Determining appropriate life insurance coverage

Here’s a simple formula:

    Final expenses + debts + income needs
    Survivor benefits + your assets + your resources + group life insurance
    Financial needs — Financial resources = How large a policy to buy

Try out our free life insurance comparison quote. No personal or contact information is ever required.

Many people are underinsured because they skip these simple steps. It’s also important to consider the timing of when your financial resources will be available to your family.

Speak with the experts at Associates of Clifton Park. They offer a variety of policies and can go through all of the factors you may want to consider. Give them a call at 1-800-893-1621.

Source: Insurance Information Institute.

Avoid home insurance claim surprises

Read your policy

Ok, most people don’t actually read their home insurance policy—it’s complicated. But make sure you do understand what coverages you do and do not have and what they mean. Misunderstanding your policy can have negative financial consequences you weren’t expecting.

The consultants at Member Benefits are happy to go through your policy with you and answer your coverage questions.

Maintain your property

Home insurance covers sudden and accidental damage, not damage from wear and tear over time. Neglecting to maintain your home won’t be covered by insurance.

Have appropriate coverage

Without the right coverage, you may find yourself owing more than you expected. Insurance is an important part of your financial security. Don’t leave yourself (and your family) exposed to financial loss or purchase coverages you don’t need.

Talk to a Personal Insurance Consultant at Member Benefits. We can help you create a policy that meets your needs.

Don’t clean up too fast

When you experience damage to your home, you may feel in a rush to clean up the mess. Don’t—it can be a financial mistake. You may end up throwing away damaged items before the total damage is documented or lose receipts you need to file a claim. Keep important documentation such as photos and repair estimates, and leave yourself a clear paper trail.

Document, document, document

One common mistake people make when filing a claim is not documenting the damage. Take photos as soon as you discover the damage. If you have some before and after photos, that’s even better.

In the event of a covered loss, you’ll need to provide a list of all of your personal property that was damaged or stolen, along with its estimated value and age at the time of loss. If you’re like most people, it would be hard to remember all of your possessions. This is where a home inventory can come in handy. An accurate inventory and proof of ownership can make the claim settlement process easier and faster.

Download and print your free Personal Property Home Inventory eBook. It has helpful tips as well as fill-in-the-blank listings room by room.

Don’t file too many claims

Insurers look at claims history when setting rates. The more you have, the higher your premiums will be because insurers correlate the number of claims to a higher risk of filing more claims in the future. Consider carefully before claiming smaller repairs you could take care of yourself.

Not realizing your house could be underinsured

Did you know Member Benefits offers Guaranteed Replacement Cost for homes built during or after 1950? This coverage is rarely offered by insurance companies today. With Guaranteed Replacement Cost, we will pay the full cost to repair or replace your home with materials of like kind and quality without the limits imposed by most other insurers.

Contact us—we can help you discover what kind of coverage your current policy offers.

Avoid unwelcome surprises…talk to us!

Set up a free consultation with one of our Personal Insurance Consultants. They can help you learn to be a better insurance consumer, review your policy thoroughly, and offer help and advice. Or get a home insurance quote. • 1-800-279-4030

Source: Forbes Advisor.

Why does your home insurance premium go up every year?

Many factors go into choosing your home. Your insurance company also has many factors to consider when determining your home insurance premium. Still, it can come as a surprise when your premium goes up. Here are several reasons why you usually see home insurance premium increases each year.

Inflation. Some years are affected more by inflation than others. This year, some of the higher labor and material costs that companies have experienced due to the pandemic are being passed on to consumers, raising the cost of building a home as well as the cost of items within your home such as appliances, furniture, etc.

Construction costs. If your home needs to be rebuilt or replaced due to a catastrophe and your area has been hit with severe weather, there may be labor shortages; rates typically escalate in those circumstances. The spike in the cost of construction materials this year is also a factor.

Claims. Insurance is meant to offset the cost of major expenses if something serious happens to your home. But filing a claim may also raise your premium. Think twice about making smaller claims—if it’s not going to cost much more than your deductible, it may be worth paying out of pocket.

Changes to your property. Updating your kitchen, putting on an addition, or other large investments are going to increase the value of your home, which may increase your insurance rate.

Attractive nuisances. A swimming pool or trampoline in your yard poses a higher risk compared to homes that don’t have these items. Make sure you clearly understand your insurance company’s policies regarding attractive nuisances. You could see a rate increase or potentially lose your insurance all together.

