Alan Fraser Houston
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Insurance
Automotive, Life Insurance

A Guide to Universal Life Insurance

Universal life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance, offering both a cash value and a death benefit. It offers numerous tax benefits and is often considered to be a combination of a life insurance policy and an investment; it can pay dividends, be cashed out, and offers a guaranteed death benefit at the same time.

How Does Universal Life Insurance Work?

Universal life insurance is split into two different components: the cost of insurance, known as the COI, and the cash value; and unlike whole life insurance and term life insurance, it can be adjusted over time. The cost of insurance is simply the price needed to keep the policy alive and it includes elements such as administration charges and mortality costs.

As for the cash value, this includes all accumulated premiums that exceed the necessary cost of insurance. This sum will increase as it earns interest in line with the market rate.  The policyholder can choose to increase or decrease premium payments, as well as the rate at which they are paid, which is why this type of insurance is also known as adjustable life insurance. 

The cash value can cover the cost of the universal life policy, but if there is not enough money to cover the premiums then the policy can lapse.

A universal life insurance policy offers two types of death benefit. One is a fixed sum that doesn’t change and guarantees your loved ones will get a specific amount when you pass away; the other is an increasing lump sum, in line with the policy’s cash value. This sum is tax-free but will not be paid if the cash value is withdrawn before the policyholder dies or if the premium payments stop. In such cases, the policy will lapse.

Whole life Policy vs Universal Life Policy vs Term Insurance Policy

There are pros and cons to all life insurance products. Some offer cash values, others don’t; some are easy to understand, others are a little more complicated. If you’re not sure which policy is right for you, speak with an insurance agent and they’ll discuss your options and help you decide.

A term life insurance policy is the better option for many applicants and covers them for a specific period of time, often from 10 to 30 years. There is no cash value or additional benefits, and the entire purpose is to provide a death benefit in exchange for monthly life insurance premiums.

A term life insurance policy is generally a cheaper and more widely available option as it provides some more assurances to the insurance company, as all policies are based on the probability of the individual dying during the term. 

By carefully weighing up these odds, using information such as their age, health, and family medical history, the insurer can almost guarantee a profit while still giving the policyholders what they need.

The younger you are, the less you will pay and the greater the death benefit will be. Whole life insurance and universal life insurance, however, have a cash value attached and this can be surrendered (surrender charges may apply) for the cash value. 

If the surrender value is not taken, and the policy premiums are paid, a guaranteed death benefit will be paid to the beneficiaries regardless of the age of the policyholder.

In this way, a fixed whole life insurance policy and a variable universal life insurance policy remain for the entire life of the policyholder, while giving their loved ones some assurances. These policies are often said to combine the benefits of a death benefit with a savings account, one that can boost your retirement income and provide an additional option when everything turns sour and you’re in dire need of a cash injection.

As a result of these extra benefits, whole life insurance policies typically charge higher premiums. For instance, a healthy 30-year old man can expect to pay between $200 and $300 a year for a term life insurance policy that lasts for 30 years and offers a $250,000 payout. This covers them until the age of 60, and statistically, there is a high chance they will outlive this policy, thus affording the life insurance company more leeway and allowing them to offer lower rates.

However, if a 30-year old man were to apply for a whole life insurance policy offering the same death benefit, they would likely be charged in excess of $2,000 a year.

Is Universal Life Insurance Right For You?

Whether a universal life insurance plan is right for you or not will depend on your age, health, budget, and goals. If you’re looking for a death benefit to protect your family and you don’t have a lot of money to spare, it’s probably not the best option and you should look for a term life insurance policy instead.

However, if you have a large estate to protect or a dependent who will rely on you for the life of the policy (such as a disabled child) a permanent life insurance policy is probably the better option. It’s also worth noting that insurance coverage can be switched and tweaked. 

A universal life insurance policy can be adapted to suit your growing needs, with a flexible premium and death benefit. A term life insurance policy, on the other hand, can be switched to a permanent life insurance policy if you find that you have more money and more options further down the line. 

This isn’t always the case, however, so if there is a chance you will want to switch make sure you use a life insurance company that will let you do this.

Bottom Line: A Safe Investment

A universal life insurance offers several benefits and combines an investment with a death benefit. If you need both of these and have the money to pay the premiums, it’s a good option. 

However, if you’re mainly looking for a death benefit or an investment, look into a term life insurance policy or a stock market investment, because neither of these options are strong enough on their own. It’s only when they are combined that universal life insurance begins to look worthwhile.

A Guide to Universal Life Insurance is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Insurance, Law

TrustedPals Pet Insurance Review: Great for Senior Pets and Custom Plans

  • Key Takeaways
  • — Get coverage for pets of all breeds and all ages
  • — Pick your own veterinarian for care
  • — Use a fast and easy claims process that can be accessed on your mobile device
  • — TrustedPals has excellent user reviews online
Learn More

A pet can give you a shoulder to cry on or even a friend to exercise with. Research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that spending time with an animal can decrease stress-related hormones in your body, or even lower your blood pressure.

Unfortunately, owning a pet can be downright expensive depending on factors that might not be in your control. For example, dog cataract surgery could cost anywhere from $2,700 to $4,000, and chemotherapy treatments for your pup’s cancer could run up to $5,000. Then there’s the typical cost of spaying or neutering, annual exams, routine vaccines, and more. 

If you’re not prepared, your pet could easily cost thousands of dollars every year. TrustedPals Pet Insurance can help pet owners give their pets the best care and protection against unexpected vet bills. 

The insurer makes the cost of owning a pet considerably more predictable. For a monthly pet insurance premium, you’ll get coverage for accidents and illnesses you can’t budget ahead for. It also offers a wellness plan that includes regular and routine care.

If you want to protect yourself from pricey vet bills while ensuring your pet gets the care they deserve, then a pet insurance plan can help. Keep reading to learn how TrustedPals Pet Insurance works and whether it might be for you.

About TrustedPals Pet Insurance

TrustedPals Pet Insurance is underwritten by Zurich North America, which has an A+ rating for financial strength from A.M. Best. You can feel confident about the financial security of this insurance provider.

It offers  insurance for dogs and cats of any breed, or age. There are products for every budget and TrustedPals lets you customize your plan. For example, you can choose your annual coverage limit and deductible. You can also pick your own vet when seeking out care, instead of having to choose from a pre-approved veterinarian list.

TrustedPals Pet Insurance Products and Services

Although some pet insurance providers offer plans for a wide range of animals, TrustedPals focuses their business on offering helpful pet insurance plans for dogs and cats. With a pet insurance plan from TrustedPals, you can choose the coverage you want, whether you prefer insurance only for accidents or illnesses, or a comprehensive wellness plan.

