Saturday, November 26, 2011

How To Handle Holiday Fender Benders

The holiday shopping blitz is in full effect, which means there are more people than ever bumping into each other at the mall. Unfortunately, more people are bumping into each other in the parking lots as well! Police do not respond to parking lot fender benders unless alcohol or injuries are involved, so it's important to know what to do if you find yourself in an unfortunate run in with a fellow shopper.

  • Assess The Situation: Make sure no one is hurt and try to determine if drugs or alcohol are involved (if so, call 911).
  • Stay Calm: Emotions run high after a collision, make sure your temper doesn't. Getting loud or emotional will only make the situation worse and could lead to something far worse than a little dent or lost paint.
  • Who's At Fault: Ultimately, the insurance company(ies) will make their own determination of fault, but you can help your claim representative by documenting the accident. Usually, the person backing out is deemed at fault, but make sure you take photos if possible (use your cell phone camera) and ask anyone who saw what happened to write it down with their contact information.
  • Do Not: Apologize for the accident (even if you think its you're fault), tell other parties how much insurance you carry or accept any money (even if you think its the other drivers fault) or agree to forget about the accident.
  • Exchange Information: Make sure you get the other driver's name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, license plate number, vehicle make, model, year, color, insurance carrier and policy number.
  • Contact Your Insurance Agent: Call your local, professional agent to let your company know about the accident and discuss how to proceed with filing a claim (if needed).
  • Don't Let A Little Dent Ruin The Holidays! Accidents happen, but it doesn't have to ruin the season. Hopefully no one is hurt (the most important thing!) and any little dents or lost paint can be fixed. Yes, accidents are unfortunate but letting it ruin such a special time of year would be far worse.
Be extra careful in parking lots during your shopping trips. Look twice before backing out and watch out for your fellow shoppers who are not quite as cautious of a driver as you. Try to avoid the extra little run-ins, but be prepared just in case. Have a safe and happy shopping season!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hugs From Clients

True Story:

Yesterday morning one of my clients (We'll call her Sherry for confidentiality reasons)  called and asked if there was any way they could stop by that afternoon because they had some important questions they would really like answered ASAP. These kind of phone calls always scare me a little bit, especially when I manage ALL of the retirement accounts of the client who wants to get together immediately!

Did I do something wrong? Are they unhappy with me? Are they pulling all of their accounts? I felt like I used to back in the day when my mom would tell me "wait until your dad gets home!". Your imagination runs wild and before you know it, ridiculous and bad thoughts start racing through your mind - all of which are far worse than anything that could happen in real life.

I was extra nervous yesterday because earlier this year I took over on a very large sum of Sherry's retirement money and moved it into strategies we thought would better fit her retirement goals. I thought it was a great move for her and a far better fit than her old investments but maybe she's changed her mind. I knew I had done a good job and put together some great strategies for her, but needless to say I had a very long afternoon waiting for my 3:00 appointment.

3:00 came and, as usual, Sherry was right on time. When I walked into the conference room she wanted to get straight to the business she had come to discuss. "I need to ask you a few things about my money" she said as she was laying her most recent account statements out in front of me. I've been watching all of my statements  and comparing them with what I hear on the news and what my friends are telling me about their retirement accounts and I'm not sure that this makes sense."

Uh-oh, I thought, here it comes! It's never good to hear that something doesn't make sense when you're dealing with large sums of money. I was pretty sure everything was explained well and understood, but did I miss something?

Sherry continued, "my statements show that none of my accounts have lost any money. One of them has stayed the same and the other three have all gone up."

I told her that was right, she was reading the statements correctly.

"So I really haven't lost any money, my accounts are all safe?"

I told her she was right again and reminded her that we made moves to protect her retirement from the bad stuff that was going on the economy and the stock market so she wouldn't have to worry about it.

"That's wonderful! I wanted to make sure that these statements were correct and I feel so good now, I'd like to give you a hug!" And then she did, she stood up, gave me a hug and then headed for the door. Our urgent meeting was over in 5 minutes, and Sherry was happy enough to give me a hug. Did I mention I like hugs from happy clients?

If you're not working with someone worth hugging, you might want to consider working with someone else. Remember, you can keep your money safe and protected from volatility and you can keep your retirement money moving in the right direction. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Robert Edgin

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Real Life Explanation About Greece

I came across this article last week and thought it was a great, real world, easy to understand explanation of what's going on with Greece. If you pay any attention at all to the news I'm sure you've heard about their debt problems but maybe you're not sure what all the fuss is about. Well, here you go:

A real life explanation of the global debt crisis

Article posted October 19, 2011 by Rodney Ballance

In basic terms, here's what's happening in Europe, and an explanation of why we need to be very interested in the situation.

Relating this to family, let's say that my son Greg (Greece) has spent all his savings. He also lost his ability to earn an income, but continues to spend as if he's still working.

Greg asks me for a loan to help him pay his debts and promises to cut back on his spending. I can't come up with all the money Greg needs, so I turn to my brothers and sisters (the European Union) so we can pool our money together to bail out Greg. Greg promises to pay us all back after he gets another job and assures us that he's going to stop spending.

Later, while reviewing Greg's finances, we find he’s still spending like a drunken sailor. Of course Greg hasn't paid any of us back the first dollar yet.

Greg says he's sorry that he's not been able to cut back on his spending. He explains that he still has contracts with his tailor, personal chef and his staff of gardeners and maintenance people to pay them for another 50 years. He can't stop paying them because they'll burn his house down out of anger if he tries.

