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What is an umbrella policy?

umbrella policyClaims that can’t be covered by your existing auto or home insurance can be covered by an umbrella policy. Umbrella policies give you an extra layer of financial protection.


Without an umbrella policy you run the risk of paying claims out of your own pocket, but with umbrella insurance the umbrella policy will help pay off the unexpected costs.



How does an umbrella policy work?

Imagine this – you are out driving with two of your friends and you accidentally run a stop sign and broadside a car. While everyone is alive, one of your friends has a broken arm, the other car is pretty damaged and your car is totaled.


Luckily you have auto insurance! All the damages (after hospital bills, auto repairs and the court filing against you for running the stop sign) the total cost in claims from the accident is comes to $450,000. Your auto insurance policy covers up to $300,000 in claims. How will you cover the remaining $150,000 in damages?


If you had purchased an umbrella policy, this is when it will come into play.


Umbrellas provide protection

Rightfully named, an umbrella policy provides an extra layer or protection and goes above and beyond what your auto or home insurance can cover.


Umbrella policies can offer coverage from 1-5 million dollars. So, similar to the example above, if you have an umbrella policy for 1 million dollars in coverage, your auto insurance will cover the limit of $300,000 and the umbrella policy will cover the remaining bill of $150,000.


Do you need an umbrella policy? Take these factors into account to help you decide:

  • Do you have significantly valuable assets?
  • Do you have any risks as a homeowner or a renter?
  • Do you have a long commute to work?
  • Do you participate in any potentially dangerous activities or hobbies?


Are umbrella policies expensive?

Umbrella policies can cost from $150 to $300 for 1 million dollars in coverage. In order to purchase an umbrella policy, you need to be carrying the highest limit in both your home and auto insurance. You cannot pay the lowest premium for auto or homeowners insurance and then add on an umbrella policy.


Using your umbrella in a rain storm

Just like using an umbrella to protect yourself from rain in a storm, an umbrella policy protects you when your home or auto insurance policies have met their limits. While it’s a policy everyone hopes to never have to use, it’s a policy that can make or break your bank when an unexpected accident comes along.


Talk to your insurance agent to find the right umbrella policy for your budget and lifestyle. (844-272-3420)




Ice Dams and Your Homeowners Insurance


photo credits: wikipedia

photo credits: wikipedia

Since it’s been a mild winter so far, now is probably a good time to revisit how to deal with ice dams.


Whenever we experience snow there’s bound to be a few calls from random people shopping around inquiring whether or not homeowners insurance is supposed to cover damages caused by ice dams.


Ice dams usually occur after a snow pour, when ice builds up on the edge of your roof and prevents melting snow from running off the roof. Water damage from ice dams can ruin your roof, insulation, and the inside of your home. Sometimes, you don’t even realize that the mold growth in your roof is caused by slow water leakage caused by ice dams in the winter. Regardless, you want to know how much you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket.


Does homeowners insurance cover water damage caused by ice dams?

Unless your policy specifically excludes snow/snowstorms, or ice dams, most homeowner policies will cover damages caused by ice dams. If you submit a claim for flooding or water leakage, be sure you assess whether or not it’s worth your deductible, and also consider if the issue is bound to occur again. Filing a claim every year whenever a snowstorm hits, may push cause your policy to become non-renewable.


Does homeowners insurance cover ice dam removal from my roof?

More than likely, an insurance company will not pay for ice dam removal if there are no related damages to the home. If there is leakage or water damage that is evidently from the ice dams, then your insurance company will likely pay for the ice dam removal.


Again, be aware of how you report the damages since you will only be covered for anything they assess to be causing actual structural damage to your home. For example, if an ice dam 5 feet away is responsible for the water leakage in the kitchen, but you assume that it’s the ice dam directly on top that’s causing the damage, then the insurance company will only pay for the removal of what you claim.


Ways to prevent ice dams

We’re always about safety and prevention here at Ruffcorn. Taking the right steps can help prevent danger and costly damages. To avoid being in icy situations, be sure to keep these things in mind this winter.

  • Clear snow off your roof. If you can access the roof the ground, clear snow and ice from your roof before it beings to melt.
  • Get a contractor. If you can’t do it yourself safely, don’t waste your time finding DIY solutions. Let the pros handle it.
  • Never chip on ice with a mechanical device. This may only damage your roof.
  • Clear your gutters.
  • Get proper insulation and ventilation in your attic to help reduce the chances of snow melting on the roof and refreezing at the edges of your roofs.


If you’ve had problems with ice dams before, leave us a comment and share some helpful information regarding your experience.