TrustedPals Dog Insurance

When buying TrustedPas dog insurance, you can get coverage for accidents and illnesses first and foremost. This part of your plan pays for vet visits required to diagnose the problem. It also covers treatments, prescription medicine, and special pet food or supplements prescribed by your vet. 

Meanwhile, any behavioral training and therapies prescribed by your vet might also be covered by your dog insurance plan. You also have the option to add on a pet wellness plan that covers up to $750 in routine and preventative care every year. Your wellness plan can kick in to pay for:

  • Wellness exams
  • Vaccinations
  • Flea and tick medicine
  • Heartworm prevention and testing
  • Prescribed nutritional supplements
  • Spay or neuter
  • Dental cleanings
  • Prescription pet food

When you apply for dog insurance through TrustedPals, you can tailor coverage to your needs. For example, you can pick an annual coverage limit and a reimbursement level. You can also choose a deductible between $100 and $750. 

Additionally, TrustedPals lets you customize your plan with the exact features you want.

*Sample quote is for a five-year-old large, female dog that’s mixed-breed

TrustedPals Cat Insurance

TrustedPals cat insurance plans offer the same basic coverages for accidents and illness. If your cat has major health conditions, your pet insurance plan will pay for related visits to your veterinarian, including treatments, medication, and special pet food or supplements prescribed by your vet. 

Similarly, behavioral training and therapies might also be included in your plan provided your veterinarian prescribes them. A pet wellness plan for cats can also be added, if you’d like. This covers up to $750 in routine care such as wellness exams, dental cleanings, preventative medications, spay or neuter, and more. 

When you apply for cat insurance through TrustedPals, you have the option to choose from one of their plans or create your own. 

*Sample quote is for a five-year-old female cat, that’s mixed-breed

Costs Not Covered by TrustedPals Pet Insurance

Although we’ve included some basics on what each pet insurance plan covers, TrustedPals has a list of “not covered” expenses, like other insurers. Before you buy pet insurance, you should know about the conditions and situations this provider excludes.

TrustedPals doesn’t provide coverage for:

  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • Anything not prescribed by your veterinarian
  • Hip dysplasia for the first year
  • Cruciate ligament injuries in the first year
  • Boarding and transport
  • Non-veterinary costs, like pet license fees
  • Preventative care (unless you add on a $750 wellness plan)

Unique Features

There are a few major areas where TrustedPals Pet Insurance really stands out. These include the following:

  • TrustedPals lets you file claims online or through your mobile device. It also promises claim payouts in 10 days, versus the 30-day turnaround you can expect from some pet insurance providers.
  • You get an annual deductible with TrustedPals plans, whereas some providers have a deductible for each condition or incident.
  • TrustedPals doesn’t have a maximum age limit for dogs or cats. Other providers won’t sell plans if you have a senior pet.

Who TrustedPals Pet Insurance is Best For

TrustedPals is a good option for anyone with a dog or cat, but particularly for people with older animals who can’t purchase pet insurance elsewhere. This provider is also a good choice for pet owners who want to customize their coverage so they only pay for what they need. 

After all, you can go with TrustedPals to get bare bonus coverage for surgeries or major illness, but also buy a robust plan with no annual coverage limit and up to $750 toward wellness and ongoing care.

TrustedPals Pet Insurance vs. Other Pet Insurance Competitors

The following table shows how TrustedPals stacks up to a few of the top competitors in the pet insurance space:

TrustedPals Pet Insurance Healthy Paws Embrace Pet Insurance
Age limit for dogs and cats No Max age of 14 Max age of 14; pets ages 14 and older can qualify for an accident-only plan
Claims processed Within 10 days Up to 15 days Up to 15 days
100% reimbursement option Yes No; up to 90% No; up to 90%
Deductible type  Annual Annual Annual
Wellness plan available Yes No Yes

What to Know About the Pet Insurance Industry

Before you select a pet insurance plan, there are details you should know about this industry. The following key points are important considerations before settling on a new plan:

  • Waiting periods are common. Unlike health insurance for humans that kicks in right away, pet insurance plans might have fine print that states when your plan actually starts. For example, TrustedPals Pet Insurance has a waiting period of 14 days, but other insurers have waiting periods up to 30 days.
  • Reimbursement can be low. As you compare pet insurance plans, check for reimbursement rates. Even some of the top plans only have reimbursement levels as low as 50%, which doesn’t prevent you from paying exorbitant vet bills.
  • Pre-existing conditions can’t be covered. By and large, the pet insurance industry doesn’t cover your pet’s pre-existing conditions. This is important to know before investing in a plan.

The Bottom Line

We feel confident recommending TrustedPals Pet Insurance for a few reasons. The company earns excellent third-party rankings for financial strength. We also like that you can customize your policy to meet your pet’s needs and your budget. The option to add on a comprehensive wellness plan is also helpful.

It’s smart to compare at least three or four pet insurance providers before purchasing a plan to protect your best friend. Our guide to the best pet insurance of 2021 can help you get started. 

TrustedPals Pet Insurance FAQs

If your goal is protecting your pet and your finances, you should find out all you can about TrustedPals. The following questions and answers can help.

TrustedPals offers discounts for families who insure multiple pets, military members and veterans, veterinary industry workers, veterinary students, and first responders. You can also get a discount if your pet is a service animal.

Like other pet insurance providers, TrustedPals doesn’t cover your pet’s pre-existing conditions.

TrustedPals Pet Insurance covers a broad range of preventative care with a wellness plan. It covers up to $750 in wellness each year, and is available as an add-on to your regular insurance.

The post TrustedPals Pet Insurance Review: Great for Senior Pets and Custom Plans appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Health Insurance, Insurance, Law

4 Ways Health Insurance Can Save you Money

Close up of a doctor's white coat pocket full of pens and medical equipment.

Many health insurance shoppers will consider premium costs when purchasing health insurance. The full cost of a health planalso includes your out-of-pocket expenses, like the deductible, copays, and coinsurance.

As important as it is that your health plan is affordableand that the monthly premiums fit into your budget, it’s also important to consider the value health insurance offers. If you’re considering opting out of health insurance next year, evaluate the value of the following health plan offerings before you finalize your decision:

  • Discounted rates
  • Cost-sharing
  • Preventive care coverage
  • Additional features

While everyone has a different financial situation with varying constraints, health insurance is a worthwhile investment.

1. Discounted Rates 

Health insurance companies negotiate costs directly with hospitals and other medical care providers. These rates are then included with the health plans offered by the company. 

