Month : May 2012

Guest Post

Slice Your Insurance Costs – Dice Your Fixed Expenses

As households continue to struggle with a tighter budget caused by unemployment and underemployment, many people are wondering how they can cut their expenses to have money to pay all their bills while still having some left over to put away for the future. One of the best ways to free up money in your fixed budget is by cutting down on insurance costs and fixed expenses.

Car Insurance

Although increases in the cost of car insurance have slowed down in recent years, the trend still indicates higher costs over time. If you want to pay less for your car insurance, look at your current policy to see what kind of coverage you have. You may be paying for optional coverage that you do not need, or you may have low deductibles in categories that you can afford to raise your deductible amount on and therefore lower your car insurance premium.

Are you a safe driver? If you have not been in any accidents that were your fault in the past, consider asking your car insurance company about a discount. Many insurers are willing to give a safe driver discount, but sometimes you have to specifically ask about the discount to receive it.

Homeowners may save money on both their car and home insurance policies if they choose the same insurer for both policies and ask for a bundling discount. To save even more, pay these policies in full once per year rather than paying a monthly fee towards your policy. Most insurance companies charge a convenience fee for the ability to make payments on the policy rather than paying it off all at once.

Mortgage Costs

You may think that your monthly mortgage payment is something that you cannot adjust to be more affordable. However, there are a few ways that you can lower your mortgage payment.

The most common way to lower your mortgage payment is through refinancing. This is only beneficial if current mortgage rates are low and the fees you will need to pay to refinance are not excessive. Talk to a mortgage broker to discuss how much you will need to pay to refinance your mortgage. If the amount you save through refinancing is less than the fees it will cost you to refinance, refinancing is not worth it.

If you are truly having trouble paying your mortgage and you are afraid that you will not be able to keep up with payments, consider asking your lender to add time to the term of your mortgage. This will mean you pay more interest on your mortgage over time, but you will save money on your monthly payments to make them more affordable. This is a last resort option only to be used if you really cannot afford your payments.

Your total mortgage payment includes taxes and insurance fees. While you cannot lower the taxes you owe on your mortgage, you may be able to find a better rate on home insurance. Contact several insurance companies and ask for a quote to see if you are paying too much for insurance. If you find a significantly lower rate, switch your insurance to lower your monthly payment.

Debt Payments

With the average household debt excluding mortgages edging near $26,000, many families have an overwhelming amount of debt payments to make every month. If you are one of these families, it is possible to lower these payments.

Obtaining a debt consolidation loan may lower monthly payments and make it easier to pay your bills. To decide if debt consolidation will help you, list your current household debts and the interest rate on each debt. If the interest of a debt consolidation loan is less than the average interest you are currently paying on your debts, you will save money by consolidating. You will also only have one monthly debt payment rather than several payments, making it easier to pay your debt and less likely that you will forget to make a payment.

Even if you are not having trouble paying your monthly fixed expenses, finding a way to slash your costs by researching lower interest rates and discounts will free up more money to put towards savings. While it is possible to lower your monthly payments on your mortgage and debts, be sure that you are really saving money in the long run. Fees and longer terms may mean that you pay more over time, so research is important.

This is a guest post

Guest Post

How to Travel Europe on a Budget

Europe is by far the most popular destination on the planet for tourists and travelers alike. Thanks to its small size, it boasts an extremely high density of cultural diversity. The Euro Zone and Schengen area make traveling between many of Europe’s most attractive cities, such as Paris, Berlin and Rome, simple and easy. Attractive cultural heritage mixed with modern transportation and every kind of service imaginable makes traveling there a smooth experience. And despite the fact that the most expensive countries on the globe are located there, you can make a small budget work.

Credit by JohnGoode

It all begins with finding the cheapest accommodation possible. There are tons of options for travelers, from cheap hostels to hotel steals, private pensions, house sitting and bed and breakfasts. Remember to always book ahead online. In bigger cities like London or Paris, it is true that cheap accommodation can be found slightly further out from the city centre, however, travellers will still be able to find budget London hostels or cheap Paris hotels to suit their budget with a little research.

Most large European cities are well-serviced by various transportation options. In fact, cities like Berlin and Brussels hold claim to some of the most efficient systems on the planet. You’ll find that most big cities have a subway or metro. For easy access, there are plenty of Brussels accommodation and Berlin cheap hotels near to the local subways. Many cities also have trams, electric bus systems and more. Europe is also becoming progressively greener every year. You’ll find dedicated bike lanes in hotspots like Amsterdam and Stockholm and Paris.

As for getting around, remember to always look for city passes. Many times, a city will have some kind of 5-day transportation option that should work on many different transport options. City passes often go toward museums and other tourist sites as well.

Credit by Jo@net

If you want to get the most out of a European city, look for events and festivals going on while you’re there. I always wondered how come grand festivals using all that massive equipment like stage stuff and going for those huge LED screens for rent in San Jose, and yet – much of the time if not already free, they’ll have a spillover effect that really brings the city to life. All the best things in life are free, after all.

Getting from place to place is simple with Europe’s high-speed railway system, which connects most European countries and even England via the Channel tunnel. If you’re planning travelling to multiple countries, you should definitely purchase an Interrail Pass, some of which are quite flexible. You will save a lot of cash this way.

Europe is filled with lovely cities and metropolises, and lucky for you they’re green-friendly.  Dublin is a great place to get the city vibe but hike the nearby parks, which come free. So is Paris. So is Hamburg. So is Prague. Get off those city pavements and admire some greenery!

Credit by melissa.delzio

Finally, the best advice to be had when it comes to traveling cheap in Europe is to talk to the locals. Figure out where the cheap things to do and cheap eats are, trying your best not to always depend on a guidebook which thousands of other people are also depending on. If you follow all these suggestions, you can make Europe as cheap as you want.

