Words to make a parent nervous: Teen driver

By Tim Bushman

Words to make a parent nervous: Teen driver

Talk to your teen driver about your expectations.

New teen driver. As both the father of a new driver and an underwriter, those words make me nervous. But some proactive discussion among the new driver, his or her parents and your local agent can make the teenage driving years a lot less stressful.

Readiness – First, make sure your teenager is ready to be behind the wheel. Even a delay of six months could allow your teen enough time to be ready for the responsibility of driving.

You set the tone – Your driving habits have an impact on how your child will behave behind the wheel. Set a good example by being a safe, courteous, defensive driver.

Safety first – Make sure that you are providing your teen with a safe vehicle to operate, free of any maintenance issues.

No texting and driving – If your teenager has a cell phone, discuss the dangers of texting or talking while driving.

Obey all traffic laws – Make sure your new driver understands the need to obey all traffic laws, especially driving the speed limit. Remind your teen to wait until all passengers have buckled their seat belts to start the car; seat belts are mandatory in every state except New Hampshire. Check the Governors Highway Safety Association website for more details.

You make the rules – In the first few months, it may be helpful to limit your teen’s driving to areas close to home, then work up to driving longer distances and on the interstate highways. Set a limit on the number of passengers in the vehicle; 46 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws restricting passenger numbers for young drivers. You may want to set your own rules that are even more restrictive. Consider limiting driving time to daylight hours or lighter traffic times while your teen gains confidence behind the wheel. Again, many states have already enacted daylight restrictions.

Seek good advice – I found it very useful to have my son sit down with our local, independent agent to discuss the new responsibility of driving and the impact it could have on our family and others. My son seemed to listen more closely to another adult discussing these matters than he would have if I were the person speaking. My agent stressed never drinking and driving, driving defensively, limiting the distractions (including the radio), as well …read more

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Prevent boiler catastrophe with periodic inspections

By Wayne Pinney

Prevent boiler catastrophe with periodic inspections

Like a circulatory system, a boiler requires regular inspection by an expert.

A boiler is to a building as your heart is to your body: The wrong thing happens, and any other concern that may be troubling you becomes moot. Like your heart, a boiler is subject to deterioration that may not be apparent until it is too late. The only way to become aware of declining conditions and avoid catastrophic loss is through examination by a qualified person.

Throughout history both physicals and boiler inspections have saved lives…maybe even your own.

What does this have to do with insurance? If machinery and equipment coverage is included in your business insurance policy, inspection services may be available through your insurer at no charge to you.


Most cities and states in the U.S. have laws governing the safe operation, periodic inspection and certification of boilers and pressure vessels in public and private buildings that are not privately owned, single-family residences. These laws help protect the public from loss or injury due to boiler or pressure vessel failure. The governing body keeps inspection results and issues certificates for operation.

Insurers offering machinery and equipment coverage employ individuals qualified to complete and report inspections required by most every jurisdiction ̶ usually at no cost to the owner or operator of the insured boiler or pressure vessel. While the jurisdiction or third-party companies may offer such inspections, typically they charge the equipment owner.


If your boiler or pressure vessel falls under the safety laws for your state, county or city, contact your independent insurance agent and ask to be put in contact with your insurer’s inspector for your area.

If you do not have machinery and equipment coverage, ask for a quote. Alternatively, contact your state, county or city and determine what is necessary to have your boiler or pressure vessel inspected and certificated by them.

Just as regular checkups can detect heart disease early, regular inspections can prevent a catastrophic failure of your boiler or pressure vessel. Don’t wait until it’s too late!


NOTE: While this article pertains to laws covering boilers in public places and multi-family residential dwellings, the same perils are present in boilers, water heaters or pressure vessels installed in a home. While they may not be covered by inspection laws, they are still subject to potentially catastrophic failure. Only periodic inspection and testing by qualified service firms or persons can help to circumvent equipment …read more

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Tips to keep the fun in your game day tailgating

By Marita Mathe

Tips to keep the fun in your game day tailgating

Keep guests safe at your tailgate party.