Some plans only have negotiated rates for in-network providers. Others have different negotiated rates for in-network care and out-of-network care. All health plans offer coverage for emergency services when a patient is admitted—whether or not the care was received from an in-network provider.

The amount the hospital or clinic usually charges is higher than the negotiated rate. The differences between the negotiated rate and the standard rate varies depending on how the insurance company has negotiated. 

However, when you receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) with the breakdown of costs, you’ll see:

  • What the hospital or clinic usually charges
  • What the negotiated cost actually was
  • What portion of the bill your health insurance company paid
  • The amount left for you to pay

2. Cost-Sharing 

Health insurance plans come with an annual deductible and annual out-of-pocket maximum. The deductible is the amount of money the insured must pay in cost-sharing over the course of the year before the insurance company takes on a greater responsibility for the costs. The out-of-pocket maximum is higher than the deductible. Once it is reached, the insurance company is responsible for the remainder of your covered medical expenses.

Health insurance plans often have separate deductibles for prescriptions and medical care. Health insurance plans that offer out-of-network coverage will have a different deductible and out-of-pocket expenses maximum for out-of-network care and in-network care. 

Health insurance companies determine cost sharing in a few different ways depending on how your plan works. With a traditional plan, you’ll have copays and coinsurance. Coinsurance means that the insured pays a certain percentage of the discounted medical bill.

Copays are a set amount that the insured pay when they receive health care services. There are usually set amounts for prescriptions, primary care visits, specialist visits, and emergency services. Payment may also be required beyond the copay after the bill is processed by the insurance company. The copay contributes to this payment.

High-Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) work differently. Instead of having copays and coinsurance, you pay for your medical expenses as you receive medical care. You can use the funds in your HSA to pay these costs.

Funds in your HSA roll over year to year and can be invested. The money you put into your HSA is tax-free. The monthly premiums for HDHPs tend to have lower premiums because a greater cost responsibility is on the policyholder. Some people take advantage of these plans while they are healthy and save funds for medical expenses later in life.

The specifics of cost-sharing differ from plan to plan, so carefully reviewing your plan before signing up will help you understand how the cost-sharing works.

3. Preventive Care Coverage 

Because of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans cover preventive care fully. While the future of the Affordable Care Act is uncertain, coverage for preventive care is an important way that health insurance protects your finances.

Doctors can detect some health problems early on and implement treatment plans to prevent the issue from developing further. Regular visits to the doctor go a long way in avoiding expensive bills later, especially for preventable issues.

It’s especially important for people with some diagnoses and conditions to visit a specialist regularly as needed because some health issues can be managed successfully and future complications can also be avoided.

4. Additional Features 

Health insurance companies also offer the following helpful features with their plans:

  • Telemedicine
  • Nurse help lines
  • Care management

These additional features are helpful resources for people. Telemedicine allows plan members to work with a doctor over the phone or through video chat in non-emergency situations. Some companies offer this service to plan members for free, like Oscar. Other companies also offer it as an a la carte supplement to health insurance, like GoHealth.

Others may charge a fee when you use the telemedicine service. The fee for the telemedicine service may vary based on your plan and your insurer and can be cheaper and faster than setting an appointment with your doctor or visiting an urgent care.

Nurse help lines are another common offering among health insurance companies, including Cigna. This hotline gives people quick access to a nurse without needing to leave their home. In non-emergency situations, the nurse can answer questions and give advice on scheduling appointments. 

While these benefits are nice and do not require you to establish care with a doctor, you can always call your doctor’s office with questions to get similar assistance. If the doctor can’t take your call, one of the assistants can take a message and get back to you with a response in a non-emergency situation. Even after hours, there’s usually a doctor on-call. 

Another benefit some health insurers offer is care management. These can be helpful to people who want support with improving their health. Companies like Kaiser Permanente offer this with many of their plans to help members with chronic conditions.

Is the Investment Worth It? 

It’s easy to see how much your health insurance plan saves you on medical care when you review the EOB.

It’s trickier to determine if the cost of monthly premiums is worth the savings. If you have health insurance, you can keep track of how much you are spending on medical care, prescriptions, and premiums. Evaluate you EOBs over the course of the year to understand what the costs would have been without insurance.

Medical procedures, surgeries, and emergency medical treatment are more expensive than preventive care. Some of these events can be planned for in advance, but many cannot. 

Because of the high financial cost of these services, not having health insurance is a risk for your financial stability.


Alice Stevens loves learning languages and traveling. She currently manages content for BestCompany.com, specializing in personal finance, health insurance, Medicare, and life insurance.

The post 4 Ways Health Insurance Can Save you Money appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Insurance, Law

The Basics of Medicare Eligibility

How does Medicare eligibility work?

Medicare is a federal health insurance program widely used by U.S. citizens and permanent residents age 65 and older. The program also applies to those younger than age 65 who have disabilities, end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or other diseases. But Medicare has multiple parts, and the eligibility requirements vary for each. 

Who Is Eligible for Medicare?

U.S. citizens or permanent residents who’ve lived in the U.S. for more than five years qualify for Medicare if they’re age 65 or older. Those younger than age 65 also qualify for Medicare if they disabilities or life-threatening diseases.

Medicare Eligibility for People Over 65

If you’re age 65 or older, you can get Part A coverage without paying premiums, as long as you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In order to skip the premium payments, though, one of the following must apply to you:

  • You are receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board retirement benefits
  • You are eligible to receive Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits but have not collected them
  • You or your spouse had a Medicare-covered government job

Being eligible for Part A coverage also guarantees your eligibility for Part B Medicare coverage. The only difference is that you’ll have to purchase Part B coverage. However, if you’re receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits at least four months prior to turning 65, you’ll be automatically enrolled in Part B.

Medicare Eligibility for People Under 65

If you’re under age 65, you can enroll in Medicare if you:

  • Have received Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) checks for at least 24 months
  • Have been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease (ESRD)
  • Have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Have permanent kidney failure which requires dialysis or a transplant

You’ll automatically receive Part A and Part B coverage if you’ve either gotten disability benefits from Social Security for 24 months, or if you’ve received certain disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months, according to medicare.gov.

Medicare Eligibility for Part C and Part D

Medicare Part C is a Medicare health plan that’s typically offered by private insurance companies. Also known as Medicare Advantage, you’re eligible for Part C if you’re enrolled in Part A and Part B, you don’t have ESRD and the option is available in your area. These plans include health maintenance organizations, preferred provider organizations, special needs plans, private fee-for-service plans and Medicare medical savings account plans.

