Don’t Be Unprepared: A Homeowner’s Guide to Flood Insurance

Don’t Be Unprepared: A Homeowner’s Guide to Flood Insurance

If you’ve followed recent news about Yellowstone, you may have realized that floods are one of the most devastating natural disasters to exist. However, they also happen to be the most common, and occur far more often than people realize. In fact, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), there are approximately 500 flood-related events in the U.S. every year. What’s more, major floods can cause billions of dollars in damage and destroy countless homes, so it’s important to know whether you live in an area that’s at risk of flooding and what steps you can take to protect your home.

But even if you don’t live in an area with an especially high risk of flooding, it’s important to make sure you have considered flood coverage on your home insurance policy before disaster strikes. If you need it, flood damage can be surprisingly extensive and hard to cover out-of-pocket, so there’s no sense in taking unnecessary risks when you don’t have to.

What is flood insurance?

Flood insurance is a type of insurance coverage that helps protect your home from damage caused by flooding. Most standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damage, so it’s important to purchase separate flood insurance if you live in an area at risk of flooding, or you suspect that a singular flood in your area will damage your home or other property.

What does flood insurance cover?

Flood insurance is vital for homeowners in flood-prone areas, but many people don’t know what their policy covers. Generally, there are two types of insurance that can protect you against this danger: building and contents insurance policies. Building insurance will cover any damages caused by flooding during a storm event, including damages to your home itself as well as any fixtures inside it (such as plumbing). Contents insurance will cover anything that was damaged by water or ruined due to wet conditions during the event (like clothing).

When pricing out a policy, insurance companies consider your risk level—the higher your risk level, the more expensive the policy will be. That means if you live in a flood plain, or your property has a long history of flooding during big weather events, you may find it to be quite expensive.

How do I know if I need flood insurance?

As a homeowner, you should always be prepared for the worst, and in some cases, that means having insurance to cover you in case of a flood. But how do you know if you need flood insurance?

A homeowner will likely know they need to purchase a policy when they see changes in their neighborhood that could indicate an increased likelihood of flooding, or if they notice that their own property has flooded previously. For example, if a water pipe broke upstream and water levels started rising or there was an increase in river levels or heavy rain storms near their home, then they may have some indicators that they should purchase this type of coverage.

More generally, there are two important questions to ask yourself before purchasing a flood policy.

  1. Is your home at risk for flooding?
  2. What would happen if it did flood? How much money would I lose?

If either of these questions can’t be answered with a positive and reliable outcome, then flood insurance may be something you should consider.

What policies are available?

There are two standard types of flood insurance available for homeowners: the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and private flood insurance. Depending on the level of risk, homeowners may consider either or both of these options for coverage.

The NFIP

The NFIP is a government-backed program that is available through participating insurance companies. NFIP policies are available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and have standard coverage limits. NFIP insurance may be required if you have a government-backed loan for your mortgage.

Private Insurance

Private flood insurance is offered by some insurance companies and may provide additional coverage not available through the NFIP. You can get this type of insurance through a variety of different insurers, who will offer a variety of flexible coverage options. Private insurance is a great way to cover all types of risk for any type of home. 

If you’re concerned about flooding at your residence, or any other type of coverage to protect it, we would love to chat with you further. Whatever your needs, we at Penny Insurance are here to protect what you hold dear. If you’d like to schedule a consultation or get a quote, please contact us and let us know.

8 Cyber Security Tips to Keep You Safe Online

8 Cyber Security Tips to Keep You Safe Online

Just as you lock your doors and windows to prevent thieves from entering your home, you should take steps to protect yourself online as well. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, more than half of American adults are concerned about their online privacy and security. And it’s no wonder—with hackers, cyberbullies, and other online threats constantly lurking around every corner, it’s not difficult to understand why people would be worried about their safety and security on the Internet.

However, when it comes to staying safe online, the main thing you need to know about security online is that if you don’t take steps to protect yourself, you’re putting yourself at risk. That means you could become the victim of an attack or crime and lose your money, your reputation or your peace of mind in the process. To help you protect yourself against these kinds of threats, here are eight cyber security tips you should follow as much as possible.

1) Stop Password Reuse

As dangerous as it is, many people have a single password for all their accounts, or at least very similar passwords. This is a recipe for disaster if any of your accounts are compromised; the thief only needs to access one account to see that same password on others, and all it takes is one hacker with a big enough bank of stolen passwords to get in.