Football game day fuels emotions and festivities, whether you’re rooting for your college alma mater or your favorite pro team. Don’t let the distractions of tailgating, friendly get-togethers, the game or your busy neighborhood lead you to disregard safety issues.

Before decking out in your favorite team colors, keep these tips in mind:

  • Follow all posted rules for your tailgating site.
  • Make sure your grill is placed a reasonable distance away from your vehicle. Heat from the grill can damage the paint and could ignite the gas tank.
  • Place a fire extinguisher next to the tailgating grill. Make sure the extinguisher is at least a 2A:10BC.
  • Package and separate raw meats and poultry in your cooler to prevent contact with other foods, particularly raw vegetables.
  • Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Pack enough ice to keep foods from spoiling.
  • Use a meat thermometer to determine internal temperatures. You can’t tell if meat or poultry is cooked well enough based on color alone.
  • Wash your hands when handling food. Stock plenty of soap, water and disposable towels for the day.
  • Extinguish fully the hot coals of a charcoal grill before placing them back in your car.
  • Dispose of trash at your tailgating site before you leave or carry it away with you.
  • Keep all valuable possessions – such as phones, wallets and purses – with you at all times or lock them in your car, out of view. Thieves often exploit the distractions from the football festivities to steal property.
  • Be extra vigilant to the increased pedestrian traffic when driving around campus or near the pro stadium. Pedestrians may not be paying attention to where they are going.
  • Confirm that someone will drive you home before you decide to drink alcohol. Even if you’ve had only a couple of drinks, it is never smart to get behind the wheel of a car while impaired.
  • Keep your celebrations on the sideline. Despite your team winning a big rivalry game, rushing the field is never smart or safe. Rushing the field could lead to your being rushed to the hospital. The practice has been banned by some college conferences and NFL teams, and fans rushing the field will result in penalties or fines for the team.

Crowded campuses, sports venues and tailgating are happening every weekend in the fall. The key to making your game day experience one to remember starts with safety.

More information:

The …read more

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Term vs. permanent life insurance: Which is right for you?

By Nathan Otto

Term vs. permanent life insurance: Which is right for you?

Term and permanent life insurance each has its place. You might need a combination to meet your goals.

The biggest question to answer when purchasing life insurance is whether you need a term or permanent policy. Each type has advantages and limitations. To make the right decision, you should know and understand your options. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • How will the money from this policy be used?
  • Do my life insurance needs span my entire life or a specific period of time?
  • Do I want to accumulate cash value or just have death benefit coverage?
  • How much life insurance do I really need and what is my budget?

Keep in mind that you can use a blend of products to meet distinct life insurance needs.


Term life insurance likely meets most life insurance needs. It provides coverage for a limited period of time to satisfy a temporary need, such as debt payment or income replacement. Term life insurance is usually the least expensive; however, the insured must die within that specific period of time (usually between one and 30 years) for beneficiaries to collect on the policy. Term life insurance does not accumulate cash value. Our blog, Take care when naming your life insurance beneficiary, offers some additional guidance.

Consider, too, that many term life products can be converted to permanent products depending on the conversion privilege in the policy. For more information, see our blog, Conversion privileges: Invaluable life insurance benefits.


Permanent life insurance is best known for providing lifelong coverage and cash accumulation. Premiums are usually higher and continue for a longer time period. These policies generally are for needs such as final expenses, estate planning and tax-deferred income. Permanent life insurance comes in two basic forms: whole life and universal life.

Whole Life

Whole life products are all about guarantees. These products provide guaranteed coverage, guaranteed cash values and guaranteed premiums. Because of the strong guarantees, these products are often the most expensive. Whole life policyowners can request loans against the tax-deferred cash value. That cash can be used in an emergency and repaid later or simply subtracted from the death benefit of the policy. They also usually feature these additional policy value options:

College students, identity thieves want you

By Kristen Bomkamp

College students, identity thieves want you

Be cautious when using open Wi-Fi networks in public locations.

