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5 Tips for Making Insurance Work for You

Living without insurance is a one-way ticket to debt you may never be able to repay, which is why it’s smart to be aware of your options and get savvy on where to spend your insurance dollars.

By Nancy Zambell, Chief Analyst Wall Street’s Best Digest, Cabot Wealth Network

Health insurance, home insurance, car insurance, life insurance … there’s no shortage of ways to insure yourself or your property, but do you know which types of insurance are worth the extra investment?

Investing in insurance is a necessity we all have in our lives, whether it’s legally required or just smart based on our risk factors for needing it. But there’s an endless number of ways to spend money on insurance, and really only a few that are completely necessary, like health insurance, car insurance and home insurance.

The add-ons that insurance companies try to sell you aren’t always worth your dollar though, and that monthly cost can add up over time.

For those without health insurance, you live in fear of falling ill or getting injured because of the expense of a hospital visit. A single medical event could put you in a financial hole that takes years to get out of. For those people, short-term medical insurance exists, and offers the relief of knowing you can get medical care if you need it, without the anxiety of burdensome medical bills.

Living without insurance is most certainly not the path to financial freedom, it’s a one-way ticket to debt you may never be able to repay, which is why it’s smart to be aware of your options and get savvy on where to spend your insurance dollars.

Here are 5 tips for navigating the insurance industry.

1. Homeowner title insurance may not be necessary

When buying a house, the home insurance policy is a given. But when the matter of homeowner title insurance comes up, you might not be as familiar with what it is or does.

As an investor in property, homeowner title insurance will protect you against past owners making a claim on the property. Still, it may not be necessary since it only benefits certain types of properties.

Homeowner’s title insurance is protection specific to rights against the property of previous owners, tax liens, etc. Thus, there is no need for homeowner title insurance if you are buying a newly developed property.

When there are no previous owners to the home, you don’t have the same concerns as you would with a house that was bought and sold many times.

2. When applying for Medicaid, online is the way to go

When we reach that point where we qualify for Medicaid, it’s a good resource to help pay medical bills, receive lower costs on medications, and overall provide a safety net for your health care.

But the healthcare bureaucracy can be a really big pain.

So doing as much of the process online will make it easier, will save you time, and take away the effort of having to go to a physical location and wait in line.

The best way to make it a seamless experience is by being prepared ahead of time with everything you need. Make sure you have ready:

Your birth certificate for proof of age

Proof of United States legal residency

Proof of all sources of income

Having all of these things ready when you go online to apply or help someone apply will make the entire process much more manageable.

3. Being more Direct with your life insurance has its benefits

Direct term life insurance is nothing more than buying a life insurance policy directly from a dealer instead of dealing with any agents or intermediaries. Usually, this means that you create and purchase the policy online with some qualifying information (although you still may need an in-person physical exam).

Changing the transaction process to a direct purchase has the downside of losing a professional that will guide you through the process.

But direct life insurance could be for you if these characteristics appeal to you:

It operates on your time – If you are working with an advisor or an agent, it can be great to have their advice along the way, but you also need to align your schedules to make things work. Usually, this also means meeting multiple times throughout the process before you have your policy. Their wisdom can prove valuable, but if you already know what you’re looking for, the extra meetings and scheduling can be a hassle to get to the policy you already know you want.

You still have some level of support – You don’t need to go through the hoops mentioned above to get some advice. Of course, any company offering direct term life insurance wants to help you, and they won’t leave you out to dry if you have questions. The assistance might not be as hands-on, but you can be sure to get all the support you need from a company offering life insurance online.

It’s quick – Especially if you are a healthy individual looking for direct term life insurance, you could have your policy very quickly. You could even have your policy in force before the end of the week and may not be required to have a physical at all, depending upon your application process.

No added sales pressure – Where you will lack some of the professional experience of an advisor in your corner, you will also be getting rid of the salesmanship a professional might put on you to explore other options or do further planning. This can take up more of your time and potentially add to the overall cost if you’re not looking to discuss any other parts of planning at that time.

Keeping a process intimate and quick is undoubtedly best when you know what you’re looking for. If this is you, then direct term life insurance could be a fantastic direction to go.

4. Be aware of car-sharing insurance

Yes. Buying car-sharing insurance is actually on the minds of more people these days as more services emerge. Think of it like Airbnb for cars.

Car sharing insurance could be a good idea for you to get the added coverage, but the necessity is on a case-by-case basis. You should talk with your current car insurance provider to see what kind of coverage they extend in your plan and what you can do to expand that coverage if needed.

If you’re renting from a car-sharing service, there is a good chance your existing car insurance won’t cover you. That means you’re responsible for any accidents. While this may not always be the case, many companies include language in their agreements to separate themselves from car sharing. Always be sure to understand where you fit within these guidelines.

Typical insurance will probably not cover you renting your vehicle out to others unless you have commercial insurance instead of a personal policy. Many insurance companies are getting into the game of new coverage with more mainstream services like Lyft and Uber, but this does not translate to widespread inclusion for car sharing just yet.

Both Turo and Getaround offer peer-to-peer car-sharing insurance policies. Still, these policies’ effectiveness in protecting you from liability is not the same as your typical car insurance. There may be much higher deductibles, which means you pay much larger amounts out of pocket for any accident or damage that happens to the vehicles you are either driving or sharing with others.

Either way, exploring your options is valuable given the high potential costs of accidents.

5. Look for unclaimed insurance money

It can be uncomfortable or sad, but it is the final and necessary stage of the life insurance process. And it often goes overlooked.

Even if a person does go through explaining to their potential beneficiaries what to do when it comes time to file a claim, that is likely one of the furthest things from their mind. Also, if the primary beneficiary predeceases the insured, and there is no secondary beneficiary named, there is still a payout. Someone is entitled to that money.

The only problem is, in that case, they probably don’t even know the money exists.

If you believe you could be in this situation, there are several steps you can take to look for unclaimed insurance money.

1. Ask immediate surviving family members and friends. See if anybody remembers your loved one mentioning anything about life insurance or inheritance. It may have been something in passing that others would not pay much attention to.

2. Look through old mail and records. Life insurance bills go out every billing cycle. Billing could occur monthly, quarterly, or annually. One way or the other, they would receive statements about their policy and current standing. Plus, if it were a whole life policy and the bill was still being automatically paid, they should still receive records aftv

3. Contact employers and member organizations. Some employers and groups have plans set up through the organization. Participation is usually optional but often inexpensive, and many people take advantage of them.

4. Personal belongings are an ideal place to find old policy printouts stashed away. These would be ideal to find because you could then see what beneficiaries are named.

5. Do an online search on the website This website is endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) and is very easy to use. You can search for any possible unclaimed money by putting in the deceased’s name and the state they lived in.