Insurance Law – An Indian Perspective

INTRODUCTION

"Insurance should be bought to protect you against a calamity that would otherwise be financially devastating."

In simple terms, insurance allows someone who suffers a loss or accident to be compensated for the effects of their misfortune. It lets you protect yourself against everyday risks to your health, home and financial situation.

Insurance in India started without any regulation in the Nineteenth Century. It was a typical story of a colonial epoch: few British insurance companies dominating the market serving mostly large urban centers. After the independence, it took a theatrical turn. Insurance was nationalized. First, the life insurance companies were nationalized in 1956, and then the general insurance business was nationalized in 1972. It was only in 1999 that the private insurance companies had been allowed back into the business of insurance with a maximum of 26% of foreign holding .

"The insurance industry is awful and can be quite intimidating." Insurance is being sold for almost anything and everything you can imagine.

Concepts of insurance have been extended beyond the coverage of tangible asset. Now the risk of losses due to sudden changes in currency exchange rates, political disturbance, negligence and liability for the damages can also be covered.

But if a person thoughtfully invests in insurance for his property prior to any unexpected contingency then he will be suitably compensated for his loss as soon as the amount of damage is ascertained.

The entry of the State Bank of India with its proposal of bank assurance brings a new dynamics in the game. The collective experience of the other countries in Asia has already deregulated their markets and has allowed foreign companies to participate. If the experience of the other countries is any guide, the dominance of the Life Insurance Corporation and the General Insurance Corporation is not going to disappear any time soon.
The aim of all insurance is to compensate the owner against loss arising from a variety of risks, which he anticipates, to his life, property and business. Insurance is primarily of two types: life insurance and general insurance. General insurance means Fire, Marine and Miscellaneous insurance which includes insurance against burglary or theft, fidelity guarantee, insurance for employer's liability, and insurance of motor vehicles, livestock and crops.

LIFE INSURANCE IN INDIA

"Life insurance is the heartfelt love letter ever written.

It calms down the crying of a hungry baby at night. It relieves the heart of a bereaved widow.

It is the comforting whisper in the dark silent hours of the night. "

Life insurance made its debut in India well over 100 years ago. Its salient features are not as widely understood in our country as they bought to be. There is no statistical definition of life insurance, but it has been defined as a contract of insurance wheree the insured agreements to pay certain sums called premiums, at specified time, and in consideration thereof the insurer agreed to pay certain sums of money on certain condition Sand in specified way upon happening of a particular event contingent upon the duration of human life.

Life insurance is superior to other forms of savings!

"There is no death. Life Insurance exalts life and defeats death.

It is the premium we pay for the freedom of living after death. "

Savings through life insurance guarantee full protection against risk of death of the saver. In life insurance, on death, the full sum secured is payable (with bonuses wherever applicable) whereas in other savings schemes, only the amount saved (with interest) is payable.

The essential features of life insurance are a) it is a contract relating to human life, which b) provides for payment of lump-sum amount, and c) the amount is paid after the expiration of certain period or on the death of the secured . The very purpose and object of the assured in taking policies from life insurance companies is to safeguard the interest of his dependents viz., Wife and children as the case may be, in the even of premature death of the secured as a result of the happening In any contingency. A life insurance policy is also generally accepted as security for even a commercial loan.

NON-LIFE INSURANCE

"Every asset has a value and the business of general insurance is related to the protection of economic value of assets."

Non-life insurance means insurance other than life insurance such as fire, marine, accident, medical, motor vehicle and household insurance. Assets would have been created through the efforts of owner, which can be in the form of building, vehicles, machinery and other tangible properties. Since tangible property has a physical shape and consistency, it is subject to many risks ranging from fire, allied perils to theft and robbery.
Few of the General Insurance policies are:

Property Insurance: The home is most valued possession. The policy is designed to cover the various risks under a single policy. It provides protection for property and interest of the insured and family.

Health Insurance: It provides cover, which takes care of medical expenses following hospitalization from sudden illness or accident.
Personal Accident Insurance: This insurance policy provides compensation for loss of life or injury (partial or permanent) caused by an accident. This includes reimbursements of cost of treatment and the use of hospital facilities for the treatment.

Travel Insurance: The policy covers the insured against various eventualities while traveling abroad. It covers the insured against personal accident, medical expenses and repatriation, loss of checked baggage, passport etc.

Liability Insurance: This policy indemnifies the Directors or Officers or other professionals against loss arising from claims made against them by reason of any wrongful act in their Official capacity.

Motor Insurance: Motor Vehicles Act states that every motor vehicle plying on the road has to be insured, with at least Liability only policy. There are two types of policy one covering the act of liability, while other covers insurers all liability and damage caused to one's vehicles.

JOURNEY FROM AN INFANT TO ADOLESCENCE!

Historical Perspective

The history of life insurance in India dates back to 1818 when it was conceived as a means to provide for English Widows. Interestingly in those days a higher premium was charged for Indian lives than the non-Indian lives as Indian lives were considered more risky for coverage.

The Bombay Mutual Life Insurance Society started its business in 1870. It was the first company to charge same premium for both Indian and non-Indian lives. The Oriental Assurance Company was established in 1880. The General insurance business in India, on the other hand, can trace its roots to the Triton (Tital) Insurance Company Limited, the first general insurance company established in the year 1850 in Calcutta by the British . Till the end of nineteenth century insurance business was almost entirely in the hands of overseas companies.

Insurance regulation form began in India with the passing of the Life Insurance Companies Act of 1912 and the Provident Fund Act of 1912. Several frauds during 20's and 30's desecrated insurance business in India. By 1938 there were 176 insurance companies. The first comprehensive legislation was introduced with the Insurance Act of 1938 that provided strict State Control over insurance business. The insurance business grows at a faster pace after independence. Indian companies strengthened their hold on this business but despite the growth that was witnessed, insurance remained an urban phenomenon.

