Don’t let dogs take a bite out of your insurance

dog-bitesMay 17-23 is Dog Bite Prevention Week. The USPS and its partners in the annual promotion report that “… small children, the elderly, and Postal Service carriers — in that order — are the most frequent victims of dog bites. It is also stated that the number of dog bites exceeds the reported instances of measles, whooping cough and mumps, combined. Dog bite victims account for up to five percent of emergency room visits.”

The good news is that the number of dog bite claims are going down – they dropped by 4.7% in 2014. But the bad news is that the average cost per dog bite claim is climbing. In 2014, it was up 15 percent to $32,072 – compared with $27,862 in 2013. Pretty expensive, right?

But that is only part of the story: Insurance Information Institute reports that dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners liability pay outs last year. Ouch.

If you have a dog, it’s your responsibility to train, control and socialize your pet to minimize the potential for dog bites. It’s also just plain smart from an economic point of view, as you can see by claim costs. And whether you have a dog or not, it’s important to lean about how to prevent bites, how to train kids to be safe around dogs, and what to do if you are bitten. Here are some resources:

The true meaning of Friday: Fun animal videos!

While we always like to talk insurance, sometimes you need to focus on the real reason the Internet was invented: amazing animal videos. Normally, we’re partial to cute cats and dogs, but we want to give the rest of the animal kingdom equal time. Here’s a collection of a few of our animal clip finds to kick off your weekend.

Mostly when we see cows, they’re just standing around. But not on the first day of spring when the farmer lets them out of the barn – they dance and leap after having been cooped up. We know how they feel!

Seals are apparently just the doggies of the ocean!

Many of us are worried about privacy issues – this chimpanzee is taking matters in his own hands. Hope the drone was insured.

There’s a zoo in Japan that offers a spa day for its capybaras on the coldest day each winter. It looks like fun!

It’s Bike to Work Week – find New England resources

bike_month_web_900x900May is National Bike Month and this week – May 11 to 15 – is Bike to Work Week, culminating in Bike to Work Day, on Friday, May 15. Biking instead of driving is good for the environment and good for you, too! We’ve gathered some links to New England resources to find local events and resources.

Wear a helmet, follow the law – find your state laws – and get some smart cycling tips from the National Bike League.

Don’t forget to protect your investment – the Insurance Information Institute offers a rundown on Bicycle Safety and Insurance. They note that: “Bicycles are covered under the personal property section of standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. This coverage will reimburse you, minus your deductible, if your bike is stolen or damaged in a fire, hurricane or other disaster listed in your policy.”  But if you are a serious biker with very expensive, high-end bikes, you might want to talk to your agent about a rider to your policy to get additional coverage. To further protect your investment, consider registering your bike at the National Bike Registry.

Celebrate National Pet Week


Are you a pet lover? Many people are: 43 million households own dogs, 36 million own cats — and there’s a vast menagerie of other critters that people claim as pets.

This week is National Pet Week, created in 1981 by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to honor the many important roles pets have in our lives and to encourage responsible pet ownership.

National Pet Week from AVMAvets on Vimeo.

Here’s a helpful list of resources for Pet Owners, which includes expert info on finding and choosing a vet, and key advice from vets in caring for your pets. Don’t have a pet? Why not adopt a shelter pet – there’s one looking for a good home!

In celebration of Pet Week, we bring you two one-hour compilations of hilarious pet hijinks that help to explain our love affair with pets!

Protect your kids from ID theft

Sleeping childYour child could have their credit report ruined and their ID stolen while they sleep and it might be years before you would be aware that anything is amiss. Underage kids are prime targets of ID theft. A story today on states with the most identity theft complaints explains how some population segments are particularly vulnerable to ID theft:

“While everyone is vulnerable to identity theft, children and elderly people are targeted more than others, although for different reasons. According to Toporoff, children are prime targets because their information is readily available as it is stored within a school system. In addition, almost no one monitors a child’s credit report. This means a child’s stolen identity can often be used for years before the misuse is even detected.

