What’s most likely to kill you? Check out your odds for National Safety Month


cartoon of a business man hanging on to a rope above swimming sharks

It’s National Safety Month, which is a great time double down on safety both at work and at home. But where to start? One way to think about safety practices and injury prevention is to focus on the types of injuries that are most common and most likely. With the summer approaching, expect that any day now we will start seeing alarming stories about shark danger. While no one wants to get attacked by a shark and it’s certainly good to take precautions, in reality, there’s a greater chance you will die by choking on your lobster roll than by being eaten by a shark. Media attention to sensational stories about crime, disasters and unusual tragedies tend to distort our sense of what the real risks we face actually are.

The National Safety Council puts things in perspective in this short video:

The purpose of insurance is to offer you financial protection from accidental risks and calamities that may befall you. But even when you are properly insured, it’s still in your best interests to try to manage those risks as best you can because insurance may not make you whole – particularly when the risk involves life and limb. We often don’t do a good job of managing our risks. Sometimes, what we fear the most is actually less risky than other common every day occurrences. Human nature being what it is, people often worry more about rare events and can be too casual about dangers that are more pervasive.

Learn the top causes of unintentional injury and death in your homes and communities from the National Safety Council, or see this chart and learn more on Mortality and Risk from the Insurance Information Institute.

Plus, check out one of our most popular past posts: What are the odds? Mortality calculators, where we various tools and calculators that let you assess your mortality. Don’t miss one of the web’s longtime favorite sites, the Internet Death Clock, where you can calculate optimistic or pessimistic estimates of how much time you are likely to live.

Despite the odds, one sad fact remains: None of us get out of here alive, so as the late Warren Zevon advised, “Enjoy every sandwich.” And as long as you are thinking about odds, it might also be a good time to think about taking care of your survivors:

Life Insurance Survey: Most people have too little.

A few other past posts on the topic of risks and dangers

 

Update your life insurance beneficiaries!


man updating beneficiaries on life insurance policy

Pop quiz: When is the last time you updated your life insurance beneficiaries and beneficiaries on other important financial documents?

If you are like most people, you probably don’t think about your beneficiaries very often, but you should. Financial advisers say that failing to keep your beneficiaries up-to-date is a common and costly mistake. Failure to periodically update your beneficiaries could have unintended consequences. You’d probably prefer that your current spouse rather than a former spouse would be the beneficiary of your assets – but if you haven’t updated your paperwork, your ex could see a big payday on your passing!

As you prep for tax filing and gather your financial documents, it’s a good time to add beneficiary updates to your checklist to be sure that your designated beneficiaries are up to date. Life and circumstances change. Parents die, marriages dissolve, children are born, and any of these events may warrant a change in beneficiaries.

What documents should you check? In the linked article above, financial advisers say:

In addition to IRAs of the traditional, Roth, SIMPLE and SEP varieties, beneficiaries should be checked on 401(k) plans, 403(b) and deferred-compensation employer plans, life insurance policies, 529 education accounts and any bank or other account designated as “Transfer on Death.”

Here are some best practices to consider when naming beneficiaries:

Always name a beneficiary. People who have wills often think they have their beneficiaries covered, but this assumption can be wrong. Generally, beneficiaries named in insurance policies and retirement plans will take precedence over any instructions you leave in your will. Make sure you have specified individuals as beneficiaries in your policies and plans. People often name their “estate” as the beneficiary but this can lead to benefits being tied up in probate court. Failure to name a beneficiary may also mean that you miss out on certain plan or policy advantages. For example, if you name an estate as beneficiary, an IRA will be liquidated on your death and taxes will be due. If your spouse is named as beneficiary, he or she could potentially continue to enjoy tax-free growth.

Be specific. Avoid ambiguous language. Simply stating “my husband” or “my niece” may not be sufficient, particularly in instances of multiple marriages. It’s a good idea to use full names of intended beneficiaries to avoid potential confusion or disputes.

Name a secondary beneficiary. Make sure that it will be you and not your state law that determines who will be the recipient of your policy benefits. If your primary beneficiary should pass away and you have not named a secondary or contingent beneficiary, your insurance policy or retirement plan will be distributed according to your will. If you have no will, the decision will default to state law.

Keep important records in a secure place and tell a trusted family member what and where they are. Many people die suddenly without leaving instructions as to where a will, insurance papers and other important records are kept. All too often, benefits go unclaimed because family members don’t know about potential benefits or can’t find important account information. Bank accounts and insurance policies are overlooked. Make sure someone in your family is familiar with your most important records and where they are kept.