To keep your passwords safe, follow these tips:

  • Use different passwords on each account
  • Never use words you’ve used before
  • Avoid overly simple ones like 12345, pet names or other identifiable info
  • Change your password regularly—at least every six months or so, and
  • If you ever suspect an account has been hacked, change your password immediately

2) Avoid Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are among one of the most common ways that hackers steal information. These scams work by tricking you into visiting a website that looks legitimate, but instead steals your login credentials or other private information. To avoid phishing scams, take some time before entering any personal information online—even if it appears on a trusted website. Think about what types of websites you’re comfortable sharing information with and stick to them for as long as possible, and never re-enter sensitive info unless you’re absolutely sure that site is actually where it claims to be.

3) Do Not Click On Links From Unknown Senders

This is one of those pieces of advice you should take from time to time, regardless of how often you think it applies. It’s almost impossible to look at a strange text or email and not click—especially if you’re curious! But clicking links or attachments from people you don’t know can land you in trouble. The reality is that if someone asks for any of your personal information, whether it be passwords or social security numbers, they’re probably up to no good. Do not engage with them—block their number and delete texts/emails asking for sensitive info immediately.

4) Change Passwords Regularly

To stay safe online, experts recommend changing your passwords at least once every six months. Longer than that and hackers could have enough time to crack any passwords you haven’t changed recently, which is especially risky if you use a password across multiple accounts. So when it comes to passwords, less is more. Try using a password manager like LastPass that creates complex passwords for you, then stores them in an encrypted database so you only need to remember one master password.

5) Use Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor identification is a security measure that requires two different forms of identification (hence, two-factors) to gain access to a user’s account. This means that someone attempting to access your account will need not only your password but also some additional information from you—think an SMS code or a unique secret key—to get in. Set up two-factor authentication on all your accounts and you’ll be far more secure than most people are online.

6) Stay Away From Rogue Wi-Fi Networks

Public wi-fi is dangerous, especially when it comes to using your personal devices. Hackers can easily access unprotected public Wi-Fi networks and steal private information like passwords, credit card information and other sensitive data you may be transmitting. To avoid these risks and stay safe online, use a VPN whenever you are on an unsecured network (such as public wi-fi at a mall, store or an airport). A VPN creates a secure connection between your device and the server, preventing hackers from accessing your data.

7) Backup Your Data Regularly

While backups won’t necessarily prevent a problem online, backups of your data can help you get your system back on track if you’re hacked or a device is damaged. It can also help you prevent data loss in case something happens to valuable information.

8) Insure Yourself against Cyber Threats

In an age where cyber threats are getting more sophisticated by the day, it’s essential to be proactive in protecting yourself online. A cyber insurance policy can help you guard against potential online disasters, whether it’s hacking into your accounts or identity theft. And since most of us are novices when it comes to online safety and security, cyber insurance can take some of the guesswork out of keeping you safe online. Whether it covers identity theft, online personas or your own stored information, think of your cyber insurance policy as a proactive investment that will pay for itself in case something goes wrong.

Whatever your needs, risk tolerance or online lifestyle looks like, we at Penny Insurance are here to help you stay safe. If you’d like to schedule a consultation or get a quote, please contact us and let us know.

How to protect your family heirlooms for future generations

How to protect your family heirlooms for future generations

When it comes to your family heirlooms, you can’t help but be passionate about them. You probably also want to ensure that they are safe from damage or theft, especially if you know that they will one day be handed down to future generations.

But when it comes to protecting the irreplaceable mementos of our lives, how can you ensure their safety and security? This guide will show you how to protect your family heirlooms and collectibles, keeping them safe and sound to continue a legacy into the future.

1. Keep a record

To begin with, make sure you have detailed records of the items: their descriptions, costs, and appraisal values. This will not only help you insure them properly, but will provide a comprehensive account in case of theft or loss, which will come in handy when it comes time to make a claim. In addition, this information may be useful in case you are ever audited by the IRS for tax purposes. These records are often requested during an audit; therefore, the more information you have on hand about each item, the better off you’ll be. Be sure to include details such as where and how you acquired each piece of property, including receipts if possible, as well as details about any restoration work that has been done.

