Let’s Set The Record Straight About – Customizing Your Insurance

Today’s clever insurance commercials are a necessary evil. They provide more information about bundling and saving, and less about the coverages you, your family, and your business really need.

We can change that by simply asking the right questions.

Customizing Your Insurance

There is no insurance company that owns a monopoly on helping you customize your insurance.

None.

Commercials, Commercials, Commercials

Commercials are designed to increase brand awareness using gimmicks including celebrity spokespersons, animals, car crashes and chases, and well, anything they think you will remember when it is time to buy insurance.

Does Every Company Allow You To Customize Your Insurance?

You can customize your home, life, auto, renters, co-op, condo, disability, long term care, personal umbrella, and yes, even your flood insurance with any company licensed to do business in the State of New York as well as every other state in the Union.

Every company gives you the ability to customize your insurance.

Every single one.

Problem is, most consumers aren’t served by most of the television commercials aired today.

They are simply goaded into a perpetual state of dissatisfaction with their current carrier, even when their current carrier is doing a good job for them.

It’s What Consumers Don’t Know About Their Insurance Which Hurts Them

Each year, I make at least 25 insurance-based presentations for HUD-approved housing agencies and organizations such as Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City, Harlem Churches for Community Improvement, and Impacct. I always ask those in attendance to tell me what their automobile insurance coverages are. Inevitably, 14 out of 15 give the same answer, “Full Coverage.”

Not 25/50/10.

Not 250/500/100.

Full coverage.

And when I ask them how much their policies cover in the event of an accident, they usually reply that they’re not really sure, but they did save money by bundling their home and auto.

Yay,

Buying What You Need Is A Two-Edged Sword

As long as the policy or policies quoted for you meet your state’s required minimum coverages limits, buying the cheapest policy or bundle possible is actually all you need.

What if though, you just struck and killed a pedestrian, or lost control of your vehicle and totaled a house. Will your policy provide you with the actual amount of money you will need when the jury hands down some obscenely massive award against you?

Imagine coming home to find;

  • Your home on fire.
  • Two (2) feet of toxic sewage water sloshing about your finished basement.
  • Burglars paid you an expensive visit while you are at work or the market.
  • Your good dog had a bad day.
  • There are three feet of floodwater in your home and you don’t own a flood insurance policy.

What Questions Should I Ask?

  • What, if any hoops must I jump through in case of a claim?
  • Are policy coverages or exceptions more important to know?
  • Why do I have duties after a loss?
  • In the event of a covered cause of loss, how easily will my claim be settled?
  • Is your claim service fair?


What Should My Insurance Company and/or Independent Agent and Broker teach Me?

  • Why buying home insurance based on your home’s replacement cost is essential.
  • How to determine your condominium and cooperative apartment “walls in” insurance coverage based on what a licensed contractor would charge to completely repair fire or water damaged walls, ceilings, and floors.
  • The importance for renters to complete a personal home inventory, down to the last sweat sock.
  • How owning Life and Disability insurance will prevent financial disaster should death or disability destroy the earning power of a family breadwinner.
  • Reasons why every property policy should include Water and Sewer Backup coverage. And why every cooperative and condominium apartment owner should add the Loss Assessment endorsement to their coverage.
  • Why buying flood insurance, even when their home is not in a high-risk flood zone, is a smart financial move.

And, of course, what coverages do I actually need to protect my family and home from most disasters?

The other day a woman asked me for my honest opinion of who I felt was the best insurance company out there.

My answer?

The one with whom you secured the proper policies, with sufficient coverages, which is in force at the time of your claim.

A company that won’t make you jump through hoops to settle a  claim fairly. An independent insurance agent and broker willing and able to service your policies. With premiums accurately reflecting the coverages your policies provide.

Nothing else matters.

As for the commercials, well, give my regards to Broadway.

At least until we can enjoy live theater again. Until then, stay healthy and safe.

 

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF is an independent insurance agent and broker, licensed to conduct business in New York State. Contact Eustace at 718-783-2722, 718-489-2218, by email at eustace@insuremeeg.com or by completing the contact form on this page, or  one of the many contact forms on his website, https://greavesinsurance.com.

 

 

Live Life Fully Covered

One of the best things you can do in life is to “Live Life Fully Covered.”

It’s time to just be honest and admit many bad things, gruesome tragedies and heart-rendering losses don’t always happen to “The Other Guy or The Other Woman.”

