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Five Things to Know About Life Insurance

Apr 30, 2013

You may know that life insurance pays a benefit upon the death of the insured person. In some cases, this benefit is used to pay final expenses. In others, life insurance benefits provide support for the deceased’s family, charity of choice or business. The purpose of a policy is the greatest determining factor when choosing a life insurance product. There are five things you need to know about life insurance before you sign on the dotted line.

1. There is a difference between whole life and term life insurance.

Whole life insurance is a long-term financial product. Premiums for whole life insurance are typically higher than those for term life insurance, especially for a young, healthy people. However, as age increases and health declines, rates for whole life insurance remain the same while term life insurance may become unavailable.

Premiums for term life insurance tend to be lower. However, the coverage ends when the term expires. Customers who want to continue their term life insurance may face higher premiums and a required physical exam to reinstate their policy. A term life insurance policy is an attractive option for parents with young children and entrepreneurs who want to protect their business interests in the event of their death.

2. Everyone doesn’t need life insurance.

While many people can benefit from a life insurance policy, life insurance isn’t necessary for everyone. Parents of minor children should purchase life insurance to ensure their children are taken care of when they die. Business owners need life insurance to protect their family from business debts.

3. Determining the correct amount of life insurance isn’t easy.

Calculating the amount of money needed to care for a family in the future is not simple. The needs of children and families change over time. The fluctuating rate of inflation makes it difficult to determine how much life insurance to buy. It’s always best to overestimate than underestimate.

4. Penalties are severe for early cancellation of whole life policies

A whole life insurance policy has a cash value component that can be used before the insured person’s death. There are also fees and costs for this type of policy, so the decision to purchase whole life insurance should not be made without careful consideration. Early termination fees and increased premiums for restarting a cancelled policy are significant.

5. Policies over $100,000 typically require a medical exam

Medical exams are generally required for term and whole life insurance policies that exceed $100,000. Premiums are based on life expectancy, so a medical history is part of every application.

About the Author
Jo Harris is the Outreach Director for the Morgan Law Firm. She is a frequent blogger on a variety of subjects. The firm is located at 4101 Parkstone Heights Dr., Suite 250, Austin, Texas 78746 and can be phoned at (512) 551-0807. Additionally, you can find more information on the Morgan Law Firm website.


Online Shopping: Do it Better

Apr 30, 2013

These days we shop online for nearly everything, and that includes insurance.

The internet is virtually limitless. There is practically no end to the number of sites that you can visit and shop at for goods and services. So how do you navigate through the maze of online stores, and where do you start looking when you want to make a purchase? Will a mere Internet search locate the best product at the best price, or just leave you lost and confused?

Online shopping is one of those experiences that is constantly being improved upon. There are always new start-ups that claim to be better than the other guy. Face it, plenty of factors in the online experience can be improved on — creating more attractive and simpler interfaces, better usability, lower prices and offering a bigger variety of merchandise. So who does it best? Here’s what we think:

Let’s start with the tried and true:

Variety – Amazon

Amazon pioneered the Internet shopping experience. The company started with an online bookstore, but soon after its initial success, expanded its line to include other products, only to become the largest online retailer in the world.

Amazon’s site is rather like an e-commerce search engine, with its wide array of easily purchasable products. Another benefit is the assortment of used products available on Amazon, which helps make its prices more competitive, still.

Even if you are not planning to buy anything on Amazon, it is still a handy site to make price comparisons and read product reviews.

Price – Costco

This warehouse store is based near Seattle, Wash., and now has stores across the United States and in several foreign countries. Costco sells everything from food to appliances, Costco.com can provide almost anything you will ever need.

The main benefit of Costco, both online and in stores, is its competitive pricing. By buying in bulk and reselling in bulk to their customers, they allow consumers to save money. They also cut down on overhead expenses with no-frills stores and minimal packaging, saving their customers even more money.

Don’t think that Costco.com only sells generic brands. The company sells popular items from well known manufacturers, and new products such as electronics and jewelry, all at competitive prices.  Costco even has a travel section.

