The "Contents Pack-out" Trap and How to Escape It

“Contents Pack-out” is a term used by water and fire restoration contractors, and insurance companies. It is the process in which the contractor sends trucks, boxes and workers to your home. They pack up all of the damaged personal property in your home or business and transport it back to their warehouse. Once the personal property is at the warehouse, the contractor begins the cleaning and restoration process.

Insurance companies do not like to replace personal property. They would rather clean or repair it and give it back to you. That drastically slashes their claims cost, which makes them happy.

I’ve been an insurance adjuster for over 16 years, and in the insurance business for over 35 years. I’ve seen very few instances where seriously damaged personal property can be just cleaned or repaired successfully. Most fires burn or infuse toxic chemicals into personal property, like wood or textiles. Same goes for a flood loss. My personal opinion is that replacement of damaged personal property is better than repair or cleaning.

So, what is the trap?

Insurance adjusters like to swoop in with their favorite approved restoration contractor and do a “pack-out.” But your insurance policy has a limit on Personal Property. All of the money that the insurance adjuster authorizes to have your contents cleaned is paid against the policy limit. So, if the restoration contractor cleans a bunch of your damaged property, but you reject it as damaged, the contractor still gets paid. But you have less money now to replace your damaged personal property.

The trap is that a pack-out can penalize you when you are submitting your insurance claim!

Here’s the Escape Strategy

1. You own the personal property…not the insurance company and not the restoration contractor. It is YOUR DECISION what gets repaired and what gets replaced, not the adjuster.

2. Call in your own restoration contractor for a second opinion. It shouldn’t cost you anything, but even if it did, it would be money well spent.

3. Make sure every single item that gets removed from your home is listed on an inventory sheet.

4. Based upon your contractor’s opinion, negotiate the replacements with the adjuster and settle the claim.

If you have experienced a property loss, whether fire, wind, flood or other, you need to know winning insurance claim strategies. The insurance company will not tell you the claims process, but I will. I will show you how to take control of your insurance claim, and add hundreds or even thousands more dollars to your claim settlement. For more information, go to the website listed below.

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Realty Vs Real Estate Vs Real Property

Realty and personal property terms have often been confused as to what they exactly mean. Here we will clear that right up for you. We will look at the terms personal property, realty, land, real estate, and lastly real property.

Let’s begin with personal property. Personal property also known as chattel is everything that is not real property. Example couches, TVs things of this nature. Emblements pronounced (M-blee-ments) are things like crops, apples, oranges, and berries. Emblements are also personal property. So when you go to sell your house, flip, or wholesale deal, you sell or transfer ownership by a bill of sale with personal property.

Realty.

Realty is the broad definition for land, real estate, and real property.

Land

Land is everything mother nature gave to us like whats below the ground, above the ground and the airspace. Also called subsurface (underground), surface (the dirt) and airspace. So when you buy land that’s what you get, keep in mind our government owns a lot of our air space.

Real Estate

Real estate is defined as land plus its man made improvements added to it. You know things like fences, houses, and driveways. So when you buy real estate this is what you can expect to be getting.

Real property

Real property is land, real estate, and what’s call the bundle of rights. The bundle of rights consist of five rights, the right to possess, control, enjoy, exclude, and lastly dispose. So basically you can possess, take control, enjoy, exclude others, and then dispose of your real property as you wish as long as you do not break state and federal laws.

Lastly there are two other types of property we should mention.

Fixture

Fixture is personal property which has been attached realty and by that now is considered real property. So you would ask yourself upon selling to determine value “did you attach it to make it permanent?” The exceptions to this rule are the garage door opener and door key, these are not considered fixtures.

Trade Fixtures

Trade fixtures are those fixtures installed by say a commercial tenant or can be the property of the commercial tenant.

I hope this clears up some misconceptions about personal property, realty, land and real estate and now fixtures and trade fixtures!

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Rental Property – The Responsibilities of the Renter and the Owner

When you rent someone’s property, it’s good to know how what your responsibilities are in order not to have inconvenient situations. When some people rent someone else’s property they think that they are responsible only for a few little things and the rest of responsibilities should be taken care by a leasing agent. But usually it is vice versa. When someone rents a house or apartment, they are usually obligated to sign a contract where all the responsibilities of leasing agent and renter are fully described. In case if something happens both parties understand what they are responsible for.

Responsibilities Of Renters

Normally, renters bear responsibility for the area that is around their apartment and for the apartment itself. Usually, these are areas inside the apartment as well as their backyard. So this includes common sense responsibilities and rules of maintenance and cleanliness of the area. Such things such as repairing certain parts of the interior or the exterior or painting the walls are the responsibilities of the renter.

But still, this is not it. Renter is responsible for some other things in leasing agent’s house. If something happens with the bathrooms, the renter is also responsible for fixing it if it’s possible. But if such things happen and that renter doesn’t feel comfortable to accomplish this job she might contact the maintenance contractor for proper help.

Renters must know their responsibilities and always show respect to other renters in their area and not cause damage intentionally. Not picking up trash after yourself if you left it somewhere is the same as intentional littering. Renters that don’t follow these rules are fully responsible for their actions and might be forced to pay fines.

Responsibilities Of Leasing Agents

If something happens with that exterior of the building or the equipment is not working properly then it is the responsibility of the leasing agent. Leasing agent is always supposed to take care of his renters and make sure that they are always provided with all the necessary utilities and that everything is working properly in his apartment. For instance, if problems with water occur in the apartment then the leasing agent he supposed to contact maintenance staff.

And also, one more of responsibilities of a leasing agent taking care of public areas. This is usually that surround that area of the apartment, such as grassy parts of the land.

So basically, the leasing agent is always has to take care of his renters and make sure they don’t have any complaints or concerns. If the leasing agent doesn’t pay attention to any complaints that he’s renters might have, this may lead to having problems with clients or with the local housing authority. Again, if the client or the renter is not provided with what he expected and paid for, he will be very disappointed about the maintenance service. In these cases renter might call a maintenance company to resolve the situation and bill the expense to the owner.