You Can Be “The Other Guy”

One day you could be “The Other Guy or The Other Woman” who;

  • Loses their husband or wife whose income helped meet mortgage payments, to cancer;
  • Suffers a life-changing heart attack which requires you to stay home to recuperate for six (6) months to a year or more;
  • During their prime working years finds themselves as the primary care-giver for a parent, other elderly relative, or even a sibling who lacks long-term care coverage;
  • Experiences the pain of  burying a child;
  • Watches as their house containing all their treasured belongings accumulated over a lifetime burns to the ground;
  • Comes home after a hard day at work to discover they’ve been burglarized;
  • Needs money to secure a new place to live while your home, co-op or condo is being rebuilt;
  • Gets sued by the cyclist, pedestrian or other driver who can prove you were at fault;
  • Gets sued by the cyclist, pedestrian or other driver who can’t prove you were at fault, but you must engage the services of an attorney to defend you against a baseless suit;
  •  Watches as their home is inundated by two (2) to ten feet of floodwaters even though you bought your home in a non-Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).
  • Owns the sweet and gentle nice old dog walking off the leash who rears up and mauls or takes a bite out of your neighbor’s child;
  • Wonders who stole their new car;
  • Never gets their wedding and bridesmaid dresses because the bridal shop went out of business unannounced, and the owners didn’t return your deposit.

It doesn’t always happen to “The Other Guy or The Other Woman.” It’s also amazing how these types of tragedies frequently happen yesterday, last night or while you were thinking about taking action to put the proper coverage in force.

Can Life’s Tragedies Be Stopped?

You can’t stop life’s tragedies. You can, however, take intelligent, adult steps to control their outcomes using;

  • Life Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Long Term Care Insurance
  • Homeowners Insurance
  • Renters Insurance
  • Co-op Insurance
  • Condominium Insurance
  • Flood Insurance
  • Auto Insurance
  • Personal Umbrella Liability Insurance
  • Wedding Insurance

In over 37 years of helping my clients reach successful life outcomes using insurance and related financial services and products, I’ve realized for me it all comes down to one simple phrase:

“Live Life Fully Covered.”

I would be honored to help you reach your desired outcomes. Call me at 718-489-2218, or reach me by email at eustace@insuremeeg.com .

Let’s work together to make sure you “Live Life Fully Covered.”

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) Overview 1.5

“The new law increases the credit for qualifying children (i.e., children under 17) to $2000 from $1000, and increases to $1,400 the refundable portion of the credit. It also introduces a new (nonrefundable) $500 credit …”

An overview of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) represents major changes our nation’s tax code.

Here’s a look at some of the more important elements of the new law that have an impact on individuals. Unless otherwise noted, the changes are effective for tax years beginning in 2018 through 2025. That’s right. The next seven (7) years.

 

