• One way to save money on life insurance if you’re sporty

    A few weeks ago I got a pitch from an insurance company, and my first instinct was to cringe. If you’re a blogger of any size, you get brands reaching out to you and probably 99% of the time they are a terrible fit.

    But – and I can say this hand on heart – this one was actually a bit different.

    The pitch: HealthIQ offers a way for health conscious people to save money on life insurance.

    Obviously I don’t live in the US and I know jack about your insurance market. But if I did, I’d definitely give them a look.

    If you work out 3+ hours a week or even eat a vegan diet, then you might be eligible for lower rates. Here are some of the ways HealthIQ can help you save on life insurance, if you’re into any of the below:

    • Yoga
    • Running
    • Tennis
    • Lifting
    • Cycling
    • Crossfit
    • Swimming
    • Triathlons

    Whatever your exercise thing is, there are special insurance rates available and various savings qualifiers. (Example: up to 25% off if you can run a mile in 8 minutes.) HealthIQ partners with dozens of major carriers and works with you to identify the best options.

    Want to find out more? Click here to get your free quote.

  • CYA: Revisiting my insurance coverage

    Although insurance isn’t a huge line in my budget, the peace of mind it provides is invaluable. While my car insurance is pretty sussed and doesn’t require much thought, a couple things have got me rethinking some of my other insurance cover.

    Contents insurance

    I stumbled across a TradeMe thread the other week in which people were discussing how much contents insurance they had. $100k for a three bedroom house seemed to be the consensus. This was my reaction:

    WTF?And then I followed one of the links through to a contents insurance calculator and whizzed through quickly. By our standards, their allowances were a teeny bit insane. $7k for two laptops? A $1500 dryer? $4000 of shoes per person? An expensive china cabinet full of antiques? Nuh uh.

    I’m not sure we count as minimalist, but we don’t have a ton of stuff realistically and most of it isn’t worth very much.

    To be fair, we probably are a little underinsured (I can’t even remember exactly how much cover we currently have) but hopefully come next renewal, we’ll also have redone the kitchen and may as well roll all those changes up at once. Very little we own was obtained new, but I am definitely aware that should we need to replace it all at once it would be expensive. That said, should we lose everything in one fell swoop, we would still replace things gradually in order to get more for the money. It took about 3 months for us to buy a bedroom set after moving in here (dresser and bedside tables).

    A kitchen with a dishwasher, a decent fridge, a gas stove and cabinets not from the 1960s will probably add a significant number to the amount we want to be insured for. Still, the annual premium dropped to around $400 when I became a homeowner, so hopefully it will still be pretty affordable even after increasing the coverage and updating the policy accordingly.

    Health insurance

    Previously I’ve had a bit of a look into private health insurance – where previous employers offered discounts through Southern Cross (my current one does not) and when I needed my wisdom teeth out. And maybe now once again, since a friend is undergoing expensive dental work after an accident which is only partly covered by ACC.

    Every time I’ve reached the conclusion that for me it’s a waste of money, my needs are around optical and dental and the cost of policies just don’t stack up against what I would get back. T might benefit from policies that cover physiotherapy, being both accident and injury prone.

    What I would give for a comprehensive health insurance comparison site! Maybe this is an instance where an adviser would actually be worth it.

    But I suspect this is something I’m going to put aside yet again. Maybe when kids come into the picture (my two bosses who have kids reckon they’ve got their money’s worth and more from health insurance).

    When did you last reconsider your insurance coverage?

  • Adulting, step 1: Looking at income protection and life insurance

    Life insurance is one of those things I figured we didn’t need to worry about until mortgage/kids entered the picture.

    But I’m starting to think that maybe sooner could be better (especially if we’re going to be taking on a car loan).

    I’m mainly interested in the income protection aspect. Most standalone income protection don’t seem to cover redundancy, but some life insurance policies do offer redundancy cover as an add-on. That would alleviate my worry of major setbacks/hardship if T were to lose his job.

    To be honest, I’m not sure it would have helped us this year, since the company let go T and a couple of others all within their 90-day trial period – which may not count as redundancy. But it would have helped back in 2008/2009…

    And of course, life insurance is quite affordable as we are still young.

    (Not that I’m worried about job security myself, but I already have life insurance through work now! Maybe it’s time to make it two.)