Because of Greg's situation, we agree to extend the time limit for him to pay us back. As we're telling Greg that we’ll extend his loan and reminding him he still needs to make cuts somewhere, he says, "Oh by the way, I forgot to tell you about more expenses that also need to be paid. Can you loan me some more money and let me pay it back with the original loan?"

My brother Gary (Germany in the European Union) is furious. I explain to Gary that if we don't give Greg what he needs, we'll all lose everything we loaned him. We have to give him more if we ever want to get our money back.

We all look at our resources and realize we don't have enough to help Greg this time. Together, we decide to call our father (the International Monetary Fund) to see if he can help us bail out Greg and help him turn the corner. Our dad looks at the situation and says that he doesn't have the funds either, but will talk to his neighbor Amy (America) and see if she is willing to help out.

By now, my brothers and sisters have to float smaller loans to one another to stay afloat because we loaned our money to Greg. He is still going deeper in the hole every day, with no turnaround in sight.

My dad comes back and says that he’s secured a loan from his wealthier neighbor, Amy, to help us all out, but emphasizes the importance of reducing Greg’s expensive lifestyle. Amy has an open line of credit at her bank (China) that allows her to borrow huge amounts of money with her family property as collateral. She knows that if she fails to pay back her loan, she loses the family farm, but wants to appear wealthy, so she borrows the money from her bank to give to dad.

Greg once again says thank you and goes on his merry way, assuring all of us that he’s making the necessary changes. My father tells his neighbor that her money is safe because he has faith in his grandson.

While we’re all trying to help Greg, my sister Iris (Ireland) finds herself in a tight spot and asks to borrow money from all of us. We all want to help Iris, but we don’t have the money because we loaned it all to Greg.

We once again turn to our dad and ask him to go back to his neighbor who was so helpful with Greg. Because he is somewhat removed from the day-to-day activities of his grandson, he believes that everything is going according to plan and goes to his neighbor.

Amy, who has complete confidence in my dad, freely loans her borrowed money to help Iris. Unlike Greg, Iris makes difficult spending cuts and begins turning her financial situation around. She isn’t able to pay her loan back yet, but is making obvious strides in the right direction. So after review, we all agree to extend Iris’ loan.

Now our brothers Peter (Portugal) and Steven (Spain) begin to have financial difficulties because they aren’t making the money they need to sustain their lifestyle either. They let us know they might eventually need a bailout too. Now my brother Gary, who is working hard to provide for his family, is really irritated because he is also barely scraping by due to the money he’s given to everyone else.

Eventually, Greg will go bankrupt, pulling the rest of us with him. My dad will be OK because he didn’t have any of his money involved to begin with. Amy will lose the family farm, which will be foreclosed on by her bank. All who used to depend on her will find life very difficult in the near future.

This is a clear example of why we should sometimes allow failure. Thomas Edison once said, “I didn’t fail 2,000 times to make a light bulb, I found 2,000 ways not to make one.”

Failure is just part of the journey to realizing success. Sometimes, we need to allow our kids to experience difficult situations and deal with them, even if they eventually fail. The European debt crisis will eventually lead to the collapse of the European Union and bring economic disaster to the entire world. Are you personally prepared for that scenario?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Insurance and Financial Words of Wisdom - Episode 2

This week we're talking very briefly about keeping two very important things safe: your retirement account and your teen drivers. Learn rule number one to protecting your money and the most important thing to stop your teen driver from doing so they are safer on the roads.

If you have a question you'd like answered please let me know. Email me at or click the "Contact Us" button. The question you have is probably the same question that many others would like the answer to. We'd like to get it answered for you.

Robert Edgin

Monday, October 31, 2011

Why Teens Are At Such Risk For Texting Accidents And What You Can Do About It

If you do not have teenagers at home, don't skip this information! There are some important things for you to know to keep yourself and your family safe on the roads.

If you have, or have been around, a teenager in the last few years, I'm sure you are aware of their obsession with texting. Texting is the new talking, and teens (who naturally love talking) love to do it. They text at home, at school, at work, at play and everywhere else in between...including in their car! Teens send and receive an average of 300 texts per day and unfortunately many of them are being sent while they are driving.

Here are some troubling statistics when it comes to teens and driving:
  • Automobile accidents are the number one killer of teens.
  • 80% of all accidents are caused by distracted driving.
  • Texting is the number one form of distraction.
  • Teens have the highest rate of texting and driving among all drivers.
These facts make it clear that eliminating texting and driving is the number one way to reduce a teen's chance of being in an accident and should be a priority in your home.Texting and driving is the new drunk driving. In fact, studies have shown that people often perform worse while texting and driving than when they are legally impaired. Adult drivers (age 25+) also have alarmingly high rates of texting and driving, but teens have far more accidents per driver. No one would argue that teens have far more experience texting and are far better texters than adults over the age of 25, so why do they have such a higher rate of accidents?

One big reason actually relates to their superior texting skills. Teens are so good at texting while engaged in other activities that they believe they have the necessary skills to continue texting when they get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, teens have a false sense of confidence in their texting and driving abilities. Another contributing factor is their lack of experience in driving. A teen driver may posses all the necessary skills to be a very safe driver, but the lack of time on the road causes them to text in more high risk driving situations. An adult driver may choose to put the phone away during high traffic situations even if they choose to foolishly text and drive at other times. A teen may not make that same choice, causing them to have a higher chance of causing an accident.

