Townsend Associates’ Insurance Tips for Young Adults

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Graduation season is nearing and with that comes the freedom and independence of adulthood. One rite of passage into adulthood is making your own decisions — including financial ones like insurance. The topic of insurance can be daunting for most people, especially young adults, who sometimes learn the hard way their coverage isn’t adequate until they need to file a claim.

Young adults, hold tight. Here’s one life lesson on insurance that you won’t want to miss!

 

Renters Insurance — protects your belongings damaged in a fire, theft or vandalism

Many apartment complexes require renters insurance; check with your landlord and ask questions before signing a lease

  • The owner of the property is responsible for insuring the structure and premise but their coverage does not include personal belongings
  • Many apartment complexes require renters insurance; check with your landlord and ask questions before signing a lease
  • If you’re still living at your parents’ home, your belongings should be covered under your their homeowners policy but don’t assume. Have adult conversation with them and their independent insurance agent to see what’s covered
  • To make things easier if you have to collect a claim, take photos or video of your belongings and store a copy outside your residence or on a cloud system
  • Three types
    • “Loss of use” — coverage if your rental becomes uninhabitable while it’s being repaired or rebuilt
    • “Personal property” — covers contents of your apartment like your iPad, bed and couch
    • “Personal liability” — cover bodily injury and property damage to others caused by your actions or negligence

 

Auto Insurance — financial protection against physical damage, bodily injury from a car accident

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  • It’s recommended to purchase a healthy amount of liability coverage for your auto insurance policy; if you’re found liable in an accident the total could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, pain and suffering — this could be detrimental to you finances
  • Cost for liability coverage is usually marginal and will give you peace of mind

Life Insurance — a sum of money paid upon death of the insured person to the beneficiary (person legally designated to receive the money)

  • Just because you’re young and healthy doesn’t mean Life insurance isn’t important — a huge benefit is the cost of permanent life insurance is that it stays at the rate of purchase as long as you continue to pay the premiums
  • If you have debt and die before it’s paid off the co-signer, likely your parents or grandparents, would be responsible for paying (depends on terms and conditions of the loan)

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Another helpful tip is meeting with your local independent insurance agent. Your agent will be able to guide you through the process and answer any questions. It’s their job to find the best coverage to fit your life.

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Summer Travel Tips: Seven Ways to Stay Safe While on Vacation

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With classes in the home stretch and warmer weather starting to roll in, it can only mean one thing: summer vacation season is almost here. And while a fun summer vacation can create memories that last a lifetime, if the right steps for planning this vacation aren’t followed, they’ll be memories you’ll wish you could forget. For example, coming home to “the real world” after a wonderful vacation can always seem a little depressing. However, if your home is burglarized while you’re gone, coming home becomes an absolute nightmare. To help keep you, your family, and your home safe this summer, make sure you follow these seven summer vacation safety tips:

1.) Have Someone Watch Your House While Away

Though you probably don’t need someone at your house 24/7 while you’re gone, having a friend or the police keep tabs while you’re away can help ward off burglars. If asking a friend, personally give them a spare key, and ask him or her to bring in your mail, feed your pets, water your plants, etc. Not only will giving them the key in person prevent potential burglars from finding your “hiding” spot, but the more activity burglars see in your home, the less likely they are to break in as well. If your friends aren’t available, tell your local police station that you’ll be gone, and they’ll usually have no problem with having an officer drive past and check things out during his or her daily routine.

Have someone watch your house! The more activity burglars see at your home, the less likely they are to break in.

Have someone watch your house! The more activity burglars see at your home, the less likely they are to break in.

2.) Use Light Timers 

Though having someone watch your house is a good start, as mentioned above, there won’t be someone there 24/7. To help keep burglars away at night, use outlet light timers in frequently used rooms of your house. Set the timers to turn on and off at different intervals, and it will seem as if people are actually home.

3.) Make Copies of Your Important Documents

One of the scariest things that can happen to someone while traveling is losing their wallet, passport, credit cards, etc. Not only does a thief have your important personal information, but now you also have to go through the whole replacement process while stuck in a foreign place, and probably crunched for time. To avoid getting stuck up a creek without a paddle, make photocopies of your passport, credit cards, driver’s license, insurance cards, etc. and bring them with you in your carry-on luggage. Once at the hotel, keep them safe in your room (preferably in the safe or lockbox) in case something would happen to the originals.