According to a 2008 survey by compete.com, Costco.com had 58 million visitors a year, which is no small feat.

 Here are some newer kids on the block:

Problem Solving – Gaxwallet

Although online shopping is incredibly convenient, there are certainly ways to improve upon this thoroughly helpful technology.  One of the oft heard complaints is that shipping takes forever, and no one likes to wait to get something that they just bought.

Gaxwallet solves this gut wrenching problem. Gax stands for global article exchange. You order a product directly from the retailer’s website. From there, that order goes to Gax where a retail store that has the item in stock gets the order and ships it to the buyer, and this is all done automatically via cloud software. This means that time spent locating an item in a warehouse and going through complicated shipping is cut down significantly because shipping is local.

Stores that are closest to you receive notification of the purchase first, making the distance that the product will travel considerably shorter than usual.

Experience – Fancy

Ever want to see really cool and unique merchandise that you would have a hard time finding anywhere else, presented in an aesthetically pleasing manner?  Look no further than Fancy.

Like Pinterest but specifically for the purpose of shopping, Fancy never seems to run out of new things to look at.  You scroll down and keep finding really cool things.  Fancy may strike you as a newer site, but it is actually about eight years old, It is a genuine joy to online window shop at this site.  More than just your usual loofah and pretty pots and pans, Fancy shows you things that you would have a hard time finding anywhere else.

Although it does not sell them directly, acting as more of a curator, it links back to the sites that do sell the merchandise.

Online shopping is constantly changing and improving.  But even so, some of the traditional sites are not worth abandoning and still fulfill your shopping needs.

Happy shopping!


The Best Personal Finance Blogs Out There

Apr 30, 2013

There are things that are more important than money, but it’s awful hard to enjoy them when you’re worrying about how you are going to pay your bills.

Although BMCC can help you save money on your insurance, insurance is not your only bill and bills are not the only expenses that you must pay.

Personal finance is hard and comes naturally to very few people. So if you have difficulty getting organized don’t worry, you are not alone in this scary but important arena. Rest assured that help is available.

One of the most powerful tools to help you is the Internet. It is full of useful information, wisdom and lessons learned from mistakes. But not everything on the internet should be taken as gospel, so we have compiled a list of the best personal finance blogs that we love. We know that these blogs will help you save, budget and learn.

CNNMoney

 

CNN is a respected news outlet with some of the best journalism in the field.  Not only does it keep you updated on current events, it also helps you manage your money. The personal finance section, titled CNNMoney, talks about money, new laws, trends and statistics, and even some money related entertainment pieces along with other current information that you may need.

Not only does it keep you up to date on what’s going on in the world of money, it has a handy section called Money 101 that teaches you basic lessons about insurance and investing. Divided into lessons, CNNMoney tells you things you will need to know about being financially responsible.

 

WiseBread

 

WiseBread is a fun site to browse. Tons of content written by many different writers offers a wide variety of viewpoints. Articles are not just about personal finance but are about lots of other topics, from the science of the perfect nap to articles about gift giving. But aside from the more general articles (which are handy for killing time), there are many personal finance articles.

Sorted by  topic, such as credit cards, insurance and real estate, there are dozens of articles in each category. Additionally, the site features a frugal living section with articles dedicated to living on the cheap. Topics include where to find good deals and what to spend vs. what to save money on. 

WiseBread also finds the best frugal living articles from other sites and posts them on theirs so that readers have the best viewing experience.

 

Mint

 

Most of Mint’s fame is due to its popular app. The mobile phone app has received tremendous amounts of acclaim from many influential voices, from niche techies to mainstream blog writers. The app helps you manage your money by tracking your spending and showing you exactly where your cash goes. It also features a blog that helps you spend your money wisely.

Mint Life covers nearly everything money related, from planning wisely to cooking cheaply. It’s more of a blog to browse rather than a resource to turn to when you have questions. Still, Mint Life has a lot of interesting and useful information that will probably help you. Mint Life is new, but it has promise.