Offered by private insurance companies, Medicare Part D provides prescription drug coverage. You’ll need to be enrolled in Part A or Part B to be eligible. You won’t be eligible, however, if you’re enrolled in Part C coverage.

Bottom Line

Eligibility requirements for Medicare vary based on a number of different factors such as age and medical history and condition. This is why it’s crucial to do your research so you can determine which parts of Medicare best align with your retirement savings goals.

Retirement Planning Tips

  • Not sure you’re saving enough for retirement? Our retirement calculator can help you determine your estimated Social Security benefits, how much money you need to retire and how much annual income you’ll need in retirement.
  • A financial advisor can offer advice on any of your Social Security, Medicare or retirement savings needs. SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching tool connects you with up to three local advisors.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/filadendron

The post The Basics of Medicare Eligibility appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

Dental, Health Insurance

What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)?

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a convenient way to store funds specifically for medical expenses. If you qualify for an HSA, you will get to enjoy a few tax advantages as well. While this might sound like an ideal setup, not everyone is eligible for a health savings account. To qualify for a health savings account, you must be enrolled in a high-deductible health insurance plan (HDHP). The details of these plans are revised every year by the Internal Service Revenue (IRS), which sets the bar for:

  • The minimum deductible a plan must have to be considered a HDHP.
  • The maximum amount that a customer who purchases a plan is able to spend out-of-pocket.

The benefits of a health savings account

Here are some of the key advantages of having a health savings account:

  • It covers a large variety of medical expenses: There are many different kinds of medical expenses that are eligible, such as medical, dental and mental health services.
  • Pretty much anyone can make contributions: Contributions to your health savings account don’t have to be made by you or your spouse. Employers, relatives, friends or anyone who would like to contribute to your account can do so. There are limits, however. For example, in 2019, the limit for individuals was $3,500 and $7,000 for families.
  • Pre-tax contributions: Since contributions are generally made at your employer pre-taxes, they are not considered to be part of your gross income and are not federally taxed. This is usually the same case when it comes to state level taxes as well.
  • After-tax contributions are tax-deductible: Any contributions made after taxes are deductible from your gross income on your tax return. Doing so minimizes the amount you would owe on taxes for that year.
  • Tax-free withdrawals: You can withdrawal money from your account for approved health care costs without having to worry about federal taxes. Most states do not tax, either.
  • Annual rollover: Any unused HSA funds that are left over by the end of the year get rolled over to the following year.
  • Portability: Even if you change health insurance plans, employers, or retire, the money in your health savings account will continue to be available for qualifying health care expenses.
  • Having a health savings account is convenient: Most of the time, you will receive a debit card that is connected to your health savings account. This way, you can use your debit card to start paying for eligible expenses and prescription drugs on the spot.

The drawbacks to having a health savings account

While there are many advantages to having a health savings account, there are a few things to consider. For one, in order to qualify for an HSA, you must hold a high-deductible health insurance plan. The tax benefits might entice you to purposely sign up for insurance coverage under one of these health plans but think before doing this. Here are some of the disadvantages to having a health savings account:

  • The High-Deductible Health Plan: These types of health plans can end up being a lot more expensive in the long run, even with an HSA. If you have other options for health insurance that offer lower deductible, definitely consider those and don’t only choose a High-Deductible plan so that you can open an HSA.
  • You need to stay on top of your spending: If you have an HSA, you need to be willing to hold yourself responsible for recordkeeping. Keep track of all of your receipts so that you can prove you spent your HSA funds on eligible expenses.
  • Taxes and penalties: Using money from your HSA on other expenses that do not qualify as eligible health care expenses could result in you owing taxes. If you do this before the age of 65, you will have to pay taxes with a 20% penalty tacked on. If you are 65 or older, you will be responsible for paying taxes, but the penalty gets waived.
  • Fees: Sometimes, health savings accounts will charge additional fees, either per month or per transaction. Check with your HSA institution for more information on extra fees.

How an HSA works

In many cases, if your employer offers high-deductible health plans, they probably offer health savings accounts as well. Talk to your employer to find out what they offer. If your employer doesn’t offer HSAs, then you can sign up for a separate one through a different institution.

You get to decide how much you would like to contribute to your HSA annually, but keep in mind that you cannot exceed the HSA contribution limit. Once you are set up with an account, you will either receive a debit card or a series of checks that are linked to your HSA. Right away, you will be able to use the funds in your account for:

  • Deductibles
  • Copays
  • Coinsurance
  • Other eligible health care expenses that your insurance does not cover.

Generally, you cannot use HSA funds to pay your insurance premiums.  HSAs are not the same as flexible spending accounts, because HSAs rollover. Once you turn 65, you are no longer eligible to make contributions to your account, but you can still use the available funds for eligible out-of-pocket expenses. If you use the funds for non-eligible expenses, you will owe taxes on these amounts.

Investment Opportunities

Another benefit of HSA that you may or may not have heard of is that you can invest the money in mutual funds and stocks. If this is something that you are interested in, seek advice from a financial advisor for more information.

What is a Health Savings Account (HSA)? is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

Extra Income, Insurance

How To Become a Freelancer and Make a Full-Time Income

Today, I have a fun interview to share with you that will show you how to become a freelancer.

I recently had the chance to interview Ben Taylor. Ben has been freelancing since 2004, and he has worked for dozens of companies.

Yes, this is a career path that you can learn!

As Ben will tell you in the interview below, a freelancer can be anything. You can be a freelance designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, writer, and more.

If you are looking for a new business or even just a side hustle so that you can learn how to make extra money, learning how to become a freelancer may be something that you want to look into.

In this interview, you will learn:

  • What a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.
  • How much a new freelancer should expect to earn
  • How a person can find their first freelancing job
  • The steps needed to take to make money as a freelancer

And much more!

He also has an informative course called Freelance Kickstarter. This course takes you through the step by step process of creating your own freelance business.

Check out the interview below for more information.

How to become a freelancer.

 

1. Please give us a background on yourself and how you started as a freelancer.

I’m Ben, and I live by the sea in England with my wife and two young sons.

I started a career in tech back in 1998, and by 2004 was Head of IT for a government department. It didn’t take long for me to tire of company politics, and the endless meetings that were more about displays of ego than really getting anything done.

I came from an entrepreneurial family and my parents both had businesses rather than jobs. The businesses weren’t always successful, and there were definitely periods of “feast and famine.” However, I was well used to that and I think that branching out on my own was something I was destined to do.

My move into freelancing splits into a couple of clear phases:

Initially, in 2004, I quit my IT job, walking away from business class travel and a gold-plated pension with nothing more than a vague plan to begin to work as a freelancer!

