Most people know the importance of insurance protection. You don't want to be without it when problems strike. What many don't realize, however, is that protecting themselves with insurance isn't a once and done event. You don't wear the same pants you did when you were five years old because, besides no longer being in style, they simply don't fit. A homeowner's policy purchased when your house was furnished with bean bag chairs and bar stools is no longer going to "fit" once you're lounging on Italian leather sofas while watching television on your wall mounted plasma screen. Life is constantly changing, and your insurance policies should reflect that.
By making these practices regular habits, parents and their kids can stay safer online. Adults and kids should stay off of the dark net, which is full of un-indexed sites. Although it is a curiosity to many, most sites contain illegal content and viruses that can garner unwanted stalkers or even FBI attention. These are some of the most important tips for adults to practice for online safety.
Look for a secure connection. When navigating to a site, look at the URL bar. It should start with "https" instead of "http." If the address starts with "https," this ensures site authenticity and privacy protection.
Do not store information online. Many sites give users the option to store payment information online. It is best to avoid this, and especially avoid doing this on public computers at libraries or college campuses.
Create strong passwords. Since many hacking programs use a long list of dictionary words, avoid using words in a password. Use a mixture of letters and numbers. Whenever possible, use symbols as well. The mixture of letters should include capitalized and lower-case letters.
Log out when finished. It is important to log out of any site or account when finished. Closing a tab or window does not automatically log a user out. This is especially important when using public computers.
Uploads are permanent. Never upload anything that should not be on the Internet forever. Photos and other uploaded content can be saved and reposted by others.
Keep protection updated. Anti-virus software should be updated frequently. Make sure the firewall is up and also stays updated.
Use social media responsibly. Always be aware of what is posted on Facebook and other social media sites. Read the fine print in the terms of service. For example, Facebook's terms state that anything uploaded by users is owned by and can be used by Facebook until the user deletes the content or its associated account.
Emails may be stored. Sent emails are stored on a server. They often stay on the server until the sender and recipient both delete the mail. Since many people do not delete their emails routinely, sensitive information sent in an unencrypted email could be accessible to hackers via the server. Be sure to encrypt emails with sensitive information.
These tips are a must for all adults to stay safe.
Adults with kids should teach children the following practices as they are online.
Never let them talk to strangers. The Internet is full of forums, comment sections and games where conversations are encouraged. Predators know where they can find children and do not limit themselves to just a few sites.
Track their activities. Parents should track all of their kids' online interactions. There are hidden programs for monitoring conversations and site activity. Also, parents can use the parental controls on an operating system.
Know who is watching the kids. Twitter, Facebook and other social media programs allow followers, friends or both. Find out who is following or befriending children. If they are strangers, delete and block them. Many predators set up fake accounts pretending to be children to connect with younger kids.
Teach kids about online dangers. In addition to telling kids how strangers connect with them online, show them some examples. There are plenty of movies that are interesting enough to be entertaining for them but eye-opening enough to show them how real the dangers are. Also, be sure to stress the permanence of uploaded content and public posts. Let them know that public comments next to their names are indexed and are searchable online. For teens who are seeking jobs, this can be detrimental in hiring decisions if their posts are offensive. Many colleges also use social media activity to make admission choices. Tell kids that photos can be downloaded from friends-only restricted posts and private messages.
Internet safety involves much more than using a good anti-virus program and not giving out personal information to strangers. It is an important topic for both adults and children. To learn more about staying safe online, discuss concerns with an agent 314-351-HALO (4265).
Sadly, thousands of Americans lose their homes every year because they can no longer make the insurance and mortgage payments on their home following the unexpected death or disability of a family breadwinner.
In many cases, this is unnecessary. Term life insurance in amounts more than sufficient to pay off a home or replace most of a breadwinner's income is more affordable now than it has been in generations. But too many American families simply don't have enough life insurance protection to enable them to remain in their homes in the event the unthinkable happens.
