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!

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Life Insurance Fraud

Life insurance fraud is a black eye on both life insurance companies and life insurance customers. Both parties have been guilty of life insurance fraud and will be again–especially since, sadly, fraud seems to be on the rise according to most statistical measures.

Research by the non-profit The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud concludes that life insurance fraud committed by all parties costs an average household $1650 per year and increases life insurance premiums by 25%.

Life insurers are most often guilty of insurance fraud in the form of their agents doing “churning”. This is where the agent seeks to cancel your existing life insurance policy and replace it with a new policy that is paid for by the “juice”, or cash value, in your existing policy. Agents do this to earn more commissions for themselves without having to seek new prospects for business. Churning can result in increased premiums for a customer and clearly costs them out of their cash value.

Another insurance fraud practiced by agents, however, is called “windowing”. This is where, being unable to attain a client’s or applicant’s signature on a necessary document but already having that signature elsewhere, the agent holds up a signed document behind the unsigned document, presses it against a window to make the light shine through, and traces over the signature with a pen in order to forge the signature of the client or applicant.

When big name insurance companies have their agents do bad things it makes big headlines, but the fact is that the public is far more guilty of insurance fraud than companies are. And of course making false claims is the thing they do the most, which is why all claims on life insurance death benefit payouts are subject to investigation.

But falsely stating background or financial income information is another form of insurance fraud often engaged in by consumers. They might be embarrassed by their medical history or income, or they may realize that if they tell the truth they will have their coverage diminished or their premiums will be very high. If a life insurance company finds out someone lied on their application they have the right not to pay the claim or not pay the full death benefit depending on the circumstances and the policy.

But there are things that buyers of life insurance can do to protect themselves against insurance fraud, since they don’t have the great investigative resources that life insurance companies do.

Remember, when it comes to life insurance, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There’s no free lunch.

Save all of your life insurance paperwork, including getting receipts for every penny you give your agent, and never ignore any notifications from your life insurance company.

Life insurance is never free and it’s not a pension plan, although certain policies can indeed become self-funding–but they never start off that way.

Never buy any coverage that you feel strongly is unnecessary, never let yourself be pressured, and never borrow to finance life insurance.

Although it can be part of an investment portfolio, life insurance’s number one role is protection against the unforeseen–and most people don’t need life insurance in their later years. It is intended to be temporary.

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Cancun Weather – Best and Worst Months to Go

Cancun weather is one reason why this Mexican resort enclave is the second most popular vacation destination in the Caribbean region.

Other reasons why Cancun draws so many tourists include its hotel, shopping and restaurant strip; the inexpensive bus transportation system; plenty of things to do; and convenient access to and from U.S. airports. It is 1.5 hours flight time from Miami and four hours from Chicago.

The best time to go to Cancun depends in part on whether you prefer to spend a lot of time on the beach and in the water, or if you like to spend most of your time shopping, dining and visiting the various attractions in the region. Some fabulous Mayan ruins are located nearby.

Cancun weather is generally warm throughout the year — in fact many hotels and resorts have open air lobbies — but offshore breezes can make the air and water more chilly in winter months.

Average Temperatures

The average year-round high temperature for this resort destination is nearly 88 degrees Fahrenheit and the average low temperature is just less than 74 degrees, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

Cancun weather in May through September is the warmest time to visit when the average high temperature exceeds 90 degrees each month — peaking at 92.5 in August.

Cancun weather in December, January and February is coolest when the average high temperatures are about 83 degrees.

The average low drops below 70 degrees in January and February, and barely breaks 70 in December.

Average Rainfall

The average rainfall is 4.4 inches per month and the average number of rain days per month is 9.6.

The rainfall and rain days are about average for a Caribbean destination.

February, March and April are the driest months when it rains less than 1.8 inches a month. It also rains only five days a month during that time.

Total rainfall increases in June, drops in July and climbs during the most active hurricane season months of September and October, when it rains nearly nine inches per month.