I started to provide IT support and consultancy to both businesses and individuals. I do actually still do some of that work for a select group of long-term clients, but by 2009 I had managed to burn myself out with it. The business was going well, but I was working ridiculously long days and every holiday I tried to take was interrupted by constant phone calls and emails.

So phase two began when I sold off most of my client-base and moved to Portugal! That’s when I really started to broaden my freelance horizons. I had to start from scratch, with an unclear intention to start writing for a living, and no real plan for how to do it.

I did lots of things, including wasting a LOT of time down fruitless blind alleys. I wrote for content mills, started blogs, found clients on freelance job boards, and – slowly and steadily – started to build my income back up. The difference was that I was doing it all completely on my terms with work I really enjoyed. 

I was also living in a dream destination whilst doing it.

 

2. Can you explain what exactly a freelancer is, who they work for, what they do, etc.?

This seems like a basic question, but it’s very worthwhile. There’s a considerable difference between freelancing and remote working that not everybody appreciates.

First off, a freelancer can be anything. For some reason many people immediately think of writing when they think about freelancing. But you can be a freelancer designer, personal trainer, nutrition coach, online teacher, virtual assistant, and dozens of other things.

It’s also worth noting you don’t only have to be one of those things. I AM a freelancer writer, but I also still dabble in IT consultancy, run my own blogs, provide coaching, and even build websites for people (if they ask nicely and the price is right!)

Regardless of what you do as a freelancer, the important thing to realise is that you are running your own business. The big plus of this is that you are in total charge. But the big negative is that you don’t have any of the safety nets you have if you are employed by a single company. This means you’re responsible for everything from your own insurance and healthcare to your own technical support!

Freelancers typically work for several different clients. There are myriad places to find those clients. It’s quite common for freelancers to find clients within their existing professional networks, and not at all unusual for ex-employers to be among them. Then there are freelance job boards like Upwork and PeoplePerHour, which provide an endless stream of new opportunities.

 

3. How much should a new/beginner freelancer expect to earn?

This is an incredibly difficult question to answer! I can think of one freelancer I coached who’s in a very specific writing niche. He went onto Upwork with an initial rate of $100 per hour and found lots of work. I started out in IT consultancy charging a similar rate and was quickly earning more than I did in my full-time job.   

However, at the other end of the scale there are people with limited experience or specialist skills who will need to pay their dues. This means building the foundations of a freelance career by proving yourself and taking low paying jobs to build up examples of work and positive feedback. My move into writing was much more like this!

I think “job replacement income” is a useful target for new freelancers to keep in mind. That can vary vastly from individual to individual. Obviously replacing and exceeding a corporate-level income takes much more than freelancing as an alternative to a part-time, entry-level job. That said, people with senior-level experience command much higher freelance rates.

Related content: 20 Of The Best Entry Level Work From Home Jobs

 

4. What do you like about being a freelancer?

Not having a boss!

The difference in lifestyle is massive when you work for yourself. This is always brought home to me when I’m making plans with friends and family, and people say “I’ll see if I can get the time off.”

This makes me shudder, because it’s SO alien to me now. The example I always use is that I never have to ask anybody before I can tell my children I’ll be at their sports day or nativity play.

When you have what I call a “traditional job,” you DO have the security of healthcare, and perhaps things like holiday and sick pay. But you give up a tremendous amount of freedom in return. Freelancing is profoundly different, and it’s rare to find people who’ve given it a go that would ever choose to go back to full-time employment.

So that’s a huge thing for me, but there are other huge benefits too. I love the fact I can pivot into different things, which always allows me to keep things fresh.

About four times a year I reassess my priorities and lay out new goals for the short, medium and long term. They might involve starting a new blog, writing another book, learning a new marketable skill. For somebody like me who relishes variety, I love having total control of this.

 

5. How can a person find their first freelancing job?

There are SO many ways to find freelance jobs. I have an article listing 50 different options!

However, they broadly split into two categories that I call “real world” and “online world.”

It’s always worth starting out by thinking of your real life networks. As I’ve said, many freelancers do their first self-employed work for people who already know them. I’d advise people to think about any contacts who’ve already seen the kind of work they’re capable of. These are “warm leads” that are well worth perusing.

It makes sense to think about personal contacts as well as business contacts, too. Plenty of freelancers find clients who are their “wife’s best friend’s brother” or something like that!

Remaining in the “real world,” there are also options like local business groups and networking events – although they are obviously far less accessible at the present time.

Moving to the online world, the freelance job boards are the place to be. They can be intimidating places initially, and it’s crucial to learn how to use them and how to avoid scammers and low paying clients. But there are plenty of great clients out there, including many household name companies who use those boards to hire freelancers.

Often, a quick one-off $50 job can evolve into a long and lucrative client relationship. My wife and I both have clients who we first met on the freelance boards years ago. We still work with them now.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to where to find the first client, but there are options for everybody.

 

setting rates when learning how to become a freelancer

6. How does a freelancer decide what to set their rates at?

This is a question I’m asked a LOT! The answer leads to lots more questions, and I think many of my readers are disappointed when I don’t just give them an answer of “$x per hour” or “$x per article!”

It’s a subject I cover in my Freelance Kickstarter course, and I’m happy to share a slide from that particular lesson here. The factors to consider include tangible things like the “market rates” for specific types of work, and how each client’s geographical location could impact how much they expect to pay.

But there’s much more to consider beyond that: How much does the gig align with your long-term goals? Will the job produce a great example of work that will help you win more clients in the future? Is this a job that could lead to on-going, long-term work?

I guess a simpler answer is that your rate needs to be fair and competitive, and sufficient to make it worth your while to do the job. However, the rate for each job really needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The reality is that there are millions of freelancers out there charging vastly different rates, often for very similar services. There’s a bit of an art to working out where you sit on the pricing spectrum, but it’s an art you can learn, and it gets easier with experience.

 

7. What steps does a person need to take to make money as a freelancer?

The first and most important is working out what it is you actually want to do. That may seem obvious, but my inbox is full of emails from people asking what they should do, without telling me what they’re capable of and what kind of work would make them happy.