While there are many other factors that contribute to a teen's higher texting and driving crash rate, it's important to know that there are simple steps you can take to make sure your teen does not fall victim to a texting accident. As the father of a teen driver (who could probably qualify for the texting olympics, and maybe even com;e home with a medal) I launched a mission to stop 1,000,000 drivers from texting and driving and save teen lives. It's called the "Million Pledge Mission" and has allowed me to work with schools, sheriff's departments and organizations all across the country to educate teens on the dangers of texting and driving. I recently wrote an article titled "Top 4 Ways To Stop Your Teen From Texting And Driving" that is a must read if you have a teen driver at home.

If you don't have a teen driver in your life but you are guilty of texting and driving, NOW is the time to put an end to a very dangerous habit that killed enough people last year to fill 9 jumbo jets and injured hundreds of thousands more. Do yourself (and everyone else on the roads) a favor and sign the pledge to be a text free driver. Go to and make the commitment today.

If you're my client, stop into the office the next time you're in the neighborhood for a copy of the text free driving pledge and a free texting thumb band for all of the drivers in your family. It's a great way to help keep your kids, and yourself, safer on the roads.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Insurance Guys TV Episode 1

Weekly Insurance and Financial Words of Wisdom - This week we're talking about car insurance and specifically what coverage does and does not extend to cars you borrow and cars you rent!

If you have a question you'd like answered please let me know. Email me at or click the "Contact Us" button. The question you have is probably the same question that many others would like the answer to. We'd like to get it answered for you.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Common Car Insurance Myths

Common car insurance myths
There is a lot of incorrect information floating around about car insurance these days. Some of it goes back a  number of years while some of it has emerged with new technology. Where ever the information came from, it can cost you money (through increased premiums or lack of insurance coverage) if you are making decisions based on faulty information. So let's clear up some of the common car insurance myths once and for all.

1. The color of your car affects your insurance prices. NOT TRUE! Auto insurance companies base their rates on the safety features of a vehicle, the costs for repairs and other factors such as likelihood of theft. They also use driver information to determine rates, but they do not base rates on the color of the car. Most insurance companies don't even ask for the color of your car. Certain Makes and models generate more claims than others and therefor have higher insurance rates, but color is not one of the factors.

2. If I let someone borrow my car, they're responsible for any damage if they have an accident. NOT TRUE! In most situations, if you let someone borrow your car, your car insurance is going to extend to the person driving the car. In other words, car insurance typically follow the car, not the driver. So, if you let your friend borrow your car and they crash it into a tree, it will be your insurance company (and your deductible) paying for the claim! However, if your insurance gets maxed out, your friend's policy can be accessed for the additional costs.

3. My insurance company can cancel my policy or raise my rates at any time. NOT TRUE! In most states, insurance companies can only cancel your policy or raise your rates at the policy renewal (unless you are making changes to your policy that increase premiums such as buying a new car). Even if you have a couple of accidents, you will most likely not see the changes to your premium until the next renewal.

4. The laptop stolen from my car is covered under my auto insurance. NOT TRUE! Personal property (such as laptops) are not a part of your car and therefor not covered under your car insurance policy. All personal items are actually covered under your property insurance policy, like you home or renters insurance. Unless something is physically attached and a permanent part of the car, there is no coverage provided under your car insurance policy. Your home insurance, on the other hand, extends some coverage to items that are in your car or any where else outside of the home.

These are just a few of the common myths about car insurance. If you base your insurance decisions on these or other myths, you may find yourself not buying the proper coverage or buying coverage you don't necessarily need. Talk to a local, professional agent - like Robert Edgin, 719-685-8585 - about your personal situation and get the facts about car insurance.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Renting A Car On Vacation - Should You Buy The Rental Insurance?

Hooray, it's vacation time! Time to get away and enjoy some well deserved down time. You've made all of the arrangements - booked the flights and the hotel, reserved your rental car, arranged for a pet sitter - and now it's time to get out of town.

Off you go, getting to your destination was a breeze and now the last thing to do is sign the rental car paper work and then the rental car company hits you with the big question, "Are you going to buy the rental car insurance for a rediculiously expensive price (my words, not theirs) or risk your entire financial life (my words agani) by declining coverage?". Here's what you need to know about insurance to cover the rental car.

Does Your Car Insurance Extend To Rental Cars?
You'll need to check with your local, professional agent for answers specific to your policy, but in general, YES, your car insurance coverage will extend to a rental car. If you have good liability limits, comprehensive and collision on your policy than in most cases you will have the same coverage apply to a rental car that you are using for personal use. If you do NOT have comprehensive and collision on your auto insurance policy, you will NOT have it for the rental car either. So, full coverage on your car equals full coverage on the rental car.

What Is NOT Covered When Renting A Car?
Same disclaimer applies here, you'll need to check your specific policy but in general the loss of use is NOT covered by your personal insurance if you are in a rental car. Loss of use covers the amount of money the rental car company is losing by not being able to rent out a crashed car while it is being repaired or replaced. Here's an easy math example: You rent a car for $25 per day but crash it. It needs to be repaired for 10 days x $25 per day = $250 in loss of use. Your insurance policy will (most likely) not cover the $250 which means you will be responsible for paying it.