November also has a higher than average amount of rain.

Best Times to Go

Vacationers will find that the best time to go to Cancun is February through May, while they should avoid it in September and especially in October.

However, be aware that water temperatures in February and March are chilly and not comfortable for swimming for any great length of time.

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The Rights That Go With Real Property

The rights that go with real property can be summed up by the term appurtenances. When real property is sold, appurtenant rights are ordinarily sold along with it. They can, however, be sold separately, and may be limited by past transactions. In addition to knowing the boundaries of the land and which items are considered part of the real property (fixtures vs. personal property), homeowners and lenders also need to understand which rights are being transferred along with that parcel of real estate.

Fee simple ownership includes such other appurtenances as access rights, surface rights, subsurface rights, mineral rights, some water rights, and limited air rights. One way to understand the rights that accompany real property is to imagine the property as an inverted pyramid, with its tip at the center of the earth and its base extending out into the sky. An owner has rights to the surface of the land within the property’s boundaries, plus everything under or over the surface within the pyramid. This includes oil and mineral rights below the surface, and certain water and air rights. Air rights are sometime regulated by each state allowing for air traffic and water rights can differ from state to state.

It is possible, though, for the owner to transfer only some of the rights of ownership to another person. For example, a property owner may sell the mineral rights to a piece of property, but keep ownership of the farm. Later, when the land is sold, the mineral rights will most likely stay with the mining company (depending upon the wording of the contract involved) even though the rest of the bundle of rights in the land is transferred to the new owner. The new owner is limited by the past transaction of the previous owner, and may not sell these mineral rights to another party, nor transfer them in a future sale of the land.

A lender must know if the entire bundle of rights is being transferred (fee simple) or if there are restrictions or past transactions that may limit the current transfer of ownership in any way. This is important because it may have a great effect on the value of the real property. Transfer of access rights for a sidewalk to be placed across the front of a subdivision lot generally would not have a significant impact on the value of a piece of land. Transfer of mineral rights to a mining company, as in the previous example, likely would impact the value.

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The Eviction Process

Obviously, evicting a tenant is not a thrilling part of real estate investing for the tenant or the landlord. What follows is a description of the eviction process itself (especially as it pertains to what can be expected in Ohio), peppered with some of my personal comments with regards to how I typically handle evictions.

Generally, if I’ve not received rent monies from a tenant by the 8th or 9th of the month, I call the tenant. My leases stipulate that the tenant has a grace period until the 5th of the month to mail rent monies without being charged any type of late fee. As long as the envelope is postmarked by the 5th – no late fee. Allowing 3 or 4 days (from the 5th) for a tenant’s payment to arrive is pretty liberal and plenty of time to allow for the monies to be received from cross-town mail.

If upon a call to the tenant I believe we’re going to have problems, I immediately deliver a 3-day notice to the property. A copy of the notice is made before delivering. The 3-day notice is posted (taped) on the front door of the property if the tenant or other occupant is not there when it’s delivered. Any tenant that reaches this point (the starting of the eviction process), is advised that the 3-day notice is simply being posted as a way to protect my interests in the event the tenant doesn’t make good on the outstanding monies due.

Attaching a 3-day notice to the tenant’s door does not negatively affect the tenant’s public record. It’s not until the 3-day is formally filed that it becomes public record. The landlord cannot file for eviction until 3 business days have passed from the point the 3 day-notice was placed on the property. Once the 3 business days are up, the landlord can begin the formal eviction process. How does this start? You will take your paperwork, including a copy of the 3-day notice, and file to have an eviction hearing. I use an attorney to process all of my evictions. Specifically, one specializing in handling evictions. I personally prefer using an attorney that will try to remedy the situation with the tenant before the case is even heard. You don’t have to use an attorney – you can do a lot of this yourself and save a few bucks, but I recommend you use one. If you’ve never been to your local court system to witness eviction hearings, I highly recommend it. You’ll quickly get a flavor of what takes place during these hearings and will know what to expect ahead of time should you ever get to the point of processing an eviction on one of your own properties.