How to save money on your homeowners insurance premium


keokuk houseIt’s an unfortunate truth that homeowners insurance costs have been rising over the past few years in Keokuk. We get a lot of questions from clients asking us if there are ways they can lower their homeowners insurance premium, luckily our answer is “Yes!”


The good news is there are quite a few ways to significantly lower your insurance premium, it just takes research and a conversation with your insurance agent.


Discounts and credits depend on a lot of factors and vary person-to-person and state-to-state.


Here are some discounts and credits to ask your independent insurance agent about:


Bundling Discount

This discount involves letting one company handle all your insurance products: your home, car, and other personal property. So you would be saving an overall cost versus saving money just on one insurance package. Bundling your insurance may also allow for paying just one deductible expense versus paying multiple deductibles for different insurance policies. Try combining your home and auto insurance together and expect to save about 20%.


New Home Discount

To an insurance company, a new home means less risk because everything in the home is brand new and should be working properly. Luckily, in insurance terms a “new home” includes homes up to 10 years old, so this is a discount you should definitely look into if your home is 10 years-old or younger.


Depending on the state (if you aren’t living in Keokuk, IA, check with your agent) a new home discount can save you around 15%.


Non Smoking Home Discount

Yes, in a world where tobacco has been proven dangerous to your health, some companies actually reward you for being tobacco free. And even though smoking is becoming less common, one of the main causes of home fires still remains to be fires caused by smoking. If there is a smoker in the house, your insurance company is likely to raise your rates because of the increased risk of fire. However, if your home is smoke-free, you may be eligible for a discount. While it’s not a huge discount, you can expect to save around 5% with a non-smoking discount on your homeowners insurance.


Security Alarms and Smoke Alarms

Installing security alarms in your home helps reduce the risk of theft or burglary. Homeowners can expect to save around 10% on their homeowners insurance by installing an alarm system. The same discount goes for smoke alarms. Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers help reduce the risk of fire in your home and can save you around 2% on your homeowners insurance premium.


Get Credits

Credits are another way to potentially save money on your homeowners insurance. Credits are given when you upgrade something in you home to set standards specified by your insurance company. By updating your home, you are ensuring your home is up to code and has less reason for risk.


Here are three types of credits to check with your homeowners insurance provider for:


New Wiring

If your home is of a certain age, consider having it re-wired by a professional. This will help improve the safety of your home by lowering the risk that your home will catch on fire because of electrical problems.

Check with your homeowners insurance provider to see what kind of wiring credits they offer, as discounts can be as large at 10%.


No Claims Discount

If you have been with the same homeowners insurance provider and have not filed a claim for a number of years, ask your provider to see if there are any “no claim” credits available.


This is like a reward for not damaging or needing to cash in on your insurance policies. The discount can range up to 20 percent!


Getting Older

Retired homeowners more often have lower risks because they are spending more time at home; meaning their home is less likely to be broken into or have an unexpected fire.


Retired homeowners also tend to take better care of their homes because they happen to have the time and homeowner insurance companies are willing to credit that for around 10 percent!


It never hurts to ask

Homeowners insurance can be expensive but with discounts, credits and by simply speaking with your Keokuk insurance agent you can learn how to save more as a homeowner.


It’s important to know that discounts do vary depending on the city and state and Keokuk homeowners make sure to discuss discounts or credits with an insurance agents that is familiar with the Keokuk area. (Ask now: 844-272-3420)




Is there such thing as snowmobile insurance?

snowmobile-606516_640Every time anyone gets behind the wheel of a car, jumps into a game, or dives into the water, they are taking a risk and have a responsibility to themselves and other participants -snowmobiling is no different.


Just like operating any other motor vehicle, snowmobile drivers should know how to ride responsibly because their safety and the safety of anyone who comes in their path, lays in the driver’s hands. And where there is potential risk, there is insurance to protect you from those damages.


But no matter how well snowmobile insurance covers your damages after the fact, the best way to protect yourself is by following safe snowmobile driving standards. We put together some typical scenarios that occur when we deal with snowmobile insurance claims. Safety is always the best policy, no matter how experienced you think are.


Snowmobiling Scenario #1: Snowmobiling too fast

Jesse has been riding snowmobiles with his family all his life and decides to hit the trails alone one day in a public park. He’s cruising around, not paying too much attention to his surroundings because it’s getting late and no one is out. Then, Jesse drives around a corner and nearly collides with a park ranger who is out on the job maintaining the trails.


Safety tip: Alway operate at a reasonable speed to prevent potential injury to yourself and those who may be ahead of you, around corners, and over hills. Try to stay off the freshly groomed portion of the trail if it is wide enough. If you are with a group merge into a single file line.


