How Non-US Citizens Get Life Insurance

Selecting a life insurance policy is an important step for planning ahead and taking care of the financial well-being of your family. But can you still get coverage if you aren’t a US citizen? In most cases, yes. There are very few instances where your citizenship status disqualifies you from coverage. The circumstances of your policy are different than those of current citizens, so there will be some more hoops to jump through, but there are plenty of providers who should be able to give you the coverage you need.

Learn more about obtaining life insurance as a non-citizen here:

Your Identification Makes a Difference

Whether or not you’re going to have a simple time of getting life insurance depends on the type of ID you have. If you are a green card holder, you are considered a permanent U.S. resident, and you shouldn’t have any problems applying for any life insurance policy you want. The only additional step you will need to take is sending proof of your immigration status to the insurance company.

Things start to get trickier if you hold a visa or a student visa. Visa card holders can be approved by many different carriers, but the companies have varying criteria for determining your residency. Most of these criteria are based on substantial presence and significant interest (more on that below).

The group most likely to have problems qualifying for life insurance coverage is non-citizens who hold student visas. Most insurance companies are hesitant to approve policies because they know that the visa is only temporary. However, it isn’t impossible to get life insurance with a student visa. You just need to speak with your insurance agent to determine the best route to take.

Substantial Presence & Significant Interest

Substantial presence and significant interest are the two primary factors that insurance companies consider when visa card holders apply for a life insurance policy.

To qualify under substantial presence in the United States, you typically need to have lived stateside for a minimum of one year. Many carriers require you to prove you have lived in the US for one or two years, and some require as many as five years. Ask your agent which carriers you best qualify with based on your time spent in the US.

In order to qualify based on significant interest, you need to have a vested reason to remain in or frequent the US. You must prove to the insurance carrier that you own a sizable amount of property or assets in the country, such as a home or business.

Rely on Independent Agents

Shopping for a great insurance policy within your budget can be difficult enough to begin with. If you are not a US citizen, qualifying for life insurance can present even more obstacles. Trust an experienced independent agent to find a variety of good carriers with policies you qualify for!

5 Surprising Household Hazards

We know you do everything you can to keep your house safe, especially if you have small children or adventurous pets. You’ve tied up the drawstrings on your blinds, placed non-slip grips on the shower floor, secured your cleaning liquids in an upper cabinet, and changed the batteries in the smoke detector, so everything checks out as safe, right? Well, not necessarily.

There will always be hazards anywhere you go, so home will never be completely safe, but here are a few common household hazards that are easy to miss, and easy to fix.

  1. Trash Cans

A trash can that closes well is important to keep curious noses and little hands from digging into rubbish that could contain a multitude of hazards. Items like broken glass, toxic substances, and spoiled food can still pose a threat, even after they’re in the trash can. So, forego the cheap flip lids and purchase a lid that closes well enough to keep kids and dogs away.

  1. Broken Garage Door

Electronic garage doors are made to sense objects (or people!) underneath them and retract to keep injuries from occurring. Like all electronic things, garage doors experience malfunctions and breakdowns which, in this case, can be harmful or even deadly. If your garage door starts acting funny or experiences some damage, call a professional to come service it for you – an important fix of this magnitude shouldn’t be left up to instructions from the internet.

  1. Window Screens

You want to throw those windows open with abandon because the weather outside is irresistible! We get it, but don’t think that a child is safe just because the window has a screen. The small, transparent frame that keeps bugs from getting in isn’t enough to catch the weight of a falling or pushing person, so make sure the windows on your upper floors have bars! At least until the kids get older.

  1. Treadmills

Treadmills can easily be one of the most dangerous items in your house for both children and adults if they aren’t operated with care. Falls on a treadmill can result in traction burns, broken bones, pinched skin and snagged clothing, and more. Every treadmill should come with an attached safety magnet to be worn during workouts. Make sure every user wears the clip, and turn on the safety switch or unplug the treadmill when it isn’t in use.

  1. Electronic Appliances

From blow dryers to microwaves, electronic appliances have the ability to malfunction and cause fires or electrocution. Always pay attention to any unusual display messages on your appliances, and carefully follow instructions for proper use. If you know you’ll be running many outlets at once, invest in a surge protector to protect you and your other appliances.

And Don’t Forget Home Insurance

No matter what happens in your house, a good home insurance policy with liability coverage will always have your back. Independent agents have the ability to shop multiple carriers for good policies that fit your unique risks and budget! So, if you don’t have your home insurance policy yet, get in touch with your independent agent to find the right coverage for you.