Remember, just because a site is well known or ranks highly in a Google search does not mean that it will necessarily be helpful. There are good sites out there that display good content, but do not focus on rising in Google’s ranks.


Prop 33

Apr 30, 2013

Today is Election Day, so you have probably been bombarded with advertisements telling you to vote on one proposition or another. 

It can be so overwhelming because you don’t know who to trust.  Everyone seems to have some kind of agenda in place.  And some of the bills are downright confusing and even seem to contradict one another.

Some props dictate what programs money will be allotted for, some raise or lower taxes, some pass or repeal laws, and some are simply general interest ballot measures.  Each state has its own ballot measures, so it seems like what one state passes or doesn’t pass is unimportant. But states often set trends such as laws regarding emissions in relation to global warming, and that affects us all.

California, a state that has always been active politically, typically has some of the most interesting and often progressive ballot measures that eventually get picked up across the country.

One of the more interesting props on the ballot this year is Prop 33, the Automobile Insurance Persistency Act.

This act basically states that other insurance companies, not just your own insurance company, can offer you discounts on auto insurance if you have been consistently insured for the past five years or more.  The notable exceptions to this proposed rule are military service members who have been overseas; they can have interruptions in their insurance coverage.

However, according to a recent article in the Huffington Post, the prop “will allow auto insurance companies to surcharge motorists just because they didn’t buy insurance in the past, even if they didn’t own a car.”  This means that rather than receiving a discount for having maintained an insurance policy, you will be charged for not having had insurance which ultimately means higher premiums.

This is considered a form of price discrimination which is illegal in California. This bill is a legal way to get around the illegality of price discrimination. 

In reality, this prop is financially backed by the owner of a major insurance company, giving more than $16 million to this cause.

Naturally, for every ballot measure there are affirmative and negative points.

The benefit of this proposition is that those who have had continuous coverage stand to potentially save some money.

So vote based on what you feel is right, but be sure to do your own research on all ballot measures before you cast your vote.

And don’t forget to vote today.  To make a democracy work, citizens must be active.


How to Buy a Used Car

Apr 30, 2013

Buying a used car can be a fantastic deal.  You can get a great product for thousands less than you would pay for a new vehicle.  However, buying a used car can be a nightmare too.  You can get ripped off and purchase a car that is not at all what you expected.

The trick is seeing through all of the dishonest advertisements and getting a good deal for your money.  After all, a car is both expensive and important.

So if you’re buying a used car, you had better do it right.  In many states there is no return policy on used cars, especially if you’re buying from a private owner.

We have compiled a list of dos and don’ts for you to keep in mind when you are perusing used car lots or surfing Craig’s List looking for that one car that matches your personality and your price range.  It’s not an easy task, we know, but we are here to help you get the most for your money.

Your first question  may be where to  shop for a used car. There are two major categories: a dealer, or a private owner.

Each option has its benefits.

When you are buying a car at a dealership, you can be relatively sure that the car you are getting is in good condition.  There are all kinds of consumer protection laws that these dealerships have to comply with that thoroughly work in your favor.

These laws help protect you from blatant rip-offs. In addition, dealerships usually include warranties, so normally your car is covered for another few years after you buy it.

Another important benefit of buying from a dealership is that you can finance your purchase so you don’t have to pay for it up front. This can allow you to buy a more expensive car than you would have otherwise, unless you have that amount of cash at your disposal. But if you don’t, you can pay for a nicer car in increments rather than settling for a lesser car that you can pay for on the spot.

The main benefit associated with buying from a private owner tends to be price.  Not only are prices generally lower with private owners, you can also often haggle for a better deal. Private owners are informal and don’t have to answer to any boss. They are free to sell a car for however much they want to.

Another serious perk is that cars are constantly being put up on sites like Craig’s List, so you will have a huge range to pick from.

Once you have found a great car that you want to buy, you have to make sure that you are getting your money’s worth and that this car is worth buying.