  • Tax Rates.  The new law imposes a new tax rate structure with seven tax brackets: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%,  32%, 35%, and 37%. The top rate was reduced from 39.6% to 37% and applies to taxable income above $500,000 for single taxpayers, and $600,000 for married couples filing jointly. The rates applicable to net capital gains and qualified dividends were not changed. The ‘kiddie tax’ rules were simplified. The net unearned income of a child subject to the rules will be taxed at the capital gain and ordinary income rates that apply to trusts and estates. Thus, the child’s tax is unaffected by the parent’s tax situation or the unearned income of any siblings.
  • Standard Deduction.  The new law increases the standard deduction to $24,000 for joint filers, $18,000 for head of household, and $12,000 for single and married taxpayers filing separately. Given these increases, many taxpayers will no longer be itemizing deductions. These figures will be indexed for inflation after 2018.
  • Exemptions.  The new law suspends the deduction for personal exemptions. Thus, starting in 2018, taxpayers can no longer claim personal or dependency exemptions. The rules for withholding income tax on wages will be adjusted to reflect this change, but IRS was given the discretion to leave the withholding unchanged for 2018.
  • New deduction for “qualified business income.”  Starting in 2018, taxpayers are allowed a deduction equal to 20 percent of “qualified business income,” otherwise known as “pass-through” income, i.e., income from partnerships, S corporations, LLCs and sole proprietorships. The income must be from a trade or business within the U.S. Investment income does not qualify, nor do amounts received from an S Corporation as reasonable compensation or from a partnerships a guaranteed payment for services provided to the trade or business. The deduction is not used in computing adjusted gross income, just taxable income. For taxpayers with taxable income above $ 157,500 ($315,000 for joint filers), (1) a limitation based on W-2 wages paid by the business and depreciable tangible property used in the business is phased in, and (2) income from the following trades or businesses is phased out of qualified business income: health, law, consulting, athletics, financial or brokerage services, or where the principal asset is the reputation or skill of one or more employees or owners.
  • Child and family tax credit.  The new law increases the credit for qualifying children (i.e., children under 17) to $2000 from $1000, and increases to $1,400 the refundable portion of the credit. It also introduces a new (nonrefundable) $500 credit for a taxpayer’s dependents who are not qualifying children. The adjusted gross income level at which the credits begin to be phased out has been increased tp $200,000 ($400,000 for joint filers).
  • State and local taxes. The itemized deduction for state and local income and property taxes is limited to a total of $10,000 starting in 2018.
  • Mortgage interest. Under the new tax law, mortgage interest on loans used to acquire a principal residence, and a second home is only deductible on debt up to $750,000 (down from $1 million), starting with loans taken out in 2018. And there is no longer any deduction for interest on home equity loans, regardless of when the debt was incurred.
  • Miscellaneous itemized deductions. There is no longer a deduction for miscellaneous itemized deductions which were formerly deductible to the extent they exceeded 2 percent of adjusted gross income. This category included items such as tax preparation costs, investment expenses, union dues, and unreimbursed employee expenses. So, all of your auto expenses, for example, are no longer deductible.
  • Medical expenses. Under the new law, for 2017 and 2018, medical expenses are deductible to the extent they exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income for all taxpayers. Previously, the AGI “floor” was 10% for most taxpayers.
  • Casualty and theft losses. The itemized deduction for casualty and theft losses has been suspended except for losses incurred in a federally declared disaster. So, if you are renter, or a coop or condo or dwelling owner who lacks comprehensive coverage for your personal property, now is the time to purchase coverage.
  • Overall limitation. The new law suspends the overall limitation on itemized deductions that formerly applied to taxpayers whose adjusted gross income exceeded specified thresholds. The itemized deductions of such taxpayers were reduced by 3% of the amount by which AGI exceeded the applicable threshold, but the reduction could not exceed 80% of the total itemized deductions, and certain items were exempt from the limitation.
  • Moving expenses. The deduction for job-related moving expenses has been eliminated, except for certain military personnel. The exclusion for moving expense reimbursements has also been suspended.
  • Alimony. There is some truth in the old song, “It’s Cheaper To Keep Her.” For post-2018 divorce decrees and separation agreements, alimony will not be deductible by the paying spouse and will not be taxable to the receiving spouse.
  • Health care “individual mandate.” Starting in 2019, there is no longer a penalty for individuals who fail to obtain minimum essential health coverage. (This will probably lead to fewer Americans purchasing health insurance, and more states reducing or eliminating Medicaid contributions for health care plans.)
  • Estate and gift tax exemption. Effective for decedents dying , and gifts made, in 2018, the estate and gift tax exemption has been increased to roughly $11.2 million ($22.4 million for married couples).
  • Alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption. The AMT has been retained for individuals by the new law but the exemption has been increased to $109,400 for joint filers ($54,700 for married taxpayers filing separately), and $70,300 for unmarried taxpayers. The exemption is phased out for taxpayers with alternative minimum taxable income over $1 million for joint filers, and over $500,000 for all others.

As you can see from this overview, the new law affects many areas of taxation. I plan to hold at least one (1) public seminars in Brooklyn, to ‘drill down’ into just how the new law will affect you. There will be a fee charged for attendance at these seminars to offset the cost of the venue, and painkillers.

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF is a frequent presenter in the areas of personal insurance, personal income taxation,  and budget and credit strategies for many organizations, including, Neighborhood Housing Services of NYC, Inc., HCCI, Impacct Brooklyn, and Bridge Street Development Corporation. He is a New York State licensed insurance agent and broker, and  NYS Defensive Driving Delivery Agent and Instructor.

You can reach Eustace at Eustace@insuremeeg.com, or 718-783-2722.

 

8 Tips For Saving Money On Your Automobile Insurance

Many companies will charge more for an auto insurance policy if you cannot show evidence of being currently insured for at least one (1) to three (3) years prior to your application …

 

Every automobile insurance commercial tries to sell you on saving money on your automobile insurance by ‘bundling and saving.’ I’ve got a better idea; here are 8 tips for saving money on your automobile insurance.

Ah, as the cool nights of autumn become the, well, the warm days of winter, and holiday joy becomes the pain of looming credit card payments, you, like many others, may begin an annual search of finding ways to save money on everything from the cellular phone bill to food. Let me help with these 8 ways to save money on your automobile insurance.