Is the loss of use coverage worth buying the rental car insurance? That depends on the math. If you are renting a car for 7 days and the insurance costs are an extra $22 per day that equals $152 in extra costs to cover the possible $250 in the example of 10 days of loss of use. However, if you're renting a car for 1 day, that's only $22 extra to cover the possible $250. Is it worth it? That is an answer you'll have to answer for yourself, but here's one more factor to consider; the rental car doesn't always charge for loss of use. If they have 10 more cars on the lot that could be rented instead of the one you crashed, do they suffer a loss of use? If they do not suffer a loss of use, will they try to recover the $250?

Two More BIG Considerations!
If you are a client of a company that offers some type of client reward for being claim free (like the 25% ANPAC refunds each year for being claim free*) you may want to consider paying for the rental car insurance so that any claim would be paid by the rental car insurance policy and NOT affect your reward. The chances of you crashing a rental car while on vacation are probably no greater than crashing your own car, but at least you would not lost your Cashback* reward if you are involved in an accident.

Most rental car insurance does NOT have a deductible. If you have a $1,000 deductible on your personal insurance policy, you would be responsible for the same $1,000 deductible if you crashed the rental car and your personal insurance was paying for the damages.

So, you've got some options when it comes to paying the extr costs associated with the rental car insurance. At least you know what you're facing the next time the rental car rep throws the paper work in front of you and stares at you intensely while you ponder whether or not the extra insurance is right for your personal situation.

Don't forget to get connected with me on facebook: You'll get more great info and updates and have some fun with contests too!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Are Colorado Earthquakes Covered In My Home Insurance?

Earthquake and Colorado are not usually words you hear in the same sentence, but the recent 5.3 quake in southern Colorado is a reminder that earthquakes can - and do - happen. Fortunately this quake only caused minor damage, but if an earthquake hits close to your home, the biggest damage will probably be to your wallet!

Homeowners insurance policies don't cover earthquakes, but you can generally buy a rider to add the coverage to your policy. And in areas that rarely experience major earthquakes, like Colorado, the coverage is relatively inexpensive. You can add a rider to your home insurance policy for around $150 per year to make sure your insurance company would help you repair or rebuild after an earthquake.

When can you - and can't you - buy earthquake insurance? Most insurance companies will not allow you to add the earthquake coverage to your policy within 30 days of an earthquake that measures 5.0 or higher if you live within 100 miles of the epicenter. The residents of Trinidad would have to wait an entire month from the date of the quake in order to get coverage, which means they're on their own for any damage from after shocks or additional quakes.

What about getting help from the state? Colorado officials say they have no money to help earthquake victims in southern Colorado. Department of Local Affairs spokeswoman Linda Rice says the state is providing technical assistance, including geological analysis, aerial photography and water quality testing but there is not money available to help with the costs of damage.

No insurance and no help from the state means you're on your own! Although Colorado earthquakes are rarely felt, they are happening at a surprising pace. A complete history of Colorado earthquakes can be found at Colorado has had a 6.6 quake and a 4 year period that recorded over 1300 quakes. If you find your property damaged, expect to pay for all repairs out of your own pocket.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Things To Know BEFORE You Rent An RV Or Camper

Make sure that RV is covered before you hit the open road!

Summer is not quite over yet, and if you're thinking about renting a camper or RV for one last warm weather getaway, there are a few insurance things you should know before heading out for that family vacation.

RV's and campers are NOT covered automatically! While most insurance companies will extend coverage to a rental car (check your policy to find out if your policy does), the same cannot be said for motorhomes and campers. They're in a completely different class than that Ford Taurus you rented from the airport on your last vacation and they need their own insurance in place BEFORE you get behind the wheel!

As you might imagine, the RV rental companies are more than happy to sell you some insurance to cover that big fancy rig you're driving off in at a pretty hefty daily rate. It's a great money maker for the rental companies and can come in very handy if you crash their RV. But did you know there is another, much more affordable, option available to you? Some insurance companies (like American National) can add a special endorsement to your auto policy to cover that motorhome or camper for up to 15 days! What's the price, you ask? A one time charge of $15!

For $15, ANPAC will extend comprehensive coverage ($100 deductible) for non-accident related claims, as well as collision coverage ($250 deductible) for any accidents that may happen. Plus, it even comes with $50 towing and emergency road side service in case you need it!

The big advice here is to make sure ANY vehicle that you rent or borrow has some form of insurance coverage. You can buy it from your insurance company or the rental company. If you don't, you may find yourself at the bad end of a really big repair bill!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

You Owe $534,000

Did you write your check yet?

I find it hard to believe, but it's true. I owe $534,000, and so does my wife. So do you...and so does your spouse. What do all of us owe for? It's our individual share of the US national debt, and believe it or not, our balance due is getting bigger!

It was kept out of the news for years, but as the bickering in Washington has turned it's focus towards fiscal responsibility, more and more articles are popping up in the news about out country's budget problems and how much it would cost each of us for our share to fix things.

Below are excerpts from an article I came across written by Jeff Clark that does a good job of summing things up:

"You owe $534,000. That's your share of the national debt – your cost of fulfilling the government's promises. Please send in a check right away. We have bills to pay.

On Tuesday (June 7th), the headline on front page of USA Today screamed "U.S. owes $62 trillion." It's a number so big, so gargantuan, it defies description. I've never seen 62 trillion of anything – be it dollars, marbles, or grains of sand on a beach.

So when analysts, economists, or newsletter editors talk about the enormity of the national debt and warn of the eventual consequences, they're often declared kooks, extremists, or "Chicken Littles."

But now it's right there on the front page of one of America's most widely read newspapers. The size of the problem is becoming mainstream, and it begs the question… "How the heck are we going to pay for this?"