To find out how much your potential car is worth, look up its blue book value. The Kelley Blue Book will tell you how much a car is worth in whatever condition it is in. This way you’ll know if someone is asking too much money for it.

The next step is to have the car inspected by a mechanic, but if you don’t have a good mechanic that you can trust, inspect the car yourself. Does the odometer match the condition of the car?  Is there any rust under the hood?  Does the car start easy or make unusual noises?  Do the tires have any uneven tread?

These signs are clues that your deal is too good to be true. But if everything is looking good, well it looks like you have found yourself a new used car!


Holiday Travel Tips

Apr 30, 2013

If you are one of the lucky few who have family close by and you don’t have to travel anywhere for the holidays, we are jealous of you. But if you are like the rest of who have to brave the crazy airports and take on the insurmountable roads, we are facing a lot of stress ahead of us this holiday season.

The payoff is seeing your family or loved ones or taking a vacation while everyone else is busy celebrating the holidays “properly.” Remember, to be stress-free you have got to do your homework before the holiday season is upon us.

Let’s start with some statistics just to see what you will be up against, courtesy of the Bureau of Travel Statistics:

-23% more people travel during or for Christmas than for the rest of the year

-91% of holiday trips are taken in personal vehicles (cars, motorcycles, etc.)

-Only about 5-6% of holiday trips are taken by air

-About 3% of Christmas holiday travel is international

-According to Orbitz, Christmas week is the busiest travel week of the year

All in all, statistics show that a lot of people travel during the winter holidays and this means longer lines, delayed flights, traffic, and more expensive everything. Some of that stuff just can’t be avoided, but we have compiled a list of tips to help you keep your head and make the best of the holiday craziness.

It does not sound like a huge increase of travel — only 23% after all — but go to the airport on December 23 and see just how much difference a few extra people can make.
So on to the tips:

  1. Book your flight early.  This is an obvious one but many many people procrastinate or are unsure about their holiday plans, assuming they will have plenty of time to make their decisions later.  Don’t be one of those people!  Decide early and stick to your plan. That way you can beat the rush and have your pick of flights and seats.
  2. Comply with airline/airport rules. This is another obvious one but people ALWAYS forget.  There is always someone in that security line that has a bottle of water in their backpack that they have forgotten to throw away or drink. That kind of stuff definitely makes the process take longer than it has to and generally makes you quite unpopular among your fellow travelers.If that helps you navigate through traffic. We like INRIX Traffic which analyzes routes to find you the best drive time. Sitting in traffic not only makes you go crazy but also wastes a whole lot of gas.
  3. Travel light. If you can avoid it, do not check your bags at the airport. Nowadays, most airlines will charge you for checking a bag, some as much as $50 per piece of luggage. That really adds up, especially when you are paying a lofty price for your plane ticket, as well. Checking bags also really slows you down. Lines to check bags are usually very long. Fighting for space at the arrivals baggage carousel is no picnic, either.
  4. Check in before you get to the airport.  Now you can do this on your smartphone and this will save you a ton of time. That’s one more line that you won’t have to wait in.

 


New Year’s Resolutions That Really Count (and Stick)

Apr 30, 2013

Some might think that New Year’s resolutions are a cliché, lack luster and, most dismissive of all, say that they never last. But you can stun the naysayers if you choose the right resolution and stick with it.

The start of a New Year is the perfect time to start something that you have been meaning to do. The New Year signifies a fresh start which helps you measure your progress or accomplishments starting from the first of January.

So here’s a list of some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions and tips on how to keep them:

Lose weight/get fit – the most crowded day of the year at the gym may very well be January 2nd.  With winter weight piling on, the New Year is a reminder that spring is just around the corner, and that winter weight can come off with a little bit of work and the right diet (less fruitcake, more fruit).  But this is not an easy resolution, and that is the primary reason why so many break this one.

*Tips:

1. Set goals for yourself.  Elect to jog a bit farther every week, or increase your number of crunches by five every two weeks.

