There's a lot you can do online
these days, and shopping for insurance is no exception.
While you can easily compare premiums on Web sites,
they can't help you much with tactical insurance strategies.
This is where an agent's help can be
invaluable. Insurance agents will help you strategize,
answer your questions and assist you in getting complete
coverage. Independent agents, also called brokers,
can help you find the policy and the company that's
right for you.
A good agent will save you money while acting as a risk manager for your household. How do you find an agent who will lead you through the insurance jungle rather than deeper into the thick?
Below are some tips designed to help you find an insurance agent you can trust:
1. Do some preliminary
research. Use an online agent locator at the
Web sites of organizations with rigorous ethical codes.
& Resources page provides links to several
2. Check out the
agent's qualifications. When you find an agent
by other means, look for a couple of things: Is he/she
licensed by the state? What are his/her credentials?
Is he/she a Chartered Financial Consultant? Is he/she
a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter or Chartered
Life Underwriter? Check all candidates with your state
insurance commissioner to see if there have been
3. Consult your own network. Take the list to friends or advisers -- maybe your financial planner or lawyer -- in your community and ask who they would recommend. Word-of-mouth referrals are often the best.
4. Schedule a consultation
with the prospective agent. Finding an agent
that's thorough is key. "A good insurance agency
works as a risk manager for a household," says
Robin Olson, senior research analyst with the International
Risk Management Institute in Dallas and member of
the CPCU Society (Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters).
It's important that the agent listens to what you say and asks the right questions to best understand your situation and needs. Even when the agent is qualified, you might not want to work with him or her if the chemistry isn't right.
5. Check out the
insurance company. Whether you buy from an
independent agent or a dedicated company representative,
it's important to check
the financial rating of the company from which
you ultimately buy insurance. You're investing money
on the promise that it will pay out in the future,
so you need to be confident that company will be around
when you need it.