The simple answer is… we're not.

Some promises are going to be broken. There's no other way around it. And many people are going to be let down.

And as with any massive economic disruption, there are investment implications. The easiest and most obvious: U.S. Treasury bonds are headed lower.

We've covered this topic plenty of times. The basic premise is one of supply and demand. The U.S. needs to issue ever-increasing amounts of new debt to fund its insatiable spending habits. So the supply of new bonds is increasing at a rapid pace.

Meanwhile, the investment demand for Treasury securities is drying up. Foreign governments aren't lining up to buy U.S. bonds like they used to. Individual savers are reluctant to accept 3% interest per year on 10-year notes when real inflation is running at twice that rate. Indeed, the only certain buyer for new Treasury issues is the Treasury itself – which buys its own bonds through the quantitative easing (QE) programs.

That buying will dry up when QE2 comes to an end.

In an environment of increasing supply and shrinking demand, there is only one direction for bond prices to go… down. It's obvious. It's logical. Yet, so far this year, it has been wrong. Interest rates have been falling steadily since January, and bond prices have been rising.

That's how markets work sometimes. They don't always reward the obvious and logical trades right away. Think about the internet bubble in 1999 and 2000. Companies with no sales and no earnings were trading at multibillion-dollar valuations. It was nuts and everybody with a brain knew it. But the market didn't care. It didn't matter how crazy things got. Internet stocks were a one-way upside bet and going against that momentum was financial suicide.

That is… until the "realization" stage set in.

The crash in internet stocks happened virtually overnight. It was as if the market snapped its fingers and investors collectively awoke from their trance.

I suspect the Treasury bond market is set up for a similar sort of awakening. And the snap of the fingers that may get things going is Tuesday's headline inUSA Today.

If you still own Treasury bonds, it's time to sell. The markets have given you a gift. Bond prices aren't quite back up to the levels they were at when I first urged you to get out, but they're at the best prices we've seen this year.

Take advantage of it.

Jeff Clarck"

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wind Damage - How To Handle The Wind and Wind Related Claims

It seems that Colorado, and especially Colorado Springs, is trying to steal the title of "Windy City" away from Chicago. I can't recall a longer period of continuous high winds since I moved here 30 years ago.

So what do you need to know if you find your home being blown over and you have to deal with wind damage and a wind claim?

The first, and most important, thing to know is that wind damage is a covered loss under almost every home policy you can buy and is covered under your car insurance if you have optional "comprehensive" coverage. This blog has to do with wind damage and your home. If the wind lifts up a few shingles or tears off your entire roof, you're covered. If it blows out your windows or blows over a tree, you're covered. There are, however, some things to consider and know about when it comes to wind  and wind damage claims.

First, Protect Your Family and Your Home: If high winds or a tornado damage your home, first get your family to a safe location. Contact your insurance company as soon as you are able. If it is safe to make temporary repairs, go ahead and do so to prevent more damage.

Homeowners should consider strengthening their homes in order to protect them, their belongings and everyone inside. Coastal communities have been adopting stronger building codes calling for walls to be anchored to foundations and using straps to connect roofs to exterior walls. Both measures will help homes stand up against high winds, regardless of where the home is located.Keep branches trimmed and yards clear of debris which can blow against your walls and windows, causing damage. Having a current home inventory will help in the event that your home is severely damaged by a storm.

Second, Assess the Damage: If the damage to your home seems minimal, you may want to consider getting an estimate for repairs before you file a claim. Fixing a few shingles may fall under your home deductible and help you avoid filing a claim.

Although wind is a covered loss, you should always save your claims for large, catastrophic events whenever possible. Too many claims on your home insurance could result in increased rates or even losing your home insurance coverage. If it is within your financial means to fix the damage yourself, it should definitely be considered. Talk to your local, professional agent about each individual claim to get an opinion on if it should be filed with your insurance company. If you do file a claim, keep in mind that many policies have a separate, increased deductible for wind damage.

Wind and Hail Deductibles: Many companies are moving to a separate deductible for wind or hail damage that is often higher than your deductible for all other types of damage. It is not uncommon to have a 1% deductible for wind damage, which means if your home is insured for $200,000, you would pay 1%, or $2,000, as your deductible.

There's a Tree on my Roof! High winds often lead to snapped and blown over trees that can end up on top of your home. There are a few important things to know when it comes to damage form falling trees:
  1. It does not matter where the tree came from, it is you or your home insurance that is responsible for the cleanup and any resulting damage. If your neighbor's tree is blown over it is still your responsibility to pay for damage from their tree that is now parked on your roof. This may sound unfair, but unless the owner of the tree can be shown to be negligent, it is not their fault that the wind picked their tree to blow over and therefor not their responsibility to pay for the damages.
  2. No damage to property = no coverage for clean up. Trees that fall over and land in your yard, without damaging property, are your responsibility to clean up. Remember, your insurance company isn't protecting your land, they are protecting your home and belongings so if you've just got a tree on your land with no structure damage there is typically no coverage under your home insurance policy.
  3. Replacing the tree: Most insurance policies have very limited coverage to replace trees, grass, flowers and bushes. Landscaping is all a part of your land and not a part of your structure so the rules from number two roll into point number 3. You can usually get a small amount back, around $500 on most policies, to pay for the planting of trees or other damaged landscaping but that's about it.
If You Need to File a Claim, Do It Sooner Than Later: It is important to prevent further damage to your property so the sooner you can get a claim filed an adjuster out to your home to inspect the damage and okay repair work, the better. Wind damage today can easily lead to water damage tomorrow and really increase the amount of repairs that have to be made to both your home and your belongings. Water can blow in the cracks or leaks can happen in your roof if your shingles are missing or damaged. If you can take minor steps to prevent further damage, you should but don't do anything to put yourself or your property in danger. Caulk your windows and inspect for anywhere you might have water leaking into your home.

