policies, insurance and protection, it’s possible to be prepared for unpredictable situations.


Talk to your insurance agent to learn about  restaurant business insurance and what you can do to improve your coverage.





Homeowners truth: making a claim affects your homeowners insurance rate




Insurance is one of the only products you buy that you hope you’ll never have to use. Not only is dealing with a home repair emotionally draining and a hassle, but homeowners will also have to deal with increases in their insurance premiums each time a claim is made.


Here are 4 “truths” regarding what affects the cost of your homeowners insurance premium:

Truth #1

Making insurance claims will raise your insurance premium. Why is this? Insurance companies have a lot of studies and stats that show that after making one home insurance claim, you’re more likely to make a second and third one. Because of this, they will adjust the cost of your insurance coverage to compensate for the future potential risk. Before making a claim, always decide whether making the claim is in your best financial interest, or if it isn’t necessary.

Truth #2

Claims made by previous owners of your home in the past 7 years will affect the rate that you currently pay. Any prior owners’ insurance claims made over the previous 7 years can affect the homeowner insurance rate that you have to pay. Insurer views a property with multiple claims as a higher risk for having more claims in the future, and may charge you more based on that.

Truth #3

Simply talking to your insurance agent or company about a specific damage to your home maybe result in a higher insurance rate. According to an insurers, the fact that you inquired about a loss is an indication that a loss occurred and makes your property appear to be a bigger risk. They can raise your rate at renewal even if you never filed a claim, or if you filed one that was denied.


How to avoid this? When speaking with your insurer, always be clear as to whether or not you are making a formal claim or if you are just inquiring about whether or not damage is covered by your policy.

Truth #4

Always request a copy of your home Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) when buying a home. This report will state whether or not any claims have been filed on the home you are interested in purchasing. You will need to ask the current property owner to request this report, but it is helpful because any claims made by previous owners can affect your homeowners insurance rate.

What homeowners need to know about insurance

In addition to the four “truths” listed above, there are a lot of other factors that contribute to what you pay for your insurance. Talk to your insurance agent if you have any questions regarding your coverage and your rate.

Have you experienced any other instances that raised the cost of your homeowners insurance premium?




Is car insurance tied to the car or the driver?

Imagine these situations two different situations:

car key


Situation #1:

You decided to lend your car to a friend whose car is in the auto repair shop. Unfortunately while he is out he gets into a small accident. Everyone involved in the accident was okay, but who is financially responsible for the damages? You (since it is your car) or the friend (since he was driving)?


Situation #2:

You rented a car on your most recent vacation to San Diego and get into an accident and you decided to not buy the rental car insurance in order to save some money. Will your car insurance cover the accident? Or should you have opted for the rental car insurance?



The answers:


Situation #1 will pull in your own personal auto insurance; your insurance is tied to the car not the driver. Your friend’s insurance would be pulled in as the secondary coverage for the accident, but there may be a case if the damage is extensive that both affected parties could look to you for financial coverage and damage reimbursement. Unfortunately, if your friend hadn’t asked to borrow your car and still drove it and got in an accident, you may still be responsible for the damage repair and expenses.


Situation #2 is a situation that nearly everyone who rents a car hopes will never happen. Car renters often avoid purchasing the rental insurance due to cost, but in some cases this can lead to a very expensive mistake. The good news is that typically most personal auto insurance will follow the driver so at the end of the day if you are an accident you may not need rental car insurance.


The loophole here is if the rental car is damaged the rental car company may charge you for loss of use while the vehicle is being repaired which may not be covered by your personal insurance policy. If you are renting a car while traveling for work, be sure to check with your coverage with your employer.


Have a great understanding of your coverage

The most important thing is to understand the coverage you have. Whether your auto insurance follows you or your car is a difficult question to answer and isn’t black or white. It’s nearly impossible to memorize all the details of your coverage, have a handle on the main important parts of your coverage and if you need clarification for particular situations where you aren’t sure, ask your agent!




Replacement Cost vs Actual Cash Value


photo credits:

*photo credits:


One important detail to never lose track of when purchasing home insurance for your new home is how your insurance company will actually reimburse you should you experience a loss. There are two ways: replacement cost or actual cash value.


Actual cash value and replacement cost value are two different methods that can be used to calculate how much money you receive if your property is damaged, lost, or stolen.

What is actual cost value and replacement cost?

Actual cash value takes into account any depreciation that has occurred over time and replacement cost value is based on the cost to fully replace your property at current value.


Some new homeowners may choose to be insured for their homes actual cash value because this option is cheaper, but at the end of the day should they need to make a claim they will have to cover the gap between the cost of repairing the damage and the amount your insurance will pay.