While about 60 percent of Americans report owning life insurance of some kind, half of American families do not have anywhere near the coverage required to meet the needs of their families, according to a recent survey by Bankrate.
Families with children at home are especially at risk. Over a third of those households report having no life insurance in place at all. Another third has $100,000 or less - enough to replace two to four years of a middle-class breadwinner's income, at best. That amount is almost certainly not enough to cover the need of a young family unless they were already wealthy.
Without adequate life insurance in place, the financial problems don't end with life insurance. Many families have serious trouble meeting basic expenses after a loved one dies:
With life insurance in place, survivors have choices: They can pay off the mortgage with a tax-free death benefit in a matter of days, if they choose. Or they can save or invest the death benefit and continue to make the mortgage payments to continue to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction.
If the deceased was your spouse, and the mortgage is in his or her name, you have the option to simply alert the mortgage holder that the original borrower has passed away, and you may keep the mortgage as long as you can make the payments. If the mortgage is in the name of the deceased individual who is not a spouse, lender often has the ability to call the loan - that is, demand immediate payment, or foreclose on the home under a 'due-on-sale' clause in the mortgage contract. However, if a widow or widower is making payments on the loan, this would be highly unusual.
With enough life insurance in place, though, this is not an immediate crisis, since the survivors would have enough resources to purchase the home outright or could easily qualify for a new mortgage.
If you don't have life insurance in place, or the amount is not sufficient to cover your mortgage, there are some alternatives that may help:
1.) Reverse mortgages. If you are age 62 or older, and you have some equity in your home, you may be able to qualify for a reverse mortgage. In this arrangement, a lender converts your home equity to income, and pays you a monthly amount for as long as you remain in your home. The income is based on your life expectancy.
2.) Retirement fund distributions. Normally, you must pay a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty, plus any taxes due, if you tap an IRA before you are age 59½. But the law allows you to make early withdrawals penalty-free in the event you must make the withdrawal to avoid foreclosure or eviction, or to pay health insurance premiums.
3.) Invest personal savings for more income. If you have some savings, speak with your annuity or investment advisor. You may be able to position your assets to generate some more income.
Most of the time, these are stopgap measures. They do not take the place of a well thought out and resourced risk management and insurance protection strategy for younger families, nor can they replace the failure to save money in advance in the event the surviving family member is older.
Every case is different. But if you are currently underinsured, or you believe your home would be at risk in the event of the death of a breadwinner, today's the day to begin laying the groundwork for ensuring your family is adequately protected. Please call us at 314-351-HALO (4256)
While most Americans welcome the spring season with its warmer temperatures and sunnier days, seasoned homeowners know that it can also bring several problems. As the snow melts, the damage of winter weather is often revealed. These are some of the most common spring insurance hazards.
When a region experiences several big snowstorms with substantial amounts of snow or ice during the winter, spring flooding often ensues as the frozen precipitation melts. As the water runs into rivers and creeks, they may rise beyond their banks. If there are spring showers, the added flood waters can cause major problems for residential areas in flood zones.
It is important for all homeowners to remember the difference between flood damage and water damage. While flood damage is caused by widespread rain or flooding bodies of water, regular water damage comes from broken pipes, roof leaks and similar home-related problems. A home insurance policy covers water damage but not flooding. All homeowners who live in flood zones should purchase flood insurance.
Salt, sand, ice and traffic create a damaging combination for roads. When spring approaches, it is common to see more potholes in the road. These can ruin tires and damage the wheels on some cars. Drivers who have collision insurance are usually covered for pothole damage. When unsure, ask an agent about what an individual policy covers.
3. Hail Damage
Spring storms are often severe enough to produce hail. These ice balls hit roofs and unprotected vehicles hard enough to cause cracks or dents. Damage to the roof is usually covered under a home insurance policy. If the hail breaks a window and causes rain to leak into the home, the broken window and resulting water damage are both usually covered as well. Auto owners should review their coverage to find out if they are covered for hail damage.
