Insurance Claims – Get an Advance Payment!

Insurance claim advance payments are not widely known by people who file claims. Often, when an insured has a loss of significant size, such as a flood, tornado, wildfire, hurricane loss or a big water damage loss, an advance payment of a portion of the anticipated settlement is issued by the insurance company. This situation also happens regularly when a business has a loss and needs money up front.

It is a customary and widely accepted practice for the insurance company to issue an advance payment in this type of instance. Be aware that there’s nothing in the standard property insurance policy that deals with advances. It is usually just a courtesy that the insurance company extends to their policyholder.

However, they don’t usually offer to do it. You have to request the advance.

Here’s an example. Joe Smith’s house is hit by lightning, and a fire damages most of the house. Joe’s policy has Building limits of $100,000, Contents limits of $50,000, ALE limits of $20,000. The house can be repaired for $70,000, which is less than the policy limits. However, the adjuster expects that the Contents loss will exceed the policy limits of $50,000, and the ALE loss will be $15,000. The adjuster sends in his first report to the insurance company, and tells them to expect the loss to be approximately $135,000 on these three parts of coverage.

The insurance company could easily issue an initial advance payment of $25,000 to $35,000 for Contents and ALE, and $40,000 to $50,000 for the Dwelling loss.

So, what do you do if your Contents are damaged and you need the most basic things, like a change of clothes and shoes? What if you need to have a contractor secure the building and put tarps on the roof to keep further rain out of the building? Most people do not have tens of thousands of dollars just lying in their bank accounts that could be used to begin repairs, or begin replacing personal property. That’s when the insurance company issues an advance.

It’s best to make your request in writing. Even if it’s just a hand-written letter, it’s best if it’s in writing. Write or type your request, keep a copy for your records, and give the copy to your adjuster. It’s also a good idea to send a duplicate copy to the claims department of your insurance company. Send it by overnight courier or certified mail. NEVER rely on the adjuster to ask for an advance on your behalf. He might get delayed with other work and it could be days before he asks. DO IT YOURSELF.

Take control of your claim, my friend! Make an EARLY request in the claims process for your advance payment!

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Insurance Claims – Get an Advance Payment!

Understand the Pros and Cons of Saving Money in Piggy Banks

It is always a great idea to put some money away for a rainy day or for a future purchase. But where you put it is a personal choice depending on what your considerations are. Do you have security in mind? Or is it convenience? Whatever they may be, you might have thought of getting a piggy bank in which to store some extra money. It may help you if you understand what using one of these entries. There are obvious advantages as well as disadvantages that come with piggy banks.

Advantages

We all have spare change left over from grocery shopping and other small purchases, and sometimes we just put it all over the house because we do not have a central place to deposit it. A coin bank will enable you to keep track of the small amounts of money that might otherwise simply lie around or get lost. It can also be a great way to actually save toward a small purchase such as something you saw on sale at the shop down the road. Small, regular deposits into the piggy bank will accumulate enough to reach the desired amount. There are some large piggy banks that are convenient for growing a decent saving, so that might be of interest to you.

Most piggy or coin banks by their very design are pleasing to look at. That means that besides using them to put away some money, you can also use them as decorative pieces in the house. The piggy bank may not needlessly come in the design of a pig, but some are modeled after other animals or objects. So you could choose to become a collector of them and make them serve the double duty of storing your money and brightening up your house.

Disadvantages

When you are saving money, it is usually for a particular reason. Therefore, it is in your interest to ensure that it accumulates enough to achieve your goal. For instance, if you are saving to treat yourself to a night out on the weekend, it is possible to get temped during the week to use the money for something else because it is readily available. It requires that you exercise self control and discipline to not raid the piggy bank at will just because it is convenient.

There are really no disadvantages of keeping money in a piggy bank except that you may get tempted to withdraw some amount when you need it. But it is really not such a bad idea to withdraw money when you need it. The piggy banks serve as your instant back-up plan. You have to go to a bank and withdrawal money and that involves time and energy. On the other hand withdrawal from a piggy bank home is very easy.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Understand the Pros and Cons of Saving Money in Piggy Banks

The Pros And Cons Of Funeral Insurance

Funeral insurance, also known as burial insurance is a type of insurance created to pay for the costs of memorial and internment services. Nowadays, many people especially those who are not getting any younger are getting funeral insurance to deal with the costs of burial and funeral services when they die.

Most of these people do not want to leave any type of burden, especially financial burden, to their loved ones. Some of the costs covered by insurance policies are cremation, burial, plots, music, flowers, taxes and even medical costs. Before purchasing funeral insurance, an interested person must consider things such as the location of the cemetery, arrangement and expenses of the funeral, cost of cremating and buying caskets or urns.