Plus, the longer you own your home, the more depreciation becomes an issue and replacement cost coverage becomes more important.


For example, if your policy covers your home for its actual cash value, your insurance company will deduct depreciation from your home’s overall value to calculate how much they will pay you. This means that if your home is old it’s actual cash value is going to be significantly less than the amount it will cost to replace it. On the other hand, if you have replacement cost coverage on your home, your insurance coverage will pay what it will cost to repair or replace it without deducting depreciation.

How do you know which to buy?


New home owners should discuss the pros and cons with their insurance agent to find the coverage that is right for their home and budget. Always keep in mind, the better your home insurance coverage, the less money you will have to pay out of pocket should a disaster strike or accident happen.




How do I know if an insurance company is good or bad?


Is this insurance company reputable-

Not too long ago, we gave you tips on how to find the right insurance agent, but we realize that when you go to an independent insurance agency, such as ours, you are getting a number of different insurance policy options from various insurance carriers. How do you know if an insurance company is good or bad?


We realize that some insurance companies have big, strong brands which speak for themselves. Yet with thousands of insurance carriers in the United States, how do you know if the options you’re getting from your agent is legit? While it’s tempting to make your decisions based on price, there are other things to consider when making a decision on your policy. This becomes even more important the more specific and unique your needs are, whether it’s for your business or personal insurance.


Here are 5 things you should consider when evaluating an insurance company:


#1: What is the company’s financial strength? Will they be able to pay on my claims?

Use a company rating service like A.M. Best, or Standard and Poor’s to give you an idea of the company’s industry ratings and financial health. A.M. Best is easier to use and it’s free to sign up.

Keep in mind that size of a company isn’t always the best company. The purpose of this exercise is to understand a company’s payability and financial strength which is usually categorized by size.


#2: Is the company licensed in your state?

In your case, check with the Iowa Insurance Division to check whether or not a company is licensed. We know this website can be overwhelming, but you can always click on the “Consumer Information” tab which will help you narrow down what you’re looking for, whether it’s to verify a company’s license or look into filed complaints.

#3: Does the company have major reported complaints in their claims process? In their customer service?

On top of using your state’s insurance department’s website, you can also check complaints and overall satisfaction with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) or JD Power and Associates. These sites will also help you check a company’s claims payments history and other financial information.


#4: Consider a company’s claims process

On top of checking JD Power and Associates for overall customer satisfaction, don’t hesitate to contact the company and ask them how they manage their claims process. At this point, we realize it can be a lengthy and tedious process, but protecting your assets and guarding yourself from liability is just as an involved process as any major purchase in life, if not more. This is especially true when you have complex coverage needs for your unique situation.


#5: Take advantage of what an independent insurance agent knows

When you talk to a captive agent (an agent who works for an insurance company), you’ll get information on one company. And we encourage you to speak with a captive agent to get their knowledge as well.
A good insurance advisor uses his/her knowledge of different companies and knowledge of their relationships with various companies, to serve your best interest in guiding you through the decision-making process.
It’s easy to get stuck on cost and big names. Big insurance brands don’t necessarily mean they are the best for carrying out your claims. But then again, they could very well be the best for your needs. The lesson is: do your due diligence and research the reputation of an insurance carrier. And lastly, don’t forget that an insurance advisor is there to offer you a wealth of advice on different companies.




What affects the cost of my home insurance?


house variables to cost


One of our goals as an insurance agency is to help you understand the variables that affect the cost of their homeowners insurance and the simple decisions they can make to help lower their cost for coverage.

As always, we cannot stress enough the importance of purchasing the right amount of coverage to realistically cover your home and all your assets rather than simply buying the cheapest policy available.


Here are five factors that affect the cost of home insurance:

1 – Size:

Usually, the bigger your home, the more expensive it will be to insure. The types of materials you use to build your home will determine the cost of insurance; the more expensive materials you use, the most costly your insurance.


2 – Age of home:

The age of your home can affect the cost of your home insurance because a new home is more likely to be in better shape than an older home. One thing all homeowners can do to keep their insurance cost down is keep your home up-to-date with current electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. Homes that are built with fire-resistant materials like brick and stone are also less costly  to insure than homes made out of flammable material like wood because of liability.


3 – Credit score:

The higher a homeowner’s credit score, the the less likely they are to file an insurance claim. Because of this, homeowners with good credit have cheaper insurance rates.


4 – Home Updates:

Updating your home can either do one of two things–boost the value of your home and leave you with insufficient coverage or trigger lower premiums as a reward for reducing risk in your home. When updating your home always check with your insurance agent to make sure your insurance coverage can remain the same.


