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2006: A look back - A look ahead  
  A quiet 2006 produced record profits for insurers but a number of scenarios could trigger a disastrous 2007 with $100 million or more in claims.
 Personal finance calendar  Personal finance calendar 

Update your insurance coverage

Insurance experts say now is the perfect time to begin reevaluating your family's financial needs. The following are some of the best bets for insurance in 2007.

Visit your agent
Things change over the year, and Mike Siemienas, spokesman for Allstate Insurance says as family situations change, your insurance polices should change as well.  The best way to ensure your home and car are properly covered is to visit your insurance agent at least once a year, Siemienas says.

A good time to make that visit is when your policy comes up for renewal, he says.

Any life-changing event, such as having a child, a marriage, divorce or even household renovations could trigger changes to your policies.

"What you don't want to have happen is to suffer a loss and find out you don't have the coverage you thought you had," he says.

Know your policy
While you are visiting your agent, Siemienas suggests making sure you know of any special risks your community faces that might not be covered under your homeowner's policy. Two vivid examples are floods and earthquakes. Traditional homeowner's policies don't cover either natural disaster. To be protected, homeowners need to purchase additional policies, and yet millions of people live in vulnerable communities without buying such protection.  According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), only 13.9 percent of California homeowners have earthquake insurance and a mere 14 percent of consumers nationwide have flood insurance.

"Be familiar with your policy and find out what is and is not covered," Siemienas says. "Never be afraid to ask if you have question because what you don't want to happen is to be caught uncovered."

Take inventory
Even if you do have adequate coverage, Xochitl Yanez, spokeswoman for State Farm, warns that making a claim could be difficult if you don't have an accurate and up-to-date inventory of everything in your house.

"By taking inventory, you may be pleasantly surprised by how much you have, or it may be a real eye opener to realize where you stand financially," Yanez says.

Keeping a written inventory of the contents of your house in a safe place may be the only way to ensure you get reimbursed properly after a flood, robbery or a fire. Without a comprehensive list, you may be left struggling to remember exactly how many pairs of socks, CDs and towels you own.

Insure your life
While nobody wants to think about dying, Jack L. Sloan, owner of Sloan Financial Services in New Orleans, says failing to plan for the inevitable could leave your family and loved ones without enough money once you are gone. 

"I can tell you this, down here since Katrina, people are taking a second look at insurance because they know that bad things can happen and they want to make sure they are covered," he says.

Yanez says the majority of U.S. consumers don't carry enough life insurance to take care of their family once they die.

-- Posted: Nov. 1, 2006
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