Tip Number One: Maintain Continuous Coverage

Many companies will charge more for an automobile insurance policy if you cannot show evidence of being currently insured for at least one (1) to three (3) years prior to your application. So, even if you don’t own an automobile, consider the purchase of a Non-Owned Automobile Insurance Policy. You can also join an organization like ZipCar for about $19.00 each month, which includes liability coverage limits of $300,000. Either way, you can save thousands of premium dollars.

Tip Number 2: Head Back To School

Take a Point and Insurance Reduction Class. You’ll automatically
qualify for a 10% discount on your personal liability, no-fault, and collision
coverages. And make sure your children, and anyone else who regularly drives your car (and is hopefully listed on your automobile insurance policy as a driver), takes the class.

8 tips to save money on your automobile insurance
Accidents happen. Practice safe driving habits so accidents don’t happen to you!

Here’s Number Three: Send The Kids Away To College, Far, Far Away

If you have children in high school, and they are trying to choose between a college  88 miles away, and another one at least 100 miles away, choose the school at least 100 miles away. As long as both schools offer similar need-based tuition plans, you will save money by sending your offspring just another 20 or so miles away. Why? Many companies offer a “Student Away At School” discount and depending on the company, your premium will either not increase, or only suffer a small increase.

Your child must simply go to school at least 100 miles away from home.

Number Four: Good Grades Matter

If you have high-schoolers on your current family policy, encourage them to maintain at least a “B” average, so you will qualify for the Good Student discount. And they still get to live indoors.

Number Five: Okay, I Give Up. Get A Multi-Policy Discount

Purchase your automobile and home, renter, and condo or coop policies
from the same company. You’ll qualify for multi-policy discounts, which can save you at least 10% on each policy.

Number Six: Ask Your Agent For Help Before You Purchase

Before you actually purchase a car, call your agent and ask them to give you the symbol for the vehicles you are considering. One young lady was going to purchase a car with the letters “XL” in the model name. I told her the model with only an “L” was two symbols lower, which would result in much lower comprehensive and collision insurance premiums. The major difference between the two models of the same car? One had sun visors with extensions, and the other did not. So, she purchased the “L” model, ordered the fancier sun visors from the dealership, and installed them herself, saving a ton of money on her auto insurance.

Seven’s The Charm: Improve Your Credit

Improve your insurance credit score. The higher your insurance
credit score, the lower your premium will be. And do everything you can to
avoid having any of the “Five Deadly Insurance Credit Score Sins” on your credit report in the last five years.

The “Five Deadly Insurance Credit Score Sins” are:

a. Foreclosures

b. Judgments

c. Repossession

d. Bankruptcy, or filed for bankruptcy

e. Liens

Always remember, ‘the higher your insurance credit score, the lower your premium’ and the reverse, ‘ the lower your insurance credit score, the higher your premium.’ Any of the “Five Deadly Insurance Credit Score Sins” can hurt your chances of qualifying for a lower automobile insurance rate.

Last But Not Least, Tip Number Eight: Skip The Coach Bags. Pay Your Premium

Lastly, whatever you do, never, never, never let your automobile
insurance, or any insurance policy for that matter, lapse due to the
non-payment of premium. This alone will disqualify you for coverage with
many preferred companies for several years.

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF is an independent insurance agent and broker based in Brooklyn, NY. Call him today at 718-783-2722 to make an appointment to check your home, auto, flood, renters, coop, condo, life, and disability insurance policies. You can also request a meeting or subscribe to his monthly newsletter by completing a “Contact Us” form at https://greavesinsurance.com.

You can also reach Eustace by sending an email to Eustace@insuremeeg.com.

 

Renters Are Property Owners Too | E. Greaves Jr.

“Suddenly, reality sets in and they realize they could actually need to insure their belongings for at least $40,000 to $50,000. And what would it cost them for this coverage? In most cases, especially should you maintain a great credit score, usually no more than one (1) or (2) dollars a day.”

While The Renter Slept…

A Monday morning about three (3) years ago came with a huge surprise.

A slightly frantic business associate called first thing that morning. During the weekend, while taking a middle-of-the-day nap in her home, she awoke to find herself face-to-face with a burglar. Thankfully he didn’t harm her physically, but he stole her laptop. It took a while before she felt comfortable and safe in her own home again.

The first and most painful question she asked me was, “Eustace, Does my landlord’s insurance cover this loss?” Sadly I had to tell her, “No, your landlord’s insurance literally stops at your door.  If you don’t own a Renters Insurance policy, you have no coverage.”

Then she asked if this was the coverage I tried to convince her to purchase when she first moved into her apartment. Again, sadly, I told her yes. But the upcoming vacation was more important than paying for Renters Insurance.

To her credit, she didn’t say, “That’s not fair.” She simply accepted she lacked coverage. We spoke for a while and then ended the call.