Snowmobiling Scenario #2: When cell phones don’t work

Marie is bored one brisk winter afternoon and decides to hit the trail on her family snowmobile alone. She’s been riding all her life and is well versed in how to safely operate a snowmobile. Figuring she will only be out for a little while, she doesn’t leave a note or let anyone know she is going out.


While cruising down the trail by her home at a reasonable speed, a deer jumps out in front of her causing her to swerve and flip the snowmobile. While she isn’t terribly injured, it looks like her ankle is broken. Unable to walk, Marie is stranded on the trail and no one knows she is there.


Safety tip: Never ride alone! Always use the buddy system, or if you do go out alone, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back. This way, if there is an accident they will know where to find you.


Snowmobiling Scenario #3: When your headlights don’t work

Brianna and a few friends do a custom winter snowmobile night ride every year – it’s their chance to get together, catch up and have a little adventure. This year, Jess noticed her headlights are out. Figuring she will be okay since she will be with a group, she decides to head out anyways. Without the light, she doesn’t see a large tree route that is sticking up out of the ground and runs over it, ruining the tread on her snowmobile.


Safety tip: Always be certain that your headlight, tail lights and brake lights are working before you leave. Check them frequently and remove ice or snow build up while riding.


Snowmobiling Safety first!

Are you planning to hit the trails on your snowmobile this winter? Make sure your snowmobile is in safe running order and stock up on warm clothes and emergency items at a sporting goods store.




Setting smart goals in the New Year


Where will you be celebrating New Year’s eve in Keokuk? A fun night out at Shooters Lounge or a relaxing weekend at the River’s Edge Bed and Breakfast? Maybe you plan on a night in with family and friends to watch the ball drop. Whatever your plans are, we wish you a cheerful one!


Other than “what are your plans,” another question always seems to come up at the end of the year, “do you have a New Year’s resolution?”


piggy bankWhether or not the answer is yes or no, why not make 2016 the year to focus on setting goals and saving money? The two really go hand in hand. Of course, other great resolutions include joining Anytime Fitness and pledging to shop local, but why not pledge to make small financial changes that will improve your lifestyle in a big way?


We talked about getting out of debt in our last blog, but we wanted to re-emphasize six tips for smart goal setting and financial planning in the New Year:


1. Record what you spend

The most important step in saving money is understanding what you’re spending your money on. For the month of January, keep a record of everything you spend, including coffee, snacks and random knick-knacks. After one month, organize everything into categories–groceries, gas, clothing–and see where you spent most of your money. Find a cool notebook at McFarland Swan Office Supply Company to record all your purchases in!


2. Create a budget

Now that you have an understanding of where you spend your money, build a budget for February. Factor in regular expenses, planned events, savings and emergency funds. The general rule for saving is to try to take at least 10-15 percent from your paycheck and put it into a savings account. If your expenses don’t allow for you to save that much, cut back and look for areas in your spending to save money, like only eating out at Angelini’s Pizza once a week (even though it is so good).


3. Make savings goals

Creating goals makes it easier to know where to start. Think about short-term goals, like saving money for a vacation, or buying a new car. Also keep in mind long-term savings goals, like saving for retirement or putting money away for your child’s college education. Don’t have a savings account set up? Set up an appointment with a few different banks to see which is right for you. Check these Keokuk banks out: First Community Bank, State Central Bank or Pilot Grove Savings Banks.


4. Bundle your insurance policies

Insurance companies often offer discounts to attract customers needing more than one type of insurance. For example, it may end up being cheaper to insure both your house and your car with one company, rather than insuring your house through a one company and your car through another company.


Bundling insurance isn’t always the first thought that comes to mind when setting financial goals, but the bottom line is bundling your policies can save you money compared to having a variety of carriers at once. Also, another plus, when one insurance company is handling all your insurance policies, that’s less time for you to spend sorting through and paying each policy. Afterall, time is money!


5. Set up automatic transfers

Check in with your bank and set up automatic monthly transfers to your savings account. If the money isn’t in your checking account, it is harder to spend!


Start the New Year off right!

By making just a few smart financial decisions, you can make a big different in your spending and saving habits. Having a better handle on your money can help you achieve other life goals – like traveling, affording college or finally enjoying a weekend stay with your significant other at the beautiful Grand Anne Bed & Breakfast.


Give us a call (844-272-3420) and we can help look over your insurance policies to look for any savings opportunities. It never hurts to ask!


What other goals are you setting for 2016?




How to get out of debt in the New Year

new-yearresolutionslistThe best thing about goal setting and starting fresh in the New Year is that everyone can do it. Regardless of income, if someone sets a goal and determines simple actions needed to accomplish that goal, it’s possible!