2. Store them safely

When it comes to keeping a family heirloom protected, the first rule of thumb is to store it safely. Putting a piece that is worth thousands of dollars in an enclosed space, or even on a shelf where it could be damaged, is asking for trouble. The best thing to do is buy a large, airtight and stable box or chest, take photos of everything, and then store each item separately. You may even want to categorize them by a number or code that matches your written records. The next step? Put that box away in storage where no one can get to it easily. For highly valuable items, store them somewhere secure, like a bank safety deposit box.

3. Get a collectible insurance policy

Collectible insurance policies are used to protect antique and collectible items, and depending on how valuable your collection is, getting one could be a wise decision. For example, if you inherited a hand-carved grandfather clock from an uncle who purchased it from an upscale store in New York City, getting insured wouldn’t just be smart—it might save you thousands down the road. Fortunately, getting a collectible insurance policy doesn’t have to break your bank; most insurance providers offer affordable rates, depending on what kind of coverage you need.  So when it comes to protecting your hard-earned treasures, consider adding a collectible insurance policy to your arsenal.

4. Plan to pass them on

There are many ways to plan to pass on heirlooms, but if you’re looking to leave them to others—especially pieces with high-value or a lot of meaning within the family—putting your plans in writing is a good idea. While it may not matter to you at that point, it can mean the difference between keeping your wishes intact and an all-out family feud.

Additionally,  you may want to discuss your plans with your insurance provider—they can oftentimes provide customized coverage that protects the item through—or even after—the transition.

Whatever you’re looking to leave behind, what types of coverage you need or the questions you may have, we at Penny Insurance are always here to help you along the way. If you would like to schedule a consultation or get a quote, please contact us and let us know.

The Importance of Long-Term Care Insurance

The Importance of Long-Term Care Insurance

In the United States, our largest generation is aging; when combined with increased longevity and higher ages among the older population, it means that many Americans are at risk of outliving their benefits and life retirement savings. While it would be hard to find anyone that would say that living longer is a bad thing, the reality is that it can cause a number of financial and logistical issues for those who do.

Fortunately, there is a solution: long-term care insurance, an important consideration for anyone who may need to live in a nursing home or other long-term care facility. Not only can long-term care insurance cover the cost of any long-term care needs that are related to age and disability, but it can also prepare for a future you might not be able to see coming.

What is long term care insurance and why do you need it

Long-term care insurance is a type of insurance coverage that pays for health care needs not covered by Medicare and Medicaid. This includes nursing home costs, assisted living facility expenses, adult day services, personal assistance and other types of long term care.

When you buy long-term care insurance, you are essentially pre-paying for your future health care needs. The policy will usually cover at least some (or sometimes, all) of the costs of long-term care, depending on the type of coverage you choose.

There are two types of long-term care insurance policies:

1. Indemnity policies.

With an indemnity policy, the insurance company will pay for any approved long-term care services that you need.

2. Benefit period policies.

With a benefit period policy, the insurance company will pay for a certain number of years’ worth of long-term care services. Once that number of years is up, the policyholder is on their own. Some benefit period policies can be renewed after the initial time period ends, but will usually incur a higher cost.

What are the benefits of having long-term care insurance?

There are a number of benefits to having long-term care insurance, which is why it is crucial that anyone close to retirement considers it as an option in their portfolio.

Peace of Mind. 

You will have peace of mind knowing that you won’t have to worry about paying for long-term care services in the future, should you outlive some of your other financial means.

Immediate Medical Help. 

With a long-term care policy, you receive financial assistance right away – so you don’t have to wait until your condition worsens to get help with daily activities and health care costs that aren’t covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

Wide Coverage Options. 

Long-term care insurance helps cover assisted living facility expenses, adult day services and personal assistance required for those who suffer from disabilities as a result of age or other health conditions.

What are some disadvantages of long-term care insurance?

Of course, in contrast, there are always things you need to weigh against when considering purchasing a long-term care policy.

First, long-term care insurance policies can be very expensive and usually require you to pay an up-front premium, plus a yearly premium after that that can continue for as long as your policy is still in effect. You may also be subject to a waiting period before benefits start paying out – meaning you’ll have to pay for any expenses incurred during this time yourself.

Also, be prepared to pay more in premiums as you age; premiums on long-term care policies increase as the insured gets older.

Finally, if for some reason the costs of long-term care exceed the amount paid by your insurance company under your policy, any additional expenses you incur will need to be covered by another source—possibly Medicaid—but it is not a guarantee. Make sure you talk with your trusted agent to determine where your gaps in coverage may be and how they can be shored up before you need them.