Aside from these considerations, he must also determine the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of insurance:

Cash to Shoulder the Funeral Arrangements. The insurance company will give the grieving loved ones lump sum cash that they can use for funeral arrangements. The amount of cash usually depends on the type of funeral insurance policy that the dead relative has purchased.

A Car to Make Funeral Arrangements. While the family members are on the verge of arranging matters of his funeral, the insurance company will provide a car to make sure that they still feel comfortable while dealing with his death and getting ready for his interment at the same time.

Bonus Monthly Payout. The family members who the insured person has left will be receiving monthly bonus cash from the insurance company. This amount of money is expected to help pay out for bills covering food and utility.

Chosen Funeral and Burial. A good thing about having a contract with an insurance company is that when he dies, he will have the memorial and interment services according to his will. He will have a funeral and burial that he thinks he describes.

Get A Tombstone. With the services that the company covers, the family members can choose a tombstone that will serve as its memory.

The disadvantages of purchasing funeral insurance are:

Insurance Policy May not Pay in Full. There are some companies offering funeral insurance that have waiting periods. These periods can reduce the benefits of the insured person. There can also be times when there can be no benefits at all. Some insurance policies can decrease in value as time passes by.

Insurance Policy May not be an investment. A person who chooses to have funeral insurance will have no control on how his money will be endowed. Another thing is that some companies offer very little interest rate. And lastly, some insurance policies are overpriced. This means that some of these policies cost more than the cost of funeral coverage. A person planning to get one must remember that by purchasing one means he is paying more premiumss than collecting insurance claims.

With the advantages and disadvantages of funeral insurance, a person can see that it will be highly recommended to apply for a funeral insurance policy that will fit his needs and requirements.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on The Pros And Cons Of Funeral Insurance

Real Estate and the AMT: Rental Or Investment Property

The Alternative Minimum Tax is a very important consideration for taxpayers who own real estate because just about every tax rule applying to real estate is different for the AMT than it is for the Regular Tax. This article on Real Estate and the AMT will address those situations where the individual holds the real estate as an investment, typically as rental property. The differences in tax treatment between the Regular Tax and the AMT can be significant.

Interest expense

Interest paid on the mortgage taken out to acquire the property is fully deductible, both for the Regular Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax. Unlike itemized deductions that allow a tax benefit for what amounts to personal expenses, the tax law generally allows all deductions a taxpayer has to make in the pursuit of business income. Thus, the limitations discussed in the previous article on home mortgage interest do not apply.

If, however, the equity in the rental property is used as security for an additional loan – a second mortgage, for example – then the taxpayer must look to how the proceeds of that loan are used to determine interest deductibility. If the proceeds are used for a car loan or to finance a child’s education, for example, then the interest is nondeductible personal interest. If the proceeds are used to improve the rental property, the interest is deductible.

Suggestion – it is best that taxpayers keep personal borrowings separate from business borrowings. Mixing the two creates recordkeeping challenges and can result in disputes with the IRS.

Property taxes

Property taxes paid on rental or investment property are allowed in full both for Regular Tax purposes as well as for the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Planning idea – if you have an opportunity to pay your property tax bill either this year or next, pay it in a year when you have enough income from the property so as not to generate a rental loss. This strategy can help avoid triggering the passive activity loss limitations described below.

Example – in Florida property tax bills are mailed in October, and are payable under the following discount schedule: November – 4%, December – 3%, January – 2%, February – 1%. If you have a loss from the property in 2010 but expect to generate income in 2011, do not pay your bill in November or December – forgoing that small discount could help you avoid the loss-limitation rules.

Depreciation

Depreciation is allowed for property held for investment. The portion of the cost allocable to land is not depreciable, but for the building itself and the furniture, appliances, carpeting, etc. a depreciation deduction may be taken.

Real property (this is the legal definition of the house or other building) held for rental/investment may only be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under the “straight-line” method, over a useful life of 27.5 years. Thus, a property with $275,000 allocated to the building would be depreciated at the rate of $10,000 per year.

Personal property (this is the legal definition of things such as furniture, appliances, carpeting and the like) may be depreciated for Regular Tax purposes under an “accelerated” method over a useful life of five years. An accelerated method allows a larger depreciation deduction in the early years, in recognition of an obsolescence or decline-in-value factor that you see in new property (cars are a good example).