The Government of India in 1956, brought together over 240 private life insurers and provincial societies under one nationalized monopoly corporation and Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) was born. Nationalization was justified on the grounds that it would create much needed funds for rapid industrialization. This was in conformity with the Government's chosen path of State lead planning and development.

The (non-life) insurance business continued to prosper with the private sector till 1972. Their operations were restricted to organized trade and industry in large cities. The general insurance industry was nationalized in 1972. With this, nearly 107 insurers were amalgamated and grouped into four companies – National Insurance Company, New India Assurance Company, Oriental Insurance Company and United India Insurance Company. These were subsidiaries of the General Insurance Company (GIC).

The life insurance industry was nationalized under the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) Act of India. In some ways, the LIC has become very flourishing. Regardless of being a monopoly, it has some 60-70 million policyholders. Given that the Indian middle-class is around 250-300 million, the LIC has managed to capture some 30 odd percent of it. Around 48% of the customers of the LIC are from rural and semi-urban areas. This probably would not have happened to the charter of the LIC not specifically set out the goal of serving the rural areas. A high saving rate in India is one of the exogenous factors that have helped the LIC to grow rapidly in recent years. Despite the saving rate being high in India (compared with other countries with a similar level of development), Indians display high degree of risk aversion. Thus, nearly half of the investments are in physical assets (like property and gold). Around twenty three percent are in (low yielding but safe) bank deposits. In addition, some 1.3 percent of the GDP are in life insurance related savings vehicles. This figure has doubled between 1985 and 1995.

A World perspective – Life Insurance in India

In many countries, insurance has been a form of savings. In many developed countries, a significant fraction of domestic saving is in the form of donation insurance plans. This is not surprising. The prominence of some developing countries is more surprising. For example, South Africa features at the number two spot. India is nestled between Chile and Italy. This is even more surprising given the levels of economic development in Chile and Italy. Thus, we can conclude that there is an insurance culture in India since a low per capita income. This promises well for future growth. Specifically, when the income level improvements, insurance (especially life) is likely to grow rapidly.

INSURANCE SECTOR REFORM:

Committee Reports: One Known, One Anonymous!

Although Indian markets were privatized and opened up to foreign companies in a number of sectors in 1991, insurance remained out of bounds on both counts. The government wanted to proceed with caution. With pressure from the opposition, the government (at the time, governed by the Congress Party) decided to set up a committee headed by Mr. RN Malhotra (the then Governor of the Reserve Bank of India).

Malhotra Committee

Liberalization of the Indian insurance market was filed in a report released in 1994 by the Malhotra Committee, indicating that the market should be opened to private-sector competition, and eventually, foreign private-sector competition. It also investigated the level of satisfaction of the customers of the LIC. Inquisitively, the level of customer satisfaction appeared to be high.

In 1993, Malhotra Committee – chaired by former Finance Secretary and RBI Governor RN Malhotra – was formed to evaluate the Indian insurance industry and recommend its future course. The Malhotra committee was set up with the aim of complementing the reforms initiated in the financial sector. The reforms were aimed at creating a more efficient and competitive financial system suitable for the needs of the economy keeping in mind the structural changes currently occurring and recognizing that insurance is an important part of the overall financial system where it was necessary to address the need for Similar reforms. In 1994, the committee submitted the report and some of the key recommendations included:

O Structure

Government bet in the insurance Companies to be bought down to 50%. Government should take over the holdings of GIC and its affiliates so that these affiliates can act as independent corporations. All the insurance companies should be given greater freedom to operate.
Competition

Private Companies with a minimum paid up capital of Rs.1 billion should be allowed to enter the sector. No Company should deal in both Life and General Insurance through a single entity. Foreign companies may be allowed to enter the industry in collaboration with the domestic companies. Postal Life Insurance should be allowed to operate in the rural market. Only one State Level Life Insurance Company should be allowed to operate in each state.

O Regulatory Body

The Insurance Act should be changed. An Insurance Regulatory body should be set up. Controller of Insurance – a part of the Finance Ministry- should be made Independent.

O Investments

Compulsory Investments of LIC Life Fund in government securities to be reduced from 75% to 50%. GIC and its affiliates are not to hold more than 5% in any company (there current holdings to be brought down to this level over a period of time).

O Customer Service

LIC should pay interest on delays in payments beyond 30 days. Insurance companies must be encouraged to set up unit linked pension plans. Computerization of operations and updating of technology to be carried out in the insurance industry. The committee emphasized that in order to improve the customer services and increase the coverage of insurance policies, industry should be opened up to competition. But at the same time, the committee felt the need to exercise caution as any failure on the part of new competitors could ruin the public confidence in the industry. Here, it was decided to allow competition in a limited way by stipulating the minimum capital requirement of Rs.100 crores.

The committee felt the need to provide greater automation to insurance companies in order to improve their performance and enable them to act as independent companies with economic motives. For this purpose, it had proposed setting up an independent regulatory body – The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority.

Reforms in the Insurance sector were initiated with the passage of the IRDA Bill in Parliament in December 1999. The IRDA since its incorporation as a statutory body in April 2000 has meticulously stuck to its schedule of framing regulations and registering the private sector insurance companies.

Since being set up as an independent statutory body the IRDA has put in a framework of globally compatible regulations. The other decision taken at the same time to provide the supporting systems to the insurance sector and in particular the life insurance companies was the launch of the IRDA online service for issue and renewal of licenses to agents. The approval of enterprises for attending training to agents has also ensured that the insurance companies would have a trained workforce of insurance agents in place to sell their products.

The Government of India liberalized the insurance sector in March 2000 with the passage of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) Bill, lifting all entry restrictions for private players and allowing foreign players to enter the market with some limits on direct foreign ownership. Under the current guidelines, there is a 26 percent equity lid for foreign partners in an insurance company. There is a proposal to increase this limit to 49 percent.