Elderly Americans are vulnerable to identity theft for a host of reasons. They are targeted because often they have more money than younger Americans. They also tend to have more contact with medical establishments, with multiple specialists, and with multiple people such as caretakers entering their homes more often. This may partly explain the nation-leading rate of identity thefts in Florida, where nearly 19% of the population was 65 and over in 2013, the highest proportion in the country.”

How could a child’s ID be compromised? Unfortunately, all too many ways: It could happen from a large data breach, like the Anthem exposure of millions of sensitive records; it could be exposed from school records that are improperly protected; it could be exposed from a computer hack or a stolen wallet; perhaps even worse, it could be stolen by an adult that you know.

How can you protect your children from identity theft? The Federal Trade Commission offers excellent advice on monitoring and protecting your children from identity theft. They offer great ways to spot warning signs that something might be amiss, ways to protect your child’s identity, and steps to take if you have problems.

Here are some prevention tips from the FTC:

  • Find a safe location for all paper and electronic records that show your child’s personal information
  • Don’t share your child’s Social Security number unless you know and trust the other party. Ask why it’s necessary and how it will be protected. Ask if you can use a different identifier, or use only the last four digits of your child’s Social Security number.
  • Shred all documents that show your child’s personal information before throwing them away.
  • Be aware of events that put information at risk. For example, there’s an adult in your household who might want to use a child’s identity to start over; you lose a wallet, purse or paperwork that has your child’s Social Security information; there’s a break-in at your home; or a school, doctor’s office or business notifies you that your child’s information was affected by a security breach.

The FTC also suggests a number of steps you should take if you’re a parent with a child who’s enrolled in school, such as finding out who has access to your child’s information, how information is used and how it’s shared.

There are also a number of identity protection and fraud monitoring services on the market – check with your local insurance agent to see if they offer any services as part of their insurance packages.

Check your kids’ outdoor play spaces for National Playground Safety Week

playground funAs the weather improves, more and more kids turn to outside activities in public and private playgrounds. This week is National Playground Safety week, a good time for parents to review the safety of the outdoor places where kids play. The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) offers a great Summer Safety Checklist for the top ten summer playground safety tips.

Some of the key issues are adult supervision and age appropriate equipment. See the NPPS guidelines for Age-Appropriate Design – NPPS recommends that adults be proactive in selecting age appropriate equipment and requesting separate play areas for different age groups – 6 months through 23 months, ages 2 to 5, and 5 to 12. These areas should be marked by signage indicating the age-appropriate areas. They offer guidance for each of these age groups.

Other considerations are appropriate fall surface materials, shelter from weather, and avoidance of any strings or ropes on equipment. They also say that kids should not wear bicycle helmets on playground equipment because they can be caught and may cause strangulation. It could be an easy mistake for a parent to think a helmet was offering an added layer of protection! See more NPPS tips at Playground Head to Toe Safety.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers a variety of safety resources on various topics related to playgrounds, as well as these guides:

Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook (PDF)
Public Safety Playground Handbook (English) and (Spanish) 

Boston Marathon Monday Toolkit

marathonIt’s 42 with drizzle at the race starting line.  Watch the Boston Marathon live starting at 9:30

Athlete tracking
Boston Marathon Twitter feed
Boston Marathon Facebook

Spectator Security guidelines for Boston Marathon
Which roads are closed on Marathon Monday
Boston Marathon interactive map – Find Viewing Spots, T Stops and More With This Interactive Course Map

There are more than 30,000 runners this year – here are start times
2015 Boston Marathon Official Start Times

Start Time / Division / Approx No. of Entrants
8:50 – Mobility Impaired – 50
9:17 – Push-Rim Wheelchair -70 (plus 6 duos)
9:22 – Handcycles – 18
9:32 – Elite Women – 40
10:00 – Elite Men and Wave One – 7,500
10:25 – Wave Two – 7,500
10:50 – Wave Three – 7,500
11:15 – Wave Four – 7,500


Retirement planning procrastination wastes the advantage of compound interest

Many people procrastinate when it comes to saving for retirement … but the earlier you start, the more compounding interest works in your favor.