There's a Hole in my Roof, Where Should I Stay? The "Additional Living Expense" portion of your home insurance policy should cover any costs associated with a hotel or other living arrangements if you cannot stay in your home due to a covered loss. If a tree came through the roof, the definitely counts as a covered loss under almost all policies. You just need to work with your insurance company to be reimbursed for any extra costs

Although dealing with home damage and insurance claims are never a fun process, take heart in knowing that your insurance company really is there to help get your home and belongings repaired and get your life back to normal as soon as possible. If you have specific questions regarding your home and your policy, consult your local agent.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

8 Motorcycle Safety Tips For Colorado Riders

As the weather warms up and the roads are finally clear(er) of ice, snow and sand it's time to get out and enjoy the wind in your face as you head off for some summertime cycling! But before you do, make sure you know how to stay safe and avoid accidents on your motorcycle. As the old saying goes, "bikers make lousy speed bumps."

I drive a Harley and every morning when I head off to work I prepare myself mentally for the onslaught of drivers who either don't see me or just don't care that I'm there. I've learned over the years that the best way to arrive safely is to wear the proper gear and be proactive and aggressive about my motorcycle safety. Here are some tips to help you do the same:

1. Wear the right gear! Riding a motorcycle in shorts and sandals is not only foolish, it's plain dangerous. It's just plain common sense, but since it's not the law in Colorado it's up to you to do the right thing and wear your helmet. I could say more, but the following illustration say it all:

2. Make eye contact: never assume others see you. Always try to make eye contact with drivers who may be about to pull into your path.

3. Read “vehicle language”: even when drivers, cyclists and pedestrians do see you approaching, they often misjudge your distance and speed. Don’t rely on them.

4. Watch out for left-turning vehicles at intersections: getting hit by an oncoming vehicle that’s turning left is the most common type of motorcycle crash.

5. Check behind when turning left from a highway: watch your mirrors and make sure you have plenty of space behind. The drivers behind might not slow down for you.
6. Look out for hazardous road conditions: wet roads, fluid spills, sand, gravel, highway sealant, railroad tracks, potholes and other road-surface hazards reduce your traction. They cause many falls.
7. Be visible: wear bright, reflective clothing. Add extra reflective material to it or wear a reflective vest. Likewise, buy a bright-coloured helmet and stick reflective tape to the back and sides. Always keep your headlight on. Ride in the lane position where other drivers can easily see you and you’ve got room to move. Avoid all other vehicles’ blind spots.
8. Protect your eyes and face: constant wind can make your eyes water, preventing you from spotting hazards. Flying insects, dust and debris can hurt your eyes and face. The best protection is a full-face helmet with a built-in face shield.
There you go, 8 good tips to help keep you safe and get you home in one piece. In case you need an example of what NOT to do on your motorcycle, here it is:

And if you need to know what happens to those riders who are not obeying the rules, you can expect something like this:

Ride safe!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Colorado Fianlly Below Average For Auto Insurance Premiums!

Colorado now ranks as the 26th most expensive state for car insurance, and just below the national average for annual premiums. For years, Colorado was one of the most expensive states in the US but legislative changes about 5 years ago put us on the road to lower premiums. It's not so much that Coloradans are seeing their prices fall every year, it's the other states continuing to raise rates that has put Colorado below the national average. Below is the scoop pn why insurance rates are so darn high in some other states.

Michigan has the highest average car insurance rates in the nation, followed by Louisiana and Oklahoma, according to's new national survey of car insurance premiums.

If you live in Vermont or South Carolina, you have access to the most affordable rates, saving $1,000 a year or more compared with drivers in the most expensive states.’s study collected auto insurance rates from six large carriers for more than 2,400 vehicles, based on 10 ZIP codes per state. We then calculated averages nationally and for each state.

The reasons for high prices vary considerably among states, but one thing is for sure everywhere: Uninsured drivers are dinging the rest of us.

The big picture

When a state has a large proportion of uninsured drivers, insurance companies aren’t able to spread their risk sufficiently. Uninsured drivers aren’t paying their share, yet they’re still crashing and causing damage, passing the buck to drivers who then make claims on their uninsured/underinsured coverage.

About one in four Oklahoma drivers (24 percent) was uninsured in 2007, the fourth-highest rate of uninsured motorists in the country, according to a 2009 study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC). Michigan had the ninth-highest rate of uninsured motorists, with 17 percent driving uninsured, according to the IRC, while Louisiana ranked 27th with 12 percent of drivers uninsured.

Despite laws requiring liability insurance in 49 of 50 states – New Hampshire is the exception -- the numbers of uninsured have likely grown along with the unemployment rate.

"It's more of an economic problem than anything else," says Marc Eagan, president-elect of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Louisiana, and president of Eagan Insurance Agency in Metairie and LaPlace, La. "They just can't afford the rates."

Michigan car insurance rates pounded by injury costs

The average annual car insurance premium in Michigan increased by $443 since last year's survey, enough for the state to rise from second place tor first place and knock down Louisiana to No. 2.