How Whole Life Insurance Can Be Useful During Your Lifetime

Permanent life insurance, sometimes referred to as whole life insurance, is a policy guaranteed to remain in force for the insured’s entire lifetime as long as the premiums are paid. While it serves its purpose of helping your beneficiaries when you pass away, it can also help you financially during your lifetime in several ways.

Fixed Premiums & Tax Free Benefits

The premiums on a whole life insurance policy are usually higher than premiums on term life, but the good news is that whole life premiums are fixed. The premium is based on the age of issue, and they usually do not increase with age. The policyholder either pays premiums until death, or establishes a limited pay policy that can be paid up in 10 to 20 years, or by age 65. The death benefit paid by a whole life insurance policy typically passes on to your beneficiaries income tax-free.

Opportunities for Policy Dividends

When insurance companies experience better-than-expected performance, they sometimes pay whole life insurance policyholders a return of premium. These dividends are never a guarantee, but they can be a nice surprise to increase a policy’s death benefit or cash value! What you receive from the dividends is also not usually considered taxable income, so the reward is 100% yours to keep.

Cash Value

The cash value of a whole life insurance policy makes it valuable to you long before death. A whole life insurance policy allows for accumulation of cash value on a tax deferred basis over time. The policyholder can use this cash value to help cover unexpected expenses, debts, or simply go towards retirement income. Unpaid loans and withdrawals will reduce the cash value and the death benefit, but utilizing this option may be worth it if you find yourself in a tight spot financially.

Get the Coverage You Need Today

Are your beneficiaries protected in the event of your death? If not, it’s time to look into a life insurance policy. The benefits in this blog accompany a whole life insurance policy, but there are multiple coverage options available depending on your needs. Contact our independent agents to get your questions answered and get on the road to great coverage!

Will My Home Insurance Policy Cover My Dog’s Breed?

As dog owners, we love our furry little companions more than anything. Unfortunately, some insurance companies don’t if your pooch falls under certain breed categories. There are a number of breeds that many insurance companies are hesitant to offer coverage for because statistics show that they are more likely to bite and cause injuries. This, of course, can cause problems when it comes time to buy home insurance. Be prepared to work with an independent agent who can shop multiple carriers if you own a full-breed or mix of one of these breeds:

  1. Pit Bulls & Staffordshire Terriers
  2. Rottweilers
  3. Doberman Pinschers
  4. Great Danes
  5. Perro de Presa Canarios
  6. Chow Chows
  7. German Sheperds
  8. Akitas
  9. Alaskan Malimutes
  10. Siberian Husky
  11. Bull Mastiffs
  12. Wolf Hybrids

What to Keep In Mind

The average claim payout for dog bites is $30,000. If you’re found responsible for rehabilitation costs and/or lost wages, not to mention your legal fees, you could quickly find yourself in a lot of financial trouble. Your homeowners policy should include liability coverage, typically starting somewhere around $100,000. If you own a dog that made it on this list, ask your provider how much more it would cost to upgrade that amount to $200,000 or more.

On that same note, some carriers may require you to purchase an umbrella policy if your dog is labeled as an aggressive breed or has a bite history. Whether it is required or not, you may want to consider this additional policy because it raises your liability coverage close to the $1 million mark! Plus, it could come in handy for any incident that occurs on your property, not just dog bites.

Prevention

Every dog is a liability, regardless of its breed. Reduce the likelihood of a dog-related lawsuit by socializing & training your dog early on, playing non-aggressive games, and being aware of your dog’s behavior and removing it from situations it finds stressful. As always, make sure to spay/neuter your dog, heavily supervise it around small children, and keep it securely fenced or on a leash when outside.

If you own one of these breeds, it is going to be more difficult to procure home insurance, especially at a good rate. If you’re in the market for a new home right now, contact our agency to get ahead of the curve and find a company that will insure your home (and your pup) at an affordable rate!

Will My Family History Affect My Life Insurance Rates?

You’ve probably heard that you can’t get good rates on life insurance if you have an existing medical condition. But what if you’re a healthy person with a not-so-healthy family history? Unfortunately, those odds of pre-existing conditions can be stacked against your life insurance premium as well. However, there are benefits to being educated about what to expect and how to get the best deals on life insurance regardless of your family history, so we’ve outlined some advice for you below:

Know What Underwriters Are Looking For

To fully understand what you’re getting into when you apply for a life insurance policy, you need to know what policy underwriters consider a risk and what they don’t. There are a lot of disorders that are known to recur through generations more than others. If one of your immediate family members has been diagnosed with any of these inherited conditions, the policy underwriter may consider you more of a risk because your likelihood of developing that same condition is higher. This, of course, can lead to higher premiums.