For purposes of the AMT, however, personal property may be depreciated only by using a straight-line method. Thus, an AMT item will be generated in the early years if the accelerated method is used.

Planning idea – for personal property consider electing the straight-line method for Regular Tax purposes. While giving up a little tax benefit from the greater depreciation in the early years, it could mean avoiding paying the AMT.

Active/passive investment rules and the “at-risk” rules

A taxpayer who is not “active” in managing investment property may not use losses from rental property to offset other income such as salaries and wages, dividends, interest, capital gains, etc. Instead, these losses are deferred until the taxpayer either sells the property or generates passive income from this or other passive investment sources.

The at-risk rules similarly deny using these types of losses to the extent the taxpayer has acquired the investment with borrowed money and does not have personal liability on the debt.

Planning idea

If these loss limitations apply, consider the planning ideas mentioned above to minimize the losses being generated each year. They are not doing you any good anyway.

Sale of the property

Several different AMT issues can arise on the sale of rental/investment property. One is that your gain or loss may be different for the AMT than it is for Regular Tax purposes. This would be caused if different depreciation methods were used. For example, if the personal property was depreciated using an accelerated method for Regular Tax purposes, then the basis in that property when calculating gain or loss on sale would be different because the straight-line method had to be used for Alternative Minimum Tax purposes.

Gain on the sale of investment property generally is capital gain, although a portion may be treated as ordinary income depending on the accelerated depreciation method was used. Capital gains in and of themselves are not an AMT item, but nonetheless they can result in AMT being paid. This is because the AMT exemption amount is phased out for taxpayers at certain income levels, so this additional income can have the result of reducing the exemption which in turn increases taxable income for purposes of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Real Estate and the AMT: Rental Or Investment Property

Basketball Shooting Fundamentals – How to Shoot a Step Back Jump Shot

If you are a slow, un-athletic player you must adopt the step back jumper and add it to your arsenal of weapons. This is the future of basketball. This move is perfect for any player that is not quick enough to get to the cup and can provide a shooter with another way to score the basketball. The move is actually done more effectively against good defense. If the defense plays it correctly and the step back is unavailable the counter to this move will open up something with even more space to get off a shot or drive.

If you do not know what a step back jump shot is, I will explain it briefly. It is when a player uses the bounce to drive towards the hoop then instead of going straight up to shoot a jump shot he/she creates space between him/her and the defender by taking a step to the side then shoots the jumper. You might be asking, “Well, that doesn’t make sense. Why would the player take this extra step and isn’t that traveling?” The reason the player does not just shoot a regular one-dribble pull up is because the defense is there and has beaten the player to the spot. The player was not quick enough or did not use a good enough move to blow by therefore the only way for the player to get a shot off is to create space with this move. This is not traveling at all if done with the proper footwork.

This move is too difficult to explain its execution in just words so I suggest you search through YouTube for a demonstration if you have never seen it done before. When practicing or coaching this move there are certain things you must be persistent about:

– The “step-back” is actually a side-step. Never step back because you will not give yourself a lane to counter.

– Your last dribble before the move should be your hardest, and in the direction that you are stepping, and your body is then chasing the ball and meeting it to go up into your shot.

– Do not use your off arm to push off of the defense. Use your shoulder to make contact.

– Get into the defender with your body. Before you step back make sure you give him a bump so that he can’t contest your shot.

In the next article I post I will talk about the counter to the step back. This will prove to you this is by far the most unstoppable move if a player can master it.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Basketball Shooting Fundamentals – How to Shoot a Step Back Jump Shot

How to Inventory and Assign Value to Estate Personal Property

There is an old saying that goes: What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

Personal property is the elephant of an estate. It is the responsibility that can take up most of your time, and it provides the estate with the least amount of money for the effort involved. But, dealing with the personal property cannot be avoided. The property must be inventoried, valued, distributed, or sold. Let us start our analysis by looking at what property we have (inventory); then we will determine what it is worth (valuation). In a future post, we will determine what to do with it (distribution/sale).

When you go to the courthouse, the clerk will provide you with the form you will need to fill out for the inventory. The form will ask you to provide general categories and a value for each category you have listed. For example, you would list: furniture, $1500; office equipment, $300, etc.. You will not have to list the items separately, such as sofa, $100; chair, $5; typewriter, $25. I suggest that you do keep a list of the individual items, though. Although you will not have to go into a lot of detail for the court, you will likely want a more detailed inventory for yourself. You will want this for two reasons: to track the sale of estate property, and to protect yourself against claims of heirs and/or creditors.