So before you rent an apartment to a renter as a leasing agent make sure that both of the above are working fine. A renter faced with this kind of problems, can contact the department of housing and ask them to provide advice what to do in this situation.

In some cases, leasing agents may break their rules of that agreement and disobey points of the contract. The department of housing is usually responsible for enforcement in this kind of situation and if the renters still have complaints, they have the authority to force the owner to provide a remedy.

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How to Do a Sales Pitch in Commercial Real Estate

In commercial real estate, you will undertake a variety of presentations, in a variety of circumstances. Most of them are business-like in nature, focusing on the needs of the tenant, the property buyer, or the property seller.

Get to the core issues

Each of these groups has unique property requirements and points of focus. It is their needs which must be identified and clearly addressed in the sales pitch or presentation. Many successful commercial real estate agents will have a preliminary meeting with the client or customer so that they can identify key issues and concerns. This allows the commercial agent to return to the client or customer in a few days with a well structured proposal that addresses the needs of the customer or client.

It’s all about THEM, not YOU!

When you design an investment or commercial property proposal for presentation, the document should be 90% regards the property and the client. Frequently you see this rule disregarded or broken with the proposal document being largely regards the agency and the personnel.

Rarely is the property transaction a simple matter of the property rental, the property price, or the physical elements of the property. In most situations, it is the combination of these things which must satisfy a fundamental equation of need that the customer or client has. In getting them to this fundamental need, you will identify an element of pain that the customer or client is experiencing. This is what you focus on.

They are Experienced

It is interesting to note that many clients and customers in commercial real estate are reasonably comfortable in circumstances of business negotiation. This means they may not tell you the total big picture or all the elements of a transaction until they are ready. Conversation and connection in the presentation process should be biased towards the client or customer using well selected questions which allow the agent to interpret the body language coming from the client’s response.

When you believe you have identified the element of clients pain related to the property transaction, you start to magnify the problem in terms of today’s market, then offering stable and logical solutions that your real estate agency business can provide to the client or customer. Invariably, the commercial real estate transaction in today’s market centres on financial matters such as:

  • High vacancy factors
  • Other property choices and chances are available
  • Underperforming leases
  • Unstable cash flow
  • Unstable tenancy mix
  • Tenanted conflict
  • Escalating building operating costs
  • A shift in demographics which exposes the property to a unstable future
  • Mortgage payment pressures
  • Age of the asset
  • Needs for refurbishment or extension
  • Competition properties attracting tenants away from the subject property

This type of information and interpretation requires your intimate knowledge of the local region. This is by both property type and by location. This is the higher value that you bring to the customer or client. Being able to distinctly define local market awareness is a major advantage in any commercial real estate presentation or sales pitch. You must be seen as the best knowledgeable solution to the problem.

From Experience

After many years working exclusively in the commercial real estate industry, I found that my unique skill was in market knowledge and the display of that in any formal presentation to the client. Being able to talk about market trends and financial performance in a solid and sound way will help the client understand that they need your services. Coupling that with your extensive and relevant database of enquiry clearly shows the client that they need you.

A fantastic commercial real estate presentation is a function and balance of lots of things. Things like:

  1. A well established pre-planning process is a strategic advantage for every commercial real estate presentation. Strategy is everything in commercial real estate. Every property presentation requires planning.
  2. Making sure you are asking the right questions of the client or prospect. Plan your questions relative to the subject property so that you help the client think about opportunity and changes that are possible.
  3. Using your market knowledge and giving good answers. Have a variety of market facts and trends available to call on. Feed them into your presentation; facts are always useful. They can also be used as a channel to direct the discussion when the client is forcing you to justify your approach or your experience. Confidence and control must be the basic rule of your property presentation. When the client takes control of the presentation you have lost.
  4. Using your experience in the marketplace so that you are telling relevant stories of success in similar properties. Stories of other properties will always interest of the client.
  5. Making sure your personal presentation is optimised for the connection in the presentation. It can be that you are using a combination of the proposal document, the marketing document, and computer slide presentation, samples of your database, photographs of the subject property projected on to slides, and photographs of comparable properties projected on to slides.
  6. Choosing the placement of people at the table or strategically positioning them in the room is always important. Much has been written about where you should sit relative to the client. The basic rule is adjacent to the client rather than across an area of barrier such as a table. Being within arm’s reach allows you to pass documentation to the client at the appropriate time. Documentation should not be provided to the client until you are ready for them to review it; otherwise it is a distraction of their attention.
  7. Make sure that your proposal is simple and yet well directed with a clearly defined outcomes of sale or lease. Many proposal documents in commercial real estate are much too wordy so the main messages are lost and not clearly defined. The best proposals are less wordy and more illustrative. The best balance of a commercial real estate proposal is a mixture of 25% words, 25% pictures, 25% graphs, and 25% white space. This becomes a document which is clearly read and understood.
  8. Combine good illustrations and photographs of the subject property into the proposal or presentation so that any lengthy descriptions or paragraphs are broken up. This will keep interest of the client in your documentation.
  9. Make sure that your marketing package is value for money, and yet reaching the target market that the property serves or needs to attract. All too often, we see examples of generic marketing by the commercial real estate agent to the broader and less specific marketplace. Showing the client that you clearly know and will attract best the target market will always help your conversion to a potential listing. Be very specific about the target market and how you will reach it.
  10. Ensure that your commission costs are fair and reasonable for the location. In most circumstances, discounting your commission should not be an option as it will make you poor and remove or detract from your enthusiasm for the sale or lease. ‘Cheap’ means ‘cheap and without focus’ and the client needs to know this. The property deserves better. You are not cheap because you are the best and you do a great job. A fair commission is always paid for a positive property outcome.
  11. Always provide testimonials that are relevant to the property transaction. When you combine relevant history and details of happy customers into your presentation you will make the client feel more comfortable.
  12. Always display clear and sound market knowledge that impresses the client relative to their property. This will include extensive awareness of comparable properties that compete with the subject property. You should be able to talk solidly about property prices, comparable rents, rental growth, returns on investment, changes to the future demographics of the area, and properties in the immediate precinct of relevance. In many cases, it pays to walk around the local area just prior to any property presentation so that you bring immediate and clear pictures of the precinct to the discussion. Many times this has been of significant advantage in my presentation processes. Talking about neighbouring properties localises the client and their thought processes.
  13. Come up with a variety of ways to serve the client. Innovation and relevance will always impress. In today’s market, this is relatively easy considering the marketing opportunities and tools provided by the internet & technology. Be proactive in your property promotion processes so that the listing for sale or lease stands uniquely different in its marketing campaign from the others in the area. This does not have to be expensive to the client or to your office, given that the internet and electronic technology is historically cost effective. In today’s market, the traditional methods of publicising the property in the property pages of the local paper, is becoming much less important in the marketing campaign. Most commercial property buyers and tenants research the market from the Internet first and foremost.
  14. Almost every property agency will say that they have excellent communication and connection skills to support the property promotion process. From experience, this is largely incorrect and typically the average commercial salesperson or leasing person will exercise ordinary communication channels with the client. Put yourself in the shoes of the client. They expect and deserve frequent updates on the promotion of the property even when nothing is happening or when the adverts are producing little response. When a property campaign is not producing the results, it is important that you act or adjust with alternative recommendations and strategic changes to the promotional campaign for the client to consider. Rarely would you get to the property campaign correct in the first week. It is in this time that you must consider fine tuning the promotion process so that the target market is being reached in a timely and effective way. This means that every property enquiry generated from your promotions must be tabulated so that you understand what channels of marketing work most effectively with the property in question.
  15. When addressing the client or the client group in a formal property presentation, the answers and information you give must be delivered well and provide relevant solid property knowledge, in a practiced and professional delivery. Any sales or presentation tools relative to the property must be relevant and you should know how to use them with exceptional skill. Fumbling and faking information is not tolerated by the client.