Some inherited conditions that underwriters may consider include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Blood disorders
  • Alcoholism/drug dependency
  • Neurological disorders
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • And more…

Don’t Try to Get Out of It

We understand it can be frustrating knowing that your premiums will likely increase because of your family history, even if you’re healthy as a horse. But knowingly omitting information in the hopes that the insurance company won’t notice is a really bad idea. When reviewing your life insurance applications, the companies access your Medical Information Bureau reports. This report includes your family’s medical history. When the insurance company sees the information, they will automatically raise your risk class and premium that you will be offered. This may come as a real shock if they quoted you for a lot less originally! If there are too many discrepancies between your application and your medical information, the company may refuse to cover you altogether.

If you do manage to pull a fast one on the insurance company, know that they will investigate your claim upon your death when you’re unable to control any course of action. During this time, if they find out you lied about your history when you applied, they can reduce or completely deny any payout to your beneficiaries. Would it then be worth it to have had that lower premium for so many years? Probably not.

The best thing to do is be upfront with your independent agent about your family history and let them shop their carriers for rates that won’t run you dry.

Realize That the Underwriting Process Varies by Carrier

This is one of the big reasons why you should start your search with an independent insurance agent who works with the big companies and has a good idea of their varying processes. For example, some insurance carriers only consider your parents’ health history, but not your grandparents or siblings. If your family’s health history is already affecting your health, you may consider going with a no exam policy. In this case, the premiums tend to be higher, but some companies may give you a preferred plus rating if your parent did not die before age 60 from a serious medical condition. Other carriers won’t give you that benefit and will only qualify you for standard coverage.

These policy differences are precisely why shopping around and comparing your options is so important, and that is what we’re here for! As independent agents, we work to give you good options for your life insurance policy, despite your family’s medical history. It is possible to take care of your beneficiaries even when the odds are stacked against you. Contact us today to learn more about the perks of working with an independent insurance agency!

How to Teach Your Teen to Drive in Wet Conditions

Every driver’s safety hinges upon their skill behind the wheel. If it is your first time training a teenager on how to drive in the rain, it’s a good idea to teach them everything they need to be aware of both before and during the driving session. Many of these are things that experienced drivers do on autopilot every time it rains, so it may be easy to forget to teach a young driver.

We’ve put together some important points for you to include in your training, so your teen doesn’t have any unpleasant surprises when he or she hits the road in the rain.

Before Hitting the Road: Know What to Check For

How Are the Tires?

  • The car you have your teen driving probably has tires that are in good condition, but teach them how to measure a tire’s tread using a gauge anyway. When they’re out on their own, they need to know that a worn down tire doesn’t have enough tread depth to evacuate standing water from between the road surface and the tire. They should know how to tell when it’s time for a replacement. 
  • Also teach them how to check the pressure. Tires that have too much or too little pressure can lead to reduced traction, early tread wear, or tire failure.

How is Your Visibility?

  • Show your teen how to check the quality of their windshield wipers. If they leave streaks across the windshield, they are probably old and worn down. Good windshield wipers are critical for being able to see clearly in heavy rain.
  • Make sure your teen understands how important it is to run their headlights in the rain. Many experienced drivers still don’t abide by this rule of the road! Being seen by other cars is arguably one of the most important parts of driving in the rain. Show your teen how the daytime running lights, while useful, don’t activate the rear tail lights. Without rear tail lights, it can be difficult for other drivers to see your teen’s car in heavy rain, and their chances of getting struck from behind are increased.

On the Road: Things to Always Keep in Mind

  • Slow down! Driving slower in the rain is crucial, especially when it hasn’t been raining for very long and the fresh water is mixing with slippery “road sludge.” A wet, slick road surface offers less grip compared to a dry surface, and braking distances can double.
  • Teach your teen to use the air conditioner to keep their windshield from fogging up. The A/C dehumidifies the car and keeps the windows clear. If the A/C doesn’t work, tell them to crack the back windows to allow air to circulate.
  • Make sure your teen understands how longer braking distances can really put them in danger driving in town or on the interstate. They should know to keep a further distance from the vehicle in front of them, so they have plenty of time to stop if traffic suddenly slows down.
  • Teenagers can be nervous and use jerky movements while driving. This will improve over time, but make sure your teen knows that smooth steering inputs are paramount, especially in the rain. Jerky or rushed steering can cause loss of control on a slick road. Show them how important it is to always look far ahead and anticipate every action they’ll take on their journey.