2. Make a schedule and stick with it.  If you just go when you feel like it, you’ll never go.

3. Mix it up. Work out in different ways. Take a class, go on a hike, hit the gym or do whatever, but keep it interesting or else you’ll stop doing an activity you find boring.

*Bonus: losing weight and getting healthy will save you money on things like health insurance.

Save money – Everyone could always use more money. It’s tough times for everyone out there so a few extra dollars can really go a long way. But to actually save money, you have to take a long and hard look at where you are spending money and find ways to cut back.

*Tips:

1. Give yourself a reasonable budget.  This doesn’t mean austerity measures, it just means spending less than you make.

2. Set savings goals for yourself.  With a set number and a set date, you will seriously work on reaching your goal.

3. Keep a running total of what you have spent so that you know how much you have left in your monthly allowance.

Quit smoking/break a bad habit – this is a really difficult one, especially if it’s a serious habit that has been a part of your life for a long time. But there are good reasons to quit. It is both unhealthful and expensive. But just because it is hard does not mean that you should not try to kick the habit.

*Tips:

1. Don’t go cold turkey. Quit gradually. Cold turkey often leads to relapse because of the shock to your body and to your routine.

2. Keep your reason for quitting in mind. Otherwise you will justify every cigarette you smoke (or any other habit you relapse into).

3. Recognize your success and reward yourself. Give yourself a small treat for every milestone you cross over (like a full week without cigarettes). It will be difficult, but it should not be torture.

No matter how many others break their New Year’s resolutions, you can still succeed. With a bit of effort and determination you can keep your resolutions all year long.


How to Improve Your Memory

Apr 30, 2013

There are many different words and concepts associated with the word “health.”  Health care, health insurance and heart health are a few that come to mind.  Mental health may be one of the lesser discussed health-oriented terms, but it is a major component of our well-being.

Mental health is not just psychiatry — it is also the health of your brain. Not the neurological aspects of mental health, but something that is also very important: memory.

Memory loss is often a sign of our faculties’ deterioration. But memory is not like tooth enamel. Just because your memory has deteriorated slightly does not mean that it’s all downhill from there. Your memory can be restored and improved.

Your brain is constantly changing and either gaining new information or losing it. Obviously you want the former, but you have to work on it. But your brain must be exercised on a regular basis to remain sharp.

By the end of this list of tips and tricks you might not necessarily be able to move things with your mind, but remembering your phone number will sure be a whole lot easier.

1. Remember phone numbers (or any numbers really) easily – your short term memory is designed to only hold seven numbers in it which is just the right amount of numbers for a regular phone number, but if you have more digits or a number that is not associated with a phone that you need to remember, you might be in trouble.  To remember a large amount of numbers, bundle them together.  So instead of 8675309, you’d think 867, 53, and 09 so seven numbers become three numbers.

2. Connect words with images (and any other sense) – the more things you associate with a word or concept, the easier it is to remember it. Your brain has more reminders to choose from.

3. Laughter is good for pretty much everything – laughter has all kinds of benefits. It decreases your stress levels and engages multiple parts of the brain. According to scientific research, laughter lets you associate better and think more freely.

4. Bring on the brain food – some food is good for your brain. It provides the fat that keeps your noggin lubricated and healthy. One of the brainiest foods out there is fish. Fish has a lot of Omega 3 fatty acids.  Green tea is also said to give you better memory and fight free radicals.

5. If you have a problem, you need to work it out – never stop thinking! Things like puzzles or calculus are great mental exercises. They make you use your mind in ways that other activities do not. You develop your critical thinking skills and are forced to think “outside the box,” if you’ll pardon the cliché. If calculus is not for you, try some logic games.  They really are fun.

6. Memorize a poem every day – or if not a poem then something else. Take a half hour to memorize some text. You’ll be a hit at dinner parties when you can accurately recite the Gettysburg Address. Everyone loves a history or literature buff!

Your memory and your mental health should never be neglected. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, so use it actively and it will thank you by storing great quantities of information that you need.