One resolution that most people seem to make every year is to get out of debt, which is a great goal to have. But, without the proper goal setting strategy, it’s easy to give up or revert back to old spending habits.


This year, stick to your resolution and your goal of living debt free with these simple and effective tips:


  1. Save loose change. Think about it this way, putting aside $.50 per day will allow you to save nearly $250 a year!
  2. Keep track of your spending. Determine what type of method works for you – from online options like that automatically track your spending, to keeping an envelop with receipts. Tracking your spending will help show where your money is going and in what areas you can save.
  3. Start a budget. Once you have an idea of what you are spending (see tip 2) create a budget that can help guide your spending and saving decisions in the future.
  4. Think over each expensive purchase for at least 24 hours before actually buying something. This will help eliminate impulse purchasing and will leave you with far fewer regrets and far more dollars in your savings account.
  5. Bundle your insurance. Most people may not know that bundling their insurance policies can save money! Contact your insurance agent (844-272-0525) and discuss the kind of rates you can receive if you move all your policies to one insurance company.

Reach your goal

Reaching a goal, or in the case of this blog, the goal of financial independence, has nothing to do with luck or magic. It’s simply a matter of setting good financial goals and making simple changes that will help you reach them. Working towards your goal will become part of your life, as will achieving financial freedom.
How do you plan to reach your New Year’s resolutions this year?




7 Tips for maintaining a wood burning fireplace in Keokuk


Who here still uses their wood burning fireplace? To us there’s nothing like the warmth that comes from a fireplace. There can be many advantages to using a wood burning fireplace. Not only does it add to the festive feelings of the holidays, but it can save money on heating costs and supplement your main source of heat.


Maintaining your fireplace regularly will ensure that it operates in the safest, most efficient manner possible.

Here are 7 tips to properly maintain your wood burning stove:

  1. Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and keep them in working order.
  2. Keep combustible materials like carpets and furniture away from the fireplace when a fire is burning. Having a guard in front of the fireplace will help keep children and pets away from harm. Be sure there are no combustibles within one foot of all sides of the fireplace.
  3. Clean ash from the fireplace whenever it reaches the bottom of the grate where it can get in the way of airflow. Remember to wear a dust mask and gloves for safety.
  4. Have your wood-burning fireplace and chimney cleaned and inspected by a certified sweep at least once a year, at the end of the burning season, or more often if you notice creosote and soot build-up on the inside of the chimney. Here are a few fireplace companies to help you inspect and maintain your wood-burning stove or fireplace: Dedert Construction or Tri-State Stove Works (319-837-6992)
  5. Test out your fireplace by lighting a few small pieces of wood. If smoke doesn’t exit upward from the fireplace into the chimney, but enters the room, immediately correct any problems – potential causes include creosote/soot build-up or other debris in the chimney like bird or animal nests.
  6. Burn seasoned, not “green” wood. Seasoned wood has been cut and dried under cover for at least 6-12 months. Split wood dries more thoroughly and burns better than whole logs. Green wood will not burn as thoroughly, creating more soot and creosote.
  7. Burn hardwoods like oak, ash and maple. These woods are denser and heavier, delivering more heat than lighter softwoods like pine, poplar and cedar.

Safety first

Stay warm and safe this winter by incorporating these easy tips for maintaining a safe wood-burning stove or fireplace into your wood-burning practices. Have you had your fireplace or wood-burning stove inspected yet? What other safety tips do you have to share? We’d love to hear from you!




Winter hunting safety tips in Keokuk

katnissKatniss in “The Hunger Games,” had an eye for her target.  If you are a natural, or expert hunter, it also means you have a deep respect for hunting rules and safety. 


With a rough winter headed our way, the normal hunting routines are going to need some updating. Severe weather means unexpected changes, and creating new hunting plans that involve more gear, warmer clothing and smarter camping plans.  


Whether you are planning on staying local in the Keokuk area or will be hitting the road for an outdoor excursion, winter hunting safety is more than just hearing protection and an orange vest.


Here are three tips for staying safe during the winter season while out in the field.


  1. Layer up!
    Dress for the elements using layers that help insulate, wick away moisture and are water proof. Find high quality clothing items that work well in cold weather, are lightweight and enable you to still be agile and easily move around. Need some new duds? Check out these sporting goods stores in Keokuk: Keokuk Farm and Home Supply or Cabelas.


  1. Keep your eyes peeled!
    Be aware of other outdoorsmen. While this tip may go without saying, hunting brings unique participants and some of them are new and inexperienced. Check your surroundings to ensure there are no other hunters or hikers in the area; awareness is key to a safe hunting experience.