The opening up of the sector is likely to lead to greater spread and deepening of insurance in India and this may also include restructuring and revitalizing of the public sector companies. In the private sector 12 life insurance and 8 general insurance companies have been registered. A host of private insurance companies operating in both life and non-life segments have started selling their insurance policies since 2001

Mukherjee Committee

Immediately after the publication of the Malhotra Committee Report, a new committee, Mukherjee Committee was set up to make concrete plans for the requirements of the newly formed insurance companies. Recommendations of the Mukherjee Committee were never disclosed to the public. But, from the information that filtered out it became clear that the committee recommended the inclusion of certain ratios in insurance company balance sheets to ensure transparency in accounting. But the Finance Minister owed to it and it was argued by him, probably on the advice of some of the potential competitors, that it could affect the prospects of a developing insurance company.

LAW COMMISSION OF INDIA ON REVISION OF THE INSURANCE ACT 1938 – 190th Law Commission Report

The Law Commission on 16th June 2003 released a Consultation Paper on the Revision of the Insurance Act, 1938. The previous exercise to amend the Insurance Act, 1938 was amended in 1999 at the time of enactment of the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority Act, 1999 IRDA Act).

The Commission undertook the present exercise in the context of the changed policy that has permitted private insurance companies both in the life and non-life sectors. A need has been felt to toughen the regulatory mechanism even while streamlining the existing legislation with a view to removing portions that have become superfluous as a consequence of the recent changes.

Among the major areas of changes, the Consultation paper suggested the following:

A. Merging of the provisions of the IRDA Act with the Insurance Act to avoid multiplicity of legislations;

B. Delegation of redundant and transitory provisions in the Insurance Act, 1938;

C. Amendments reflect the modified policy of permitting private insurance companies and strengthening the regulatory mechanism;

D. Providing for stringent norms regarding maintenance of 'solvency margin' and investments by both public sector and private sector insurance companies;

E. Providing for a full-fledged grievance redressal mechanism that includes:

O The constitution of Grievance Redressal Authorizations (GRAs) comprising one judicial and two technical members to deal with complaints / claims of policyholders against insurers (the GRAs are expected to replace the present system of insurer appointed Ombudsman);

O Appointment of adjudicating officers by the IRDA to determine and levy penalies on defaulting insurers, insurance intermediaries and insurance agents;

O Providing for an appeal against the decisions of the IRDA, GRAs and adjudicating officers to an Insurance Appellate Tribunal (IAT) concluding a judge (sitting or retired) of the Supreme Court / Chief Justice of a High Court as presiding officer and two other members Having sufficient experience in insurance matters;

O Providing for a statutory appeal to the Supreme Court against the decisions of the IAT.

LIFE & NON-LIFE INSURANCE – Development and Growth!

The year 2006 turned out to be a momentous year for the insurance sector as regulator the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority Act, laid the foundation for free pricing general insurance from 2007, while many companies announced plans to attack into the sector.

Both domestic and foreign players robustly pursued their long-pending demand for increasing the FDI limit from 26 per cent to 49 per cent and towards the fag end of the year, the Government sent the Comprehensive Insurance Bill to Group of Ministers for consideration amid strong reservation From Left parties. The Bill is likely to be taken up in the Budget session of Parliament.

The infiltration rates of health and other non-life insurances in India are well below the international level. These facts indicate immunity growth potential of the insurance sector. The hike in FDI limit to 49 per cent was proposed by the Government last year. This has not been operationalized as legislative changes are required for such hike. Since opening up of the insurance sector in 1999, foreign investments of Rs. 8.7 billion have tipped into the Indian market and 21 private companies have been granted licenses.

The involvement of the private insurers in various industry segments has increased on account of both their capturing a part of the business which was earlier underwritten by the public sector insurers and also creating additional business boulevards. To this effect, the public sector insurers have been unable to draw upon their inherent strengths to capture additional premium. Of the growth in premium in 2004-05, 66.27 per cent has been captured by the private insurers despite having 20 per cent market share.

The life insurance industry recorded a premium income of Rs.82854.80 crore during the financial year 2004-05 as against Rs.66653.75 crore in the previous financial year, recording a growth of 24.31 per cent. The contribution of first year premium, single premium and renewal premium to the total premium was Rs.15881.33 crore (19.16 per cent); Rs.10336.30 crore (12.47 per cent); And Rs.56637.16 crore (68.36 per cent), respectively. In the year 2000-01, when the industry was opened up to the private players, the life insurance premium was Rs.34,898.48 crore which constituted of Rs. 6996.95 crore of first year premium, Rs. 25191.07 crore of renewal premium and Rs. 2740.45 crore of single premium. Post opening up, single premium had declined from Rs.9, 194.07 crore in the year 2001-02 to Rs.5674.14 crore in 2002-03 with the withdrawal of the guaranteed return policies. Although it went up marginally in 2003-04 to Rs.5936.50 crore (4.62 per cent growth) 2004-05, however, witnessed a significant shift with the single premium income rising to Rs. 10336.30 crore showing 74.11 per cent growth over 2003-04.

The size of life insurance market increased on the strength of growth in the economy and concomitant increase in per capita income. This resulted in a favorable growth in total premium both for LIC (18.25 per cent) and to the new insurers (147.65 per cent) in 2004-05. The higher growth for the new insurers is to be viewed in the context of a low base in 2003- 04. However, the new insurers have improved their market share from 4.68 in 2003-04 to 9.33 in 2004-05.