Financial Engines conducted a survey to better to better understand why people procrastinate on their retirement savings. They learned that most of those those surveyed identified 25 as the right age to begin planning and saving for retirement, but that most had started much later than that: an average of 10.6 years later than they thought they should have.

They attributed that delay in retirement savings to various reasons:

  • 50% – stress
  • 40% – other, higher priorities
  • 24% – worried about being
  • 23% – unsure how to go about it
  • 20% – believed it was too difficult

While people think they can make up for it later — and sometimes they can — every year of delay squanders the advantage of compound interest. To reach the same savings goal, they would need to save more each year to make up for any missed investment growth, as well as any missed employer matches, if available.

The following graphic depicts the percent of income that would need to be saved each year to reach the savings goal.

delayYou can learn more about the benefits of time by playing with with this compound interest calculator.

But the better-late-than-never rule comes into play – even if you missed out on the advantage of an early start, the sooner you do begin the better, so don’t delay. Here are some tips offered by  Financial Engines for late starters:

late-startFor more information on the cost of procrastination, see their complete infographic.

Money Matters: 48 Mistakes, 7 Quizzes and 5 Cool Learning Tools

Money TreeApril is financial literacy month. How savvy are you about money? This fun article will let you chart your age based on your savings habits. To commemorate the month, we’ve put together a financial wellness toolkit for you to learn common money mistakes, to test your own financial knowledge and find good learning resources to improve your knowledge.

Common Money Mistakes

 Test Your Money Savvy

 Resources for Learning to Manage Money

360 Days of Financial Literacy
A free program by the nation’s certified public accountants to help Americans understand personal finances through every stage of life. Check out the more than 30 financial calculators.

Unbiased insurance information for consumers sponsored by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Information is organized by life stage and lines of coverage: auto insurance, home insurance, health insurance and life insurance.
Making the most of your money starts with five building blocks for managing and growing your money. MyMoney.Gov offers tools and information on five key areas of money management: Earnings; Saving & investing; Protecting; Spending; and Borrowing.

Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy
a national non-profit of about 150 national organizations and entities from the corporate, non-profit, academic, government and other sectors that share an interest in advancing financial literacy among students in pre-kindergarten through college.

30 Steps to Financial Wellness
A 30 step path will help you achieve financial wellness.

National Window Safety Week: April 5-11

Sad childEvery year, more than 3,300 children under the age of 5 fall from windows, suffering injuries serious enough to send them to the hospital; sadly, about eight children a year die from these falls. To raise awareness about the risks, the National Safety Council, window and door industry professionals and other child safety advocates formed the Window Safety Task Force. Every year, the Task Force sponsors National Window Safety Week.

The most obvious risk is kids falling from windows that are unsecured. SafeKids has a good child fall prevention tip sheet. Screens are no help at all, they cannot break a fall. If windows will be open, install child-safe window guards. It’s important to know how to safely childproof windows. Child-safe window guards can help, but it’s important not to install anything that would be a hindrance to escape in case of a fire. Safety experts caution that there is a balance between the two needs: fire escape and fall prevention.

Another window hazard is related to window coverings. It’s important to child-proof these coverings to ensure there are no cords, chains or string that can strangle children. Learn what to guard against in the CPSC Safety Alert: Are Your Window Coverings Safe?

The National Safety Council has an excellent resources:
Window Safety Checklist
Window Safety Awareness Brochure
Window Safety Activity Book for Kids

Please share these tools with anyone you know who has babies or toddlers. Awareness also needs to spread beyond parents: all too often, accidents happen when someone who is less familiar with children fails to understand or guard against the risk.