Hurricane Season 2019: What’s shaping up


2019 hurricane season infographic

The 2019 Hurricane Season began on June 1 and runs through November 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, predicts a 40% chance of a  “near normal” hurricane season. There’s a 30% chance that the season could be worse, and a 30% chance that it could be better than the average season.

For 2019, NOAA predicts a likely range of 9 to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.

But don’t let the “near normal” prediction lull you into a false sense of security – hurricane preparation is still urgent, particularly for those who live in the southeast and in Atlantic coastal areas. According to a recent Storm Surge Report by CoreLogic, the Atlantic hurricane season puts 7.3 million homes at risk with an estimated reconstruction cost of $1.8 trillion.

“Florida stands out as the most vulnerable state, with more than three times more homes at risk (2,913,886) than second-ranked Louisiana (827,032). Florida also stands out in terms of potential damage, with at-risk structures having an estimated reconstruction cost of $604 billion — a third of the total for all 19 Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast states.

Narrowing down to metropolitan areas, Miami, New York City, Tampa, New Orleans and Virginia Beach, Virginia hold the greatest risks. In the New York City metro area, which includes Philadelphia and much of New Jersey, 831,000 homes with estimated replacement costs of $330 billion stand in harm’s way. In the Miami metropolitan area, which includes West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, 827,000 homes are at risk with an estimated replacement cost of $166 billion.”

Florida hurricane prep underway – get tax-free hurricane supplies through June 6!

Florida doesn’t take hurricanes lightly. The Orlando Sentinel posts thoughts from the region and talks about past storms in their news report,  Welcome to hurricane season 2019.

Floridians should act quickly for a discount on some hurricane supplies. Through June 6, certain hurricane supplies can be purchased tax-free during Florida sales tax holiday. Learn more from the Florida Department of Revenue’s Tax Information Publication:   Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday – May 31 through June 6, 2019

Hurricane Prep resources

 

Get your ride on: May is National Bike Month


Haul the bike out of the cellar or the garage because May is National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and celebrated in communities from coast to coast. National Bike to Work Week 2019 will take place May 13–19. Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 17.

Biking is a great way to experience the outdoors and to get good exercise. It’s also a much more economical and earth-friendly form of transpiration than cars. Whatever your reason for biking, there are a few important steps to take to make sure you are safe on the road.

Finally, don’t forget to protect your investment! Bicycle theft may be covered by your homeowners or renters insurance but there is ordinarily a rather high deductible. If your bike is particularly valuable, you may want to speak with your independent insurance agent about a floater policy to keep it covered at all times.See our prior post which includes a video bicycle insure quiz and link to more information on insuring your bike from the Insurance Information Institute.  In addition to a discussion about insurance, they suggest marking your bike, writing the serial number down and taking several photos of it to help police in identification. They also recommend registering your bike with local police and the National Bike Registry.

Year-Round Bicycle Maintenance

Spring Tune Up - Bicycle Maintenance
Source: Fix.com Blog

Quick Fixes - Bicycle Maintenance
Source: Fix.com Blog

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.

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Time to prep that swimming pool for safety!


little girls in the swimming pool

Is it too early to think about going swimming yet? We’ve certainly earned warm weather after a snowy, chilly start to spring. Swimming season can’t be far away!

But if you own a backyard pool, whether of the in-ground or above-ground variety, you know that before the fun starts there’s some work to do. Your pool needs to be in swimsuit-shape, too!

A call to your local swimming pool service will do some of the work for you – their trained technicians can clean, fill, and maintain your pool. But there are a host of issues involved with pool ownership that you, the pool owner, will need to consider.

Some of those issues regard insurance. If you’ve just installed a new swimming pool or purchased your first property with a swimming pool, you might not be aware of the implications of swimming pool ownership.

Familiarize yourself with local standards regarding swimming pools to make sure you are in compliance. Certain municipalities may require fencing, locked gates, decks, and accessible pool safety equipment.

You’re also going to need insurance. Call your local insurance agent and ask her to lay out the different kinds of insurance available. Swimming pools are considered an “attractive nuisance” by the insurance industry and they will increase your liability. So upping your liability insurance is generally a good idea. Consider an umbrella liability policy for extended coverage. Make sure your coverage includes the cost to repair or replace the swimming pool should it be damaged in a natural disaster.

There are simple steps you can take to make your swimming pool safer and reduce your risk. Create a barrier to prevent unauthorized access to your pool. A wall, a fence, locked gates, alarms on doors leading to the pool – all of these measures will help to dissuade uninvited guests from taking a quick dip.

It’s also good to know some details about your swimming pool. Know how to remove and change pool filters, and how to shut the pumps off in an emergency. Know how to install, clean, and maintain drain covers. Enroll yourself and your family members in a water safety class and teach your children to swim as soon as possible.

There’s lots of good suggestions regarding pool safety out there. Here’s a good place to start: PoolSafety.gov. Also, The National Swimming Pool Foundation offers a reasonably-priced 2-hour online training on Home Pool Essentials that comes with a 30-page guide.

Choose the right seat: It’s Child Passenger Safety Week


illustration of child car safety seats for child safety passenger week

If you have a child between the ages of 1 and 13 or know someone who does, listen up: This week  – September 17-23 is Child Passenger Safety Week – sponsored by the the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13, but many deaths and injuries can be prevented by the proper use of car seats, boosters and seat belts. A lot of attention is given to infant car seat, but as children grow, how they sit in your car will change. That’s why it’s so important to make age and size adjustments and choose and use the right car seat correctly every time your child is in the car.

This NHTSA site offers valuable help and resources for choosing the right seat. Learn to:

  • Choose the right seat. Learn the difference between rear-facing seat, forward-facing, boosters and belts.
  • Find the car seat that fits your child’s current size and age and get age-based recommendations
  • Use the Car Seat Finder, an easy-to-use tool that compares seats and ease-of-use ratings to help find the right car seat for your child.
  • Learn tips to install and anchor seats correctly
  • Find out where to get your car seat inspected by a certified technician
  • Register your car seat to receive important safety updates
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