Your insurance score. Your insurance score is calculated based on your likelihood of filing a claim during a given coverage period and on your credit score, among other things. A lower insurance score can affect your insurance premium.

Fortunately, there are ways to lower your premium, such as bundling your insurance, increasing your deductible, keeping up your credit score, avoiding small claims, and actively pursuing any discounts you may be entitled to. But be sure to alert your insurer to any changes to your home so you remain properly insured—it’s important for maintaining your financial health.

Call us if you have questions or to get a free insurance quote at 1-800-279-4030.

Money well spent

More than 1 in 5 adults—a total of 53 million adult Americans—are unpaid family caregivers, according to a 2020 report from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving. This type of care is provided by family or friends rather than by paid caregivers. While some aspects of caregiving may be rewarding, caregivers often experience a myriad of mental, physical, social, and financial stressors.

Long-term care insurance (LTCi) can help ease the financial pressure involved in taking care of a loved one at home. Eileen Dunn from Associates of Clifton Park shares one example of how LTCi can help reduce some of the stress that caregivers may bear.

Eileen says, “I received a call from an attorney needing help with an elderly couple. When I visited for the home care assessment, I found the husband was in poor condition. He had serious back issues and had been in bed for most of the last four months. The wife had been providing all his care including helping him into the shower and dressing him. She also did all the shopping, cooking, laundry, and cleaning. She was getting run down and knew she needed assistance.

“They have three children but they are unable to help as one lives in France, one in California, and one is a long-distance truck driver.

“The plan of care was to have an aide come in three times a week to help him shower and help her with household chores. She was concerned about how much it would cost and was reluctant to accept help. I asked if they had long-term care insurance. She said they did and when I explained that the insurance will cover this type of care, I immediately saw the relief in her face. She said, ‘I thought he needed to be much worse off before the insurance would pay.’

As we were getting this plan in place, I received a call. The wife had fallen and hurt her leg, leaving her unable to care for her husband. They now needed to increase the amount of care required. But they were very willing to accept any help they could get because it was covered.

“I have had so many clients that are not willing to get the help they need because they are afraid of spending their money. Those with insurance accept the help and this significantly reduces the stress on the primary caregiver.”

Keep in mind that ordinary health insurance policies and Medicare usually do not pay for long-term care expenses. Medicaid covers some long-term care costs, such as nursing home care and limited in-home care services, but only for a person who meets income and asset limits as well as medical criteria (Family Caregiver Alliance).

LTCi policies can be tailored to cover varying circumstances. Explore your options with Eileen. Sign up for a free consultation (opens in Calendly) to explore your long-term care needs or call 1-800-893-1621.

Catalytic converter thefts: A growing trend

What is a catalytic converter?

Catalytic converters reduce emissions such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbon. While vehicles can still run—loudly—without them, they will not pass emissions tests required in some places before owners can renew their registrations.

Factors affecting the rise in crime

The numbers are rather shocking. There has been almost a ten-fold increase in these thefts since 2018, with more than 14,000 converters reported being stolen in 2020 as the precious metals they contain have risen dramatically in value (National Insurance Crime Bureau [NICB]). Catalytic converters contain rhodium (worth $23,000 per ounce), palladium ($2,861), and platinum ($1,190), though only a few hundred dollars worth goes inside each converter. In addition, the easy money of selling stolen catalytic converters has caught the attention of drug dealers, who can make in a day what they made in a week selling some kinds of drugs.

The catalytic converter is also on the outside of the car, making it easier to steal. Removing a catalytic converter takes only minutes using some basic battery-operated tools from a local hardware store.

Costly to car owners

Mike Godby, Insurance Services Operations Manager at Member Benefits, says that not only has the problem spread across the country, but it has touched our members as well. “One of our members who lives near Stevens Point drives a Dodge Ram pickup. This pickup has two converters, which are the ones getting stolen the most. The thieves took them both as well as other exhaust parts. The estimate for repairs was $10,000. However, the parts weren’t available for months, prolonging our member’s problem.

“The average cost to someone with insurance who experiences this theft is $1,000 to $3,000 after the deductible. But additional costs to a vehicle owner may also include the loss of work as well as finding and paying for alternate transportation.”