You can expect it take approximately two weeks before your hearing is scheduled. It’s important to note that I always keep the communication line open with the tenant through this whole process. I think this is extremely important. I want the tenant to know that I don’t like going down this path just as much as the tenant doesn’t. It’s not my goal just to boot a tenant out of the property. In fact, I try very hard to work out payment arrangements or even payment assistance resources with the tenant in an effort to get him or her back up on their feet. Yes it may take a little hand-holding and some of your extra time, but I’d say eight out of ten tenants going through this extra hand-holding will appreciate your trying to help and will ultimately clear their overdue balances with you. You walk a very fine line here with the tenant in that he or she may also be taking advantage of you. It can be a tough call. At times it can simply come down to relying on your gut feeling with the situation.

If judgement is taken (in your favor) at the hearing, the judge will give you permission to “red tag” the door. A red tag is just that – it’s bright red and has marked on it the date that possessions will be moved out of the property if the tenant has not vacated. The tenant has five days from tagging to get out of the property. It will usually take 2-3 business days after the court hearing for this tag to get placed on the front door of your property. Again, I keep the tenant abreast of my intentions during this process. You as the landlord call the shots with regards to whether or not any possible set-out occurs. I mention to the tenant that I still do not desire to set property out at the curb, and if payment arrangements can be made, the set-out can be averted. You will again have to make the call here. Do you want to accept only partial payment for what is owed and try to arrange a plan for payment on the extra monies? Or do you feel the tenant is just not going to make it, and in this instance, follow through with the eviction process?

The final step is the dreaded set-out. It’s extremely rare that I ever have to get to this point. If it comes this far, frankly the tenant deserves it. I’ve given them every opportunity within reason to try and remedy the situation or move out on their own accord. If the tenant has not moved out by the date stipulated on the red tag, you as the landlord have the right to order a set-out with the bailiff. Again, an attorney that specializes in evictions really helps here. In Columbus, Ohio, you only have a two hour window Monday-Friday to request and schedule a set-out. Additionally, the set-out must be scheduled within ten days following the red tag, or you have to order a supplemental red tag (more money).

When the set-out is requested (it’s generally a day and time agreed upon by you and the bailiff), you will be expected to have at least four people dedicated to setting furniture and belongings out of the house. You will also be required to have trash bags and boxes to pack items before removing them from the house. Good maintenance workers will be handy to have when you get to this point.

As you can see, evictions can be a rather drawn-out process that generally take a good three to four weeks to run their route. This is why I believe it’s very crucial to always maintain good communication lines with your tenant and try and be as professional as possible in handling the situation. It will be frustrating!…but try and keep an open mind into ways you can help your tenant get through this. A good positive attitude can go a long way to making this process less stressful to both you and the tenant!

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What Is the Difference Between an Heir and a Beneficiary?

The term ‘heir’ refers to a person who is entitled to property owned by a deceased family member. Individuals can bequeath property to heirs through their last will and testament or a trust. When a person dies without leaving a Will, their assets are given to rightful heirs according to state probate laws.

An heir can be a surviving spouse, minor or adult children, mother, father, or siblings. Heirs can also include direct lineage relatives such as aunts, uncles, and cousins. Individuals can bequeath property to whomever they desire. If they gift items to anyone outside the family, those individuals are referred to as beneficiaries. Although somewhat confusing, heirs can be beneficiaries, but beneficiaries are not always heirs.

The only way to ensure property is distributed according to your wishes is to execute a legal Will. When property is held in a trust, the Will is used to provide directives regarding distribution. Unless inheritance assets are placed into a trust, the estate must undergo the probate process.

Probate is required to settle decedent estates. Two types of probate exist – testate and intestate. Testate refers to estates which include a last Will, while intestate refers to estates where no Will exists. The probate process varies depending on the type. Intestate estates take longer to settle because additional procedures must be taken.

