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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...

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      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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      Published on May 7, 2019

      How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

      How to Invest for Retirement (The Smart and Stress-Free Way)

      When it comes to stocks, I bet you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing.

      Everyone who’s not a financial expert has been there. I’ve been there. But, time is passing and you need to be crystal clear with how you’re investing for your retirement.

      Otherwise, it’s back to work until you can afford not to. So, how can you invest for retirement when you’re not a financial expert?

      You take the time to learn the fundamentals well. If you do, you can grow your wealth and retire happy. The best part is that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart investment decisions.

      Here’s how to invest for retirement the smart and stress-free way:

      1. Know Clearly Why You Invest

      Odds are you already know why should invest for retirement.

      But, maybe you know the wrong reasons. It’s time you get clear on why you’d like to retire. Here are some questions to help you get started:

      • Will you spend more time with your family?
      • What does retirement mean to you?
      • Are you looking to launch that business you’ve been holding off for years?

      Everyone wants to retire but not for the same reasons. Once you’re clear for why retirement is important for you, you’ll focus on making it happen.

      Investing in the stock market allows you to take advantage of compound interest.[1] All this means is that your money earns money on top of its interest. A reason why investment in the stock market is one of the best ways to plan for retirement.

      2. Figure out When to Invest

      “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”– Chinese Proverb

      It’s true if you’d had started investing when you were 10 years old, you’d have a lot more money than you do today.

      The reality is that most people don’t start investing until it’s too late. So, if you’re currently waiting for the perfect time to start an investment, it would be today. Open your calendar and block out 2 to 3 hours to choose how you’ll invest for retirement.

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      A quick way to get a snapshot of where you stand is to use Personal Capital. Input all your personal information and spend some time setting your retirement goals. Once completed, you’ll know where you stand with your retirement.

      Having a savings account for retirement isn’t planning for retirement. Why? Your money loses value when you factor in US inflation.[2]

      3. Evaluate Your Risk Tolerance to Create the Perfect Portfolio

      Investing your money well depends on your emotions.

      Why?

      Because when the market drops most people panic and withdraw their money. On average, the US stock market yields an annual 6% to 7% ROI (return on your investment.) But, this won’t happen if you’re worried about short-term loses.

      Before you invest your next dollar, know your risk tolerance.[3] Your risk tolerance determines the number of risky and safe investments you’d have.

      Regardless of your investing style, you need to view investing for retirement as a long term game. Know that some years you’ll lose money but recoup this in the long-term.

      Avoid watching market-related new. Also, create a double authentication to log in your investment account. This way you’re less likely to withdraw your money.

      4. Open a Reliable Retirement Account

      Depending on your circumstance, you may need to open a new brokerage account. This is the account is where you’ll invest your money.

      If you’re currently working for a company, odds are that they offer a 410K investing account. If so, here’s where you’ll invest most of your money. The only problem with this is that you’re limited to the stock options that are available.

      You do have the option to open a separate IRA (individual retirement account.) Here are some of the best brokers:

      1. Vanguard
      2. TD Ameritrade
      3. Charles Schwab

      5. Challenge Yourself to Invest Consistently

      Committing to invest for retirement is hard, but continuing to do so is harder.

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      Once you’ve started investment for your retirement, you run at risk from stopping. Often you’ll want to contribute less, so you’d have more money in your pocket.

      That’s why it’s important that you create a budget that allows you to invest each month. If you’re working for a company, you can set a percentage for the amount you’d like to contribute each month. Most people by default contribute 1% but aim to contribute 10% to 15%.

      Be the judge for how much you can afford to contribute after covering important expenses. To stay motivated, use Personal Capital to view your net worth.

      A benefit to contributing money to your retirement account is not taxed. For example, if you earn $100 and invest 10%, you’d contribute $10, then get taxed on the remaining $90. As of 2019, the most you’re able to contribute towards your 401K is 19K but this can change.