4. Driveway Cracks
Extreme temperature changes and the pressure from snow, ice and vehicles can cause a driveway's surface to crack. Homeowners should check their policies to see if they are covered for cracks. If the damage was caused by a neighbor using sand or salt, the neighbor's insurer is liable.
When spring arrives, vehicle owners should wash their cars at a drive-through carwash that also sprays the undercarriage. This helps remove salt residue that accumulates on the vehicle from the roads. Salt can damage a car and cause rust or worsen existing rust problems. Rust is not typically covered on an auto policy. Fortunately, this is not a common problem with newer vehicles.
6. Damaged Landscape
Heavy snow or ice storms may flatten trees, bushes and landscaping. It is important to remove dead tree branches every spring. This is especially true if they are hanging over the home itself. Rotting mulch and other hazards should be removed. Home insurance policies do not cover snow-damaged trees, bushes or grass.
Make a habit of watching for these hazards as temperatures start to rise. It is important to address issues immediately and take preventative measures. To learn more about preparing for hazards and updating insurance, discuss concerns with an agent at 314-351-HALO (4256).
Did you know that hundreds of thousands of people in the United States commute to work by bicycle, according to the U.S. Census Bureau? That’s a lot of cars off the road each day, a lot of gasoline saved and a ton of calories burned.
Maybe you’re one of St. Louis’ bicycle commuters already — or maybe you want to give it a try. These tips from the League of American Bicyclists and other organizations will help you prepare for the challenges you’ll face on your way to work. (We’ve included a few tips for drivers, too.)
Cars and bicycles can, in fact, peacefully coexist on the roads. All it takes is a little preparation and a lot of awareness, along with some understanding thrown in for good measure.
If you’re biking to work, we here at HALO Insurance may be able to help you get a special discount on your car insurance for driving your vehicle less. Call today for details! 314-351-HALO (4256)
When springtime rolls around in St. Louis, almost everyone thinks of cleaning. That’s fine (we probably all need to do a little more of that, after all), but there’s something even more important to keep in mind: home maintenance.
So, when it’s time to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, give your home a checkup, too. Here are some suggestions from the Department of Housing and Urban Development:
Interior and appliances
Roof, siding, windows
Yard and exterior
Remember, winter weather can cause significant damage that is easy to spot, but it often results in wear and tear that homeowners can miss if they aren’t looking closely. It’s well worth it to spend a little time on home maintenance this spring, so that wear and tear doesn’t turn into something more serious.
Take part in an Earth Day event — or celebrate in your own way
People are thinking more and more about the environment — whether it’s something that affects the quality of life here in St. Louis or global issues such as climate change and extreme weather.
But more importantly, people aren’t content with simply thinking about these things any more. They’re focused on taking action.
Earth Day, which is celebrated April 22, is the perfect time to take action, whether you are looking to take part in a community event or organize your own. Here are some tips to help you get involved — and think about our planet Earth all through the year.
Find an event
It’s easy to find Earth Day events, whether you live in St. Louis or the surrounding Metro Area. http://www.stlouisearthday.org/
City and town Facebook pages are a great place to start, along with the websites of local environmental organizations. Newspapers, radio and TV often publicize events as well.
The Environmental Protection Agency website lists major Earth Day activities at http://www.epa.gov/earthday/index.html.
What can I do?
There are all kinds of Earth Day activities, even some you can easily complete by yourself or with your family. Examples include:
What if I want to organize an event?
Hosting an event doesn’t have to be a Herculean task, particularly if you keep it small. Any of the ideas above could be turned into your own event — just get the word out via social media, friends and family or even local print and broadcast media. But if you do want to organize a full-scale event, go for it!
Make it more than a day
Of course, one of the best ways to have an impact is to make every day your own Earth Day. You can take part in earth-friendly activities at any time! So in addition to celebrating once a year, make this April 22 just the beginning of something special.
And whether you find an event or create your own, the important thing is getting involved!