So there you have it. These are some of the key skills to use in a commercial real estate presentation. Whilst many real estate agents think that they are the best alternative in the market to promote sell and rent commercial property, the reality is they do not get the message across when it matters most in front of the client.

To be the best commercial real estate agent in your area, you must show that you are just so, and you do this in the first 10 minutes of the time that your presentation takes. The client will have formed an opinion by then.

Be prepared to walk away from any demands for discounting that the client or customer demands. In this market they need a great commercial real estate agent providing a great job; discounting is not an option. Show pride in your services and walk away when the client demands discount in marketing or lower commissions.

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Twelve Secrets and Tricks to Buying Life Insurance

Secret #1: Don’t spend too much time on a life insurance quote.

Do not be fooled by the low price quotes you get online – they don’t apply to you unless you are extremely healthy. Statistically only 10% of people who apply actually get the lowest priced policy. The premium you end up paying has nothing to do with the initial quote you get online or from an agent. It is amazing to me how often I see people getting duped by an agent who quotes company X at a lower price than another agent.

Life insurance policies are the same price no matter who you buy from! One agent or website quoting a lower premium means nothing. Prices for any given policy is based on your age and health. There are a few exceptions to this but that is beyond the breadth of this article.

Most life insurance companies have 10-20 different health/price ratings and no agent or website can assure you the quote they give you is accurate. You have to apply, do a health check, and then go through underwriting (meaning you complete a mini-exam with a nurse in your home and then the company checks you doctor records and reviews and ‘rates’ your health) to get the real price of the policy. Remember that a health rating also factors in your family history, driving record, and the type of occupation you have. Only use quotes to help narrow down your choices to the top companies. You may want to consider a no load or low policy. The more that you save on commissions the more money builds up in your policy. You can even buy term insurance no load, and save a lot on premiums. You will not get the help of an agent, which may be worth something if they are very good.

The most important factor determining price is matching your particular health history with the company best suited for that niche. For instance company X might be best for smokers, company Y for cancer survivors, Company Z for people with high blood pressure, etc.

Secret #2: Ignore the hype on term versus cash value permanent insurance.

You can go crazy reading what everyone has to say on buying term insurance versus a whole or universal life policy. Big name websites give advice that I think borders on fraudulent. Simply put there is NO simple answer on whether you should buy permanent cash value policies or term insurance.

But I do think there is a simple rule of thumb – buy term for your temporary insurance needs and cash value insurance for your permanent needs. I have read in various journals and run mathematical equations myself which basically show that if you have a need for insurance beyond 20 years that you should consider some amount of permanent insurance. This is due to the tax advantage of the growth of the cash value within in a permanent policy. I am divorced and have taken care of my children should I die. I probably no longer need as much insurance as I now have. I have earned a great return on my policies and have paid no taxes. I no longer pay the premiums, because there is so much cash in the policies. I let the policies pay themselves. I would not call most life insurance a good investment. Because I bought my policies correctly, and paid almost no sales commissions my policies are probably my best investments. I no longer own them, so when I die my beneficiaries will get the money both tax free, and estate tax free.

Since most people have short term needs like a mortgage or kids at home they should get some term. Additionally most people want some life insurance in place for their whole life to pay for burial, help with unpaid medical bills and estate taxes and so a permanent policy should be purchased along with the term policy.

Secret #3: Consider applying with two companies at once.

Life insurance companies really don’t like this “trick” because it gives them competition and increases their underwriting costs.

Secret #4: Avoid captive life insurance agents.

Look for a life insurance agent who represents at least fifty life insurance companies and ask them for a multi company quote showing the best prices side by side. Some people try to cut the agent out and just apply online. Just remember that you don’t save any money that way because the commissions normally earned by the agent are just kept by the insurance company or the website insurance company without having your premium lowered.

Plus a good agent can help you maneuver through some of the complexities of filling out the application, setting up your beneficiaries, avoiding mistakes on selecting who should be the owner, the best way to pay your premium, and also will be there to deliver the check and assist your loved ones if the life insurance is ever used.

Secret #5: Consider refinancing old life policies.

