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Protect retirement from theft

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Posted: 5 pm ET

A 50-year-old security guard at a large retirement community outside of Pittsburgh was arrested yesterday for stealing $150,000 worth of jewelry and silverware, according to reports in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

The newspaper said the guard helped himself, using his master key while the residents were traveling or otherwise not at home for an extended period. If your retirement planning includes long trips or months at a winter getaway, let this incident serve as reminder to properly insure your belongings.

While a basic homeowners, condo or renters policy should provide ample protection for most of your possessions, it probably won't adequately cover jewelry, furs, silverware, firearms, antiques or artwork because of strict coverage limits, says Jeff McCarthy, manager of the Harrington Insurance Agency’s office in Woburn, Mass.

A standard policy will almost certainly limit coverage of jewelry and watches to $1,000 total. It will limit firearms to $2,500 and silverware to another $2,500. That's not much.

The simplest way to get around this is to add an endorsement for these items. That will raise the total to, perhaps, double policy limits and will cost a nominal amount. If you don't think that's enough, then you can schedule and insure individual items by buying policy riders. These cost more but probably less than $50 per item.

The advantage to a rider, McCarthy says, is that it covers all risks, including loss. If the diamond falls out of your ring and it isn't covered by a rider, there is a good possibility you have no coverage. If the diamond is scheduled, you'll be reimbursed for the full appraised value.

You will need to have every item that you're scheduling appraised. The jeweler you bought the ring from will do it for free, but silverware, guns and collectibles can be more expensive and trickier. You'll have to find someone who is qualified to do these kinds of appraisals -- and pay them, sometimes handsomely. You'll also have to repeat the appraisal process every two or three years because values change, and the insurer will want to know the current appraised value.

It all sounds like a pain in the neck until you come home, like the woman who blew the whistle on the thief at the Pittsburgh retirement community did, and find a stranger in your living room and your valuables missing.

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