The segment wise break up of fire, marine and miscellaneous segments in case of the public sector insurers was Rs.2411.38 crore, Rs.982.99 crore and Rs.10578.59 crore, ie, a growth of (-) 1.43 per cent, 1.81 per cent And 6.58 per cent. The public sector insurers reported growth in Motor and Health segments (9 and 24 per cent). These segments accounted for 45 and 10 per cent of the business underwritten by the public sector insurers. Fire and "Others" accounted for 17.26 and 11 per cent of the premium underwritten. Aviation, Liability, "Others" and Fire recorded negative growth of 29, 21, 3.58 and 1.43 per cent. In no other country that opened at the same time as India have foreign companies been able to grab a 22 per cent market share in the life segment and about 20 per cent in the general insurance segment. The share of foreign insurers in other competitive Asian markets is not more than 5 to 10 per cent.

The life insurance sector grew new premium at a rate not seen before while the general insurance sector grew at a faster rate. Two new players entered into life insurance – Shriram Life and Bharti Axa Life – taking the total number of life players to 16. There was one new entrant to the non-life sector in the form of a standard health insurance company – Star Health and Allied Insurance, taking the non-life players to 14.

A large number of companies, mostly nationalized banks (about 14) such as Bank of India and Punjab National Bank, have announced plans to enter the insurance sector and some of them have also formed joint ventures.

The proposed change in FDI cap is part of the comprehensive amendments to insurance laws – The Insurance Act of 1999, LIC Act, 1956 and IRDA Act, 1999. After the proposed amendments in the insurance laws LIC would be able to maintain reserves while insurance companies Would be able to raise resources other than equity.

About 14 banks are in queue to enter insurance sector and the year 2006 saw several joint venture announcements while others scout partners. Bank of India has teamed up with Union Bank and Japanese insurance major Dai-ichi Mutual Life while PNB tied up with Vijaya Bank and Principal for foraying into life insurance. Allaabad Bank, Karnataka Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Dabur Investment Corporation and Sompo Japan Insurance Inc have tied up for forming a non-life insurance company while Bank of Maharashtra has tied up with Shriram Group and South Africa's Sanlam group for non-life insurance venture .

CONCLUSION

It seems cynical that the LIC and the GIC will wither and die within the next decade or two. The IRDA has taken "at a snail's pace" approach. It has been very cautious in granting licenses. It has set up fairly strict standards for all aspects of the insurance business (with the probable exception of the disclosure requirements). The regulators always walk a fine line. Too many regulations kill the motivation of the newcomers; Too relaxed regulations may admit failure and fraud that led to nationalization in the first place. India is not unique among the developing countries where the insurance business has been opened up to foreign competitors.

The insurance business is at a critical stage in India. Over the next couple of decades we are likely to witness high growth in the insurance sector for two reasons namely; Financial deregulation always speeds up the development of the insurance sector and growth in per capita GDP also helps the insurance business to grow.

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Homeowners Guide to Home Insurance Discounts, Reduced Rates and Savings

In today's economy, many homeowners are juggling higher bills on less earnings – facing tight family budgets in the wake of rising costs, credit limits or even job loss. Yet there's no need to struggle with the cost of home insurance. Despite industry increases, homeowners may be able to reduce their insurance rates by as much as 30 percent.

Neverheless, many homeowners are not using insurance discounts to lower rates – even those who apply discounts may qualify for more savings than they're getting. And lowered rates are still possible, even in today's economy.

Consider the findings reported by independent insurance agent association, Trusted Choice, in a 2009 national survey:

"53 million household responders 'admitted they are probably not taking advantage of all homeowners insurance discounts or said that they simply did not know' about policyholder discounts they are reasonably qualify for."

The survey also found that the largest percentage of respondents, about 26%, estimated they save 6-10% on their insurance premiums by using discounts. In fact, many insurance consumers could be saving significantly more-as much as 30%, according to independent insurance agencies, which often shop on behalf of consumers and help them find discounts and compare rates.

Homeowners are usually aware of the more common discounts – such as a multiple policy discount to insure both home and auto under one carrier. But there are other discounts and savings they miss.

How savvy are you as a homeowner and insurance consumer?

Find out using this quick list to explore or measure your potential for insurance discounts. It's also the knowledge you and your insurance agent need to reduce rates for savings:

