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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 June 6, 2019

      The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

      The Average Retirement Savings and How to Save Wisely

      Are you on track for retirement?

      If not, don’t worry, I’m not sure either. I save each month and hope for the best.

      Fortunately, I’m at an age where most people don’t save so I’m ahead of the curve.

      But, what if you aren’t in your 20s? What if you’re near retirement and are looking to gauge where you stand?

      If so, keep reading. Here’s how to prepare for retirement and save wisely during the process.

      What Does the Average American Have Saved for Retirement?

      Saving for retirement is tricky.

      Tell someone straight out of college to save $10k a year for retirement and it’ll be next to impossible.

      Make the same request to someone decades older and they’d be more likely to be able to save this amount. But, a 20-year old college student can be “financially ahead” of someone saving more than them. Why?

      Age matters in your financial journey. The younger you are, the more time you have to save and put compound interest to work. As you get older and have more saving power, you’d have less time to put compound interest to work.

      Here are the average savings Americans hold by age bracket:

      20’s – $16,000

      During this stage, most people are paying loans and moving up the corporate ladder. Your best bet during this stage is to focus on eliminating debt and increasing your income. Don’t focus only on getting a high-paying job neither.

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      Instead, focus on learning via Podcasts, reading books, and taking specialized courses. Doing this will make you more valuable and give you more career options.

      30’s – $45,000

      At this stage, you’ve hopefully escaped your entry-level salary and work at a career you enjoy. Your earning power has increased but you now have more obligations. For example, marriage, kids, and a mortgage.

      Set a plan to pay off all your debt and focus on eliminating unnecessary expenses. Leverage financial tools like Personal Capital to ensure you’re on track for retirement.

      40’s – $63,000

      This is the stage where you’re at the prime of your career. Top financial institutions recommend you have at least 2 to 4 times your salary saved up. If you’re falling behind, start maxing out your 401K and Roth IRA accounts.

      50’s – $115,000

      During your fifties, you’re close to retirement but still, have time to save. You may be helping your kids pay college tuition and other expenses. Since you’re at the peak of your earning power, max out all your retirement accounts.

      60’s – $172,000

      By this point, you should have about eight times your salary saved up. If not, you’ll depend primarily on social security benefits averaging $1400 per month. Max out all your retirement options as much as possible before retiring.

      Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

      The sad reality is that most Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement.

      Even high-earning power isn’t enough to secure one’s financial future. You need to have the discipline to save for retirement while time is in your favor. Don’t wait for you to have a high salary to save, start with having a small budget.

      First, get a clear picture of where you stand. Write down a list of “needs” and “wants.” For example, Netflix and Amazon Prime are “wants” and a “cell-phone” is a need.

      Use tools like Personal Capital to analyze your spending patterns. Personal Capital allows you to add all your financial data in one place–making it a powerful option to gauge where you stand.

      Once you know all your expenses, organize them from highest to lowest expense. When you can’t cut more expenses, call your service providers to negotiate a lower price. If you’re not good at negotiating, use services like Trimm to lower your monthly expenses.

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      How to Save Money Each Month

      By this point, you know the average amount of money you should have saved for retirement based on your age.

      But, breaking this down into monthly goals can be challenging. Here are some rule of thumbs to follow:

      Aim to contribute 10%–15% of your salary each paycheck. Review your progress each week.

      Why so often? The reality is that life gets in our way and you will have many financial setbacks. Your goal isn’t to be perfect but to get back on track instead.

      Reviewing your finances weekly lets you know where you stand with your retirement. This doesn’t have to be a long process either. All it takes is login in Personal Capital to view your net worth and check how much you have saved for retirement.

      Turn saving into a game and aim to save more each month. It will get challenging but you’ll get creative and find more ways to save.

      Top Money Saving Challenge Tips

      To prepare for your financial future and not be another statistic you need to be different.

      How?

      By adopting new habits that’ll help you become a saving machine. Here are some ways you can save more:

      Automatically Contribute Towards Retirement

      If you’re working for a company, you can automatically contribute towards your 401k. If you’re not currently contributing more than 10%, make this your goal. Contribute 1% more today and automatically increase this amount a year from now.

      Odds are that you’re not going to be negatively affected by contributing 1% more. Many times we spend our money on things we don’t need. Contributing more towards retirement is a great way to secure your financial future.

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      Use the Right Tools to Know Where You Stand

      Once you’re contributing more towards your retirement accounts, gauge your progress. Make use of finance tracking apps to help you view the big picture of your retirement.

      When I’d first signed up for the app Personal Capital, I didn’t know I had a negative net worth. Despite saving thousands of dollars, my debt brought my net worth to the negative. Knowing this motivated me to save more and spend less.

      Now, I have a positive net worth. But, it was because I was able to view the big picture using the app. Find out what your net worth is using a finance tracking app and you may surprise yourself.

      Bring in Experts to View Your Blind Spots

      If you have too little or too much money saved, you should consider hiring financial experts.

      Why?

      You may need someone to hold you accountable to help you reach your financial goals. Or, you may need help managing your money as effective as possible.

      Regardless of the reason, getting help may help improve your financial situation.

      Before you hire an expert, find out which areas you need help the most. For example, if you’re constantly overspending, find a debt counselor. If you’re struggling with choosing the best investment options, hire a financial advisor.

      Speed up Your Retirement Contribution

      After learning how to manage your money well, the next best thing is to earn a higher income.

      You’re capped at how much you can save but not much you can earn. Even if your employer isn’t giving you a promotion, you can still take charge of your financial future. How?

      By starting a side-business.

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      This will be something you’d work on after you’ve finished your day job. Once you start earning income from your side-business, you’ll be financially better off.

      The best part is the more work you put into your side-business,[1] the more potential it has to earn more money.

      So start a side-business in an area you’re familiar with. For example, if you enjoy writing, do freelance writing for small e-commerce businesses.

      Once you’re earning a higher income, you can contribute more towards your retirement. Don’t wait for the right opportunity to secure your financial future, create one.

      Reach Financial Freedom with Confidence

      What if you were able to retire tomorrow with no problem, all because you’d have enough money saved up and little to no debt left to pay off? How would you feel?

      My guess is that you’d feel happy and relieved.

      Most Americans are falling behind their retirement goals for many reasons. They’re not prepared, they carry bad money-habits and are thinking short-term.

      For you to retire successfully, you need to work backward and adopt better habits. Contribute more towards your 401K and focus on growing your income.

      If you do, you’ll save money and pay debt faster.

      Don’t beat yourself up if you’re behind your retirement goals. Take the first step today towards a brighter financial future. Isn’t retirement worth the hard work and sacrifice to be at peace?

      Featured photo credit: Huy Phan via unsplash.com

      Reference

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