The last will and testament is also used to designate a probate personal representative. This person is responsible for all tasks required to settle the estate. This can include paying any outstanding debts owed by the decedent; filing a final tax return and paying outstanding taxes; obtaining appraisals for valuable property; securing personal property owned by the decedent; and distributing inheritance gifts left to heirs and beneficiaries.

The last will can also be used to disinherit an heir. When a person decides to leave a direct lineage relative out of their Will they must include a disinheritance clause which states the reason for exclusion. While this clause does not prevent heirs from contesting the Will, it can minimize the risk. If a disinheritance statement is not included, heirs can prolong the probate process by claiming the decedent was influenced by another person or not in their right mind when executing the Will.

Contesting a Will is a costly process that often bankrupts estates due to excessive legal fees. Those who have direct lineage relatives whom they do not want to bequeath gifts to should consult with a probate lawyer to ensure their Will is properly executed.

Engaging in estate planning can keep certain assets out of probate and allow quick distribution to heirs. Individuals with checking or savings accounts can designate beneficiaries to receive funds at death. This is referred to as payable on death (POD) beneficiaries. Account holders must fill out POD beneficiary forms to provide the names, addresses, date of birth, and social security number. Upon death, beneficiaries must provide photo ID and a copy of the decedent’s death certificate to claim funds.

Individuals with retirement accounts or financial portfolios can assign transfer on death (TOD) beneficiaries. Upon death, heirs can elect to transfer funds into a new account to avoid estate taxes or cash-out the account. It is best to consult with a tax attorney to discuss tax ramifications before accepting lump sum cash.

Executing a last will and testament is one of the best gifts you can leave loved ones. Wills should be updated when major events occur. These might include buying or selling real estate; starting or closing a business; or when a new heir is born or a designated heir dies.

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Parasailing Sites in the Philippines

The Philippines, which is known for its thrilling tourist attractions and colorful festivals, is slowly making a name for itself as a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. An emerging water recreational activity in the country is parasailing. With its rich water resources, the Philippines is an ideal place for this high-flying adventure.

Currently available in posh resorts in the Bahamas, Hawaii, Guam, and Australia, parasailing is steadily gaining more following in the Philippines due to its inclusion to various vacation packages by offered resort and vacation rental operators across the country.

Parasailing, which is also known as parascending, allows an individual to stay in the air for several minutes while strapped in nylon harnesses. A boat usually carries the parascender into the air. The sport appears difficult but experts insist that parasailing does not need any special skill other than sheer courage. Enjoying the high-adrenaline experience is one of the common tips shared by experts to beginners.

Here is a guide on where to find the best parasailing sites across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Mactan Island

Situated on the southeast of Cebu, Mactan is one of the leading parasailing destinations in the country. Most accommodations in the island entice tourists with their various water recreation facilities where you can go parasailing, jet skiing, scuba diving, and sailboating. While in the air, the parascender gets a fascinating view of the islands of Bohol, Sta. Rosa, Olango, and Cebu. Pristine beaches and rich marine resources have placed Mactan on the Philippine travel map.

Boracay Island

Parasailing adventures also await holidaymakers in Boracay, which is famous for its white sand beaches. A brave soul is treated with a bird's-eye-view of the whole island. While most resorts in Boracay arrange parasailing activities for their clients, tourists can also hire the services of hawkers who offer much lower prices. A 15-minute parasailing escapade in Boracay usually costs between Php 1,500 and Php 2,500. Parasailing allows tourists to get their energy flowing in enjoying various events and activities in Boracay.

Subic Bay

Another favorite parasailing site in the Philippines is the Subic Bay in Zambales. Since it is just a couple of hours away from Manila, most water adventurers in the metro quench their thirst for parasailing and other recreational activities in Subic. Parasailers get an unforgettable view of the Subic Bay and Grande Island. Other water activities in Subic include scuba and wreck diving, yachting, and kayaking.