    At the moment the two main options I’m looking at are life cover through his bank, and income protection cover through an insurer. Under the bank option we can get basic life plus redundancy, which is dirt cheap, and we could also add on temporary disability cover. The insurer option is pure income protection, including disability; it’s more expensive, but without getting into all the details, you do get more for your premiums. The disability cover could be useful in the event of illness, and to a degree, accidents. For injury, there is public ACC here to the tune of 80 percent of your earnings, although we had them refuse to cover T once a couple of years ago and that was a massive and costly pain in the ass.

    This comment (on Reddit, no less) really hit me hard the other week:

    A lot of people don’t realize how correlated events are. You are probably not going to lose your job, unless the economy goes really bad. If the economy goes really bad, that is the precise time when you cannot find any jobs because there are so many other people looking for jobs and few companies are hiring. That is also the time when you need to tap into your savings, but your stock portfolio will be decimated. You may want to borrow some money for the short term, but the equity in your home is gone too because real estate prices are all dropping and all your credit lines are cancelled because banks stop loaning money. Instead of “these things can’t all happen at the same time” it might be closer to “these things only happen at the same time”.

    Now that we are above what I think of as the WINZ threshold – ie we earn/own too much, so that we’d have to both lose our jobs and use up most of what we have before being able to get assistance in the worst case scenario – it really is up to us to make provisions for ourselves.

    Any advice on navigating the headache-inducing world of insurance?

  • A month of reduced income (and the risk that comes with trading time for money)

    The risks of trading time for money

    While I’m usually all for writing about what’s going on in my life, for some reason I didn’t really want to write about what happened last month while it was going on.

    A couple of days before we headed off on our two-week campervan trip, T strained his arm at work and got sent home. If you’ve got an elephantine memory, you might recall he sustained some nerve damage in a mosh pit over New Year’s. This was a flareup of the same thing.

    He had to have all sorts of scans, which obviously had to wait until our return. (Thanks to public healthcare, we only had to pay $37 for one of the tests.) It took a few weeks to get all those appointments done and dusted, only to return with no conclusive results.

    A month of no income

    When all was said and done, he’d been off work for a solid month; they wouldn’t take him back till he was cleared as his job involves heavy lifting. I covered all our expenses, meaning no savings for October. (Embarrassingly, even though keeping an eye on our money was more important than ever at the time, I avoided it as much as possible. My slacking off led to a slide into overdraft at one point – and yes, the sting of accompanying fees.)

    In the end, the doctors’ findings were inconclusive. And while ACC is meant to cover your lost income, up to 80%, as we found out, ACC won’t fork out without a defined cause.

    Back at work, T’s boss was MIA to start with, due to his own health concerns. It took a few weeks, but eventually HR got up to speed with the situation. At this stage, the gist of it is: the company won’t pay him for the time off. (And in terms of both legislated sick leave and annual leave, T is currently running on empty anyway.) They will back him up against ACC, however, and will go in to bat for him. Fighting ACC is not something I could be bothered with, quite honestly (if you’re in New Zealand, you’ve probably lost track of all the awful ACC stories that’ve been in the news this year), but if the company is going to spearhead it, we’ll go along for the ride.

    So at this stage, will we see any money for October? Quite possibly not. I’m not counting on anything. Always be prepared for the worst case.

    And while we’re on that note, the IRD owes him $500 odd as a tax refund. We got the notice a couple of months ago, but no cash has eventuated (and two online queries have gone unanswered). Anybody else still waiting on their tax refund for the 2011-2012 year?

    Protecting your income

    That got me thinking: even for the well-insured, severe or chronic health problems can really impede you, especially taking a longer-term view. (Funnily enough, T’s bank called him up, concerned about the distinct lack of money coming into his account. They also tried to pitch him on their income insurance policy, which apparently offered 50%.)

    For example, another friend (our heinous ex flatmate) recently had knee surgery and basically can’t work for a year. It’s not just you who’s affected. Your family, spouse, kids are all impacted if you’re off work for some time, both financially and in terms of other kinds of support that you might need. Your skills can stagnate and time out means missing out on retirement savings and puts you on the back foot for future pay rises.