Addressing the problem

The NICB is trying to bring awareness to this issue by urging legislators in Texas to support House Bill 4110. This bill would increase regulation of recycling metals and criminal penalties. It would also increase the penalty for knowingly selling or buying a stolen catalytic converter and implement a five-day holding period from the day the recycler buys them before they can sell or dispose of them.

Tips to avoid becoming a victim

While difficult to prevent, like most thefts, it’s theft by opportunity. Here are a few things you can do to make it more difficult for thieves to steal your catalytic converter.

Check your car insurance

If you have full coverage—liability insurance, plus collision and comprehensive policies that repair or replace your own car—you may be covered, minus your deductible amount. If you have a vehicle at high risk for a catalytic converter theft, you might consider lowering your deductible amount depending on your budget.

Some insurers may not cover this damage because it was not caused by an accident. Contact your insurance company to find out.

If you have further questions, give us a call at 1-800-279-4030.

Got backyard toys? Play it safe this summer

Many people have added more entertainment choices to their homes in recent months. Outdoor options like pools and trampolines can be great fun for a family. But it’s important that you understand some of the realities regarding both safety and insurance coverage.

Captivating to children

Some things are so attractive to children that they can also pose a real and sometimes life-threatening hazard.

The term “attractive nuisance” refers to something that is likely to entice children and could pose a risk of injury. Pools and trampolines are two examples, as well as home playground equipment, tree houses, construction projects, old appliances, or even leftover sand or gravel from landscaping projects.

As a homeowner, you have the burden of taking adequate measures to protect children from these potential hazards. And you may be liable for any injuries that occur even if someone comes on to your property without your knowledge.

Make a (safe) splash

There’s a lot to love about a backyard pool. But like anything else, there is a price tag that comes with it in order to keep everyone safe and make sure you’re financially protected.

Safety tips

Insurance considerations

You need a four-foot or taller fence around the pool with self-closing and self-latching gates. Most insurance companies like Member Benefits require a pool to be four feet from the ground to the top of the pool in order to be covered in the policy. For an in-ground pool, the yard must be fenced in.

Jump carefully

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages trampoline use due to the risk of bruises, sprains, spinal cord damage, and bone breaks. It reports that the number of trampoline-related pediatric fractures has been increasing each year, from 35.3 per 100,000 in 2008 to 53.0 per 100,000 persons in 2017.

Safety tips

Insurance considerations

Be aware—like many insurers, Member Benefits does not insure homes with trampolines. Consider your potential liability when deciding on whether to have a backyard trampoline.

Be sure you’re covered

Talk to your insurance company about your pool or trampoline so that you clearly understand the specific options, obligations, and coverages in your plan. If you have questions, give us a call at 1-800-279-4030.

Protect yourself and your family

As you look towards retirement, have you thought about:

Long-term care insurance offers options to close the gap between your retirement income plan and potential long-term care costs. And life insurance can make it easier to share a legacy with your family instead of costs and expenses.

Set up a long-term care consultation (open Calendly website) and get free instant life insurance quotes (you do not need to share any personal information) to start exploring your options.

How to be a clever insurance consumer

When it comes to personal insurance, there are numerous options to choose from out there. Many people grab quick insurance quotes online, looking for the cheapest rates. But think about this statement: “Insurance doesn’t matter…until it does.” What might you be sacrificing for a cheaper premium? If you’re underinsured and something happens, you could be on the hook for a significant sum of money.

Let us help you raise your game when it comes to personal insurance knowledge. We’ve been helping Wisconsin public school employees make better insurance decisions since 1972. By becoming a more clever consumer, you’re more likely to find the right coverage with the right insurer for your needs—lowering your financial risk and providing appropriate coverage for you and your family.

Here are a few tried and true guidelines to follow.

The three principles

When purchasing insurance, following a few basic principles can help guide you to the best decision for your needs.

1. Buy value, not price

Say you go online and get a quote that could save you over $400 a year compared to your current insurance. Seems like a good deal on the surface. But you need to look deeper than just the price quote.

Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Is their liability coverage the same as you what currently have? Is it appropriate? Are all of the necessary coverages included in the quote? There are many reasons you could be seeing a lower premium estimate, which may leave you at higher risk. For example, shorting yourself on liability coverage will leave you exposed to potential loss. Lower liability limits may also make you ineligible for umbrella insurance, which requires underlying liability limits of $250,000/$500,000. If this is the case, saving about $33 per month isn’t really any savings at all.