  1. Share your hunt plan
    Share your hunting plans with someone else. Leaving a schedule of how long you will be gone for and where you will be is extremely important in case there is an accident and you aren’t able to call for help. If an emergency contact knows when you should be home, they can call for help if you don’t return home at the planned time.


Hunt Smart

Common sense can keep you and your group safe and sound during the winter hunting season.  Wearing the proper gear and setting up your campsite with harsh weather elements in mind can help lay the foundation to an enjoyable weekend.


What are some of the things you do to make the outdoors safe and enjoyable during the winter?




Black Friday and Parking Lot Wars

parking lot warsEach year Black Friday specials are beginning earlier with stores like Walmart opening at 6pm on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.


When did the Thanksgiving holiday become such a rush for shopping madness? While we’re all in the business of saving money and taking advantage of great deals, remember that nothing is more important than safety and the value of time.


Before you head out on Black Friday, we wanted to remind you to take caution while driving, especially in parking lots. It’s not uncommon to get little fender benders around the major holidays. What’s worse is that these fender benders are often not worth the deductible on your insurance, and in some cases, people don’t even have car insurance.


So here’s a stealth reminder for everyone as you head out on Black Friday:
  1. When finding a parking spot, don’t be too attached to parking close to the entrance. We know it’s cold in the early morning and late night hours, but walking a slight distance will work off the Thanksgiving meal you just had, and besides, exercise is always good for you.
  2. Beware of motorists who speed through lanes to try and grab easy parking. Use your “Driver’s Ed 101” knowledge: use your mirrors and watch your corner.
  3. Keep all your purchases inside your trunk, or away from view.
  4. Avoid parking near or between cars that are awkwardly parked.


If you do get into a fender bender, do these things right away:
  1. Call security or the police. Filing a police report to the police after the fact, won’t do you any good. It’s best to contact law enforcement and get them to the scene.
  2. Ask for the other driver’s insurance information, ID, and contact information. Don’t feel shy to ask. It’s becoming more common these days to take a photo of their information.  driver as well as contact information. Don’t be shy to ask for an ID, and beware of drivers who show you their insurance card, but have cancelled policies.
  3. Take pictures and record what happened
  4. Report the incident to your agent and your insurance company’s claims personnel.


We want to help you before “we need to help you.” While accidents can and do happen, we also want to equip you with information that can help avoid risk and protect yourself.





Solar Panels in Keokuk



Solar energy isn’t a new concept, but it is a fairly new money-saving tactic that is now accessible to most homeowners.


Adding solar panels can add value to your home and keep your energy bill low. Plus, there are a lot of great tax write-offs that come along with running an energy efficient home and lifestyle.


Thinking about checking out solar panels for your home or business in Keokuk? Try giving Iowa Wind and Solar a call, they are one of the few solar power companies in the area and can answer any questions you may have.


Protect your solar panel investment


As with most home additions, solar panels require a decent investment in order to have them installed and need to be protected with the right insurance just like you protect the rest of your investments and belongings.


Solar panels are exposed to the elements — wind, hail, lightning, falling trees — which is why it’s important to make sure your home insurance plan includes coverage of solar panels.


Here are 4 things to consider when installing solar panels and finding the right insurance:


  1. Depending on your insurer, there may be restrictions on solar panel coverage. It’s important to look into the coverage differences for a ground-mounted solar system versus roof panels. Check before installing your panels or ground system to insure your type is protected.
  2. Solar panels aren’t a cheap addition, but luckily most can make up for the investment through the value solar panels add to a home. Depending on factors such as the state you live in, house and system, you can experience a jump of up to $25,000 in home value just by adding this great feature.
  3. You will need to raise your dwelling protection limits after installing solar panels. Your current insurance plan was created based on your home prior to installing solar panels. If you don’t raise your limits and there is major damage to your home due to a disaster, the cost to cover the gap between what your home was worth and what it is currently valued at will come out of your pocket.
  4. Solar panels can present an extra obstacle to firefighters when tackling house fires since the panels may still be generating electricity while a home is one fire. This risk of potential electrocution can sometimes slow or stop efforts to save a building, which is another reason to reevaluate your home insurance plan.


When to talk to an insurance agent about solar panels

There is no better way to learn about adding solar panels to your home insurance coverage unless you talk to your insurance agent. If you already have solar panels installed, it helps to have the following details at hand when asking about a new homeowners policy:


  • The number of panels
  • Contractor information
  • System type


By working with your insurance agent, you can come up with an updated plan that meets the new needs of your environmentally friendly home.


Do you have a home in Keokuk with solar panels? Did you have any insurance issues when installing solar panels? Tell us your experience in the comments below.




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