    T’s job is somewhat physical, but by the same stroke, he’d hate to have a desk job. He’s a big guy but his body is way older than it should be. A 24-year-old should not have so many aches and pains, but I suppose years of sports take their toll.

    As much as the trades are necessary and even lucrative industries, there’s so much risk involved. You’d really need good income protection insurance to feel secure.

    If I sprained my ankle or broke my leg, I could still work. Maybe not so much if I broke my arm (I’d be very much slowed down, if not more or less out of action) but as a desk jockey/knowledge worker I am not automatically excluded from work until I fully recover.

    The thing about trading time for money, as most of us do, is that if you can’t work, you can’t earn money.

  • What to do if you’ve been burgled (plus things to check RIGHT NOW)

    The first thing the police officer said upon stepping into our house was: “I think I’ve been here before. A couple of years ago. How long have you lived here?”

    We don’t really know anything about the previous tenants, but I guess we now know they got hit by burglars, too. And our neighbour in the back, who’s lived here for about 10 years, reckons this place has been robbed twice during her tenure

    That’s not really any comfort, but you know what is? Being prepared

    Just for reference, if you ever get robbed:

    • Don’t touch anything
    • Call the police and report it
    • Call your insurer, and fill them in
    • Pull out all your documentation, and begin the tedious process of paperwork

    Expect to fill out a list of missing items for the police, including identifying numbers and details, which is really to no avail because the odds of your stuff being recovered are minuscule. Expect them to come and dust for prints, and to take your fingerprints, too, as part of the process of elimination. Expect a wait at the insurance office, and to have to fill out multiple forms, including an exhaustive list of missing items, complete with model and serial numbers, receipts, and/or photos and details of date and time of purchase.

    Be sure to act quickly to deal with any security issues. T had to contact Microsoft to remove my Visa details, which were linked to his Xbox Live account. (He does get to keep the games he downloaded to that account, luckily.) I panicked when I logged into Dropbox on my work computer and found my folder empty. I guess whoever has my laptop wiped it, thus clearing my Dropbox at the same time. I restored my files and made sure to delink that computer from my Dropbox account.

    We’ve had our claim processed, and expect to get a cheque next week. We had lower-tier insurance that doesn’t account for initial purchase value, but value with depreciation deducted, which was a decision made to keep premiums down. And I’m okay with that. I’m actually not sure that we’ll replace our instruments any time soon – there’s no major urgency in my view, especially as getting a good deal is paramount, and I hardly do mine any justice.

    The good thing about electronics is they depreciate so fast that we don’t really lose out – in fact we’ll be getting better items, probably, for our money. The one thing that’s bugging me is that I really want a laptop with full numeric keypad on the right. It’s not a must-have .. but it’s something I’d really like to have and never have. Thing is, all the laptops out there with keypads either have huge, weird, awkward spaces between the keys, or the keys are super high off the board, and ergonomics aside, I just know all sorts of debris will get in under there and annoy the hell out of me.

    As to what to do afterwards, when you’ve replaced your gear (and you might want to do these things too if you haven’t already, with your current belongings), I recommend:

    • Scanning all your receipts so you have a digital copy
    • Taking pictures of all your valuables
    • Record items, model and serial numbers, descriptions and value in a file (you could try downloading a form like this one). If in New Zealand, you could use this site to store those details safely and freely online.
    • Back up receipts, photos and info to the cloud (I have a Dropbox folder for insurance stuff)

    For the diligent, if you have been robbed, it may be worth listing your items on StoleMe (though it costs a fee for every item, which is why I didn’t. I’m also sceptical about how useful that site can actually be, especially for common goods) or keeping an eye on TradeMe in case someone tries to offload your stuff through an auction.

    Any other suggestions?

  • Insurance. It’s a gamble

    Day 63/365: Stethoscope

    Image by wenzday01 via Flickr

    In my recent rant about dental charges, someone suggested looking into insurance to save on costs. To which I scoffed (mentally) But since my EHIC card has expired I suppose it is the perfect time to look into this.