At Member Benefits, we strongly believe insurance should not be bought as a commodity. Your insurance needs are not the same throughout your life nor are they the same as your neighbors’.

2. Maximize your insurance dollar

If you’re going to spend money on insurance, purchase the most appropriate coverage you can get for your dollar to lower your financial risk. Kay Licciardello, Personal Insurance Consultant, explains it this way: “Think about risking the small dollars to protect the big dollars. Raising a deductible from $250 to $500 only exposes $250 of your assets, but the savings there could potentially pay for protection of an additional $400,000 in assets and future earnings.” This concept is sometimes difficult to understand, because many of us tend to think about risks we have experience with or can conceive of, like a fender bender or losing a cell phone. The risk of catastrophic events is often dismissed because they happen less frequently, even though they can be far more financially devastating.

3. Insure for the catastrophic

It’s the real reason we have insurance. The safety net of liability insurance only stretches as far as the coverage amount you have. Umbrella insurance is overlooked by a lot of people, yet most financial advisors consider it a must-have. Many people think it’s only for the wealthy and that it’s expensive insurance to carry, but it’s actually very affordable.

Do you have a car? Teenage driver? Watercraft? Use the internet? These are four of the biggest causes of liability losses. You don’t have to do outlandish things to be at risk. And it’s very possible to be sued like a millionaire—even if you aren’t one.

Umbrella insurance kicks in when your liability limits on your home policy have been reached. Say you cause a car accident that results in severe injuries for multiple people and the medical bills are $400,000, which exceeds your $300,000 liability auto insurance policy limits. Your umbrella insurance can cover the remaining $100,000.

Another advantage of umbrella insurance is that it provides you with protection if you face liability for certain acts not usually covered by your home policy, such as slander, libel, invasion of privacy, and more.

Lastly, scheduled personal property is an optional insurance policy that can be added to your home insurance to help ensure full coverage of expensive items. But Steve Schofield, Personal Insurance Consultant, reminds us, “Scheduling items like electronics, collectibles, and jewelry is something to consider, but if you’re doing that at the expense of coverage for the catastrophic loss, it isn’t the best use of your insurance dollar.”

“Insurance doesn’t matter…until it does.”

Major considerations

Keep these things in mind to help maximize what you’re getting from your auto and home insurance policies.

Be smart about submitting claims

Making multiple claims in a short period may trigger a rate increase or even cause an insurer not to renew your policy. For example, making three claims in two years may cause an insurer to think you have a proclivity for claims.

A recent survey of Consumer Reports members who filed one claim in the previous three years said they saw no subsequent premium increase. Only 12% had hikes of $200 or more annually. That suggests there’s not much of a downside to filing a single claim.

However, it’s generally best to avoid making claims of just a few hundred dollars above the deductible. Doing so might erase discounts you’re getting for remaining claim-free.

Also keep these two things in mind regarding claims:

  1. When you buy insurance, you are essentially buying a legal document—a contract. The fine print in the document will make all the difference when you file a claim.
  2. When you decide on an insurer, you also get the people who will interpret the document and decide whether they will pay your claim or not.

Be sure you have people you can rely on to give you the best service possible. Bob Manor, Senior Claims Specialist at Member Benefits, shared a recent story. “A member was in a car accident which rendered the car undriveable. She believed the driver of the other vehicle was at fault and asked if we would provide a rental car. Unfortunately, she had not purchased Rental Car Reimbursement coverage, so her policy would not pay for one. She was very nervous about trying to locate someone at the other insurance company to ask about a rental car, so I made a few phone calls and put our member in touch with the right person at the other insurance company. The member replied back, ‘I couldn’t be happier. Member Benefits staff explained the situation to me, but they also went beyond what was normal.’”

How much of a house will your insurance build?

You may have seen in the news recently that the cost of lumber has skyrocketed. The high demand for housing has escalated the price of lumber to triple or even quadruple in recent months. In fact, the cost of all building supplies has gone up, from glue to foam to insulation (PBS Wisconsin).

It may be a unique time but now as always it’s important to know that your home insurance policy has you covered. When insuring your home, it should be insured for 100% of its replacement cost. “Replacement cost is different from both assessed value and market value. Make sure you know the difference when insuring your home. We can help explain it to you,” says Dave Stelmaszewski, Personal Insurance Consultant. “Replacement cost reflects how much it would cost to rebuild your house in the same spot, with materials of like kind and quality.”