  • Dual duty – Do not overlook the most common discount available: multiple policy discounts. When the same company insures your home and car, you can probably reduce your overall insurance costs by 10 to 15 percent.
  • New home, new homeowner? The same criteria used to qualify your home for a specific mortgage is often the same that qualifies your policy for discounts.
  • Living in a gated community? Then you may be eligible for discounts. Be sure to ask about auto insurance discounts if your car is evenly 'protected' to boot.
  • Rooftop savings – Some insurance companies offer hail resistant roof discounts for Class 4 roofs – naturally these credits may vary with locale. Moreover, be sure to ask your insurer about potential discounts before putting a new roof on your house – you'll probably want to capture savings if available and a flat roof without roof warranty may disqualify you from your current coverage alike.
  • Be a new policyholder – You may find additional savings extended to new customers based on new rating models that offer a 'sign up' discount. If your insurer extends this discount, your insurance agent may be able to capture it by applying for a new policy with the same company.
  • Your track record counts – make sure you discover discounts for home insurance customers who have a claim-free track record … when was the last time you filed a home insurance claim? A 10-year history typically qualifies you for this discount; If you've never filed a claim, you may save as much as 20 percent.
  • Risk reductions – Ask your agent to identify risk reduction discounts addressing a range of interior and exterior factors: fire and smoke alarms, electrical wiring, fireplace / chimney safety, heating apparatus, burglar alarms, curb and gutter system and landscaping elements. Proximity to a fire hydrant and your community's fire department also applies.
  • Preventive maintenance and home security – Make sure your insurance agent is aware of any alarm systems or preventive measures you take to secure property and to keep your home safe. Although discount criteria varies, you may be able to get savings of 10 to 15 percent for a combined system that may include two or more measures: deadbolt locks, lockable garages and storage buildings, fire alarms, fire sprinklers, fire extinguishers, a burglar Alarm or home security system.
  • Good breeding gone bad – Like it or not, some pets have a reputation. You may adore your family pet but if Fido is a dog breed considered bite-happy or dangerous, your insurance rating may be affected or your coverage in jeopardy. Choose your pet wisely – be aware of the little issues that can turn your insurance into a big issue.
  • Score card – Expect your credit score to impact your home insurances rates. If married, you may be able to reduce your rate by listing the top scorer as the first named on the insurer's application. Plus, if you've had a less-than-score score and recently improved your numbers, let your insurance agent know. You may be able to get a policy adjustment: a lower insurance rate is still possible without the need to write a new policy.
  • Raise the limit – consider the difference a deductible makes. You can probably lower your rate by raising your deductible – $ 2,500 is the standard deductible and you can expect a lower rate if you raise it to $ 5,000.
  • Agent vs. Agent and the extended marketplace – Is your insurance agent an independent who can tap a broad product range? Or an agent affiliated with a name-brand company? Know the difference. Independent agents can shop around – explore options across the marketplace. Brand agents do not usually have the same agility – they're usually limited to the company practice or limited to brand products. Loyalty counts. Still, if you're committed to one company brand you may be just as limited as the insurance agent who is equally missing rate rates, discounts and savings offered by the brand's competition.
  • 'Home pride' and stewardship are vital – Even many insurance agents do not understand the role that stewardship plays in harnessing the broadest range of discounts possible. Why? The better care you take of your home, the more attractive you'll look to insurance carriers. And the best way to harness discounts is to identify as many discounts as possible – it stands to reason that more companies mean more potential for discounts.

So, you'll want to make sure your home qualifies for coverage from every company that offers coverage in your locale since increased competition generally decreases rates and opens your access to discounts.

In a nutshell, homeowners applying the discounts above will soon realize the many ways they can save on their home insurance – even when times are tough.

Get started on discounts for savings ….

  • Shop around to compare insurance company providers and rates – what companies provide home insurance in your community?
  • Get guidance on the details – an independent insurance agent is not tied to one brand, so these agents can help you see the whole marketplace and get the apples-to-apples lens you need to compare products, coverage and rates.
  • Identify discounts – make sure you identify the common discounts most homeowners hit, along with other discounts that frequently miss.
  • Do the 'homework' – the work at home that demonstrates stewardship makes you eligible to select from the broadest insurance product range possible.
  • Optimize selection, and then maximize discounts to benefit from reduced raters and savings.
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Benefits of International Travel

International travel can be a great experience; it allows you to witness many new cultures and lifestyles. International travel has many benefits which make it better than your traditional domestic vacation. Depending on your destination, traveling abroad can also save you money because of the current exchange rate. These rates change and may not be available in the future. A good exchange rate or activity that you would like to see may not be available if you put off planning the vacation. Another benefit of planning an international trip today is the current technology, which makes booking a trip easy. Technology can help eliminate the hassle of finding the best prices and locations based on your budget.

Traveling, whether for a long weekend away to a nearby country, or clear across the globe, is invigorating, refreshing and expands so much in one’s life that it is something that more people should do. Traveling abroad can greatly change your life for the better because there are many cultures and lifestyles to experience. These cultures can provide you with an entirely new perspective on life. Once you begin experiencing the beauty of the world, you may even begin planning yearly international vacations.

Currency rates fluctuate regularly and, as stated before, this may be a good reason to plan an international vacation today. Money is necessary if you are planning to travel and see the sights the country has to offer. If your currency can be exchanged at a reasonable rate, this can greatly improve your vacation experience. This is an important reason for traveling internationally now since you can get the most out of your trip. If you put the trip off the exchange rate may change for the worse and you can lose money after arriving at your destination.

Practical reasons

However, let us get down to the more practical reasons for traveling internationally. Frankly, it is understandable why most people would be hesitant to travel now. The economy appears to be in bad shape and many people are trying to save money. However, in some instances, this can be beneficial for travel, the airlines may lower their prices in order to get your business and this can save you money. Airline prices also fluctuate between airlines and by looking around you may find a special promotional vacation package that may not be available in the future.

Vacations are meant to be fun and enjoyable and this is another reason for traveling abroad today. There are many locations to visit from the beaches of the Caribbean to the beautiful and exquisite city of Paris, France. Experiencing something new is always the best way to live and an international vacation provides just that. This can spice up your life by allowing you to find things that you would not normally consider trying.

In fact, these days traveling is so much easier, more efficient and less time consuming than it used to be. We can travel across the globe faster and it requires much less energy than was required years ago. It is also possible watch TV, movies or listening to music while traveling. On some airlines, you can even follow the path of your airplane via satellite!

Technology and travel

Due to the technology available, planning a vacation can be stress-free as well. By using the internet to purchase your international flight tickets, you can plan your trip, get travel advice, and shop around for great deals. Technology has come a long way especially for finding the best travel packages. You can book your hotel, car, flight, and even your entertainment all on one website. If you are unsure of your destination, you can browse through the millions of videos and pictures of different locations to find which location best suits you. Planning an international trip can be an enjoyable experience when compared to the hassle involved years ago.

It is highly recommended to travel abroad at least once in your life and there are many benefits to planning your trip now. Saving money is the main reason for planning your trip today. When traveling abroad, you may have to exchange your money for the local currency. Currency exchange rates change frequently and this can have a large impact on your vacation. Since you do not know what the rates are going to be in the future, it is best to plan your trip while a good rate is available. You should also consider planning a trip because of the cultural value. Experiencing new cultures and lifestyles can help provide much value to your life. It may even change your life completely because you may find something new that you like. If you are planning an international trip, you should consider these suggestions because they can help you get the most out of your trip.