I will attempt to lay it out in a fairly simple series of steps:

  1. Work out what skills you have and what market there is for them.
  2. Look at who else is providing those services, what they charge, and what you can provide that will make you stand out and appeal to clients.
  3. Identify any gaps in your knowledge and experience, and work to fill them. This could mean doing some training, or doing some voluntary jobs to bulk out your portfolio.
  4. Establish a personal brand. This isn’t as big a deal as it sounds, but does mean having a solid resumé and LinkedIn profile, and sometimes some other ways to demonstrate your expertise.
  5. Learn how the freelance job boards work. Even if you have a rich personal network to draw on, it’s wise to understand the wider world of freelancing.
  6. Put yourself out there, and start pitching and applying for things.
  7. Make sure you provide perfect work and delight your clients, so that they want to work with you again and recommend you to others.

Repeating and refining these steps is the essence of becoming a successful freelancer.

 

8. How much does it cost to start this type of business and how much on a monthly basis to maintain it?

Freelancing is generally a low-cost venture, but that’s not to say it’s free. Depending on what you do, you may need specialist equipment and / or software. And if you’re switching from an employed position, you may have to buy things like this yourself for the first time.

A good computer is a must, as it’s often the key tool of your trade. You may also need to budget for things like insurance, possibly including healthcare cover if you are somewhere like the US where this isn’t covered by tax payments.

When it comes to monthly costs, the main things I pay for include software subscriptions and insurance policies. Thankfully these tend to build over time and no individual thing is particularly expensive. You can start out as an online freelancer without even having a personal website, and add things like that once you gain some momentum.

I also recommend budgeting for ongoing training and learning. Thankfully there are all kinds of ways to learn online inexpensively. Companies have training budgets, but when you’re a freelancer, keeping your skills on point is on you.

 

9. What kind of training is needed to become a freelancer?

I’d say the training splits into two: learning about freelancing itself, and building skills around the specific work you want to do.

Courses like my own Freelance Kickstarter cover the first part. Freelancing is a skill in itself, and we’ve covered some of the important areas in this interview already. Stuff like setting rates isn’t immediately obvious, so learning from those who have been there and done it already is very valuable.

When it comes to skills-specific training it depends what work you’re doing. Let’s say somebody wanted to work as a freelance social media manager. Not that long ago it would have been all about Twitter and Facebook. Nowadays Pinterest is a much bigger deal for many people, and TikTok is emerging as the latest trend.

So as that freelancer, you need to decide what you’re going to focus on. Do you want to be the “go-to guru” for TikTok, or be more of a generalist with social media in general?

It’s wonderful to have the choice.

 

10. Are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to become a freelancer?

I have many!

The one I repeat over and over is that you have to eventually go for it and make the jump. I see a lot of people who never get past the “thinking about it” phase. Meanwhile the go-getters have taken the leap of faith and started to build success.

Moving to freelancing is one of those things where there may never be a perfect time to do it. Those who keep waiting for that time to arrive can easily find themselves looking back ten years later with the same commute and the same job.

Another thing I’m like a broken record about is the importance of “paying your dues.” There are often plenty of less-than-ideal gigs to finish successfully before you arrive at the amazing ones.

I wrote about some really dull topics in my early days of freelance writing, for example. But I had to wade through that stuff to build my reputation. It all felt thoroughly worth it a few years later when I was being well paid for travel articles and restaurant reviews!

You learn something from every job along the way: How to handle clients, renegotiate rates, refine your skills, and get work done more efficiently so that you’re boosting the value of your time. Freelancing isn’t supposed to be easy but it’s almost always challenging, interesting and rewarding.

And let’s face it, many people don’t feel that way about their jobs.

 

11. What can a person learn from your course? Can you tell us about some of the people who have successfully taken your course?

OK, so Freelance Kickstarter expands on all of the topics I’ve touched on here, and many others. It’s intended to remove confusion, and that feeling of overwhelm that often descends when researching this stuff online. It helps new freelancers make a clear plan for getting started. As the strapline goes, the idea is that people “stop wasting time, and start making money!”

I never intended to create a course, but after running the HomeWorkingClub website for several years, it became clear there was a space for something like this. I make it very clear that it’s not some kind of “get rich quick” scheme.

To be brutally honest, I don’t want students who are looking for shortcuts. There is real hard work involved in being a successful freelancer, but it’s a more than viable option for those willing to do what’s required.

The course starts with the basics of working out what you can do and want to do, and presents LOTS of different options. It then moves on to auditing your skills and experience, building your brand, and working out your own personal goals. I particularly like that section because it helps people learn the exact process I use myself every few months to keep things moving forward.

The next lessons cover finding clients, and there’s a big module on learning how to use freelance job boards like Upwork. Once people have completed this, they will know how to uncover the good and genuine jobs, and how to side-step the time-drains and scams.

Students also learn about setting rates, and all the other practicalities of running a freelance business, from getting the tech right to taking undisturbed holidays! We also cover side gigs, and long-term slow-burn projects like blogs and self-published books.

I provide personal support on the course, and people can ask me all the questions they need as they go along. There are also regular exclusive podcasts with extra advice and news of industry developments and new opportunities.

In terms of people who have already taken the course, I recently published a case study from a lady called Lyn. She now has “more work than she can handle” as a freelance writer working via Upwork. Two things that have particularly pleased me about her situation is that she’s cherry-picking projects that interest her, and that she’s been able to do exactly what I suggest in increasing her rates as she builds experience and reputation.

I’ve also had great feedback from people at a much earlier stage. I’ve kept the course price low so that people can use it to help decide if freelancing is for them – just dipping their toes in for the first time.

As one student said, the course is “ideal if you are considering going freelance and don’t know where or when to start, or even if freelancing is for you.”

Several of the testimonials so far have aligned perfectly with the original objective, which was – essentially – to help people see the wood for the trees in an environment than can seem very daunting to begin with.

I set out to create the course I wish I’d had! I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes in over 16 years of freelancing. The people taking Freelance Kickstarter should hopefully be able to avoid the same ones!

Click here to learn more about Freelance Kickstarter.

 Are you interested in learning how to become a freelancer?

The post How To Become a Freelancer and Make a Full-Time Income appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.

Source: makingsenseofcents.com

Credit Cards, Insurance

Your Car Insurance Company is Probably Planning to Rip You Off — Unless You Do This

Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We provide you with accurate, reliable information. Learn more about how we make money and select our advertising partners.

Watch out for your wallet! Do you live in one of the five U.S. states where car insurance rates are going up this year?

According to industry reports, rates are going up this year in Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. For example, New York rates are expected to rise by 1.2%, and Indiana’s by 1.1%. Annoying, isn’t it? Here you are, probably driving less than ever, and they want to raise your car insurance premiums.

They’re ripping you off. The good news? There’s something you can easily do about it.

A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices and make sure you’re not getting ripped off. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

Are you driving less than 50 miles a day? Do you have zero DUIs on your record? You could qualify for discounts.