4.) Inform Others of Your Plans

When travelling in a new place, it’s always important to plan ahead. If you have an itinerary, make sure you inform friends and family of your plans, as well as your hotel concierge, or even a park ranger if camping. When telling them your plans, always include where you’re going, when you expect to be back, and who to notify in an emergency. That way, if something were to happen, you can increase your chances of being helped.

5.) Get Informed

When travelling abroad, it’s important to be up-to-date on the local news, events, customs, and traditions of your surroundings. Before departing, read about the nuances of your destination’s local laws, cultural norms, and even religious values. Not only will this help prevent you from causing an international relations crisis, but it will also help enrich your travel experience.

6.) Stay Healthy

Nothing helps ruin a vacation faster than getting sick or injured. Before going to a new country, check the Center for Disease Control’s travel website for important vaccine recommendations and requirements for every country. If a specific vaccine is required for your vacation, make sure you visit your doctor 4-6 weeks before departing on your trip. If you take a prescription medication, always make sure you bring back-ups. In addition, make sure you’re aware of other potential threats to your health (i.e. learning about poisonous snakes/spiders in the region).

Before going to a new country, check the @CDCgov website for important vaccine recommendations: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel

Before going to a new country, check the @CDCgov website for important vaccine recommendations: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel

7.) Purchase Travel Insurance

No matter what kinds of precautions you take while planning your trip, sometimes something completely unexpected can ruin your entire vacation. From a family emergency to having car trouble on the way to the airport, travel insurance can keep you covered, and reimburse your expenses in case of a cancellation or change. However, each policy is different, so it’s important you fully understand the coverage before selecting a plan for your trip. The Townsend Agency is a great resource to make sure you’re covered with no unexpected surprises.

Summer vacation is a time for family, friends, and fun. However, without the proper planning, there might not be any fun to remember. Keep these tips in mind while planning your summer vacation, and leave your travel worries at home (where they belong!).

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[ABOUT THE AUTHOR] Amy Townsend is a La Crosse resident and Independent Insurance agent for the Townsend Agency, in partnership with companies like Integrity Insurance. Amy is passionate about educating and protecting business and individuals.

How to Protect Yourself from the Dangers of Identity Theft

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In today’s day and age, it’s almost impossible to be unaware of the dangers of identity theft. Every time you turn on your TV, there seems to be a special report on how thieves have come up with new ways to steal your identity. And if that wasn’t enough to get your attention, all of the commercials for different identity protection services will! However, despite all this, recent research has shown an increase of 1 million new theft incidents since last year – enough to report a new case of identity theft every 3 seconds! With identity theft continuing to be a major threat to consumers everywhere, Townsend Agency your independent Integrity insurance agent, advises you to review your identity theft protection coverage options. In the meantime, please take a few minutes to read through these tips for keeping your identity safe.

In the United States, a new case of identity theft is reported every 3 seconds!

Last year in the United States, victims of identity theft lost over $21 billion. This is a result of more financial transactions taking place online, as well as identity thieves continually adapting and improving their fraud tactics.

Use Anti-Virus Software

As consumers spend more and more time online, identity thieves use viruses and harmful malware programs to steal important financial information. Often times, these programs install themselves on your personal computer after clicking on an infected link or downloading a viral email attachment. Once on your computer, these programs use key logging software to store your passwords, track online banking sessions, and search your hard drive for stored financial information. The best way to prevent your computer from becoming infected is to use up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software, while regularly scheduling these programs to sweep and clear your computer of any viruses.

Only Carry the Essentials

Though we can all understand the importance of carrying a wallet or purse, some people like to carry around their social security card, all their credit cards, their passport, and sometimes even their birth certificates. While there certainly are a few situations in which you would need to present each of these documents to someone, in most scenarios, it’s overkill. Imagine if you were to lose any of these important documents: someone could find it, begin taking out credit cards in your name, making unauthorized purchases in your name, and much more. To help prevent this from happening, it’s important to only carry around with you the personally identifying items you need the most: your driver’s license, insurance card, debit card, and one credit card.