Coron Island

The island paradise of Palawan has everything for every tourist, including parasailing. In Coron, a famous travel getaway in the province, one can enjoy a view of the island around 400 feet above the water. The island, which is also famous for its pleasant rock formations, is considered the best wreck diving site in the Philippines. Wreck dive sites are found in a depth as shallow as ten to 30 feet and as deep as 120 to 140 feet.

Local Philippines is your travel buddy. We have information about the destinies, how to get there, what to do while in the area and more! Destinations in the beaches or in the mountains, destinations under water, destinations right at the middle of the urban hub, name it and Local Philippines will most likely feature it.

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Do You Have Sufficient Auto Insurance Coverage?

Imagine getting ready to leave your house and you open your door and the rain is pouring down. Now you start to frantically look for your umbrella…. ah, there it is! You step outside, open your umbrella, and you are now protected from that pouring rain. If it were a bright sunny day with no rain in sight you probably would not even care about where your umbrella is or if you even had one! The same is true about insurance. Until you need it, do you really care about it? Unfortunately, too many people realize that they have insufficient coverage only when an unexpected incident occurs and they have to place a claim with their insurance company.

So, a logical starting point to determine if you have proper insurance coverage is to understand the basics. To ensure that you do have the proper coverage, you first need to acquire a good understanding of the basics of auto, home, personal umbrella, and life insurance coverage. For this article, we will focus on auto insurance coverage.

Auto Insurance basically covers you for liability and property damage as it relates to your motor vehicle. There are other optional areas of coverage as well, but for our discussion let’s stay focused on the basics, which are the most important anyway. Your auto insurance policy’s first and/or second pages are the declaration pages of your auto insurance policy. The declarations pages describe your auto coverage limits in numeric dollar values.

Here is a sample of what you may see on your auto insurance policy’s declaration pages:

-Bodily Injury/Property (BIPD) 250/500/100

-Limited or Unlimited

-Medical (Med) $5,000

-Personal Injury Protection (PIP) 250 w/250 Ded

-Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) 250/500/100

-Collision $500 (Coll) Deductible

-Comprehensive (Comp) $500 Deductible

-Rental Insurance (RI) 80%/1500

Let’s take a look at each of these coverage definitions and amounts in more detail.

The BIPD represents Bodily Injury (BI) / Property Damage (PD). Basically, in the example above, this individual policyholder has liability protection for $250,000 per individual or $500,000 maximum per incident, plus $100,000 in property damage to the other party’s vehicle in a collision. Liability coverage is protection for times when you have been deemed and proven negligent in an auto accident and you therefore become legally liable for the resulting compensatory and/or punitive damages to the other party or parties. The BI, of the BIPD, will cover you for negligence on your part that resulted in bodily injury to the other party or parties. BI also covers the cost of attorney fees associated with any litigation brought against you by the other party. In the above example, this person has $250,000 in coverage for all inclusive liability and attorney fees per individual injured or $500,000 for the entire incident.

The PD, of the BIPD, covers the damage to the other party’s vehicle as a result of your negligence; thus, in the above example, up to $100,000 in property damage to the other party’s vehicle or property. Now, being cognizant of the litigious society that we live in, we ask if $250,000 per person or $500,000 per incident is enough BI coverage? This is a personal decision for every individual to make depending upon their current assets and net worth, and their knowledge of recent jury decisions and awards on BI cases. A major factor affecting this decision is an understanding that you are self-insured for any amounts awarded in excess of your BI coverage amount, should the jury award compensatory and punitive damages greater than your BI coverage amount. So, in this example, should the jury award $750,000 to the individual driving the other vehicle who suffered bodily injury because you collided with them as a result of your negligence, then you are self-insured for the amount in excess of $250,000 which in this case would be $500,000. If you do not have the $500,000 to settle the award, then the judge has many other options to ensure restitution to the injured party such as: garnishing your wages, selling off some of your assets, placing a lien on your property, etc. Now, you can get an umbrella policy to cover you up to a certain amount in excess of your underlying auto BI coverage. We will look at how an umbrella policy works in more detail in an upcoming article.