Using Insure.com, people save an average of $540 a year.

Yup. That could be $500 back in your pocket just for taking a few minutes to look at your options.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He lives in one of these five states, and he’s mad about this.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Flood Insurance

What to Know About Apartment Courtesy Patrol | ApartmentSearch

Patrol officer leaning on a railingCourtesy patrols are becoming increasingly common “amenities” at certain apartment properties. To many renters, the extra safety measure represents a little more peace of mind. But to some, having a “security guard” on-site brings up a lot of questions. If the need of a courtesy officer in your apartment complex brings up more insecurity than calmness, put your mind at ease as we explain what courtesy patrols are, why they exist, and how they can help you!

What’s a courtesy officer?

Often times, “courtesy officer” is a marketing euphemism of “security guard.” In other words, like a security guard, your apartment courtesy patrol officer is hired for the main purpose of providing security and helping maintain the quality of living in the community.

Apartment complexes have different ways of employing individuals to perform this job. Sometimes, property management companies hire courtesy officers directly, paying them an hourly wage and giving them steep discounts on rent to facilitate their on-call availability. Other times, apartment properties contract courtesy patrols from private security companies.

In some cases, property management companies may offer free or discounted rent (with or without hourly wage) to patrol officers from your county. In exchange, police officers live at the apartment complex, providing on-call security as they become a part of the everyday community!

Why are courtesy patrols necessary?

Even though crime has no address, courtesy patrols are typically more common in luxury apartments in large metropolitan areas and college towns, likely due to these areas having higher population concentrations and crime rates. In such areas, police departments may be understaffed or overworked, resulting in slower response times to emergency calls and/or assigning low priority to less severe incidents.

Accordingly, apartment complexes hire courtesy patrols to have dedicated help in dealing with security and quality of living issues quickly. Even though many of these guards don’t have the authority to arrest anyone (unless they are also local law enforcement officers), they can detain criminals until the police arrive, reports The Press Democrat. More than helping apartment properties deal with crime, the presence of a courtesy patrol is often enough to help prevent crime!

What can my apartment’s courtesy patrol help resolve?

Though the word “patrol” may lead you to think that courtesy patrols can only help with crime, their job duties encompass much more. They can also help preserve the liveability of your apartment complex by enforcing the community’s rules. Here are just a few things that your apartment’s courtesy patrol can do:

  • Address reports of excessive noise and loud parties
  • Enforce community facility rules (e.g., no glass in the pool area)
  • Remove loiterers or trespassers
  • Enforce parking rules by giving tickets, calling towing companies, etc.
  • Lock community facilities like the pool or fitness center after hours
  • Conduct regular foot patrols
  • Monitor package theft
  • Respond to package theft, burglaries, and car break-ins by reporting incidents to pertinent authorities
  • Keep a tab on an apartment property’s closed-circuit monitoring system and gated access

Where can I find apartments with courtesy patrols?

No matter where you live or what you do you deserve to feel safe in your apartment! If you don’t want to invest in an alarm system and would find comfort in having in-person security on-call, talk to your landlord or property manager about hiring a courtesy patrol. And if that doesn’t do the trick, find a new apartment with a courtesy patrol, gated access, and more security measures!

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com

Life Insurance

NYC Noise Complaints Increase 279% in Just 4 Months

Even Americans who haven’t visited know that New York City never sleeps. Endless streams of people on the street and taxi cabs clogging the roadways are just part of the ceaseless movement in the city. With a population nearing nine million people, New York City always has something going on within its five boroughs.

With all the commotion, it’s safe to say that New York City could be one of the loudest cities on earth. However, it seems that New Yorkers are getting tired of the noise more than usual this year. From COVID-19 lockdowns to widespread protests, New York City has become quite chaotic lately — is this the cause of the increase in noise complaints?

Methodology

We analyzed data from NYC OpenData, which includes a database of 311 calls placed within the city. We looked at noise complaint calls placed from February 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020, and from February 1, 2019, to June 30, 2019.

We also used available population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau to weigh noise complaint call data in relation to the population of each New York borough: The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island.

Noise complaints rise 106% in one year

a line graph showing an increase in new york city noise complaints from 2019 to 2020

It’s no secret that New York City is a noisy place –– the bustling streets and never-ending traffic jams create quite the cacophony of sound. However, it seems like residents are complaining about noise more than ever, especially since last year. Total complaints more than doubled from this time last year, increasing by 106 percent. 

Here’s a breakdown of the data between 2019 and 2020: 

Month 2019 2020 % Change
February 26,839 27,781 3.51%
March 33,567 37,396 11.41%
April 39,059 39,373 0.80%
May 40,339 77,628 92.44%
June 58,845 105,240 78.84%

Noise complaints increased by over 106 percent from 2019 to 2020 (within the measured time period). The city also saw a 97 percent increase in complaints from the beginning of April to the end of May 2020, marking the largest jump in noise complaints so far this year. These increases paint a striking picture of the considerable changes in city life over the last several months.

COVID-19, lockdowns and protests in NYC

an illustration showing a 279% increase in total noise complaints in New York City from February to June 2020

The beginning of March marked the start of quarantines, lockdowns and panic over the COVID-19 pandemic. With such a huge population density (27,000 people per square mile), New York City quickly fell into chaos as the virus spread through the city –– as of June 30, there were over 212,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New York City alone.

Quarantines and lockdowns within the city meant millions of people began working from home. With so many now at home from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., it’s no surprise that New Yorkers had more to complain about when it comes to noisy neighbors and the sounds of city traffic. The data reflects this timeline perfectly, showing a difference of nearly 10,000 additional complaints logged in March (compared to February).

The end of May 2020 came with a new noise in New York City: protests. This unrest was widespread across New York City, with protests in all five boroughs. The sheer volume of these protests can be seen clearly in the data we analyzed. From the beginning of May to the end of June, noise complaints increased by 79 percent. Additionally, complaints of “loud talking” more than doubled from the beginning of April to the end of May, about the time when the protests began.

Battle of the boroughs: Who complains the most in NYC?

Despite having a smaller population than other boroughs, The Bronx has logged the most noise complaints in 2020 so far –– a total of 81,869 complaints logged from February to June.

Because populations differ across the five boroughs, we divided each borough’s total complaints by its respective total population to find comparable percentages.