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The Truth About Personal Injury Protection – & Some Myths

Trying to get insurance cover can be a real minefield to most people. It is almost always an unbelievably expensive item with respect to the family budget. Unfortunately however, it can be horrendously costly in another way if the cover is not appropriate or does not cover the intended items. Let’s look at the main kinds of cover and attempt to throw a little light on the subject.

The best automobile insurance policies will include the following items: uninsured motorist coverage, personal property liability, collision coverage, bodily injury liability, comprehensive coverage and personal injury protection (PIP). Some of these elements are required by all states whilst others are not required. Collision coverage pays for all damages to a automobile or other vehicle when it is in collision with another automobile or other vehicle or non-vehicular object, even if the insurance holder is at fault. Comprehensive insurance policies protect the insurance holder in the unfortunate situation that their automobile or other vehicle is taken without the owner’s permission, damaged illegally, harmed by an act of nature or damaged otherwise. Both of these kinds of insurance are always optional and are usually very costly.

Bodily injury and personal property insurance are required by all U.S. states in in one way or another. Where the states differ greatly is in the minimum guaranteed payout that is set for each. For example, in Alaska, a driver is required to carry coverage that has a guaranteed minimum bodily injury payout of $100,000. In Florida, a driver is only required to carry coverage worth $10,000.

Many elements of an auto insurance policy that could be optional are cover for the uninsured motorist and personal injury protection. The coverage for the uninsured motorist protects the insurance holder in case he or she has an accident with an uninsured person. It provides the insurance policies that should possibly have been supplied by the other party. PIP, in the event of an accident, pays for the medical expenses and other assorted damages incurred by the insurance holder and their passengers (or if the insurance holder is an injured pedestrian). Carrying personal injury protection is mandatory in: Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon and Utah.

Even if personal injury protection is not mandatory in your state, you may still want to consider purchasing the insurance policies. PIP, in the event of an accident, will pay around 80% (depending on insurance policies limits) of the costs of the insurance holder and passengers. These costs include medical bills, lost wages and other assorted expenses. personal injury protection is a no-fault policy, so it will cover you and your passengers, even if the reason for claim was your fault.

personal injury protection, sometimes known as Medical Payment Insurance or Medpay, is a no-fault insurance policies for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the fact that blame does not have to be confirmed saves time and therefore allows medical payments to get into the pockets of the injured parties as soon as possible.

Secondly, it saves everybody from the cost of lawsuits being filed so that responsibility can be proved for an accident and therefore who has responsibility for the bills. One time a personal injury protection policy might allow for a lawsuit is when serious injury or death occurs.

Before you purchase personal injury protection, you would be advised to take a look at your current policies and see whether or not the insurance policies offered by personal injury protection is duplicated elsewhere. It could be that the cost of lost wages and medical bills may be recovered through an existing health insurance policy. If this is the case, then you may need minimal personal injury protection or none at all. Your driving habits will also help determine whether or not you need personal injury protection. Do you carry passengers on a regular basis? While your health insurance might cover your own medical expenses, it won’t cover those of your passengers (unless they are members of your family who are on your health plan). Ask your regular passengers about their own health insurance policies and its coverage. If they are inadequately covered or not covered at all, you need personal injury protection in order to keep them covered. This may seem like the thin end of the wedge, especially if you’re the one driving an office car pool, however, the safety of any passenger riding in your car is always going to be your responsibility.

If you reside in a state that requires personal injury protection you will need to know the minimum amount of cover you must have because this has already been decided for you. If you live in a state where personal injury protection is not mandatory however, you might decide that you need the extra insurance policies anyway. How much insurance policies you need depends, mainly, on your age. If you are middle-aged or older, have good health and liability insurance policies, then you will need minimal personal injury protection insurance policies. If, on the other hand, you are young, just starting out and still don’t have much in the way of health and liability insurance, you will want to protect yourself, your family and your future by carrying as much insurance as you can afford. This is especially true if you have a young family or if you constantly carry others in your automobile or other vehicle.

So there we have it, whether you require PIP and at what level, depends on several factors: where you live, your driving habits, your employment, your health, your personal circumstances and your level of existing cover. Whatever your circumstances however, you need to research it carefully so that you can rest easy knowing that you are safely covered.

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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Travelling Alone

One of the main purposes of travel is to gain experiences that allow us to grow and develop as individuals and it is important that people travel the way that bests suits them at a particular time. For example, I like to go on adventure holidays and this invariably includes a small group and expert guide, and I frequently participate in writing retreats around the world with like-minded people. However for me, the real joy of travelling has always been to take off on my own and just ‘see’ what comes along the way. Of course this can sometimes be fraught with frustrations, difficulties and even dangers.

Advantages of travelling alone

  • Freedom
    Most people who travel alone generally cite freedom as the great motivating factor: freedom to please themselves, go where and when they want, change their plans on a whim when they hear about something that is a ‘must’ to see, and to accept spontaneous invitations by locals.
  • No compromises
    This is associated with the previous point. Even if travelling with one other person, be it friend, colleague, lover or spouse, there will always be some compromises required. Not everyone has the same interests or the same energy levels, some people need to be emotionally supported all the time, others are apathetic, some have different attitudes to time. With solo travel, there is no peer pressure over finances, the unspoken need to divide up restaurant bills equally, or guilt trips when you want to go off on your own for a while.
  • Meeting people
    Travelling solo does not mean that you will always be alone. In fact, it allows you to meet more people because other tourists and locals find an individual traveller more approachable than those in a tightly-knit group. Also, people in groups have very little need to reach out to others for communication. I have met more people, had more interesting conversations and invitations and made more long-term friends while eating alone in foreign restaurants or sitting alone at bars. But then I am gregarious. Travelling alone allows you to choose the people you wish to spend time with rather than having to face the day-after-day annoyances of the inevitable clowns and whingers found in any large group.
  • Discoveries
    There is a real sense of discovery involved in travelling on your own, and that includes self-discovery. You don’t have to rely on an often ill-informed guide to lead you around on a leash, and there’s the surprise and thrill when you find something you weren’t expecting, like the time I became lost and ended up in a small Bavarian village with a monastery that contained a library with tens of thousands of Medieval manuscripts. Travelling alone allows you to discover more about yourself as you overcome simple challenges such as missing a bus or boat and realizing there is no other for a day or a week. Then there is the sense of achievement when solving much more challenging problems like finding yourself lost in a strange town at midnight or running out of money on a holiday weekend with no ATM in sight and the banks closed.