Beware of Fraudulent Phone Calls and Emails

If someone sends you an email informing you that you’re a distant cousin of a wealthy prince in Zimbabwe, and they need your bank account information to send you a share of his riches, 1,000 times out of 1,000 it’ll be a scam. Likewise, if the phone rings and the person on the other line says they’re a government employee requesting personal information, don’t necessarily believe them right off the bat, because this could be a scam designed to rob you of your identity. The only time that you should consider it safe to give out your personal information is if you were the one who initiated the call/email, and you know it’s a trusted source.

•Scammers go to great extremes to find personal information, even raiding trash! Protect your identity by shredding old personal documents.

• Scammers go to great extremes to find personal information, even raiding trash! Protect your identity by shredding old personal documents.

Shred Unwanted or Expired Documents

Whenever you get something in the mail, even junk mail, one of the best ways to safeguard your identity is to shred any of the envelopes or documents that have your name, address, date of birth, social security number or account information on them. Scammers have gone to great extremes to get personal information, and they won’t think twice about raiding your trash. In addition, whenever you get a new credit or debit card (or any important document i.e. passports), shred the old and expired ones so that your name, account numbers, and personal information can’t be easily recovered.

Only Shop on Secure Websites

As mentioned before, if you like to participate in online shopping, you should be aware of the very real dangers that exist. While online shopping, in and of itself, isn’t inherently bad, you run the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft whenever you put your credit or debit card numbers online—especially when you use your debit card. Unlike debit cards, credit card users are protected by the Truth in Lending Act, which states there’s only a $50 limit on liability for unauthorized purchases, even after your missing card has been used. As for debit cards, however, you could be liable for only $50, but you could quite possibly lose every cent in your bank account too. That being said, the best way to keep your identity safe while shopping online is to only shop on websites that have the secure lock symbol at the top of the page and that the URL starts with: “https.” If neither one of these security measures are in place, do not shop through that particular retailer on the Internet.

Though it might be your favorite hangout spot, the unsecured Wi-Fi network at your local café is one of the last places you want to review your financial information.

Though it might be your favorite hangout spot, the unsecured Wi-Fi network at your local café is one of the last places you want to review your financial information.

Be Wary of Unsecured Wi-Fi

Though it might be your favorite place to respond to emails, check your Facebook or work on projects, the unsecured Wi-Fi network at your local café is one of the last places you want to review your financial information. Not only are places like coffee shops potentially filled with plenty of wandering eyes, but identity thieves have also become very skilled at intercepting unsecured Wi-Fi communications. Instead, you should put a password on your home Wi-Fi network, and wait until you’re using a secured connection before making any financial transactions.

Despite a large awareness of the dangers of identity theft, consumers everywhere continue to fall victim to scams, thieves, and viruses. However, by following these simple precautions, you can help keep your identity safe and avoid becoming just another identity theft statistic.

Patti Townsend Berra is a La Crosse, WI resident and Independent Insurance agent for Townsend Insurance, in partnership with companies likes Integrity Insurance. Patti is passionate about educating and protecting business and individuals.

TOWNSEND INSURANCE OFFERS TIPS TO SAVE ON HOME HEATING COSTS THIS WINTER

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It’s no secret winters in the Midwest are frigid. Keep the chill outside by following these helpful tips to reduce your energy bills without sacrificing comfort.

Fuel

The most common home heating fuel is natural gas and according to the Department of Energy it’s used in about 57 percent of American homes.

  • Shop around for the best price on home heating fuel; some companies will sell at a lower rate if you pay upfront
  • Purchase heating fuel in the off season; often times, filling your tank in spring and summer costs less than fall and winter

 

Make your home more energy efficient

According to the Department of Energy, making your home more energy efficient can save 5 to 30 percent on your monthly energy bill. Just think of what you could do with that savings!

  • Make sure your attic and ceilings are sufficiently insulated as heat rises and if it’s not stopped by insulation, it will escape through your roof
  • Furniture should not block floor vents or radiators
  • Consider installing a programmable thermostat (ideal for those that are away from the home for set periods throughout the week); according to energystar.gov, proper usage can save around $180 every year in energy costs (again, more money in your pocket!)