You do not have to get real fancy with with the inventory; pencil and paper will do. If you are so inclined, there are home inventory record books available at office supply stores, or you can purchase software online. There are also companies that specialize in taking home inventories.

You will need a helper. One person sorts and counts while the other writes. Start inside the house, and work your way from the top of the house to the bottom. Go room to room with a consistent pattern so that you do not miss anything: always clockwise or counter-clockwise around the room. Write down what is on the walls as well, not just what is on the floor. For small goods, write down identifiable groups of items such as 200 hardcover books, 100 paperback books, 42 nick-knacks, etc.. On your list, put a star next to any item that you think may be valuable. If the nick-knacks are porcelain and the books are first editions, they are valuable items. When you are finished, follow the same procedure for the outbuildings: the garage, shed, workshop, or whatever. If there is a rented self-storage unit, vacation home, recreational vehicle or boat, they will need to be inventoried as well.

When you file the inventory at the courthouse, you will need to state a value for the personal property. For run-of-the-mill household items, a good resource for determining the value is the software program It’s Deductible that comes bundled with the income tax program Turbo Tax. It’s Deductible can also be purchased separately. The software lists the thrift shop value for most household items, and it is easy to use.

For the items that you have identified as being valuable, It’s Deductible will not work. There are several ways to determine the value of single items or collections. A good place to start is eBay ( http://www.ebay.com ). To use eBay to help set your values, you will need to be a registered user. Registering for eBay is free; just follow the instructions when you get to the website. Once registered, type in the item you are researching, and eBay will search for the item. When the search results come up, scroll down and look on the left side of the page to where it says Search Options, click on completed listings, then scroll down further and click on Show Items. The search results displayed will be for completed auctions, not for auctions in progress. The prices listed in green are items that actually sold; the prices in red are for items that did not sell. If you find your item listed, and the price is green, you have a good value. Compare the details of the item you found on eBay with the details of the item you have. Use the closest match as your value.

If you are unable to find your item listed on eBay, it is time to go to the library or bookstore. There you will find an assortment of price guides for every sort of antique or collectible. You will also find blue books for automobiles and equipment.

If you have lots of items and no time to research, then it is time to call in an expert. In your local phone book you will find jewelers, antique dealers, auctioneers, appraisers, and other professionals who will tell you what the property is worth. What they will offer you is an opinion of value, not an appraisal. An appraisal is based on actual sales data, not an opinion. I will cover appraisals below; for now, just be aware that there is a difference. For probate valuation purposes, the value placed must be the fair market value at the time of the decedents death. This is the value you should ask your expert to provide.

In my home state of Virginia, individual items or collections that are valued over $500 must have an appraisal. Personal property appraisers are not licensed like real estate appraisers, but the content of their reports is regulated. For a personal property appraisal to be valid and accepted for tax purposes, it must be performed by a qualified expert and follow the federal guidelines of the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. Most real estate appraisers do not appraise personal property. You can find a personal property appraiser online by checking the websites of the Certified Appraisers Guild of America, the National Association of Auctioneers, or the American Society of Appraisers.

Estate Executors will find that the inventory and valuation of estate personal property is their most time-consuming task, but there are resources available to help.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on How to Inventory and Assign Value to Estate Personal Property

The Fireman’s Rule – Law Prevents Firefighter From Suing For Injuries Received While Fighting Fire!

When I first heard the term, "The Fireman's Rule," I thought that I had obviously stumbled upon a rule of law that would be of benefit to firefighters through the country. What I learned after a couple of hours of research was that this rule of law was of no benefit to firefighters, but instead served to benefit the property owner / occupant who Negligent acts or omissions may have been the primary cause of injuries to a firefighter while Fighting a fire. In fact, the Fireman's Rule operates to bar a fireman from suing a property owner / occupant when the acts or omissions of the property owner / occupant caused or contributed to injuries the firefighter received while fighting a fire on the concessions of the owner / occupant.

The fireman's rule is a common law, and in some states statutory, based on a judiciously recognized public policy that encourages people to freely call the fire department for help without concern if they will be held liable to the firemen for injuries that are beyond their ability To control. In other words, the courts believe that a person should be able to call for help when their kitchen is on fire without worrying if a fireman will sue them if he is bitten by the family dog. The courts have held that these risks go along with the job.

In order to understand what the fireman's rule is and is not and how it operates, it is necessary to take a brief look at what the courts have been saying when deciding such cases. In one case, Whittenv v. Miami-Dade Water & Sewer Authority (Fla. 1978), the Florida Supreme Court explained the duty owed to a firefighter by the owner / occupant of the concessions which is the subject of the emergency. The Court ruled that a fireman has the legal status of a licensee, and as a licensee the only duty owed to a fireman was a duty not engaged in conduct that is considered to be either wanton (deliberate, without regard) or willful and / or To warn the fireman of any dangerous defect that is not open to the regular observation by a fireman.

