How Much Insurance Do I Need?

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Brian and Bo discuss insurance necessities as well as the appropriate level of insurance to carry across varying career and life stages. The guys also discuss emergency reserves and disability insurance. If you are in the market for insurance this is the show for you!

First, everyone agrees that you should have 3-6 months of emergency reserves on hand, but which end of the spectrum do you fall into? If you work in a highly marketable industry where jobs are plentiful, 3 months is probably the best way to go. However, if you have children or you’re married and only one spouse is working or some variation of the two, it makes sense to carry a higher level of cash reserves. Say, 6 to 9 months of total expenses.

Second, statistics show that 50% of foreclosures are the product of a disability. Also, the likelihood of becoming disabled is much greater than dying prematurely. So, how much and what kind of disability insurance makes sense for you? We prefer the disability rider or contract known as “own-occ,” which basically means that coverage will be afforded to you in the event that you are unable to perform your occupation. The reason for this is that in the event that you can no longer perform the tasks of your job, but you are possibly able to perform another job then you could still receive coverage under your policy.

Next up – Life Insurance: The standard coverage amount is 10-times your income. There are obviously some variables that come into play when calculating the amount of insurance needed. If there are mortgages or educational needs, it may make sense to add on those expected cost to your coverage. This way if something were to happen, the insurance payout would be great enough to pay off the house or put the kids through school. Also, in the case of a single income family additional insurance makes sense as well as adding insurance for future children.

What type of policy makes the most sense for your situation? We typically prefer term, but there are cases that permanent insurance makes sense. With term you can set the duration of your coverage, which may be until the kids get out of the house, or when you actually get the house paid off. If there are estate liquidity needs, especially for high net worth individuals or those who have a high level of very illiquid assets, permanent insurance may be a good option to look into. But wait, there’s more (insert infomercial voice-over)! Coverage for nonworking spouse does make sense, especially if there are children in the household. There is definitely a monetary value of stay-at-home parents that needs to be considered in this situation. The working spouse in most cases will need that cash flow to cover the mourning period as well as child care coverage expenses.

Brian and Bo briefly discuss umbrella coverage. It almost always makes sense to have some sort of coverage. It pays above and beyond the current limits of your other insurance policies. It can help protect your future income streams as well as lawsuits that exceed your regular insurance amounts. It is too easy not to have coverage, as it is normally very affordable, even for a fairly high amount of coverage.

An insurance topic would not be complete without touching on long-term care coverage. Here is what we know: The coverage area for this insurance need is a doughnut hole. If you have assets under $1 million, coverage probably is not appropriate, because the coverage is expensive and Medicare could help in your situation. For those that fall within the $1-3 million range, LTC coverage is probably most appropriate in your case. Medicare may not offer enough coverage and you could quickly deplete your assets trying to cover your expenses. The other side of the doughnut hole is those that have net worth in excess of $3 million. At this level it probably does not make as much sense to carry the coverage due to the high cost, and the availability of resources to provide self–management in this department.

Savings Samurai – Nickel Ninja

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Brian and Bo give you the tips and tools you need to make your dollars stretch further than the rest. The guys share sites to help save you money shopping online, booking travel arrangements, negotiating utilities, and grabbing a cab.

Brian’s Triple Threat Shopping Action Plan:

Threat 1: Online shopping – Make sure that you navigate through Ebates (click to sign up if you haven’t already) or Upromise.com to make your online purchases. Most stores are registered with both sites and offer cash back rewards for making purchases through their service.

Threat 2: Have a rewards credit card – Brian and Bo both use the Fidelity card that gives you 2% cash back on everything. Once you build up $50.00 Fidelity will automatically deposit that cash into your savings or brokerage account. Capital One has a QuickSilver card that gives you 1.5% cash back on everything. It does not offer as much cash back, but if you prefer to stay away from Fidelity it may be the way to go.

Threat 3: Bargain shopping and travel - Retailmenot has a ton of coupons for almost every website out there. Priceline is the best site that we found for booking hotels. Outside of shopping blind, you can really get a great bargain on a nice room. However, you do have the option to select the quality of the hotel. The downside is that you do not get reward points when you use priceline, if you are trying to build Marriott, Hilton, etc. points. Another great resource is www.PriceGrabber.com which is an aggregation site that pulls prices from across the web to help you find the lowest price possible. We run most purchases through PriceGrabber so that we know where to go look during our initial research.

Bo’s tightwad tip of the week is AirBnB, which is a source to find housing while traveling where locals list extra rooms or entire houses that they are willing to rent out. It is often cheaper than a hotel, but there’s a good chance that the individual or family will be in the home during your stay.

Uber and Lyft are on demand taxi services that are leveraging technology to their advantage. With Uber the entire transaction can be completed via their app which is very powerful. The app is easy to use and the prices are set, which means no tipping. You can also find ratings for your assigned driver with the touch of a button. UberPool is coming soon and is another tightwad tool that utilizes cost-splitting by picking up others that share the same route.

The guys also give www.WhiteFence.com a shout-out once again, because the resource is just that good. It is a sight that allows you to compare prices in your area for all of your utility’s needs. Keep in mind that most utilities are negotiable, especially phone and cable service, which offers you the chance to drive the price down further. Also, keep your insurance premiums in check by shopping them every 2-3 years. Insurance companies seem to give new customers deals they are unwilling to allow to current customers. Sometimes it makes sense to actually switch your coverage to take advantage of the lower premiums.

Banks – What is there to say? Most brick and mortar banks are slowly replacing tellers with ATM’s and online banks have had a huge upswing in business the past few years. Online banks like Ally and FNBO Direct offer interest bearing checking and savings account.

Dollar Cost Averaging…The Discussion Continues

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This week Brian and Bo dig into the dollar cost averaging discussion, and illustrate the pros and cons that DCA presents. The Dollar Cost Averaging strategy is fairly simple, it boils down to having systematic entry points into the market.

Investopedia defines dollar cost averaging as a technique of buying a fixes dollar amount of a particular investment on regular schedule, regardless of the share price. More shares are purchased when prices are low, and fewer shares are purchased when prices are high.

While domestic equity markets are consistently reaching higher highs and setting higher lows people are asking what our strategy is moving forward. The answer is still the same: make a plan, keep it simple, and make it automatic. Dollar Cost Averaging helps address these concerns in up and down markets. Additionally, dollar cost averaging is a great technique to use to stick to your plan so that you stay in game during bad markets when dollars are most valuable. It works especially well in markets that are a little more volatile, but that is not to say go and throw all your money in micro-cap emerging market holdings. You must keep transaction costs, diversification, asset allocation, and asset location in mind when executing this strategy.

Conversely, there have been more than a few research papers written on this topic, about as many people seem to like DCA as the amount of people that do not. Vanguard jumped on the train in 2012 with their research report, Dollar-cost averaging just means taking risks later. Their research is based around the fact that, historically, markets increase 2/3 to 3/4 of the time and they go on to use this data to convey that lump sum investing should outperform DCA during the same amount of time. Vanguard’s research also illustrates that lump sum investing outperforms DCA on an average of 2.3% on average over every 10 year cycle they included in their study.

If 2.3% less in returns on a 10 year basis is the cost of taking a portion of your portfolio off the table for the 1/3 to 1/4 of the bad time, it does not seem like too big of a price to pay. We like to think of it as insurance against down markets, specifically when markets are in their current condition. A New York Times article by Paul Sullivan in 2011 used a few lines to portray the biggest benefits of DCA, that the person who put money in slowly was still better off than the person who tried to guess the direction of the market.