5 – Multi-policy discount:

Bundling your policies can save up to 25% on your homeowners insurance premium. What is bundling? Bundling simply means working with one insurance provider on all your insurance needs for your home, car and life insurance.


Homeowners, don’t be afraid to ask questions

Talk to your insurance agent to be sure that you are getting the best deal and the best coverage for your unique needs. Together you can work to figure out what home insurance package is best for you and whether or not they are able to find you any savings. Your agent may also have additional simple tips or tricks you can do as a homeowner to save money on your home insurance.




Keokuk Local Business Highlight: Korte Accounting


korte tax and accounting


I first met Carol Korte owner of Korte Tax and Accounting when we started doing business together.  Carol and her team have been doing my accounting for several years now and our working relationship has blossomed into a great friendship. She provides a lot of great financial services to local businesses in Keokuk, which is why  I’m happy and excited to share her business and the services they offer.


This month our small business highlight is Korte Tax & Accounting!


Meet Carol Korte of Korte Accounting

Carol KorteCarol Korte started Korte Tax and Accounting with her business partner Mary Ellen Pfeifer back in 2001. “We started out working together and had a great business. When she retired in April of 2011, I purchased half of the businesses and since then it has been owned and operated by me.”


Korte Tax and Accounting consists of a staff of between 3-5 people depending on the time of year, and specializes in tax return preparation. They also provide year-round services to a variety of clients in Keokuk, like payroll, financial reports, monthly accounting and tax returns for estates and trusts. Their year-round availability is what sets Korte Tax and Accounting apart from big box tax businesses like H&R Block. “We are available year round, have a great office staff and everyone here is helpful. I think that’s what our customers appreciate about us.”


Loving Keokuk

Carol and her husband moved to Keokuk back in 1990 when her husband was offered a job in the area. They decided to stay here because they immediately loved the community and have since raised both of their daughters in Keokuk.


“We love the friendly people and the great friends we have made here. Plus, we love the river,  it’s gorgeous. We used to live near St. Louis where the river was nicknamed the ‘muddy Mississippi’ so when we moved here we immediately fell in love with the beauty of the river. We’ve made great friends here.” Carol also offers her financial knowledge to the Keokuk community and serves as treasurer for the Keokuk Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Keokuk Area Habitat for Humanity.


Sharing Keokuk business and supporting the local economy

I’m happy to share the story of Korte Tax and Accounting because it’s been a pleasure to work with Carol and her team for the past few years. They are a very attentive, personable staff that’s helped me with all my tax and accounting related issues the past few years; it’s been a big stress reliever to know I have a local accounting resource that has my best interests in mind. Plus, I am always excited to share a local business that does great work for the community and the local economy.

Learn more about Carol and Korte Tax and Accounting on their website!




What happens to my homeowners insurance when my mortgage is sold?


homeowners insurance loan transfer


It can be alarming when a lender sells or transfers your loan to another bank or mortgage company, but there is nothing to worry about.


But what does this mean for you and your homeowners insurance? All it means is a different lender will be taking your payments, paying your insurance, handling your account and answering any questions you have.


Transfers like this are very common (and legal) in the mortgage and insurance industries. Whether or not your servicing is sold has nothing to do with the quality of your loan or your payment history. Of course, you are always welcome to check in on the details of your loan with your lender to ensure the change has not affected your loan or insurance.


Typically, here is what will remain unchanged:

  • The original terms and conditions of your mortgage
  • The interest rate and duration of your loan will not change on fixed rate loans
  • The payment you make should stay the same or on the same schedule


What happens to my insurance policies and taxes if my home loan is sold?

If your loan is sold to another lender and you receive a notice that either your insurance or taxes are due, call your new servicer and make sure they have all the correct information on file. If you have a question after the transfer has taken place, contact your new service provider even if your old service provider was the one who collected the funds for your insurance or tax payment.

  • Life & Disability Insurance: Some mortgage companies offer to escrow life or disability insurance that would pay off your mortgage in case of a death or make payments in case of a disability. If you have these policies, your old servicer should inform you of what effect the transfer of servicing will have on this insurance coverage and what action you may need to take to maintain coverage.
  • Flood and hazard insurance: It is the responsibility of the old servicer to provide the insurance agent or company with a notice of transfer. The beneficiary is able to be transferred from one company to the other, but it’s smart to double-check that this has happened. It’s important to check that the beneficiary is transferred to ensure that in the event there is a claim, the check will be send to the correct servicer.


Lenders change

Changes happen, but that’s okay! If your home insurance or loan is sold to another financial institution don’t stress out because typically nothing will change for you. Of course, if you have any questions about your mortgage or insurance contact your lender or insurance agent directly for answers.




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