    And then a friend of mine, who coincidentally happens to be a colleague as well, randomly mentioned something about how many deductions came out of my pay before he even saw it. One of those deductions was for health insurance. A little bell went off in my head. Southern Cross! We have a workplace scheme going with them. Hmmmmmmmm…………

    Just my luck, a consultant happened to come into the office a week later. Here are my options as a young, healthy human being:

    Wellbeing One:
    Cover for the catastrophic, should it occur, at $25.24 a month. Double that ($50.48) to add T onto the plan.
    Odds are highly stacked against me needing surgery anytime soon, so I won’t go into all the details of coverage. I’ll just say that it covers up to $75,000 per operation. And pre-consults and post-op care. (I think it also covers wisdom teeth removal, although probably not the whole cost). Goodness, and sterilisation, gastric banding, breast reduction and overseas treatment.

    Thoughts:  Sounds like good value to insure me against the future. But I’m inclined to postpone signing on for a while yet. But a young, foolhardy person would say that, wouldn’t they?

    Wellbeing Two, plus dental and vision:
    Looks virtually identical to Wellbeing One at first glance, with the addition of $750 for psychiatric consults.
    Add on vision and dental, and that’s $60.77 a month or ($121.54 to cover T as well). That’s up to $500 for dental a year, $100 for hygienist – whatever that is – $50 for eye tests, $400 for glasses or contacts, and $200 for audiology.

    Thoughts: I could definitely make full use of the vision coverage, but I’m pretty sure my employer already has a vision subsidy in place. (I used it a couple of years ago and assume it hasn’t been canned.) I also haven’t worn contacts in a while, but I buy them MUCH cheaper online than through brick-and-mortar stores.
    I seem to recall being quoted around $300 for a cleaning and filling, and $1500 for T (he needed more work, obviously). I don’t see much point in paying $729 for us a year to get $500 worth of dental work, although again, we are getting coverage should either of us need non-emergency surgery.

    Right now, I’m leaning toward postponing the whole idea, and simply paying our dental costs out of pocket.

    Anyone have any thoughts on the matter? I know health insurance in the US is a different beast altogether, but all input is appreciated.

  • Insurance – the necessary evil

    It’s official: I’ve decided to stay with AMI for both our contents and car insurance. I could save a very small amount by changing providers for our contents (T doesn’t have the best of driving records, so we don’t have much choice for the latter), but I’ve decided it’s easier to stay with one company. I initially got all excited because an online quote suggested I could save almost $100 a year on our policy, but when I actually called their line? Not so much.

    And of the three or four companies who promised to respond to my request for a quote? ZERO replies in a week. Huh. Not impressed.

    Once our car insurance rolls over in a few months, we should qualify for a no claims bonus for the first time (huzzah!) as well as our discount for having two policies with them  – something like a measly $20 off each. Insurance is one of those things that is a pain to pay for, but it’s worth it for peace of mind. We pay less than $1000 a year for both policies, which I can live with.

    In other news, we made a whopping $19 for T’s inherited coin collection (going straight to savings) and I got $50 phone credit for taking part in a research group after work one evening (not bad for less than an hour. It was really interesting to see how precisely they tried to hit a range of different ages, genders and races). That should cover my costs for two months; it’s true, Prepay customers are the least lucrative of all. Telecomms companies spend a fair bit on these sessions, but I guess it’s cheaper than taking a punt on a new initiative and bombing!

  • Bad drivers

    This is going to be a long, rambly one.

    Right now I’d be happy to never leave the house again.

    It seems every time we do, we encounter some terrible, terrible drivers on the roads. And bad driving doesn’t just affect the bad driver. It affects EVERYONE else out on the roads.

    I’m sick of people racing through tiny gaps in traffic, changing lanes abruptly without indicating, going 20k for no reason or practically stopping while negotiating corners.

    I’m sick of people who don’t look when they reverse out of carparks, and don’t indicate, and pull random manouevres without checking for cars around them.

    It’s dangerous and it’s scary.

    I’m just tired of being constantly stressed (and this is just me in the front passenger seat, not even driving). Anytime someone nearly swipes us, or we end up braking suddenly, I get super tense for the rest of the ride and I freak out over the smallest things. It’s like every possible hazard magnifies 10x for me, and it’s happening more and more. I think the last time we drove anywhere without some heinous driver pulling at least one dumb stunt along our way was over a week ago. Honestly, it just ruins going anywhere for me.