Get Insured

Everyone was a new driver once, but it is evident by the amount of needless accidents that not everyone was properly taught. Rainy weather is one of the most dangerous conditions to drive in, but making sure that your teen is prepared and confident will give you both peace of mind and decrease their likelihood of getting in an accident. If your teen hasn’t started driving yet, make sure they’re prepared to legally hit the road with car insurance!

How Can Your Business Be Prepared for a Fire?

Even though it made for one hilarious episode of The Office, a fire at your business is no laughing matter. Hopefully, you’ve insured your equipment and space, but even so a fire can be a major setback and, even worse, can seriously endanger everyone present. Fire prevention and safety should be practiced and encouraged in the workplace, and there are specific measures that can be taken for everyone’s safety. It is vital that everyone in the workplace is familiar with your fire plan, and there is equipment that every business should have handy.

What is your fire plan?

While the equipment and materials in your business may be costly, nothing is more important than everyone’s individual safety. That means that your first priority should be educating each employee in fire safety and devise an escape plan in the event of a fire. Any decent sized building should have an evacuation plan displayed for everyone to see. Of course, never include elevators in these plans.

Several local governments can arrange for a fire marshall to visit your business and instruct everyone. Sometimes, if a marshall cannot visit, a building’s property manager can assess the structure and inform everyone of the best ways to escape in the event of a fire.

Equipment

Almost every fire code that you’ll ever be subjected to will require at least one fire extinguisher on each floor of your business. It’s never a bad idea to have more though, since they can put out small fires quickly and save valuable equipment from being damaged. Fire blankets are not always required, but having one on hand could save someone’s life.

Most laws will also demand that you have a sprinkler system and smoke detectors in place. Make sure to test the batteries in your smoke detectors routinely, since they can be your first indication of danger. In some scenarios, particle detectors capable of alerting you of other chemicals may be a wise investment. Lastly, having a first-aid kit in a known location, like the kitchen, can be instrumental in treating any injuries caused in a small fire.

Training

The correct response to a fire is the best way to combat it. Make sure your employees know to call 911 in case of a fire and remain calm. At least one fire drill should be conducted each year, just to be positive that everyone knows how to exit the building properly.

If there are no employees trained in first aid, then hosting a workshop or class could prove valuable. When going over fire safety, teach everyone how to operate a fire extinguisher. Lastly, make sure that all of your employees know how to deal with different types of fires, such as grease and electrical fires.

Fires are unpredictable and can cause a lot of damage, so being ready to prevent or handle one can save lives and money. For more tips and advice, contact one of our agents. If you aren’t insured in case of a fire, we can help with that as well. Preparation is key to fire safety!

Will Using Nicotine Replacement Products Increase My Life Insurance Rates?

As a former smoker, you heard it a million times: you need to stop smoking for your health and your budget. So you did! And you started using smoking cessation products like gum, patches, or e-cigarettes that contain nicotine in order to kick the habit. However, the time has come for you to upgrade your life insurance policy, and you’re wondering if being a nicotine user is going to affect your premium. Even though you aren’t a smoker anymore, are you still eligible for non-smoker benefits on your life insurance? Keep reading to find out.

You Need To Be Smoke-Free For at Least 1 Year

In order to qualify for non-smoker rates with any insurance company, it is a requirement that you be cigarette-free for at least 12 months. If you need a life insurance policy immediately and you’ve only stopped smoking for a few months, you won’t qualify for non-smoker rates when you start your policy, even if you haven’t touched a cigarette. Carriers require this timeframe as a way to protect themselves. If you haven’t smoked in a year, they can trust that you are committed to the switch and are at a lower risk of smoking-related health issues.

It Depends on the Company

Different insurance companies rate nicotine uses in different ways. For example, one company might give non-smoker rates to gum and patch users, but not to e-cigarette users. Another may give e-cigarette users non-smoker rates. The reason is because the use of cessation products cause cotinine (a biomarker for exposure to tobacco smoke) to show up in your urine test whether you smoke or not, which puts you in a tobacco risk class. Every company has a different classification system for insuring customers with a tobacco risk, so your rate depends on who you’re insured by.

Go With An Independent Agent!

Finding a policy that gives you non-smoker rates while you’re using nicotine replacement products can be a complicated process because of the way carriers define tobacco risk status. This situation calls for the expertise of an independent insurance agency like ours. We specialize in finding you the best rates from a selection of carriers. No matter what cessation method you are using to quit smoking, make sure you get a policy with rates that are fair to you and how far you’ve come.

If you don’t smoke cigarettes, you deserve to qualify for non-smoking status on your life insurance policy. Contact us with any questions you have about how your health can affect your coverage options!

