You’ve decorated the tree, put up the lights and placed a lit candle in every window. But the next thing you know, you smell smoke.
Candle fires, stolen presents and other calamities can put an unwelcome damper on your seasonal cheer, but insurance can often help clean up the mess. Here are some common holiday disasters and how your homeowners insurance can come to the rescue.
1. Decorations catch fire
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” takes on a whole new meaning when the halls are decked with fire hazards. Dehydrated Christmas trees can go up in flames if placed too close to a heat source, and fires from candles make up half of December home decoration fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
Fire is covered in three main ways. Dwelling coverage pays for repairs to your home, while other structures coverage is for things like a detached garage or fence. Personal property coverage will pay to replace damaged belongings, up to your policy limits.
To avoid festive fires, keep candles away from flammable objects, follow all manufacturer instructions for holiday lights outside and keep a real Christmas tree hydrated.
2. Your identity gets stolen
If you’ve shopped online for holiday gifts this year, your credit card or bank account information may be at risk of getting stolen.
Identity theft coverage can pay for out-of-pocket expenses related to identity theft or fraud. Some homeowners insurance policies automatically include this coverage for free, but you’ll probably have to add it to your policy.
3. Presents get stolen
If expensive holiday gifts go missing, don’t pout. Your personal property coverage covers items stolen from your home and car, up to your policy limits.
To prevent any grinches from stealing holiday presents, avoid letting packages sit unattended and consider setting up a security camera system around your home. If you leave gifts in the car, tuck them away safely in the trunk, lock the doors and park in a well-lit location.
If gifts are stolen, file a claim with your insurance company only if their value exceeds your deductible.
4. A guest gets injured
Say you undercook the turkey and send relatives to the hospital. Maybe someone breaks a hip on your icy walkway, or the dog bites a guest. You could end up on the hook for their medical costs.
The medical expense coverage in your home insurance policy pays to treat your sick or injured guests, no matter who's legally responsible, while your personal liability coverage will cover you in case they decide to sue.
Because of the pandemic, you may be skipping holiday gatherings entirely this year. But if you do host guests, make sure you abide by the guidelines for small gatherings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, which include wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
5. A water pipe bursts
If a pipe gets cold enough, water freezes and expands inside, increasing the chance of a burst. Water damage from burst pipes is generally covered by home insurance, but check the fine print in your policy, as you’re covered only if the burst is accidental and not due to poor maintenance.
To avoid damage, watch for warning signs of frozen pipes, such as low water pressure or frost on the outside of the pipe. To offset the chance of a water burst:
Perhaps fueled by acute awareness of their own mortality, many Americans shopped for life insurance during the pandemic. But some lost interest when local Covid-19 cases declined.
More than a third of those who considered purchasing life insurance due to the pandemic — but ultimately didn't buy — say they decided against it because Covid-19 cases in their area started going down. This behavior suggests some people view life insurance as a "panic purchase".
If the pandemic highlighted a hole in your coverage, you'll likely need to address it regardless of how Covid-19 cases evolve. Learn how to determine whether you need life insurance, despite current events, and get the right coverage for you and your loved ones.
Why Some Shoppers Decided Against Life Insurance
Conducted online by The Harris Poll, NerdWallet's survey asked U.S. adults who considered buying life insurance due to the pandemic, but ultimately chose not to, why they decided against it.
35% say their decision not to buy coverage was because Covid-19 cases in their area started going down.
25% say it was too expensive.
24% decided their workplace coverage was sufficient.
Whether you need life insurance, how much you should buy and how much you should spend are not easy questions to answer. In the survey, 17% of Americans who considered buying life insurance due to the pandemic but decided against it say it's because they don't understand how it works, and 14% say they didn't know where to start. Unraveling these concerns can help you set up a more robust life insurance plan.
How to Determine if You Need Life Insurance
Immediate threats like the pandemic may highlight a need, but they shouldn't dictate your buying decision. After all, an unexpected death could come at any time, not just due to Covid-19.
Similarly, just because you're suddenly conscious of what you'd be leaving behind, it doesn't automatically mean you need life insurance. Before you shop for coverage, ask yourself these questions:
Will Your Death Create a Financial Burden?
You typically need life insurance if your death would place a financial burden on others. The type of burden is different for everyone. For example, you may need a large policy to support a spouse or children for several years, or a smaller one to cover final expenses, like burial costs.
A quick way to estimate the amount of coverage you need is to add up your long-term financial obligations and subtract your assets. Another popular rule is to multiply your income by 10. But these quick tricks are just a guide. Online calculators can help you determine how much life insurance you need.
Is the Financial Burden Temporary?
How long other people will rely on you financially can dictate the type of life insurance you need. For example, if you're supporting a child through college, consider a term life policy that covers only the years you need. Term life lasts a set number of years and is typically less expensive than permanent life insurance.
Alternatively, if you plan to support a family member for the foreseeable future, you might want to consider a permanent life insurance policy, as coverage lasts your entire life.
Is Your Workplace Life Insurance Enough?
After calculating the amount of life insurance you need, check whether you already have sufficient coverage. In March 2020, nearly 6 in 10 American civilian workers participated in a workplace life insurance plan. However, group life insurance provided by an employer is generally one to two times your annual salary, which may fall short of what you need. And life insurance through work is typically tied to your employment, meaning if you lose your job, you may lose your coverage.
Ultimately, life insurance is purchased for a need, someone can catch coronavirus and pass away, but someone can just as easily get in their car tomorrow and die in a car accident. So, if the need is there, the need is there.
Source: money.msn.com and nerdwallet.com