Next, we have “limited right to sue” versus “unlimited right to sue” coverage. Basically, under the “limited” right to sue lawsuit option, you agree not to sue the person who caused the auto accident for your pain and suffering unless you sustain one of the permanent injuries listed below:

-Loss of body part

-Significant disfigurement or scarring

-A displaced fracture

-Loss of a fetus

-Permanent injury

-Death

Please note that choosing this option does not waive your right to sue for economic damages such as medical expenses and lost wages.

Under the “Unlimited” right to sue lawsuit option, you retain the right to sue the person who caused an auto accident for pain and suffering for any injury. Most people will choose the “limited” option because it is far less costly and it provides the ability to sue the negligent party for most major and permanent injuries. However, many attorneys will usually choose the “unlimited option” for their own personal coverage and pay the significant extra cost because they want the right to sue for any injury.

PIP coverage stands for Personal Injury Protection coverage. PIP is paid from your own policy. PIP covers medical expenses, and possibly lost wages and other damages. PIP is sometimes referred to as “no-fault” coverage, because the statutes that enacted it are generally known as no-fault laws. PIP is designed to be paid without regard to “fault,” or more properly, without regard to legal liability. PIP is also called “no-fault” because, by definition, a claimant’s, or insured’s, insurance premium should not increase due to a PIP claim. A PIP claim may be subrogated by your insurance against the other party’s insurance company if the other party was determined to be the neglligent party in the accident. PIP is a mandatory coverage in some states.

Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) is coverage from your policy that may pay for injuries to you and your passengers, and possibly damage to your property, when as a result of an auto accident the other driver is both legally responsible for the accident and determined to be “uninsured” or “underinsured.”

An uninsured driver is a person who has no auto insurance coverage, or had insurance that did not meet state-mandated minimum liability requirements, or whose insurance company denied their claim or was not financially able to pay it. In most states, a hit-and-run driver is also considered an uninsured driver as it pertains to paying for injuries to you or your passengers.

An underinsured driver is a person who had insurance that met minimum legal requirements, but did not have high enough coverage limits to pay for the damage caused by the accident. In these situations, UIM coverage can pay you for your damages. It is important to note that uninsured and underinsured is separate coverage, although in many states they can or must be purchased together. Some states mandate purchase of UM/UIM, but many do not.

Collision coverage insures you for damage to your vehicle. No matter if it is a collision between your car and another car, or your car and a stone wall. You are covered if your car sustains damage as a result of colliding into something or something colliding into it, whether you are at fault or not. Your deductible will usually apply. If you collide with another vehicle and the other party is at fault, then your insurance company may subrogate the claim against the at fault party’s insurance company to recover the claim amount.

Comprehensive (Comp) basically covers what collision coverage does not. When your car sustains damage that did not result from colliding with another motor vehicle or object, the comprehensive portion of your policy will pay for the damages. If you do not have comprehensive coverage then you would have to pay out of your own pocket for any damage to your vehicle not related to a collision. Here are the perils typically covered by comprehensive auto insurance coverage: fire, theft, vandalism, broken or damaged glass, animal inflicted damage, falling objects, storms (hail, wind, etc.), and water damage. Your deductible will usually apply.

Rental Insurance (RI) is coverage for you to rent a car while your vehicle is being repaired because of a covered incident. In the above example of declaration page values, the 80%/1500 means that you have coverage for $80 per day and $1,500 maximum total cost to rent a car while your vehicle is being repaired. This is an optional coverage that many people take, but some do not.

Well, that is it! That is the basics of understanding your auto insurance coverage. Not so bad, right? Now that you understand the basics of auto insurance coverage you can review and analyze your personal auto insurance policy’s declaration page coverage information while taking into consideration your personal financials to determine whether or not you have sufficient coverage.

Stay tuned for future articles that will explain the basics of understanding homeowner’s, personal umbrella, and life insurance coverage. You never know when it is going to rain!

