2008 Insurance Guide
insurance
A new grad's guide to insurance

You've kissed classes goodbye and grabbed that sheepskin. Now what?

If you want to save some money and protect what you've got (along with what you'll soon be earning), it's time to think insurance.

You don't have to spend a bundle. Just putting a few bucks on the right kind of coverage can make a big difference in your life. And, with some jobs, it's just a matter of checking the right box on the benefits form. (To compare insurance policies and quotes, visit Insureme.com, a Bankrate company.)

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you plan your post-college life.

1. Don't skimp on health 

Everybody needs health insurance. Most employers will cover part or all of your premiums, says Bill Feldhaus, associate professor of risk management and insurance at Georgia State University. Even if you have to contribute a little (or even a lot), this is one kind of insurance you don't want to forgo. Medical treatment can be expensive, and an accident or unexpected illness could wipe you out financially.

One way to save: If you had been covered under your parents' insurance, find out if you're still eligible after you graduate. If you're living at home, continuing with your education, or younger than a certain age, you may be able to remain on their policy. If having you on the policy costs them extra, compare that price to your other options. And if you want to use their coverage, pay the difference. If it means better coverage at a lower price, it could still be a good deal for you.

If you can't continue coverage and your new job doesn't offer health insurance (or you don't yet have a full-time job), shop the rates on individual coverage. One easy way to start your search is with the company that's been providing your health insurance up to now, usually a parent's insurance company, says Jack Hungelmann, author of "Insurance for Dummies" and an agent and consultant with Corporate 4 Insurance Agency of Edina, Minn. Then look at its competitors.

If the quotes you're getting seem too pricey and your health is good, consider a catastrophic plan paired with a health savings account, or HSA, says Feldhaus. The policy typically has a high deductible, but would cover big-ticket medical needs. The savings account lets you bank money tax-free to pay for smaller medical needs, as well as the premiums. So you can shave 15 percent to 30 percent (whatever the percentage of your personal income tax rate) from your medical care costs.

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2. Don't forget your stuff 

Pick up renters insurance. Unless you're living at home -- and your parents have a homeowners policy -- you're going to need something to cover your things in case there's a fire or burglary. (Don't think you own enough to make it worthwhile? Total up the cost of replacing your computer, MP3 player, cell phone, PDA, sound system, flat-screen TV and that collection of CDs and DVDs.)

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