And the reason it holds that No.1 spot is this: Michigan is the only state that guarantees unlimited personal injury protection (PIP) payments to people injured in car accidents. Insurance carriers pay up to $480,000 of PIP benefits, and the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (a private, nonprofit organization created by state law) reimburses insurers for costs above that amount. Auto insurers also must pay for up to three years for lost wages and replacement services.

Car insurance premiums in Michigan include an annual assessment by the association to pay for medical care when people suffer catastrophic injuries. The assessment through July 30 this year is $143.09 per insured vehicle. And that doesn't include what drivers have to pay for required PIP coverage.

"In some cases the cost of unlimited medical coverage will be 50 percent of the entire premium on a vehicle," says Jon Spalding, president-elect of the Michigan Professional Insurance Agents Association and president and CEO of Spalding Insurance Agency Inc. in East Lansing and Perry, Mich.

Spalding says Michigan's car insurance law also has some expensive quirks.

Motorcycles are not considered motor vehicles in Michigan, so motorcyclists aren’t required to purchase auto insurance -- only minimal liability coverage in case they injure someone or damage property. But as long as they buy the state-required liability amount, they can still collect unlimited medical benefits if they’re injured in an accident with a car. In that case, the car driver’s policy would pay out first.

"If a high-powered motorcycle ran into me from behind and went over my car, my insurance would provide unlimited medical benefits for the motorcyclist," says Spalding.

While motorcyclists represent about 2 percent of the assessments paid into the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association, they account for 7.3 percent of claims.

Legal system drives up Louisiana car insurance rates

Louisiana's No. 2 position in’s rankings does not surprise local agents.

"We've had high rates for a long time now," observes Brad Bourg, president of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of Louisiana and president of Bourg Insurance Agency in Prairieville, Donaldsonville and Chauvin, La. "Car insurance premiums are a big part of a household budget. It's incredible what some of these rates are."

Eagan says the state's judicial system pumps up auto insurance quotes.

Lawsuits involving car accident claims for less than $50,000 are heard by elected judges versus juries, who, according to local perceptions, tend to "side with the little guy," Eagan says. Personal injury attorneys advertise heavily on TV, encouraging people who have been involved in car accidents to seek legal representation, which leads to more lawsuits and higher auto insurance rates.

But both Bourg and Eagan say insurance companies have recently stepped up competition -- a good sign for the market. They’re pushing hard for more auto business from agents and have been accepting more “risky” customers than in the past.

Oklahoma’s wild weather

Oklahoma is struggling not only with uninsured drivers but also with weather that leads to floods of insurance claims. Last year was one of the worst for storms, including a storm in May that dropped softball-sized hail on Oklahoma City.

"Cars didn't just look beaten up," says Denise Johnson, chairwoman of the Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma and an agent at ECI Agency Inc. in Piedmont, Okla. "They looked like someone had taken a sledgehammer to them. All the windows were broken out."

Vermont sensibilities freeze out high prices

John Handy, president of the Vermont Insurance Agents Association and principal of The Essex Agency Inc. in Essex Junction, Vt., says Vermont's rural sensibilities and lack of traffic congestion help keep rates low.

"Because Vermont is still not thought of as a particularly litigious state, we have a lot of auto insurance carriers vying for a fairly small piece of the pie," he says. "And despite our long hard winters, Vermont drivers are a seasoned lot. We tend to hunker down and stay off the roads."

All that hunkering down keeps crashes and claims low.

South Carolina car insurance rates get some sun

Car insurance prices haven’t always been affordable in South Carolina.

G. Frank Sheppard, president of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of South Carolina, says today's low rates stem from a 15-year effort to make the insurance market more competitive.

Starting in 1996, the state changed its regulations to give car insurance companies more flexibility to base rates on driver risk and turn away customers. Before those changes were made, Sheppard says, "We had a lot of national players quit playing in South Carolina."

About the rankings:'s state rankings show the relative cost of auto insurance among states. commissioned a survey from Quadrant Information Services. Average insurance rates were calculated for more than 2,000 vehicles for model year 2011. Rates are based on a 40-year-old single male driver who commutes 12 miles to work. The sample policy had limits of 100/300/50 ($100,000 for injury liability for one person, $300,000 for all injuries and $50,000 for property damage in an accident) and a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage. The policy included uninsured motorist coverage.

*Portions of Article originally published on

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ron Fix and Snappy Print, keeping the family business alive

Ron Fix Jr. was just 5 years old when his dad, Ron Sr., opened the family business – Snappy Print. Ron worked at Snappy throughout his childhood years helping out with the cleaning and odds and ends. By the time he started working more full time hours in high school, he knew how to work every position and machine in the family print shop. Bindery, delivery, customer service, Ron Jr. was doing it all and really getting serious about his responsibilities.

Ron Sr. had done a great job at growing Snappy into one of the most successful, locally owned print shops in town with a focus on face to face relationships and helping their small business clients grow. His goal was to someday turn the family business over to his only son, Ron Jr. Ron never missed a day of work and he loved growing the family business. “He was infatuated with the business”, says Ron Jr., “even if there was 4 feet of snow on the ground and we were going to be closed for the day he would still find a way to make it in just in case someone came by or needed something.”

If Ron Sr. wasn’t at the office he was spending time with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandkids on family vacations or motorcycle rides. Even when they weren’t working together Ron Sr. and Ron Jr. still spent the majority of the time together. If you ask Ron Jr. about it, he’ll tell you “that’s just the kind of family we are.”