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  • If you have a wood fireplace, make sure the damper is closed when it’s not in use

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  • When purchasing new appliances, consider ones with energy star label; not only do they operate more efficiently but some may be eligible for federal tax credits (visit energystar.gov http://www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits for more information)

 

Windows and Doors

Proper maintenance of windows and doors is key to improving energy efficiency in your home. According to popularmechanics.com, seven to 12 percent of a home’s heat loss occurs around windows and doors.

  • Add or replace weather-stripping around doors — the cost is inexpensive and typically easy to install or replace
  • Repair or replace broken or cracked window and door glass
  • Open curtains and blinds during the day so sunlight can warm the room and close them at night as they act as a second barrier against cold winter air
  • If replacing your windows or new construction, consider thermopane windows as they can increase the energy efficiency of your home up to 70 percent

Hot Water Savings

  • Insulate your hot water heater as this may help hot water stay hot longer without using extra energy
  • Install a low-flow showerhead; many homes built after 1992 have this so if you have an older home consider the update
  • Run the dishwasher or washing machine when it’s full; turning on either machine when only half full wastes hot water.
  • Wash clothes in cold water
  • Clean the lint filter out of your dryer so it functions efficiently

To learn more about home heating, check out this infographic [hyperlink: http://energy.gov/articles/energy-saver-101-infographic-home-heating] courtesy of the Department of Energy. Do you have any additional tips? Please share in the comments field below. We’d love to hear your suggestions!

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Start the New Year Right with a Home Inventory

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Start the New Year Right with a Home Inventory

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If tragedy hit your home like a natural disaster, fire or burglary, would you be able to remember all your personal possessions? Every single item you own? Most importantly, would you be able to provide these details to your insurance company? The likeliness is no. Conducting a home inventory can save precious time during the emotional aftermath of a disaster when filing an insurance claim. A home inventory itemizes all your belongings — from the high-price items such as TVs and electronics to the more mundane, such as bedding and knick knacks.

The purpose of a home inventory is to help:

  • get your claim settled faster
  • verify losses for your income tax return
  • purchase the correct amount of insurance

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WINTERIZING YOUR HOME

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5 ESSENTIAL WAYS TO PREPARE YOUR HOME FOR WINTER

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With fall officially underway, homeowners everywhere are slowly starting to prepare themselves for the winter that lies ahead. As the leaves begin to change and cool autumn air rolls in, no one wants to be left with a cold, leaky home in a matter of months (or weeks!). Rather than wait until the first snowfall to make your move, however, Townsend Insurance wants to make sure your home is protected from the get-go. To help keep your home safe from any cold weather damage this winter, make sure you follow these 5 winter prep tips:

  1. Clean Your Gutters

 

When snow collects on your roof, your gutter acts as a drain for all the snowmelt. If the gutter is clogged with leaves, sticks, and other debris, however, the water from the snowmelt will get backed up and sit in your gutter, eventually freezing and creating an ice dam. This causes a massive weight and wetness strain on your roof, often leading to leaks and damaged shingles. To avoid letting an ice dam form, causing major damage to your home and roof, take the time to inspect your gutters. Grab a ladder, some gloves, and a hose; remove any debris that is clogging your gutter or downspout. When you’re done, turn on the hose and make sure the water flows smoothly from your downspout to be certain you’ve gotten rid of all the blockages.

Winter house with icicles

  1. Check Your Shingles

While you’re up on the ladder cleaning your gutters, it’s the perfect time to do a quick roof checkup. After a long summer, chances are your home withstood a summer storm or two. Whether your roof may have been hit with some hail or just some loose branches and debris, it’s very important to check any spots for potential leaks. If you spot any damaged shingles, make sure you get them repaired before snow has a chance to start leaking through your roof!

  1. Turn Off Your Exterior Faucets

When cold winter weather finally hits, the last thing you want in your pipes is stagnant water – especially going to your exterior faucets. Once it gets below freezing, frigid temperatures can freeze the water trapped inside your pipes. As the water freezes and expands it often damages and cracks the pipe, causing the pipe to burst. To help avoid any damage to your pipes from your colder exterior faucets, make sure you open the shutoff valve for each one, and drain any excess water out of it. This is the best way to guarantee that your pipes don’t freeze.

  1. Wrap Your Pipes

Though the pipes connected to your exterior faucets are in the greatest danger of freezing, it’s also important to protect the pipes that pass through unheated spaces in your home (e.g. basement, crawl space, attic, garage, etc.). To prevent these pipes from freezing as well, go to your local hardware store, buy some pre-molded foam insulating sleeves, and wrap the sleeves around the pipes you feel could be in danger of freezing.