    I know I’m letting it get to me but I am terrified of being in an accident. BF can’t afford to have any more accidents. In terms of being able to afford the excess, repairs for himself, and not to mention that insurance would probably not renew his policy.

    I do not like his car. I think it was a bad buy, but we’re stuck with it and are waiting to get it paid off.

    He doesn’t like it anymore either, but really that’s partly his fault (the worst damage was from an accident when someone hit him, but the rest did occur when he was at-fault). Now he doesn’t care what happens to it and every so often (like today) gets fed up and says things like, “I don’t care if someone hits me. It’s their fault. They’re not driving properly and if they write me off it’s not my problem.”

    I try time and time again to explain that he DOES NOT have full insurance. Full insurance for a year would cost as much as the car is worth! Full coverage is for pricey, pricey cars, owned by people who can actually afford to drive and look after them. Not for small rustbuckets.

    And inevitably he bitches and moans about why have insurance at all? One of his friends doesn’t. And that friend is an excellent driver who’s never had a crash, owns his car free and clear and has a more reliable car with less ks on the clock. Of course, he should still have insurance. But BF is never driving uninsured again as long as I have anything to do with it. 03-driving-us-course_l2_w728_h340

    Insurance is there to cover his ass if he hits someone so he doesn’t spend the next 50 years paying it off. If someone hits him, then yes they should pay out, but I wouldn’t count on that. Good luck trying ot get money out of their company by yourself. He only has third party and fire, so his insurance isn’t going to fight to recover any money from another company. We don’t pay them for that. We would have to do it ourselves…good luck for that, given how we tried that last time with the woman who hit him! It’s just not going to happen.

    Just drive safely! As frustrating as that is with the shitty drivers on our roads, who are just getting worse and worse, that’s all you can do. It’s boring, and painful, but it’s got to be done. BF has learned his lesson and drives much more carefully, but trying to get him to continue in that vein when nobody else is doing so, is really hard.

    Here’s hoping and praying the car lasts until it’s at least paid for.

    If he ends up going back to study, he won’t have much income for three years. Will the car last that long? How much is it gonna cost in repairs over that time? I don’t even wanna go there…

  • Insurance

    Got my act together this weekend and called around again for contents insurance quotes – got one from State, AMI and ASB. We went for $20k worth of cover, jointly – AMI was the cheapest, probably because of the bundling multisave discount (BF’s car cover is with them. He was like “won’t they care that I’ve had two accidents and be like, man, this client sucks?”) Fingers crossed they renew his insurance in May.

    ASB cost more and didn’t offer a quarterly payment option (neither did State). I like AMI’s flexibility. Plus they’ve been good in our dealings so far. They also keep the quote in the system for “quite awhile”, and aren’t too pushy. ASB’s quote was valid for 30 days. State hustle you; they told it was only valid till close of business, ALTHOUGH, I could sign up now and then have 15 days or so to cancel, before payment, no hard feelings etc. However, ASB’s basic actually offered full replacement for computers under 3 years old and furniture/appliances under 5 years old.

    It’s a little confusing though, deciding how much cover we need, and whether it’s worth getting a more comprehensive plan for full replacement value of items! And not all plan are created the same. Some have free lock and key replacements, or for personal effects like glasses, cell phones etc. And the replacement value vs market value is the kicker really. Is it worth the extra?

    I think we’ll be fine with market value, really. Bu it’s good to know that a hundred or two hundred a year can cover your ass for so much more. Something we’ll consider when we amass stuff that’s actually worth anything. Honestly, I’d say BF has about a third of what I have – he has virtually no clothes or furniture. His tools though are probably the biggest single item of worth we have.

  • Nifty little thing

    I noticed a nifty little thing on Fastnet today – don’t know how long it’s been around, but I don’t think it’s been long at all.

    It’s called Online Vault and is a way to store important details online within your online banking, like account details, important contacts, insurance details, IRD, driver licence numbers etc. I love doing things like that and immediately set about backing up our important info, details that would be hard to recall if say our wallets were lost or stolen. It also got me thinking about sorting insurance – I got three quotes today, and will confirm it in the next day or two.

    What else will I need? I’m compiling a list of things I need to do for insurance – like take photos, copy receipts, serial numbers, etc.

    Gotta love ASB – I think they’ve always been ahead of the game, despite their increasingly grating ads.