Don’t leave money on the table: Talk to your agent about auto insurance discounts

We’re all looking for bargains, and auto insurance is no different than anything else we buy. You should get enough coverage to protect yourself, but don’t want to pay more than you have to. To keep you auto insurance premiums low, first and foremost, be a safe driver and avoid moving violation tickets. Your past experience definitely affects your rates. It’s also important to maintain a good credit history.

Assuming you are a good driver, there are many discounts that you may qualify for. We’ve offered a list of common discounts but be aware that they aren’t all available in every state and not every insurance company offers the same discounts. The savings potential may be substantial enough to shop around among insurers. A good independent agent will be familiar with and suggest the best potential discounts, but you should be sure to ask- particularly if you have had some life change that affects your circumstances, which your agent may not know about unless you tell them.

Here are some of the most common auto insurance discounts

Low mileage: If you work at home, live in a city where you mostly take public transportation, or drive very little, you may be eligible for a low mileage auto discount. The threshold for low mileage may vary by state or insurer. Generally, under 5,000 miles qualifies for the best discounts, but some insurance companies may have low mileage discounts for up to 15,000 miles a year.

Multiple vehicles in one household. If your household is insuring more than one private passenger vehicle with the same insurance company, you may be eligible for a discount.

Bundling. An insurer may offer a substantial discount if you package or “bundle” more than one policy with them. Typically, this would include bundling your auto and your homeowners, condo or rental policy.

Senior discounts. According to research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, senior have fewer auto accidents per capita than any other age group. If you’ve just turned 65 or just retired, ask your agent about senior discounts. Some insurers offer senior discounts at even lower age thresholds.

Driver training. Taking an approved defensive driving or auto safety course might qualify you for a discount. Typically, these discounts are available to students or seniors, but check with your agent.

Antitheft devices and safety technology. If you have alarm systems, GPS tracking systems, kill switches, disabling technology, or other anti-theft devices, talk to your insurance agent. Certain safety technologies may also earn a reduced rate. If you have anti-lock brakes, passive restraint systems like airbags, or other safety features, let your agent know.

Being a student with good grades. Ask about student discounts. Many states and many insurers make discounts available to student policyholders who maintain good grades.

Prepayments or paperless payments. If you pay for your insurance upfront rather than in installments, you might earn a savings. Some insurance companies also offer a discount for enrolling in automatic E-bill or automated electronic payments.

Loyalty discounts. Have you been with the same insurer for a number of years? Some will offer loyal customer discounts.

Membership discounts and affiliations. Check with your insurance agent to see if they are affiliated with any membership discounts, such as through AAA or AARP, or other affiliate organizations. Also, check to see if there are any discounts available for active members of the military.

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.

Shedding light on buying energy-saving light bulbs

If saving money is one of your new year’s resolutions, one way might be as simple as flicking a switch. Converting to energy saver bulbs can reap real savings but many people are confused and frustrated by the array of choices and the unfamiliar terminology when shopping. What used to be a simple purchase is definitely a more complex task, but help is at hand with NPR’s simple Guide to Changing Light Bulbs, a handy tool designed to demystify the many options we now have as we transition to energy efficient lighting. It compares standard incandescent bulbs that we are all familiar with to halogen incandescent, CFL and LED options. It includes pictorial aids, terminology definitions and handy comparison charts. Two things we found most useful are the comparison of costs over 10 years (ranging from a low of $16.37 to a high of $76.70) and the equivalency guide of watts to lumens.

For those who’d like a little more detail, CNet offers a guide for techno-geeks, the Light bulb buying guide. It offers more detail on the various choices, along with a discussion about light color. Hint: you don’t have to forgo that soft, romantic glow if you know what to shop for. It also discusses options like shape, directionality of light and dimmability.

In addition to bulbs, you may want to consider replacing some of your fixtures. Energy Star estimates that replacing your five most used fixtures with energy saver models could save up to $75 a year.

Here are a few other guides to help you out.

When cutting budget corners, avoid the 5 biggest insurance mistakes

In the post holiday season, we’re all looking for ways to tighten our belts to save money in the new year – particularly since the economy continues to be sluggish, with no end in sight. But when making resolutions for the year ahead, the Insurance Information Institute (III) reminds us not to be penny wise and pound foolish by cutting insurance costs in a way that could cause problems later. III advises consumers to avoid the 5 Biggest Insurance Mistakes:

  • Insuring a home for its real estate value rather than for the cost of rebuilding
  • Selecting an insurance company by price alone
  • Dropping flood insurance
  • Only purchasing the legally required amount of liability for your car
  • Neglecting to buy renters insurance

III elaborates on each of these mistakes and suggests better alternatives.
Other common mistakes that we see, which can cost you money:

  • Forgetting to keep beneficiaries updated
  • Not understanding what a policy does and doesn’t cover
  • Buying too much or too little coverage
  • Forgetting to update coverage to reflect major life changes, such as birth, marriage, new homes
  • Not verifying agent or insurer licenses
  • Not taking advantage of potential discounts