As a basis for the fireman's rule, the Florida Supreme Court explained in Kilpatrick v. Sklar (Fla. 1989) that the fireman's rule is based on public policy. It purpose is to permit individuals who require fire department assistance to call for help without stopping to consider whether or not they will be held liable for any injuries to a firefighter which, in most cases, are beyond their control. In the Kilpatrick case the Court observed that firemen (and policemen) usually enter buildings and structures at unforeseeable times and under extreme emergency circumstances where most people do not have the time nor opportunity to prepare the concessions for their visit. And there should not be held responsible for any injuries that occur to the firefighters as a result.

Lastly, in Lanza v. Polanin 581 So.2d 130 (Fla. 1991) (cites other cases used in article) the Court noted that a firefighter who enters a house or dwelling does so without any guarantee that he will not find a bulldog waiting to bite him. These are dangers inherent in the job and caution should be exercised by the fireman since he is a trained professional. Again the Court emphasized that the policy behind the fireman's rule is to encourage people to call the fire department when needed by limiting the circumstances under which a person may be liable to the firefighter for injuries he may receive responding to and while fighting the fire, or Otherwise handling the emergency.

To summarize, the fireman's rule is a rule of law based on public policy which protects the owner / occupier of property from lawsuits by Firefighters for injuries which receive while on the promotions fighting a fire or handling an emergency. In other words, if you the firefighter are injured while fighting a fire, and you can prove that those injuries were caused by the negligent acts or omissions of the property owner / occupant, you will most likely be barred from recovery unless you can show that Such conduct that led to the injuries was willful or wanton or that the owner / occupant failed to warn of a danger known to exist. All of which is near impossible considering the unlimited variables present in a fire or other emergency. The fireman's rule is no friend of the fireman.

Michael Hendrich, JD FirehouseToday.com

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on The Fireman’s Rule – Law Prevents Firefighter From Suing For Injuries Received While Fighting Fire!

5 Fundamental Principles of Insurance

Insurance is a contract, a risk transfer mechanism whereby a company (Underwriter) promised to compensate or indemnify another party (Policyholder) upon the payment of reasonable premium to the insurance company to cover the subject-matter of insurance. If you are well conversant with these principles, you will be in a better position in negotiating you insurance needs.

1. Insurable interest. This is the financial or monetary interest that the owner or possessor of property has in the subject-matter of insurance. The mere fact that it might be detrimental to him should a loss occurred because of his financial stake in that assets gives him the ability to insure the property. Castellin Vs Preston 1886.

2. Umberima fadei. It means utmost good faith, this principle stated that the parties to insurance contract must disclose accurately and fully all the facts material to the risk being proposed. That is to say that the insured must make known to the insurer all facts regarding the risk to be insured (Looker Vs Law Union and Rock 1928). Likewise, the underwriter must highlight and explain the terms, conditions and exceptions of the insurance policy. And the policy must be void of ‘small prints’.

3. Indemnity. It stated that following a loss, the insurer should ensure that they placed the insured in the exact financial position he enjoyed prior to the loss (Leppard Vs Excess 1930).

4. Contribution. In a situation where two or more insurers is covering a particular risk, if a loss occurred, the insurers must contribute towards the settlement of the claim in accordance with their rateable proportion.

5. Subrogation. It has often been said that contribution and subrogation are corollary of indemnity, which means that these two principles operates so that indemnity does not fail. Subrogation operates mainly on motor insurance. When an accident occurred involving two or more vehicles, there must be tortfeasor(s) who is responsible for accident. On this basis, the insurer covering the policyholder who was not at fault can recover their outlay from the underwriter of the policyholder who is responsible for the incidence.

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on 5 Fundamental Principles of Insurance

Factors That Affect the Cost of Travel Insurance

Travel insurance policies come in different types of packages, with all manner of options and choices. It is designed this way for a reason, of course. You would not want to pay for cover that you are illegally to need, or skimp on cover you should have.

A basic policy may be adequate, or you may find you'll be more comfortable paying a bit more to obtain higher levels of cover, as needed. It often depends on where you plan to travel. Let's say you plan to travel to a destination such as Madagascar, which has limited medical facilities. In the case of a serious medical emergency you may have to be transferred by air ambulance to another country for treatment. Therefore, you would be wise to pick a policy that offers the maximum cover for medical emergencies. It should also include cover for air ambulance and medical repatriation. If you check you may find that a very cheap policy does not include this cover.