Cheaper Car Insurance in Three Easy Steps

Apr 30, 2013

We know that a million of these articles have been written, and to you they are all pretty much the same.  But in all honesty, they are giving you some pretty important and very relevant information that can really help you save money, so it is worthwhile to read them.

We believe that this information should be easily accessible, especially on an insurance agency’s website, so we we are only too happy to repeat this information to help you save more money. Plus, this saves you the time you would have spent searching the Internet for it.

Saving money, in this case, is not a mysterious and complicated task. In fact, there is a formula for it that everyone can easily follow.

Step 1 – Shop around

This one is a no brainer, but you may not always know where to shop. You might be tempted to just  do a Google search and check out a couple of the big insurance company sites, find the cheapest out of three or so, and sign with them.

But there is a better way to do this!  If you work with an agency rather than with an insurance company, the agency does the comparison shopping for you — agencies work with more than just a few companies. BMCC specifically works with more than a dozen companies so that you can feel secure that you are getting the best price.

Step 2 – Insure something that is cheap to insure

This can’t always be done, but if you happen to be in the position of needing a new car, take note that some cars are more expensive to insure than others. This can be a hidden cost of buying certain cars.

Cars that are more expensive to insure are also more expensive to fix. In fact, they are more expensive to insure because they are more expensive to fix.

And if you are not buying a car in the near future, keep this in mind when you do.

Step 3 – Drive well

This is an obvious point, but it is amazing how many people ignore the consequences of driving well and safely.  One of the consequences of this is it is ultimately expensive (not to mention dangerous).  You get tickets or get into accidents and then your insurance goes up.

If you drive safely, your insurance will either remain low or be lowered, and either option is great.

There are plenty of other things that you can do to save money on your insurance, but these “steps” are the most basic and the first things you should try.

Everyone wants cheaper car insurance, but it is not something that just happens to you. You need to find it and earn it.  But you can certainly save money on your auto insurance if you put effort into it.


Winter Fit: Cold Weather Exercise

Apr 30, 2013

When the weather gets cold, we naturally want to stay indoors and sleep until spring, as bears do.  And however nice that sounds, sleeping for three months is not really an option for most of us.

Staying inside and watching movies while eating pie is certainly something you can do all winter, but you definitely should not.

The sad truth is that even if we don’t need the extra fat for warmth, in the winter we naturally develop an extra layer of softness for a variety of reasons. It’s cold outside so we don’t want to exercise, winter food is generally heavier than summer food and we have evolved to produce a layer of fat so that our bodies can naturally keep warm in cold climates.

Whatever the reason may be, those extra winter inches should be fought an ultimately shed.  But what can you do in the winter?

1. Your trusty old gym – this might not be the most fun or the most stimulating form of exercise, but the gym is there and it’s warm and if used properly, it will help you get the job done.

2. Skiing – this one obviously won’t apply to everyone, but if you have the opportunity to ski, you can get a great workout, especially if you do cross country skiing. That activity burns plenty of calories. But downhill skiing is great for the thighs, too.

3. Hiking – hiking in the winter can be really lovely, especially if trees and mountains are snow capped.  You’ll work up a sweat and you may also see some pretty scenery. Bring some hot chocolate in a thermos and a few snacks, find a picnic bench, and make it an outdoor brunch. Word in the forest is that Yogi does not steal picnic baskets in the winter. He’s a bear; he hibernates.

4. Ice Skating – even if you don’t live in a cold environment, you can still find some ice to glide across at your local skating rink. Not only is it a great source of exercise, it’s also super fun.

5. Snowman building – obviously this one also only works if there is snow on the ground, but if the conditions are right, you can work up a serious sweat without even realizing that you are working out, and that’s the best kind of workout. And not only will you be getting a good workout of your arms, legs, you’ll also get some of those creative juices flowing.

*Don’t forget to be safe while exercising.  Wear layers, drink plenty of water and don’t over exert yourself. 


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