Most companies won’t tell you but the price you pay on your old policies has probably come down dramatically if you are in good health. In the last few years life insurance companies have updated their predictions on how long people will live. Since we are living longer they are reducing their rates rather dramatically. Beware the agent may be doing this to obtain a new commission, so make sure it really makes sense.

I really am amazed at how often we find that our client’s old policies are twice as expensive as a new one. If you need new life insurance consider “refinancing” your old policies and using the savings on the old policies to pay for the new policy – that way there is no extra out-of-pocket costs. We like to think of this process as “refinancing your life insurance” – just like you refinance your mortgage.

Secret #6: Realize life insurance companies have target niches that constantly change.

One day company ‘X’ is giving good rates to people who are a little overweight and the next month they are super strict. Company ‘Y’ might be lenient on people with diabetes because they don’t have many diabetics on the books – meaning they will give good rates to diabetics. At the same time company ‘W’ might be very strict on diabetics because they are insuring lots of diabetics and are afraid they have too big of a risk in that area – meaning they will give a bad rate to new diabetics who apply.

Unfortunately when you are applying a life insurance company will not tell you, “Hey, we just raised our rates in diabetics.” They will just happily take your money if you were not smart enough to shop around. This is the number one area a smart agent can come in handy. Since a good multi-company agent is constantly applying with multiple companies he or she will have a good handle on who is currently the most lenient on underwriting for you particular situation. The problem is that this is hard work and many agents are either too busy or not set up to efficiently shop around directly to different underwriters and see who would make you the best offer. This is a lot harder than just running you a quote online.

Secret #7: Don’t forget customer service.

Most people shopping for insurance focus on companies with the lowest price and the best financial rating. Unfortunately I know of some A+ rated companies with low rates who I would not touch with a ten foot pole simply because it’s easier to give birth to a porcupine backwards then it is to get customer service from them.

Before I understood this I used a life insurance company that gave a client a great rate but 2 years later the client called me and said, “I have mailed in all my payments on time but just got a notice saying my policy lapsed.” It turned out the company had been making lots of back office mistakes and had lost the premium payment!

We were able to fix it because we caught the problem so early. But if the client happened to have died during the short period the policy had lapsed, his family might have had a hard time proving that the premium had been paid on time and they might not have received the life insurance money – a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in that case.

Secret #8: Apply 3-6 months ahead of the time you need the insurance if possible.

Don’t be in a hurry to get a policy if you already have some coverage in force. But go ahead and apply right away knowing that you might need months to shop around if the first company does not give you a good rate. Even though the life insurance industry is getting more automated your application will still often be held up for weeks or months while the insurance company waits on your doctor’s office to mail them a copy of you medical records.

If you are in a hurry and buy a quickie ‘no-underwriting’ policy without going through the full health checks and underwriting that a mainstream life insurance company requires, you will end up paying 20%-50% more because the insurance company will automatically charge you higher rates because they don’t know whether you are healthy or about to die the next day.

Secret #9: Avoid buying extra life insurance through work if you are healthy.

I am sure there are exceptions to this “trick” but I have rarely found one. By all means keep the free life insurance your employer provides. But if you are healthy and you are paying for supplemental life insurance through payroll deduction you are almost certainly paying too much. What is happening is that your ‘overpayments’ ends up subsidizing the unhealthy people in your company who are buying life insurance through payroll deduction.

Usually the life insurance company has cut a deal with your employer and will waive the required health exam for all employees – instead they just average the price for all the employees and offer one or two rates for males or females at any given age. Life insurance companies know they will pick up lots of unhealthy clients this way so they jack up the price on everyone so that the healthy people end up overpaying so that the unhealthy employees get a cheaper policy. Also, unlike the guaranteed term policies which we recommend, most life insurance you buy through work will get more expensive as you get older.

Also group life insurance is generally not portable when you retire or change jobs meaning that when you retire or change jobs you might have to apply all over again even though you will be older and probably not as healthy and risk being turned down for a policy. If the group plan does allow portability they generally limit your conversion choices and force you to go into expensive cash value plans.

I remember helping someone evaluate his supplemental life insurance. He was sure it was a better deal than any policy I could find him. Little did he know that the price of his group plan would go up every year? By the time he retired his premium would have risen to over $10,000/year. I found him a policy for around $1000/year that would never go up. Also, unlike his old group life policy, he could take the individual policy with him when he changed jobs or retired.

Secret #10: Do a trial application on a COD payment basis.

Only send money with the application if you need the life insurance coverage right away. Sending a check with the application is a traditional practice agents used to do – I think mostly because it got them their commissions faster. If you send money with an application you usually get temporary coverage immediately but if you already have plenty of coverage and are just trying to get better rates ask your agent to do a trial application on a COD basis so you only pay once the policy is approved. If you do not send money, and you die before paying for the policy there is no coverage.

Secret #11: Wear your shoes when the nurse measures your height.

When the insurance company sends out the nurse to do your health check try to be as tall as possible if you are overweight? In most states you are allowed to wear shoes and if you are a little overweight your taller height/weight ratio will look a little better to the underwriter who is determining your health rating and policy price. Also do your exam early in the morning with no food in you – this will make your cholesterol count and various health ratios look the best.

Secret #12: Be careful with extra perks and riders.

Most policies come with options like accidental death benefit, child riders, disability riders, return of premium etc. If you do the math on most of these “extras” they usually don’t make smart financial sense. Life insurance companies are out to make money and these riders are usually profitable because they either cover something that rarely happens or they are so stringent that the benefit never gets paid out. Keep things simple and focus mainly on getting a life policy to cover your life without many strings attached. Again a good agent can help you weigh the benefits of the extra riders. But be wary of an agent who tries to tack on every possible extra rider.

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Factors That Affect the Cost of Travel Insurance

Travel insurance policies come in different types of packages, with all manner of options and choices. It is designed this way for a reason, of course. You would not want to pay for cover that you are illegally to need, or skimp on cover you should have.