Borough-specific data is below:

  • The Bronx: 81,869 total complaints (6 percent of the population)
  • Manhattan: 74,661 total complaints (5 percent of the population)
  • Brooklyn: 73,899 total complaints (3 percent of the population)
  • Queens: 49,469 total complaints (2 percent of the population)
  • Staten Island: 6,635 total complaints (1 percent of the population)

A borough rich in local culture, The Bronx has been called the birthplace of hip-hop and salsa, is home to Yankee Stadium and boasts one of the most diverse populations in the city. This diversity could be related to a higher volume of noise complaints, especially since a 2017 study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal determined that neighborhoods with higher poverty rates and larger minority populations experience more noise pollution than other neighborhoods.

New York City explodes with fireworks

From the beginning of April to the end of June this year, complaints about illegal fireworks increased by a staggering 283,595 percent –– only 19 complaints were logged in April, while complaints in June totaled 53,902. Brooklyn is seeing the majority of complaints about fireworks, with approximately one in three complaints originating from the largest of the boroughs.

Fireworks are the second most complained-about noise in New York City from February to June, with loud music and parties taking the first place prize for the most complained-about noise (157,823 total complaints during this time period). With this in mind, it’s important to note that 311 OpenData categorizes these complaints in their own section, rather than grouping them with other noise complaints.

Here is a breakdown of the noises New Yorkers complained about the most in June 2020: 

  • Loud music and parties: 73,238 complaints
  • Fireworks: 53,902 complaints
  • Traffic: 10,795 complaints
  • Loud talking: 7,213 complaints
  • Construction: 2,014 complaints

While summer fireworks in New York City have always been present, this year is definitely unique. The unusual volume of fireworks has raised many conspiracy theories among New Yorkers, with some claiming the government is using the fireworks to desensitize the public to “war-like sounds.” Others claim the police are using the fireworks as a punishment for the recent protests, while some say New Yorkers are simply bored in quarantine.

Whatever the cause of the fireworks, they are wreaking havoc across the city. Countless residents have been hospitalized with firework-related injuries and the city government has created a police taskforce to curb illegal firework activity, with police donning riot gear and arresting anyone believed to be involved.

New York City has always been loud, but 2020 seems to have turned up the volume in the city. Noise complaints are at an all-time high with no end in sight. If you’re living in New York City this summer, there are easy ways to soundproof your home.

Sources

U.S. Census Bureau | New York City OpenData: 1, 2 | Gothamist | The Atlantic

The post NYC Noise Complaints Increase 279% in Just 4 Months appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

Life Insurance

The Safest Place in Your Apartment During a Tornado

Tornadoes are no joke. With winds that can top 250 miles per hour, these storms can clear a path a mile wide and 50 miles long. Emerging from afternoon thunderstorms, tornadoes usually include hail and high winds. This is why you need to take cover when the warning siren goes off.

The average alert time for a tornado is 13 minutes, but there are environmental clues one is on its way. The sky transforms into a dark, greenish mass and begins to roar like an oncoming train.

Tornadoes can happen anywhere

Tornadoes occur all over the world, but, “In terms of absolute tornado counts, the United States leads the list, with an average of over 1,000 tornadoes recorded each year,” according to the National Centers for Environmental Information.

The U.S. experiences tornadoes all over the country, but one particular area gets hit the hardest. Known as Tornado Alley, the area covers South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Northern Texas and Eastern Colorado.

tornado alley map

Source: Accuweather

Whether you live in an area where tornadoes are common or not, it’s important to know how to stay safe in your apartment. Just as you create a plan for many emergency situations, know where to go in your apartment during these destructive storms.

Staying safe in an apartment building

On average, tornadoes move at speeds of about 10-20 miles per hour. They rarely travel more than six miles, which means they can damage a whole section of town. For that reason, if a tornado is in your area, seek shelter.

Basement

While basements are not an option in all apartment buildings, get low if you can during a tornado. Heading to the basement or even the sub-level of a parking garage offers the most insulation against the weather.

If your building doesn’t have a basement, try to get to the lowest floor if you can, regardless of whether or not it’s underground.

Interior rooms

The next safest option during a tornado is any area fully-inside the building. This means no outside walls. Under a stairwell, an interior hallway or even a room within your apartment can work. Make sure there are no windows.

Crouch down as low as you can get with your face down. Cover your head with your hands for extra protection or bring in a bike helmet to wear during the storm. Because of your location, there’s still a chance for debris to fall, so protecting your head is important.

Bathroom

Even if they have an exterior wall or windows, bathrooms are safe because the thick pipes inside the walls insulate you during a tornado. Climb into the bathtub if you have one and bring in your bed’s mattress to serve as a cover.

Closet

These are usually interior rooms by design, making closets a good choice to ride out a tornado. Pull your clothes off their hangers and grab any bedding from the shelves to insulate yourself. Don’t forget to close the closet door for even more protection.

tornado

Avoid dangerous areas

Tornadoes kill about 80 people each year, according to John Roach at AccuWeather. There was a decrease in tornado fatalities in 2018, with only 10 Americans dying. This is the lowest number since record-keeping started in 1875.

Yet, people still lose their lives to these dangerous storms. While knowing the safest places to be in your apartment during a tornado, you should also know what areas to avoid.

Windows

With gusting winds strong enough to shatter glass, windows become dangerous during a tornado. Even worse, once a window breaks, all kinds of debris can blow inside.

If you can’t stay completely clear from windows during a tornado, do your best to block them and protect yourself. If you can, duct tape a blanket over the window or slide a big piece of furniture in front to keep glass out of your apartment.

Heavy objects

While it may seem like a good idea to slide under your bed or inch behind a heavy dresser for protection during a tornado, it’s not. These pieces of furniture can shift during a storm or even fall through the floor. You don’t want to get pinned under or against something so heavy you can’t move.

Preparing for a tornado

If you live in an area where tornado warnings are common, consider creating a tornado evacuation kit to have on hand. These can include items you’d need to safely and easily exit your apartment after a tornado passes, such as:

  • Portable radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Cell phone charger
  • Bottled water
  • Spare set of car and apartment keys
  • Photocopy of your driver’s license
  • Cash

Having these items ready can make it easier to evacuate your building after the storm.

Remaining safe after the tornado passes

Being safe doesn’t stop once a tornado passes. Dealing with the aftermath of this type of storm includes new dangers. Make sure to watch out for fallen or exposed utility lines, downed trees or limbs and debris.

Exercise extreme caution when leaving your apartment building. If enough damage occurs, you may have to stay out of your apartment. You may not see the dangers, so it’s important to wait for an official word before reentering. When you can, take pictures of any damage to your own property since you’ll most likely have to file an insurance claim.

Preparing for the unexpected such as weather, fire or even flood means having the right supplies and the best information on how to stay safe.

The post The Safest Place in Your Apartment During a Tornado appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com