If you’re close to retirement, looking to plan ahead, or simply want to know your options in healthcare and other forms of insurance coverage, don’t hesitate to let us know. We at Penny Insurance are dedicated to helping you find the best solutions for whatever you need.  Should you like to schedule a consultation or get a quote, please contact us and let us know. 

Ready for the New Year? Here’s Your Checklist for Comprehensive Insurance Coverage

Ready for the New Year? Here’s Your Checklist for Comprehensive Insurance Coverage

A lot of people take their insurance for granted. When they’re driving to work, they don’t question the safety of the road or the safety precautions taken by other drivers; when they get home, they don’t think about whether or not their house will be there if a natural disaster strikes. But this is all because we trust in our insurance policy and feel safe knowing that we are covered.

But, when it comes down to it, do you have comprehensive coverage? Are all your most important things covered? Knowing whether or not you are fully insured against whatever may come your way is important, but it starts with understanding the types of coverage available, and matching them to your own needs. In this article, we’ll discuss the most common types of insurance coverage and how each one can benefit your family’s needs.

Homeowners’ Insurance

A standard Home Insurance policy usually includes coverage for your home, belongings, and liability. This means that if something happens to your house (including fire, theft, etc.), your insurance company will cover the cost to help you rebuild or repair it. It also means that if someone is injured on your property, your insurance company will help cover the costs of injury or property damage.

However, it’s important to realize that there can be significant gaps in homeowners’ coverage—just because something happens to your home doesn’t mean that it’s automatically covered. One example of this might be flooding—which oftentimes is not covered by a standard homeowners’ policy. To find out what your coverage includes—and does not—schedule time with your agent to go over your policy.

Renters’ Insurance

Similar to the coverage in homeowners’ policies, renters insurance covers a renter’s belongings in case of fire or theft or other circumstances, whereas property owners’ coverage does not extend to their tenants. There are two types of renters’ insurance that are common: replacement cost insurance, which covers the cost to replace anything that is lost; and actual cash value coverage, which pays out the assessed value of the lost items.

However, it is important to note that there are also gaps in renters’ insurance—they typically will not cover high-value valuables under the same policy (you’d want to get an additional policy for them), and motor vehicles may also not be covered by the singular policy.

Health Insurance

While health insurance is often covered by a corporate entity or by the government (in cases of an ACA plan), health insurance is still one of those major coverage options that you should maintain—all the time. Providing coverage for doctor’s visits, prescriptions, catastrophic illness or injury and even dental and vision care in some plans, health insurance is definitely a line item you don’t want to be without. However, because it can also be complex in what you’re eligible for and what it might cost you (especially considering subsidies and coverage options) it’s always best to walk through your options alongside an agent who knows the ropes.

Life and Disability Insurance

When it comes to insurance plans, one of the most important (and often overlooked) is life insurance. Often paired (or available to be paired) with disability insurance, life insurance offers a payout in case of your—or a loved one’s—demise, providing a certain level of stability in an otherwise uncertain time. Similarly, disability insurance can provide income and coverage options in the case that you are either permanently disabled, or in case of short-term (up to six months) or long-term (over six months) illness or injury. Because these plans are relatively inexpensive but cover you in case of one of the worst possible outcomes, life and disability insurance should definitely be on your checklist for 2022.

Business Owners’ Insurance

If you own a business and do not carry insurance on it, you may want to reconsider in 2022. A Business Owners Policy (BOP) is straightforward insurance for business owners—combining property coverage for your business assets with general liability insurance. While many business owners may need added coverage based on their industry or specialty, business owners’ insurance policies are a great place to start.

Umbrella Insurance

Although you may not hear about this type of coverage that often, umbrella insurance can be a great type of insurance to keep in case of a major problem. Covering liability, damage and injury, umbrella policies fill in the gaps that the common types of insurance may leave behind, offering an added layer of protection should something go wrong.

As an added protection, umbrella insurance can not only help with excessive bodily injury or property damage, but also offers coverage in case of libel, slander or false arrest.

Specialized Insurance Policies

What do horses, antiques, boats and a private art collection all have in common? They may all be insured under specialty premier policies that cover them separate from your other homeowners or vehicle policies. While all of these are very different, with different policy terms and valuations, keep in mind that if something has value to you, it’s worth insuring it from harm. To find out if your prized possessions need additional coverage, talk to your agent about this premier coverage.