A basic policy may be adequate, or you may find you'll be more comfortable paying a bit more to obtain higher levels of cover, as needed. It often depends on where you plan to travel. Let's say you plan to travel to a destination such as Madagascar, which has limited medical facilities. In the case of a serious medical emergency you may have to be transferred by air ambulance to another country for treatment. Therefore, you would be wise to pick a policy that offers the maximum cover for medical emergencies. It should also include cover for air ambulance and medical repatriation. If you check you may find that a very cheap policy does not include this cover.

You will need to decide whether to opt for a Single Trip or Annual Multi-trip policy. If there is any possibility that you may take more than one trip in a year the Annual policy is usually the best value for money. On many policies children are included free – which is a major saving for family holidays.

Travel insurance premiums usually increase increasing depending on where in the world you are traveling. For example, the cost of travel insurance for a British citizen traveling to Europe would be less than if they were flying long-haul to a destination such as North America or Australia.

Most travel insurance companies offer different levels of cover so that you can choose. Paying a bit more for the next level should affect the amount the insurer will pay on a claim, or increase the amount of items covered. Pay attention to the amount of Excess (Deductible) included as it may be much higher on a cheap policy. (This is the amount you have to pay towards a claim). To keep the premium very low it is often the case that levels of cover have been cut or the amount of Excess increased.

When it comes to pre-existing medical conditions the cost may increase dramatically for serious pre-existing conditions, or the insurer may not offer cover at all. Most often though the average company will agree to cover a specific condition for an extra premium, or with the understanding that any claims related to the condition are excluded. This can be a bitter pill to swallow for those that are affected.

Unfortunately, it is a fact that travel insurance for seniors is usually more expensive because of the assumed increased risk of a medical problem arising – despite the fact that our seniors are probably healthier these days than they have ever been!

Winter sports (skiing / snowboarding) insurance can be added to a typical travel insurance policy for an additional fee. Other add-ons may include cover for activities such as:

  • Business Insurance – additional premium to cover many travel-related risks associated with traveling for business
  • Golf Insurance – additional cover for mishaps relating a golf holiday to cover lost or stolen equipment, golf equipment hire, and pre-paid green fees

When it comes to activities deemed by insurers as 'Hazardous' the cover may vary very between policies and companies. It is important to check and understand which activities are covered as standard. A typical policy will include activities in which you can participate on a casual, unplanned or 'incidental' basis. An additional premium may be required to provide cover for activities that are considered planned or 'non-incidental'. Confused? Do not worry, it is not as complicated as it sounds! Here are some examples to show the difference:

'Incidental' usually refer to activities such as a bungee jump, an elephant ride or sleigh ride that you may decide to participate in on the spur of the moment. 'Non-incidental' or planned activities refer to those that are participating in a regular or non-causal basis. For example: the activity is the main purpose of the trip, such as sailing holiday, scuba diving holiday, safari, white-water rafting trip, or cycle touring.

There is no question that insurance can be a difficult subject to forgive – most people would prefer to spend their precious spare time doing something much more interesting and fun!

The bottom line really is that if you do not have time to look into it in detail, make sure that the policy you choose contains, at a minimum , adequate cover for potentially cost travel problems involving: Medical Expenses, Medical Repatriation, Air Ambulance , Personal Liability, and Legal Expenses. A good basic policy and even a backpacker policy should contain these as standard. Pay a little more and you will get more features.

Beware of that cheap policy offered as an incentive – it may not always be a good buy. You get what you pay for – and peace of mind is priceless!

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5 Fundamental Principles of Insurance

Insurance is a contract, a risk transfer mechanism whereby a company (Underwriter) promised to compensate or indemnify another party (Policyholder) upon the payment of reasonable premium to the insurance company to cover the subject-matter of insurance. If you are well conversant with these principles, you will be in a better position in negotiating you insurance needs.

1. Insurable interest. This is the financial or monetary interest that the owner or possessor of property has in the subject-matter of insurance. The mere fact that it might be detrimental to him should a loss occurred because of his financial stake in that assets gives him the ability to insure the property. Castellin Vs Preston 1886.

2. Umberima fadei. It means utmost good faith, this principle stated that the parties to insurance contract must disclose accurately and fully all the facts material to the risk being proposed. That is to say that the insured must make known to the insurer all facts regarding the risk to be insured (Looker Vs Law Union and Rock 1928). Likewise, the underwriter must highlight and explain the terms, conditions and exceptions of the insurance policy. And the policy must be void of ‘small prints’.

3. Indemnity. It stated that following a loss, the insurer should ensure that they placed the insured in the exact financial position he enjoyed prior to the loss (Leppard Vs Excess 1930).

4. Contribution. In a situation where two or more insurers is covering a particular risk, if a loss occurred, the insurers must contribute towards the settlement of the claim in accordance with their rateable proportion.

5. Subrogation. It has often been said that contribution and subrogation are corollary of indemnity, which means that these two principles operates so that indemnity does not fail. Subrogation operates mainly on motor insurance. When an accident occurred involving two or more vehicles, there must be tortfeasor(s) who is responsible for accident. On this basis, the insurer covering the policyholder who was not at fault can recover their outlay from the underwriter of the policyholder who is responsible for the incidence.

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Mandatory Provident Fund

Ideally, retirement means a person retire from their regular career; Enter a new life span to review what they have contributed to their profession through their early and middle adulthood. When a person entering retirement, they must enjoy the rest of their life, the fruitful harvest gain from their previous efforts and pursuing a new goal with their spare leisure time.

The beautiful picture of retirement can only be achieved if you are being protected with a good retirement protection, such as provident funds or personal savings. Without these schemes, I am afraid the retirement will only be a start of a nightmare. In fact, before the implementation of the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme, only about one-third of the work of 3.4 million people have some form of retirement protection.

Contribution from the advancement of education level, numerous breakthrough in the medical treatment, modern technology to combat the natural disasters and so on, Hong Kong's population is living much larger than before, but also getting older in a fast tempo. Nowadays, already ten percent of our population is aged 65 and above. By 2016 the proportion will be 13 percent and one senior citizen in every 5 people by 2035.