Joseph Rubino, Agent

NJ Licensed Property & Casualty, Health, and Life

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Books Set in Australia – Five Novels to Read Before You Travel

A trip to Australia is one that offers endless variety – you could spend your time partying in Sydney, you could make an adventurous journey to the Outback, or you could wallow in the many wineries on offer in several Australian states. Australia is a big country and unless you have months to spend there, you are going to have to make some decisions on how best to spend you time. To help you do that, here are some books set in Australia – five novels depicting different aspects of Australian life and history.

'The Secret River' by Kate Grenville

A story of Australia's beginnings, William Thornbill and his wife Sal are sent from London to the fledgling colony of New South Wales in the early 1800's. After some time in Sydney (very different from the Sydney of today!) They decide to try their luck on some land Will has set his eye on along the Hawkesbury River. The challenges they face from their environment, the local Aborigines and fellow settlers reminds us of how harsh the country was for those who decided to make it their home. There are some magnificent descriptions of the landscape as seen by an outsider, and the books gives a 'warts and all' look at the impact of settlement on Australia's indigenous peoples.

'A Town Like Alice' by Neville Shute

While the first part of this novel is set in the Malayan jungle during WWII, what follows is a story that brings you to rugged, country Australia. If you want to know what life was like in a small outback town (more of a hamlet really) in the 1940's and 50's then this novel gives you a good idea. You are subject to the harshness of the landscape and the incredible distinctions involved, as Englishwoman Jean Paget travels to the heart of Australia to find a man she met whilst captured by the Japanese in Malaya. The language and attitudes, particularly in relation to Australia's Aborigines, are true to their time and should be taken as such. But it gives a good indication of the realities of life in rural Australia, something which is still a strong cultural impact on Australians today.

'Breath' by Tim Winton

From the desert to the sea now in this novel by one of Australia's most respected writers. This novel is set in Australia's south-west corner, at a time when the area was more of a home for the logging industry than for the tourists and vineyards of today. Set mainly in the 70's, this is a coming-of-age story about teenager Bruce as he seeks to overcome the boredom of country life with some high risk activities – like surfing off what can be a dangerous and deadly coastline, and developing a Dark friendship with an older woman. As Bruce begins to grow up, both emotionally and sexually, we are grateful to some of the most poetic and exhilarating descriptions you will ever find of the 'religion' that is surfing. And you too, will feel as if you have explored the rugged and beautiful coastline of this part of the country.

'Bad Debts' by Peter Temple

Peter Temple is one of Australia's leading crime writers, and this novel is our introduction to his hero Jack Irish. – an inner-city Melbourne solicitor with a love of Australian Rules Football, gambling, and part time cabinet-making. This is Melbourne in winter, complete with its rain, pubs and shady underworld. Irish has barely been sober for a number of years after one of his dodgy clients murdered his wife, and now Danny, another former client, needs his help. But when Danny is killed, Irish discovers there are plenty of the city's political elite who would like the past to remain undisturbed, and he is determined to get to the truth. Temple's novels may not give you 'sun and sand', but you will be treated to as much genuine Australian vocabulary and city sub-culture as you can handle.

'Summerland' by Malcolm Knox

And finally to Sydney, and a novel that explores the life of the city's idle rich. Four young Sydneysiders have been friends since they were teenagers, and living around the city's northern beaches they have the world at their feet. They form two couples and spend every Christmas at Palm Beach, a popular holiday location for the affluent. But despite all this, their friendship is based on lies, as Richard finds out when he learns of the long-running affair between his wife and his best friend. If you'd like an insight into a live of the privileged few in Sydney, then this novel will take you there.

These novels are just a taste of many books set in Australia, but they are well worth reading in the lead-up to your travels or on the plane. Immersing yourself in a novel about the place you are going to will not only give you an insight into the place itself, but it will whet your appetite for your travels ahead, making it far more enjoyable once you get there.

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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!

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