You will need to decide whether to opt for a Single Trip or Annual Multi-trip policy. If there is any possibility that you may take more than one trip in a year the Annual policy is usually the best value for money. On many policies children are included free – which is a major saving for family holidays.

Travel insurance premiums usually increase increasing depending on where in the world you are traveling. For example, the cost of travel insurance for a British citizen traveling to Europe would be less than if they were flying long-haul to a destination such as North America or Australia.

Most travel insurance companies offer different levels of cover so that you can choose. Paying a bit more for the next level should affect the amount the insurer will pay on a claim, or increase the amount of items covered. Pay attention to the amount of Excess (Deductible) included as it may be much higher on a cheap policy. (This is the amount you have to pay towards a claim). To keep the premium very low it is often the case that levels of cover have been cut or the amount of Excess increased.

When it comes to pre-existing medical conditions the cost may increase dramatically for serious pre-existing conditions, or the insurer may not offer cover at all. Most often though the average company will agree to cover a specific condition for an extra premium, or with the understanding that any claims related to the condition are excluded. This can be a bitter pill to swallow for those that are affected.

Unfortunately, it is a fact that travel insurance for seniors is usually more expensive because of the assumed increased risk of a medical problem arising – despite the fact that our seniors are probably healthier these days than they have ever been!

Winter sports (skiing / snowboarding) insurance can be added to a typical travel insurance policy for an additional fee. Other add-ons may include cover for activities such as:

  • Business Insurance – additional premium to cover many travel-related risks associated with traveling for business
  • Golf Insurance – additional cover for mishaps relating a golf holiday to cover lost or stolen equipment, golf equipment hire, and pre-paid green fees

When it comes to activities deemed by insurers as 'Hazardous' the cover may vary very between policies and companies. It is important to check and understand which activities are covered as standard. A typical policy will include activities in which you can participate on a casual, unplanned or 'incidental' basis. An additional premium may be required to provide cover for activities that are considered planned or 'non-incidental'. Confused? Do not worry, it is not as complicated as it sounds! Here are some examples to show the difference:

'Incidental' usually refer to activities such as a bungee jump, an elephant ride or sleigh ride that you may decide to participate in on the spur of the moment. 'Non-incidental' or planned activities refer to those that are participating in a regular or non-causal basis. For example: the activity is the main purpose of the trip, such as sailing holiday, scuba diving holiday, safari, white-water rafting trip, or cycle touring.

There is no question that insurance can be a difficult subject to forgive – most people would prefer to spend their precious spare time doing something much more interesting and fun!

The bottom line really is that if you do not have time to look into it in detail, make sure that the policy you choose contains, at a minimum , adequate cover for potentially cost travel problems involving: Medical Expenses, Medical Repatriation, Air Ambulance , Personal Liability, and Legal Expenses. A good basic policy and even a backpacker policy should contain these as standard. Pay a little more and you will get more features.

Beware of that cheap policy offered as an incentive – it may not always be a good buy. You get what you pay for – and peace of mind is priceless!

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Factors That Affect the Cost of Travel Insurance

The 10 Most Common Mistakes Insurance Agents Make

Problem #1

Prospects have more sales resistance training than agents usually have in sales presentation skill.

Prospect response to insurance agents is designed to get as much information as possible and be in control of the situation. Prospects often mislead insurance agents about their intentions, how much they’ll spend, who makes decisions, etc.

The prospect intent is designed to turn agents into unpaid consultants, lead them on until they have all of the information they need, and often use their quotes to compare with their current agent or a competitor.

When prospects have what they need, they stop returning the agent’s phone calls.

Does this make prospects bad people?

Of course not.

We all use this system for dealing with salespeople…it’s almost second nature.

Why do prospects do this?

It’s simple.

It works.

The stereotype of an agent is not a good image for most of us, and prospects are afraid of being sold something they don’t want. In order to protect themselves, prospects feel they need a way to deal with agents. It is an instinctive reaction to the negative stereotype of agents that causes prospects to put up a defensive wall.

So how do most agents deal with the prospects system of defense? Most play right into it. Many don’t use a systematic approach to selling. They allow the prospect to take total control of the sales process. The agent eagerly:

o gives their knowledge

o makes commitments without getting any in return

o wastes resources on pursuing deals that will never close

o gives quotes to non-prospects who never buy

o misinterpret the ubiquitous “I’ll think it over and get back to you” as a future sale

How do most sales organizations contribute to the problem? Frequently they focus on product knowledge and overlook teaching what circumstances or concepts products fit best with.