Family time is different these days, so is the business. On January 3, 2009 Ron Sr. died unexpectedly. His hopes that his son would one day take over the business had happened overnight, but not how anyone had planned. Although he looked forward to the day his son could take over, he loved the business so much that he had kept the majority of the day to day operations close to his chest so he could make sure everything was done just the way he liked it. “There was a lot of stuff that no one really knew how to take care of because he (Ron Sr.) kept it so close to the cuff.” Ron Jr. had to step into the role of business owner and make sure Snappy Print would survive after the devastating loss of his father. “I had to go from being a passenger on the bus to driving the bus in one day, it was just something I had to work through and figure out.”

It was a difficult transition for the family. The hardest part, according to Ron Jr., was the time frame. “Trying to figure out so much in such a small amount of time was tough” says Ron, but with employees, his mother (now a widow) and his own family relying on the business for their livelihood, Ron took the reins and never looked back. Fortunately, his dad had a little more help to offer the family even though he was gone.

Ron Sr. had set up life insurance to provide for his wife and allow for a cushion at Snappy Print in case something were to happen to him before Ron Jr. took over. “The life insurance provided the money to take care of the business finances during the transition and put a little comfort there so we knew we were going to be able to keep the business going the way my dad wanted it to happen." That cushion gave Ron Jr. the financial space needed for him to learn the things his dad had not yet taught him. He’s since become a pro at negotiating with vendors, managing the day-to-day operations and keeping Snappy on the path his dad had put it on so many years ago.

The life insurance Ron Sr. had purchases did even more than just provide for the business. According to Ron Jr, “it provided things that we probably never would have envisioned. It allows us to go places and enjoy things even though we’re missing that key person. It’s helped us as a family to enjoy life a little bit more and fill a void that’s there and fulfill some dreams that he had. It allows us to do some things with my mom that she had planned on doing with my dad in their retirement years.”

Although Snappy Print’s focus is still personal relationships with local businesses, Ron’s also expanded the business and added on-line aspects to Snappy Print to keep them competitive in the printing industry. Snappy can handle printing, promotional products, business use items – forms, envelopes, business cards – full design work, mailings, and a heck of a lot more. I loved Ron’s answer when I asked him what kind of business Snappy Print does the most; “the bulk of our business is all of the things that businesses need, we specialize in taking care of businesses.”

Ron still misses his dad every day. The motorcycle rides and family vacations will never be the same. Snappy Print will never be the same either without Ron Sr., but thanks to his planning and love for his family and also to Ron Jr’s hard work at the family business, the doors are still open. Everyone is still employed. They’re still helping Colorado Springs with their printing needs and the family is doing okay.

Stop by and say hi to Ron next time you’re near their shop at Maizeland and Academy. Ron Jr. will make sure they get your business needs taken care of, and who knows, maybe he’ll even share some stories about his dad.
Snappy Print is located at 3923 Maizeland Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80917. You can get more information on Snappy Print at

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Smart Tax Moves For Your 2010 Taxes

Tax season is right around the corner. Keep more money in your pocket this year by making some smart tax moves!

   Anything you can do to pay less in taxes is a good thing - as long as it's legal ! I've been collecting ideas and good pieces of advice for awhile now in preparation for tax day. Here are some of the best tips I've seen to keep more money in your wallet this year!

Claim Your Home owner's Tax Deduction: 61% of homeowners who were eligible to take the deductions and would have saved on their income taxes took the standard deduction (and paid a higher tax bill) instead.
That's right! Those folks said "No thanks" when Uncle Sam tried to give them back some of their own money - on a silver platter!

A Few Minutes Could Save Hundreds

Lots of taxpayers take the easy way and choose to take the standard deduction on their federal income taxes, which the IRS has set at $11,400 this year for married couples filing jointly. That's fine if your individual deductions don't exceed that amount. If you have a mortgage, though, it's worth checking to see if your home owner's tax breaks exceed or at least put you within reach of the standard deduction. If they do, then you can add on tax breaks for other expenses such as charitable donations and local sales or income tax that are only available if you itemize.

Make money on charitable contributions: Internal Revenue Code Section 280(A)(g) -- for those who want to look it up -- says you can rent out your house for up to 14 days in a calendar year and all the income comes to you tax-free. Go beyond the 14 days, and everything becomes taxable.

Now this is what you do: Rent out your house to a qualified charity or church for a meeting once a month. Call a local hotel and get their rates for a conference room to establish a fair rental amount. Say that's $5,000 for the monthly use over the year. Since we have only 12 months, this monthly use will add up to less than 14 days out of the year, so all the rental income is tax-free.

In appreciation for all the good works the charity or church does, you make a deductible contribution of $6,000. You're in the 25% bracket, so that saves you $1,500 in federal taxes.

What's the result? The charity spent $5,000 and got $6,000. It's up $1,000. You contributed $6,000 and got $5,000 in tax-free cash, plus another $1,500 in tax savings. You're up $500.

Take a remodeling credit: For 2009 and 2010, Congress created an amazing tax credit of 30% of the cost of qualified energy efficiency improvements such as water heaters, furnaces, insulation, roofing, exterior windows and doors, and other items, limited to $1,500. Up to $5,000 in qualified improvements could cost as little as $3,500 after tax.

Of course there are plenty more things to consider when trying to pay as little as possible on last year's taxes, but these 3 seemed to be a pretty good place to start. Don't forget to get your 2010 IRA contribution in before it's too late. You don't want to miss out on the tax break of saving for your future!