Ask most young adults about their valuables and they’ll probably note their car or their phone or their computer. They likely won’t mention their identity. “Why would anyone want my identity? I have no money and no credit.” Those are exactly the reasons identity thieves want them, especially if they’re college students and especially if their parents are paying for their living expenses.

Since 2012, roughly one in five of those who have had their IDs stolen were age 20-29, according to the Consumer Sentinel Network of the Federal Trade Commission. Another 6 percent of victims of the nation’s fastest-growing crime were 19 and younger.

Imagine the college student who lives in the dorm, pays for goods and services with a debit card funded by his parents, and throws away the dozens of pre-approved credit card offers he’s received. When he applies for his first apartment, the landlord refuses to rent to him because he owes the utility company thousands of dollars, skipped out on his two previous landlords and even has had criminal charges against him.

How could this happen? Someone may have taken one of those discarded offers with his name, address and other personal data, opened a line of credit in the victim’s name, then proceeded to use that name for all his actions – including when he was picked up by police.

While this student can take steps to clear his name, he’ll likely need weeks or months to do so. And the economic costs can be high – from attorney’s fees to notarized documents to lost wages to time taken to meet with law enforcement. Parents and their college-age children can follow these steps to guard against identity theft:

  • Guard personal information, especially your Social Security number, which is often used by colleges for student identification. Black out the number or shred documents that have it, including those pre-approved credit card applications.
  • Log out of secure sites, such as banking accounts, before exiting the program. Also, don’t save the log-in and password information for these types of sensitive accounts.
  • Double-check to make sure websites are secure when buying goods or services online. Usually they have a prefix of https:// or a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate.
  • Avoid sharing your private information while using Wi-Fi in coffee houses, restaurants and other public spaces where those at a neighboring table could capture it.
  • Be wary of emails …read more

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Location sharing can keep busy families in touch

By Kerri Hinkel

Location sharing can keep busy families in touch

Location sharing can help keep families in touch and put parents at ease.

Keeping up with your children’s whereabouts can be a full-time job. If you’ve ever sent a text asking your child “Where are you?” a service available on most smartphones might spare you a little time and worry: location sharing.

Location sharing is a built-in feature within both Apple

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College students, it’s time to take stock of your stuff

By Kristen Bomkamp

College students, it's time to take stock of your stuff

Take inventory of the items you take to college.

If you are among the millions of young adults packing up to head off to college, now is a great time to take stock of all of your electronics, sports equipment, musical instruments and other items that you would need to replace in the event of fire, theft or other hardship.

Most people, not just college students, have no idea how many things they own. While big-ticket items like computers, cell phones and bicycles may come to mind, other purchases may surprise you. Consider how many pairs of shoes you own, clothing or other personal items; $100 here, $100 there, and soon you’ve tallied up thousands of dollars.

It’s important to know that the amount of insurance you have is sufficient to cover your losses. While most college students living in a dorm or other college housing have some coverage under their parents’ homeowners policy, that coverage may be limited to only 10 percent of the coverage for contents (for example, $10,000 on a $100,000 policy).

More importantly, if you are renting a house, condo or apartment, you may need renter’s insurance because your property may not be covered under your parents’ policy.

A first step in determining if you have adequate coverage is to know what you own. These tips can help:

  • While you’re packing, take a video or photographs of the things you’re taking with you.
  • Record descriptions of each item, making note of brand names and serial numbers.
  • As you make new purchases, keep your receipts as a record of costs and dates of purchase.
  • Store your list along with receipts and other documentation in a safe location away from your living space. You may want to consider uploading it to an electronic storage space.

After you have taken an inventory of your personal property, you should have a clearer picture of how much you have and how much it is worth. Next, you will want to make sure you have a sufficient limit of insurance.

Ask your local, independent insurance agent about adding a Student Personal Effects endorsement to your parents’ policy. You may also want to make sure you have replacement cost coverage, so that in the event of a loss your recovery isn’t limited to the depreciated value of lost or damaged items.

College is a time for new and exciting experiences – most of them good – but …read more

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