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As private flood insurance options have increasingly become available in some states, consumers should make sure they understand the differences when choosing between a federal and private policy.

Background Today, most residential flood policies are sold through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The program was created in 1968, when it was difficult for private companies to insure flood risk at rates homeowners could afford.

After disastrous storms like Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the federal program went into debt. The government has been taking steps to stabilize the program and raise flood policy rates, notably with legislation in 2012 that reduced subsidies that had kept premiums on some properties unrealistically low. Further action by Congress in 2014 slowed the rate increases, but many policyholders are still seeing costs rise.

As a result, some insurers see a market for private flood policies. Private policies are a small portion of flood policies. Florida, which has the largest proportion of properties with federal flood insurance — about 1.8 million of the roughly 5.1 million policies nationally — acted in 2014 to encourage the sale of private policies. The state’s Office of Insurance Regulation estimates there are now 3,000 private flood policies.

What are the main differences between a Federal policy and a private policy?

  • The National Flood Insurance Program policies cover structures up to $250,000 and contents up to $100,000. They do not cover extra living costs, like hotels and restaurant for displaced homeowners. Private options may offer higher limits and include coverage for housing if you have to relocate temporarily.
  • Some mortgage lenders may be reluctant to accept private flood policies for federally backed home loans.
  • With national flood insurance, almost anyone can buy a policy if the community participates in the national program. Private companies, depending on the regulations where they operate, may do more extensive risk analysis on a property and may choose not to offer coverage.
  • Private companies that provide flood insurance are few and far between, and their premiums may not be considered affordable when compared with the federal flood coverage.

If I buy a private flood policy, can I switch back to a federal flood policy later?

  • Yes. But if your property had lower, “grandfathered” rates under federal flood coverage rules, you may lose that protection after changing to a private plan, resulting in higher premiums should you return.

Do private flood policies have a waiting period as federal policies do?

  • Waiting periods for private policies vary, but in some cases are much shorter than the 30 days typically required with federal policies.

Safe Travel TipsEvery activity in which a wealthy individual takes part has potential security risks, including travel. There is no question that traveling is an abiding passion of affluent people of every generation. Unfortunately, consumer safety and protection is poor in the $7.8 trillion travel and tourism industry. No one warns anyone before they buy a trip or board a plane about potential risks to their health and safety in the destination country. There are no trusted critical incident reports on deaths, injuries and missing persons who travel abroad. To stay safe, there are a number of safety precautions that every traveler should employ to ensure that their trip remains a joyous one.

Make Electronic Copies of Your Documents: Create an electronic backup of immunization records, itineraries, medical insurance cards, passports, plane tickets, travel insurance, and visas before leaving.

Leave an Itinerary and Emergency Contact: Unplugging while on vacation can be great, but try not to go too under the radar, especially if you’re traveling alone. Leave your itinerary (even if it’s just as basic as which city you’ll be visiting and when you’ll return) with a trusted friend or family member back home, and try to check in with him or her every day. That way, if something happens, they can alert authorities on your behalf.

Don’t Carry Everything Together: It might be tempting to keep your cash, credit cards, identification, and traveler’s checks in your wallet, but don’t do it. Keep any cash, credit cards, IDs, and checks you won’t be using locked in your hotel room safe. Separate the monetary and identifying items you must carry on you and carry them in different spots on your person. This safety tip prevents you from losing everything should somebody steal your wallet.

Don’t Flash Your Cash or Valuables: Keep your cash separated, with some spending money easily accessible and the rest hidden, so that you’re not showing off a big wad of cash every time you pay. Although it’s tempting to have your smartphone out constantly to look up directions or take photos, be mindful of your surroundings – thieves love to grab cell phones from people using them on trains and run off at the next stop.

Steer Clear of Animals: Cute stray dogs and cats roaming the streets may make for good photo opportunities, but resist the urge to get too close. Wild animals can carry all kinds of not-so-fun diseases (including rabies) that could ruin your trip.

Save Emergency Numbers: Remember, you can’t call 911 everywhere. Find out what the local emergency hotlines are and save them to your phone (preferably on speed dial). Also research the nearest U.S. embassies or consulates and save those addresses and phone numbers as well.

Make sure the US embassy knows where you are and if you have a special need: The US Department of State maintains international travel warnings and advisories. US consulates encourage US citizens to register with them and provide them with a contact number. That way, in case of emergency, the consulate already knows where you are and how to find you.