Further reading:

You can also talk to your independent insurance agent about updating your life insurance. Don’t have life insurance or don’t have an independent insurance agent? If you live in New England, find a Renaissance Alliance insurance agent near you to help you with life, auto, homeowners, and many other types of insurance.

Do you have any unclaimed money? Check to find out!


raining money

There’s a lot of frozen money out there that no one is claiming .. it’s in the billions. Some put the figure as high as $40 billion! Is any of it yours? Some of it could be if you’ve ever moved to another state or to another residence; if you’ve changed your name; if you’ve forgotten about a small bank account or a few shares of stock; or if a distant relative left you something in a life insurance policy or will.

Here are some of the most common forms of unclaimed money:

  • Inactive bank accounts, both checking and savings
  • Unfound life insurance or other account beneficiaries
  • Tax refunds that were misdirected
  • Unreturned utility deposits and escrow accounts
  • Refunds and credits
  • Stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends
  • Uncashed checks and wages
  • Insurance policies, CDs, trust funds
  • Unredeemed money orders or travelers checks
  • Unclaimed safe deposit boxes

If you’d like to check to see if there is any unclaimed money due you, here’s a tip:
The best place to start is MissingMoney.com.

This site is the only only free, state endorsed national database of missing money. The site is officially endorsed by NAUPA (National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators) and participating states and provinces. The site will assist you in thoroughly searching all participating states to find your family’s missing, lost, and unclaimed property, money and assets. It has the most updated information for the state and provincial offices. Searches and claiming are always FREE.

We tried it out and found a $65 insurance policy refund from a neighboring state we lived in more than 10 years ago. We filed a claim and the money will be sent to us. You can search the entire database or confine to a specific state. Don’t forget to search by any variations in your name. Here are some search tips and frequently asked questions.

Other resources for unclaimed money

While MissingMoney.com is the best site, you can also check these sources, too:

Scam alert – don’t get hooked

Beware of scams related to unclaimed money. While we’d all like to think that we won some money that we didn’t know about or have a distant wealthy deceased aunt who left us her fortune, it’s not likely to be true. Scammers thrive on our hopes, fantasies and greed – don’t give them the opportunity.

  • Beware of emails and phone calls that alert you to winnings or other unclaimed money. State and federal authorities do not use email or phone to notify you of unclaimed money. The IRS will never threaten you to “pay now or else.”
  • Beware of people who ask for bank or credit card information or personal details to process your winnings/inheritance.
  • Be careful of unauthorized search sites that charge a fee to use. Stick to the sites we’ve mentioned or call your state’s unclaimed money office or insurance bureau if you have questions.
  • Beware of people who try to charge you. While there are some legitimate finder businesses that search for lost property owners and offer to inform them of how to obtain their property for a fee, most “out of the blue” alerts should be treated with a high degree of suspicion. NAUPA recommends that “Before signing any contract from a firm of this type, we recommend that you be cautious and contact the unclaimed property office in your state for more information.” Plus, you are better running your own searches periodically and avoiding any fees!

Check out these scam alerts:

Life Insurance Survey: Most people have too little


Do you have life insurance? If so, you are among the 57% of Americans who do, according to a recent survey on life insurance by Bankrate Money Pulse. But even if you have it, do you have enough coverage to meet your financial goals? The survey found that of those who do have coverage, most people have under $100,000 – which would not be sufficient to sustain a young family or a surviving spouse.

“Especially vulnerable are families with children under 18. More than 1 in 3 of those parents (37%) have no life insurance at all, while a third of those who do have no more than $100,000 in coverage (32%).”

“The $25,000 to $100,000 policies that you usually see in employer group plans may cover your funeral expenses, but they’re not going to pay off a mortgage or put a kid through college,” Bridgeland says. “It’s worrisome to me to see that half of those insured have those levels of coverage.”

See the graph below for a more detailed breakdown of coverage amounts held by survey respondents.

life-insuranceInsurance Information Institute just released a good overview of the basics of life insurance in a short video – check it out!

The Odds of Dying: Perceived risk vs reality


June is National Safety Month sponsored by the National Safety Council. It’s a time to think about reducing leading causes of injury and death at the workplace, in our homes and in our communities. They’ve issued an interesting infographic on the Odds of Dying, noting that Americans often worry about the wrong things – check out the events we think will kill us vs. the ones that actually do, according to the numbers. (You can click for a bigger version).

If you’d like more detail on your personal odds, we have a prior post with a variety of mortality calculators to help you assess your own personal odds for longevity. They include life expectancy tables and a few interactive calculators. We leave you with two words: Life Insurance!

oddsofdying