Without some way is found of funding the welfare and health needs of the growing population of elderly, a massive burden will fall on the shoulders of the taxable working population. Their wages will be heavily taxed to meet the claims. Without sufficient financial resources, the scarce resources will jeopardize the well medical services and welfare we are enjoying now, something must be done to cope with the predicted situation.

The Pathway to Retirement Protection — Mandatory Provident Fund

The World Bank has outlined a framework of the protection for the elderly, so called 'three pillars of old age protection'. This recommended that old-age programs should protect the old and also promote economic growth. The three pillows recommended by the World Bank are
Mandatory, privately managed, fully funded contribution scheme.
Publicly managed, tax-funded social safety net for the old.

Voluntary personal savings and insurance.

The SAR government is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which provides basic social security to the needy, and after much debt it was decided in 1995 that the Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) Scheme should be introduced, there was a reasonable argument as to the Best system for Hong Kong. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings, Hong Kong will have in place all the three pillows for old age protection.

Mandatory Provident Fund Scheme Order requires all employees (irrespective of their status as a temporary staff or part time worker) and self-employed persons to join a MPF scheme under which contributions will be saved for retirement. The ideology is to ensure people are adequately provided for upon reaching retirement age.

Employer and employee each pay 5 percent of an employee's monthly salary into a privately run pension plan. The MPF law gives an employee a range of investment choices under an employer's MPF scheme. Generally speaking, without other circumstances, the member can only collect the lump sum of the MPF benefits when they attain the retirement age of 65.

Problematic MPF?

Mandatory Provident Fund scheme which begins in December 2000, this scheme represents a starting point for coercing individuals to plan for their retirement. Beside helping to provide for the retirement needs of millions of people, the MPF is likely to radically reshape savings habits and investment attributions and it will extend the pension umbrella to the remaining two million employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies.

Different retirement protection systems have their advantages and disadvantages. After careful consideration, it is generally accepted that MPF best suits Hong Kong 'needs, but as we know, no system is prefect, MPF is no exception, this controversial policy has drawn many criticisms.

Libertarians claim the system run contrary to the Hong Kong spirit, as individuals and firms are coerced into savings decisions that are better placed to make alone.

Other claim Many workers with high mobility are able to avoid taxation by constantly changing employment and a lack of information about them would make it difficult to capture them in the MPF network.

Many more violations and oppositions have also targeted the MPF, in the following paragraphs; I will divide it into different aspects and analyze these practices and oppositions, so that we can get more detailed picture about this far-reaching policy.

Protection for all?

MPF is adding a pillar for our retirement protection; If it is true, it will consolidate the foundation of an enjoyable retiring life and the retired people are no longer worried living under poverty. In fact, will it really protect all future retired people in Hong Kong? It seems to be the most challenging questions and controversial part of the MPF policy. Will the scheme really protect the elderly, unemployed, housewives and so on? I will divide the question into four parts — high income group, low income group, no income group and young, middle and old aged worker to look for the answer for the above questions.

High income people

Before we consider who will benefit the most from the scheme, we should know what you get out of the scheme depends on what you put in. As a result, low-income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid worker.

Many high-income people are working large companies and occupying the middle, high or senior position. Since they are specialized in their relevant profession and they possess some kind of expertise knowledge in their working field, their bargaining power in the labor market are relatively higher, so their companies and organization will provide them many welfare and special allowances in order to lure them Staying in the company. Nearly all of them will enjoy a pleasant retirement even without the implementation of the MPF, since many of them have significant amounts of personal saving, high value property or investment and existing pension fund.

Now the MPF has been implemented, both employers and employees will have to pay a minimum contribution of 5% of relevant income, this group of people seems to be much protected and secured from the policy.

Low-income people

As the points illustrated above, low income workers will enjoy less protection than the higher paid because what you get out of the MPF scheme depends on what you put in.

The greatest untruth of the MPF is that a gross 10 percent deduction from salaries, capped at a maximum income of $ 20,000 a month that can make a meaningful dent in funding old age. This mandatory contribution level of the scheme is a good basis to start with, but it is not enough. People will need to pay more to get a better life in retirement. A simple example will illustrate more about the concept, for example, a young man who starts to pay into an MPF ​​plan at 20 years old with an average income of HK $ 15000 per month. Assuming the investment grows with 5 percent inflation, after 45 years of contributions, he would receive just HK $ 771429, that would leave him just HK $ 4300 per month for the 15 years after retirement, if we assuming he die at age 80 (the average life Expectation in Hong Kong).

We should remember most low-income workers are approaching only around $ 10000 or below per month. After many years of contributions, they would receive just around $ 2000-3000 a month. Also due to their income would berely cover their monthly expenses, they are without personal savings, their retirement may not be funded in a pleasant way, the effectiveness of the MPF scheme may not create a beautiful picture for this group of people.

The MPF scheme not only can not provide an effective retirement protection for them, but also create some difficulties and hardships for them. Some unscrupulous employers are avoiding pay extra for the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme by slashing wages and making their staff become self-employed. Many of these problems came from the catering and construction industries.

Since Hong Kong are still recovering from the 1997 Asia financial turmoil, the most hard hit industries (transports, catering, restaurants, construction, manufacturing) are still struggling, most low income workers are working in these sectors (an estimated 500,000 people are working in The construction and catering industries, which account for about 17 percent of the total work in the SAR). Some employers were 'playing tricks' to avoid their financial responsibility because the MPF is an additional cost for these employers. They only cut staff salaries to save costs rather than taking risks to break the law.

Some restaurant owners treated part of their staff wages as special allowances instead of basic salaries in an attempt to lower the employers' contribution. Others effectively cut salaries by imposing an unpaid holiday arrangement on staff. Some construction firms had modified staff into self-employed contractors to avoid liability. The affected construction workers would have no longer enjoy the benefits of MPF or other staff welfare scheme.

