Graduating is an exciting rite of passage and you are to be congratulated for your achievements. Life offers many other exciting opportunities; however, these opportunities are accompanied by certain risks. Insurance is your major protection against financial risks, and knowledge about basic insurance facts can make you a better consumer.
This guide was designed by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America to introduce you to the different types of insurance, which ones you need and which ones you don't. While this guide addresses the most common questions about insurance, your insurance agent can answer your specific questions, and make sure you have the coverages you need.
• What is insurance and what kinds are there?
• How do I decide which kinds of insurance I should buy?
• Am I still covered by my parents' policies?
• What kinds of insurance do I not need?
• What does auto insurance cover?
• Can I get insurance through my employer?
• Does it matter that I'll be moving around a lot in the next few years?
• I'll soon be renting my own apartment. Is there insurance for that?
• Do I need insurance if I go into business for myself?
• Will getting married change my insurance needs?
• How will becoming a parent affect my insurance needs?
• What factors affect the cost of insurance?
What is insurance and what kinds are there?
Insurance is a means of guaranteeing your financial protection against various risks. There are different kinds of insurance to cover different circumstances. Policies are available for business purposes and for personal needs. Personal insurance is further divided into:
Property/Casualty Insurance - Provides protection for property like homes, cars and household possessions, in addition to protection from liability as a result of their use.
Life Insurance - Provides funds to a designated beneficiary or beneficiaries in the event of an insured's death.
Health Insurance - Pays for costs related to your health (e.g., doctor visits, hospital stays and diagnostic tests). Disability Insurance, a form of insurance that combines elements of life and health insurance, pays you for income lost due to a disabling injury or illness.
Life, health and disability insurance are often provided through employers. Ask your employer about these coverages and check with your agent to make sure they meet your needs.
Government Benefits - As a working citizen, you pay for insurance programs run by the government. Social Security is a retirement and disability program in which almost all workers in the United States are required to participate. Medicare is the federally sponsored health program for persons over 65 and individuals with disabilities. Medicaid is jointly funded by the states and the federal government to extend health coverage to poorer Americans. In addition, laws in most states require employers to carry workers compensation insurance so that workers injured or exposed to an illness on the job can receive compensation. Many states also require employers to pay into unemployment insurance, so if a worker is laid off, he or she will receive some money while seeking a new job.
How do I decide which kinds of insurance I should buy?
Upon graduation, you probably should consider five basic lines to see if they apply to your situation:
1. Auto Insurance -- If you own or lease a car or are planning to in the near future, you will want to protect that investment with auto insurance. This coverage helps you cope with the expense of accidents, vandalism or theft. In addition, if you are financing the vehicle, the lending institution probably will require that you carry auto insurance. Another area that needs protection is your liability. If you are sued because of damage your vehicle caused, auto insurance will help with legal expenses and any damages you have to pay.
2. Health Insurance -- To cope with today's high medical costs, virtually everyone needs health insurance. Following graduation, you may no longer be covered by your parents' policy, so you may need one of your own.
3. Homeowners or Renters Insurance --Whether you own a home or rent an apartment, you want to make sure your possessions are protected. Both homeowners and renters insurance offer comprehensive coverage at home and when you travel. They also offer liability protection should you be sued.
4. Life Insurance -- If you have dependents or are interested in purchasing life insurance that builds value as you pay the premiums, talk with your agent about the plans available.
5. Disability Insurance -- This is designed to provide required income should you be injured or disabled. The extent of coverage should be enough so that, when combined with your other assets, you would have enough to live on.
Am I still covered by my parents' policies?
It depends on the policy and its terms. For example, most health insurance policies cover insured's children up to age 18 - or to age 22 if the child continues as a full-time student. If you are over 18 and not a full-time student, you will need your own health insurance policy. Check with your insurance agent about specific insurance policies and any age restrictions involved.
What kinds of insurance do I NOT need?
Air travel insurance. It costs too much and is not comprehensive.
Life insurance if you are single with no dependents and do not have your own business.
Very specific policies like contact lens insurance or cancer insurance. It is usually better to have comprehensive policies like renters or health.
What does auto insurance cover?
Auto insurance is divided into several different types of coverage:
Liability covers damage to other people's property and injuries you may cause while operating an automobile.
Collision covers damage to your own vehicle in an accident.
Other-than-Collision covers fire damage to your vehicle, break-ins, vandalism or theft, as well as natural disasters (earthquake, hail, hurricane, flood, etc. - unless the vehicle is overturned, then it is considered a collision).
Medical payments insurance guarantees emergency and related medical payments, usually in the range of $5,000 to $10,000, for you, your passengers and other parties, regardless of who is at fault. It also covers you and members of your household in any accident involving an automobile, whether you are on foot, in a friend's car, riding a bicycle, etc.
Uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage protects you and your passengers if injured in an accident with drivers carrying insufficient liability coverage.
Extra coverages include expenses for towing, labor, temporary replacement vehicles, etc. These are generally defined as add-ons or endorsements to your policy.
Your agent can offer you more information on the limits and types of coverage that will best suit your situation.
Should I look into auto insurance before I buy my first car?
Yes. Factors such as safety and frequency of theft of specific makes and models can play an important role in determining your insurance rate. Some cars are safer than others to drive and some are less apt to be stolen. Choosing one of these will help lower your insurance rate. Your insurance agent can help you estimate your insurance needs and premiums.
Can I get insurance through my employer?
Probably. Check to see if you can receive health, disability and life insurance through your place of employment. If there are several different plans available, be sure to examine each thoroughly to find the one that best fits your needs. Ask your company's program administrator to explain the employee benefits thoroughly.
If I receive no benefits through my employment, what do I do?
Check with your parents to see if you are still covered under their policies. If not, your insurance agent can explain the plans available and the best match for your needs.
Does it matter that I'll be moving around a lot in the next few years?
Yes. Your policies usually can follow you, though some adjustments may be necessary. To keep your coverage intact, it's best to keep your insurance agent posted on address changes.
I'll soon be renting my own apartment. Is there insurance for that?
Yes. Renters insurance is a property/casualty policy to protect your property and to protect you against liability. For example, if someone slips and falls in your apartment, you may be held liable for the injury. Renters insurance would cover that accident. All your possessions up to the monetary limits listed in your policy also would be covered for specified damages (both at home and when you travel).
Liability coverage means that if somebody sued for damages caused by you or your possessions (other than a vehicle covered by your auto insurance policy), the cost of the suit --both defending it and settling it if necessary--would be covered by your renters insurance up to the limit of coverage chosen.
Isn't my apartment covered under my landlord's policy?
No, the landlord's insurance covers damage to the building and the landlord's property - not your personal property or liability. Plus, you may be liable for damage to the building if it is your fault. If you go out and leave the stove on and an ensuing fire causes extensive damage to the entire building, you may be held liable to the landlord.
How are prices determined for renters insurance?
Renters insurance is surprisingly inexpensive. That's because you are not insuring a building. Like all property/casualty policies, the value of your property to be insured and other risk factors are weighed by the insurance company to determine your premium. Your insurance agent can help you find the best combination of coverage and cost.
I live in an apartment with three roommates. Do we each need a policy?
Check with your agent. Usually, it is best if all roommates are on the same policy although it is possible for each to purchase his or her own coverage. If you do need to "go it alone," you alone receive the security of renters coverage.
Do I need insurance if I go into business for myself?
Yes. Commercial or business insurance, like the personal insurance described thus far in this guide, offers property and liability coverage.
If you are self-employed, in effect you own your own business and are responsible not only for your own equipment and supplies but also for any damage to your clients and their property.
If you are looking at seasonal employment with another young person or an informal group of young people who have started their own business, be sure to check to see if they have the necessary insurance and that you are not personally liable. Speak with your insurance agent for more details.
Will getting married change my insurance needs?
Yes. It may increase your needs in some areas (more property insurance if you are combining households) and decrease them in other areas (one of you may be able to receive coverage under the other's health plan; two vehicles can be covered under one policy, which is usually less expensive). If you receive health and life insurance at work, consult with your program administrator to make adjustments. For other policies, such as automobile insurance, talk with your insurance agent.
How will becoming a parent affect my insurance needs?
Check your life insurance terms. You may want to increase the amount, change the beneficiary, or, if you have no life insurance, purchase a policy. Also, because your child will need health insurance, you should see if dependents can be added to your current plan.
What factors affect the cost of insurance?
The likelihood of a loss occurring. The greater the probability a loss will occur can mean a higher rate (e.g., earthquake insurance in California).
The potential size of the claim. If you purchase a large amount of coverage (that is, if the item you are insuring is quite valuable), the chances are there could be a large claim and the premium will need to cover that possibility.
The percentage of loss the insurance company will be required to pay. If you have no deductible, the company will pay 100 percent on a covered loss. This increases their risk and your premium. To understand how a deductible works, consider the following: If the deductible on your auto insurance is $100, it means you agree to pay this amount first, and your insurance company will pay for damages exceeding this deductible. By increasing your deductible from $100 to $250, or even $500, this decreases the insurance company's risk, which may mean a savings in your premium.
Other factors can influence premiums such as the number of lawsuits and the average amount awarded in a given state. In short, your insurance company tries to ascertain how much it needs to accumulate to cover all the claims it will receive.
Reprinted with permission from the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.