The solution: Train agents on a systematic approach to making presentations so they have “a track to run on.” The training should balance both the prospect and agent’s best interest.

Problem #2

Spending too much time with prospects that will never buy.

A manager recently evaluated two of his agents like this: “Gary spends too much time with non-buyers, and gets too involved in non-productive activities. One root cause of this behavior is that he doesn’t ask the tough questions. Amy is strong with prospects, but both she and Gary have lost deals because the competition asks for the business while they give quotes to the prospect.” Why is this true?

Agents don’t ask the hard questions up-front for fear of making their prospects angry, they are afraid they will lose something they don’t have. Most agents think their job is to close everybody.

Over the years sales training has emphasized, “Don’t take NO for an answer.” Insurance agents are taught to be persistent…handle stalls and objections…trial closes…always be closing…and yes, even be manipulative. No wonder prospects need sales resistance to shield themselves!

Prospects realize agents don’t want to hear “NO” and that when they do, they’ll “hang in there” and try to turn “NO” into “YES.” When the poor prospect really means “NO,” s/he has found the easiest way to get rid of a agent is to tell them, “I’ll think it over, and I’ll get back to you.” How many “think it over’s” really turn into business?

The solution: Agents need tools to separate tire-kickers from buyers. They need an approach that obtains support early in the sales cycle. They need to learn the fine art of tactfully qualifying prospects in, not qualifying them out. The top agents learn to ask the hard questions up-front, saving precious resources for real opportunities. “NO” is an acceptable response from a buyer. “Going for the NO” requires a tremendous paradigm shift for most agents, but it can take all the pressure off the agent and increase productivity. This approach allows prospects to feel in control, this then relaxes them, and lets them buy instead of feeling like they are being “sold.”

Problem #3

Agents talk too much.

A manager recently said, “My agents’ listening skills aren’t where they need to be; someone says something and they don’t find out the real reason or intent behind the question, which leaves the prospect feeling like my agents don’t understand them or their issues.

Of course, when we sent them to the College of Product Knowledge, filling them with technical knowledge and then sent them out to make their quotas, we should have expected this result.”

So what’s the problem telling our story? First, people buy for their reason, not the agents reasons, not even their company’s reasons. Second, most companies’ presentations sound the same to the prospect, and when they sound the same, the agent just becomes another agent to the prospect, and then to the prospect, low price becomes the determining factor in getting the business.

The solution: Asking questions is the answer. Teach insurance agents to stop regurgitating to the prospect and start asking questions. Prospects should do at least 70% of the talking on the sales call. The only way this will happen is for the sales rep to ask a lot of questions.

Questions gather information. Ask questions to find out what the prospect’s “pain” is. This is the same thing your family doctor does during an office visit. They ask – they don’t tell you anything until they have made the proper diagnosis.

Problem #4

Weak Agents focus on price.

Price is never the real issue! Agents focus on price because it’s often the first thing the prospect asks about. Yet study after study confirms that quality and services are almost always more important than price. Price is never the main reason for getting and keeping business. People buy our products to either solve a problem they have, or improve something about their current situation or protect against future occurrences.

The solution: Teach agents to be more effective in asking questions and getting to real issues. Once they learn to do this, price will not be the determining factor in making sales.

Problem #5

Product knowledge is over-emphasized and misused. As a result, selling often becomes nothing more than “pitching and presenting.”

Most sales training focuses on product knowledge. studies show that 80% of training dollars spent annually are spent on product knowledge training. Agents, once filled with this product knowledge, are eager to share this information and become a Professional, Unpaid Educator. The focus then becomes totally on product, and not on the prospects problem, which is where it belongs.

The solution: Provide training in the strategy and tactics our agents need to help prospects clearly define their problems and co-build solutions that fit their needs. Product knowledge is important, but how it’s used at each phase of the buying process is the key.

Problem #6

Agents fail to get prospects to reveal budgets up-front. Many insurance agents are uncomfortable talking about money. Discussing money is seen as intrusive, and unpleasant. Many agents avoid talking about money, until the prospect forces the issue. This is one of the five most common weaknesses that agents have.

The solution: Knowing whether there is money upfront will help the insurance agent distinguish between a prospects who is ready to solve a problem from one who is not committed. Comfortably talking about money is a key to management, where resources are evaluated based on bottom line impact. Teach your agents to find out two things about money:

o How much the problem is costing the prospect; in other words the amount at risk.

o How much they’d be willing to invest to solve the problem.