Transport employees are also affected by the scheme. A survey conducted by the Container Transportation Employees General Union members found 86 percent had experienced some reduction in pay and benefits by employers using the MPF as the reason. The cutbacks include reducing pay and benefits such as bonuses, travel allowances and telephone payments, signing new contracts that waive past years of services without compensations. They were forced to register as a business so they have self employed status. Since it is very difficult to find a job in the current climate, so they have to accept the new arrangement reluctantly in order to survive.

All those unscrupulous employers are not only exploiting these low-income workers that are also under the effects of the SAR government to build a fund fund system for Hong Kong.

We can see clearly the long-term benefits are far from the low-income workers, but the immediate negative consequences that they should face now, so there is no doubt why the most opposite voice is coming from this sector.

Protection for Young, Middle and Old aged People

The benefits from MPF not only depend on the salary input, but also depends on the choice of funds. The choice of fund may be greatly influenced by the age of employee and what you can collect after retirement. For example, a young worker can afford to invest more in high risk, higher reward funds because if markets tank, they have a long time to recover. By contrast, an employee close to retirement can not afford to risk short-term volatility taking a chunk out of his capital. Young workers seem to be the most benefit from the MPF scheme, compare with the middle or near retiring aged people. The majority of low income earners in their 40s and 50s have no chance of achieving what pension planners call a minimum replacement rate sufficient to fund a pleasant retirement, for example, a man who works for the next 25 years on the median wage of $ 10000 a Month may get only $ 1700 a month upon retirement, based on commonly quoted return rate of two percent, less than social security assistance for a single person.

Finally, as workers can not take any money back before reaching 65, and there are investment risks involved. The private sector rather than the government will manage the funds. The MPF in no way safeguards every citizen's right to the security of basic provisions in life.

No income group

Many people have criticized the MPF scheme which starts in December 2000, neglects the elderly, unemployed and women particularly housewives, since the MPF requires 'employer' and 'employee' to contribute to the scheme, so the well being of the no income people will not Be guaranteed.

MPF scheme as a compromise package that does not serve the well-being of the most vulnerable. There are now 600,000 people over 65 and in 1996, one quarter of people over 60 were living below the poverty line, with a monthly income of under $ 2500.

Women will also remain stuck in a dependent role under the MPF scheme, less than half of the labor forces coerced by the scheme are women because many are either workers workers or housewives. When they get old, they can only expect to relish on their husband, if they have one or obtain comprehensive social security assistance.

At present, Hong Kong is operating a Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, which offers basic social security to the needy. With the introduction of MPF, complemented by personal savings and CSSA, Hong Kong will indeed have in place all the three pillars for old age protection. In fact, it is far from saying that the scheme provides an effective retirement protection for all and easily believes the problem of elderly poverty will be eradicated.
Burden for investors in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong acts as a financial center in the world and playing a significant role in the Asia. The implementation of MPF will certainly affect the investors, no matter the multi-national investors, big business entrepreneur, small and medium sized enterprises.

Investors of big business

Big companies in order to recruit the talents from the labor markets, many of them have been offering various welfares for their employees, these including a well-sound pension system. Before the implementation of the MPF systems, many big companies have start selecting their company's MPF provider. For example, Swire Pacific said the process of selecting the company's provider began two years old. As one of the Hong Kong's largest companies, Swire are operating companies, such as Cathay Pacific Airways, hotel, trading, marine and properly-development and employing 25000 employees, for this kind of big companies, it is important to have a provider with a Sound administration system to deliver pension services to all their employees, since employees are the largest assets for these big business operators.

Large companies appeared to be concerned about their employees' statements when choosing a provider, it can reflect large companies seem to support MPF scheme and it come along with their existing pension policy, it seems not to create financial burdens for this kind of companies compare with Small and medium sized companies.

Investors of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

Coming at a time when small and medium firms are struggling back into the black after the financial crisis, it is not surprising that the MPF is off to a shaky start. There is no doubt that the MPF presents an extra financial burden for companies that work on narrow profit margins when these kinds of companies were badly hit by the Asia financial turmoil. Small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) have protested vociferously over the MPF's introduction, insisting they can not afford it with the economy still recovering from recession.

Although MPF will extend the pension umbrella to the two million, employed by about 250,000 small and medium sized companies, the financial burden seems to be unbearable for the investors.

For small business investors, they are reluctance to join the scheme is not just about the financial burden. They also resented the time consumed by MPF decision-making and paper work because many of them were far too busy with the day-to-day business of running the firm to take on extra paper work.

How MPF scheme affects the Hong Kong 'economy?

MPF not only will have far reaching effects on the fund-management industry, service providers, but also the general economy. Since MPF is an investment programs, it will increase the pool of institutional funds invested in the SAR, broadening and deepening the financial markets, promoting their efficiency and theby economic growth, it will bring positive charges for financial market.

On the other hand, some people criticize the MPF scheme will eventually upset the flexibility of Hong Kong because workers can not take any money back before reaching 65 and there are investment risks involved. This compulsory saving scheme, unable an employee who leaves a company can get cash in a lump sum or use it to buy property or whatever and invest in other areas.

Conclusion

Although it is far from saying that MPF provides an effective retirement protection for all and older poverty will be eradicated, it really encourages people to save for their old age. No schemes are perfect, the MPF is no exception, but it is the scheme most suitable for Hong Kong 'needs. Since Hong Kong has a well-established and sound financial services sector. A privately managed retirement system under prudential regulation and oversight is the most effective and secure way offer retirement protection to the work. Also under a free competition environment, it tends to increase efficiency and reduce costs of operating the MPF scheme, which will benefit scheme members extremely.

Nowadays, a large part of the social welfare expenses are spending on the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), in the long run, MPF scheme may reduce the financial burden of CSSA, spare welfare expenses can be spent on other social welfare areas, every Citizens will benefit at large.

The scheme may be viewed with some skepticism at the moment, but after people have a chance to see the plan in action, attitudes towards long term saving and retirement should change. Then retirement could be something to look forward to with pleasure, rather than worry. But one thing should be bear in mind, our government should also take care of the most vulnerable people in our society as the paragraphs mentioned above, provide them with appropriate assistance, especially the low income people. Only with that, Hong Kong will be a better, fairer society for everyone to live in.