Disadvantages of travelling alone

  • The single supplement
    For those who like to stay in decent hotels, there is the unfair single supplement that can add thousands to the cost of your trip.
  • Lack of help
    There is no one to watch your luggage while you go to the restrooms at airports or train stations, no one to help with persistent touts, no one to be there for you if you get sick or if you are being stalked or harassed by a determined male in the street.
  • Photos
    There are times when I would like to have had more taken of myself in certain places, but there again, there are always people willing to snap one or two for you.

I know there will be times in the future when I will travel as part of a group out of choice because I want to visit areas where it is just not possible or sensible for a woman alone, or because I wish to be with family or like-minded people. However, due to my particular personality traits, my preference is to travel alone. I guess it really doesn’t matter how people travel, but that they travel.

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Seven Cover Reviews of the Best Travel Trailer Covers Sold on the Internet and Retail Stores

Usually an outdoor enthusiasts begins to show interest in a travel trailer when they feel that they have outgrown the “sleeping in the outdoors or tent” phase and are ready to enjoy the luxuries of home and yet still have that feeling of living & camping outside by the ocean or lake or in the mountains or desert. Purchasing a travel trailer is an investment that the RV owner hopes will last for many years and numerous excursions. Travel trailers can and will last for many years, sometimes decades. The interior will keep its looks as long as it is protected from sunlight exposure. If an RV is left uncovered the sun’s UV rays will beat down on the camper and fade the interior upholstery, curtains, blinds, carpets, and bedding. The exterior will show its age a great deal faster than the interior. In only a matter of years a travel trailer that is left unprotected from the weather, will exhibit quick and steady exterior damage when the decals fade, crack, spilt and eventually wear off. The plastic window and door seals will turn gray to black in just a year. The welded seams that connect the sides will expand and contract with every snow fall because freezing/melting cycle that occurs when the snow melts on the roof crevices but remain in the crevice, then re-freezes in the tiny, microscopic crevices. These seams will expand inevitably with the freeze cycle that causes a widening of the connecting seams. This constant cycle of water freezing, melting and re-freezing will eventually cause problems with the roof which results in very costly repairs.

The easiest way to prevent the aging process on your travel trailer is to cover it with the best RV cover for the area in which the travel trailer will be stored and for the time in which you will be storing your camping trailer. With so many RV covers on the market how are you going to be able to find the cover that you need?

For the most part, all of the deluxe RV storage covers discussed in this article are sold on the Internet (as well as Walmart, Sears, and Cabelas) and are basically made of the same material (polypropylene) with few differences. Advertised as deluxe winter snow covers these travel trailer RV covers, (Expedition, ADCO, PolyPro 3, Camco and CoverKing) are generally made of triple-layered breathable non-woven polypropylene. The roof/top of the cover is made to accommodate the AC on the roof and is usually large enough to extend over the sides to protect the awning. At the joining seams where the roofing top meets the single layer of polypropylene sides there are vent flaps that allow the cover “to breathe”. These vents prevent wind friction and moisture buildup that would cause mold and mildew to develop. The sides have several long zippered entry panels that will allow you access to your travel trailer during the storage period. The entire cover is usually secured with an integrated tie-down strap system with adjustable click-close buckles and tension panel flaps in the front and back of the travel trailer that reduce cover stress when tightening or loosening the straps on the cover. This gives the RV cover a semi-custom fit. The major differences between all of these winter snow covers comes in the price and the length of the warranty of the product.

Winter Covers for Travel Trailers 20-33 ft Cost & Warranty

Expedition by Eevelle Cost: $205 – $321 Warranty: 3 years

ADCO Designer made with Tyvek Cost: $262 – $365 Warranty: 2 years

Poly Pro 3 by Classic Accessories Cost: $273 – $341 Warranty: 3 years

Camco Ultraguard Cost: $262 – $415 Warranty: 2 years

CoverKing 600 Denier Presidium Cost: $375 – $575 Warranty: Repair for 1yr

When a travel trailer is stored through the summer in the extreme Southeast and Southwest, the cover must be made from an extremely rugged durable woven material. Travel trailers that are in the sun year-round must have a cover with ultimate UV protection. Winter snow covers (like the Expedition, PolyPro 3, Camco Ultraguard, CoverKing Presidium & the Tyvek ADCO cover) disintegrate within a few short months if they are used to protect the RV through the summer. The non-woven fabric cannot stand up to the intense UV rays in this area of the United States. There are two RV covers made of woven material. The first cover that is made with the newest technology in UV block protection is called the PermaPro RV cover made by Classic Accessories. This RV cover is backed by the newest technology in extra strength UV block protection. The PermaPro cover is made of a light weight extra strength ripstop fabric that is tear resistant with nylon reinforcements in the material. The fabric resembles that used in parachutes and athletic wear. This water-repellent fabric repels rain and snow to make it an all season protective RV cover. This travel trailer cover ranges in cost from $375 – $505 and is backed by a four-year warranty.