Frozen Pipe

  1. Give Your Furnace a Physical

 

Just like we need yearly checkups with our doctors, your furnace needs one as well. Before the cold weather hits, you should turn on your furnace and make sure it’s working properly. At the minimum, you should be replacing its filter on a regular basis, but it can also benefit greatly from a professional cleaning and tuning. Not only will a professional inspection help add to the longevity of your furnace, it will also maximize its heating efficiency.

Winter weather can take a big toll on your home. By following these tips and making sure you’re well prepared, however, you can avoid almost all of the damage! For more information about how you can start protecting your home for winter, contact Townsend Insurance today.

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TOWNSEND INSURANCE “OFFERS BACK-TO-SCHOOL ADVICE FOR INSURING COLLEGE STUDENTS”

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4 PRACTICAL POLICIES FOR INSURING
YOUR COLLEGE STUDENT

As summer winds down and the new school year approaches, it’s time for parents to say goodbye and send their sons and daughters off to college. Whether they’re leaving the nest as an incoming freshman or returning for their senior year, as they take on new challenges and experience life away from home, it’s hard NOT to worry about their wellbeing. After all, it’s in a parent’s nature! Rather than being a worrywart, however, Townsend Insurance, offers several, practical insurance tips that can help you protect your son or daughter while they’re away at school.

1.) Make Sure Your Auto Policy is Up-to-Date

Whether your son or daughter intends to keep a car at school, it’s your responsibility to inform your agent whenever a car under your policy changes location. That way, you’re sure to be fully covered in case of an accident or theft. In addition, changing your location may cause a change in your rates, depending on whether or not the college is located in a high-risk area.

On the other hand, if your student is more than 100 miles away at school without a car, some carriers might offer a break on your insurance premium since the car isn’t being used. Regardless of whether your child brings a car with him or her, however, make sure you ask your agent about any good student discounts that might be available.

2.) Renters’ Policy vs. Replacement Cost Endorsement

One of the most frequently asked questions about insuring college students revolves around whether or not parents should buy renters’ insurance. Though your homeowner policy will give you 10% of your personal property coverage for items away from your home, if your child is living off-campus under a lease, a renters’ policy will cover all their belongings at current cash value in case of theft, fire, liability and more. If a renters’ policy isn’t your style, you might want to consider a replacement cost endorsement. Though most renters’ policies will only offer you money at a depreciated value, a replacement cost endorsement will offer you a replacement item of relatively similar value, instead of cash.

3.) Think Ahead with Life Insurance

Although your child might be in excellent health, there are several benefits of insuring them with a life insurance policy while they’re in college. First and foremost, in the case that something would happen to your child before they can pay off their student loans, proceeds from a life insurance policy can be put towards paying the balance of the loan. In addition, because your child is young and likely in better health, their term life insurance premiums will be lower. As time goes on and your child is ready to convert to a permanent policy, the new premium will be based on their health in college, regardless of how healthy they are now. For students in great health, this can be very valuable.

4.) Make a “Dorm Room Inventory”

If your child’s belongings are stolen or damaged while they’re away at school, a specific inventory will help with the claims process. Go through your items of value (e.g. laptop, iPad, TV, video game console, jewelry, etc.), take pictures and make sure you write down the item’s name, manufacturer, model/serial number, date purchased, and purchase price. This way, your insurance carrier will know exactly how to reimburse you. In addition, if the items are stolen, contact the police and file a report for theft. If not, it’s likely that your insurance carrier won’t cover your claim.

5.) Plan Ahead for Summer Break

Even if your child is coming home for summer, if they leave any belongings at their off-campus house while they’re away, most Homeowners polices make it impossible to file a claim when the house is broken into or damaged if it has been vacant for 45 days or more. Though the “45-day rule” might vary from carrier to carrier, if your child is covered by a renters’ policy, he or she will be protected from theft, fire, and damage for the entire summer.

College is often considered the best years of our lives. As your children leave the nest to experience life on their own, don’t let something bad put a damper on years of good memories. For more information about protecting your child while they’re away at college, contact your local independent insurance agent today!