I Don’t Like Those Calls

Losses to the property of renters many times each day and, based on current economic conditions, will continue to increase. The losses are caused by burglaries, robberies, fires, building collapses and lawsuits. All renters must understand this fact: Your landlord’s policy protects them should they lose their property to fire theft and negligence. Why don’t you do the same for your property and way of life? If you don’t own Renters Insurance, you stand to suffer disruptions to your daily life without the benefit of receiving the money you’ll need to rebuild your life.

Usually, when I speak to clients about their Renters Insurance needs, they think they only need about $10,000.00 of coverage. So I play a game of I created called “How much Renters Insurance Will I Really Need To Replace Everything I Own?” with them.

I take out a piece of paper, and ask them, for example:

  • How much did the fur coat cost?
  • What about the new Nikon or Canon camera with all the gadgets?
  • What about your laptop, big screen TV, and home theatre and stereo systems?
  • What kind of clothes do you have in your wardrobe and what is the value of all of your clothing, down to the last sock?
  • Do you sleep on bed sheets? If so, what would you need to replace every sheet, pillowcase, bath towel, face cloth?
  • What about the china, silverware, flatware, and regular dishes.
  • How much did you spend on the furniture in your home?
  • How much did you spend on your laptop? (My friend lost a top-of-the-line MacIntosh.)
  • How much jewelry do you own?

Special Questions For The Ladies And The Men

Ladies must answer questions about the value of their shoes and handbags. And don’t worry, men have their own special questions about the value of all the replica football, basketball and baseball jerseys in the closet, in their dresser drawers, on the chair, and under the bed. And their baseball caps. And the expensive sneakers. And no, I don’t believe sneakers should be addressed with proper names until they can have their lifts replaced like Loubitinis (Yes, I know that isn’t how you spell it!).

Guess what? I didn’t even mention your possible need for off-premises theft. You know, for when someone snatches the valuable electronics out of your hands on the street, or when you “just take a minute” to get another latte at the coffee shop and return to your table to find your laptop, phone and wallet stolen.

The Game Is Really Easy To Master

Suddenly, reality sets in and they realize they could actually need to insure their belongings for at least $40,000 to $50,000. And what would it cost them for this coverage?  In most cases, especially should you maintain a great credit score, usually no more than one (1) or (2) dollars a day.

Just $365.00 to $730.00 each year.  And some people, like college students on a budget, even less. Think the cost is too high? Well, how much do you spend everyday on coffee you could make at home? Could you eat out at least one or two less meals each week?

Some Tips On Securing Your Home and Your Possessions:

  • Do a complete, ‘Down to the last sock,’ inventory of all of your personal belongings. If you don’t have Renters Insurance and try to claim your losses on your income tax return, the IRS will need you to provide proof of ownership.
  • Go to your local police precinct and see what anti-crime products are available to you. The best part is, they tend to be free. You just need to simply ask.
  • Make sure that all of your electronic devices, be they I-Touches, smart phones, or laptops, have strong passwords.
  • Buy “Lojack for Laptops” and install it on your laptop. It only costs about $29.99.
  • Purchase and use a security cabling system for your desk computer at home and laptop computers, whether at home, on campus, or at the local library.
  • In case of loss to your computers, keep up-to-date backups in a secure location.
  • Secure your home against illegal entry using Fire Department approved window gates.
  • If you can, install a fire and burglar alarm system.
  • Keep windows and doors locked when you are away, and secured when you are at home.
  • It’s nice to be neighborly, but don’t feel obligated to invite the neighbors in for a party. Some of them may want to continue the party while you are at work.
  • On occasion, vary the times you leave for work and come home.
  • Don’t put your vacation plans on Facebook or any of the other social media. Thieves love to troll these sites to see just who is dumb enough to tell them when they can come and steal.
  • Finally, buy Renters Insurance. Lots of it.

For guidance in setting up a personal home inventory, feel free send me an email at Eustace@insuremeeg.com,  or send a stamped, self-addressed envelope with 86¢ postage addressed to for a copy of Travelers Personal Inventory brochure. You can even stop by the office and ask for a copy of the brochure.

While it was too late for my friend to benefit from owning this coverage, your luck may have held out until now. Call me at 718-783-2722 and I’ll be glad to give you a Renters Insurance quote designed to fit your needs, and your budget.

Eustace L. Greaves Jr. is a business owner providing his clients with insurance and income tax strategies and solutions. To reach Eustace by telephone, just dial 718-783-2722. Or, you can send an email to him at Eustace@insuremeeg.com.