      6. Consider Where to Invest Your Money

      The most common way to invest your money is in stocks, but it’s not the only way. Here are other ways to invest:

      Robo Advisors

      Robo-advisors[4] are fancy algorithms that’ll choose the best investments for you. Sites like Wealthfront make it easy for first-time investors to invest their money. You’d input information about yourself and set your risk tolerance.

      Then, set your monthly contribution amount and your robo-advisor would do the rest. Robo-advisors charge a fee to manage your money, but less than regular advisors.

      Bonds

      Think of bonds as “IOUs” to whomever you buy them from.

      Essentially, you’re lending money and charging interest. Like stocks, not all bonds are equal. Some will be riskier than others depending on their rating.

      Here are the different types of bond categories:[5]

      1. Treasury bonds
      2. Government bonds
      3. Corporate bonds
      4. Foreign bonds
      5. Mortgage-backed bonds
      6. Municipal bonds

      Mutual Funds

      Picture a group of people dumping all their money in a jar that’s managed by a professional. This is how mutual funds work. The fund manager manages the money looking to earn capital gains (interest.)

      One of the best types of mutual funds is index funds. Since these funds don’t try to beat the market and instead follow it, they need less research. Because of this they often charge the lowest fees and yield the best long-term results.

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      Real Estate

      Yes, buying a home is an investment when done correctly.

      Imagine buying a home and using it as a rental property. After repairing it, you receive a monthly surplus check of $100 to $200.

      This may not sound like a lot, but repeat this process enough times and you’d earn a large amount of passive income. That’s why real estate is one of the best investments to not only retire but become wealthy.

      But, it requires a lot of money to start and you should expect losing money along the way as you learn the process.

      Savings Accounts

      Your money can still grow in a savings account. Nowadays most online banks offer a 2% annual return. Although the average inflation is higher your money will be available when you need it.

      7. Master Disincline to Dodge Short Success

      Investing for retirement is a long-term strategy. That’s why you need to master delayed gratification. All this means is delaying short-term pleasure for something bigger in the future. Research shows that those who have delayed gratification are more successful.[6]

      So how can you master delayed gratification?

      By building your discipline.

      Think back to what retirement means to you. A clear purpose will help you avoid withdrawing your money during a market downturn. It’ll help you contribute more towards retirement when you’d want to waste it instead.

      Your journey towards retirement will be long, so reward yourself along the way. Choose a reward that’s relevant and meaningful, so that you reinforce positive behavior. For example, after contributing more towards retirement, treat yourself to dinner.

      8. Aggressively Invest on This One Investment

      I’ve mentioned several types of investments but haven’t covered the most important one.

      It sounds cliche but here’s why you’re your best investment towards retirement. The more you know, the more money you’ll be able to make. The more good habits you adopt, the more secure your retirement will be.

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      More importantly, investing in yourself is an investment that no one can take away. There’s no market downturn nor tragic circumstance that’ll wipe your knowledge and experience.

      But, how can you invest yourself?

      Reading books, blogs, and anything that’ll help you learn new topics daily. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks on your commute to/from work.

      Save money to buy courses and hire coaches. I used to believe hiring coaches was a waste of money when I could learn the subject alone.

      But, coaches see your blind spots and hold you accountable. Hiring the right coach will help you achieve your goals faster than you would’ve alone.

      Retire Happy with Excess Money

      The key to a secure financial future doesn’t only belong to financial experts.

      It’s possible for you and I. What if you were able to retire earlier than most people and weren’t a financial planner? What if you were able to focus on what you enjoy doing the most while your money was working hard for you?

      I know this sounds impossible now, but the truth is you’re capable of taking charge of your retirement. I’m not a financial expert but I’ve learned how to invest my money by reading books and learning from others.

      Investing your money is scary. So start small and invest a small amount of your money with a robo-advisor. Feel your money drop and rise for a month or two. Then, invest more and keep this up until you’re aggressively saving for retirement.

      One day, you’ll wake up with a net worth you’re proud of – confident about your retirement. You now know a few strategies you can use to invest in your retirement. Will you take action to retire happy?

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      Featured photo credit: Matthew Bennett via unsplash.com

      Reference

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