How to Lower Your Teen’s Auto Premiums

Giving your teenagers spending money already hurts your wallet, but just wait until they start driving and you have to pay for insurance every month. New drivers are the most accident-prone demographic in terms of driving, and insurers know that. Since teenagers are four times as likely to crash as an adult driver, their rates are incredibly high. Even with a clean record, it will cost several hundred dollars at the least to insure a teenager. Adding them your own insurance policy is certainly more cost effective, but even then, teenagers can still cost you thousands of dollars annually just to drive. Thankfully, there are several discounts available for teenagers that can make premiums more affordable.

Good Student Discounts

If you have a kid in middle school, encourage them to strive for the Honor Roll now. Most insurance agencies will offer a significant discount if your teenager has received good grades in recent years. Typically, as long as your teenager has maintained a B average or better, you can get an academic discount. Some agencies will even allow this discount to continue through college or until they turn 25. It may be up to your teenager to secure this cash saver, but in some cases, their premiums can drop by 25%!

Defensive Driving Courses

If you remember being 16, then you probably remember thinking that you were invincible or a safe enough driver. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes something as extreme as an accident to make new drivers realize the dangers they face on the road. Rather than waiting for a fender bender or worse, enroll your teenager in a safe driving course. Not only can you receive a discount on the insurance, but it may be intense enough to make your teenager reconsider texting while driving.

Safe Vehicles

Unless your teenager really deserves a treat, odds are that their first car will not be a new car. Used cars are cheaper and cost less to insure, but if it’s too old, there may be an issue. It can vary by insurer, but cars made after 1994 or so are generally considered safer, which means that the amount you pay monthly is less. There is, however, a balance in choosing cars. Since newer cars feature cameras for backing up and automatic brakes, they are safer than older cars which means you can possibly get more discounts. It comes down to whether or not you trust your teenager more with a 2003 Camry or a brand new Volkswagen.

As insurance experts, we can help you choose what the best course of action is and what discounts your teen may be able to receive. Contact us today and see how much you can save!

Smoke Detector Best Practices

Every homeowner knows that smoke detectors are crucial, but do we really utilize them to the fullest degree?

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 890 lives could be saved each year if all homes had working smoke alarms. This number is drastically lower than the number of deaths caused by home fires before smoke alarms were required in every home, but it is still too high considering the advanced technology we have to prevent fire deaths today!

Keep reading to learn some basic tips about smoke alarm usage and routines to keep your home safe for years to come.

Place Smoke Detectors Strategically

Unsurprisingly, most deadly house fires occur when everyone is asleep. If your family sleeps behind closed doors, it is important to install a separate smoke alarm in every bedroom. This ensures that no one sleeps through the sound of more distant alarms or the smell of smoke. If anyone in your family is hard of hearing, you should install alarms that also flash bright light so they can be alerted visually.

To avoid nuisance alarms from normal smoke and steam, don’t install the detector in close proximity to your stove or your bathroom. At the same time, avoid placing them by windows, doors, and air ducts, which can keep hem too ventilated and interfere with their operation. Depending on how much control you have over the installation process, opt for interconnected fire alarms that trigger the entire network to go off when one sensor is triggered.

Keep A Maintenance Schedule

If we said that checking our smoke detectors was easy to remember in our busy day-to-day lives, we’d be lying. That’s why it’s best to make it easy for yourself and just set a reminder on your mobile device reminding you to test your alarm system once a month just to make sure everything is in working order.

Batteries in your smoke detector need to be changed once per year. This not only ensures that your alarm should always have battery power, but it will prevent the dreaded “chirping” noise that comes when smoke detectors have dying batteries.

Every 10 years, the smoke alarms themselves should be replaced. An easy way to keep track of this is to keep a sticker on the back of the battery cover with the replacement date written on it, so you’re reminded each month of when you’ll need to replace your smoke detectors.

Make A Fire Escape Plan

Have you developed and practiced a home fire escape plan with your family? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t – only 26% of families have, according to the American Red Cross. Regardless, this is an important tip to take from the home fire prevention experts. All a smoke detector does is alert you to the presence of a fire. From there, it is up to you to get out of your home safely. Panic can seriously impede safety measures and waste precious minutes in an emergency, so it is imperative for your family to have a plan in place and know exactly what to do if your home catches fire.

Potentially Save on Home Insurance

Some types of smoke detectors can reduce your home insurance premium cost. This mostly applies to central monitoring systems that connect to emergency services and alert the authorities when the system is triggered. These are particularly useful for homeowners who travel a lot, but they are a great safety option for anyone to have. However, these systems cost more than the average smoke detector. Ask your independent agent if a home insurance discount could help offset the cost of a central monitoring system!