The Goldline RV cover sold by Eevelle has long been recognized as the best RV cover by customers and dealers alike. The Goldline RV covers are designed to outperform every other RV cover in all the critical categories of RV protection- strength, durability, water repellency, etc. The extra strength yet supple Goldline Tru-weave woven fabric can handle the strongest winds and can stand up to the extreme UV rays of the sun as well as being a water-repellent rain & snow semi-custom storage cover. This travel trailer cover ranges in cost from $455 – $578 and is backed by a five-year warranty. The Goldline is also the only RV cover made for small travel trailers (10 – 20 ft.) as well as the extremely large ones (up to 46 ft. long).

PermaPro and Goldline are the only extra strength travel trailer covers that can be used as summer storage covers. Their woven design stands up to the winds that accompany winter and foretell the change of seasons. Both of these covers are truly all season RV covers that will protect the investment you made into your travel trailer as well as all the upcoming vacations & excursions you will take well into the next several years.

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Difference Between Employers’ Liability Insurance (ELI) and Workers Compensation Insurance (WCI)

Employers’ Liability Insurance (ELI) and Workers Compensation Insurance (WCI) are two important insurance covers to protect the interests of employees, as well as employers. There are, however, certain differences between the two. Due to these differences, it may result in wrongful litigation and consequently anxiety to parties involved. The differences between ELI and WCI are relating to where they apply and what they cover. We will discuss about them here briefly.

Where they apply

Employers’ liability insurance

As an employer, it is mandatory for you in UK to purchase employers’ liability insurance. Not purchasing attracts penalty under law. In certain situations your employees may feel that you are liable for job related illness/injury which they may sustain and they sue for this. If it is really a case, it may bring in expenses such as hospitalization, financial compensation and the like. ELI helps you under such circumstances.

While it is mandatory for you as an employer to have ELI, your employees need to prove that the job related injury/illness is because of your negligence. Imagine yours is a lumber business. While working, your employees should have the necessary equipment, training and skills to operate them. If you employ them without teaching the safety norms, imparting the training and checking the fitness, and they sustain injuries, it will amount to your negligence as per rules framed under Employers’ Liability Insurance Act and employees are likely to feel appropriate to sue you, because you are liable.

Workers compensation insurance

On the other hand, workers compensation insurance is a cover for the welfare of the employees. It depends on the circumstances that are the tone of relation between employer and employees. Thus, if you are more concerned about employees’ health and safety, you need to purchase this insurance. It does not matter whether it was your fault or your employees’ fault that resulted illness, accident or death, this insurance comes to your help.

Coverage

Employers’ liability insurance

As an employer, you have to go to court of law if the affected employee sues you. You need to pay financial compensation and bear the hospitalization and medication. ELI covers all these expenses.

Likewise, for employees ELI covers the permanent and temporary disability, injury and wrongful death at workplace. It covers the cost of litigation as well.

Workers compensation insurance

For employers, WCI is a Good Samaritan. In most cases, it ensures that your employees do not resort to litigation. However, in such unfortunate event, WCI covers the expenses because of litigation. It covers the financial expenses to be given to the affected employee for work-related injury, illness or even death.

Employees when inured at workplace, under WCI, are guaranteed to get compensation from the employer to cover medical and hospitalization expenses and certain portion of wages. In most cases, it is two-thirds or more. WCI covers the expenses on litigation, by the employee. In general, WCI takes care of the situation and makes sure that litigation on the part of employees is avoided.

WCI covers compensation (wages) in case of a temporary disability for the period of absence. If the individual got permanent disability, and not fit for employment in current occupation, WCI covers the expenses of vocational training and rehabilitation and cost of searching a job, if he wants.

Despite both ELI and WCI are meant to protect the interests of employees and employers, there are differences in the way they apply. You need to understand them and purchase a cover according to the need of your business.

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Construction Site Management – Accessibility

Construction sites offer different challenges as far as accessibility is concerned. This follows the fact that there is a mass movement of men (labor) as well as material haulers. These range from pick up trucks to trailers. Depending on the items being moved, the weight is different and as such the capacity of the route to and from site should match these requirements. There will also be visitors in light personal vehicles, especially consultants and prospective property buyers in case of commercial projects or prospective tenants in case of residential or other rental spaces. The available or provided access should well cater for these requirements as far as is possible. The different site conditions include;

· Virgin sites: This reflects to a new site where no other construction activity has been done before. This means that there is no access to the specific point of construction. Where such route may be available, it may not be sufficient and may need improvement. This may include works like cutting down trees, cutting high sections and filling low ones, dumping murram or other appropriate material. It will also include compact, wetting and curing of the dumped material. Being a new and sometimes temporary route, it will need maintenance. Where such access is to pass through other people's property, appropriate permissions should be thought. The local authorities must also be informed and provided with plans like ways of averting problems like ecological disturbance. It is usually wise to have the access route for construction being also the permanent access to the permanent route for accessing the completed facility.

· Existing sites: These are sites that have already been built upon previously. They may have existing access. The only hurdle would be where such access is still in use by others, as it will create an inconvenience and delivery use may be regulated to low peak periods only. There could also arise the need to provide alternative routes for the existing users. A good example here is road maintenance or improvement works, wherey diversions are created and maintained in good order during the construction period. Appropriate arrangements should be made to minimize inconvenience as well as prevent accidents.

· Tight Sites: These are unique sites in the fact that they have minimal space for maneuverability. Examples here are found in town centers or institutions. Regulation here is very strict and as such stringent measures should be put in place to follow such regulations. These sites are very difficult to manage as far as accessibility is concerned. An example is where concrete is to be delivered on site already mixed (In premix trucks). This presents the headache of timing as well as preventing inconvenience to other users.

The provision of access to sites should be a well thought out activity. Maintenance should be in top priority. The design of such access roads should also cater for the traffic envisaged for the said project. Road signage and other such furniture should also be provided and well maintained.

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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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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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