For homes built during or after 1950, Member Benefits’ home policy pays the full cost to repair or replace your home with materials of like kind and quality without the limits imposed by most other insurers. For homes built prior to 1950, this coverage provides up to 125% of the dwelling limit on your policy.

Choose your car wisely

Premiums can vary by model. When car shopping, ask your insurer for premium quotes on the different vehicle models that you’re considering.

Tim Ganoung, Personal Insurance Consultant, adds, “Older cars don’t necessarily need extra coverage. Consider dropping collision coverage if your car has decreased in value or you can afford to replace it. However, if you have any classic cars, make sure they’re appropriately covered. We offer optional coverage specifically for vintage vehicles.”

Actively pursue discounts

Discounts may include breaks for bundling home and auto policies with the same carrier; taking a safe-driving course; letting your carrier know about your lower annual mileage; and reporting your teen driver’s good academic average, typically a B or better. (See Member Benefits’ auto insurance discounts and home insurance discounts.)

Keep your credit and driving record clean

Both have an impact on the price of your insurance premium. Insurers maintain that credit history is a good predictor of risk that they’ll have to pay for insurance claims.

Factor in life changes

If you get married, add a teen driver to your policy, add or remove a vehicle, etc., those things can impact your premium. Be sure you discuss any changes with your insurer so you remain properly insured. Personal Insurance Consultant Stefanie Walsh adds, “Do you have children who bought their own car, are getting married, buying a home, or renting their own apartment? They may be eligible for policies with us. And if you’re retiring soon, don’t worry—you’ll still be our member and can continue your insurance with us. You may be even be eligible to start a new policy if you’ve already retired.” Call us to find out more.

Lastly, can you say this about your insurance carrier? One of our members recently told us, “(The person I worked with) was so very patient working through all my questions and explaining all of my options for home and auto. He made me feel so confident in my decision and broke down each step. I am so thankful for this amazing benefit, the Member Benefits community, and him. Thank you.”

Here’s the bottom line: Find an insurance company that provides fair and fast claims settlements, offers great customer service, helps you review your policy thoroughly, and proactively offers help and advice. That’s what you’ll experience at Member Benefits.

Give us a call at 1-800-279-4030 with your questions, or schedule a personal consultation to review your current insurance coverage. We’re here for you.


Taking a summer road trip?

If you’re planning on hitting the road for a getaway, follow the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared”—you may save yourself some potential frustration. Here’s a quick list to look over before you head out.

Do some car prep

Have an emergency kit

Have a cell phone

COVID considerations

Make sure you’re covered

Drive safely and enjoy your summer!

Q&A on long-term care insurance

If my dad had long-term care insurance, could he have stayed home? He paid for his home care for three years, then ran out of money and had to go to a nursing home. 

One of the best benefits of long-term care insurance is the ability to stay in your home. Having to pay the full cost of care out of pocket often means depleting your savings. Having long-term care insurance provides that buffer to keep you in your own home or the ability to pay for an assisted living facility and avoid a nursing home.

Can I be paid to be a caregiver to my parents?

There are some policies that allow you to pay “independent caregivers” to provide care.

My mother has been on a waiting list at a nice nursing home and she has almost $100,000 in assets. They told us there is a six month waiting list, and now she is having to use her savings to pay for care at home. My neighbor’s mother went on the waiting list AFTER my mother and only had to wait a few weeks before she got in. My neighbor said her long-term care insurance helped speed up the process. Is that correct?

That is correct. Nursing homes are a business. When a bed becomes available, they are looking at who can be “self-pay” the longest. They don’t get the same amount of money for a Medicaid patient as they do a self-pay patient, so a person with a long-term care policy is more desirable because they will self-pay longer. They don’t necessarily have to take whoever is next on the list.

We were told long-term care costs a lot of money up front. Is that true?

There are policies that allow you to pay a one-time “lump sum” up front. However, there are also policies that allow flexible payment options such as paying over 10 years. Many people like the idea of paying a lump sum and others prefer to pay annually. They can be designed to fit your needs.

Learn more about long-term care insurance

Schedule a phone consultation with Eileen (opens to new website).