Remember, travel insurance for independent travelers and families is available. You’d rather not think about all of the things that might go wrong on your trip, but these things can and do happen. Gulfshore Insurance offers several good coverage options that provide for worldwide medical coverage. Contact me to find out more!

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Cyber-crime is a trend growing as fast as the Internet itself. It seems that every day there’s another identity theft story in the news that leaves us feeling vulnerable to this invisible threat.

While the compromise of corporate networks gets most of the media attention, we as individuals should be concerned — especially those with greater wealth and high media exposure. Now that personal information has become so hard to protect, financial status is much easier to discover. The explosive growth of mobile communications has created millions of new targets for criminals. Even vehicles, home security systems, and “smart” appliances can be hacked and used against someone. Anything controlled by a computer or connected to a network can be compromised.

The key to protection isn’t through a high-tech solution; cyber security is about awareness of online activity. It’s a good idea to work with a private security advisor who can offer expertise in cyber security. They not only help with background research and network security on both a personal and enterprise level, but they also provide tips and education on effective measures one can take to guard against cyber-crime.

It is also essential to insure one’s assets and reputation should a loss occur due to cyber-crime. Recovering stolen identity or lost assets can be expensive and time-consuming. And if this happens to a business leader, politician, celebrity or other high net worth individual, restoring a damaged reputation can also be difficult and costly. Good coverage provides some reassurance that you can financially recover from a cyber-crime. Not all insurance providers can meet those unique needs; it is important to talk with a trusted insurance agent who can offer expert advice on coverage solutions and recommend the best insurance companies to help protect against cyber-crime. Some carriers offer in-home safety consultations or can recommend an international personal security firm with expertise in protecting wealthy individuals and families.

It’s important to discuss these cyber risk exposures with your trusted insurance agent who can provide risk mitigation and loss prevention recommendations and, most importantly, secure insurance coverage with an insurance company that specializes in this risk.

In the excitement of surprising someone with a gift that makes a big impression, remember that properly insuring expensive gifts can bring peace and joy long after the holiday season is over.

Standard homeowners insurance policies include coverage for personal items such as jewelry. However, valuable items such as jewelry, guns, furs, silverware, watches, and coins for example, usually have coverage limitations to theft.

To make sure jewelry and other expensive gifts are adequately protected, it is important to take the following actions:

Contact your Client Advisor
Let your agent know that you possess expensive items. Find out how much coverage you have under your home insurance policy and if additional insurance is needed.
 
Have the item appraised
It is important that expensive items are properly appraised. Your Client Advisor can recommend a reputable appraiser if necessary. If this is your first time getting an expensive item appraised, have heirlooms and other expensive items that were purchased several years ago appraised as well. Expensive items can go up or down in value.

Keep a copy of the store receipt and add it to your home inventory
You will need to forward a copy of the receipt to your insurer so that the company knows the current retail value of the item. Keep a copy for yourself and update your home inventory.  Get into the habit of keeping a visual record of all of your personal possessions. This helps to document your loss and speed up the claims process, particularly for claims involving antique and unusual pieces of jewelry.

Store valuables in a secure location
No one ever wants their valuables to be stolen, so it is well worth buying a safe to protect many of those irreplaceable items. When choosing a safe, make sure to check that it has good ratings for resistance to burglars, fire, and flooding, since all three of these things pose a potential threat. The safe should be permanently installed and securely bolted into your home.

With a little planning, you can make sure that your holidays – and future – will be merry and bright.

Go ahead and blame Mother Nature for the things that can go terribly wrong at one’s home. Just not all of them. Damage caused by punishing weather — wind, hail, and rain — accounted for more than half of all homeowners insurance claims over the past six years, but there were other culprits as well, such as fire, leaky pipes, and theft.

The findings are contained in a new study which identified the most common and most expensive homeowners insurance claims based on a review of thousands of claims filed with the company from 2009 to 2015. The most common claims were for:

  1. Exterior wind damage – 25% of all losses
  2. Non-weather-related water damage (e.g., plumbing or appliance issues) – 19%
  3. Hail – 15%
  4. Weather-related water damage – 11%
  5. Theft – 6%

Any number of things can go wrong with a home, and it’s impossible to predict them all. However, if homeowners focus on these particularly common risks and take preventive steps and perform routine maintenance, it may help lessen the likelihood of damage.

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