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Things to Remember When Shopping for Car Insurance

Things to Remember When Shopping for Car Insurance

Like your real neighbor, State Farm is there to make money. All those shiny geckos, cavemen, jokes, and jingles are in your head because Warren Buffet’s Geico pays a LOT of their hard-earned money to put them there. When you buy a car, the law requires certain levels of insurance, and, depending on who, how, when, what, and where you are, you will pay different amounts for this insurance. It’s all so confusing and annoying–can’t we just pay someone to figure that out for us?

You actually do, and that’s all rolled into the price of your insurance (along with marketing money, operations, etc). A lot goes into determining your insurance premium, and, lucky for you, I spent the majority of my 20s working in at insurance tracking company, and I’m happy to teach you all the ins and outs they don’t want you to know behind the curtains of Oz. Here are a few things to remember when shopping for car insurance.

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We all live in a yellow submarine. A yellow submarine? A yellow submarine...

    We all live in a yellow submarine. A yellow submarine? A yellow submarine…

    If You Have a Loan, You Need Insurance

    Anytime you take out a collateral loan (house, car, RV, boat, motorcycle, etc), you have to buy insurance on it. It’s called Collateral Protection Insurance, and it’s not much different than a store or phone warranty. If you don’t voluntarily purchase insurance, you’ll be saddled with the bank’s inflated Force-Placed Insurance. Assurant (a company also owned by Warren Buffet) ironically has subsidiaries that underwrite both Force-Placed Insurance and cell phone insurance (which is why you’ve never heard of them, despite probably paying money to them).

    Liability insurance is usually standard (meaning the accident’s your fault) for any vehicle. If you don’t own the vehicle, the banks will require certain levels of collateral and collision insurance. Some states are beginning to pull this market-share from the banks, so who’s forcing you to pay varies by state, but you’re paying it either way.

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    Force-Placed Insurance Ruins Lives

    While we’re speaking of the dark underbelly of insurance, it’s important to know that the high price of force-placed insurance is largely responsible for the majority of repossessions and foreclosures nationwide. Basically what happens when you run into financial trouble is you stop paying on your insurance to keep up your rent/mortgage/car/utility/food payments.

    When you avoid that $100-$1000 bill, your bank punishes you by backdating a more expensive policy (4-10x more expensive), and forcing you to prepay the next year’s premium as well. In addition, an analysis will be performed on your loan, and your car or mortgage payments will double or triple. That’s all it takes to push many honest and hardworking people to lose their home and their car within a year. Even if you recover, it’ll take years, as your credit will be ruined, and it’ll take more and more money to get back above water.

    Avoid all of this by keeping up on your insurance, and, when the banks erroneously accuse you of not having insurance, just because you were price-shopping online and the insurance company mailed them a letter to let them know, be vigilant and stern in correcting their mistake immediately. Hold them accountable. Speaking of which—

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    Insurance Agents Are Everywhere–Price Shop

    There’s no reason not to price shop. If you’ve ever travelled on an airline, you know you can use aggregate services like Priceline or Hotwire to get basic prices, but the best deals are always on the airline’s actual site. This works the same way in insurance—no matter how honest a company seems, they really want you to use their service. They may sometimes show a competitor is cheaper, but they’re there to make money as well, and you’re not a part of their family. The very least you can do for yourself is check every company’s website, no matter how many times you’re forced to enter all your info again.

    You May Already Have Insurance

    A lot of insurance companies, such as Erie, Traveler’s, Lloyd’s of London, etc. offer umbrella policies, which can cover your home, vehicles, recreational vehicles, and more. When looking for insurance, check with the company you already have. It doesn’t even have to be a full umbrella policy, car insurance sometimes covers the driver, so you can drive other cars you don’t own without paying extra. Some provide car rentals in case of an accident and/or cover damage to the rental car itself. See what you have before you buy more.

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    Whenever you don't trust a cop, take a picture...

      Whenever you don’t trust a cop, take a picture…

      Extreme Couponing

      Every insurance company has discounts that can be obtained in different ways. Remember your agent is just a sales person. No matter how local they seem, their policies are underwritten by someone bigger than they are, who in turn is underwritten by someone bigger until you get to one of the big guys. If you’re not insured by that structure, you’re borrowing from a legitimate loan shark/bookie/drug dealer, and you’ll probably be brutally killed for not making your payments.

      Because they’re salespeople, agents offer discounts for good grades, reaching a certain age, being born a certain sex, and things like that. They’re not offering these discounts—a billion dollar research project analyzed consumer data and determined how much to charge you to make as much profit as possible while still undercutting the competition. The real deals your agent is offering you are discounts for watching a video, taking a class, or some other menial task—they do that because they’re good sales people, and know it’s subsidized by the government to make the streets safer. Since the government is run by taxes, ultimately, you’re always footing the bill.

      It’s About Who You Know

      If you work in the government, you can get a great deal with USAA. Like credit unions, many insurance companies started as coops. Even Geico stands for Government Employees Insurance Company. By the time you heard of them, they were already huge. That’s the thing about insurance companies—despite what you think from their public face, they hide in the shadows making money. If you’re a teacher, work for a non-profit or tech firm, you may be able to obtain cheap insurance from your occupation. Look into it.

      Long-time customers are valued in any business, so whoever you do pick to insure your car, stick with them as long as you can. They may experience ups and downs, but they’ll appreciate you sticking with them in the long run, and you’ll often be surprised at how much local agents will go out of their way to help long-term customers. Don’t shop for insurance by the flashy ads or from whoever’s offering the best deal up front. Look into their track record, check to see if loss ratios are in line with the competition. Ask friends and family how their company and agency treats them. With a little elbow grease, you can find the right car insurance for you.

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      Last Updated on September 2, 2020

      How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

      How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

      Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

      In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

      4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

      Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

      1. Be Clear About the Objectives

      Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

      It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

      Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

      2. Keep Goals Realistic

      It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

      It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

      3. Account for Inflation

      Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

      Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

      For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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      4. Short Term Vs Long Term

      Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

      As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

      By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

      How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

      Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

      • Ensuring healthy savings
      • Making smart investments

      You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

      Ensuring Healthy Savings

      Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

      This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

      1. Track Expenses

      The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

      Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

      If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

      2. Pay Yourself First

      Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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      Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

      The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

      Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

      3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

      Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

      Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

      At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

      Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

      You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

      4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

      In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

      Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

      • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
      • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
      • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

      The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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      5. Talk About It

      Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

      Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

      6. Maintain a Journal

      For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

      If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

      When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

      Making Smart Investments

      Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

      1. Consult a Financial Advisor

      Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

      Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

      2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

      Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

      Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

      As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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      3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

      Einstein once remarked about compounding:

      “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

      Use compound interest when setting financial goals

        Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

        Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

        4. Measure, Measure, Measure

        All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

        If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

        Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

        The Bottom Line

        Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

        and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

        More Tips on Financial Goals

        Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

        Reference

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