Without a candid discussion about money, the agent is left to make certain assumptions. And we all know what happens when we make assumptions!

Problem #7

Agents fail to get firm commitments from prospects.

Insurance agents are often very willing to jump at the opportunity to do a quote, presentation, etc. This approach is incredibly time-consuming and resource intensive.

How many quotes has your team/distribution sent out over the last twelve months that resulted in nothing? How much does it cost your team/distribution on an annual basis to do quotes that go nowhere?

The solution: Agents must learn what motivates people to buy. They must master the skills required to help prospects become comfortable sharing problems, and they must learn to determine the prospects’ level of commitment to solve these problems before they begin to offer their solutions.

Problem #8

Lack of sufficient prospecting.

A quote from a manager: “They don’t do enough prospecting, even ‘when I use a long stick.'” All professional agents will eventually be faced with a bout of call reluctance. You know the story – they have so much paperwork on their desk they can’t possibly find the time to prospect for new business OR they’re so busy calling on existing customers (who incidentally aren’t buying anything) there’s no way they could add any new appointments. Getting ready to get ready. The BT club (bout to) Sound familiar?

o Over 40% of all veteran sales professionals have experienced bouts of call reluctance severe enough to threaten their career in sales

o And 80% of all new agents who fail within their first year do so because of insufficient prospecting activity.

The Solution: Insurance agents need to develop a realistic activity plan. Monitor the plan weekly and implement effective accountability.

Problem #9

The insurance agent has a strong need for approval.

It’s an easy and common mistake. “I love people, so I’ll be an insurance agent.” You end up with an insurance agent that would rather make “friends” with their prospects than conduct business. While developing relationships are an important part of the selling process, selling is not a place for people to get their emotional needs met. In fact, it’s the opposite: a tough and demanding profession, full of rejection. People who internalize the rejection end up getting out of the profession. Truth is, they should never have gotten in the business. Sales interactions are fundamentally different than social interactions. Successful professionals understand and accept that the bottom line of professionally selling is: MAKING MONEY.

The Solution: Evaluate yourself to determine if you have this need for approval. Managers need to ask pre-hire screening questions that helps to hire stronger people and teach them a system that helps strike the appropriate balance between developing relationships and getting commitments.

Problem #10

Insurance agents don’t treat sales as a profession.

Professionals like doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and CPAs’ all have one thing in common – they attend continuing education to maintain and increase their proficiency. Yet how many insurance agents are continually seeking new ways to increase their skills? Many have the attitude, “I’ve been selling for years, what more can I learn?”

The solution: Top performers in every profession are always looking for ways to sharpen their skills and gain the fine edge that leads to consistent success. Managers need to invest in top performers and help them grow their skills. Ego stunts your growth so managers have to be willing to set their ego aside and be willing to grow, modeling behavior that demonstrates it is more important to the manager to be effective than to be right. We can all learn from each other.

In Summary:

Hiring: Distributions, supervisors and managers must complete, step-by-step, a formal process for profiling, attracting, recruiting, interviewing and hiring top performers. Look to hire goal achievers not goal setters. Most managers hire goal setters and are surprised when agents never achieve their goals. The truth is the agent only had a wish list. Ask the agent when interviewing or coaching to describe goals they set and “how” they achieved the goal. If they didn’t achieve then it was it a goal or only a wish list?

Effective recruiting and hiring is the most important job of any manager. No amount of training, coaching or mentoring will make up for a poor hiring decision. Do it right the first time.

Managing: Implement a sales management process that emphasizes more effective recruiting, hiring, coaching, growing, and developing agents. Most of all quit accepting excuses for poor performance from yourself and your agent, raise your expectations and implement a rigorous accountability process. This starts with your team production-if you are not meeting standards. how can you expect to hold your agents accountable?. In management, you don’t get what you want – you only get what you expect and inspect. Remember, you manage things – you lead people.

Training: Tapes, books and one -day seminars are fine for intellectual learning or external motivation, but if you want to be a better golfer, pianist – or a better sales person, you must practice and develop new skills. Selling is a skill that can be taught, learned, and mastered over time.

Phone scripts and rebuttals are intended to assist in moving your management and sales career forward or allowing you to increase you current volume of business.

Remember these are only meant to be sales tools, they do not work, you have to work them.

The key is to do enough of the right things, enough of the time.

Give success time to happen-and do something today to make it happen!

The clock starts NOW!

Posted in general | Tagged , , | Comments Off on The 10 Most Common Mistakes Insurance Agents Make