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Life Insurance – Should You Buy A Rider Or Complete Policy For A Spouse, Child Or Dependent?

There are many arguments as to who really needs a complete life insurance package and who needs some form of coverage in the form of rider. Does you really really need a rider if you already have a life insurance policy? Does you child or dependent really need one too?

To answer this question correctly we must understand the basic needs life insurance coverage meets …

A life insurance policy is basically meant for breadwinners or persons who demise will cause hardship for their survivors. Although there are other reasons why people buy life policies this is the main reason.

Some insurers have certain riders to cater for spouses and dependents. Such riders add term life coverage for such a spouse or dependent. It certainly makes more sense to buy a dedicated term life insurance for such a person if you think it's necessary. You'll almost always get a far lower rate per $ 1,000 coverage for the person in question if you get another complete term life insurance policy.

For the dependent, you really do not need any form of life insurance for a child unless you want to start a foundation in their memory or make a donation to their favorite charity if they pass on. If you're thinking in such lines then you'll serve that cause better by getting another life insurance policy for such a child or dependent instead of a rider.

We can make an exception for rare cases (like child actors) where the family fortunes will be dramatically altered if such a child passes on. Life insurance is a real necessity then. Like I explained when I talked about the main reason for a life insurance policy, such a child shares considering to the family's finances. Therefore the loss of that child will result in the loss of such financial contribution with the attendant consequences.

If you've decided to buy a life insurance for yourself, spouse or dependent, you'll get far better rates if you get and compare many quotes from many different insurers. This is due to the difference in rates from insurers for a particular policy could range from a few hundreds to a couple of thousand dollars.

If you already have a policy, you can also reduce your current rates by getting and comparing life insurance quotes from insurers you did not get quotes from before you bought your present policy.

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A Guide To How To Appeal Your Property Taxes

Fair to say, if you are living anywhere in the country, you are probably paying more property taxes than you should. The National Taxpayers Union, in fact, estimates that approximately 60% of all US properties are currently overassessed.

What makes this particularly shocking is that, since 2003, prices of median homes have declined dramatically. We would therefore expect tax assessments to be adjusted so as to reflect such declines in market values – though this has generally not been the case. Therefore property taxes for many homeowners unfairly continue to increase despite a continued decrease in local home values.

Due to a considerable shortfall in budgets, many municipalities are, in essence, heaping extra taxes on homeowners – many of whom are exercising their constitutional right for an appeal. Though appealing property tax assessments can be difficult and time consuming – and not always successful – being well-prepared for the fight can significantly increase your chances of success.

Assess your assessment

It is important to understand how your property is assessed. Ask a local realtor to help you compare your property with similar properties which sold recently to determine its market value. Multiply that value with the assessment ratio that has been established for your town. If the market value of your property is, say, $100,000 and its assessment ratio is 80%, this means the tax levied on that property is $80,000. Some rural areas and high class neighborhoods use another method of assessment by estimating the house replacement cost by adjusting factors such as the land value.

Property Record Card

Check for errors in your assessment next. To do so, you will need to obtain the worksheet of your property from your local assessor’s office. This work sheet is also known as property record card and contains information of your property such as number of rooms, dimensions, number of bathrooms, and so on. Check whether all the information about your property provided in the worksheet is correct or not. If you discover any incorrect or missing information submit this information immediately to the local assessor along with a blue print of your property. In this way you will could receive an immediate reduction and become exempt from a formal appeal.

Comparable Sales

Compare the assessed value of your property with other similar properties in that area. Look at the property’s worksheet to compare other factors like square footage, age, bedrooms, bathrooms, and so on. In this way you may be in a stronger position to appeal if your property’s assessed value is determined to be higher than at least five other properties. Make a list of comparable properties along with their other details like square footage, construction material grades, same neighborhood, and so on. This list should be produced when demanded by the assessor. The record of your neighborhood’s properties is available at the website of your local assessor.

In case you find only three assessed properties at lower and three at a higher value don’t lose hope because in this case you might be entitled to a reduction representing the difference between comparable properties and your property. Your house may be the only property with lousy grading which prevents you from having a garden or a less than desired view of your city’s water tower.

Fight back

Different localities have different rules and your assessment should be capable of explaining how your appeal works. For this you can provide evidence to the assessor including a list of comparable properties, repair estimates, blueprints, and photographs for review. In this way you can obtain a good settlement in an informal way and the assessor may continue completing his rolls and get a fair reduction for you. On the other hand if some settlement is not agreed upon, continue paying your taxes so as to avoid any future penalties on your property. Don’t worry because if the county is satisfied with your appeal, you will get a reduction or check on all future bills thereafter.

Before submitting your appeal form and other related documents, ensure whether or not they comply with all the requirements stated by the county. Keep one copy of all the documents and information submitted by you for your files In a few months you will probably receive a reply and if you think that the reduction you’ve got is not fair, you can follow the next step. The next step is to submit your case in front of an independent local appealing body. This will be more advantageous because you can personally explain your case. You can use photographs, blueprints, etc to prove that your appeal is correct. Also submit a copy of all the assessed document highlighting important points to every board member.

If your case at local level fails, you can take it to state, and even the judicial, level. Bear in mind, however, that judicial hearing will court fees, lawyer’s fees, and other expenses that could negate any savings you might realize from winning an appeal.

Where to search for the right help

It is better to employ an expert assistance which will not only save time but provide proper guidance also. In this way your appeal will become stronger. One more option is to submit your address and case to an online service company. Such companies – for a moderate fee – will highlight comparable homes in your area along with their assessment information and their sale price. If they consider your case strong enough they will send you a report which you can file with your local appeals board. If the appeals board rejects your appeal your money is then refunded.

Should you decide instead on hiring a professional appraiser, confirm that the board to which you are appealing your case permits such a professional or not. Certified appraisers can be found through the Appraisal Institute or the National Association of Independent Fee Appraisers. Most charge anywhere between $250 and $500. Hire a person who is not only experienced in the field but also is familiar with local neighborhoods in your area.

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