Monthly Archives: January 2015

Auto Insurance: Do you have what you need?

For me auto insurance has always been one of those things that I’ve had on auto-pilot.  I pay for it, hope I never need it, and I forget about it.  Until last Wednesday.  That’s the day that PA-322 emerged victorious in the battle of Prius versus snow covered roads.  And, after thankfully escaping unharmed and driving the damaged car away from the scene of the accident, that’s the night I started paying a lot closer attention to my auto insurance policy.

auto insurance

When you set up your car insurance, there are a lot of things you need to pay attention to:

  • How much is your deductible?  The lower your deductible, the more you’ll pay each year for your insurance,but the less you’ll pay in case of a claim.  I opted to keep my deductible low, so now I only have to come up with $250.  My insurance company is going to cover all of the rest of the bill to repair the car.
  • Do you need comprehensive insurance?  If you carry only the state minimum insurance, that covers only liability and possibly collision.  Collision actually would have been enough for my accident.  But on that very same snowy day a friend of mine hit a deer.  And he was not carrying comprehensive insurance.  His accident was not covered.  At all.  Comprehensive covers you against things like theft (of either the vehicle or property within), glass breakage, damage resulting from something other than a collision (such as fire or falling objects) and damage from hitting an animal.  There’s a reasonably good chance that one of these things (especially the deer situation) could happen in central Pennsylvania, so if you are not carrying comprehensive insurance, it might be worth adding it.
  • Do you need a replacement vehicle during repairs?  I do pay a little extra to cover the cost of a rental car during the time my car is being repaired.  It turns out I didn’t really need it this time, so I’m saving myself a little money (my insurance covers only 80% of rental car expense) and living as part of a one-car family until my Prius is repaired in a week or so.  (I’m grateful that my friends were willing to cart me around for a day until we sorted out the details of how to make that work!)  But if you can’t get by without your car, rental replacement is coverage you should consider.
  • How much work do you have to do up front after an accident?  I’m feeling very fortunate that my insurance company has been wonderful through this process.  They have a deal with several area auto repair shops where I can take my car without having to have an insurance person come view the car and without having to get multiple estimates.  As long as I stick with the preferred shops (and the one I would have chosen anyway was on the list!), then I just take it in and forget it.  The insurance company will accept their estimate without comparing it to others.  And the insurance company will make payment directly to the auto shop.  I just have to wait for the repairs to be complete then pay my deductible to the auto shop when the work is done.  Amazingly easy.  And that’s a really big deal.  How does it work with your insurance company?

No one ever wants to think about using their auto insurance.  But the day is likely to come when you’ll need to.  Do you have enough coverage?  Can you afford your deductible?  Will your insurance company be easy to work with after an accident?  It’s definitely better to think about these things BEFORE you find yourself losing a battle against a snowy road or a wayward deer.

Shopping: How to Learn from Others’ Mistakes

A week ago my cable modem died.  No internet in my home.  And boy, oh, boy do you not realize how much you use the internet until you’re not able!  No streaming TV (because I still don’t have cable).  No wi-fi on my tablet to read the morning news.  No streaming music.  It wasn’t that many years ago that I didn’t have a home wi-fi network, but I sure am dependent now!  But that’s not what this post is about.

Cable modem

This post is about my journey to a new cable modem.  After work on the evening that my modem died, I spent some quality time at the local big box electronics store.  I picked out three modems in my price range that met my specifications.  The prices were all within about $20 of each other.  But then I sat down on the floor and consulted my smartphone (my only remaining source of internet).  Several blue shirted employees walked by without ever saying the words “May I help you.”  But that’s a different tale.  I was in my own world anyway.  I looked at reviews for the three modems I had picked out.  And it very quickly became clear that one of the modems was better than the other two.  Luckily for me, it was the least expensive one.

The internet makes it very easy for us to learn from the mistakes of other people.  If a product is no good, someone has probably written about it.  If a product is great, someone has likely written that too.  It’s all out there for us to see.  And it’s definitely best if you can look at a lot of reviews, to see if there are recurring themes.  There will be anomalies that stand out as being different from the norm.  But the more good reviews, the better the chance you’re getting a good product.

After a couple of days of watching old-fashioned DVDs for entertainment, we finally had enough ambition to hook up the new modem.  And it worked like a charm.  No problems.  No need to even interact with the cable company supplying our internet.  And this is exactly what I expected after reading the reviews online.

There’s a world of information at our fingertips.  It’s definitely worth doing a little investigating before making a purchase.  It may save you a lot of grief….and the need to write a negative review.

Credit Unions: Paying me back for my business!

Last week, for the third year in a row, I got an email from my credit union telling me that they were going to deposit a portion of their profits into my account.  When typical banks earn profits, they portion that money out to their shareholders in the form of dividends.  In the case of a credit union, however, the shareholders are the people who have their accounts there.   And my credit union, wanting to pay back the shareholders, has been sharing their profits for each of the last three years.  And this is only one of the many reasons that I love my credit union.

I switched from a bank to a credit union several years ago when I was discouraged by the very low interest rates being paid on my savings.  (This was before the bottom fell out of interest rates at the end of the last decade—now no one is earning much in interest on their savings!)  But I’ve never regretted the decision to make the move.  I’ve found that day to day banking life is just easier and better with my credit union than it was with my old bank.  Online banking services are free.  They never charge me to use an ATM, and they will reimburse me up to $20 per month in ATM fees charged by other banks.  They made it easy for me to set up transfers to and from other banks.  I can deposit checks with my smart phone or by mail.  They make automatic transfers and online bill paying very easy.

Many people think that you need to have a bank that is local.  I disagree.  The closest branch of my credit union is 100 miles away, and it’s never been a problem for me.  I set up my account initially by mail.  I made deposits by mail for years until the smart phone technology came around.  I get money by ATM (I prefer the fee-free machines at Sheetz).  Most of my transactions are either electronic or by plastic.  I’ve applied for loans with my credit union online and completed the paperwork by mail and fax.  It’s very easy in today’s world to live without a bricks and mortar banking institution, so that should not be a deterrent for anyone.

The one catch with credit unions is that you must qualify for membership.  It may be tied to where you work or go to school.  You may have to have membership in a certain organization in order to qualify to join the credit union.  You may have to live in a certain area.  So you’ll have to do a little digging to find out if you are eligible to join (though all Penn State students are eligible to join the Penn State Federal Credit Union).  But after the leg work is done, you’ll likely be happy with your banking experience.  And you may even get some cash back!