Guest Post

Is Your Professional Indemnity Insurance Provider Going To Triple Your Premium?

It’s becoming brutally clear that the collapse of the Arch Cru investment fund could have serious repercussions for the professional indemnity insurance market. Around 15,000 investors lost out when they were advised by IFAs to put their money in the failed Guernsey based funds. A subsequent investigation by the Financial Services Authority put the blame firmly at the doors of the IFAs and the regulatory body has told IFAs to ring-fence their assets in order to meet compensation claims. 

A spokesperson for the Financial Services Authority has said: ‘We think it reasonable that firms with significant potential liabilities should not make transfers of capital where this may leave insufficient assets on the balance sheet to meet potential liabilities.’

What went wrong?

The FSA’s investigation found that, in the majority of cases, the Arch Cru funds had been sold as low or medium risk investments when, in fact, they clearly came with high risk. 

Clive Adamson, the FSA’s Director of Conduct Supervision said: ‘Investing money can be one of the most important decisions that anyone has to make and investors need to be able to trust the advice they are given. The Arch Cru funds were high risk and they should only have been recommended to investors who fully understood and were willing able to accept the risks.’

The fallout

The action has led to claims that as many as a third of the IFAs involved could go bust as a result of the ‘section 404’ scheme instigated by the FSA. Under the terms of the scheme, all IFAs who recommended Arch Cru funds will be required to compensate their clients. 

The figure of redress could be £100 million. This is in addition to another £54 million scheme announced last year. The problem for the PII industry is that much of the money will undoubtedly be subject to claims, which could significantly raise the price of the insurance at a typical provider. One professional indemnity insurance provider, Howden Insurance Brokers, has already said that premiums could triple as a result.

Director, Neil Pointon said: ‘Insurers will need to make that money back, any other money and a profit, of course, but the premium would need to more than double. In fact, it would treble for just this one instance.’

Quick! Check your PII policy

Despite the industry’s concerns, many policies were sold with exclusions, some specifically referencing Arch Cru funds, so it’s questionable how much of the £100 million figure will be paid by professional indemnity insurance providers. Additionally, those IFAs who can claim will, at the very minimum, be responsible for the excess cost on their policies, normally charged at around £5000 per claimant, so this alone could be substantial for a small IFA operation with a lot of investors involved in the Arch Cru funds. Of course, if the professional indemnity insurance cover doesn’t apply at all, it could be catastrophic for the firm.

Get the right cover from your professional indemnity insurance provider

Certainly, the whole debacle emphasises the need for small IFAs to agree policies that will protect them adequately in the event of investment failures, such as the one brought about by the Guernsey funds. The message for IFAs and other consultants is to make sure your professional indemnity insurance policy covers you in every aspect. Make sure you go through the T&Cs with a fine-toothed comb. 

However, that might now be easier said than done as IFAs might find it increasingly difficult to get cover at all from their provider, as demonstrated recently when Chubb pulled out of the market altogether citing ‘unprofitability’ as the main reason for its exit. Chubb’s departure is highly significant for the industry as a whole since the firm had as much as 16% of the PII marketshare for financial advisers. What’s more, their exit from the IFA market follows similar moves by Beazley and QBE.

A harsh lesson for investors too

The worst case scenario could see as many as 30% of IFAs go into administration. Certainly, smaller firms, with cheaper cover and larger excesses, will be hit hardest. For those who can’t pay, their cases will have to be assessed by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, meaning large-scale investors will take some of the pain too. Those subject to the FSCS scheme will only be eligible for a maximum payment of £50,000.

Guest Post

Make sure your guests’ belongings are covered by your contents insurance this New Year

For many people New Year is a very busy period and a time when things such as contents insurance are the last things on their minds. It’s a time for seeing friends and family, parties and having guests to stay at your home for fun and festivities. 

But ironically, it’s at this time that you might want to think more than usual about your contents and home insurance. Because you’re not only likely to have increased the value of your own belongings – with the addition of new Christmas presents – but you also have all your guests’ belongings to consider too. When they’re staying at your house, do you know if your insurance policy will cover their possessions?

The right contents insurance can help to give you and your guests extra peace of mind – and help contribute to a fun New Year’s. The first step is to check your insurance policy and see whether it covers guests’ belongings – and what value it covers. If you don’t have a policy, you can easily look online to get some contents insurance quotes. After that, it’s worth thinking about how best to look after the items in your house and, especially, how to help safeguard them from burglaries. 

It’s a sad fact, but the Christmas and New Year period tends to be a prime time for burglaries. Thieves know that the value of items in a home can increase at this time with all the gifts that are given and received – and even the items bought in the winter sales. Add to that the long dark nights and the fact that most people are more relaxed and probably out of the house more often, and you can see the potential opportunity for thieves.

So when you leave the house empty – especially in the evening – try not to make it too obvious that it’s unattended or that you have people (and their possessions) staying with you. It’s a good idea to set some lights inside the house on a timer. If you have more than one of these, you can set them to come on at different times so it appears people are moving from one room to another within the house.

Also, don’t make it too easy for thieves by leaving windows open or doors unlocked – and avoid leaving a key outside for someone else. When you have guests it can sometimes be convenient to leave a key under the front door mat, but this could be asking for trouble. It’s the first place a burglar will look. Also, it’s good to secure bins or other items that thieves could use to climb up to a first storey window.

New Years is the perfect excuse to have fun with friends and family. But in the run up to this period, it’s really worth taking a few minutes to check your insurance policy has you – and your guests – covered. Halifax offers contents and home insurance policies, all designed to help give you peace of mind. To find out more about Halifax insurance, visit their website.