Whatever the types of coverage you need or the questions you may have, Penny Insurance is here to help you along the way and to make sure you’re completely covered for anything that could happen—this year or in the future. Should you have any questions about coverage or insurance types, or if you would like to schedule a consultation or get a quote, please contact us and let us know.

Holiday Hazards (And How to Prevent Them)

Holiday Hazards (And How to Prevent Them)

While most of us look to the holiday season with excitement and anticipation, the reality is that with an increase in online and on-the-road activity, as well as home projects, visitors and more, there are a number of pitfalls that homeowners and travelers should be aware of.
To help, we’ve compiled a list of some of the biggest holiday hazards, as well as a few prevention tips to help keep them from happening to you.

Fire

When it comes to the holidays, one of the most significant threats to the American home is fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, an estimated 790 fires a year begin with Christmas decorations—excluding Christmas trees—while the trees themselves account for another 160 a year.

Prevention Tip: When stringing lights or any other electric decorations, make sure you are double-checking that the wires are intact, with no fraying or loose connections. And if you have a live tree, you’ll want to make sure it stays well hydrated; a dry tree can go up in flames in a matter of seconds.

Theft

From porch pirates nabbing daily deliveries to home invasions and break-ins, theft is a big concern during this time of year. And while your local thief may be seeing an uptick in activity, there’s no reason you have to be part of his list.

Prevention tip: At home, keep track of what you’ve ordered to be shipped to your home, and when it is expected to come in, so you can get your packages inside before they are a temptation for drivers-by. When out shopping, take care to keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings to avoid becoming a victim of robbery. Finally, at home, keep doors and windows secured—whether you’re traveling or just watching Christmas movies—and double-check any vehicles outside, as well.

Lighting Mishaps

Hanging lights and wreaths may seem pretty straightforward, but according to the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission, there are on average more than 14,000 holiday-related accidents each year during the December holidays—most of those being attributed to slips and falls.

Prevention tip: As with any home improvement task that includes ladders or elevation, take time to ensure you’re practicing standard safety measures for your project. Ladders should be firmly on the ground, with no wobbling, and you should have a spotter to keep you steady, if possible. Keep tools handy close by, and maintain three points of contact between you and the ladder at all times for added security. Finally, make sure you keep paths clear of clutter and mess, so that you avoid tripping over it when moving boxes or decorations around.

Travel

The Christmas holiday marks the busiest travel season by far, which also makes it the most dangerous, as well. Between an increase in drivers, holiday travel or even Christmas party goers on the road a little too late, December road travel can be pretty risky.

Prevention tip: You can’t always prevent accidents, but you can take a few safety measures. Outside of carrying drivers’ insurance (a must!), take a few hours to take your car into the mechanic—pre-travel—to have the oil changed, tires checked and make sure your vehicle is in good shape for the trip. In addition, if you’re headed to a holiday party where alcohol will make a showing, make sure you select a designated driver for the night to keep everyone safe.

Fraud

There’s no worse time of year than to find out you’ve become a victim of identity theft or credit card fraud, but the increase in online shopping, gift orders and credit card scanners makes it a prime time for someone looking to hack into your accounts.

Prevention tip: When using your credit card around town, take a closer look and make sure there isn’t a skimmer over the scanner waiting to grab your information. When using your phone, stay off of public wi-fi, and if possible, use a VPN to protect your online searches, instead.  Finally, when shopping online, make sure you’re only shopping secure sites (you’ll see a locked padlock next to the web address), and avoid phishing scams by not clicking on any random links that may be emailed or texted your way.

Injuries

They may go overlooked, but injuries can put a quick damper on the holiday spirit. From cooking burns or cuts, to injuries sustained from opening packages (yes, it happens a lot!), there’s no shortage of ways to win a trip to the emergency room, if you’re not careful.

Prevention Tip: As with any other situation in the kitchen, practice general safety precautions by paying attention to open flames and blades, and keeping knives sharp and pan lids close by.  Cut away from yourself—when wrapping or unwrapping—and use a tool to get into those plastic-encased presents.

Whatever you have going on this holiday season, don’t end up on the bad size of the hazards list. From homeowners’ policies to car insurance, Penny Insurance has the experience and expertise to walk you through all types of coverage, every step of the way. If you would like to schedule a consultation or get a quote, please contact us and let us know.